Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Quick Conference Thought – from “Yielding Our Hearts to God” by Sister Marriott

Posted by KS on February 1, 2016

In Sister Marriott’s family, they had a motto: “It will all work out.” But she, like all of us, has had experiences that try that motto and seem to strain it beyond use. How can she, and we, continue to have that hope? I really liked her personal response:

Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.” This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good

I think that last line is wonderfully useful: “This doesn’t mean all things are good, but … things—both positive and negative—work together for good.”

That wording reminds me of Lehi’s counsel to Jacob: “thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” (2 Nephi 2:2). His promise wasn’t for good things now (or even ahead) but that somehow, the bad would be turned into gain. It also reminds me of the parable of the wheat and the tares: “lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:29-30). Even though it wasn’t time for the wheat and tares to be separated when the servant wanted, in the end the wheat was harvested and stored up.

One of God’s great powers is that no matter what happens on this earth, the future can always be bright. The atonement heals, changes, endures, consecrates, and builds with whatever happens. It’s a great comfort to me that no matter what happens, it can work together for good and His purposes will never fail.

What are your thoughts on this quotation from Sister Marriott’s talk?


Posted in Conference Talks | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Want to read more at Feast?

Posted by KS on January 19, 2016

Activity has, noticeably, slowed at this site over the past year or so. I’m considering writing posts here again. I’d probably post on recent conference talks. If you’re reading now and would like to read more posts on this site, I’d appreciate if you’d comment below so I can get a feel for the audience here. Thanks!

Posted in Misc. | 39 Comments »

Call for Papers: Mormon Scholars in the Humanities 2016

Posted by jennywebb on December 9, 2015

MSH logo

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities would like to invite you to participate in an upcoming conference, held at Utah Valley University, April 8–9, 2016.

Theme: Secularisms

We are all familiar with the various forms and modes of secularism today: a moderate form of secularism appears as the separation of church and state in order to guarantee fair opportunity and treatment for all individuals and groups, while a more aggressive secularism dismisses the claims of religion and the spiritual as unfounded and illegitimate.

Such secularisms have had far-reaching influences in modern society as they continue to influence and interact with both the humanities and the religious.

As Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, we are interested in exploring the various relations and contours that surface in the overlap between our fields, our faith, and the secularisms we encounter. We encourage those interested in these intersections to submit a proposal for our upcoming annual meeting.

Papers may potentially address the following questions or topics:

What is the relationship between religion and secularism, historically, institutionally, theoretically? Has this relationship undergone significant transformations?

Is secularism a fundamentally Western, Christian religious idea? If so, what does that say about the relationship between religion and secularism?

What are the versions of secularism, how did they originate and develop, and how do they manifest themselves in politics, social relations, and law?

While Western societies tend to accept mild secularism as the fairest and most beneficial way to govern, what alternatives have or can be justified?

Given the increasing assertion of aggressive secularism, how does secularism account for the enduring powers of religion?

Given the persistence of religion, how do people of belief account for the growing powers of secularism?

How would we describe the modern social imaginary’s commitment to secularism in contrast to an earlier social imaginary that encourages the sacred? Is secularism a variety of anti-religious religion?

Modern, homogeneous, empty time is a result of the movement toward secular thought. Is such a temporal framework anachronistic when applied to ancient cultures and texts?

What happens when ancient scripture such as the Bible or Book or Mormon are filtered through a modern temporal screen?

What are the alternatives to modern secularism: secular and sacred, ancient and modern? Must we return to the past in order to think our way through modern secularism?

As always, we invite papers on other topics, reflecting your current interests and investigations.

MSH is a space that embraces the diversity of interests for Mormon scholars working in the varied fields of the humanities—session proposals keyed around specific research interests and topics are welcomed and encouraged.

Proposals for alternative sessions, including performance and display, will also be considered.

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Jonathan VanAntwerpen, program director for theology at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he received his doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is co-editor of a series of books on secularism, religion, and public life, and was the founding director of the Social Science Research Council’s program on religion and the public sphere. In 2007 he worked with others to launch The Immanent Frame, serving for several years as editor-in-chief.

We invite 200-word abstracts for papers, as well as proposals for organized panels. Abstracts and proposals are due January 15, 2016; acceptance notices will be sent out February 1, 2016.

Send all materials to: submissions.msh@gmail.com

Deadline: January 15, 2016.

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities would like to thank the Mormon Studies program at Utah Valley University for their support of the 2016 annual meeting.

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Sherem v. Jacob

Posted by robf on June 21, 2015

Yesterday I spent a very productive day at the Mormon Theology Seminar conference at the Union Theological Seminary in NYC.  The papers and discussions were fantastic.  One of my friends said it was the best discussion he’s been a part of in the past 10 years and more intellectually satisfying than anything he experienced as an undergrad at Princeton.  Congratulations to the organizers and all the participants.




I don’t want to steal any of the thunder from any of the presenters and their work, and look forward to seeing their papers published.  In the meantime, after a day and now a night of thinking about the Sherem v. Jacob showdown, here are a few of my own thoughts and questions about this amazing chapter.

Who is Sherem?

Lots of ink has been spilt on this question.  After spending more time looking at this story, I am persuaded to see him not as a complete alien outsider but as a priest from within the closely related Lamanite/Lemuelite lineage.  This would make him a fairly close kinsman of Jacob (who he calls Brother Jacob), perhaps a nephew or grand-nephew, maybe even one who he may have grown up with in the wilderness or the early days in the promised land.  This would explain how he was so thoroughly versed in the still shared language of the people of Nephi–as well as his apparent deep familiarity with the scriptures.  He believes in the scriptures, and may have had a copy of them–but he reads them the way that Laman and Lemuel apparently would–as justifying the Law of Moses (and Jerusalem temple rituals) as the path of righteousness.  It’s hard to imagine anyone outside of the original Lehite group being so versed in the language and scriptures, and so tied to the Law of Moses.  In my mind, Sherem isn’t just a missionary from the Lamanites to the Nephites, but possibly a rival priest trying to unite the Lehites under his own cult based on the Law of Moses.

If Sherem is a close kinsman and rival priest–from the Lamanite/Lemuelite tradition, what else might be going on here?  One thing I’m wondering about are the Brass Plates.  Who has them this point?  King Nephi II or III?  Or Jacob as the temple high priest?  I tend to think Jacob probably had them.  Which makes it interesting that he portrays Sherem has having mere “flattery” and “much power of speech” and he seems to contrast “the words of this wicked man” with the scriptures (Jacob 7:23).  Is Sherem–who claims to believe in the scriptures, but has a non-Christian interpretation of the scriptures–making a claim here not just that his interpretation of the scriptures is more valid, but that perhaps he should be the caretaker of the actual physical scriptures (Brass Plates)?   Is this an attempt to reclaim the plates–which according to Lamanite tradition and been stolen by Nephi the usurper? Is there more to this showdown than perhaps we’ve considered before?

Same thing with the temple.  Jacob is the high priest over the temple and Sherem has “come unto” him–where is this “unto” that Sherem has come?  To the temple?  Is this a showdown in the temple?  Is Sherem coming to claim rightful ownership of the temple, scriptures, and hearts of the people?  If so, is there a ritualistic experience that happens as part of this showdown that we are missing?  For instance Jacob claims that in giving Sherem a sign, that his Father in heaven “had heard my cry and answered my prayer” (Jacob 7:22)–but that prayer is unrecorded, unless it is just the mere 10 words at the end of verse 14.  Did something more than just an exchange of words happen here at the temple?  Something that ritually opened the heavens so that the “power of the Lord” could be manifest?

What Happened to Sherem?

I think we often imagine that Sherem was “struck down” by the Lord.  But what we are really told is that “the power of the Lord came upon him, insomuch that he fell to the earth” (Jacob 7:15).  This sounds more like what happened to the Sons of Mosiah, Alma the Younger, King Lamoni, and Lamoni’s father.  Indeed, after he recovers enough to be able to speak, Sherem testifies of Christ and the ministering of angels, as well as of hell and eternity.  So he seems to have had some sort of visionary experience.  But rather than coming out converted and hopeful, he comes out in fear for his soul.  So what really happened here, and why wasn’t he converted like the others who seem to have had similar experiences?

Why did Sherem Die?

We tend to see Sherem as an Anti-Christ along the same lines as Nehor and Korihor–who were both killed.  And Sherem’s death seems to put him in that same camp.  But why did he have to die?  He may not have been fully repentant, though he confesses his sins before he dies.  What is going on with Sherem’s death–and perhaps the other Anti-Christ’s deaths?  Is it important for us to see their deaths as part of what it means to be Anti-Christ?  How are their deaths in opposition–or Anti–the death of Christ?  Sherem got his sign–why did he need to die?

What happened to the people?

After Sherem  “gave up the ghost” the people have some kind of experience described with the same language as whatever happened to Sherem: “the power of God came down upon them, and they were overcome that they feel to the earth” (Jacob 7:21).  Did they have similar visions?  What happened to them?  Why didn’t they die?  Or did they?  Why aren’t we told more about what really happened here?  Is there a connection to what happened to the people, and the comment that “peace and the love of God was restored again among the people”?  Why does it seem like we’re not getting the full story here?  And who were these “people” that had this experience?  All the people of Nephi?  Just those that had believed the teachings of Sherem?

Beyond the Story

These are just a few of my own questions, questions that were touched upon in some of our conversations yesterday.  The conference papers themselves go into many, many other aspects of this story and obviously under-explored chapter of scripture–into whole other dimensions of exploration, some of which I’m barely if perhaps not even capable of following!  Among other amazements, we were treated with a glimpse into the familial psycho-dynamics that may have structured the showdown, the possible implications of Jacob’s continual and never fully resolved mourning, and how the Lamanites’s continual attempts to destroy the Nephites may relate to an already manifest and yet still to be manifest experience of the Messiah.  It was a true feast upon the word.  Who knew that this short little scriptural showdown could hold so much.  I’m blown away by Jacob 7. When you get a chance to hear or read these talks, make sure you take the opportunity!


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Just for fun… “The Runaway Jonah”

Posted by KS on March 31, 2015

Have you ever tried to make a children’s story out of a scriptural story? How did it go? Have you had an experience where teaching children helped you understand an underlying message in the story that you had missed before?

One Sunday we were reading the story of Jonah to our kids. As we read it we gave a little background and noticed how comical and fanciful it was. In fact, the flow of the story reminded me of a cherished children’s book: The Runaway Bunny!

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Posted in Misc. | 2 Comments »

Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 5: Principles of True Repentance

Posted by KS on March 7, 2015

While I assume our ward is behind most in the Church, I decided it would be helpful for me to write up my thoughts before teaching tomorrow. Hopefully it will spark some interesting conversation here in the Feast community as well!

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

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Posted in Lessons:RS/MP | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

RS/MP Chapter 23: Individual Responsibility (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on November 15, 2014

The lesson can be found online here. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Lessons:RS/MP | 1 Comment »

RS/MP Chapter 21: Proclaiming the Gospel to the World (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on November 7, 2014

The lesson can be found online here.
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2015 Summer Seminar of the Mormon Theology Seminar — Call for Applications!

Posted by joespencer on November 6, 2014

Summer Seminar CFA 2015

Posted in Misc. | 1 Comment »

Lost Sheep or Dumb Asses?

Posted by BrianJ on October 3, 2014

The Book of Isaiah opens by properly sharing its theme, but I don’t know in what tone it was meant to be delivered. It starts out clearly enough, “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw…,” but should we read what follows as a rebuke or a beckon?

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Posted in Misc. | 3 Comments »