Monday, May 31, 2010

MORTALS AS GODS


The title of this post is not in reference to the LDS doctrine of deification (that men can become gods), but rather an interesting trend in the Book of Mormon.

A couple weeks ago, my wife, McKall, was sharing some thoughts with me on Helaman 9, where Nephi has given (as a sign to the apostate Nephites) a revelation of the King's murder by his brother. As the events of this chapter play out, some of the people start to recognize Nephi as a prophet, while others come to believe that he is a god (See Helaman 9:40-41).

As my wife mentioned this (that some people started to think Nephi was a god), a realization began to hit me. This is a common theme in the Book of Mormon. After Ammon defends the Lamanite King’s flocks and servents, and fulfills all his other responsibilities, Lamoni becomes convinced that Ammon is the “Great Spirit” – even after Ammon tells him that he is just a man (See Alma 18:4, 11, 18). King Benjamin had to explain to his people that he was just a mortal man (See Mosiah 2:10-11). It seems that is was common among the Book of Mormon peoples to view men who accomplished great things as more than just men, but as deity.

This idea is extremely out of place in our modern society, and even more out of place in the world of Joseph Smith. It was outrageous to claim that a mortal man was a god in the religious culture of nineteenth-century America, and even today, the idea is only used as an exaggeration (i.e. one might say that Michael Jordan was a god at basketball, or speak of great Classic Rock artist such as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones as “gods of rock ‘n roll”, but no one would seriously believe that any of these were actually more than extremely gifted mortal men). If Joseph Smith was making up the Book of Mormon, where in the world would he get this idea?

As out of place as this concept is in modern society, it seems to be right at home in the ancient cultures that the Book of Mormon purports to represent and be influenced by, namely Egyptian and Mesoamerican – neither of which is a culture that Joseph Smith could have known much (if anything) about. Thus, I suggest that this idea provides a subtle hint of authenticity to the Book of Mormon.

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Note: This posting is not meant to be a comprehensive study with a firm conclusion, but rather an observation and hypothesis in the which more research needs to be done in order to confirm or dismiss the ideas presented here. Hence, there are no sources or citations (aside from the scriptures referenced). If anyone knows of any research that could be useful on this topic (or if anyone knows if this topic has already been researched), then any information you could provide me, or any sources and/or insights you could share would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

MY TESTIMONY


I know you are probably growing tired of introductory material. Don’t worry; we are getting ready to dive into some of the underlying themes of LDS apologetics and criticisms. However, since the vast majority of this blog will be dedicated to my intellectual insights on the Book of Mormon and LDS teachings, I want to make it clear here, at the beginning, that the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church are more than just academic fascinations for me.

In my last post I explained a little bit about my purpose. I explained that although I can’t “prove” to you that the LDS Church’s claims are true, I feel it is my duty to defend them. The words of one of my favorite progressive metal bands sums up my message from the last post quite well: “I may never find all the answers, I may never understand why; I may never prove what I know to be true, but I know that I still have to try.” [1]

Although I can’t prove it to you by any man made methods, I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God’s kingdom here on the earth. I don’t know solely based off of the evidences I will be presenting on this blog, nor do I know even primarily because of the evidences we will be discussing in the near future. As I previously said, no one can come to know the absolute truth by way of human reason and intellect. The primary basis for my testimony is rooted in an understanding on a spiritual level.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

THE PURPOSE OF MY BLOG


I would now like to take a moment to explain in greater detail just what I hope to do with this blog. By helping you understand just what my purpose is, I think we could avoid some major misunderstandings down the road.

My Motive

Some of you may be asking “What motivated you to start this blog?” or “What motivated you to get involved in LDS apologetics?” As I explained in my “About Me” post, I come from a strong, active LDS family which is proud of its Pioneer heritage. While on my mission in Virginia, as I previously mentioned, I encountered a great deal of hostility toward the LDS Church (after all, I was in the Bible Belt). Due to my great love for my Pioneer heritage, and my strong testimony in the restored Gospel, this hostility greatly disturbed me; and I had a great desire to refute the misconceptions and distortions of truth to which I was being exposed to. And, at times, I did. Thanks to my training in debate, so long as discussion was focused on doctrines and scripture, I could hold my own against some very sharp scriptorians, and I even put a few people in their place. When I encountered other anti-Mormon attacks, however, such as the Book of Mormon authenticity or the character of Joseph Smith, there wasn’t a lot I could do (since your resources as a missionary are limited to the Standard Works and the Missionary Library). I was familiar with some of the answers, but didn’t have any sources. Nevertheless, I had a strong desire to answer these claims, and often times when we were given anti-Mormon pamphlets, I would read through them and (again thanks to my debate experience) very readily point out the flaws in their argumentation and logic.

Upon getting home I began doing a lot of research on the matter, and even started writing a book. As my life got busier, work on my book (a response to some specific anti-Mormon literature I encountered on my mission) got less and less frequent. Still, I kept reading and researching, and I was ever more fascinated by what I would find. Due to my habit (or talent) of arguing, the more I learned, the more I wanted to make my own case for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Then, just this last February, I attended a lecture on Hugh Nibley as an apologist, by Daniel C. Peterson. In that lecture, he explained how he feels that it is the covenant responsibility to defend the LDS Church for those members who have the ability[1]. Upon hearing that, and feeling that my training in debate provided me with skills necessary to respond to criticisms against the LDS Church, I came to believe it is my duty and responsibility to defend my faith.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ABOUT ME


This is where I get to tell you all about myself! Don’t worry, I’ll try and be as brief as possible and only talk about the important stuff.

I recently married the most wonderful young woman in the world: McKall Lynn Brewer Rappleye! I am currently attending Utah Valley University (UVU) and working towards a degree in Political Science, with a minor in Religious Studies. I’m hoping to eventually transfer to Brigham Young University (BYU) and continue towards my degree. Ultimately, I hope that one day I can teach for the LDS Church Education System (CES), as well as teach Political Science in High School and College.

I love football and basketball and try to watch every BYU football game and as many of their basketball games as possible[1]. I also enjoy listening to music. My favorite band is a progressive metal group called Savatage. I currently have more than 6,000 songs on my iPod, which could play for 19 and a half days non-stop! As you can tell from my major, I love politics, and (as the purpose of this blog will make clear) I am very passionate about studying and defending my religious beliefs! Together, I consider the Gospel, music, and politics my “Three Passions.”[2]

Enough about all that irrelevant stuff! I know you probably don’t care all that much about me, but I would like to share a few particular points about my life and experiences which I think provide an important background for my viewpoint, and for my reasons in starting this blog.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

WELCOME TO MY BLOG!


Welcome to my blog, and thank you for visiting! As you can tell from the title, this blog is primarily going to be an outlet for me to express my thoughts and insights on several issues involved in LDS scholarship and apologetics.

What’s in a Name?

Some may wonder what is meant by “Reason and Revelation: Insights into LDS Scholarship and Apologetics.” First, let me explain what I mean by “Reason and Revelation” in the context of my blog title.

Reason: The practice of using logic, rational thinking, evidence, and argument to gain knowledge and learn truth and evaluate truth claims to determine their validity.

Revelation: Knowledge and truth given by God. There are two forms of Revelation, general revelation and personal revelation. General revelation is given to the world through God’s chosen servants (i.e. Prophets and Apostles) and personal revelation is given to an individual through the Holy Ghost (or Spirit of God) according their faith.

While my full purpose for this blog will be explained in greater detail later, the meaning of the title is to illustrate that, although they can often seem to be opposites, both reason and revelation go hand in hand. I see both as tools to arrive at truth, which, just like the hammer and the nail, are more useful as tools when used together rather than used independent of each other. As such, I echo the sentiments of David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, in that I feel “that both reason and revelation support the LDS position.”[1]