Friday, May 31, 2013

Novum Nomen - Studio et Quoque Fide

Don’t worry! If you were looking for LDS Reason and Revelation, you have come to the right place!

This last month marked the anniversary of my third year blogging on LDS scholarship and apologetics. Over that time, I have managed to put out 92 posts (not counting this one) on a variety of topics, and I am pleased to say that my audience, though still quite small, has grown considerably. But I have also grown, and with that the aims and purposes of this blog have also been adjusted from time to time. With that in mind, I have decided that it was time for a change. Not just in the look of the blog changed last month (I’ve made such a change once before), but even in the name.

Novum Nomen (The New Name)

I thought about this for a while before I settled on the name studio et quoque fide, which is Latin for “by study and also by faith.” Astute readers will notice that it is not originally a Latin phrase, but rather it comes from the Doctrine and Covenants:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88:118, cf. 109:7, 14).
I decided on this name because I wanted to make this scripture my theme. (The choice to do it in Latin was just me showing off.) As such, I think that is it worth taking the time to look closely at what this verse is saying. This verse commands us to do three things: (1) teach each other, (3) seek wisdom from the best books, and (3) seek learning through both study and faith. But why we are to conjoin faith with study, read from the best books, and teach each other is significant: because some do not have faith.

All too often I think this gets lost in our commentary as we zero in on favorite phrases like “out of the best books” and “by study and also by faith.” As Latter-day Saints, we are to seek an informed faith, to use both study and faith together to learn and grow, but we are not to do this merely for our own spiritual benefit (though we surely will benefit spiritually from such). Rather, we are to seek learning by study and faith so that we can help those who “have not faith.” It is so that we can help others, who are struggling to build faith, through wisdom and learning.

Likewise, we are not told to seek wisdom “out of the best books” merely for the sake of being well-read. We are to read widely and educate ourselves on a variety of topics (see D&C 88:78-79), but it is to the end of building up the kingdom of God. We are to be well-read, gain knowledge and wisdom, again for the sake of those who “have not faith”; so that we can strength the faith of others in the face of doubt. This is not an admonition to do scholarship for scholarship’s sake, but rather to do it for the sake of the faith. To be, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell (my name sake) termed it, a disciple-scholar.

Obviously, we teach each other for the same purpose. It is by teaching each other that those who have sought out the best books and developed a paradigm of both study and faith can distill their learning and wisdom to those who have not faith. This of course happens at Church, but it need not be limited to that place and time. In today’s Internet world, our leaders have increasingly asked us to participate online in the on-going conversation about our faith and to educate those who know little about us. This blog is my effort to do my part in teaching others through the Internet, and doing so by both study and faith.

Apologetics, Scholarship, and Commentary

One will notice that the tag-line has also been changed. Originally dedicated to “insights” into LDS scholarship and apologetics, I’ve now expanded that to include not just apologetics and scholarship, but also commentary on issues relevant to those and other contemporary issues among the LDS faith. Here I would simply like to explain my use of those categories.

Apologetics: The above theme scripture, for me, is a divine mandate to do apologetics. No, it never uses the word apologetics, or even defense, but it nonetheless commissions us to do exactly what apologetics aims to do. While apologetics is a defense of the faith, the purpose of that defense is to strengthen those who are wavering in their faith and commitment. Noted non-LDS apologist Austin Farrar, in commemorating CS Lewis, said it best in a quote that is endlessly used by LDS apologists: 
“Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
When an idea goes undefended in the wake of an attack, it gives the perception that it is indefensible, and thus leads people to abandon that belief. Hence, apologists advance arguments in defense of the ideas and beliefs they deem important enough to defend, for the purpose of maintaining a climate wherein people who would otherwise struggle can choose to believe and exercise faith. Echoing Farrar, Elder Maxwell explained,
“Let us be articulate, for while our defense of the kingdom may not stir all hearers, the absence of thoughtful response may cause fledglings among the faithful to falter. What we assert may not be accepted, but unasserted convictions soon become deserted convictions.”
Hence, apologetics is ultimately the wedding of study and faith, the seeking from the best books (or the best research), and the teaching of others to the end helping those who struggle maintain faith – precisely what is asked of us in D&C 88. Because I feel a responsibility to use what I know to help others strengthen their faith, I have made apologetics the first and foremost purpose of this blog.

Scholarship: I am not a scholar, though I certainly try to study and carefully research the topics I find interesting. I am not, at present, producing any original research, though I hope to be involved in such in the near future. What I am, though, is a reader of scholarship, and as such I will often discuss LDS scholarship on this blog. I will draw attention to significant scholarship, use that scholarship in offering my own insights, and otherwise comment on matters related to that scholarship on the faith of the Latter-day Saints. Given the above, I will tend to focus on highlighting scholarship that is relevant and useful in apologetics, but it will not be exclusively apologetics oriented.

Commentary: This is a new category, though it has already existed on this blog. For instance, I written multiple commentaries on the Maxwell Institute controversy from last summer, and just last month posted a sort of commentary on General Conference. As with scholarship this will mostly – though not exclusively – be apologetics oriented and will, I must admit, have a pro-LDS Church slant. I will use this blog to offer my commentary on contemporary issues that can draw criticism from the outside (and, as it happens, from within the faith) and those that can cause people to struggle and have doubts. Issues like women in the Church, or same-gender attraction, for example.  I will also comment on events, such as Conferences and symposiums and what not, as well as the controversies of the day. This kind of commentary takes center stage throughout most of the bloggernacle, but here it has taken, and will continue to take, a back seat to my other stated purposes, hence the reason it is listed last in the tag-line.

Parting Thoughts


For the most part, there will be no noticeable difference in the content here; just a new look and a new name to better represent what I have already been trying to do. I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to read and the (few) who have taken the time to comment (weather here or elsewhere on social media, etc.) on what I write. As always, I hope to continue to provide interesting and worthwhile apologetics, scholarship, and commentary for those struggling with their faith, or just for those who are interested in the ever emerging field of Mormon Studies. 

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