A Review Note on David F. Holland: Sacred Borders

David F. Holland
Sacred Borders
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 2, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780199753611
ISBN-13: 978-0199753611

David Holland’s recent work through Oxford is an examination of New England’s flirtation with the Bible and its status among Protestants of various constitutions. Is the Bible the last word on canon, if so, which bible? Can you “tear off the back cover” so to speak, and tack more on? Is the Bible a revelation or a historic collection of revelations/histories? Is it the end of revelation or merely an example of it?

Holland looks at these questions and others asked by Christians of various sorts as well as other figures from the Early Republic. Puritans, Shakers, Evangelicals, Transcendentalists and other liberals, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics and deists all get their turn.

It is in few words, a fine book. An excellent treatment of an important subject which will surprise you at various turns. You get to know wonderful figures like Ann Hutchinson and Jemima Wilkinson, Rebecca Jackson and Orestes Brownson.

The book keeps its focus, which is an admittedly narrow one, yet it drills down to the very meaning of faith in early America and allows the reader to see across a fabulous landscape of interpretation and opinion. For anyone interested in religion in the antebellum period, this book is a necessary brick in the wall of your education.

The cost? It’s not cheap. $63 from Amazon. I really don’t see what Oxford is playing at here. You’re not paying for expensive pictures or multicolor illustrations. But if you’ve got a dog in this race, pony up! (har) Either that or grab it at your local library. I’d let you borrow mine, but I’m on my second read.

Sacred Borders: open your wallet and curb the trips to Wendy’s for a while. Your brain will be glad and so will your heart.

P.S. See Sam Brown’s more extensive review here.

Early Polynesian Traditions and Mormon Ideas About the Origin of Man

Traditional language among Latter-day Saints regarding preexistence has sometimes been vague, romantic and non-specific. Observe Ruth Fox’s remarks at the beginning of her June 1912 YLMIA conference address: “Man’s intellect is God-given and is a spark of that eternal intelligence which governs all things.”[1] I can’t be certain, but perhaps this is a reference to D&C 88:7-13 or something similar.
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The Length of a Papyrus Scroll

A while ago, someone asked me a question about determining the length of a papyrus scroll  (before you unroll it obviously). The question pertained specifically to, you guessed it, P. Joseph Smith (the document of breathing part). I thought about this for a few minutes and it’s really not a hard problem.

The inverse problem, deciding what a scroll looked like in its rolled state, if you encounter it unrolled may be of interest, but both problems are connected to basically the same set of measurements.

Some of you geeks might be interested in how it goes, if you haven’t already guessed it.  This of course is clearly connected to the name of this blog, if not to the charter, but, rules are made to be broken (again and again).  Have a little sleep-inducing fun: (Note, the presentation has been updated based on various email responses and misunderstandings, etc., etc.)

Papyrus-length-comp

Correlation: FAIL

So, on a recent Sunday morning in our high priest group we took up the lesson on “creation” from the “Gospel Principles” manual published by the LDS Church.

Our group is an eclectic bunch in terms of training. Ex-car salesmen, olympic coaches, astronomers, mathematicians, physicians, dentists, farmers, classicists, historians, inventory specialists, elevator technicians, programmers, business executives, mailmen, music teachers, linguists and that’s only the ones I can think of right now. (I used the plural, but actually in a number of cases, there’s only one example.)
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James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts, Joseph Smith and the Phase and Group Velocities of Mormon Thought

Ok, if I could have placed a really big smiley in the title, I would have.
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The Infinite, part 2. Parsing infinity – In the Beginning.

In the last post, we looked a little at meanings. What do we mean by “finite”? And the answer was that it depends. If we are measuring size, it is a matter of counting: counting is just a matching exercise. Match numbers to the number of cows that pass the gate for example: one, two, three, . . . 25. 25 cows came through the gate. Our ordinary experience prepares us for such things. But when the number of objects becomes too large, the process becomes less meaningful. Scriptural accounts that suggest certain things are just too large to comprehend can be understood on several levels. Whether they entail the infinite will be examined later. Questions like “How many moons does Jupiter have?” and “How many water molecules are in a cup of water?” are not just different in scope, they are different in meaning. Abstraction and approximation are the only ways to deal with the second question. (The “answer” is *about* 8 x 1024. Ten to the 24th power is so large that we can only deal with it as an abstraction. But it is a finite number!)

Some cultures avoid counting things when they are too large in size. But the accountants won’t give us that luxury now. Budget and deficit and loss discussions bat around extraordinary figures. Our common experience does not prepare us to understand the idea of a trillion dollars and it may be impossible to do so. So we deal with these kinds of things as abstractions. Does that make you a bit nervous?
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“Learn How to Live and How to Die”

Much of Joseph Smith’s preaching about death was meant to compel his listeners to faith. Over the years of my own life I have seen death. Even if you don’t experience death as it was in the early 19th century, if you live long enough, you will see it impact your life.

I have buried a son, a brother, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and unrelated friends. Looking at death as inevitable has become a routine matter. But what is it for us survivors? It is first and foremost, loss. Whatever theology one subscribes to, or to no theology at all, this is the universal fact. The dead don’t come back. You don’t find him or her sleeping in their bed the next morning after the funeral.

They are gone.
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