Thursday, December 31, 2020

Studying the scriptures in 2021

Me studying the scriptures
on the Isle of Patmos, Greece.
2021 is the year we (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) focus on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. As the Lord said in Section 1:

37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

(Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38)

On this blog (and in the linked podcasts), I'll offer some insights you won't get anywhere else, along with supporting links and references.

I'm sharing things that have helped me better understand the scriptures, and especially the credibility and reliability of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Over a year ago, my publisher challenged me to collect my thoughts about early Church history. We ended up with three books, shown on the side of this blog, all crammed with information and faithful conclusions you've probably never seen. I'll discuss the key points throughout Come Follow Me 2021.

There are innumerable books, articles, web pages, videos, etc. that discuss the scriptures, including the Doctrine and Covenants. There are just as many opinions and interpretations as there are people who read the scriptures. I hope you find what I post here useful, whether you agree or disagree.

If you subscribe, you'll get an email each time I post something. Normally I'll post once for each lesson, but we'll have a few special posts during the year.



I recommend four tools for scripture study, and I warn against two others. 

Given limited time, you should focus on the scriptures and original sources of history instead of the elaborate theories of intellectuals, LDS or not. Because I'm retired and have examined the work of the credentialed class for decades, I'll point out a few of the problems as we go through the year. More importantly, I'll offer solutions to those problems.

I encourage people to make informed decisions. The awesome tools below help you do that. The unawesome tools below give you only an illusion of good information because the sponsors have specific editorial agendas that drive their presentations. They want you to agree with them, so they don't enable you to make informed decisions. 

Awesome tools:

1. Gospel Library

2. Scripture Notes.

3. Wordcruncher (from BYU)

4. Joseph Smith Papers. (but be careful of the editorial content)

Unawesome tools:

1. ScripturePlus.

This could have been an awesome tool, but I recommend against ScripturePlus because the creators have specific editorial agendas that they push throughout the app through videos, links and commentary. The app is designed to entice people away from the Gospel Library. The app was developed by, and is being heavily promoted by, Book of Mormon Central (BMC), which spends millions of dollars annually to promote the theories of certain scholars about Church history, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, etc. Worse, they censor prophetic teachings that contradict their theories, leaving people unable to make informed decisions. 

Book of Mormon Central is a nonprofit subsidiary of Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum ( which has for decades sought to persuade Latter-day Saints that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who relied on scholarship for answers. While it's natural for scholars to promote scholarship--it's called full employment--the Lord has never required or even endorsed an academic barrier between the prophets and his people. The credentialed class at BMC, like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old, put themselves at the forefront. 

I think it's always better to choose the prophets over the scholars.

2. Critical websites. Many Church members and investigators seek "the other side of the story" from websites such as CES Letter and MormonStories. These sites mostly commit the "straw man" fallacy of creating a misleading framework--a straw man--and then they attack that straw man.

Usually the straw man is based on the teachings of LDS intellectuals. These sites are useful in pointing out the logical and factual fallacies in the theories of some LDS intellectuals, such as BMC, but they go one step further to repudiate the overall teachings of the prophets. 

The biggest problem is that they, like BMC, have closed their minds to alternative interpretations of the evidence. They leave their readers/listeners unable to make informed decisions.

The other problem with these sites is they make emotional appeals to people, playing on their frustrations, fears, and feelings to cloud their judgment. I'm all in favor of people making their own decisions--religious beliefs and practices should be completely voluntary--but I don't agree with foisting straw-man fallacies as more "enlightened." 


Guiding principle for this blog:

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

(John 8:31–32)


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