Author Archives: Nitsav

Guest post- Ugaritic and the LDS temple

This is a guest post from The Monk, of Mormon Monastery, a repository of sorts for temple-related bibliography and a LDS Temple FAQ/essays.

I have a favorite passage from Ugaritic literature. (Nitsav has written briefly on Ugaritic before. See that post if you need a primer.) I’m just geeky enough that I’d like a nice alphabetic cuneiform scroll* of it framed on my wall. Though everyone has heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, few know the Ugaritic texts which are ironically far more important for understanding the Old Testament.

Below is my translation and brief commentary regarding this passage, which comes from the Ba’lu** epic, one of the lengthier texts from Ugarit. It consists of a message from Ba’lu, in highly repetitive poetic parallelism. I tried to arrange it to bring this out, but the formatting keeps disappearing.

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Sunday dining- how do you respond?

Some non-LDS friends invite you over for dinner on Sunday. Gospel conversation is unlikely. Do you go? Why or why not?  If not, how do you respond?

How, if at all, is it different than inviting or being invited on Sunday to dine with LDS friends?


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Can I Get an Amen?!

Sometimes I feel that LDS sermons book reports Sacrament Meeting talks come a little short, whether in enthusiasm or mental stimulation or whatnot. But I guess it all depends on what you’re comparing it to.


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Saints and Soldiers on Hulu

Among the LDS films worth watching is 2003’s Saints and Soldiers. I’m sure it’s been discussed around the Naccle several times, so google if you’re interested. I liked the film. And now you can watch it for free, from Direct link

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Take your tithing and have a kegger, thus saith the Lord?!

In spite of the prophetic statement in D&C 89 that the Word of Wisdom was given because of conditions particular to our own time, many LDS read it back into the scriptures in one form or another. “Wine,” for example, only means “grape juice” or some such. I view these historically inaccurate statements as attempts to legitimate or rationalize the Word of Wisdom. For myself, I keep the Word of Wisdom because I believe that it is God’s will for me, and I have covenanted to keep it. (Sidenote: Interesting paper on the authority of doctrine.) Historically speaking, however, several things are fairly undisputable regardint the use of alcohol in the Old Testament. Continue reading


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A Brief Apologia for Going to Teach in the Religious Education Department at BYU

A commenter on another post said “To think that a couple years ago I envisioned myself wanting to work in the BYU Religious Department. For some reason however, I see myself more and more hoping to never do so. Hopefully smb is right and this will pass with the next generation.” I’m not picking on him, it’s a common enough sentiment, but he reminded me of this. Continue reading


Filed under BYU, Personal Issues

More Resources!

A few more useful things for Bible and ANE study have appeared up recently, and are worthy of notice. Continue reading


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Scattered thoughts on CES, nuance, gray areas, and teaching Institute

This post is a response of sorts to posts and comments here, here, and here.

Since much of this is anecdotal and based on my own experiences, I need to explain what those experiences are. I grew up outside Utah, attended early-morning seminary, and then Institute, but only during my freshman year (not at BYU.) I’m currently a Bible-oriented graduate student and a volunteer Institute teacher with several years of varied teaching experience. The students I’ve had are probably atypical in that they have always been college students or graduate students (mostly the latter) and returned missionaries (very often). Continue reading


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Priesthood, Temple, and Semantics

Most people know that in our current arrangement, young men tend to receive the priesthood at age 12, when they are ordained to the office of Deacon in the Aaronic priesthood. This has been the case only since the 1880’s or so, according to this fascinating Journal of Mormon History article. (That page it opens to isn’t blank. You just have to scroll to see the text.)

What we don’t really have is a good definition of priesthood in terms of offices or ritual. For those readers mumbling “uh, yes we do,” let me confuse the issue for you.
First, we know that “priesthood” is not synonymous with “priesthood office,” according to D&C 107:1-5.

Second, in terms of etymology, “priesthood” means something like “the condition or status of being a priest; the order of priest.”

Third, the biblical way one becomes a priest is not by laying on of hands. (At least, we have no record of Aaron undergoing laying on of hands.)

Rather, according to Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8, it involves a ceremony of ritual purification, entering into sacred ground within the temple boundaries, being washed, anointed, clothed in priestly clothing, “filling the hand,” and some other things. We certainly don’t do that with 12-yr olds (anymore), although we do something similar with adults.

The question then, becomes this. Does an LDS male become a priest when he receives the (Aaronic) priesthood and becomes a deacon, when he is ordained to the office of priest (in the Melchisedek priesthood), or when he undergoes the LDS equivalent of the Biblical ritual which makes one a priest?

(It has been pointed out in print that if one goes by the Biblical standard, than the LDS Church  has de facto female priests who are not ordained to any particular office.)

The OED notes in its definition of priesthood that it can also refer to “Priests collectively; a body of priests.” That certainly applies to the 12-year old, who, upon being ordained, joins that collective body of males. But it doesn’t provide us a good definition of priesthood with regard to the offices and LDS rituals.

Some of the semantic issue here is due to the LDS doctrine of priesthood as some kind of authority instead of priesthood as service (ie. teaching and performance of ritual). That is, the usual definition of priesthood given is “the authority to act or speak for God,” but that definition is not entirely consistent with the role of priests in the Bible. Nota bene, I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that we view things differently today. Our view of priesthood (definition, responsibilities, offices) doesn’t map very well onto the OT, the NT or the Book of Mormon.

Food for thought.


Filed under Bible, Doctrine, Marginalia

Armaund Mauss Interview

No, not here. Over here.  Good stuff, go read it. (T&S had a similar interview in 2004, part one, part two.)

“For Mormons, living in a certain way is more important than believing in a certain way. We can infer much more about what or who a person is from what he does than from what he believes (or claims to believe) ”

“Speaking differently to different audiences does not necessarily imply contradiction. We do it all the time. When we talk among our friends about what goes on in our families, we are not likely to provide the same details or explanations as if we were talking within the intimacy of the family circle.”

“It seems that for mainline Catholics and Protestants, all extra-biblical ideas are forgivable as long as they embrace a Trinitarian deity, but Mormons can’t be permitted their extra-biblical ideas and still be part of the Christian ‘family.'”

“Sociologists who have studied NRMs and their critics have long since realized that apostates are among the least reliable sources of information and understanding about a religion, since they always write in an exposé mode to vindicate their own change of feelings.”


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