Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Fides quaerens intillectum/Faith seeking understanding"-Anselm of Cantebury

Library square, Regent U. 
The past two semesters have been grueling, academically and physically! Physically, because I have been growing our first born son inside of me, due any day now. Academically, simply because that is indeed how it should be! Paper requirements were high in many of my classes which kept me constantly writing, researching, and writing! The University of Utah library has an INCREDIBLE (and underused, I might add) section on religion/Middle Eastern studies, biblical studies, Judaica, Christian studies, etc. Not being close to Regent's library, this has been a most incredible resource for me to which I am grateful!

Recently, I received the blessed news that I received a scholarship from Regent's School of Divinity specifically awarded to women who show ability for high impact in  the ministry and academia. This was very exciting to me-especially because my scholarship essay centered around my thoughts on the current needs of LDS women in my area, the Relief Society specifically, and creating "spiritual independence" within those sisters through an emphasis on scriptural competency. I made it clear that I was part of a lay ministry and would never engage in a paid ministry position. I was sure that information would disqualify me from being viewed as a legitimate candidate, but not so! How wonderful that my evangelical/charismatic friends at Regent view the LDS Relief Society as an organization contributing to the overall Christian agenda, and that they saw fit to award me, and LDS woman, such scholarship funds! I very much see this as part of building "bridges of understanding", something that I hoped to accomplish as part of my experience with this MA program. Hurrah for Israel! 

Illuminated manuscript of  early rabbinical midrash
This summer I am taking Systematic Theology (full of fun study surrounding contemporary Christian theologians and their ideas) and OT 1. I look forward to both, and am specifically hoping to get into some good midrash (expended commentary or interpretation) and Rabbinical commentary of the first 1/2 of the OT.

Vintage print of Rabbis studying midrash

OVERVIEW of the PAST TWO SEMESTERS: Monty and I headed out to Regent's campus mid-fall of 2012 for my New Testament 1 course. This course was taught by Peter Grabe, a native South African who presented a faith centered and classic approach to the NT. My favorite take away from that class was Dr. Grabe's statement of "choose faith! when confronted with questions beyond your understanding, dear students, please, consider faith and if possible, choose faith!" These words were particularly meaningful as we tackled some of the controversial origins to the NT texts. No doubt I will always carry those words with me.

My favorite class Fall 2012 was, no doubt, Women in the Ministry. This course was incredible and taught by the wise and articulate Mara Crabtree. This woman now goes in my hall of fame of "she-roes" for the influence she had on me and my thoughts about women's involvement in Biblical and Christian history. During this class, one of our textbooks we read was "Women in Ministry-Four Views" composed by scholarly contributors who found themselves on either side of the polaric debate surrounding women's involvement in the church, in addition to those finding themselves somewhere in between. Each scholar would present their hermeneutical and scholarly perspective on the issues surrounding women's involvement in ministry (centered primarily on the classical and scriptural debates as originating in both OT and NT texts). If I could use one word to describe this course, I would say: THRILLING. As a Latter Day Saint, I found the knowledge I gained in this course incredibly helpful when analyzing the popular yet controversial contemporary discussion surrounding women in the LDS church, their roles, women's experiences in church history, etc. The linguistic and hermeneutical knowledge this course provided me greatly aided in allowing me to articulate my own thoughts on these matters, which is still very much an ongoing process for me!

Winter semester doesn't leave me with much to comment on, specifically  other than the fact that I was in the thick of things, academically. I took three courses: New Testament II, Old Testament II, and Christian
Textbook used in class
History I (From the time of Christ to about 1100AD). By far, my most interesting course was Christian History. I found the debates surrounding the Patristic period incredibly interesting, in addition to the study we engaged in surrounding heretical movements which prompted the creation of orthodox creeds which, of course, are drenched in controversy.I highly recommend the textbook we used for this course to anyone interested in Christian history. It gives you an incredible knowledge base. The knowledge to be gained from the study of Christian history is IRREPLACEABLE to anyone interested or engaging in the work of apologetics. As a Latter Day Saint, I have found such knowledge to be incredibly helpful as I engage those around me in religious discussion (which I get to participate in often!) whether initiated by me or no.I would argue studying Christian history is incredibly faith promoting not only to the Christian in general, but especially so to the Latter Day Saint.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. --Thomas Paine

The semester is fully underway! I fly out to campus in about two weeks and look forward to dialoging with faculty and classmates in my "New Testament: The Gospels" course. In this course, we are looking at fun issues such as "the synoptic problem", "the distinctive characteristics of Matthew", "the ending of Mark's gospel", etc. Thus far I have found my most enjoyable sub-topics to be the variations of theories as to the ending of the Gospel of Mark, in addition to synoptic comparison. I will writing a paper at the end of the semester on the characteristics of the synoptic gospels, so stay tuned!

Ethiopic manuscript, illuminated
For those not familiar with the problem of "the ending of Mark's gospel", it really is an interesting study. In summary, if we open our scriptures, the Gospel of Mark ends on Mark 16: 20. BUT DID IT ALWAYS? There is scholarly debate over the content of verses 9-20, and many theologians claim that the original Gospel of Mark in fact ended on verse 8. This debate centers around the existence of a "long ending" (as found in our current cannon) and a "short ending" (as found in several early Greek manuscripts and dozens of Ethiopic copies.) There are several textual problems with our earliest manuscripts containing the "long ending" and thus scholars look to the "short ending" as a plausible original.

Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene, Duccio, 1311
So what would we miss out on if indeed it ended 12 verses earlier? For those of you like myself who are in love with the story of Christ first appearing post-resurrection to Mary Magdalene, should verses 9-20 indeed not be original, we lose one such account (the post-resurrected Christ appears to Mary Magdalene in Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-17). Additionally, we would also lose a version of Christ's "great commission", where he commands those present to "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (vs. 15). Another piece of Biblical text we would loose (and on which surrounds much interpretive controversy) would be verses 17 and 18 where it was told that "these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them..." Intensive emphasis on these two verses has led to the development of fundamentalist Christian churches that in fact DO handle snakes (as many of you well know), often, leading to the death of those parishioners engaged in the practice. (here is a LINK to a recent story about this unique American Christian practice) It gives you much to think about, no? There are theories around the potential "addition" to Mark surrounding the snake holding, linking it to contemporary phenomena in popular culture at the time the text was manipulated. Some scholars think that scribes may have placed the addition in the text in hopes that it would make the proselytizing of Christianity that much more acceptable, based on its link to popular culture surrounding the signs following those with spiritual power.

Medieval Christian applique holding snake, 5th-10th C. 

I am also currently taking "Hermeneutics" which is the study of Biblical interpretation, and "Women in the Ministry: a Biblical Perspective". I will devote a later post to each of those feilds, as I am having some thrilling discussions and each deserves its own space here in my blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Luke 13:12 "And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity..."
As the semester winds to a close, I am currently finalizing my Spiritual Formation portfolio. Part of this process is acknowledging my weakest points, understanding their source, and giving them to Christ. This process has caused me to go into great reflection. As part of that reflection, I wanted to share some profound words of wisdom that my great friend and co-worker, Christina Caputo, shared with me. They are a shaft of pure light in a convoluded world and articulate so clearly the inner peave I am striving to perfect:

Desiderata - by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be careful. Strive to be happy.


Classes for Fall semester: 
 Biblical Hermeneutics
Women in the Ministry: a Biblical Perspective
New Testament 1
The Gospel: Global Perspectives


Monday, July 16, 2012

Modular-continued studies

The building where my class was held
Looking towards the library
This is a difficult post to write in that I feel I have SO MUCH to write, that no matter what I put on the page, it won't do justice to the past few weeks of study.

June 23-30th was my "modular week" where I go on campus and meet with my faculty and classmates. This was my first time actually visiting Regent's campus, and the experience was marvelous. Eyebrows started to raise the minute I left SLC when discussion with fellow travelers and eventually classmates came to to the fact that a Mormon girl was attending a divinity school in the heart of the Bible Belt. I admit, I had already begun to get used to that but my heart was racing the first day of class as we stood to introduce ourselves. I wasn't sure how people or the faculty would react to me being LDS. I am happy to report I was received with warm welcome and sincere interest and questions about my particular theology. It may have helped that the gentleman who introduced himself before me identified as a "Messianic Jew"! At least I wasn't the only one with a unique religious background! Ultimately, the overall diversity of the group (ethnic, religious, professional background) led to a week rich in dialogue and study.

Though I have pages of notes from my week on campus, one thing I found particularity enjoyable was observing others unique reaction to the spirit.  Being LDS, we are known as "cry babies" when bearing our testimonies,  but as a group tend to stay rather reserved and  conservative in our acclimation of praise and witnessing of the spirit. That is something that I hope in time will change. I allowed myself to open up to things diffrent than what I was used to, and told myself I would be willing to accept what the spirit confirmed as genuine. I was surrounded by "amens" "yes brother, yes!"  "preach it" type phrases, gentle head bowings, tears flowing and uplifted hands, laying on of hands for support of others within the classroom, and spontaneous but incredibly sincere prayer.

Prayer on Regent's campus is BOLD, full of the spirit, and sincere-you can almost feel the blessings being called down from Heaven. The miracle of this all is was that we were all Christians of different backgrounds, uniting in study to come closer to Christ. The spirit of the Holy Ghost was THERE. I am still processing what that says about interfaith relations and the uniting power of common beliefs. This experience has left me enlightened and thirsty for more study. Next semester I return to campus for New Testament Studies.

The day I left Virginia, I attended "Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist" in downtown Norfolk. I think this was the highlight of my trip. I was happily overwhelmed by the gracious welcome I received by all who came in contact with me. I was the ONLY white sister in attendance (no exaggeration here), and yet, it felt like I had been a part of that congregation for years. No one seemed to notice, so in turn, I didn't notice. The choir was exceptional, the message was strong and the worship was legitimate. The good Pastor left us with the message "Jesus knows the river you are on, and he knows the turns up ahead. There are times when he says 'let me take the oars for this part' because HE KNOWS THE RIVER. He is in the boat with you and knows what is ahead. Trust that and give him the power to steer you!". Amen to that. The songs used in that service are still happily being sung in my head. I would love to see the LDS population open up to some more upbeat worship music. Traditional is wonderful and has its place, but the Lord meant what he said that we should "make a joyful noise unto the Lord"! (Psalms 100:1)

"Lamentation"-Meister von Nerezi (1164)

Lastly, I am happy to report I received a strong "A" on my first major Hebrew word study. I chose the term "lament" or "qina" which means : a mournful song, a lamentation. I studied this term and its usage in the OT and postulated as to why the Lord, in several usages of the term, commanded the people that they should perform a lamentation, and what the benefits of such an experience would be, in terms of turning a people (Israel) back to God. Fascinating study.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Celebration of Discipline

For my spiritual formations class, I am currently reading "Celebration of Discipline-The Path to Spiritual Growth" by Richard J. Foster. This book is a study on perfecting certain disciplines within ourselves and incorporating those disciplines into our daily practices. Those of you who know me well know that I have a wandering mind and thus am profiting GREATLY from this study. The disciplines are divided into the inward (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study), the outward (simplicity, solitude, submission, and service) and corporate (confession, worship, guidance, and celebration). Already in the short time I have been studying this book I have felt closer to Christ as I perfect my lifestyle through implementation of the disciplines. I am reminded of my mission experience where everyday had incorporated within its hours elements of the disciples. It seemed so effortless as a missionary! I have holy envy for the monks, nuns and hermits of former years who could seclude themselves and devote their full energy to such Godly devotion.However,  I suppose the true practice is meant to be instilled in normal, day to day living.

The Hebrew section of my Biblical languages class is over (until we begin our word studies) and I am now moving onto Greek. I look forward to committing the characters to memory and beginning the mental gymnastics of working with the grammar!

Lastly, I submitted a research proposal for my research methods class entitled "Born of Water and the Spirit: Examining the Historicity of Augustine’s Doctrinal Stance on Infant Baptism". I enjoy looking at the historical circumstances surrounding doctrinal declerations and find the research to be helpful in understanding why early Christian fathers thought and wrote the way they did. One of my Religion professors at BYU (Alonzo Gaskill) taught me to think this way rather than simply blacklisting the early fathers on account of doctrine we may not agree with. Often, these men were doing the best they could with the knowlege they had. I now tend to look at the dark ages (aka the apostasy) somewhat differently now than I used to. INTERESTINGLY-a fellow classmate of mine commented on my proposal and abstract, commenting on how he looked forward to my completed paper and then asked if I have ever really considered how truly different the biblical record of the primitive church is as opposed to what developed within the next few centuries and taking it one step further, all the discord we have now among Christian denominations. Being LDS, I was very interested in his question and once again was reminded of the fact that the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints answer SO MANY QUESTIONS that students of religion have been asking for decades and are asking now. Sadly, the controversies over church history and the overall suspicion felt by the general Christian body towards Mormons clouds the simple truths that are so clearly laid out for all to see, being taught by our missionaries all over the world. We still have much work to do before Christians can worship as a united body, in doctrine and ordinance. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Holy Fire testifies to Jesus' power"

Though Easter has passed, the season is still upon us. As I dig in deeper to my studies, I feel the sense of this incredible season and once again am reminded that Easter is by far my favorite holiday. My mother gave me an old bit of the Deseret News from the Faith section in which this story was found "Holy Fire testifies to Jesus' power". I highly recommend it. It is a quick read and fills you with mysticism and the awe of worshiping with combined faiths. I personally have visited The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and  found that sharing my faith there with all sorts of Christians from different backgrounds was a wonderful experience. I wanted to hide in that church and stay there for days. I took this picture of an orthodox priest while I was visiting:
Eastern Orthodox Priest, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

My studies this week will delve into Hebrew transliterations and mastering the vowel structure in the written language. In my Theological Research Methods class, I approved a research topic with my professor and will be researching the practice of baptism in the early church (first four centuries). I will be examining regional variations of practice (immersion, non immersion, interviewing, etc.) as found in preserved early Christian writings. I look forward to digging into the resources and getting the facts. Thrilling!

Early Christian Baptismal font in Cyprus (6th century?)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dr. Horton-Parker:

Theology is “faith seeking understanding”