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”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Notes from Biblical Languages lecture:

Last night I had my first live session of class where I was logged in with 13 other students to attend a lecture by our instructor, Sarah Wells. To whet our appetite, she gave us two fun examples of word studies in both Hebrew and Greek that help us see the value in digging deeper to the original language of a text.

Take John 1:5 (KJV)

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

If we do a study on the Greek for the word comprehend, we can pull other meanings. The Greek word is "καταλαμβάνω" or "katalambanó" which can be defined as seize tight hold of, arrest, catch, capture, appropriate, (b) I overtake, (c) mid. aor: I perceived, comprehended.

Thus we can see and respect why other translations are worded as such (and there are many, many more):

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (ESV)
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (NIV)
And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. (ISV)

Another fun one. Take Genesis 2:18 (KJV)

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him.

If we do a study on the Hebrew for the word "help" we get the word   עֵ֫זֶר or "ezer" which means "a help". Uniquely, in the majority of the occurences in the OT where the word ezer is used, it is used in the sense of a militaristic help. One who came to someone's aid to vanquish enemies. Divine intervention. So after we have studied this word, we have a deeper understanding of the crucial role of a woman in relation to her husband's salvation and defense. Almost a spiritual protector...quite a bit different from our cultural norms of women in kitchen, yes?


as opposed to

And all that from a little word study!

WHAT I AM DOING: MA in Biblical Studies at Regent. Its a big undertaking, and has already been an adventure and a source of much talk within the LDS community I am a part of. Located in Virginia Beach, VA, Regent has one of the largest Christian seminaries in the US, but at the same time is overall a small, liberal arts university that caters to a Christian themed education with about 5,000 students on campus.

WHY I AM DOING IT: After serving an LDS mission at the Church Historic Sites in Rochester, NY, and reading EVERY religious book I could get my hands on (a bit of a break on missionary rules but I felt so privileged to be AT THE PLACE where the Golden Plates were found I could hardly get my hands off of all the Nibley books available to the senior couple missionaries in the basement of the Hill Cumorah Visitor's Center and on those lonely days when no one came in, I READ), I knew I had a real passion for religious studies. I had several unique and faith building experiences on my mission addressing large groups of other faiths, including one neat experience with Dr. Robert Millett of BYU (Dr. Millett is the  Manager of Outreach and Interfaith Relations for Church Public Affairs and has strong relations with evangelical groups). Since my mission, I took a job at the University of Utah in International Education, married, and began trying to match my interest in on campus programs (thus, my 12 hours at the U). Each attempt was met with frustration and disappointment as I realized the curriculum of those programs failed to meet my academic interests so I continually felt the need to keep looking...

Moving wasn't an option, since my husband is a student at the U and nearly done with his program and our main source of income was coming from me (I found great pleasure and opportunity in my career field and also didn't want to leave my job). I had been researching different seminaries across the country but was weary of online programs, and then I stumbled across Regent's MA program where half my coursework will be modular (meaning, I travel to campus once a semester to complete my classes). As I read over the Divinity school's website, I felt surges of energy and excitement as I reviewed the curriculum, the faculty members and their policy on women in the ministry (click here to go there) . Upon completing the application I was invited for an interview that was to last about 30 minutes but ran into over an hour. The spirit was strong in that meeting as I discussed my academic and spiritual rational for wanting to participate in this program. Of course, there was dialogue over my being LDS and what that  would mean on a campus of largely southern baptist/non denominational and evangelical persons. The interview was an incredible experience that left my heart racing and my emotions high. A few weeks later I was admitted into the program and thus start my journey this summer.

WHAT I WANT TO GAIN: I have always seen a gap in the LDS community when it comes to dialoguing with and about those of other faiths, particularly other Christian denominations. Feelings of being uncomfortable, hostility, superiority and pride usually set in on both sides when dialogue is attempted. In my professional environment I feel like I am often doing what I call "damage control" on behalf of my faith with those who have been hurt, confused or misled by a well intentioned blundering or over eager LDS person who left the friend not of our faith with a bitter taste in their mouth. I want to bridge this gap. I feel that by taking on this degree in a very unique environment  I will not only deepen my understanding of Christian history, Biblical hermeneutics and practical theology but more importantly I will be in a place that I feel the Lord wants me at this time.