Sunday, October 26, 2014

What I Read: LDS Themed Blogs and Books

A while back I was having a conversation on gospel topics with a missionary serving in my ward and he asked me how I learned so much about gospel topics, mostly things that would never be discussed in Sunday School, Seminary or Institute. I think the answer I gave at the time was, "Well I read several books and I follow a few blogs. I also look at the footnotes to find more things to read."

For anyone, such as returned missionaries, who want to go on and learn more about the Church, Church history, the Gospel, and LDS themes in general I thought it would be helpful to provide a list of resources I use, blogs I follow, or books that I have read that I felt were important. If there are others that you have found useful feel free to suggest them in comments (if you have your own LDS themed blog that you want to promote, feel free to leave a link in the comments. I won't consider you narrowly for promoting your own blog long as it is not anti-Mormon, spam, or well, off topic.). There may be some that I have forgotten so I may update this list at some point. I list them now in no particular order.

Blogs I Read

Personal Blogs
  • Mormanity: A blog run by Jeff Lindsay, "an LDS guy in Shanghai. Formerly of Appleton, WI, Jeff writes about the Mormon experience, life in China, and the joys of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." If you read LDS themed stuff long enough you will sooner or later run across Jeff's stuff. I will mention his LDS FAQ later on. Some of his blog posts are personal, or spiritual, but occasionally he posts about LDS apologetics and I find his topics and links very helpful.
  • Studio et Quoque Fide: A blog by Neal Rappleye. He posts about LDS apologetics and keeps people updated on things that are currently being talked about in the field of LDS apologetics. His blog also has several good links, both on the side and in his posts with more material to read.
  • Angels in the Architecture: A blog by Gregory L. Smith. Posts occasionally with quotes and other LDS tidbits. I learned about him when I read a pair of articles he wrote a while back for Mormon Interpreter.
  • Keepapitchinin: A Mormon history blog by Ardis E. Parshall. She post multiple times a day with things from LDS history. She is perhaps one of the best amatuer non-academically trained historians I know of. My sister occasionally posts guest posts to Keepapitchinin. To be honest I don't read everything she posts (I probably only read like 10% of what she posts), but the stuff I read is interesting.
  • Forn Spǫll Fira: A blog by John Gee. He posts about LDS scholarly stuff and apologetics.
  • Warfare and the Book of Mormon: A blog by Morgan Deane. The name of the blog basically tells it all. Morgan is a military historian and offers interesting insights about the Book of Mormon that is not your standard SS/Seminary fare.
  • Speaking Silence: A blog on Patheos by James Faulconer. He teaches Philosophy at BYU, and now that I read his blog I regret never taking a class from him. [A note on Patheos, I hate their interface and it is very difficult to find the RSS feed for his blog. So if you want the RSS feed here is the feedburner link.]
  • Ether's Cave: A blog by Matthew Roper and John Gee. They post about Mormon research, apologetics and things like that. They have a list of what they call "howlers", things that anti-Mormons used to say disproved the Book of Mormon, but have since been shown to be correct.
Non-personal blogs
  • Fair Mormon Blog: This is the blog run by Fair Mormon. Fair Mormon used to be just FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research), but they got so tired of explaining what Apologetics is (no that does not mean they are apologizing for the Church, Apologetics means offering a logical, rational, defense of your faith, beliefs or opinions.), so they changed the name from FAIR to just Fair Mormon.
  • Mormon Interpreter: If I had to tell someone who wanted to get into Mormon apologetics and research where was the one place they need to start I would say they need to start with the Mormon Interpreter. They are the intellectual continuation of the work that was started under the old FARMS Foundation. I have been reading the blog and the journal since it started back in 2012. They do good work and provide most of the sources for additional reading that I do. If everything you know about the Church and the scriptures you learned from Sunday School and Seminary then reading the Mormon Interpreter will be like being thrown into the middle of the ocean when all the swim lessons you ever had were in your bathtub when you were 5. For new readers most of the material will be over your head unless you have read extensively about LDS topics in other places.
  • Maxwell Institute Blog: This is the blog of the Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies). When I began following the blog a few years ago they always had some very interesting stuff. But a few years back they decided to take the Institute in another direction and they have been doing boring stuff ever since. Still they are the repository of all of the old FARMS articles and data. And that is important.
General Resources

These are general resources and are not updated on a regular basis like a blog. I use them more as a reference and where to find additional reading material.
  • LDS FAQ: This is not to be confused with the official FAQ put out by the Church. The LDS FAQ is run by Jeff Lindsay (who writes on the Mormanity blog). This site contains an incredible amount of references, sources, explanations and at times humor dealing with anti-Mormon attacks on the Church. If anyone has specific questions about Church history, doctrine or practices that are causing them to question their faith this is a great resource for putting those issues into perspective.
  • Joseph Smith's Polygamy: This is a site run by Brian C. Hales. He wrote six books on Joseph Smith and polygamy and if you ever do any reading or research into that topic you will eventually come across his stuff. He is currently the de facto authority on that topic.
  • Fair Mormon: They do all things apologetic and also respond to just about every anti-Mormon attack out there. There is also an associated YouTube channel that contains many presentations by LDS scholars and authors that are very interesting.
    • Fair Mormon Wiki: A sub portion of Fair Mormon is their Wiki. It contains a good place to find interesting topics and also find good sources for questions that arise from anti-Mormon attacks. If I am researching a particular LDS themed topic and I need a place to start sometimes I start here.
  • FARMS Review: No longer being published but the old publications are available online and are very useful.
  • Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Another FARMS/Maxwell Institute publication. I don't know if they are still publishing, but their archives contain good stuff.

Books that I recommend. There are many, this is just a short list.
People I know about but don't read on a regular basis
  • Daniel Peterson. He has a blog over on Patheos that I occasionally read, but I don't subscribe to it.
  • William Hamblin: He also has a blog over on Patheos but I don't subscribe to it. For both Peterson and Hamblin I do not object to their stuff (hey, I read Mormon Interpreter), it's just that they are the chocolate sundae of Mormon apologetics and I prefer mint cookies and cream. You may like their stuff, but I don't read it every day.
  • Scriptorium Blogorium: A blog by Michaela Stephens. She posts on average every other day with an insight about the scriptures. There are many good things on the internet but I don't always follow all of them. This is one of those things.
  • Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So's Mormon Blog: A blog run by Stephen O. Smoot. It covers apologetics, current topics and other controversies.
Places I Avoid

I know this may seem weird but there are some places that focus on LDS topics, but I try to avoid them like the plague. I will not list them all, but in general I avoid places that have a large number of authors but little or no editorial oversight on content and comments. These blog communities are mentally and spiritually draining so generally I stay away from the "bloggernacle". Again, in no particular order.
  • By Common Consent. Whenever I go read it I come away feeling like the authors are trying to be "edgy" without being heretical. The posts have a tendency to make me upset or contentious or both. The comments even more so. In the end it is just spiritually draining.
  • Wheat and Tares: Same as for BCC above.
  • The Millennial Star: Same as for BCC and WaT above. [Edit: A few comments below state that M* is not all that bad. I may have changed over past few years, but back when I was reading it it fit in with the other blogs on this list. So M* may be different now.]
  • Feminist Mormon Housewives: Same as for BCC, WaT, and M* above.
  • The list goes on. I just tend to avoid those blogs. Some are good and not like BCC, WaT, M*, FMH, others are just more of the same.
  • Anything anti-Mormon (or "pro"-Mormon but with a decidedly faith discouraging bent, written by non-, former-, ex-, anti-, soon-to-be-former-, excommunicated-, should-be-honest-with-themselves-and-just-leave- Mormons...*cough*mormonthink*cough*).
This is not a comprehensive list of everything that is out there. Nor is it a comprehensive list of everything that I read (I have 100+ items in my Feedly reader list), but it is enough to get started for someone who wants to enter the world of LDS scholarship, apologetics, or topics. If you have anything else you want to add, just leave a comment.

As a final note. You can see a side-by-side comparison of Isaiah chapters and verses in the Book of Mormon with their corresponding Bible chapter and verses (using the KJV of the Bible) by checking out my other blog, Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.


Amy T said...

The Mormanity guy is a Jarvis cousin, and is as Jarvis as a person can be without having the last name.

A small correction: Ardis has been a professional historian for years; has good employment in the field.

And, about BCC: once you realize that's the old Student Review crowd, it all makes a lot more sense.

As to the others, I don't read them much. Times & Seasons used to be worth reading, and fMh used to serve a valuable purpose, but they've changed, and changed again, and I only glance at them occasionally.

But if you wanted a good introduction to contemporary Mormon Studies, and were more interested in the historical side than the apologetic side, you'd want to read — even if you're just catching up occasionally — BCC, Times & Seasons, Juvenile Instructor, Keepapitchinin, and there are a few smaller blogs based on your particular interests. Problem is, people aren't blogging like they were a few years ago, back in the golden days when J. and Justin were actively involved.

If you wanted the literary side of Mormon studies, you'd look at a different set of blogs, Segullah, etc. For the women's studies part of contemporary Mormon studies, Exponent, fMh, Segullah, and so forth.

Quantumleap42 said...

Thanks Amy,

When I was writing about Ardis I was debating about whether or not I should refer to her as an amateur historian since I knew that she did it for a living and hence would not be classified as "amateur". But I also know that she doesn't have a degree in history nor the typical academic training that we commonly think of as "professional historian". I probably should have just left it at historian.

I thought about listing Juvenile Instructor but I don't know that much about it so I couldn't say one way or the other. Same goes for Segullah. I have never heard of Exponent so thanks for making me aware of it.

I forgot to add Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So's Mormon Blog which is run by Stephen O. Smoot.

Sam said...

I understand your comments about the blogs to avoid. That's exactly the way I would describe them too. But I was surprised to see the Millennial Star in that list. I quite enjoy it. Are you sure you weren't thinking of Times & Seasons? You didn't list that one, but it's a relatively well-known one that I have put that on my "not worth it" list too.

Anonymous said...

Quantumleap42, I also think you are mixing up Millennial Star with another blog. Given the other things you read, it seems that Millennial Star would fit right in with blogs you like. Please give it another try.

Quantumleap42 said...

I have read some good stuff on M*, but I have also read some, well, not so good stuff there. I think that when I was reading it a few years ago I kept seeing some of the more controversial articles so they may have changed their general tone since then. Perhaps I shouldn't put it in the same category as the other ones. I'll move it to a provisional category, but I still won't read it (even if I do like what some of the authors have to say). Some of the people who read my blog may like M*, but falls just outside of what I prefer to read.

I forgot about Times & Seasons. I haven't read much over there so I don't know enough to offer an opinion.