Christmas Is About a Baby

When I was a child, I completely understood all the Santa Claus stuff. No great moment of disillusionment, because my parents were wise enough to let us help create the illusion for the younger kids as soon as we were old enough.

I loved decorating the tree. I was the icicle fanatic, laying each one on individually. Even better was setting up HO trains all around the tree (and short-circuiting the train by laying icicles on the track for the engine to run over).

Shopping for gifts was great, but when I was feeling ambitious, so was creating some of the most awful “crafts” that ever forced a parent to smile and pretend to not only “love” the gift but also understand what it was supposed to be.

The Christmas carols. The church Christmas bazaar. Pretending to like candy canes. Playing games with the family. Digging treats out of the stockings. Trying to conceal my envy when my older siblings got cool gifts that my parents thought I was too young for (but they were always wrong, in my opinion).

You know: Christmas.

As a kid, I took Santa Claus in stride, but after a while I wondered about the Christ child: What was all the hoopla about? Continue reading

Some Notes on Faith and Reason

Philosophers and theologians, believers and unbelievers, friends to faith and enemies, scientists, historians — these and many others have devoted a very great deal of time and attention for centuries to the relationship between faith and reason.

There is little if any general consensus on the matter, and I have no intention, in just a few pages here, of trying to settle things. I’m inclined, though, to share a few thoughts on the topic from my Latter-day Saint perspective. Continue reading

“And There Wrestled a Man with Him” (Genesis 32:24): Enos’s Adaptations of the Onomastic Wordplay of Genesis

Abstract: In this brief note, I will suggest several instances in which the Book of Mormon prophet Enos utilizes wordplay on his own name, the name of his father “Jacob,” the place name “Peniel,” and Jacob’s new name “Israel” in order to connect his experiences to those of his ancestor Jacob in Genesis 32-33, thus infusing them with greater meaning. Familiarity with Jacob and Esau’s conciliatory “embrace” in Genesis 33 is essential to understanding how Enos views the atonement of Christ and the ultimate realization of its blessings in his life. Continue reading

A Nickname and a Slam Dunk: Notes on the Book of Mormon Names Zeezrom and Jershon

Nicknames and Dysphemisms in the Bible and Ancient Mediterranean

Even in the Bible, nicknames and dysphemisms—expressions whose connotations may be offensive to the hearer—are not rare and were equally so in other parts of the ancient and early medieval world. In 1 Samuel the ungenerous husband of Abigail rudely refused hospitality to the men of David, greatly angering them. David and his men were so incensed at his offense against the laws of hospitality that they intended to punish him for his boorish behavior before they were dissuaded from their plan by Abigail (1 Samuel 25:1-35). Shortly thereafter the husband died suddenly and mysteriously (1 Samuel 25:36-37). To all subsequent history his name was given as “Nabal,” which means either “churl” or “fool,”1 a rather harsh nickname that might also shade off to a dysphemism. Continue reading


  1. Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament tr. M.E. J. Richardson (Leiden/New York: Brill, 1995), 2:663-64. 

A Note on Chiasmus in Abraham 3:22-23

Chiasmus, or inverted parallelism, is well-known to most students of Mormon studies;1 this note explores one instance of it in Abraham 3:22-23:

A Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was;

B and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

C And God saw these souls that they were good,

D and he stood in the midst of them, and he said:

E These I will make my rulers;

D’ for he stood among those that were spirits,

C’ and he saw that they were good;

B’ and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them;

A’ thou wast chosen before thou wast born. Continue reading


  1. See John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10, no. 1, 1969. See also John W. Welch, Chiasmus in Antiquity, available at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/book/chiasmus-in-antiquity/