Help talk:Commentary pages

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Summary and status of changes to this page. I've made several changes to this page, but have several more changes that I'll have to work on later.

  • Organization of commentary help pages: I think it's handy having the help pages for each of the sections all on one page, rather than having to click through the different pages. I think this helps users gain an understanding of what's appropriate where. However, I think if help icons are used on every page (like they are on Alma 13:1-5), then those icons should only link to the appropriate section. Since I couldn't get the icon link to redirect to a particular section of the commentary help page, I used transclusion techniques to accomplish this.
  • Content of commentary help pages: Most of the content in the appropriate questions and appropriate exegesis sections is new and original. It needs to be proofread and should be liberally edited by others. I just used the existing lexical notes and related links help pages, which should probably need to be improved.

--RobertC 23:26, 6 Dec 2005 (UTC)

Discussion about giving credit[edit]

I would like to hear others thoughts on the question of giving credit on commentary pages.

I recently changed the exegesis in Heb 5:1-5 to remove reference to RobertC's name. Do others think that is right?

Here's why I think it is right. I believe the exegesis should not give credit to individuals within the text of the exegesis because that prevents others from being able to edit and improve upon that view in a flexible and easy way. When credit is given to a certain person for a certain interpretation the focus of the commentary is no longer about the interpretting the scripture but instead becomes about how a particular person interprets the scriptures. Consider the case I noted above of Robert and Heb 5:1-5. If a future editor tries to improve upon Robert's view they have to deal with the fact that they may not be representing what Robert actually thought. Even if Robert agrees with the improvement it is odd to have ascribed to him a view that was developed by someone else after he suggested an earlier version. Of course, we could keep track both of the early version and give credit to Robert and a later version and give credit to that person but that seems overly complicated. Further it seems like we are simply trying to duplicate in the text itself what the history tab already does without a lot of fuss. Note: I would not make an exception for authorities: an apostle, a scholar etc. The issues are the same I think whether we are talking about a nobody like myself or an authority.

I see two ways we should give credit to people: 1) within the edit summary. If we are summarizing someone else's view we should give them credit within the edit summary to say that what I am adding to the site represents so-and-so's view; 2) as a link in the related links section. Also I think it is fine to refer in the exegesis to the related links section. For example after explaining a certain position we might add "(see so-and-so's arguement for x in the related links)."

I believe the same principle should apply to the questions section. With the lexical notes I wonder if there should be a compromise. That is because in this section we have to rely so much on authorities. The compromise I would suggest is that when we are citing a recognized authority it is fine to do so in the lexical notes section directly. When we are citing just someone who had this thought, we should not. As noted above with the exegesis section we could give that person credit in the edit summary, add an external link (and maybe refer to it within the lexical notes), or both. As a second example, I am going to do this for Gen 12:1-5.

--Matthew Faulconer 17:23, 25 Feb 2006 (UTC)

I'm not so sure the proposal I make around the lexical notes makes a lot of sense. Please suggest alternatives. --Matthew Faulconer 17:28, 25 Feb 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I think this policy makes sense, and I like how you handled the footnotes for Gen 12:1-5. I tried to rewrite Gen 9:21-25 to conform to this policy—let me know if it does not. I've followed the policy of adding a link in the related links section to some site where a book can be published if some of the material I'm using comes from a book, so the related links section works effectively like footnotes. --RobertC 18:02, 25 Feb 2006 (UTC)

Understanding the 4-sections[edit]

Based on discussion here and here, I'm posting a very preliminary draft of guidelines for the 4-sections on each commentary page below. The idea is that this discussion should eventually be incorporated into the help pages.

  • Overview. In order to take advantage of the community nature of a wiki, each commentary page can be viewed as a work in progress. The sections form a natural progression from initial questions about the passage (Questions), to presuppositions and issues about the text of the scripture itself (Lexical notes), to interpretive comments about the passage (Exegesis), to links for further study and analysis (Related links). The Exegesis section can be viewed as the focal point of each commentary page, since understanding the scriptures better is the ultimate goal of this site. The preceding sections (Questions and Lexical notes) give motivation and background information to aid this process, while the Related links section offers resources to find more in-depth information about the passage and/or other issues about the passage not yet incorporated on the commentary page.
  • Questions. Questions help motivate study of the passage. Some questions make be general thought-provoking questions for which there will likely not be a definitive answer. Other questions may be more specific and may be deleted once an answer is posted. As already noted on the help page, questions should not be obvious quiz-type questions, nor should they be tendtious (that is, "leading questions"). Some general questions to consider that can be made more specific for each passage include:
  • Why is this passage significant? What are the theological implications (i.e. "the moral") of this passage?
  • What questions might be raised about this passage that are not answered on the commentary page? What is unclear in this passage?
  • How does this passage compare or contrast with surrounding passages? with other passages addressing similar topics or themes? with other passages containing similar stories?
  • Can this passage help answer questions raised elsewhere in the scriptures?
  • How is this passage significant for our lives today?
  • Lexical notes. Lexical notes should address issues regarding the specific word choice and phraseology of the passage. Although interpretive implications may be mentioned briefly, elaborate interpretive discussion should be put in the Exegesis section. Questions that the Lexical notes section might address include:
  • What other scriptural passages use similar phrases? Where can we find more information about particular words (e.g. names, places, events, etc.) used in this passage?
  • What presuppositions are buried in the text that, being made explicit, can help us understand the passage?
  • What historical or cultural background knowledge might help us understand the passage better?
  • What presuppositions are buried in the text that have not yet been thought through in the exegesis?
  • What structural devices can be found in the text (e.g. chiasmus, parallelisms, metaphors, etc.)? How are the ideas and words in the passage structured? How does this passage fit into the broader context of the chapter or book?
  • Exegesis. (Coming soon—the focus here should be on interpretive issues; NPOV is probably most important to remember here; should we discuss higher vs. lower criticism? to what extent should we presuppose current LDS theology onto the words of scriptural writers?)
  • Related links. (Coming soon—review guidelines for referencing books and other sources and for putting links into the other commentary sections; review guidlines on how much summary is appropriate in related links section; include a discussion of links to user-subpages and the maximum length/complexity that should be in the commentary page.)

Outstanding issues[edit]

  • Structural issues. I've put this into the Lexical notes section, though I think a case could be made that it should be put in the Exegesis section. As a practical matter, if the questions and lexical notes sections are brief, it's easier to read these while reading the scripture window. However, I personally think structural issues fit better in the Lexical notes section, while elaborate interpretive discussions of the structure should be put in the Exegesis section.
  • Length of commentary pages. I think need to discuss more the maximum length and complexity that should be placed on a commentary page. I think there are two problems in allowing commentary pages to get too long or complex: (1) it's a turn-off to new users, and (2) it makes the site a less user-friendly reference tool. My thinking is that the site should be like bible commentaries in that there is a complementary relationship with scholarly bible journals and books, or like an encyclopedia which gives an overview of material about which books and books may be or have been written. Even if we can agree in the abstract about this aspect of the site, we should think about how to implement such a policy. Should there be a guideline as to the maximum number of subheadings that a single commentary page should contain? A guideline as to maximum number of words or pages that a single commentary page should contain? I think any guideline will necessarily be fuzzy and flexible.
  • Other issues? What parts of the above are we pretty close to agreeing on and which parts do we have more divergent views on? What else should we discuss more?

--RobertC 22:12, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

On Talk:Alma 13:1-5 there was discussion of 2 ways of handling the 4 section on the commentary page. The second way seems to have been agreed upon. And I agree as well. But I wonder how far we take it. For example, suppose we looked at a certain book of scripture. Let's take Matthew as an example. Suppose we go to all the Matthew pages on this site and we extract the exegesis section of each and then add them all together into one document. Should such a document make sense as a stand alone work? Or, does the exegesis section depend on their companion 3 sections to make sense?

I organize below my response to that question in two ways. First by section. Second I analyze each section in terms of how it should relate to the the exegesis section. Should its purpose be to help the editor improve the exegesis? Or, is it a companion to the exegesis needed by the reader? If the latter, what is the relationship between the exegesis information and the information in this section.

Here is a summary of my view. Discussion follows.

Section Help to editors How? Companion to exegesis How?
Questions Yes Invitation to interpret No n/a
Lexical notes Yes Help understand words/prhases A little A footnote to info in exegesis
Related links A little Suggest related info to incorporate Yes A footnote to info in exegesis
  • Questions: I see questions as an invitation to the editors of the site to interpret scripture under the exegesis section. It may make sense for some valuable thought questions to repeat them as part of the exegesis.
  • Lexical notes: I see lexical notes as narrowly defined. They are a way to bring authoritative points of interest about particular word/phrase meanings and usage. In general I see them as being a help to the editors of the wiki. We might say to the editor "as you are thinking about how to interpret this scripture you may find the following word/phrase meanings and usage helpful." Sometimes when the meaning is particularly important to the interpretation, the lexical notes play a role normally played by footnotes in a normal text. In those case (as I have seen it done here) people usually give some short factual comment in the exegesis section and then cite the particular lexical note above--something like "see lexical note on charity above."
  • Related links: Whereas the a lexical note is generally a help to the editor but sometimes plays the footnote role, the related links generally act as a footnote but occasionally act as help to the editor. As a footnote they often point the reader to find additional information. As a help to the editor they might point the editors to additional information that isn't fully incorporated into the exegesis as yet.

--Matthew Faulconer 07:22, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

My three-fold response

  • Structural comments.... The more I think this issue, the more I think the Lexical Notes must remain rather short and stripped. I do like, however, the idea of separating structural comments from interpretive comments, though I must admit that I am unused to writing anything with that strict a demarcation in mind. It more and more appears to me, then, that we must either lump together in exegesis structure and interpretation, or we must resort to five sections on a page. If we go to five sections, I would think that the structure and interpretation sections would together be the focal point of the site. I think that for now I am in favor of keeping four sections and lumping the two together (it's easier for me).
  • Length of commentary.... I realize that I am the dissonant voice on this issue, but here is my opinion, and it would take a lot to make it fall. I don't believe that anyone who would have a perpetual interest in this site would be looking at all for something user-friendly or summarily handled. If someone is looking for short, helpful statements or quick answers on any given scripture, I think that products like LDS Gospel Library is a much better source for him or her. This is not to say that there is not a better way to structure a given page so that summaries might guide a newcomer towards what is most helpful, but it does seem like a great mistake to me to limit in any way the amount of commentary that might be posted on any given scripture (given that it remains commentary on that particular text). Now, as I have a tendency to be misunderstood, I expect to explain this again, so perhaps one more comment will facilitate better understanding. As a wiki, this site can become either a reference tool (and, because it is online, etc., it will always be a relatively inconvenient one--especially while commentary is still lacking for so many pages), or it can be a community project, a place where a number of thinkers of the scriptures come together to work out (on and for the record) their readings of the scriptures. While I think that there is some concern about user-friendliness, I think that the main attraction for the site is not what information it provides, but the community study it suggests. (I can tell you that this is the reason--the only reason?--I am involved.)
  • Of other issues.... Robert mentioned (albeit as a hint for the future) of what exactly the exegesis section might contain (higher vs. lower criticism, etc.). I think this question is vital, but it depends on more work! I havea thoroughly enjoyed these issues that concern the broader meaning of the site... but really only in hopes that it draws together the community of users/posters to think some passages together, to get on to the task of thinking. Perhaps, then, the biggest issue for me is precisely this: let us think! The home page, the community portal, etc., ought perhaps first and foremost to be invitations to think, to visit pages where thinking is at play/work, to contribute thinking, and to think the thoughts already posted. If we think--and I mean THINK--the issues about how the site might be structured, etc., should fall away, and things will become regularized by our thinking. Am I thinking of Nibley's "Leaders to Managers" here? Perhaps a final--and do I mean final, really?--statement on how the site should be structured, rather would be structured were I to have set it up (and please do not take that as an affront!): all sub-pages, all discussion pages, all other pages besides the commentary might not exist at all. The structure of the site--as important as it is--is far more simple a question than the structure of even the first three verses of 1 Nephi. "The end of discussion-pages and the task of thinking"... (what a horrific application of Heidegger!).

I hope that both my seriousness and my humor are unmistakeable in that last comment... --Joe Spencer 18:29, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Matthew, I like the idea of thinking about lexical notes basically as footnotes. Cool table.... Sounds like we should keep lexical notes fairly narrowly defined and put structural comments in the Exegesis section. I think this approach entails fewer changes to Alma 13:1-5 and 1 Ne 1:1-5 than other approaches that have been mentioned.

I don't have particularly strong views on the other issues. I agree that the main attractive feature of this site is that it's a community project. So I think it makes sense to focus on the interest and desires of the community as presently constituted. I keep thinking that since there is a correlated Church-wide Sunday school reading program, that catering comments to that schedule would be a good way to generate discussion and interest. But that schedule doesn't facilitate in-depth study or thinking, and I'm becoming more skeptical that such an approach will generate sustained interest in the site (at least as far as potential contributors are concerned). Perhaps blogs are a better format for discussion of Sunday school lessons. I feel bad for the noise my lesson notes have generated on the recent changes page, but I'll probably continue posting some notes for at least the next several weeks (I basically committed to do this to get the links posted on—but I'll try to post the lessons using fewer edits...). Although I still think the breadth/reference aspect of the site will eventually be a very attractive feature of the site, since all three of us seem more interested in careful in-depth thinking about the scriptures than breadth (despite the impression my Sunday school notes probably give), it makes sense to focus more on in-depth analysis. --RobertC 12:42, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Breadth versus depth[edit]

I guess I don't see a conflict between breadth and depth. Sometimes a not very in-depth comment will be written on a passage. At other times a very in-depth discussion will result around a particular passage. I don't see this as an either or choice.

As for the question of how much to limit commentary, I agree with Joe's comment: we shouldn't make being brief a goal. But that doesn't mean that everything about a scripture has to be on the commentary page for that scripture. The beauty of hyperlinks is that they can make a host of information accessible without making for really long pages.

At the end of the day different members of the site have different interests and want to spend their time on the site doing different things. So long as their interests/goals don't conflict and so long as they do further the aim of the site, the fact that they have different interests / goals is great. Consider a specific scenario.

Suppose Joe is really interested in 1 Ne 1:1-5 and wants to write a lot about it. Then Robert comes along and wants to make the page more accessible to those looking for something more like reference material. Joe doesn't particularly see the value in that, but Robert does. (Whether or not that is true isn't the point.) So Robert writes essentially a summary of what Joe has posted and in the process highlights the points he thinks are most important. Robert puts this summary/highlights on the commentary page and moves a lot of the detail to a sub-page. All of those interested in the detail, active people who monitor the recent changes, still have access to all of the detail. Those people who come to the site to just see what type of info we have on this passage of scripture get nice reference material. To me a process like this allows different people to get what they want.

--Matthew Faulconer 05:09, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Lexical notes => Textual notes?[edit]

I like the expansion of "Lexical notes" above to include phrasing, presuppositions, structure, etc. This is important information for a close reading of scripture, and I've had difficulty figuring out where to put it, since the existing main-page instructions on "lexical notes" seem to restrict the content basically to definitions and etymology. But it seems like "textual" would then be a better title for it than "lexical." Nathan E. Rasmussen 20:16, 15 August 2011 (CEST)

Hi Nathan, do you think that we could change lexical notes to textual notes and still maintain the idea that these notes are fairly short and the real place for working out the meaning of verses falls in the exegesis? or do you think that in order to discuss the things you want to we would find ourselves writing in a paragraph format like we see in exegesis?

On a separate note one advantage that textual notes has over lexical notes is that I think the word "textual" may be more accessible to most users of the site than "lexical" is.

--Matthew Faulconer 06:41, 19 August 2011 (CEST)


What is and what isn't speculation? --Joe Spencer 15:21, 24 Nov 2006 (UTC)

I've become very interested in this question too. I'm going to post some preliminary quotes from an search on this subpage. I'm afraid that most of these quotes are going to boil down to a difference that amouts to: searching = studying/exploring the scriptures with the Spirit; speculation = studying/exploring the scriptures without the Spirit.... --RobertC 00:08, 25 Nov 2006 (UTC)
I went back through the site:policies to see what it says there related to speculation. The closest thing there is that the commentary should stay focused on the text. Of course, I think we absolutely should avoid speculation since the word speculation is pejorative. But I wonder if as a rule or guide saying "avoid speculation" is helpful. Does it mean something more than "avoid bad commentary"? --Matthew Faulconer 00:40, 25 Nov 2006 (UTC) PS. Interesting quotes Robert.

A two-fold response. First, I think the question you are asking, Matthew, is the right one to ask: does saying "avoid speculation" help at all? I'm increasingly convinced that there are several understandings of speculation at work in the community here, and an unfortunate consequence of making "speculation" an undefined name for what should not be done is that it simply becomes the label each applies to the work of another. Second, as to the quotations Robert has posted, I must confess I'm not sure how to take them as a whole. I think, in the end, that they hover around the same ambiguities that discussion on the site has as regards "speculation." Only the one that seems to equate speculation with "personal interpretation" attempts to explain what speculation is at all. And I think that "personal interpretation" is ultimately just as ambiguous as "speculation."

So what is speculation? I think two etymological readings of the word present some interesting possibilities. First, from speculum, Latin for "mirror," one might read "speculation" as "mirroring" or "reflection." I think this plays on an interesting ambiguity: reflection as thought, yet reflection as seeing only yourself. Might it be that "speculation" is a way of thinking that reduces the text to a mirror, reduces it, that is, to a reflection of the thinker? On this reading, "speculation" becomes a sort of violence to the text--precisely what we are trying to avoid if the policies essentially command a focus on the text. Second, from specus, Latin for "money," one might read "speculation" as trying to convert something into something else in such a way that it provides a greater yield (land speculation, etc.). This is a curious way of reading "speculation," but I think it is revealing. The speculator is the one who watches the market carefully and tries to make his/her gains accordingly. Might it be that "speculation" is a way of converting the text into something it isn't, in order to gain a point or to reap where one has not sown? On this reading, "speculation" becomes another sort of violence to the text, a more reductive or even intentional one.

I'm not sure which of these works as a better definition. In the end, I don't know that either has really entered into the discussions thus far. I think two working definitions have been, for the most part, beneath the struggles as of late. First, "speculation" has been understood as reading in the scriptural text something that is not generally recognized as doctrine. Second, "speculation" has been understood as reading into a scriptural text something doctrinal, but not substantiated by the text. That is, on the one hand, there has been an assumption that doctrine is eternal and binding and that the text is--must, will--substantiate it, even if that means there must be some violence made to the text; while on the other hand, there has been an assumption that the text is eternal and binding and that the doctrine is--must be, will be--derived from it, even if that means there must be some violence made to the doctrine. In the end, there seems to have been an implicit agreement that "doctrine" does not match up with the text. Whatever "speculation" means, it will have to ride on a decision between the text as fundamental and the doctrine as fundamental. I think the brief mention of speculation on the editing help page substantiates the former: the text as fundamental (as it is now written).

Now, the consequences of each of these approaches (without, I hope, making a decision). If we take up the doctrine over the text, then I think we are forced to do some violence to the text. We have to make sure that we understand the doctrines very clearly (and what sources we should use for those doctrines), and then we have to go about showing how the passages point to those doctrines. I wonder if taking things this way wouldn't require some pages for doctrinal clarification, to which the passages can be cross-linked, or something. At any rate.... If we take up the text over the doctrine, then I think we end up doing much of what has been done. We are, if we take up this way of doing things, bound to learn to read very carefully. Linguistics becomes important, as does a knowledge of other language. We are bound to understand the principles of literary criticism, of rhetoric, etc. We have to be attuned to contradictions of ideas, the importance of authorship, the consequences of editing, etc. And perhaps more than anything, we have to be quite aware of the role the reader plays in interpretation. Two ways of taking the situation.

If we take up the text over the doctrine, I think we have a far more difficult task ahead of us. If we take up the doctrine over the text, I think we need to do some restructuring and reorganizing. I recognize that the former is the more dangerous (disregarding "doctrine" has never been safe), and I recognize that the latter is safer (at least in some ways). But I wonder if there is not to be found a great deal more fruit in the former approach. Some thoughts... --Joe Spencer 15:56, 25 Nov 2006 (UTC)

Interesting thoughts. The obvious question to me in response to Joe is, if we take the approach of giving precedence to doctrine over the text how do we learn doctrine if not from the text? Answers I can think of include from the Spirit of from latter-day prophets. At any rate, I'm mainly here to try and learn doctrine from the text, so that's the approach I prefer here.
I think a related question I've wondered about from time to time is what the difference is between a righteous searching and wondering vs. a questioning that breeds doubt and strife. Examples of the former seem to include Nephi, Abraham, Joseph Smith, etc. (there's a good discussion of this in this Nibley essay that Joe recently recommended--see the discussion under the "terrible questions" heading). Here's an search for questions--the passages I have in mind regarding strife-engendering questions are: 1 Tim 1:4; 1 Tim 6:4; 2 Tim 2:23; Titus 3:9. I'll try to post some commentary on those verses soon. --RobertC 13:00, 26 Nov 2006 (UTC)

Interesting, Robert, that these several verses are all to be found in the "pastoral letters" of Paul. Is it that "speculation," however we understand it, is something that can--even should--be done, as long as it is not a replacement for pastoral work? In other words, perhaps the context of these citations and the quotations you linked to above suggest collectively not that speculation should be avoided, but that it should never become a replacement for the difficult pastoral work we undeniably have to do in this Kingdom. I'm obviously using the term "speculation" rather loosely here (perhaps as a sort of equivalent to "reflection" or "pondering," or even "asking questions of the text"). Perhaps my frustration with Sunday School teachers I've had and seminary/institute teachers I've worked with is that they pretend to have a pastoral position where they are called to probe the text, to "speculate" in some sense. When someone called quite simply to teach--not to regulate or to state policy--is afraid of "speculation," he or she may well find it difficult to call on the Spirit. (I'm thinking, not stating, here.) Interesting things.

As for the issue at hand, I certainly thought the same thing in writing out those thoughts before: whence doctrine if not the text? I think you are right to consider the Spirit and modern revelation, though I'm not convinced that these come to us in a form other than text, so I think we find ourselves in precisely the same situation. In the end, I don't know that it is possible to prefer doctrine over the text. The JST is a wonderful example of this: rather than directing us from the Bible because it did not accord--in whatever sense--with doctrine, Joseph provided us another text, or even a parallel text, to provoke further textual thought.

I think these thoughts are leading me more and more to recognize that "speculation" is, ultimately, any real act of interpretation. Where we are not to speculate, we are not to interpret. I'm thinking now that this is only an issue for those in pastoral positions, that all others would probably be best found speculating or interpreting the scriptures, even if publicly. The one in a pastoral position should be commissioning or commanding, while all others should be interpreting. This accords well with Joseph's (and Brigham's) comments to missionaries about mysteries: don't get into them... in the mission field... but at home, don't you ever let them go. I don't know that the wiki is the mission field--perhaps this is why I highlight the community aspect of the wiki so much. I like these thoughts. --Joe Spencer 01:00, 27 Nov 2006 (UTC)

Joe, I don't I understand the following passage you wrote:
Perhaps my frustration with Sunday School teachers I've had and seminary/institute teachers I've worked with is that they pretend to have a pastoral position where they are called to probe the text, to "speculate" in some sense. When someone called quite simply to teach--not to regulate or to state policy--is afraid of "speculation," he or she may well find it difficult to call on the Spirit. (I'm thinking, not stating, here.) Interesting things.
In the first sentence I think I'm confused by the implicit connection you make between "pastoral position" and "to probe the text"--in what sense is probing the text related to pretending to have a pastoral position?
I think the question of what pastoral work is really about is a fascinating and timely one. With Mormon Studies in its infant stage, I wonder if General Authorities will focus more or less on doctrinal explication. My hunch--for several reasons, though I'll spare you my speculation on this topic...--is less, and so I think other venues (via Maxwell Institute, internet, etc.) will become more important on this front. Regardless, I think comparing and contrasting personal vs. pastoral interpretation as addressed in scripture is a very interesting project to pursue. --RobertC 04:18, 28 Nov 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure I followed your misunderstanding. Or rather, I'm realizing that I hadn't myself thought quite through what I was writing about. So let me think out some more thoughts right here. I think that anyone called to a pastoral position has--if only as a side-duty--to pay respect to the institution of the Church. That is, a bishop, for example, to some degree officially represents the centralized institution of the Church, and he should be very cognizant of that and careful with it. I don't think, however, that a Sunday School teacher should feel that way at all. And I especially don't think that a seminary teacher should feel that way. So I'm trying on the one hand to draw a distinction between the pastoral concern and the call to probe the text: the teacher is called precisely to call into question (understood literally, not with the implication of doubt or apostasy) the ideas and beliefs of the members of the Church (what else would a teacher be called to do?), whereas the person called to a pastoral position has the duty of maintaining the order of the Church such that it can promote the development of the Kingdom. Perhaps another way to say this is that the pastor is called to command, and the teacher is called to think (or to lead the thinking of) the command. The former does not interpret, the latter does.

Now, I want to call this very distinction into question, because I am totally convinced that the best leaders are those who do nothing but teach. But I think the distinction is helpful, perhaps because it seems to be a sort of unrarified assumption among the saints generally right now. But if the distinction is at all worthwhile, it should be understood as an impetus to very profound and questioning study on the part of the teachers in the Church (whether ecclesiastical or CES or what have you). On the other hand, the one called to a pastoral position should be very aware of how much he/she is bound to the image of the institution. (My own approach to things is to recognize that pastoral connection to the institution in such a way that I can teach questioningly without besmirching the institution in any way whatsoever... hedging is a wonderful way to do it, but really careful study of the scriptures is another, because then one teaches with power and authority anyway... the Spirit.)

As for Mormon studies.... I'd really like to find people who are interested in the current state of Mormon studies. I wonder where we are right now, and where things are headed from here. Much of my interest in writing is grounded in a sort of hope to help shift the direction of Mormon studies right now. I think you are right to say that probably less and less will be coming from temple square on Mormon studies, but I have to confess that I'm not really pleased with any locus of Mormon studies as they are right now (one of the reasons I've toyed with the idea of starting a journal). I'm not convinced that any real engagement of the scriptures is happening--speaking broadly--in the Church. And the wiki is at once a confirmation of that problem (we are so few) and the beginning of a response (we are at all). Interesting days ahead. --Joe Spencer 15:28, 28 Nov 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure how it could be said that any person called as a teacher (sunday school, seminary, institute, etc.) could be said to have a position that is not "pastoral". Generally, teachers in the church should avoid speculation. As a volunteer at the institute where I am, I was asked to sign a form and get a recommendation from my stake president for the express purpose that I would follow guidelines (like shaving and wearing a white shirt and tie) and to "certify" (perhaps not the best word) that I would teach good (non-speculative) doctrine. Now, I expect I am imperfect in the execution, but nonetheless, I understand that I have a responsibility to honor that obligation and try to teach things that are true and edifying rather than uncertain and confusing.
I don't think that any distinction is ever made between teachers and those called to more "administrative" (also perhaps not the right word) positions. A similar term, "stewardship", is frequently used to describe a responsibility that one has to those who one serves and anyone who has a calling/responsibility has a stewardship. A teacher has a stewardship which includes the people in his/her classroom. The stewardship is a limited one, but it is real nonetheless and the need to avoid speculation applies.
Even if I were teaching or expounding in a way that was not sponsored by the church (ie in my personal study or here) the principles that dictate that speculation should be avoided still apply. Robert's citations of Paul outline principles that do not seem to be limitable to church stewardships or anything like that, but they indicate that certain kinds of inquiry are more destructive than constructive generally. For this reason, avoiding speculation is a help to the serious student of the scriptures, as it keeps one's studies from being counterproductive. (it keeps one's studies from distancing one from the spirit) Fortunately, I see no end to edifying material to study and edifying insights to be made.
The question of what speculation is though, becomes clearly important as I see that many people clearly use the need to avoid speculation as an excuse for thinking deeply about the gospel. (of particular interest to me is people who look down on the study of apocryphal texts, though I concede that clearly they should be handled with care) I like the page RobertC has put together.
--Seanmcox 00:25, 29 Nov 2006 (UTC)
I think Sean raises an interesting issue/tension here between "edifying" and "uncertain and confusing." The flip side, I think, can be expressed in the scriptural terms as the danger of "being at ease in Zion," and not "asking, searching, seeking" etc. vs. proof-texting. As I see it, really digging into the scriptures presupposes a certain amount of uncertainty (cf. Isa 6:9ff). I see this with my college students all the time, they don't like doing ambiguous case studies or having me ask them questions about topics we haven't studied yet, but if they can't think for themselves about these things, they're really not learning more than how to parrot back what I'm telling them (cf. Isa 28:9ff).
Finally (we should probably wait to discuss these issues on the forthcoming blog...), about Mormon Studies: I think most of the scripture study momentum is focused on the historical critical method. I am optimistic about progress on this front, but I think that this is too bad in another sense for the reasons Joe is hinting at. More scripturally, I think too much of this work fails to take the next (post-modern a la Nephi) step of likening scripture to ourselves. (And I think this is another reason the blog might be an interesting complement to the wiki, since certain kinds of likening do not seem appropriate for this site, e.g. a reader-response hermeneutic....) --RobertC 03:58, 29 Nov 2006 (UTC)

Sean: I think I agree with everything you said, as long as we are understanding "speculation" the same. My comments above, where I suggested that "speculation" might be a good thing for the teacher, were based on some "speculations" about the meaning of "speculation." I think we are too often talking past each other here. I opened this discussion (way above) precisely with the hope that we could define speculation rather than pronounce a positive or negative judgment on it. I think we can all agree that speculation is not good, but that means very little if we all mean something different by "speculation." So now, I want to ask you specifically: what is and what isn't speculation? Only after that has been answered can we call something bad or good.

Robert: I like the way you've stated things in your first paragraph. I'm not at all sure that Joseph ever said anything that was not "uncertain and confusing" for his hearers, though it was constantly "edifying." As Socrates showed us two and half millennia ago, confusion is a consequence of our own conflicting presuppositions, not of what another tells us (which was reason enough to have Socrates killed--and Joseph, too). As for Mormon studies (you're right--I should postpone this as well), could Church history studies be a parallel through which to think the development of scripture study? There are three eras of Church history study: early attempts by B. H. Roberts, Joseph Fielding Smith, Andrew Jensen, etc.; the New Mormon History beginning with (unfortunately) Fawn Brodie, but embodied best by Leonard Arrington et al (Signature Press, Dialogue, sometimes Sunstone, etc.); and the even Newer Mormon History, which has only just begun (Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling and Givens' By the Hand of Mormon are probably the only widely read such studies). If this model is followed (is it not a roughly pre-modern, modern, post-modern progression here?), then haven't scripture studies among Mormons essentially only just gotten into the second stage? Nibley and Sperry were probably the first to call for the more historico-critical methodology, and it has resulted in some fantastic work--especially like BYU's involvement with the DSS project and the work being done by Holzapfel, Wayment, Hunstman, etc. But I've yet to see any widely red studies that move beyond these possibilities. I think Jim's Romans 1 crosses that border subtly, but I'm not sure I'm aware of any other such studies being written. I wonder at what may come next. --Joe Spencer 15:43, 29 Nov 2006 (UTC)