The Church’s internet publication of Richard E. Turley’s September Ensign article on the Mountain Meadows Massacre got me thinking about issues in the past that I have really enjoyed. Perhaps my favorite article was written two years after I was born, by William Hartley.
Hartley is an excellent historian and has published in various scholarly journals, as well as being a regular contributor to Church magazines. His “From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996″ (Journal of Mormon History 22 [Spring 1996]: 80-136) is one of those must-reads that deserves a post of its own. In 1978 the January Ensign included his “Mormon Sundays: A historian looks at how we’ve observed the Sabbath since 1830,” which shows that Turley’s forthcoming article isn’t, perhaps, as foreign to the magazine as a decade’s worth of content might suggest.
The lead paragraph gets to the gist of it:
How was the Sabbath kept during Joseph Smith’s lifetime? Have we borrowed Sabbath ideas from others? What kinds of public worship services took place before we had spacious, temperature-controlled meetinghouses? Why were priesthood meetings shifted from weeknights to Sunday? Why was fast day changed from the first Thursday to the first Sunday of each month? How has administration of the sacrament varied? How have previous generations defined proper and improper Sabbath conduct?
To be sure, Hartley writes for his audience and assures the reader that all the changes are the fruits of modern revelation. Changes and trends are dramatically simplified, so you won’t find the full details that you will from his scholarly papers, which renders some of his assertions a bit naive. Still, it is a wonderfully enjoyable piece. It is also an historical piece in its own right. Written before the formulation of the three-hour block in 1980, Hartley anticipates some future flexibility in Sabbath scheduling:
Recently the Church issued special handbooks for smaller units of the Church–small branches, groups, and families–which permit the combining of Sunday School and sacrament meetings, and let Relief Society sisters meet while the brethren are in priesthood meetings.
So, here is to Camelot II and the phoenix of history.