W.V. Smith of BOAP.org fame returns as it were from the dead as our guest, with a post entirely restored to its proper and perfect frame.
The question of how Joseph Smith’s theological pronouncements were received by the Saints is an interesting one to me. The answer is complex. But focusing on his funeral addresses, suggests a somewhat more tractable problem. I want to single out one idea here. None of the theological points are really new, but the conclusions are, I hope, backed up by textual rigor.
A doctrinal thread that runs through all Joseph’s funeral addresses is an obvious one: resurrection. Latter-day Saints of the day came from various Christian backgrounds, were familiar with the Bible, and in the case of a fair number of males, were full or part-time preachers. The idea of bodily resurrection was not controversial for most Protestants of the time. Joseph’s take on resurrection was in some ways, more nuanced.
This was undoubtedly true in part because of his visionary experience of the process which he mentions in his sermon for Lorenzo Barnes. In particular, Joseph took a position that resurrection of the human body involved it being restored in the form in which it was laid down. But his revelatory insight did not apparently extend to complete understanding. Obvious questions come to mind: what of the elderly, the diseased, those deformed for various reasons. Those who had lost limbs, the cremated, lost a sea, etc., etc. The Book of Mormon takes a very brief shot at this with the words, “proper and perfect frame.” But the big question in Nauvoo particularly, was babies. Joseph held doggedly to a belief that resurrected children stayed children. At least he may have been dogged, sometimes. There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps the most obvious is resurrected bodies are somehow perfected, and cannot change.
Babies were a problem in Nauvoo, because so many of them died. Nauvoo death rates for children might have been double that of other communities of its size and not built on a mosquito swamp. As Patty Sessions once remarked, it was hard to raise a child in Nauvoo.
There was a lack of satisfaction about this idea. “Mothers, you shall have your children [in the resurrection]” Joseph is reported to have said. But who wants to change diapers for eternity? Also, you need much larger hands than a baby’s to take piano lessons for 2 years and then whine enough so you can quit. I think I can say that most parents would not prefer their resurrected baby remain at that stature, forever. The memories are good enough. Isn’t Mormon afterlife supposed to involve “the same [pleasant] sociality” as we have here? The result was that people didn’t talk about this too much, but there was a faction that was loyal to no growth/change after resurrection.
Not for several decades after Joseph’s death did people begin to think about the question. Finally, when Joseph’s scribes were dead or out of the picture, they got the blame for bad reporting. Joseph F. Smith was particularly unsatisfied with the idea of permanent babies. He found (very late) witnesses to testify that Joseph had said on one occasion or another that babies would grow to full stature in the resurrection. And while church president, the year he died, he more or less made it the official church position.
In Joseph F. Smith’s defense, during early Utah times, Brigham Young claimed he heard Joseph Smith preach it both ways. But Young was of the opinion that Joseph just didn’t know the answer. I think may be another of several examples of extrapolation of observation. Joseph saw stuff. And drew conclusions from what he saw. D&C 130 and 131 probably contain more examples of this.
Resurrected growing children might set up a paradigm that suggests that geezers that pass on, might have to go through a youthening process. I mean, who wants to stay permanently 96? But Geezer Resurrection probably deserves its own post. Joseph was probably not an “extreme resurrectionist.” That is that every particle that was in your body when you died, comes back. So perhaps the aging thing is not a problem.
Finally, what about all the babies that die and for one reason or another, don’t have parents who make it to celestial glory. Sisters, you may be in for more than you bargained for. Heaven is patriarchal. But since we’re going to be in “burnings,” you probably don’t really have to worry about diaper contents. It comes out as sterile, sweet smelling ash! Nah.
 I was going to put in something here, but I can’t remember what it was.
 An early Christian position, which is related to creation ex nihilo. In this view, getting pregnant is out.
 Ok, that’s not exactly true, but go with me here.