Re-Introducing the Mormon Texts Project

This is guest post from our Magnifying Your Calling: Mormon Book Geek dept., by way of Tom Nysetvold, the Director of the MTP. Tom is a Texan mechanical engineer involved in the refining industry who likes to hike and read old books in his spare time. He served in the Brazil São Paulo South Mission, speaks increasingly rusty Portuguese, and is studying Italian. He’s married to the beautiful and extremely supportive Elissa Nysetvold.

The Mormon Texts Project aims to make every out-of-copyright Church book available for free in Kindle, epub, HTML, and plaintext formats, forever. After a year or so of slow progress, we’re back in business, with eight books released on Project Gutenberg so far this year and many more in the works. In this guest post I’ll discuss our philosophy, the process we use to make books available, what we’re working on, and how people can help, in that order. [Read more…]

A Closer Look at Documents, Volume 2, of The Joseph Smith Papers

Mark Ashurst-McGee and Matthew C. Godfrey are the Batman and Superman of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. According to Mark’s wikipedia page, he is a “specialist in documentary editing conventions and transcription methodology.” Professor Steven Harper, stated Ashurst-McGee “probably knows the field of documentary editing better than anybody that I know.” Matthew Godfrey is the managing editor of the JSPP and probably knows the field of 19th century sugar production better than anybody that I know. He holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. Before joining the project, he worked for eight years at Historical Research Associates, a historical and archaeological consulting firm headquartered in Missoula, Montana, serving as president of the company from 2008 to 2010.

We are pleased to take this opportunity to talk about Documents, Volume 2, the latest release in The Joseph Smith Papers. Several editors worked on this volume, including the two of us, Grant Underwood, Bob Woodford, and Bill Hartley. We believe that the volume does much to advance our knowledge of early church history and of Joseph Smith. [Read more…]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, Part II

Part I can be found here. Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series.

“Caractors” and Money-Digging

The hefty appendix of Documents, Volume 1 contains some fascinating documents connected to Joseph Smith. First, the document containing “caractors” drawn off of the gold plates is examined.  While it has been assumed for years that this document was the actual manuscript Martin Harris took to Professor Charles Anthon in 1828, research conducted in conjunction with Robin Jensen not only demonstrated that the document was of later origin but also allowed us to publish the document with the inclusion of a bottom portion that had long since been torn away. The various Joseph Smith–era documents containing characters from the gold plates are examined and shown to the reader (pp. 353–367). [Read more…]

And The Oscar Goes To . . . Jesus!

Melody is one of our favorite commenters here at BCC. She earns a living as a Registered Nurse. She currently teaches Sunday School for twelve-year-olds and sings in the ward choir when guilt gets the best of her. She grows a respectable garden and hikes the trails of the Rocky Mountains year ’round. She writes when she’s not building sheet-forts with her grand children. Her poetry has appeared in Irreantum, Segullah, Utah Sings Volume VIII: An anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets, and in Utah Voices 2012, and in on-line journals and forums.

I missed the Grammys this year, but I’ve watched a few video clips. I had the same response this time as every other time I see a celebrity awards show: “Seriously? It’s not enough that they make millions of dollars, that they live like Royals, that they have a gazillion admirers who praise them, serve them, and seek their counsel and company? (Also: Oprah) Then they gather together as a group of worshipped beings to worship each other and themselves?!” [Read more…]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828-June 1831, Part I

Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series. We are super-stoked to have him as our guest.

Deciding what is of most interest in a volume you have researched, written, and edited is probably similar to attempting to determine which of your children you love most.  It all seems very important from my perspective, but clearly there are things in Documents, Volume 1 that will be of particular interest to both scholars and non-scholars alike. [Read more…]

So just what do Mormons think about evolution?

The following is a guest post by Benjamin Knoll, a political science professor at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He teaches classes on public opinion, voting behavior, political statistics, and other topics in American politics. He currently serves as the Elders Quorum President in his ward.

A recent popular headline suggested that acceptance of biological evolution has dropped nearly 10% over the last four years among Republicans. This has prompted renewed interest in many circles on the topic of American opinions toward evolution and, particularly for the Bloggernacle audience, how American Mormons view the topic.

[Read more…]

The Conversation We Heard

This post was submitted by MikeInWeHo, a longtime Bloggernacle participant and friend of BCC.

Since Judge Shelby’s decision, I’ve seen discussions about the history of traditionalists’ agenda against gays, suggesting that traditionalists were never anything except compassionate and nice to gays. I read it and thought, “Have I been living on another planet?” No, but there are two conflicting narratives. It’s very different from the conservation I remember:

Traditionalists in the 60s:Homosexuals are criminal predators who recruit our children, which is why homosexuality is a crime. We must close the places they gather and jail them if they refuse psychiatric treatment for their mental illness.”

[Read more…]

Advent IV–Rorate caeli

A final Advent post from Jason Wood

This will be my last post in this series, as Advent draws to a close and Christmas Eve approaches. It’s been fun to share some of my favorite music for this season, and I appreciate the chance to do so. The Rorate caeli returns for the fourth Sunday of Advent as the Introit, this time with a new plainchant in mode 1.

[Read more…]

More Advent Goodness

…from Jason Wood

Advent III – Gaudete in Domino

For this week’s Introit, I was going to use the plainsong for Gaudete in Domino, but it is in a minor mode and doesn’t seem very joyful. Instead, enjoy these minstrels from my hometown of Orem, UT singing the English translation of this text “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” formerly attributed to John Redford, but now usually considered of anonymous composition. Who knew there was a Catholic church in Orem? [Read more…]

Music for Advent II

Part II of Jason Wood’s guest series–thanks, Jason!!

Advent II – Populus Sion

In my remaining posts, I’ll try to share some interesting background information I’ve picked up singing in church choirs (at least info I find interesting) in addition to musical selections of chant, hymns, anthems, and organ music.

Background — Gregorian chant

I shared a few chants in last week’s post. I am far from an expert on plainchant, but I am an enthusiast. Back in the 2000-2002 time frame, before cell phones had polyphonic ringtones, I programmed the Victimae paschali laudes and Veni creator spiritus chants into my phone so that I had seasonally appropriate ringtones. As the oldest and most “unadorned” music of the church, chant, also known as plainsong or plainchant, is especially fitting for the seasons of Advent and Lent. [Read more…]

Eliza R. Snow and the inclusivity of the gospel

Julianne is a DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford where she studies childbirth and maternity in Africa. She has worked for a variety of non-profits, including UNICEF, and spent her 2012/13 academic year in Ethiopia. This is a sermon delivered in the Oxford 1st ward in England on the 27th October 2013. We are delighted to have Julianne as our guest.

When a member of the Bishopric asked if I’d be willing to speak on one of the general Relief Society Presidents of the church as part of this month’s Sacrament theme of Prophets, I nearly became a little emotional. While this should not be exceptional, I was still so happy to see such a welcome inclusion of women in the history of the church. I chose Eliza R. Snow as the subject of my talk, a woman who is incredibly interesting and inspiring to me, and was also an intrinsic part of the early church’s development. I hope that in my talk I am able to do justice to this woman, and the powerful work of the early Relief Society. For me and my own testimony of the Gospel, it’s very important to reclaim some of the more radical and diverse elements of our history. In my professional life as a consultant on women’s rights and global health, I have seen how across the world, impoverished communities and women in particular have been crushed under customs which demand their silence. [Read more…]

Reeve on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets

Paul Reeve is an all around great fellow. He is the author of the award winning Making Space on the Western Frontier and the forthcoming must-read, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, which is to date the finest treatment of race and Mormonism.

“Purpose: To show class members that the Lord continues to guide the Church through revelation to latter-day prophets, seers, and revelators.”

It is ironic that in a lesson on continuing revelation, of the examples that the manual uses, only one was canonized and became binding upon the body of the Church, the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. [Read more…]

“Can I Mourn with Those that Mourn Even If They Are for Gay Marriage?”

We are delighted to have this guest post from Michael Austin, Dialogue Board member, friend of BCC, and Provost of Newman University in Wichita, KS.

A Review of Common Ground/Different Opinions: Latter-day Saints and
Contemporary Issue
, eds. Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer

As citizens, we must argue with each other about important things. Participating in an inherently adversarial political system means proposing arguments and defending positions. Both our nation and the Constitution that governs it are built on a process designed to turn vigorous discussion and debate into manageable lumps of compromise that permit us to move ahead.

As Latter-day Saints, however, we must be of one heart and one mind. Becoming a Zion people means that we covenant to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God in all times and in all things (Mosiah 18:8-9). [Read more…]

Like anyone could even know that

Layne is an opinionated firecracker, slatternly hausfrau, failed hippie, and amateur student of the Second Estate. She blogs at

There is a scene in the movie Napoleon Dynamite in which Napoleon’s emotionally stunted Uncle Rico is showing Napoleon and his brother Kip a video of himself throwing a football, demanding validation from them. When Napoleon complains that the video is “pretty much the worst video ever made,” Uncle Rico snaps, “You know what, Napoleon? You can leave!” [Read more…]

Attractive Lies and Boring Truth

A guest post from Mike Austin. Mike is Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of English at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, a member of the Dialogue Board of Directors, and a generally all-around great guy.

Trouble, Right Here in Sal Tlay Ka Siti

“I always think there’s a band, kid.” —Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man

By the time that I figured out that I hated The Music Man, it had been my favorite musical for more than 20 years. When I was ten, my mother took me to see Tony Randall as Professor Harold Hill at the Tulsa Little Theatre, and I was hooked. I listened to the LP for hours at a time, and, when the Robert Preston/Shirley Jones movie came to HBO a few years later, I watched it almost every day for two months. I have seen five stage versions and two film versions of the play a total of probably 30 times. I probably have most of the lines by heart. [Read more…]

The British Pageant: Better than Expected?

Joel is a member of the Church in the UK and served a mission in Canada. He is married and currently studying for a PhD in genetics. We are very pleased to have Joel as our guest.

We first heard of plans for the British Pageant almost a year ago when initial calls for volunteers were issued. Then came the call for ticket reservations, which were soon dismissed as we had grim thoughts of a long drive in a bus from the Stake Centre, especially knowing my wife gets travel sick.

Until one evening last week. [Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 30: The Prisoners Shall Go Free

We are very pleased to have Emily U back as our guest. Be sure to catch her posts at The Exponent.

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

The stated purpose of this lesson is “to help class members rejoice in their opportunity to provide ordinances for the dead.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very odd to be told I should rejoice in something. If it’s so joyful wouldn’t I rejoice without being told to do so? Making rejoicing a duty zaps the joy right out of a thing, if you ask me. So I would rephrase the purpose as “to help class members appreciate the importance of ordinance work for the dead and rekindle some enthusiasm for it.”

OK. Ready to be enthused? [Read more…]

A peculiar people

Guest post from Hannah J. Welcome, Hannah!


In my first year of university I took a color film photography class where we were required to create a photo series. Every time I look at this series I made, I think about that element of childlike suburban peculiarity that exists within much of North American Mormon culture; carpeted walls and fake paintings, weddings taking place in basketball courts, and virginal 20-30 year olds playing games on a Friday night. [Read more…]

The Three-Hour Block, or, On Mormon Catechism

Karen Carter is a historian of French Catholicism. She has been teaching in the history department at BYU since 2006. From her office window she can see the hospital where she was born, but she has lived in other places besides Provo, including Orem, California, DC, and France. Her high score in bowling is 216, and she is currently studying confession and communion in rural parishes in eighteenth-century France.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, both Catholic and Protestant churches began to use texts known as catechisms to educate their members in church doctrine. The catechism was a series of questions and answers that the believer memorized and repeated back to priest or pastor. Catechisms had originally been used to teach adult converts Christian doctrine before they were baptized, but the genre disappeared once infant baptism became the norm. With the religious upheaval caused by the Reformation, church leaders of all confessions became increasingly concerned that members know and understand church doctrine so the catechism became popular once again. Luther and Calvin both published catechisms, and many others appeared in the next several centuries.

Catechisms served as a test of orthodoxy. [Read more…]

A Map of the Bloggernacle

Casey returns with tales from his travels through the wasteland of the interwebz.


[Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #9: “The Only True and Living Church”

Friend of BCC, Joe Spencer, has generously written this guest post as part of our Sunday school series. Joe blogs at the awesome ‘Feast upon the word‘ where they also post excellent lesson materials.

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

It appears that it was D&C 42 that turned the saints’ attention to the possibility—perhaps the necessity—of publishing the revelations. Many early officers in the Church made handwritten copies of that revelation to use in going about their duties. When one of those early officers apostatized and gave his copy to a couple of newspapers to print as the “secret bylaws of the Mormonites,” the Church’s leadership had to ask whether they wanted to have more control over the circulation of God’s word to them. Plans were then made to establish a printing outfit in Zion, to issue a newspaper, and to begin to assemble the revelations thus far received into a volume to be called the “Book of Commandments.” The first revelation to come off the newly assembled press in Missouri was, however, not the Church’s authorized version of D&C 42, but the so-called “Articles and Covenants” of the Church, the revelation we know as D&C 20. [Read more…]

A Tribute To Marlin K. Jensen

BCC is pleased to have AnnE, longtime reader and friend of the blog, contribute guest posts. AnnE is an American Sign Language interpreter of over twenty years. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri seven years before the Extermination Order was repealed, and baptized by missionaries at twelve. She has since lived in Chicago, Northern Virginia, and now Salt Lake City to chance the leap from avid genealogist to lay historian, researching deafness and disability within the LDS Church.

I first fell for this man on Sunday May 29, 2005. I had wrangled a spot near the front of the chapel at the Joseph Smith Memorial during the MHA conference commemorating the Prophet’s 200th birthday, and found myself directly across from the new Church Historian. Seated alone on the stand, dutifully in position before the meeting was to begin, he appeared scared to death. Bless his heartóit was all I could do to not dash up and whisper something encouraging. [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012–Final Results

The last of this series from Kay Atkinson King–many, many thanks to her for this excellent and informative series. It has definitely upped the information : uninformed blathering quotient around BCC!


Final Result:  Mormons in Congress Reach New High

We will not have a Mormon President of the United States in 2013, but when the Congress convenes on January 3 the largest number of Latter-day Saints ever to serve in the U. S. Congress will take their seats.  Seven of the one hundred members of the United States Senate and ten of the 440 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be Church members.  At the end of the current Congress, there were six Senators and nine Representatives. [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012

Kay King on the hotly contested race for the 4th Congressional District in Utah:

4th Congressional District of Utah: The Hottest Mormon vs Mormon House Race

One of the most interesting and intense congressional races in the entire country in November 2012 involving LDS candidates is the 4th Congressional District in Utah (Soutwestern Salt Lake County, Utah County West of I-15, Nephi).  On one side is incumbent LDS Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT  2001-present) who is one of the most, if not the most, endangered Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He holds the most Republican district that is now represented by a Democrat (NYTimes: “2 Legislators on Tough Turf Try Delicate Run Down the Middle”).  Matheson’s Republican challenger is Mia Love, a novice,  a conservative Black Republican and a Mormon.  The national press has already identified this as one of the key congressional races to watch, and this is the most interesting and most highly contested House race involving an LDS candidate. [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012

from guest Kay Atkinson King

House Races in Utah Districts 1, 2 and 3: Utah finally Gets its 4th Congressional Seat

Reapportionment and Redistricting in Utah

Between the federal census of 2000 and the census of 2010, the population of Utah increased by 23.8% to 2,763,885 people (Utah Economic and Business Review, 2011, No. 2).  This was enough to give the state a fourth representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In the reapportionment after the 2000 census, Utah fell 80 people short of getting its fourth representative in Congress.  Utah doggedly attempted to get its fourth representative first by challenging the reapportionment in court, arguing that the census failed to account for LDS missionaries who were residents but temporarily outside the state.  The state lost in Federal Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling.  Still determined, Utah filed another case, arguing that the method used to apportion representatives did not meet statutory and constitutional conditions.  Again the state was rebuffed by the Supreme Court (Wikipedia: 2000 United States Census; Utah v Evans [2002]).

Later in the decade, another effort was made to get a fourth seat in Congress.  When Democrats retook the House of Representatives after the 2006 election, legislation was introduced to grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House of Representatives, but without granting the District full statehood which would require full representation in the U.S. Senate.  That legislation was linked to a proposal to grant a fourth representative to the state of Utah by increasing the number of voting representatives in the House to 437 – one for Utah and one for the District of Columbia. [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012–Part 8

Another in our series from guest Kay Atkinson King (with special appearance from BCC friend Chris Henrichsen!)

(8) House Races in Idaho and Wyoming


Idaho is the state second only to Utah in the percentage of Latter-day Saints who are residents, and it is third (after Utah and California) in the total number of LDS living in the state.  Because Mormons were a large portion of the state’s population and its largest religious group, but unlike Utah not large enough to have a majority to dominate the state’s politics, the relationship between Mormons and politics has been more difficult and complicated in Idaho.  Local non-Mormon political and business leaders in the territory and later the state feared LDS political dominance.  Local officials in Idaho worked to disenfranchise Mormons, and Church officials and members were subjected to serious discrimination there in the territorial era and that continued after Idaho became a state.  [Read more…]

The Significance of “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”

BCC has smart friends! We’re happy to have some expert commentary from guest Taylor Petrey.

Taylor G. Petrey is an assistant professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College and director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program.  He received his ThD from Harvard Divinity School in 2010 in New Testament and Early Christianity and is a fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

On Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 1:00 PM major media outlets announced the publication and translation of a small fragment of a Coptic manuscript, provocatively titled by its translator “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”  The manuscript represents the only ancient text in which Jesus refers to his “wife” in the first person.  In major media outlets the find is made relevant to the context of Catholic celibacy requirements for clergy, but the text is sure to be of interest to Latter-day Saints, some of whom have long theorized that Jesus may have been married. [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012, Part 6

The latest from guest blogger Kay Atkinson King

Utah U.S. Senate Race

The Waning of Tea Party Influence?


Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT 1977-present) entered the Senate after defeating Senator Frank Moss (D-UT 1959-1977) by a 54% to 45% upset 36 years ago in the 1976 election.  Moss, who like Hatch is a member of the Church, was the last Democrat to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate.  In Hatch’s last four reelection efforts (1988, 1994, 2000, and 2006), the lowest vote he received was 62% in a three-way contest in 2006.

The 4th longest-serving U.S. Senator in the current Congress and the longest-serving Republican member of the Senate today, Hatch is only four years away from becoming the longest-serving Republican senator ever.  [Read more…]

Our Bickering Founding Fathers and their Messy, Imperfect, Inspired Constitution

Michael Austin is Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of English at Newman University in Wichita Kansas. In the secular world, he is known as a scholar of eighteenth-century literature and of cognitive narrative theory. In the Mormon world, he has published several books and articles on the portrayal of Mormon themes and characters in mainstream American literature. His first book for a non-academic audience, That’s Not What They Meant: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing will be released tomorrow (September 18th) from Prometheus Books.
[Read more…]

Mormons in Congress, Part 5

Another installment in our guest series from Kay King:

Nevada U.S. Senate Race

Mormons Battling on Opposite Sides

Nevada is the only state other than Utah ever to have two U.S. senators serving together both members of the Church.  LDS Senator Harry Reid (D-NV 1987 – present) has now served almost 16 years in the Senate.  He is currently the Senate Majority Leader, the most senior leadership position in the Senate and the highest office a Latter-day Saint elected official has held thus far.  Dean Heller (R-NV House of Representatives 2007-2011) was appointed by the Governor of Nevada to serve the remainder of the Senate term of Senator John Ensign (R-NV – 2001-2011) and not LDS, who resigned from the Senate on May 3, 2011.  Heller had previously announced his intention to run for Ensign’s senate seat in March 2011 when Ensign announced that he would not run for reelection (“Dean Heller announces run for Senate in Nevada,” Washington Post). [Read more…]


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