Your Sunday Brunch Special: Poetry, Prose, Class, and Joseph Smith

Musings on a Sunday morning, nothing much important, but I inflict it on you anyway. You’ll forgive me for the strange usage.

Mormonism: outsiders, if they observe carefully, see two interwoven sides to the Joseph Smith narrative. There is poetry. His production of the Book of Mormon, for instance. The work itself is one of poetic-mythic dimensions, and its interpretations are part and parcel of the poetry that is early Mormonism. The Book of Mormon was originally seen as a universal American tale, offering predictions about the fate of the United States and the origins of its primitive inhabitants, the evils of Catholicism and the virtues of gentile Protestants who had somehow labored under oppressions of popery, even before a reformation. Joseph himself is poetic in our unhindered vision of him. His own hand reeks of biblical verse, prayers to heaven, pleas and gratitude for divine help. But, mid-career, Joseph seems to step behind a curtain, and becomes the object of narrative, rather than its producer. His journals are no longer dictated, they are mostly observed. We hear his voice as less personal, more formal, prosaic, if you will, as his revelations become hidden by secret orders, sermons couched in double meaning, and ghostwritten works.
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Sherlock Holmes in Utah

We seem to be in the midst of a Sherlock Holmes revival, what with the BBC’s Sherlock series, CBS’s Elementary (both are set in the present) and the Warner Brothers movies staring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. This little side-light on good old Holmes has a Mormon connection.

In 1923, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British author and advocate for the Spiritualism movement, visited Salt Lake City, Utah and delivered a lecture in the Mormon Tabernacle.[1] Doyle was and is most famous for his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle in his mature years.

Doyle in his mature years.

Holmes’s first adventure involved a crime that was linked to the Mormons of Utah, specifically, the Danite Vigilante Corps so popular in the nineteenth-century press. A Study in Scarlet was sold for 25 pounds sterling and appeared in December 1886.
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Lava Bombs and Malls

Last night I had a series of terrible dreams. One involved lava bombs. The neighbor’s home (who happens to be my bishop) was blasted to smoldering flames, my old pickup caught one squarely in its rusted bed, then my house was battered, dead center in the master bedroom. Naturally, I was standing in the driveway, barefoot, crouching down as hell rained upon the neighborhood. I ran into the house to get my wife, but suddenly realized she was still in bed (it must have been early). Crying, I tried to get up the stairs but lava was splashed about, seriously impeding my progress and then barring my way finally. Knowing her fate, as dreams are often omniscient, I went to the little cabinet where somehow there were spare car keys, grabbed one for the new car and rushed outside, hoping to get up north to check on . . . I don’t know what. The dream went on, predictably getting worse until I woke.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 14. Polygamy: Epilogue–Polygamy Today

This is the final post in the series on Doctrine and Covenants section 132. NB. Robert J. Woodford’s 1974 Ph.D. dissertation, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” has been very helpful in several aspects of this series, especially in confirming my readings of earlier editions. For earlier installments in this series, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12,, and Part 13. For a trivial index with links see the end of this post.

The July 12 revelation is not often referenced today. Public quotation of the revelation in general church settings came largely in the nineteenth century (despite the fact that the July 12 revelation is an underlayment for many modern Mormon values). The verses most often quoted or mentioned in general level meetings appear to be 7, 8, 19, 22 and 48. Given that, one might suppose that while sealing is alive and well, it’s twin, polygamy, given the current reference to Official Declaration 1 in the heading to the 2013 edition of Doctrine and Covenants section 132 (see part 3), is dead.

But not so.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 13: Speculative Revelation.

This is the penultimate post in a series on Doctrine and Covenants section 132. NB. Robert J. Woodford’s 1974 Ph.D. dissertation, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” has been very helpful in several aspects of this series, especially in confirming my readings of earlier editions. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11. and Part 12. The follow-on and final post in the series is here.

Warning: if your sense of humor does not extend to communing with the dead, or rewriting Holy Writ, leave off reading now.

I’ve mentioned several times before that I think section 132 was never meant for public consumption. It is, depending on one’s perspective, embarrassing for Joseph Smith, for Emma Smith and perhaps for both. It deploys language that in appropriating an Old Testament voice and figures, applies a moral authority where it may not belong, in general. I doubt Joseph ever wanted to invite the public to critique Emma’s behavior over these intimate matters, or for that matter, his own. For example, the talk of “ten virgins,” an obvious echo if not allusion to Matthew 25, a chapter Joseph had already used in the service of polygamy at least once (see part 9), may carry a kind of ugliness for the modern audience. This raises the question of what such a revelation might have looked like if it were meant from the beginning as public, out-in-the-open, Divine Counsel.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 12: Canon.

This is part 12 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, the follow-on post, part 13, is here.

Canon

Historically, Protestants struggled with language that styled ministers as “prophets” or that preaching was “the word of God” in some sense, instead segueing to phrases like “nearly prophetic” or “approaching the heavenly word itself,” etc.[1] Biblical text, often described as inerrant, a kind of guarantee against God’s Providence, had a certain purity attached to it. This purity made its trustworthiness durable. For all this to work, the Bible must not be susceptible to interpretation—or for many, even historicization—it must be possible to “read” the Bible in a kind of “obvious to all of good will” way, and see its shining truths, beyond dispute. And as a result, commentary on Scripture, preaching from Scripture, and so on, walked the boundary of that awful gulf between the Word of God and His Inscrutable Will.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 11: Escape Clause.

This is part 11 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10. The followup post is here.

Verse 64 below again speaks to the dynamic between Joseph and Emma. The “destroyed” meme recurs. That Joseph is the male object here is clear, since he “holds the keys of this power” and only one at a time exists according to previous text in the revelation. Get on board Emma. That’s the major message.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 10: Ten Virgins. The Mechanics of Plurality (and Sex on Earth, and in Heaven). And Another Addendum: Excommunication.

This is part 10 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. The part following this entry is here.

Much of the July 12 revelation is simplistically divisible into two kinds of speech: 1) Joseph is in the right. 2) Emma is in the wrong. The last section of the revelation falls into both categories. Along with this, we also get some talk of “virgins.” Earlier text in the revelation treats issues of sexual transgression (see part 8 for example).
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 9: Emma’s Dilemma.

This is part 9 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. The next part in the series is here (part 10).

The next portion of the revelation is explicitly directed to Emma Smith. It commands Emma to join in and receive the doctrine of polygamy, a terrible test for her. Verse 51 has been a puzzling statement since 1843 and there is no definitive information about its meaning.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 8: The Origin and Power of Polygamy. With an Adulterous Addendum!

This is part 8 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. For the follow on post, part 9, go here.

In Nauvoo, two notions of “kingdom expansion” in the hereafter developed in logical tension. They had textual roots from the New York and Kirtland periods.

(1) Kingdom expansion for a person in the hereafter was based on having many earthly progeny. In this way, after death and the exaltation of those children, their own godlike activities of world peopling and priesthood connection made one a greater “king and priest.”

Orson, you're always a good foil.  I appreciated it. That chair pose is not the most flattering thing you've done, though.

The spirit of man is uncreate.


(2) More wives in mortality meant faster growth of progeny in the hereafter somehow, though precisely how or what that meant was not really fleshed out until after Joseph’s death (by Orson Pratt, W. W. Phelps, Eliza R. Snow, Brigham Young and others)—in short, it entailed pregnancy and birth of, not physical bodies, but “spirit” bodies—Pratt saw heavenly gestation as comparable to mortal, hence the advantage of multiple wives.[1]
Well, Go to Hell, Orson.  You'll never be an Adam. And by the way, no on your good but inflammatory idea. /raspberry/

Spirits are always being sired in the eternal world by heavenly couples.


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Preaching, Tradition, History

General Conference season is behind us once again. Preaching is one of the main features of conference and there is a wide variety of it there. I’ve mostly been interested in antebellum sermons, partly because of their richness in terms of redaction criticism, a characteristic shared by ancient documents. Historically, scripture became scripture by repetition. People repeating what they heard, adding explanation, interleaving bits, expansion, contraction, often assigning sources as seemed appropriate. Below is a very short example from a sermon report (a Joseph Smith sermon delivered in June, 1844 less than two weeks prior to his death) that displays some of this process. Keep in mind, redactors often have a point to make.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 7: Errors, Unconditional Sealing, and Breaking the Bonds.

This is part 7 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.
The following part, part 8, is here.
Angels

The sealing of marriages, and eventually, the notion of priesthood adoption (as a kind of extension of New Testament Pauline adoption) appears as the pinnacle of Mormon liturgy in the July 12 revelation.[1] Like much of the revelation text, the relevant passages are laced with warnings about postponement or failure. This life is the time for sealings:
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 6: Keys and the Refinement of Things.

This is part 6 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are here, here, here, here and here respectively. The next part is here.

Portions of the next verses are perhaps among the more quoted of the revelation of July 12, 1843:

6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

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Contention is of the Devil!

Conference is on the way, people. It’s been, give or take, a hundred and fifty years since the conference pulpit has seen a little disagreement. But you never know!

The balance between the rational and the intuitive (in Mormonism we might say, reason vs. revelation, or the “mantle” vs. the “intellect”) — it’s not a new discussion. Roughly 300 years ago New England pulpits rang with polemics, preacher against preacher, over things like itinerancy, extemporaneous sermons, lay testimony and emotional conversion experiences. Each might be seen as either the work of the Devil or the work of God. Clerical conferences, used to a few quiet conversations over theological points, were torn asunder by bitter conflicts between extremes. The enlightened vs. the pious.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 5: Ancient Roots and a Death Penalty?

This is part 5 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 are here, here, here and here respectively. Part 6 is here.

Section 132 opens with a prologue explaining its origin, much as section 76, does. Since section 132 has had little variation over its published or manuscript life, I will use the text of the 2013 edition here.[1]
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 4: Setting the Textual Stage

This is part 4 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are here, here and here respectively. Part 5 is here.

Currently, Doctrine and Covenants section 132 has the following introduction/summary:

Section 132
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.

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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 3: The Public Revelation.

This is part 3 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here. Part 4, the post following this one, is here.

Street knowledge of the July 12 revelation existed in Nauvoo.[1] However, the first printing of the revelation was nearly a decade away from the delivery date. In the meantime, polygamy had a small core of practitioners. It appears that during the late spring of 1843, Emma wavered in her opposition to the practice and various stories exist about her selecting wives for Joseph (the Partridge sisters for example). In any case, Joseph and Emma were sealed six weeks prior to the writing of section 132.[2]
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 2: Manuscripts.

This is part 2 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Part 1 is here. You can find part 3 here.

The Manuscripts

Part 1 of the series established that William Clayton wrote the revelation on plural marriage (D&C 132) on July 12, 1843 and that its content was probably, at least in length, essentially the same as the currently printed edition. Moreover, this original did not survive the disgust of Emma Smith, who apparently burned it (one story circulated that she used fire tongs to put it in the flames so that she could say she never touched it).
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 1: Introduction.

This begins a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. (Part 2 is here.)

Introduction

Perhaps the most controversial revelation in the current Doctrine and Covenants is section 132. It’s (mainly external) controversy stems from its deification ideas and its (more broadly controversial) explicit promotion of plural marriage, polygamy. The revelation seems referenced in Joseph Smith’s sermons near its delivery and its appearance in 1843 divided church leaders and members who saw or heard its contents.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 3. Some Textual Variants.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good. Parts 1 and 2 of the series are here and here.

Text Evolution
One of the interesting textual mysteries about D&C 77 concerns the interpretation of the book of Revelation timeline. Some relevant passages:
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Theology of Place

We talk of sacred space. Spaces become sacred to us for various reasons, like dedicatory prayer, or usage over time. Home is often writ large as sacred in Mormon narrative, but in our transient modern existence, we have no stable places of residence. The narrative is often morphed by sayings like “home is where the heart is,” an especially popular one with the advent of the restless wandering of the twentieth-century.
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Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25: Priesthood: “The Power of Godliness”

[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.]

“Priesthood” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a primary boundary marker, perhaps the central boundary marker if one includes its origin stories, between Mormonism and antebellum American Protestantism. If there is one primary heresy qua Protestantism in Mormonism, it is the dispensing of grace via authoritatively performed sacraments. Most Latter-day Saints see this as the “Power of Godliness” and via Joseph Smith have an extensive protological sacramental soteriology. Their Protestant brothers and sisters were—and perhaps are yet in some cases—filled with the fear of prelate tyranny by such claims (shucks, being a BYU professor, I know some Mormons who feel the same–academic freedom anyone?!?). These claims also entailed communal living enterprises, breach of the sacrosanct canonical wall, a little bit (that a hundred years later had turned into a lot) of Methodist salvific pessimism and eventually the mysterious secret rites of temple Mormonism. Burrrrr, they said.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 2.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good. Part 1 of the series is here.

A wonderful thing about the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) is its permitted exploration of the First Presidency historical document collection. Recently rediscovered within that collection was a manuscript book of revelations, designated Revelation Book 1 in the JSP. This is a foundational text for several reasons.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 1.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good.

One of my favorite sections of the Doctrine and Covenants is 77. It is a favorite because it is a fruitful field for the discussion of the meaning, methods, and interpretation of Joseph Smith’s revelations in particular and to some degree, revelation in general.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Star Trek

There is a new Star Trek movie. And, this is current (Gospel) events, people.

I realize many BCC readers don’t follow Star Trek. Consider this a drive by catchup on things. One of the devices Trek watchers are familiar with is the Transporter.

As you can see from the clip, the Transporter does something like shuffling molecules over a distance. But not just that. It essentially murders people, and reanimates them. (If you don’t want to think about Star Trek, consider the classic film, The Fly.) Recently, there have been rumblings about such a piece of technology. Whether or not it exists now, is irrelevant to my question however. Suppose there was a Transporter. What does a spirit do during transport? We advertise that spirits are material. Do they get disorganized and then reorganized in the Transporter?* I hope you understand the serious nature of these questions. And you’re welcome.**

———————
* Joseph vs. Brigham here, right?
** Brain and brain! What is brain?!?

King Follett and Clouds of Meaning

We’ve just experienced the Mormon preaching festival. That is, general conference! In addition to inspired teaching, it gives the outside world a chance to experience some of the variety of Mormon address. And besides, I’ve been toiling over chapter 7 of the book, rewriting, rethinking some, and redoing other. This represents mental suds rising to the top of my brain-glass.

Texts are always encased by interpretation. Generations come and go, and interpretation floods over texts, at least those that rise to surface (paradoxically), via unearthing by graduate students or rediscovery by the public, or just constant devotion, etc. Scripture is no exception, and everyone, not just Nephi, deploys a kind of rationalization with circumstance and inspiration to come up with a correlated understanding, whether that be official, communal, familial, or even “backlistial.” Among Mormons, Joseph Smith’s sermons are quite often seen as doctrinal in some sense, a sense I won’t attempt to make precise.
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Night, Death, Grave

It’s late. Everyone is asleep. I realize my life is in transition. Unable to sleep myself, I quietly get out of bed and cautiously leave the bedroom, hoping my wife will not be disturbed.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Doctrine and Covenants Section 137A.

You may be interested to know that D&C 137A has been on the books for some time. However, to see it requires that you hold up D&C 137 of your officially printed scriptures so that the light of the full moon shines behind the page. On September 22. Viking Runes will appear. Sorry, the digital version is missing this feature. I came across it by accident as you may imagine, while lying in my hammock on such an evening, enjoying one of those last mild evenings. Imagine too, my shock.

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Sunday Evenings With The Doctrine and Covenants. Section 130. Epilogue. Some Visuals.

[Part 6 is here.]

It has long been the case that text scholars tend to believe everyone keeps up with their nerdiness. Getting an overview of a text study is helpful and while it leaves out many of the details that lure the textually addicted, graphical summaries of the relationships between texts can be helpful in understanding how things work in the temporal and logical senses. So here are two such graphical summaries.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 6. An Interview with Elder Orson Pratt And A Critical Text of D&C 130.

[The preceding part is here.]

This is the penultimate post in the series on Doctrine and Covenants section 130. Last time I gave you a genetic text for D&C 130. This time its a critical edition.

We’re nearly at the end of the line, people. The BCC survey results show that this sort of thing is the least popular item in our repertoire. But I really don’t care if you don’t like reading this stuff. It’s good for you. It broadens your religious horizons and it makes you wonder about your assumptions. Well, that’s what I’m selling at least.
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