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A wonderful thing about the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) is its permitted exploration of the First Presidency historical document collection.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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The Infinite. Part 11. Mormon Troubles with the Infinite.

Here is the previous part. Apologies to the huge cadre of readers who have been waiting on the edges of their collective seats for this for over a year. I just forgot to post it at the time–and then went off on other adventures. You’re welcome. To catch up with what’s here, I recommend subjecting yourself to the pain of following the link above (and similar links in it and its predecessors until you reach the “beginning”).For you, Brad.

One of the axioms of Mormonism is the existence of an infinite supply of matter. This follows from various statements like “this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) This process, which many Mormon thinkers have seen as not only the life of God but the life of every exalted person, implies that spirits will never run out. That is, there is either an infinite supply so that the process may continue, or there is an infinite supply of material from which spirits and their corresponding bodies may be “organized.” (Sorry, ex nihilo not allowed.)
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130 Part 5. Genesis, Exodus. . .

[Note: the text below has been modified from its original version. My thanks go to Mike Parker for a nice careful reading which exposed several errors in my original edition. Particularly in verses 16 and 17, where I failed to see that the material appeared in the Clayton report. Mike also noted a few more errors (a number are html coding errors on my part) which I have taken the liberty of correcting. I noticed a couple of other puzzling things about this material that I may expand on at some other time. Some of the changes here affect succeeding parts of the post too. Hence, part 6 is slightly modified.]

The headings for D&C sections were written anew in the recent 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures. The new scriptures are an encoded banner of trust for the Joseph Smith Papers. Go JSPP.
[Part 4 is here.]

Ok, here is D&C 130, coded to reveal where it came from, a genetic text if you will. Note: some passages are clearly quotations of modified biblical pericopae. That is not what I’m about here. I’m just displaying the modern manuscript sourcing for our current text of D&C 130.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: “Conferring the Priesthood.” When Architecture Becomes Liturgy.

Priesthood is a complex subject in Mormonism. The very meaning of the word has ebbed and flowed. Below, I focus on ecclesiastical office in a narrow sense. I only consider church structures involving the practice of ordination, not “setting apart” in the modern vernacular.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 4. Comparing Sources for the MS History.

You can see from parts one, two and three that the text of D&C 130 is founded on the Manuscript History of the Church via its instantiation in the Millennial Star. The Manuscript History is a work of epic proportions, almost entirely due to the planning and effort of Willard Richards, apostle, private secretary to Joseph Smith and church historian and recorder. Richards procured large ledger books in which to copy edited source documents for the history. Richards did not live to see his project completed, but the History more or less followed his source plan, a plan written out in Nauvoo before the apostles journeyed west to Utah. The various scribes for the history include some well known names in Mormon lore, like Thomas Bullock, Jonathan Grimshaw, Leo Hawkins, Robert Campbell and more.[1]
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Bishop B And the Devil.

“So what happened next?”

“He came through the doorway and stared at me.”

“Then what?”

“He started to beat me with his fists. Then he grabbed at me. But it wasn’t like being grabbed by a man, I could see him grabbing my spirit. He had one hand around my neck and was pulling on it. It stretched out, I could see him pulling it out. Then it snapped back. That hurt my head and my feet.”

“Where was Sister B?”

“She was beside me in the bed at first. She could not see him, but she could see me struggling and later she told me she knew what it was. She got out of bed and knelt down and started praying.”

“Wow. How long did this go on?”

“It was about 30 minutes.”

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Youth Conference: 1963-ish.

Imagine you are 16 years old. You are LDS and the church is relatively small. Youth Conference is scheduled to happen at Colby College in Maine. It’s November. There are fun things in store, and you’ll meet other Mormons. The busses gather up the attendees from all over New England. After the get-to-know-you activities, etc. the key-note speaker stands.

He begins to speak and you start hearing names like Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, and in this mix somewhere, Joseph Smith.

Truman Madsen delivers the goods: “God: Personal or Impersonal.”

It was forthwith printed as a missionary pamphlet!

Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 3. Spiritual Mechanics.

In honor of the Doctrine and Covenants study this year, this is the third post a series on one of the sections that doesn’t get too much play in the Gospel Doctrine course this year.

Now, in the previous part of this post, I showed you where Brother Orson got the text for D&C 130. Why did he go there you ask?[1]

In this part of the post I’m going to explore the text in a slightly different way. The Millennial Star text (Pratt’s source for D&C 130) was derived from the Salt Lake City church newspaper, The Deseret News. The News text was derived from the Manuscript History of the Church, an 1855 era construction (see part 1). The logical thing to do now is ask, where did the Manuscript History text come from? I mean this particular part. The thing as a whole is a maze of compiled texts from a whole lot of sources.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 2. Comparing the Immediate Source with Section 130.

In honor of the Gospel Doctrine course of study this year, this is the second in a series of posts examining Doctrine and Covenants section 130.

Having fun yet? If you missed the vital part 1, better click here. In short, in part 1, you’ll find a manuscript that served as background for D&C 130. However, it is not the actual source of the section. In reality, Orson Pratt extracted his material from the History of Joseph Smith as it appeared in a church publication. Here’s a side by side with some of D&C 130 (on the left) and that source:
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Sunday Evenings With The Doctrine and Covenants. Section 130. Part I. The Manuscript Source of D&C 130.

In honor of the Doctrine and Covenants study this year, this begins a short series on one of the sections that doesn’t get too much play in the Gospel Doctrine course this year.

Sunday posts are generally doomed to obscurity. That is the conventional wisdom. And Super Bowl Sunday posts? They must be sucked into an internet black hole. That being said, enjoy: you two readers in Botswana!

Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants consists of excerpts of sermons by Joseph Smith. It found its way into the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876, 34 years after the date attached to the heading of the section.
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“There is Nothing New to Be Discovered . . . “

Ben F’s recent guest post on faith and science had an image of Lord Kelvin subtitled by his infamous prediction regarding science. That quote made me think of experiences with people in my own life. When I was a grad student, my father loved to introduce me as a budding mathematician to whoever we happened to meet in our occasional travels together. At the time, it generated dual sets of feelings. One set revolved around the fact that he had some pride in what I was doing, though he didn’t have any understanding of what exactly that was. The other set was encompassed by a straight-forward cringeyness.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special. Extempore: Knowing Beforehand What Ye Should Say, Er, Pray

Prayer is a Topic of the Day

Preaching in Mormonism during the 19th century was mostly an on-the-spot moment of preparation, following New Testament dictum that the Holy Spirit would give the words as they were needed. Gradually, that meme was broken. We still hear the extemporaneous sermon, and there is a bit of romance in it, but in large public gatherings, sermons are often preplanned at least and most often, pre-written. I frequently enjoy both. Can God inspire the preacher who prepares his sermons before the event? Of course.
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Gospel Doctrine Lesson #1: Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1.

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual.

The word “canon” is not widely used in the church in reference to its books of scripture. Perhaps part of the reason for this is the way it is used in most Christian contexts: a fixed rule by which all else is measured. Instead, we developed our own title for these books. “Standard Works” substitutes for canon and avoids the implication that the body of sacred texts is unchangeable. The term was broader initially than now, but still focused in scripture texts. Here’s George A. Smith, April conference, 1867:
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BCC Readers: Who (or What) Are You?

At BCC we constantly attend to the issues that drive people to come here, who they are, really, and what they expect from us. BCC labs has cooked up some devices to assist us in answering these questions (we’ve tentatively called them “polls”). With your assistance, darkness will be beaten back into obscurity and light will flood the secret corners of the monstrous many-roomed manor that is BCC.
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The Kitchen and the Study: Mormon Women

Just musing a bit on sermons, so here’s some stream-of-consciousness for you. I stole the title from Marion Taylor’s article on Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Mingling of Two Worlds: The Kitchen and the Study.[1] Stowe wrote to a brother, “I was made for a preacher–indeed I can scarcely keep my letters from turning into sermons”. She wrote of women as capable “priests” whose “ordination and anointing are from the Holy Spirit’s unction.” In a way, Harriet preached in the same way her seven minister brothers did: we know what they said because of what they wrote.
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Women, Preaching, Praying

Karen’s recent post made me try to think through this a little. Cynthia has posted about Mormon women and prayer and rereading her post on the subject along with the recently announced policy on missionary service age also motivated me to finish this. And look Ma! No footnotes! Daniel Howe and Catherine Brekus are the best and easiest places to look if you are inclined though.

Preaching is a favorite topic for me and quite a few of my posts at BCC have directly or tangentially touched on it. I’ve mostly focused on the long nineteenth-century in my thinking and most of what I have to say will be concentrated there.
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part XVII. Elijah.

Besides the “priesthood revelations,” other important texts defined how the Mormon hierarchy worked and to some degree the associated terminology and theology. Standouts among them are LDS D&C 102 and 112 in the current edition. The first of these concerned the high council system, a formal group taking the place of ad hoc groups of high priests rendering judgement on items of policy, doctrine, procedure, finances and other matters. The high council was a kind of judicial/legislative group that heard cases of complaints between church members, directed funding, regulated local church structure and tried appealed cases from lower forms of discipline like bishop’s courts.

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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part XVI. Discipline and Succession – Written and Unwritten Rules.

One of the interesting issues raised by the history of Doctrine and Covenants section 107 is the question of a transgressing President of the Church. The November 11 revelation (second half of D&C 107) introduced a church court system (see parts 2 and 3 in the series). The two leading offices in the early (1831) church were the bishop and the president of the high priesthood. The revelation defined a way for each officer to be disciplined, should the need arise. This was to work by using each of the court systems attached to these officers to judge the other.
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part XV. Evolution of Discipline.

D&C 107 was a long time in the making and it contains many separate revelations woven together into the whole (and it didn’t finish the story: consider D&C 112 and 124). Witness: The Nov 11 revelation, itself perhaps two separate revelations, the vision of the Seventy, the vision of Adam, the esoterica of bishops, the “book of Enoch” and others. The story is one worth telling, not only to understand the process of revelation, but to understand the way Latter-day Saints speak and how that speech and its understanding were effected by the processes of textual influence.
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part XIV. Priesthood Ordination Praxis.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, how is a man ordained to the priesthood? This question is fraught with historical complexity both in the meaning of the terms deployed in that sentence, and the ways in which acceptable practice has evolved over the years.

For the first 90 years or so of LDS church organization, priesthood ordination ceremony gradually developed into more or less the following pattern:

By authority of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I ordain you an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers keys and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part XIII. More Editing the 1831 Revelation.

Continued from part 6. No, just kidding. Part 12.

The second part of the November 11, 1831 revelation/D&C 107 was altered in interesting ways when published in 1835 and like the first part, these changes also reflect otherwise unknown revelation(s).
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