Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part IV.

The Genesis of Modern Mormon Bureaucratic Structures

After the revelation of November 11, 1831 was dictated by Joseph Smith (see parts,1, 2, and 3), it did circulate to some degree and was to be a part of the proposed Book of Commandments (BC) but didn’t make it – see JSP, Revelations and Translations vol.2 for an argument that the revelation was set to appear in the BC and would have done so if the printing had not been disrupted.
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part III.

This continues the discussion of the November 11, 1831 revelation (see part 1 and part 2) with the second portion, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery.
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part II.

I continue from part I with what is essentially that portion of the text of the (second) revelation of November 11, 1831 in the hand of John Whitmer.[1]
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Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part I.

All Latter-day Saints need a little context in their lives. What better way to get that around conference time than looking at some text history, eh? I’m quoting myself here mostly in this series, but even if you’ve seen some of it before, it will have something new for everyone I hope. Think of this (infinitely long) series as an appreciation of the wonderful Joseph Smith Papers Project.

Section 107 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants is often quoted as fundamental in determining succession in the presidency of the LDS church (it was so quoted in the post martyrdom conference of August 1844 in Nauvoo). It plays a role in outlining the organizational structure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as some other parts of the post-Joseph Smith Mormon diaspora. The focus of D&C 107 is priesthood structure and church government for the most part. It is a remarkable document for many reasons and I will not try to cover each aspect of the text in these posts. The other important revelation here is D&C 84. It will get some time as well. There are a couple of other key texts that I won’t spend too much time with like D&C 124.
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James Edward Talmage. Superman.

[Cross-posted at Boap’s blog.]

James E. Talmage, a name that lives in legend among LDS missionaries for the last 60 years, was British born and converted to Mormonism in 1873. Talmage was a talented scholar from childhood. After emigrating to the US he ended up finishing four years at Lehigh in one year and went on to Johns Hopkins in 1883. Ph.D. at Illinois Weslayan even though he wasn’t in residence. At home in Provo, he was a city councilman and then judge. (Some of his court cases are a crackup.)
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Musings on Mormon Ideas, I.

What is the force of religion in history? Over the last century or so, historians of Christianity moved from the idea of teleologic morality operating within history to one where the notion of a good-directed society was submerged into the laws of chance.[1] For scholars of faith, it meant that while God was driven from the role of guiding the planets and the providential orbits of human lives, he was still present in the moral choices of men and women. But for others, seeing salvific or moral meaning in every event was a burden now left behind. We can argue the benefit or shame of this transformation, but it exists.[2]
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Your Sunday Brunch Special, #15. Dear Jim.

Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

I grew up on the edge of a slowly expanding metropolis. Between the ages of 0 to 7 or so, I lived in an older home, along a street bordered by empty fields on one side and a row of homes on the other. I have vivid memories of this place, but I’m not always sure of their correspondence with reality. Prior to my 8th birthday, we moved from this more or less comatose area to one roughly a mile away. Our new street was short, caught between two “T” intersections at either end. Across the street lived two girls my age in the only two houses on that side. I later had some slight romantic involvement with both of them, but that’s another story. To our right was a long-time resident family, an overriding memory of them was their love of all things cowboy. They kept horses, until some years later when my mother rather gleefully announced that the city now forbade this practice. It took several citations before the horses finally disappeared as I recall. There was bad blood from that point.
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Sidney Rigdon, the Manuscript History of the Church and Making Sermons Texts.

In 1844, Mormonism was in for its biggest historical moment so far: the death of Joseph Smith. The headquarters of the Church was Nauvoo, Illinois and it was bursting with converts from the US and the UK. These people had some basic familiarity with the movement’s history, but they didn’t have the experience, they weren’t insiders, they hadn’t been part of those heady days of revelation upon revelation, revelations of all kinds and spectra. That deficit was addressed at the April General Conference. President Sidney Rigdon stood to preach to the very large open-air crowd. I’m not going to try and tell you everything he said. He spoke for a long time. What we are about here is, how do we know (some of) what he said?[1] Two clerks had been assigned to take minutes, William Clayton and Thomas Bullock. Both were capable longhand reporters, and they had somewhat complementary styles. This complementarity can serve us well. I’ll give you an example (without the intrusive sics). Here is Clayton’s version of some of Pres. Rigdon’s address:
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Your Sunday Brunch Special, #14: Stones, Expectations, and Faith

There are Distinctions to be Made Between the Past and Present

A friend’s query made me think of this thing which I wrote some time back. You’re welcome:

We (sane?) humans have a well-known tendency to systematize our thought-environs. We desire to not only have reality match expectation, but many of us desire that our sincere beliefs not be paradoxical and have no gaping rational holes. Perhaps such tendencies, assuming they exist, arise from the paradigms of science or perhaps from an inherent desire to have things make sense—to have deductive logic connect the pieces. Do these tendencies motivate us to make and hold to seemingly rational conclusions about faith (theology?), even when empirical evidence “proves” they don’t match reality? When logician Kurt Godel was asked if (based on a cosmology which includes time-travel) one could go back in time and kill their own great-grand parents, he replied that this would create a paradox, and so could not happen because “logic is powerful.” [Read more…]

Housework: Male-Female Divisions of Labor

In the U.S., time allocation trends in marriages have changed markedly over the last 50 years. Specifically, the idea that married with children entails dad doing anything but the dishes has faded into TVLand viewing. For example, in 2010, among married couples where both are employed full-time outside home, women averaged 1.1 hours of childcare a day. Men were 17 minutes behind. That’s an improvement (over 35 years) of 300% for the guys. But that’s not the real story I think. Research shows that as women moved into the workplace during the same period, they kept a lot of child care duties.[1] But not housework. No. Men picked up the slack big time.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special #13. Miracles: Littlewood’s Fourth Principle.

John Edensor Littlewood (1885-1977) is still a bit of a legend in the (mathematics) profession — he was best known for important results with his frequent collaborator Godfrey Hardy and others. But the things that come to mind most readily when I think of Littlewood are his four principles.[1] The first three pertain to objects relevant to mathematical analysis, and while I will state them, I’m not going to say anything about them.

J. E. Littlewood, when he wasn’t so stuck up.

It’s the fourth principle, usually called Littlewood’s Law, that I wish to consider. Anyway, here they are, as found in my memory, which may differ some from what Littlewood actually claimed:
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Excerpts From Thomas Bullock’s Journal #1: Brigham’s Best, Home Teaching the One, and Reminiscing

Thomas Bullock’s journal-keeping serves up some interesting slices of life on the Utah frontier. This begins an irregular series of excerpts from his writing during the 1850s.

Newell K. Whitney’s payoff. Countersigned by TB

Thomas Bullock, LDS Church Historian’s Office chief clerk in 1856 reported this during the month of June:
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A Note on Mormon Studies Materials

We live in an age of wonderful expansion in the availability of archival and early imprint materials relating to Mormon Studies. Google Books is a well known example. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published thousands of images from its various collections in a DVD library called Selected Collections (2002). Additionally, the Church is adding to its extensive online collections at You can find help here at
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Wilford Woodruff and the Sermons of Joseph Smith

A number of Joseph Smith’s sermons appear only through the good fortune of having Wilford Woodruff present. But what kind of reporter was he? The answer is complicated. First, Woodruff was an inveterate diarist and its impossible to over emphasize the importance of that in understanding Mormonism, particularly the Utah Mormonism of the 19th century. A major bonus: they’ve been published. (Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898 (9 vols.). (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1984-). You can pick up a used copy for under $3,000. There is also an electronic version from Signature Books, “New Mormon Studies CD” for a lot less (warning: the interface is rather primitive and mac users will need a Windows emulator).

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Your Sunday Brunch (Not a Mother’s Day Post) Special, #12: Sermons, Their Impact, and Joseph Smith

No, not a Mother’s Day post. Just some thinking out loud here. Ignore without peril.

Preaching in America during the long eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and more especially the antebellum period, makes a fascinating study (says I). Gauging the impact of those sermons among listeners and downstream is especially interesting. However, doing that can be challenging and requires considerable detective work especially in considering immediate impact. Ideally, there would be surveys to consult, reported interviews with listeners and so on. But those instruments were not really known in the sense that we use them today. There are a few items that can give us a peek at what people thought about their preachers. However, with one or two exceptions, these are not massive contemporary collections of data. Instead, we have personal accounts in diaries, memoirs, and the like. Pursuing such things for the occasional brief comment on one or another preacher can consume years and those discoveries rarely cluster around one particular minister. Given all the surviving texts of early American sermons it is rather startling how little we know about how they were received.[1]
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Your Sunday Brunch Special #11. Who is Iscah?

Abraham’s family life is the stuff of Jew, Gentile, and Mormon legend. But, I’m not going to break into that territory much. It’s too complex and I don’t have the mental space for it now. But, who is Iscah? The name appears once in the Hebrew Bible, just after the genealogy of Abram:
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Funerals, Sovereignty and Your Prayers: A Poll

The Rev. Nathanael Emmons (1745-1840), intellectual scion of Hopkins and thus Edwards, was the mentor of more than 150 ministers. His collected sermons span six volumes and many of them touch on death and the sovereignty of God. Among many passages, Emmons sites Job 23:13,
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The Joseph Smith Papers – A Reminder

The Joseph Smith Papers Project (JSPP). Yes, it is a wonderful thing. It will change the way the Church references and divides Early Mormon History. Indeed, it will change the very way we understand and deal with our most fundamental stories and texts. Eventually, the JSPP will impress its work onto the very face of Mormonism, and that is as it should be. We are a history-driven religion — in the sense that our stories define much of what we believe and where we place our faith. JSPP is not about synthesis so much as it is about revelation (there is a pun here — a spectacular one). Revelation in terms of what our earliest records actually say and to some degree the context in which they say it.
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Preaching, Rhetoric and Mormons

With the recent conference, many Church members saw what has become the pinnacle of Mormon Preaching: The General Conference Address. But is it really representative of the Mormon sermon? I say no. In my paltry experience, Mormon preaching is much more like classical Methodist homily than the considered rationalist stuff you might get from an Anglican pulpit. General Conference preaching is very carefully scripted. No off the reservation speculation, no fire and brimstone to speak of, no getting lost in the rhetorical moment allowed, much. (I think Church presidents have their leeway and there is descent evidence for that.)
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The Presiding Bishopric. Your April Conference Prep. Part 6: Recapitulation and the Present Day.

Back to part 5, and back to the beginning if you want to start over.

Summarizing and expanding a bit here. Responsibility profiles for the PB have varied. In the 1970s they became more deeply connected with the Church’s youth organizations. Eventually that role was withdrawn and they now function in supervising Church business matters including real estate, commercial corporate interests, humanitarian operations, etc. though at present the Presiding Bishop sits on the Church PEC, hence he is a discussion partner in youth issues.[1] [Read more…]

The Presiding Bishopric. Your April Conference Prep. Part 5: Crossing the Plains and Utah Developments.

Back to part 4, forward to part 6–the end.

After the death of Joseph Smith in June 1844, it became clear that the Latter-day Saints would leave Illinois. The majority of Nauvoo Saints went west with the apostles, and they needed assistance in dealing with the those who required food and shelter. In the lay-over region called Winter Quarters (near present day Omaha, Nebraska) the need was great enough in 1846 that small wards of roughly 500 persons were created with a bishop for each.[1] As Utah was established a similar pattern developed but the office became richer yet. Church leaders found a need for not only a Presiding Bishop (Whitney was appointed in 1847 and served without counselors until his death in 1850) but for “traveling bishops,” stake bishops, general bishops, regional bishops and lieutenant bishops (not really) who moved among the Mormon communities, regulating the work of other bishops in those communities and collecting donations-in-kind for redistribution.

Edward Hunter succeeded Whitney:[2]
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Review: “King Follett: The Man Behind the Discourse.”

Title: The Man Behind the Discourse: A Biography of King Follett
Author: Joann Follett Mortensen
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Year: 2011
Pages: 603 + xvi
Binding: Paperback (also available in Kindle [$9.95] and other ebook formats)
ISBN13: 978-1589580367
Price: $29.95

If you know even a little Mormon history or its theological underpinnings, you know the name King Follett. But what do you know about King Follett aside from the rather odd appellation?
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The Presiding Bishopric. Your April Conference Prep. Part 4. Early Mormon Bishops and the Evolution of Tithing.

Back to part 3, forward to part 5.

With the revelations of November 1 and 11, 1831 helping to define the role of the bishop,[1] you can see that the road was being paved for more bishops in the Church. As temporal ministers, it was only a matter of time before more were called as Church population increased (when Partridge was called there were about 150 members in Ohio). At first, two population centers developed: Zion (Missouri) and Kirtland (Ohio). Bishop Partridge was a leading voice in governance in Zion. At the end of 1831, another bishop, Newel Kimball Whitney, was called for the Kirtland area (by that time Ohio membership numbered about 1,500) and among other things to work in tandem with Partridge in the United Firm (UF — the Church “corporation” if you will). Partridge, Whitney and their counselors formed an important financial administrative body in the firm. Whitney was relatively well off and his business operations in Kirtland became the heart of the firm there.[2]
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The Presiding Bishopric. Your April Conference Prep. Part 3: D&C 68 Analysis.

Back to part 2, forward to part 4.

Doctrine and Covenants section 68 contains important material regarding bishops. It is also interesting for the textual evolution it underwent. I’ll begin by considering the proto-version of verses 13 through 24 (as they appear in Revelation Book 1, Joseph Smith Papers Manuscript Revelations volume) and then I’ll look at the 1981 text (the current text of the D&C). In the RB-1 text, observe that the blue text is omitted from the current edition. In verses 13-24 from 1981, the text in red is additional text added to the 1831 revelation – this additional text appeared first in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
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The Presiding Bishopric. Your April Conference Prep. Part 2: More on Early Mormon Bishops.

Here is part 1. Skip ahead to part 3 if you wish.

Bishops evolved several classes of duties, augmenting or adding to those outlined or suggested in the precursor to D&C 42 and various additions like D&C 51. D&C 107 is a revelation of many historical parts, several of those being in the segment from verse 58 onward. That segment for the most part was given November 11, 1831. There the first ordained Mormon bishop, Bishop Edward Partridge,[1] learned a bit more about the relation of the office to other Church officers and his duties regarding Church discipline. The relevant part of the revelation originally read something like this: [see RB-1.]
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The Presiding Bishopric – Your April Conference Prep. Part 1: Bishoprics in Early Mormonism.

Last conference I gave you the Seventy. Who knows what will come next. You’ll forgive this sort of annotated stream of consciousness. These six posts were dashed off in a hurry several months ago and then pecked at for the last few weeks. (Here is part 2.)

The priesthood office of “bishop” in Mormonism derives from two early revelations. The first was dictated in New York, January 2, 1831 (note the wonderful colloquial language):

And now, I give unto the church in these parts a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and they shall be appointed by the voice of the church;
And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them;
And this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church.[D&C 38:34-36]

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Your Sunday Brunch Special #10: The Mines of Morsatch

A long time ago, in a . . . well nothing so exotic as that. But it was decades ago – when I was just starting college. My brother came by the house early one Saturday. He was driving an old Chevy Nova. “Want to go look for mines?” It was not an unusual question. The idea in his head I knew well. We would grab a couple of flashlights and head for the canyons where miners had delved for gold and silver in the deeps of time –ok, a hundred odd years back. It made me think of Brigham Young’s forthright comments

One of Brigham's Early Venues

about *not* hunting for gold in those mountains. But Gentiles at least were not bound by booming voices in old tabernacles.

I grab a light and hop into the car. The glass pack mufflers rumble as we head out east. We hit a winding canyon road, and begin to climb. I wonder about our noise in this place and think about old miners with pack mules, looking for the *right place* to dig in the deep solitude of steep canyon walls and the massive mournful sound of wind in ten thousand pines – I’ve been up here when hearing that somehow near and distant voice made me feel profoundly lonely. The echo of those experiences resonants in me. It’s not pleasant. (I’m not a camper by choice and I prefer Motel 6 to a tent and sleeping bag.) These sorts of thoughts make me somber.
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A Christian Nation?

Some scattered thoughts on politics and religion. I don’t usually indulge but I’m starting to find the situation irresistible.

They gather to watch the spectacle.

Driving University Avenue in Provo, Utah is not a zero-sum game. It brings to mind the appellation “Christian.” I occasionally hear, “that’s not very Christian!” Meaning, I suppose, that some bit of speech or some action doesn’t measure up to the Sermon on the Mount.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special #9. The Joining of Faith and Intellect.

By the time I started to study with Paul Tillich, I had been told for several years that pietas and intellectus could not join. In fact, I had tried to convince everyone, including myself, of this. My experience confirmed it. My father, a generous, liberal, loving pastor who fought both fundamentalism and rationalism in his attempt to hold faith and reason together, died of cancer shortly before I started college. That was absurd. It reduced my mother, a schoolteacher and a pillar of integrity and good sense, to pious blubbering. Family friends, mostly clergy families, visited regularly and spoke soothing nonsense. They could not explain the justice or injustice of life. I have always believed since then that pastoralia is often a studied way of obscuring the big questions. In any case, the evidence was clear: one could be either a believer or intellectually honest. One could not be both.
– Max Stackhouse, emeritus professor of theology, Princeton Theological Seminary.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special #8. Trains and History

This is a memory of childhood and perhaps only invisibly affected (or effected) by Mormonism. So sue me Steve!

As a child, around age 4 or so, my babysitters sometimes copped out, or died,* and so my parents would take me to work and keep me occupied in some inconspicuous manner. Since my mother worked for a coffin (casket was the more urbane term) maker at the time, she upholstered the interior of coffins, it was difficult and maybe a little creepy to drag me around there. Besides, her employer was not down with it.
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