This post is the second of a two-part interview with Robin Jensen, editor with the Joseph Smith Papers Project (Part 1 available here). Robin continues to discuss his research in early Mormon record keeping.
In 2009 the Joseph Smith Papers Project published their second volume, the first in the Revelations and Translations series (review here). This volume included the “Book of Commandments and Revelations,” which had previously been unknown to researchers. Robin Jensen (RSJ) is an editor with the JSPP and worked specifically on Revelations 1 (Robin introduced some important aspects of the text in a series of posts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Robin also recently wrapped up his thesis involving early Mormon record keeping and has graciously agreed to an interview about his important work. This is the first of two posts with him.
In his address at the Priesthood session of General Conference, Elder Oaks delivered the type of sermon that historians will read one hundred years from now. His sermon, actually a liturgical treatise, frames Mormon ritual healing in some perhaps surprising ways. It is my intent to situate his discourse in the historical context of the development of Mormon ritual healing, albeit on the fly.  [Read more...]
Holy Thursday, or Maundy for the anglophilic, commemorates the last Thursday in the life of our Lord. At supper, Christ introduced his sacrament, then washed the Apostles’ feet. [Read more...]
I am deeply troubled by the actions and attitudes of some our people with regard to politics. I encourage you to read John Fowles’ guest post at Millennial Star for further context. What follows is a post from a number of years ago that highlights President Grant’s message with regards to politics that I believe is timely (particularly the last quotes).
Perhaps not unlike our current Church President, Heber J. Grant was fond of telling stories in Church meetings. He told of the time when Eliza R. Snow blessed him at least five times in General Conference that I have found; and I have run across journal entries that described him telling the story at various stake conferences. It seems that he was also fond of a particular humorous story on politics and repeated it at General Conference at least four times that I have seen: [Read more...]
My brother started his mission in Vienna and had been learning Czech in order to teach the many refugees. Then the Velvet Revolution, and he, with a small band of fellows, crossed the border to preach in the former Soviet satellite. His mission was remarkable in many ways, but it still shared regular aspects of the traditional evangelist’s life. One item from this trans-mission culture that he brought home and shared with the family was Truman Madsen’s “Joseph Smith tapes.” At the time, we lived a significant distance from our chapel and as my mother and I drove we listened. She didn’t appreciate Madsen’s smooth Kirkian refrains; but I was struck by his oratorical finesse and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the Prophet. Struck! [Read more...]
Before the back-issues of the Journal of Mormon History had been digitized and made available online and on DVD, I needed to track down a couple of articles. Unfortunately, none of the institutional libraries nearby carry the journal and while discussing the matter with the JMH staff, they suggested that I visit Polly Aird, who happens to live across the Lake from me and has an extensive back catalogue. I did not know, when I later walked into her home, that the first member of my family to join the Mormon church was also the individual who presided in the Ward that ran her ancestors from the faith (and State of Utah). Polly has been actively engaged in Mormon history circles as she has diligently researched the story of her ancestors, and published on various topics relating to their context. Happily our families have had something of a rapprochement; we are currently serving together on the JMH editorial board. And it is with great pleasure that I review the culmination of her work. [Read more...]
Motioned by Sister Whitney and seconded by Sister Packard that Mrs. Emma Smith be chosen President–passed unanimously. [Read more...]
The forthcoming SMTP conference looks great, and I wish I could attend. In particular, I would like to attend Eric’s presentation billed as a look at the theological advantages of procreative/viviparous spirit birth. The idea that God the Father (with the Queen of Heaven) created our spirits out of pre-existing element has firm genesis in the post-exodus teachings of Brigham Young and the Pratt Brothers. I think it is fascinating history, but as far as theology goes, I tend to think it isn’t all that consistent. I quite like Eric, but we tend to approach this question differently. So, while I can’t be to his presentation, I figured I would briefly post my reasons for that perspective. [Read more...]
This last weekend my stake held their annual Relief Society Conference. The Relief Society Presidency asked me to hold a workshop on women, books and the Church. Even though I am not a Relief Society member, I was deeply gratified to attend and discuss a topic which has held a large measure of my attention for the last number of years.
After a powerpoint (PDF) introduction to the history of literacy, education and the Relief Society (with a healthy dose of liturgical development), I distributed this bibliography (PDF). We used it as a basis for discussion. The bibliography focuses on female authors and topics. Time was a bit constrained, but I found the interaction quite fun. I must give credit to Margaret Young who gave me the fiction and poetry recommendations and many other friends who gave excellent bibliographic suggestions for addition.
I love the Relief Society. My stake rocks. That is all. [Read more...]
The Mormon History Association annual conference is being held in Independence Missouri this spring and the preliminary program is newly available (PDF). It is a great meeting for experienced historians and neophytes. And you never know who you will bump into (last year it was a bishop from my youth).
In scanning through the program, the quality of presentations looks as splendid as ever. There are plenty of Mormon History rock-stars and scholars. I figure I would point out some names that would be familiar to regular readers: [Read more...]
The garden is a foundational narrative to Christianity and Mormonism. It is also dynamic. I tend to agree with Ronan – as Mormons we have a particular relationship to the garden due to our temple liturgy. Beyond the fascinating insights that ancient near-eastern studies offer, beyond traditional biblical readings, Mormonism’s relationship to the garden is essentially extra-biblical. [Read more...]
I met Ron Watt as a novice researcher when I first entered the old LDS Church Archives. He joined the archives with Leonard Arrington and having toiled diligently for many decades has subsequently retired (though you will still find him in laboring in the new building). He is perhaps the best expert we have on the Brigham Young Office Files, truly irreplaceable. At the end of 2009 Utah State University Press publish his magnum opus, a biography of George D. Watt. It will surely win awards (it is remarkable in many ways), but perhaps more than most recent books, it captures the humanity of its subject and exacts empathy from its readers. [Read more...]
In reading the President Veazey’s “Counsel to the Church” in anticipation of the Community of Christ’s next general conference, I reflected on the general approaches to church governance represented in this document as well as our own tradition. Specifically, I was intrigued by the CoC’s apparent move to accept the baptisms of other Christians (noting that confirmation is still required). My gut reaction was incredulity. Rebaptism was central to early Mormonism. However, our tradition has equally diverged from early practice and so I think it is instead a great opportunity to look at how our own praxis evolves. [Read more...]
The only true and living church. It strikes me that when the voice of the Lord exclaimed unique pleasure in the nascent church, it was qualified with the adjective living. In this post I outline what I perceive to be a great danger to the living church: fundamentalism. In doing so, I am espousing the decidedly partisan position that the current LDS Church is “true.”
It is before Thanksgiving, I know. Nevertheless, the time has once again come to consider our relations and judge among them who will receive something cool and who will receive n’importe quoi. [Read more...]
Eleven months ago, the Joseph Smith Papers Project inaugurated their publication efforts with the Journals series (review here). While the documents of that series had been previously available, the volume was nonetheless an extraordinary contribution to the study of Mormonism and its history. In September of this year, the Church Historian’s Press released their second volume, the first in the Revelations and Translations series: a facsimile edition, comprising two manuscript revelation books. [Read more...]
The opening of the Church History Library (I don’t know if I will ever be able to stop calling them the Archives) is now old news in internet time. And though I had a quick visit earlier this summer, I recently spent a few days – my first concerted research – in the new building.
The size twenty-nine white pants I purchased for my mission fourteen years ago don’t fit me anymore. I don’t know how many years I went to the temple to rent white pants instead of just buying a new pair. Denial, perhaps. But I was going to baptize my oldest child. So I went to the Distribution Center and purchased some. A friend hemmed them for me and I wore them, along with a new white shirt, white tie and white socks. I checked to see that the black Nike swoosh at the calf was not visible.
For several years volunteers have collected and digitized information on individuals that crossed the plains in the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database, 1847–1868. Not only a rich tool for family history, by transcribing thousands primary source documents the website is an astonishing and accessible window to many facets of our history. We all owe our thanks to the workers who have devoted significant time and talent to this project. Judy and David Wood are, I understand, on their fourth mission consecrated to it and many, many others have participated unsung.
In late 1847, the Federal Government pressured the Latter-day Saints at Winter Quarters to leave Indian land. The Mormons crossed the Missouri river to settle on the eastern bank and founded the new city of Kanesville, Iowa (later Council Bluffs). Brigham Young directed Apostle Orson Hyde to preside over the settlement and the Frontier Guardian was his organ. Kanesville was a major point of emigration for those outside of the Church as well as those working towards Zion and the Guardian is a significant and generally untapped resource for understanding the period.
The paper endured for three volumes, plus a couple issues in a fourth, and BYU Studies and University of Utah Press  have just republished them:
I don’t have strong feelings in the debates surrounding “free will.” I believe in some measure of free will, but I tend to view it as an emergent vector. I generally don’t think infants have free will and I think that various environmental and biological factors have tremendous influence over any real will. I do believe, however, that God is perfectly free, and that he is God because he chooses to be good (coupled with maximal power, of course). Being god-like then requires us, as humans to expand our will within our biological constraints.
We are all familiar with the tired formulation of “I don’t have anything against x. Some of my best friends are x.” For my purposes these two sentences fail more than average. While some of my best friends do attend Salt Lake Sunstone (enjoying themselves as I type, actually), I apparently do have something against it.
Nate Oman recently posted on the “evolution of excommunication.” In his essay, Nate outlined the shift of excommunication from a tool to enforce adjudication to the verdict of adjudication itself. Without reiterating the major points of his argument, I’d like to offer a different reading based on a frequent outcome of ecclesial discipline in the history of the Church: rebaptism. [Read more...]
On July 24, an advanced team of the vanguard company had been in the valley for two days. In that time they had already set up a plough forge, ploughed 3 acres, planted potatoes and irrigated from a dam which they had constructed over a creek above their camp. While they ate dinner, Brigham Young and the rest emerged from the canyon. Buckwheat soon followed. Within a couple of weeks Church leaders rebaptized the company and baptized some for their health in the dammed up City Creek.  [Read more...]
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)
Early Mormons were consciously biblical in their world-view. Healing rituals in particular followed the precedents explicitly exemplified in the Bible. Perhaps not surprisingly, though rare compared to other forms of ritual healing, the Twelve and then Joseph Smith passed along handkerchiefs which they had blessed to the sick to heal them. Stories of such activities still remain in popular thought; the New Testament Seminary manual recounts the famous healings at Montrose in which Joseph gave Wilford Woodruff one such handkerchief that remained “a league between” the men.