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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Reading as Response, an Introduction Courtesy of BYU Studies

BYU Studies has posted an understanding, helpful response today to the article in the New York Times (“Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt”) that has caused some stir in Mormon circles online over the weekend.

BYU Studies’ Editor-in-Chief, John W. Welch, notes that “BYU Studies may shed some important light on those subjects. While no one has all the answers to every question, the BYU Studies website, together with many other resources and publications, are now easily available to provide many well-researched and well-written treatments of topics of current interest. We invite people to familiarize themselves with this website. It may come in very handy.”

I really like the BYU Studies response and the selection of potential starting points for reading about certain historical issues offered there. Reading about and candidly discussing our history is the perfect response to this problem. [Read more...]

Covenants — Is the Lord Bound?

This IndentureThis post began as a response to J. Stapley’s recent post about Ordinances but quickly veered off in a tangent that would have constituted a threadjack of his post, so I’ve posted it as an independent contemplation.

J. was exploring possible origins of Mormon use of the word “ordinance” (or early influence as to the use and meaning of the word) in legal usage in his post and especially in the ensuing discussion in the comments (J. notes that he is beginning to think that “JS . . . was explicitly using legal language” when using the term “ordinance”). I think “covenant” also falls into this category of a term coopted from legal usage to express a religious teaching. [Read more...]

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: “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 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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Gospel Doctrine Lesson #6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart, by the Holy Ghost”

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.

This covers much the same material as the last lesson, historically and thematically.  The emphasis continues to be on Oliver Cowdery’s experiences translating the Book of Mormon and, specifically, his attempts to recognize the spirit of revelation in his own life.  While the emphasis of last week’s lesson was more on preparing yourself to receive revelation, this week’s lesson has more to do with recognizing what on earth is going on when it happens.

First of all, go to the new Revelations in Context resource at lds.org and read the article by Jeffrey Cannon on Oliver Cowdery’s Gift.  While you are hopping around, go to Robin Jensen’s post on last week’s lesson and read that as well.  Now return to this post and feel bad; I’m neither as knowledgeable, nor as good a writer as those guys. Oh well.

If there is one message to take from all of the sections being covered this week (and last week) it is this: revelation is not easy work. [Read more...]

The Pedagogy of Sunday School (part 1)

I was recently called for the fifth time as a Sunday school teacher, and once again I am very pleased. I teach professionally — mostly high school, mostly English and humanities — and I find the process of preparing and delivering a lesson comfortable and enjoyable.

Because my professional obligations having shifted in recent years, I have been thinking more about the way we teach and the way we learn in Sunday School, applying the same pedagogical concepts of teaching literature to high school students to the teaching of Sunday School. Today I will talk muse a little about methodology and outcomes.

I generally teach Gospel Doctrine in the same way I teach a literature class. We have a text and we are looking at the text’s apparent purpose and its methods in pursuing that purpose. As I generally do with literature, I make the assumption that the text is successful, doing an analysis of the text rather than an evaluation.

But what reading of the text do we favor? As J. Stapley pointed out there are different approaches, and I am certainly interested in offering flavors of all of those readings. In the end, my job is not to offer a single reading of the text, whether that reading be my own or the authoritative reading.

As a literature teacher, I want students to develop their own reading, supported by the following:  [Read more...]

Organizing the Doctrine and Covenants Lessons: Or, Why the Topical Approach Doesn’t Work

Being an early Mormon history nerd, I was really excited for this year’s sunday school curriculum. However, two things have derailed my excitement: first, a calling as primary teacher will keep me out of the adult sunday school class. (Which is a shame, because we have two great Gospel Doctrine teachers—a rarity, in my experience.) Second, glancing over the manual for the year, I was reminded of how horribly the revelations are organized, and how that organization hinders our understanding of the revelations and their context. [Read more...]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #2: Behold, I Am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

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

Unlike the first installment for the 2013 Gospel Doctrine lessons (WVS’s Lesson 1), week two finds us already going slightly off the rails (that didn’t happen in anyone’s ward last week, did it?!) and skipping about chronologically. Instead of discussing a specific verse, we find Lesson Two instead lightly and somewhat gracefully flying over the text in a search for how the entirety of Doctrine & Covenants* testifies of Christ.

“Finally, the testimony that is given of Jesus Christ— his divinity, his majesty, his perfection, his love, and his redeeming power— makes this book of great value to the human family and of more worth than the riches of the whole earth.”[1]

I’m not an historian, and I don’t even play one on this blog (though I’m surrounded)- so it’s seemly and certainly not coincidental that I nabbed the lesson in which not much (natch, any) history is addressed. There are others far, far better schooled than I, from whom we shall later drink deeply. What I can do is agree with the strongly voiced sentiment that the Doctrine & Covenants pretty much testifies everywhere of Jesus Christ. What we find in these pages at the back of our Standard Works is more than just a testimony. Throughout the 138 sections, we frequently find the voice of the Savior himself, and while we don’t ink his words in red, it’s very plain to listen and hear. [Read more...]

Doctrine & Covenants in 2013: Introduction

This Sunday begins our quadrennial Gospel Doctrine romp through the Doctrine and Covenants and Mormon History. The contributors here at By Common Consent are committing to provide weekly supplements to the lessons, with context, questions, and discussion for those interested. While we will have regular authors in the series, we will also have various experts join in the schedule. Look forward to the weekly roundup.
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