“‘I Dug the Graves'” and “Brigham Young’s Garden Cosmology” (AKA “Adam-God”)

The most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History just dropped. There are a number of articles, essays, and reviews that are very compelling. I recommend becoming a subscriber and checking it out. I have an article that I want to talk about, but first I want to point to Paul Reeve’s article in the same issue.

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On the JST of Philippians and Colossians


Kevin Barney

1. Philippians 1:4

Always in every prayer of mine, for the steadfastness of you all, making request with joy,

    The KJV is ambiguous in the second half of the verse as to who is doing the praying. Does “for you all making request with joy” refer to a prayer Paul is making or a prayer the people themselves are making? In the English of the KJV it is not clear. The JST adds commas to clarify that this is Paul’s prayer on behalf of the people. Further, is Paul’s prayer one of petition or thanksgiving? The JST suggests it is both. Adding “the steadfastness of” makes it clear this is a prayer of thanks for the people and all the good they have done, while “making request” are words of Paul’s petition on their behalf. Note how the AMPC expresses this more clearly than the KJV: “In every prayer of mine I always make my entreaty and petition for you all with joy (delight).” (Emphasis in original.)

Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

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Moroni Visits Joseph Smith

I have to admit, I’m going to be a little sad if this week’s Sunday School lesson doesn’t start with Earth Wind and Fire‘s “September.”

Added bonus: after last night’s scripture study (and subsequent Spotify listen and Just Dance game) my family’s never going to forget the date Moroni came to visit Joseph Smith for the first time.

Prejudice Against Me Among Professors of Religion

Sunday evening, my family and I were reading Joseph Smith–History in a not-quite-too-late bid to keep up with the Sunday School reading. And, although I’ve read the first 26 verses plenty of times before, something whetted my curiosity this time.

See, in v. 19, the Personage tells Joseph that all of the creeds were an abomination and that “those professors were all corrupt.” A few verses later, Joseph talks about how his story “excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion.”

I’d always taken for granted that these professors of religion were religious elites, presumably teachers at seminaries or colleges–the caretakers of institutional religion at the time. After all, that’s kind of how we collectively teach and read these passages. (Don’t believe me? Well, the footnote to “professors” in v. 19 references “False Prophets” in the Topical Guide, which at least implies some degree of authority and religious eliteness.)

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No More Disposition to Speak Evil: A Lesson Plan to Address Racism in the Church

Here is a lesson plan for BCC readers who need a Sunday School or Relief Society/Elder’s Quorum lesson to address white nationalism. I welcome constructive feedback and will update this lesson plan periodically to incorporate it, so that it can be a living resource for the future.

Opening Hymn: I’m Trying to be Like Jesus

Objective: Teach members how to use the peaceable doctrine of Christ to confront concrete examples of racism in their everyday lives.

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“None of these offices is he to do”: priests and the administration of the sacrament

A friend shot me a note this week with a question about the “Articles and Covenants.” Revised and included in our Doctrine and Covenants as Section 20, this is the document that functioned as a sort of General Handbook of Instructions and creed for the early church. This document, like most of the Doctrine and Covenants, was crystallized in 1835, however beliefs and policy change (we do have a living church and continued revelation). That presents situations were current practice doesn’t always line up with the text. My friend asked about the duties of priests in verses 46-52, which seem to indicate (in 50-51) that priests shouldn’t administer the sacrament when an Elder is present.

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and his sword is bathed in heaven

Yesterday I got some sort of a reminder, I think on Facebook, that this Sunday begins the new D&C curriculum year, so I thought I would read the assigned text, which is D&C 1. So I’m reading along and I come to verse 13: “And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.” And I was struck by the expression “his sword is bathed in heaven”; what the heck is that supposed to mean?

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Of Mormon Angels and Catholic Missals

An old friend of mine sent me this story; it has no great message, but it is worth pondering, in these post-Christmas days, as we wait the beginning of, we all fervently hope, a much better year. Enjoy!

Some of us may be familiar with Jorge Cocco Santángelo, an 84-year-old Argentinian Mormon artist who, after a lengthy career making and teaching art in Argentina, Spain, and Mexico, was recently “discovered” by our community. Since much of his recent work depicts the life of Jesus, it has found admirers far beyond his co-religionists; for example, shortly before the covid lockdowns began, the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas held an exhibition of his work. Recently, he was commissioned to do paintings for some Christmas postage stamps (not USPS), which should come out next year.

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Duelling Gift-Bringers: Reconciling Overlapping Traditions

The Christkind was here!

It’s the twenty-fourth of December. Three generations are gathered around the piano in the family room singing Christmas carols. Light from the windows illuminates soft flakes falling silently to the ground. Just as silently, unnoticed by the youngest in the room, grandmother and grandfather exit the room. A while later—no one can recall exactly how long; time seems suspended on this most anticipated evening of the year—young ears pick out the ringing of a bell. The music stops and there is a rush for the door. Small feet pad down the hallway, eager hands throw open the living room door and wide eyes take in the splendour of a decorated tree lit with candles where once the sofa had stood, at its base a pile of wrapped gifts—the Christkind has come!

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On the JST of Ephesians

In honor of Joseph Smith’s birthday, I thought I would post another installment in my recent attempt to write commentaries on the JST revisions to some of the New Testament epistles. I hope you enjoy this installment, and Merry Christmas!

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A Musical Celebration of Christmas

I mentioned the other day that my ward had asked me to perform a virtual musical number for our December 20th Zoom sacrament meeting. I chose a saxophone duet of “What Child Is This”:

I also wanted to see your Christmas performances. So if you recorded a special musical number for your sacrament meeting (or, for that matter, if you want to record one for us), please post it in the comments! (Note that sometimes our spam filter holds up YouTube links; I’ll check periodically and release comments.)

If you’re interested in how I recorded this, I’ll put details below the fold. If you’re not (and feel free to not be interested!) click on “Comments” at the top to jump straight to others’ performances.

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On the JST of Galatians

I decided to take a crack at another commentary on the JST of a book of the New Testament, going with Galatians (following 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians). Since the letters of Paul are organized from longest to shortest, the books keep getting shorter and therefore less intimidating to write a commentary on (1 Cor. had 68 vereses, but 2 Cor. had only about a third as many, and Galatians had only a little over half as many as 2 Cor.) I’m not sure whether I’ll keep churning these things out, but I might do a few more. I think it’s a lot of fun to try to get into Joseph’s head and figure out where he was going with these revisions. And I continue to be impressed by what he did (as in not perfect by any means, but very thoughtful). I checked these against Clarke and saw no likely influence from that source.

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Love for Christmas

Each year during the Christmas season, I try to write a blog post on a Christmas poem that has been meaningful for me. In the last six years, this has meant poems by Whitman, Rossetti, Auden, Elliot, Hardy, and Brodsky. I have also, over this time, managed three of the four Advent themes: Hope, Peace, and Joy. So this post is going to be a twofer: the seve th installment of the Christmas poetry theme, and the final installment on the Advent series. I want to talk about love.

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A year of Book of Mormon Study in review

Over the last two years I have joined a group of people from my ward for a regular study group. Last year was the New Testament, and we used various translations along with supplemental readings, largely drawn from Raymond Brown’s magisterial Introduction to the New Testament. We got together, shared questions and comments from the readings, and ate cheese or brownies as we discussed the intersection of our lives with scripture. As we turned to the Book of Mormon this year, things were different. I used Skousen’s Earliest Text for my scripture reading, and others largely used the Maxwell Institute’s Study Edition. But the supplemental reading was less concentrated in a single text, and the food was stripped from us as was our sociality. Zoom was a passible solution, and in many ways formed the core of my devotional life during the period my stake ended all meetings, even if they were online.

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Special Musical Numbers, Christmas 2020 Edition

A member of my bishopric asked if I’d do a special musical number for church Sunday.

But given that this is 2020 and we have Zoom church, I’m not performing it live. Rather, I recorded it a couple days ago and will upload it to YouTube for him to play during our sacrament meeting.

I imagine that a lot of you may be in similar circumstances. Which has a really cool side benefit–we can share our musical numbers more broadly than just our wards! In fact, we can share it with the internet at large!

So what I’m thinking is this: on Sunday after church, I’m going to put up a post with a link to my number. I would love it if, in the comments, other people who are performing Christmas music for church also posted their performances. That way, we can all share in the uplifting Christmas spirit!

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Hope in the darkness

It’s Advent and I keenly feel the notion of hope against hope, that I am navigating my way with a brief candle in the darkness. I find that I have lost hope in most institutions and groups of humans, but feel hopeful about our individual capacity for goodness. I would really like to hear what you are all hopeful about. I won’t second-guess your sources of hope, but perhaps hearing where you get your hopes will brighten my own. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas.

On the JST of 2 Corinthians

This summer I published a commentary on the JST of 1 Corinthians in Dialogue. (For a link and background to the project search the blog for My New JST Article.) That was a lot of fun, so I decided to follow it up here on the blog with a commentary on the JST of 2 Corinthians. It was a lot of work for a blog post, but 2 Corinthians is a shorter book and only has a third of the JST revisions as 1 Corinthians has, so that made it more manageable. Also, I didn’t need to repeat the background and the explanation of my paradigm of JST revisions since those are available in the print article. There are 23 verses in 2 Corinthians that are modified in the JST and only six of them are included in the 1979/2013 LDS Bible footnotes, so most of these changes are ones you have never seen before. I checked these against the Adam Clarke Commentary and didn’t see any influence from that source; I didn’t bother to check Campbell, Wesley or Coverdale, as I’m highly confident there is no secondary source influence on any of these particular revisions. I had fun pulling this together, so I hope you enjoy it.

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The Vitality of the Latter-day Saints

This guest post comes from Calvin Burke, a student at BYU.

On the heels of the development of a new committee addressing issues of systemic racism within the campus community, Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center published
a book this year by an Egyptologist detailing the “viable hypothesis” that childhood sexual trauma is a component of LGBTQ+ identity. The book further described victims of sexual violence as “more likely to become sexual abusers of children.” [1]

It would be easy to conclude the prejudice evident in the publication of such work is representative of all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU’s sponsoring institution—but an expert rebuttal to that work authored by another BYU professor [2] led the BYU Religious Studies Center to pull the offending text from shelves; and earlier this year, hundreds of BYU students protested the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community by the Church Educational System. Dismissing this incident as the product of inherent Latter-day Saint bigotry is to miss critical aspects of the Latter-day Saint religion which explain its place at unique crossroads in modernity, and which also demonstrate its continued vitality.

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Why I Signed the Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto

Dan Ellsworth is a Latter-Day Saint consultant and writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto became public almost a week ago, and if we are not reacting to every criticism and every blog comment about this project, it is not out of lack of conviction; it’s more about mental and spiritual health.  Online discussions so often generate vastly more heat than light, and it’s not a healthy impulse to try to account for every criticism by every single person.  There is a lot of wisdom in the phrase “Don’t read the comments.”

When I first heard about the Radical Orthodoxy project — the manifesto and its accompanying essays — I was ecstatic.

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Josephine Spencer: If Mormon Literature Wants a Future, It Has to Get a Past

If you want a future, darlin’,
Why don’t you get a past?

–Cole Porter, “Let’s Misbehave”

The last BCC Press book of 2020 is here, just in time. Years in the making, Josephine Spencer: Her Collected Works, Volume One–edited by Ardis Parshall and Yours Truly. is the second offering in our new Classics of Mormon Literature series, joining A Craving for Beauty: The Collected Writings of Maurine Whipple, which we published in November. These are the first; there will be more. In the coming year, look for a critical edition of Orson F. Witney’s Elias: Epic of the Ages and a collection of works surrounding B.H. Roberts’ Corianton. And we’re just getting started.

The governing principle of the Classics series is that, as Cole Porter wrote (and countless crooners have sung), if we want a futre in Mormon literature, we have got to get a past. We have to do a better job of recognizing that there is a tradition of literature in the Mormon community. Traditions are important to those who want to build on them. They are also important for those who want to break from them. And they are especially important for those, like me, who want to study and write about them. So, these books are necessary acts of reclamation. We are reclaiming our culture and our literary tradition before we forget about them forever.

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Apostolic Decree on the Wearing of Masks

Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife Sister Ruth Renlund have coronavirus, and I send them best wishes and prayers for a full recovery. Before this was announced, Elder Renlund participated in a video series (alongside Elder Stevenson and Elder Bednar) that announced the shift of certain temples to Phase 3, which re-engages limited work for the dead and seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a safe and cautious fuller re-opening.

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We Are All on the Island of Misfit Toys

I come from a generation of kids who had to plan their television binging far in advance. I’m sure you have heard of these days: we had three channels (plus PBS for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers), we used rabbit-ear antennas to improve reception, and we got the TV schedule every Sunday in the newspaper and read through it carefully to see what was coming on TV that week so we could plan our schedules.

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It’s that time of year again!

If you want to follow the advent/Christmas story you can find it here. Have joy!

The Trouble with Manifestos

Or “Manifest Manifestos manifesting meh”

We seem to be in an era of bold conservative statements in the church and its environs. There is the recent manifesto on Radical Orthodoxy, put out by the Givens family and their programming friends. A couple of months ago there was the Utah-based, cowboy-conservative, actually-fascist Ride to Reclaim America manifesto. I’m sure there have been others. Who knew what Marx would reap all these years later?

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Navajo corn people Yei rug. 78″x54″ Believed to be a first half of the 20th century weaving, made for personal use within a family, to be gifted or inherited and not for sale. Courtesy of the Kimball family. 

Cynthia W. Connell holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University. She served a full-time mission to the Navajo and Hopi Indians and upon her return was asked to serve as Native American, Polynesian and Hispanic Cultural Specialist and Trainer for Temple Square, LDS Church, Salt Lake City.  Her writings have appeared in newspapers, the Ensign magazine and in the Amazon International Best Selling Spectrum Parent’s Survival Guide:  Tips, Tricks and Strategies for Navigating Through Autism by Karen Pellet. This post appears on BCC in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

My Grandfather Weldon was a weaver. A weaving loom wasn’t what you might expect to find in a Brownstone apartment in The Bronx, but then neither was a Native American. The neighborhood that accepted his family was filled predominantly with Jewish and Italian immigrants.

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The Twelve Days of Awesome Christmas Sale from BCC Press

The number twelve has special significance for Christmas. And for Mormons. We have Twelve Apostles, Twelve Tribes, Twelve Days of Christmas. Good things, it seems, always come in units of twelve.

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7 Days of Gratitude – Friendship

I have always been lucky in friends. I’ve almost never had a friendship go sour through betrayal or abuse. So I’m speaking from a place of privilege. But isn’t it nice to have people around?

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7 Days of Gratitude – Being Alive

Without life, gratitude is meaningless. Nobody polls the dead regarding what they are grateful for.

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Messages of Gratitude from the Desert (and for it, Sort Of)

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

For years, our family has had a “Thanksgiving Tree” tradition. We write on cut-out leaves something we are thankful for, then hang them on a “tree” of dead branches, and on Thanksgiving Day, we share them all. Since we’ve saved these leaves over the years, I can look back at mine, and there are several constants. Among other things, it seems that at this time of year I regularly feel gratitude for changing seasons, for frost on the grass, for fall foliage, for the smell of the earth after a November rain. It wouldn’t be wrong to sum up one of the main themes of these leaves simply as: I am thankful I don’t live in a desert.

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7 Days of Gratitude – Songs

I like music, but I love songs. The thing about music is I don’t know enough about it. Unless someone is hitting a lot of out-of-tune notes, I can’t tell the difference between music played well and music played poorly. But songs have lyrics and that means I can participate in them in a way that I can’t with music (short of learning an instrument).

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