New from the LDS Independent Journals

So I just got home from a matinee showing of Little Children and I opened my mailbox to find the latest issues of Sunstone and Journal of Mormon History. I haven’t read either one yet (I’m way behind on my reading), but in my ongoing campaign to encourage people to subscribe to and read the LDS independent journals, I thought I would give you a sense for what’s in them in case something should strike your fancy.


John Dewey Remy, who is guest posting right now over at FMH, has an essay comparing Mormon and Japanese rituals on saving the dead. (Our own Sam B. may be interested in this one.) Teaser quote: “Within the Japanese context, rites exist as mechanisms for fulfilling debts and obligations to the deceased. Mormon ancestral ritual is primarily about making the temporary bonds of birth and marriage permanent and death-proof.”

There is also a roundtable from this past summer’s symposium, with a great title: For Better, for Worse, for Apostasy? As I understand it, it is about three couples who talk about what happens when the faith of one or both changes during the marriage. One of the couples is Tom and Page Kimball; Tom is a friend, and I met his wife Page when they sat right behind me on the tour bus at Killington, VT MHA, so I’m particularly interested in reading their story. I missed this session at Sunstone, but everyone who attended just raved about it, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

My good friend Mike Ash has a fine piece entitled “The Sin ‘Next to Murder’: An Alternative Interpretation,” in which he argues that that expression in Alma is not talking about sexual transgressions at all, but about destroying the testimonies of others. He also has a lengthy sidebar on the concept of “inoculating,” and I notice that he quotes me: “As LDS scholar Kevin Barney once remarked to me: ‘People can absorb hard facts when presented in a context of faith. But they can’t absorb the feeling of being lied to.'”

Parker Blount has “Scarlet Threads in the Lineage of Jesus: Four Women of the Old Testament,” also a presentation from the summer symposium, and a topic that Julie Smith has blogged on at T&S.

There is the screenplay of one thread (this one entitled “Pizza and a Movie”) of Eric Samuelsen’s Peculiarities, which I quite enjoyed when I saw the full movie at Sunstone this summer.

There is also an interview with Richard Dutcher, along with the usual assortment of fiction, comics and news.

Journal of Mormon History

There is an article by Gary Entz on the Bickertonites.

Ugo Perego and Scott Woodward do another of their fascinating historical applications of DNA science, this time in a piece entitled “Mountain Meadows Survivor? A Mitochondrial DNA Examination.” (BTW, you know how I said above that the Kimballs sat behind me on the tour bus at MHA Vermont? Ugo was on the row behind them.)

Kylie Nielsen Turley, “Rhetoric and Ritual: A Decade of Women’s Exponent Death Poetry.” This might be another one for our own Sam B. and J. Stapley to take a look at.

Here is an intriguing one: “‘The Queen of Inventions’: The Sewing Machine Comes to Utah.”

David Clark Knowlton, “Mormonism and Guerillas in Bolivia” (perhaps of interest to our own RT and Serenity Valley?)

And much more, including the usual cornucopia of reviews.

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

This one has been out for a bit now, but since I recently described the recent BYU Studies and J. Stapley did the recent Dialogue, I thought I should mention it here for completeness.

This issue features an essay by Bob Rees (former Dialogue editor) on automatic writing.

There is also a piece by Steven Olsen entitled “Prophecy and History: Structuring the Abridgement of the Nephite Records.”

The bulk of the issue is devoted to a scholarly roundtable on Royal Skousen’s first textual commentary volume on the BoM critical text project, including contributions from Gerald Bradford, Terryl Givens, Bob Matthews, Grant Hardy, Kerry Muhlestein, and moi.

Happy reading!


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I just noticed that Mike Ash mentions BCC in a list of recommended internet resources on p. 43, n. 17. Thanks for the shout out, Mike! Your sidebar on inoculation, which I just finished, was simply excellent.

  2. Ah, Kevin! This is good. I have been meaning to pony up for some subscriptions and this is a great reminder. OF what you have read so far, what are your favorites? A lot of good stuff there. I think I would like to see a review/post on Skousens’ project, not knowing much about it (hint, hint).

  3. I know “inoculation” is a suddenly fashionable term, but how is it any different from simply teaching a straightforward version of LDS history? Or does “inoculation” incorporate the notion that the teaching of straightforward history requires special justification? Has BYU by any chance redesignated any courses in the College of Religious Studies as “An Inoculation in Church History,” followed perhaps by “Advanced Inoculation,” taught perhaps by a professor occupying an endowed chair in Church History Inoculation?

    I suspect few students or church members want to be inoculated. They just want honest history. It’s just the academic and apologist types (some overlap there) who feel the need to make this strange “inoculation” argument. Very strange.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    The JBMS is onlne, but I’m not sure whether the link will work if you don’t have a subscription. But it’s worth a shot; try this.

    I’m just getting started with the reading. I think I’ll take the Sunstone to church tomorrow to work on it. It’s times like this when, Ronan’s post notwithstanding, I often end up staying until the bitter end of the three-hour block, because I can read just as well in EQ as in my family room. (g)

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Dave, I guess it all depends on what you mean by a “straightforward” version of LDS history.

    Maybe an example would help. 99.9% of LDS have not the first clue that Joseph translated the BoM by gazing at his seerstone while it was in his hat. (See prior BCC thread I’m too lazy to find the link to.) There is abundant historical confirmation that this was the process. You can simply never mention it and hope that people never learn about it, or you can explain it in a faithful setting (such as a church classroom). If your class members never learn of it, then no harm, no foul. If they learn of it from a hostile source (and these days it is easy to do simply by doing a google search to prepare for a church lesson or talk), the initial response of the class member might be to deny that such could be possible, for surely someone would have mentioned it, but no one ever did. So the class member looks into it more, and lo and behold, Joseph really did look into a hat. With no faithful context but only antagonistic information about peeping and scrying and so forth, it is easy to freak out about this and possibly to lose your testimony and leave the church.

    So by “straightforward” teaching of church history, do you mean to teach the hat or to exclude it? And if you exclude it but someone later learns of it and feels deceived for not having been taught of it earlier, what do you tell that person then?

    This is what the concept of “inoculation” is all about.

  6. The link does work! Thanks Kevin. I do have to admit that it is a bit ironic reading your comment #5 then looking at the image on the first page of your article (grin).

  7. Michael Towns says:

    “This is what the concept of “inoculation” is all about.”

    That makes pretty good sense to me. I recently finished reading Quinn’s “Early Mormonism” and was astounded at the huge number of historical references corroborating the “seerstone in the hat” practice.

    And by the way, I recently stumbled onto this blog, and I am very impressed with the articles, the commentaries, and the maturity of the debates and discussion going on.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, that is funny, J.!

    It reminds me of my one and only publication in the Ensign, an article on understanding Hebrew poetry that appeared in, IIRC, the June 1990 issue (back when the Ensign published articles like that). The artwork featured a number of Hebrew texts. When I got my issue in the mail, something struck me as funny about it. I looked more carefully, and one of the art pieces, an image of a Dead Sea Scroll, was upside down!

  9. Kevin, following your example: If a person asks for details about translation and you give them an honest answer with some details, do you tell yourself after the conversation, “I shared that information to inoculate them against later exposure from an antagonistic source”? Or do you tell yourself, “I gave an honest answer to a sincere question.” Why the need to invoke inoculation as a basis for giving an honest response?

    I’ve seen the inoculation argument made by Exmos, generally in the context of “if I’d been told these things when I was younger, I wouldn’t have lost my testimony when I read X,” X being any book on Mormon history. But they’re not making that argument as an objective explanation of how inoculation works or that it would serve the interests of the Church in preventing exits. They’re making it to justify their own decision to exit the Church. As such, it is not really a reliable report. It’s not clear to me they can actually articulate why they left, anymore than most converts can clearly articulate why they joined. But the inoculation argument seems to take that sort of Exmo exit report at face value.

    Last point: Richard Bushman, to my knowledge, doesn’t use the inoculation argument. I have heard him say that rather than maneuvering around what appear to be “problems” in LDS history, that one should go straight at them and get the whole story. I guess that’s what I mean by straightforward history.

  10. Thanks for the article references. I’ll take a look at the Japanese ancestor worship and memorial poetry articles. 19th century newspapers are absolutely filled with memorial poems, like the current encomiums to the free market that constipate the media.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Dave, your last paragraph from Bushman is one I totally agree with, and if that is your definition of “straightforward history,” then we are in agreement; going straight at difficult issues is exactly what I mean by inoculation.

    Mike Ash in his lengthy sidebar on inoculation in the latest Sunstone, which you should read, uses Bushman as a prime example of an inoculation approach, which is basically to not try to hide the ball of hard facts but to go straight at it.

    You know how when a toddler falls and he kind of looks to you for what his reaction should be? If you make a big fuss about it he’ll start to cry, but if you pick him up and don’t make a big deal about it, he’ll whimper for a minute and then go back to playing, he’ll be just fine. In an inoculation approach you would actually teach the Saints that Joseph used the hat, but do it matter of factly, to use your expression straightforwardly, without making a big deal out of it. A few may be shocked at first, but if it is done in a faithful environment with lots of historical context and an opportunity to ask questions, they’ll be fine. And now they are inoculated with respect to that issue. When they come across some antagonistic source trumpeting the weird way in which Joseph translated, they will already know the basics and the antagonistic source will have no effect on them.

    I once taught a GD class completely on the Salamander Letter, back when LDS scholars thought it was authentic, with the SP in attendance. It was a great class, if I do say so myself. Of course, the letter turned out to be a forgery, so the issue became moot, but what if it were auethentic? My class was now prepared and would not be shaken by the contents of that letter, but almost every other Saint in the Church was vulnerable at that point in time.

  12. Kevin, I thought Krakauer had proved the Salamander letter authentic. You may need to teach the class again.

  13. Molly Bennion says:

    Love discussions like yours, Dave and Kevin. Inoculation is just corollary. The honest search for truth and the quest for integrity are the central aims and issues.

  14. To my mind, innoculation is just a natural benefit of being straight with people.

  15. re:Seer Stone in a Hat. Not to belabor the point, But JS also translated sometimes without any stone at all, from what I understand. From what I’ve read, as much as I recall, several reliable sources have him attempting many different styles of translating at different times in the process.

    Be that as It may, that it my favorite southpark episode.

  16. And I understand that Joseph sometimes translated without taking out the plates. So why did he need the plates at all, then?! Bushman touches on this in RSR, but it’s still an open question for me.

    What ever happened to the seerstone? The latest mention I know of was connected to Wilford Woodruff and the Manti temple. Sadly, I can’t remember where I read that.

    I read the excellent articles about the critical edition of the BOM. Nice job on yours! Could you help me understand how your theory of translation (versus Skousen’s) would affect your approach to discrepancies between BOM manuscripts and editions? Skousen accepted a couple of my conjectural emendations (none in 1st and 2nd Nephi though), so I’m looking forward to seeing them in print eventually. That might be as close as I ever get to being published.

  17. Joanne, several of Joseph’s seer stones, including the ones he used to translate the Book of Mormon, are in the First Presidency Vault. The best source of information I can recommend is Ashurst-McGee’s thesis.

  18. Another standard source is Richard van Wagoner and Steven Walker, “Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing’,” Dialogue 15:2(1982): 49-68. the 4 Zinas book also i think covers part of this, as one of the authors is the person who discovered that one of the Zinas bought the seerstones at Brigham Young’s estate auction and donated them to the church directly to avoid their being lost.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Joanne, I don’t think my different approach to translation theory in the BoM really affects the lower critical project of trying to establish what the original text should be. I think Skousen is doing a great job with that.

    Where I differ with Skousen is that he takes a pretty strict “tight control” view of the relationship between what was on the plates and the English translation. He seems to me to almost view Joseph as simply reading the English text off a divine teleprompter, and thus having limited involvement in its creation. I think there is much more of Joseph in the text than Skousen does. Rather than take a consistent “loose control” view of that relationship though, a la B.H. Roberts, I take an eclectic approach, meaning that I am open to the relation between original text and translation being tighter or looser in various passages. I think it is a mistake to make an ideological commitment to a single theory of translation, since there is so much about the process that we don’t understand.

  20. Okay, I get it. Thanks. Why does Skousen hold that view? Does he think it matters? When would competing theories of the translation process start to matter? I mean, in what kind of studies?

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    He kind of explains this in his article in BYU Studies, “Toward a Critical Edition of the BoM.” You can search for it at the BYU Studies archive at the Harold B. Lee Library website.

    One reason I like to allow for Joseph’s influence in the text is to make allowance for translator anachronisms.

  22. I read it quite a while ago, but obviously I’m not putting the pieces together. Thanks for your patient explanation and ever-thought-provoking posts.

  23. Sterling says:


    I think you are wise for examining the evidence on a case-by-case basis. What is the difference between your position and Blake Ostler’s expansion hypothesis?