Review: Early LDS Patriarchal Blessings (Michael Marquardt, comp.)

Michael Marquardt, comp. and ed. Early Patriarchal Blessings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2007. 447pp, index and introduction, cloth, large format. (I bought my freshly published copy from Curt Bench and Co on Saturday, and though it was more expensive than Amazon, I was glad to support a stalwart independent bookseller.)

Marquardt should be quite proud of this accomplishment, the assembly of all known blessings from Joseph Smith Sr, Joseph Smith Jr, Hyrum Smith, and William Smith (through 1845), the first four patriarchs of the Latter Day Saints (he also includes the stray blessing from the fifth patriarch, Joseph Sr’s brother John and even one by Oliver Cowdery bestowed on Joseph Jr). Rather than hunting and pecking through various informal collections or citations in Irene Bates’s well-regarded treatments, students of early Mormonism can now find in easy reach an impressive corpus of these important blessings.

These blessings provide a window into earliest Mormonism, particularly as it was influenced by Father Smith, the “first” patriarch of the church (his namesake son actually was the first, but he quickly transferred the role to his father). In these blessings, several themes emerge quickly and consistently. For a rite based on the deathbed blessings of the ancient patriarchs, particularly Father Israel, these prayers of promise do not disappoint. Particularly those from Joseph Sr emphasize the quest for immortality and the conquest of death to an astounding degree. Recipients learned that they could expect Elijah’s chariot to return for them, would recapitulate Enoch’s ascension, would receive the power to “translate” themselves through the heavens into heaven, and would be able to choose when to die at the end of a full life. Some heard direct predictions of their lifespan, from 75 to 120 years, while the great majority expected to be present at the earth’s “winding up scene.” Most importantly, (and to an extent poorly commented in the current literature) there is every indication that Father Smith considered these early blessings to be the actual entries in the heavenly Book of Life that would seal the recipient to salvation in the “celestial world.”

Other themes also appear. The presence of the impending Millennium is everywhere felt, kinship with the namesake patriarch Joseph of Egypt is strong. Blessings for health, and scriptural style freedom from imprisonment and suffering are core components, as is a strong proselytizing focus. We also see in these blessings much of Joseph Sr’s soul. In fact, this is probably the largest corpus of Father Smith’s writing and preaching. He loved his children desperately but was embarrassed by the family’s poverty and his own failings, but he knew that the solution to these embarrassments was the church his son had founded. Through that church, he became father to multitudes, and the priesthood patriarch to his own family. Through that church he discovered the good news of God’s priesthood, His plan of salvation, and the imminent return of the Messiah. There are many other insights and historical adventures in these personalized prophecies, which many recipients received at special community feasts (probably modeled on the Methodist love feast) and carried with themselves to share with others.

I would end with two metatextual comments.

First, as opposed to his earlier Joseph Smith Revelations, an excellent documentary work marred by petty polemics, the Patriarchal Blessings volume is precisely what both apologists and critics should aspire to in making primary sources available to others: the actual documents with minimal neutral apparatus. Much as Dan Vogel separated documents from interpretive vision in his Early Mormon Documents (summarized and critically interpreted in Making of a Prophet), Marquardt has presented these texts in a way useful to readers from within and without the tradition. Occasionally Marquardt’s bracketed corrections are superfluous or even perhaps incorrect (I’m thinking of his desire to change “sustenance” into “subsistence”), but overall he has provided an excellent, minimal scholarly apparatus, allowing these documents room to breathe and, more importantly, to speak.

Second, what does it mean to publish patriarchal blessings, and what shall modern Mormons do with predictions by Father Smith that clearly failed to materialize? For the modern believer unfamiliar with early Mormonism, there may be some challenging material here, and modern sensibility about the patriarchal blessing is that outsiders ought not have access to it. These likely explain why this publication is from a critical press and by a critical compiler, rather than an official or semi-official publication. My personal view is that of Father Smith (as I understand him), that the church community will be edified in a far distant day (say 2007) by reading the entries in the Book of Patriarchal Blessings. And I am grateful to these blessings for giving me a better sense for what the early patriarchs were worried about, hoped for, and sought after. I don’t care that no one lived to 120 years or had guardian angels explode prison walls, I care that the Smiths were inhabiting a heavenly world, simultaneously both old and new. I care that they cared desperately about life and death and community, their children, their children’s children, and the myriad forms of kindred that the Zion society allowed to flourish.

These blessings are a gem for researchers and those interested in understanding important aspects of earliest Mormonism, as refracted through the lens of the Smith family patriarchs. I strongly recommend this book, congratulate Marquardt on his excellent contribution, and hope that the accessibility of these blessings will lead to their greater use in social, cultural, and religious histories of early Mormonism.
NB: I have already used the blessings in a treatment of physico-spiritual translation under revision and intend a fuller treatment later, which will include footnotes, historical contextualization, and the like. For now, you’ll have to read the Marquardt volume to get citation specifics.


  1. I should mention that the book includes Elijah Abel’s patriarchal blessing, which confirms his ordination to the priesthood and promises postmortal equality (though it does so by promising a white soul in the afterlife).

  2. SC Taysom says:

    Thanks for the review Sam.

  3. Excellent.

  4. Thanks, Sam. If I recall correctly, Isaac Morley was also an ordained patriarch, perhaps in 1838. I’m not sure if we have any of his blessings, though.

  5. David, there are several additional patriarchs, but none of them were patriarchs to the church at large. There are interesting cases where JSS blessed people with their own natural fathers or gave them permission to bless their own offspring, or in one fascinating moment, blessed a thirty-something father then laid hands with that man on his teenage daughter to give her a joint patriarchal blessing.

  6. SC Taysom says:

    I think you’re right about Morely, David. IIRC, he was the patriarch at Far West. I think he was ordained in late 1837.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Great review, Sam. And congratulations to Michael for publishing what appears to be an excellent historical resource.

    (And Sam, I’m totally with you on the standard for presenting original sources. These should always be done neutrally without intermingling polemics [from either angle]. Vogel’s EMD is a textbook example, as you rightly note. It has been a pleasure to see Marquardt’s continued maturing from being a mere polemicist to becoming an actual scholar.)

  8. Very good review, Sam. Thanks for posting it.

  9. That’s right, Sam.

    On another note, I’d say that Hallwas and Launius’s Cultures in Conflict is the example of what a documentary history should not be, in terms of polemics. Not that I don’t value what they’ve done in terms of providing the documents, but the selection of documents was blatantly ideologically driven.

  10. I can’t wait for mine to arrive. I’m giddy. Thanks for this review and congrats to Smith-Pettit for pulling such a great volume together.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Sam, thanks for that review. I may never purchase the volume but I’m grateful for the analysis nonetheless.

  12. Matt Thurston says:

    Great review! I look forward to perusing this volume myself.

    I agree with this statement:

    And I am grateful to these blessings for giving me a better sense for what the early patriarchs were worried about, hoped for, and sought after. I don’t care that no one lived to 120 years or had guardian angels explode prison walls, I care that the Smiths were inhabiting a heavenly world, simultaneously both old and new. I care that they cared desperately about life and death and community, their children, their children’s children, and the myriad forms of kindred that the Zion society allowed to flourish.

    Well said.

    Can the publication of this book help us better understand our Patriarchs and patriarchal blessings today? In other words, would you apply the same logic (quoted above) and value/worth to Patriarchs and patriarchal blessings today? Is it okay for us to view our patriarchal blessings as a lens for understanding what our Patriarchs (and larger Mormon community) worry about, hope for, and seek after? And/or as a mechanism that helps our Zion community to flourish?

    It’s likely that many Saints in 2107 will read our patriarchal blessings with such open-minded allowance, just as it’s likely they’ll read their own 2017 patriarchal blessings as somehow more legitimate, accurate, and binding.

  13. Great point, Matt. My one reservation is that life lived under excessive scrutiny can be defeating. Not that we oughtn’t scrutinize, but if we live our lives as anthropologists looking in, we may have more (and less) than we bargained for.

    That said, yes, I do enjoy my PB on both levels, as an expression of important concerns and as a personal connection to vastness.

  14. In checking on the background of this author/editor, I discovered that he has a history of lamblasting the faith of the church members (similar to Dan Vogel).

    While I greatly enjoy accessing source material, I abhor the destruction of faith that some authors revel in instigating.

    If I may ask (before I support such an author/editor with my funds), could you be more specific on the neutrality of the overall book? If it does not build faith, does it at least not seek to destroy it?

    I sincerely appreciate your help. Thanks.

  15. Michael, as I understand it, and Sam can correct me if I am mistaken, this is a documentary history. Simply put, the book reproduces all extant Patriarchal blessings by these patriarchs. It is true that they are a bit different from our patriarchal blessings today, and for some people that may affect their faith.

  16. Dear J.

    I am not as worried about affecting faith. A mature faith needs to be obtained by everyone. I am more concerned about interpretations or commentary that purposely seeks to “rationalize” or “trivialize” sacred things. If it is truly a documentary history then I would greatly enjoy adding it to my library.

    I bought Dan Vogel’s “Making of a Prophet” with the expectation this it also would be a documentary history but that just turned out to be the lamest set of hypotheses and mish-mash of incongruent thoughts that I have ever read.

  17. Michael, if you notice, I lauded Dan Vogel for separating Making of a Prophet (which, though I respect Dan a great deal, I did not find a compelling biography of Joseph Smith) from his actual documentary history, Early Mormon Documents, which was highly useful for students of early Mormonism.

    As far as Michael, he’s someone else I respect, even as we disagree about the meaning of Mormonism. His earlier work is marred by evangelistic polemics against Mormonism. Even his collection of the original texts of the Joseph Smith revelations is marred by a scholarly apparatus that is polemical rather than illuminating. This is why I was so laudatory about the current effort, which strikes me as quite scholarly, balanced, and useful.

    Though, as many other commenters, he takes pains to emphasize certain minor deletions (names of apostates, JSS’s reference to a personal drinking problem) or draw attention to some of the most astounding claims of the blessings, I was quite pleased with how much this volume really does what it claims to: presents the earliest sources of the earliest blessings without a lot of distracting argumentation with the modern church.

    If you were to skip a couple paragraphs in the introduction, you’d likely have no idea about the author’s personal beliefs, which is how I like my documentary history (as opposed to narrative history).

    There are some who would oppose purchasing this volume on the grounds that Marquardt believes the church is a hoax, but I feel like we should be grateful for additional useful information about our religious ancestors and the earliest period of the Church’s existence.

    I avoided mentioning this in the main post because I feel like we all could do better at looking beyond our conflicts in the quest for truth and didn’t want to immediately draw this to a debate about Marquardt’s beliefs. Whatever his motivation, Marquardt has done a great deal for advancing Mormon history by drawing attention to primary documents.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Michael, I think that if you will reread Sam’s post and the comments that follow, you will see that your question has already been answered. To wit: the only aspect of the book that might be troubling to the faith of some Mormons is the presence of promises that went unfulfilled. But, as you rightly say in #16, this really shouldn’t be a trial to anyone’s faith. So I think the answer is that there should be nothing harmful to faith in this volume.

    (I say that not having seen it myself, but I have every confidence in Sam’s perceptions.)

  19. SC Taysom says:

    On a technical note, there is a difference between a “documentary history” and a collection of documents–they are not the same thing.

  20. True enough, Taysom. My bad.

  21. Matt Thurston says:

    smb (#13), thanks, and good point on the potential pitfalls inherent in different levels of scrutiny.

    I’m skeptical that one could find a perfect “level” of scrutiny as it assumes one penetrates to a certain depth and then stops. Maybe a better word than “level” is “balance” or an ability to “see” and appreciate multiple levels of scrutiny simultaneously. To live one’s life primarily at the microscopic or macroscopic level is to miss out on the full beauty of life experience.

    I think this is what you mean by being open to both divine (i.e. vastness) and less-than-divine interpretations of your own PB at the same time.

  22. #19, valid point. i find it easier to call it that, but it ain’t right.

  23. Nick Literski says:

    From my own research, I know that the LDS church historical department will not release patriarchal blessings (even the very earliest ones) to anyone other than a direct descendant. That means unless they made an exception, Marquardt didn’t get to the original patriarchal blessing books for source material. Does this book simply contain those patriarchal blessings which have been already published elsewhere, thus making them all second-hand versions?

  24. SC Taysom says:

    I’m sure that most of them have seen the light of day at some point before. As Sam noted though, one of the great benefits of this book is that even if all of them have been published elsewhere they are now collected in one place. In my judgment, that alone is a significant development.

  25. Marquardt indicates that he has photocopies of the blessings in his papers at the Univ Utah library, and he references the page numbers for the PBB in those he lists. I assumed that he had an “independent” copy of the PBB.

    I’m with Taysom, though, that it’s immensely useful to have it all in one place.

  26. Matt Thurston says:

    One of my ancestors, Edson Barney, joined the Church in 1831, was part of Zion’s Camp, was one of the original first quorum of seventy, etc. but for whatever reason did not get his patriarchal blessing until August 31, 1844 by John Smith, Joseph’s uncle. His patriarchal blessing includes the following little nugget:

    “Fear not, for thou have faith to waft thyself through the air, to rebuke the raging sea, and warring elements shall obey thy voice, and no power on earth shall stay thy hand.”

    Mine is pretty pedestrian in comparison.

  27. Name (required) says:

    Based on the previous posts, maybe I’m not mature in the faith.

    what does it mean to publish patriarchal blessings…with predictions…that clearly failed to materialize?…there may be some challenging material here…I don’t care that no one lived to 120 years or had guardian angels explode prison walls

    So how am I to understand my own PB? Are the predictions just the wishes/dream/concerns of my patriarch? He was a great guy–I’m not sad to have a one pager that gives a window into his soul–but I thought I was getting something different at the time.

  28. 26: wafting is an important part of my essay on translation that I keep meaning to finish for Dialogue. Amazing how closely John followed his brother in that regard.

    27: I wouldn’t consider yourself immature; negotiating mortality is difficult and heady work. As I mentioned above, I think that living our lives as if we were future anthropologists is likely to make us crazy. I see my patriarchal blessing as an expression of the yearnings of a recent generation of Latter-day Saints at the same time that I see it as a vehicle for God’s communication with me. Some of the communication could easily come as direct prophecy, while the balance of the divine communication comes from the experience of my encounter with the patriarch and the record of his prayer on my behalf. Miracles don’t have to be incontrovertible signs of the supernatural to be both divine and immensely moving.

    Perhaps I should mention that I chose my profession as a direct response to my patriarchal blessing. I’ve been delighted at how connected I have felt to God in the trying moments of my career, I think as a direct result of the decision having come through my patriarchal blessing.

  29. Might I add that that book even looks fantastic? It not only contains great material, but the book itself is very aesthetically pleasing.

  30. Nick Literski says:

    #24 Taysom:
    Oh, I absolutely agree that it’s great to have a reference resource that brings these blessings together in one volume. I wasn’t trying to disparage Marquardt’s work. I just wanted to know more about what sources he went to.

    Some have brought up the propriety of using historical patriarchal blessings as a research tool. Personally, I think they are invaluable as such. Patriarchs don’t operate as some sort of heavenly intercom system, merely giving earthly voice to the word-by-word dictation of deity. Rather, a patriarchal blessing is essentially an act of translation. A patriarch receives certain impressions, and must “translate” them into language which the blessing recipient will understand.

    It is virtually impossible for this sort of “translation” not to be influenced by the culture and experience of the patriarch. Some patriarchs, for example, extensively quote memorized scriptures in their blessings. That doesn’t mean that deity quoted scripture to the patriarch, but rather the patriarch used known scripture to convey ideas which he received through inspiration. I’d be willing to bet that given enough samples of a particular patriarch’s blessings, one could discern many things about that patriarch, such as his occupation, his level of education, etc.

    In my own research, I’ve used some of Joseph Smith Sr.’s blessings as tools to discern what he thought of certain surrounding events. While this isn’t an absolute barometer, I have found it immensely helpful.

  31. Matt Thurston says:

    28: “Waft” is a wonderfully expressive term, especially as used in this context. When are you going to finish your Dialogue article? I’m curious to read it.

    Is Edson Barney’s PB in this book? You mentioned it includes a few by Joseph’s uncle, John. Any idea how long John was a partriarch and how many pb’s he might have performed?

  32. 31: I love waft. I was supposed to finish the article many months ago and am knee deep in my main job and several other articles. Maybe Marquardt’s volume will encourage me to get finished quickly. Do you have an original scan or copy of your ancestor’s blessing? Most of the wafting stuff I’ve seen is in the earlier work.

    Barney’s blessing is not in the book. John was a patriarch for a good long time. I would consult with Bates’s book for details, as I remain sketchy on the Utah period.

    30: I agree that the PBs give us wonderful insights into the mind of JSS. There is no corpus of his work remotely approaching this in breadth or perhaps even depth.

  33. Matt Thurston says:

    I could send you a copy of Edson Barney’s blessing offline.

    I also have a copy of Royal Barney’s 1835 PB that was given by Joseph Smith. That one should be in the book. Royal was Edson Barney’s brother and also a member of Zion’s Camp and the original first quorum of seventy. No “wafting” in Royal’s PB, but Joseph does promise that “no man can hold thee, no prison’s can hold thee, etc.”

  34. The power over prisons motif is persistent in the JSS blessings and appears to be invoking scriptural precedent for mighty missionaries. You may be motivating me to finish the paper. thanks.

  35. anonymous says:

    Marquardt’s photocopies of the PBB were made from a copy of the microfilm stolen from the church archives about 15 years ago.

  36. Nick Literski says:

    “anonymous,” you make a charge of theft, give no evidence to back it, and refuse to sign your name? I have no proof that you’re wrong, but if you want your accusation to be taken seriously, I suggest you (a) stand up like an adult and identify yourself, and (b)provide the source and/or evidence of your claim.

  37. Back off, Nick.

  38. anonymous, this is a difficult situation. I think Collier’s publication of Brigham Young’s office journal has a similar provenance, not to mention such important publications as Smith’s Intimate Chronicle. On the one hand it would seem that it wouldn’t be a good thing to support such publications, but on the other, their availability is quite important and should we ignore them as if they don’t exist? Tough questions.

  39. It’s somewhat like the controversy over unprovenanced Israelite/Near Eastern artifacts today.

    Should you refuse to publish them, research them, or use them in research (in order to not promote looting of archaeological sites or potential sites by the natives, who are paid when they bring things in)?

    Or are they too important to ignore, regardless of any potential consequences?

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Nitsav, I had exactly the same thought. Publication of unprovenanced inscriptions is a hairy ethical dilemma.

  41. I think it is different from unprovenanced inscriptions in one very significant way. That is that the holographs remain in the custody of the Church. As I understand it, unprovenanced inscriptions result in the actual loss of the material, no?

  42. anonymous says:

    I don’t object to making use of the materials as published, with the caveat that users must rely on Marquardt’s readings because few scholars can check them against the originals. I do think Marquardt should have been more candid about his source — I don’t expect him to say “I stole it” or “X stole it and gave me copies,” but he could be somewhat more forthright about the questionable nature of his access even if he does not finger the thief by name.

    Nick Literski, I understand your complaint. It’s reasonable. But there could be reasonable grounds for anonymity beyond a base desire to sling mud and run. Knowledge of documents theft from church archives is a dirty but open secret in the scholarly community and is obviously recognized by others who have commented since I brought it up. It needed to be mentioned in this discussion. And please note that I did not charge Marquardt himself with being the thief, only with benefiting from theft, as do purchasers of the book. The difference is that Marquardt made knowing use of purloined records, while book buyers generally are unaware of the documents’ provenance.

  43. I will confess I know relatively little about how the archives function and am interested in the issues proposed by Nitsav and others. Most of the material in Marquardt has been circulating for some time, and the material I recognize in the book corresponds well with what is separately published. I haven’t been to the Marquardt papers to investigate, but according to his introduction, he has placed his source material in his collection at the Univ Utah’s library. Perhaps some SLC-an is interested in checking out the sources there?

    On the ethical front, would it be reasonable to ask descendants of everybody listed to fill out request cards for individual blessings and then summarize the material in a book like this?

    In terms of the broader ethical issues, medical researchers sometimes have to confront the problem of useful medical information obtained from unethical medical experimentation. Must the knowledge be ignored or destroyed even if it could help someone else? Broadly conceived, these are complex issues.

    Thanks for bringing up these related issues. I am most interested in understanding early Mormons, hence my praise for the volume, which does help us understand them better, and am glad to have these discussions arise.

    Someone should write a book about the archives, the groups that use them, and the ways different groups attempt to obtain control of or disseminate the records of our history contained there.

  44. anonymous, in your opinion what difference should the provenance of the records make for us as readers/consumers? Are you saying that we shouldn’t buy or read the book? It doesn’t sound like you’re really calling into question Marquardt’s interpretations, just the taking advantage of illicitly copied records. It also sounds like these are valuable records that will be of interest to many — so what should be done?

  45. Nitsav, and Steve Evans, and others — The documents are now available, and you should use them if your work takes you in that direction. Using stolen information that is made available to anyone who wants it is not the same as using stolen tangible goods that benefit only the thief who has physical possession. An overly-delicate sense of honor that would prevent good scholars and good LDS readers from using these records would leave them to the tender mercies of those who do not have any respect for their origin. They are now out there, and to pretend that they are not won’t help you or me or anybody else.

    At the same time, purchasers and readers need to be aware of provenance. A book like this should never be used without a mental asterisk akin to that printed next to questionable sports records. You should not celebrate the dishonesty and underhandedness of how these records came to be accessible to you, no matter how appreciative you are of their availability. A thief is a thief, and stealing something desirable from the church doesn’t make the thief Robin Hood. A thief, and those who profit from stolen goods, should face the disapprobation of his fellows even if the law cannot be brought to bear: no editor, publisher, or financing foundation should be eligible for awards for publishing stolen material, for instance. Published reviews should question the provenance of the material. Those involved in the book’s production should be questioned by individuals who have the opportunity to discuss the matter with them. Social and professional ostracism, not admiration and celebration, should be the lot of those who deal in stolen material.

    In my opinion.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Anonymous, a fair answer and I’m glad you replied. I don’t really disagree with you — except as others have pointed out above, availability is an important thing to readers such as myself.

  47. Nick Literski says:

    A thief, and those who profit from stolen goods, should face the disapprobation of his fellows even if the law cannot be brought to bear: no editor, publisher, or financing foundation should be eligible for awards for publishing stolen material, for instance.

    In theory, I certainly understand your point, and sympathize. In practice, however, this becomes rather difficult to apply. For example, Heber C. Kimball’s diary covering activity in the Nauvoo Temple (actually written for him by William Clayton, of course) was first published (page images, not typescript) from a stolen microfilm by the Tanners. Various typescripts surfaced, and the entirety was finally published in book form along with the rest of William Clayton’s journal writings. I doubt that we could easily track down every written work which has subsequently taken advantage of this journal, notwithstanding its availability seems to have stemmed from some person’s theft (even before the Tanners got it, or so it seems). How far do you take your stance? Can legitimate historians ever take advantage of the information provided in purloined manuscript copies?

  48. Nick Literski says:

    I have just learned that Michael Marquardt specifically denies using a microfilm copy of patriarchal blessings in his research, let alone stolen manuscripts.

    This makes sense to me, since I personally have copies of three patriarchal blessings by Joseph Smith Sr. from 1838, all contained in Joseph Smith Sr.’s official patriarchal blessing books, but none of which ended up in Marquardt’s book. If he had a microfilm or full copies of JS Sr.’s patriarchal blessing books, the resulting compilation wouldn’t be missing the three blessings that I have copies of (and before someone accuses me of stealing, these were officially provided by the historical department, to a direct line descendant, who subsequently shared them with me for my specific research).

  49. anonymous2 says:

    Nick Literski, note that no one has said he used a stolen microfilm, only that his photocopies were made from a stolen microfilm. Although he may be one or ten or twenty steps removed from the deed, the fact of the matter is that his material has never been legitimately photocopied or microfilmed in bulk (the odd blessing supplied to a descendant is the exception). It makes sense to me that he is the beneficiary of the stolen microfilm, no matter how many steps removed he is.

  50. Nick Literski says:

    It makes sense to me that he is the beneficiary of the stolen microfilm, no matter how many steps removed he is.\

    Okay, just so I know you’re guessing he’s guilty, rather than having actual information. I understand Marquardt actually details the process he went through to get these in the book. I don’t have mine, so I can’t read that yet.

  51. Nick, Marquardt’s not entirely clear in the volume. He indicates that the PBB is the source for his blessings, but he also mentions the archives and individuals who have given him copies of blessings over the years and says that he has reposed copies of those blessings in his papers at the U of U. I suspect he used both.

  52. Just to be clear, it’s not a perfect parallel between unprovenanced ANE artifacts and these patriarchal blessings.

    Artifacts are unprovenanced when Bedouin or collectors or tourists (but most often Bedouin) show up at a museum with a scroll or a pot or some artifact that they found. The problem then is two-fold. Because it was not documented in-situ by archaeologists, its provenance (the site, layer, things it was found with, etc.), dating, and even authenticity are called in to question and, sometimes irredeemably so. the problem is not that the original artifact is unavailable (the situation with patriarchal blessings), but that the original archaeological context and data from the recovery process is forever lost.

    Then you have the ethical issue. Bedouin turn things in because they are paid for them, and that payment is the value Bedouin attach to these objects. (Certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls were burned for heat when first discovered.) Payment encourages them to turn in these objects they stumble over (as they did, again, with the Dead Sea Scrolls.) On the other hand, once there is an established source of funding, it may encourage looting of sites or similar behavior.

    So, there is both uncertainty about the reliability of the documents and a potential ethical issue in publishing them.

    Consequently, some scholars, journals or associations (some significant ones) refuse to do or publish research on unprovenanced artifacts, regardless of the potential import of the artifact in question.

  53. Joe Geisner says:

    A friend sent me a link for Sam’s review of Michael Marquardt’s “Early Patriarchal Blessings”. I thought the review was quite good and fair in detailing Mike’s book and his life-long work of collecting P.B.s.

    I then saw “anonymous” comments and could not believe people would even acknowledge his presence. It is unfortunate that people can make this type of provocative claims anonymously.

    Anonymous claims that Mike stole P.B.s, and an unnamed publisher has benefited from these stolen P.B.’s and damn them if they win some award for these stolen P.B.s. Anonymous also accuses Mike that he “knowingly made use of purloined records”. Has he followed Mike all over the country as Mike collected these records over the past thirty five years? It appears that there has been an unsophisticated willingness on this thread to take this information without too much critical thought. Anonymous makes these claims without anyone asking for proof of these P.B.s being stolen. I don’t recall ever reading or hearing about this theft. We know about Clayton’s journal and Fred Collier’s shenanigans, but where do I find authentic accusations of P.Bs theft and where is this microfilm and copies so that we can exposed this crime?

    Someone tries to tie Mike’s P.B.’s in with the manuscripts Fred Collier is accused of smuggling out of archives. This does not make any sense. Fred had no interest in P.B.s. He was only interested in polygamy, revelations, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The innuendo is unfortunate.

    Also, Kevin Barney’s writes that Michael was “a mere polemicist [but now he is] becoming an actual scholar” only because Mike has minimal commentary in this book. What a complement! If someone ever wants to give me this type of complement, kindly don’t. The implication is that Mike didn’t present a thoughtful and scholarly presentation in his earlier studies including “Inventing Mormonism”. I’m not sure anyone can fully grasp the origins of Mormonism without reading Bushman’s “Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism”, Marvin Hill’s “Quest for Refuge” and “Inventing Mormonism”. All of these works are groundbreaking in their own way.

    Sam, writes that “Marquardt believes the (Mormon) church is a hoax”. Sam writes that he “respects” Michael. I find this difficult to believe since Mike has never claimed the church is a hoax. I’m sure he wouldn’t want his wife and children to be active Latter-day Saints if he thought so. Also, Mike’s private and public actions, which I have witnessed, would lead one to believe quite the opposite. Now maybe Sam and I have different definitions of what a hoax means. My understanding of hoax is it is something intended to deceive or defraud. I have never understood Mike’s beliefs to reflect this. Sam also claims “Joseph Smith Revelations” ‘is marred by petty polemics’ and ‘marred by a scholarly apparatus that is polemical rather than illuminating’. Yet, Sam gives no evidence, just accusation. My guess is that several people on this thread think the Community of Christ are a bunch of left wing wacko’s in Missouri, but I personally think it is impressive that they use Mike’s book in college courses and don’t consider it “marred by polemics”.

    It is sad that such a good review was written and it went south by these kind of comments. I’m stunned.

  54. Nick Literski says:

    Anonymous makes these claims without anyone asking for proof of these P.B.s being stolen.

    Actually, I asked for proof, but was chastized for it.

  55. Kevin Barney says:

    Joe #54, allow me to explain my comment. As far as I know Mike’s early work consisted of blatantly polemical pamphlets that were circulated under the aegis of the Tanners and their Modern Microfilm/Utah Lighthouse Ministry. If that is not polemics, I don’t know what the word means.

    I actually quite liked Inventing Mormonism (even if the title is unfortunate in my view), and viewed that as a strong step away from Tanner-style pamphleteering polemics towards genuine scholarship, together with his participation in Mormon studies conferences.

    I don’t have either JS Revelations or the PB volume under review, and took Sam at his word that the former was still marred by some polemical flourishes while the latter is not.

    So from this I saw a progression from a mere collector of documents and Tanner-style pamphleteering polemicist to legitimate, presenting-at-MHA and publishing substantive works of scholarship, scholar.

    In other words, I see substantial maturation and growth in his work over time. I intended my comment as a genuine and warm–and well deserved-compliment.

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