Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation

I’ve got a book in the editing process at Greg Kofford Books [it’s about D&C 132]. With luck, it may appear this December or possibly February 2017. Here’s a bit of the preface (excuse typos, it’s in progress):

The July 12, 1843 revelation was the last of Joseph Smith’s formal written revelations and it was a watershed in Mormonism. Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation, constitutes a study of the text of that revelation, its genetic profile as an endpoint for a number of trajectories in Mormon thought, liturgy, and priestly cosmology, together with a brief exploration of its historical influence and interpretation.

Here's the planned cover. It's Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (my original title was: The Restoration of Hagar: Doctrine and Covenants 132, or something of the sort.

Here’s the planned cover. It’s Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (my original title was: The Restoration of Hagar: Doctrine and Covenants 132, or something of the sort.

Polygamy, the main theme of the July 12 revelation, is a complex subject in Mormonism. This short work can only hope to discuss a few aspects of that institution as it relates specifically to that revelation. Essentially beginning in Nauvoo, Mormon polygamy functioned as a threshold of loyalty to Joseph Smith and his priestly office. Taking the step of participating in polygamy was a high cost commitment for women and men, and that high cost generally translated to high value in the memories of those who participated in it. Thus, polygamy not only tested loyalty to Smith, —it increased that loyalty well beyond the death of the Prophet. While Smith generally invited those into polygamy who were already close to him and had demonstrated their commitment to Mormonism, it was risky to challenge fundamental boundaries of the religious and social landscape— and that risk turned to danger in some cases when initiates could not pass the threshold of belief and practice. Some of those dissenters, like First Presidency counselor William Law, acted to publically oppose

My general plan follows from the shift in scripture studies in the academy over the last few decades. Instead of appealing just to the historical-critical method, I consider the evolving influence and interpretation of the revelation over time. Peter Martens’s work on Origen is an example (Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford Early Christian Studies).

In other news, I’ve been working with the Joseph Smith sermon book, the current working title is this: Every Word Seasoned with Grace: A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith. I like the title for its reference to the text of one of Smith’s sermons that in turn depends on one of Paul’s letters (Col. 4:6).


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Sounds really interesting. Be sure to let us know when it’s available.

  2. Will do Kev.

  3. This section talks about the “New and Everlasting Covenant.” Today that is seen as a reference to the restored gospel. But I always thought that it referred to plural marriage. Comments?

  4. Following. I assume a splash when the book is out, from Kofford if nothing else. I identify with the dissenters, so expect to be interested and distressed.

  5. Both your projects sound very interesting, especially the second one. Seems that Paul’s writings heavily influenced Joseph Smith so I’m curious to see if that comes through in your studies on his speeches.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    Excellent news, WVS. Very much looking forward to both!

  7. Thanks all.

  8. As far as I’m concerned, the original title was better. Hopefully, that wasn’t your idea. Can’t wait for this to come. I really enjoy almost all the books in this series from Greg and look forward to them all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s