Memories. Mysteries Solved. Mysteries Made. Wilford Woodruff’s “Book of Revelations.”

When Charles W. Nibley[1] was eleven he came to Utah and settled with his family in the Cache Valley. From the start, Nibley had a knack for business and became successful in retail, lumber, and land. When he was a teenager, Nibley met Ira Ames, an early 1830s convert to Mormonism and he loved to listen to Ames tell stories about the early days of Mormonism. Late in life, Nibley related a incident where Ames told the story of being out on the streets of Kirtland, Ohio one night when he saw Sidney Rigdon walking by. Rigdon stopped and spoke to Ames and told him he had just come from witnessing a long and glorious vision (D&C 76). He told Ames of the beautiful vision. Nibley carried this experience to his grave as one of the more memorable scenes of his youth. There was a problem though. Ames was not in Ohio in February 1832 when the vision occurred, he wasn’t even a Mormon—and Rigdon was living in Hiram, Ohio when he experienced the shattering vision. Nibley felt humbled and strengthened by a fiction.
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Getting rid of the Ensign, New Era, and Friend!

So, the Church magazines have had their present names since 1971. That’s going on 50 years. “Ensign” is ok, has some scriptural backing I guess. New Era is clearly borrowed from the old Improvement Era, and the Friend inherited its name from its predecessor, The Children’s Friend (which stole the name of some other rag, I think). Liahona came from the old Liahona The Elders’ Journal. So now you’re faced with a problem. What about new magazines? Should there be hard copy mags? How many? One for all adults world-wide? Or ten or fifteen regional mags? BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE HAVE TO GIVE THEM NEW AND BETTER NAMES! Get with it and tell me what to do.

Your Sunday Brunch Special: Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court.

Some of you may know that I’ve been writing a book on the social, political, and textual history of Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy, now found as Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. It’s been a fun project and I’ve come to see the revelation (as every good biographer must about his or her subject) as more or less the center of the universe, and maybe the Mormon universe at least. Something that may not make a dent in the book has nevertheless occupied my attention for a while, and that is a certain court case: Minersville School District v. Gobitas.

The background works like this, and forgive me for some tangentialism. It’s a learned behavior I guess.
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Joseph Smith Papers Announcements

Updates from the Joseph Smith Papers team:

JSP Website Reaches Publication Milestones:

The latest content release on the website is now live. This release includes two items of particular significance:
The final installment of Joseph Smith’s journals, from May 1843 to June 1844. This portion of the journals covers the final year of Smith’s life, including the events that led up to his murder. The Journals series is now complete in print and online.
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Mormon Sermons: How do We Preach?

There is a large body of scholarship on the analysis and sorting/classifying of rhetorical texts. Categories of preaching have been mapped in genres like homilies, commentaries, catechistic address, exhortations, charismatic address to name some of the obvious ones.
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Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture: 2017 Symposium

Mormonism Engages the World

This year the Maxwell Institute’s Summer Seminar is being held in the basement of the Joseph F. Smith Building on BYU Campus. The morning session just wrapped, and I thought I’d give a very brief summary of the papers mixed (inexorably) with my own mental stirrings. Warning: these are in no way verbatim reports—they are very brief summaries. Caveat Emptor. Presenters who encounter this should feel free to disabuse the public of my errors.
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Conference Notice: Leonard Arrington Centennial Conference

Click for a larger image

July 12, 13, 2017, Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Leonard J. Arrington centennial conference. See the attached program for more information. Speakers include Marlin K. Jensen, former Church Historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Greg Prince, Arrington’s biographer, Gary Bergera, editor of the forthcoming Arrington diaries, Matt Grow, Director of Publications, Church History Department, Matthew Godfrey, Managing Historian for the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich will be addressing attendees at 7:00pm, July 12, 2017 in the L. Tom Perry Pavilion, Huntsman Hall 470, USU Campus.

Conference Sessions will address the Arrington Collection at the USU library and consider Arrington’s influence among students, colleagues, the state of Idaho, LDS history, and the Historical Department of the LDS Church. The conference is free and open to all. Say hi if you decide to come up and breathe some of the clear aggie air.

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Your Sunday Brunch Special. Time.

Sitting in an upstairs room.
It is still winter as I write this, and dawn takes her time. Everyone else is asleep, wandering in dreams where I’m the blind observer.

I’ve been thinking about my parents lately. Both have been gone more than a decade. My memories of them are fragmented and naturally limited by the way most of us store such things. I’ve been wondering about their thoughts, something I’ll never be able to access, but nevertheless still wondering. How did they experience their own memories? Looking into their lives lately, I’ve realized that most of their experience was hidden from me. It differed greatly from the seeming uniformity that I watched as a teen and young adult. Oh sure, I had a glimpse now and then. But it quickly submerged below the surface of present attitudes and behavior.
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Transfers

Mormon mission life has its own unique culture and a part of that culture is the “transfer.” Transfers happen for a variety of reasons, redistribution of man-woman power, training procedures, covering for departing missionaries, social issues between missionaries and/or members, etc. Transfers are sometimes fraught for various reasons but usually they don’t mean anything in particular beyond the mundane. But sometimes, they are unusual.
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James E. Talmage’s College Finals

Talmage was a student at the Provo BYU Acadamy in 1879 (he was 17). Talmage kept his blue book (actually eggshell book) and it ended up in an archive. I thought it was only fair that you all take the same test. Something tells me it will destroy you. Now, no cheating, looking on the internets or encyclopedias or whatever. Get out your paper and prepare for make or break. You can attempt answers in the comments. Possible grades James could earn (they are labeled “Marks of Criticism”):
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Joseph Smith Papers Lecture: Brent Rogers on Kirtland Temple

Notice of Lecture by Brent Rogers, one of the editors of volume 5 of the Documents Series in the Joseph Smith Papers. If you’re in Salt Lake City on Thursday, it should be fun.

In conjunction with the publication of Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, Brent M. Rogers, Associate Managing Historian of the Joseph Smith Papers and coeditor of Documents, Volume 5, will be giving a lecture titled “‘We ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this house’: The Temple in Joseph Smith’s Kirtland” on May 18 in Salt Lake City.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: The 1880 First Presidency and the George Q. Cannon Journal

Last year, Jonathan Stapley and I reviewed the newly released initial segment of George Q. Cannon’s journals from the Church Historian’s Press. Cannon, a fixture in Utah Mormon leadership, politics, and business for the latter half of the nineteenth century, reported his activities in Church and State with interesting fidelity in what was once a closely held journal. Just recently, more of the Cannon journal was released and Cannon has a particularly frank account of deliberations among the apostles over the question of organizing a First Presidency. Brigham Young had been dead since August 1877 and the apostles had stepped up as a twelve man presidency, just as they had done in Nauvoo after Joseph Smith’s death. Remarkably for us perhaps, some of the same puzzles were still present over the question of reorganization of a First Presidency. Did they really need to proceed? Was a Presidency really needed to effectively govern? How would it be selected? Who should be president–what of the health of older apostles? Why did some apostles object to a new presidency? Who were those objectors? Cannon sheds remarkable light on these and other questions in this drama.[1]
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Paris Temple

The Paris, France temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been completed. Public tours will be held between April 22 and May 13, 2017. The temple was announced in 2011, however rumors regarding President Gordon B. Hinckley’s work on a prospective temple circulated for more than a decade. Local parties confirmed that land purchase for the temple was a very slow process, inhibited by French regulation and public concerns.

Construction photo, Aug. 2015.

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Testimony, Memory, and History

At the end of the nineteenth century, a few former residents of old Nauvoo still lived and worshiped in the West. A number of these stalwarts left statements about how their lives intersected with Joseph Smith and other legends of early Mormonism—even more of them regularly told of their early experiences in fast meetings. Some of them repeated the traditional stories used to support Utah as the successor to Nauvoo—from the “Last Charge” to the “Rocky Mountain Prophecy.” The Rocky Mountain Prophecy story’s gradual evolution may have come from Joseph Smith’s plans to defuse the tensions of Hancock County by defusing the Gathering, making Nauvoo the hit and run center place of temple activity but not the permanent singular residence for the growing Mormon population in Britain and America. The stories of Joseph predicting his own death may also be linked to his plans to control Mormon density in Hancock County, Ill., establishing Mormon centers in Texas and California among other possibilities, and perhaps exiting the Illinois hot-spot himself (but see below). Plans swirled around him and actual events singled out a post-martyrdom supporting narrative—there are interesting parallels with the production of the New Testament Gospels.[1]
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Mormon Image in Literature: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About What Your Neighbors Think About You.

Greg Kofford Books has been gradually publishing a series of books out of a (literally) disappearing genre of literature: nineteenth-century novels with Mormon villains. The dime novel industry of mostly Western adventure had a Mormon component, largely constructed from formulae borrowed from the broader cheap imprint world of American literature. The other

Danites are Everywhere

evening I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ardis E. Parshall (researcher extraordinaire and producer of all things Keepapitchinin) and our own Michael Austin while they talked about some of their experiences in finding these now fragile and rapidly deteriorating archival treasures.
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Church History Library Remodel: Finished.

An announcement from our friends at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. The library has been closed to the public for 4 months while the main floor underwent important architectural-functional changes. The new facility promises to be helpful to scholars and interested Church members alike.
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Preaching in the Provinces: Lorenzo Barnes and Early Mormon Missions

Lorenzo Barnes (1812-1842)—early Mormon convert and perennial missionary—left some record of his preaching efforts in two small journals. Barnes was schooled in early Mormon ideas and mission work, and his methods probably mirrored what many lay-minister Mormons did to spread the word. I’ve been thinking more about Barnes lately and I’ve written a bit about him in something that appears in the most recent issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (though that piece is altogether different from this blog entry). Barnes ends out with a chapter in the sermon book (Every Word Seasoned with Grace: A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith) since Joseph Smith preached a sermon in honor of Barnes in April 1843—Barnes died in mission service (December 1842, Idle, England). Here I’m just going to quote from one of Barnes’s journals about his 1835 preaching travels Barnes was in the Camp of Israel — Zion’s Camp — and subsequently was called as one of the original Seventy whose special duty was mission work. Spelling and punctuation as in the original.
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Northampton Church Archives–Documentary Editing Project

Melting in the pews. Edwards always read his sermons. He made up for it by fun descriptions of Hell.

Melting in the pews. Edwards always read his sermons. He made up for it by fun descriptions of Hell.

This isn’t precisely Mormon but it represents an interesting opportunity to see how an important precursor to Mormonism executed Christianity. New England’s Hidden Histories, a scholarly partner of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale has published (online) the earliest church record book from Northampton, Mass. The book contains an elaborate 14-page “covenant and statement of principles” at the establishment of the church. This volume contains articles of faith, along with the covenant, meeting minutes, admissions, dismissions, membership lists, baptisms, deaths, and marriages, and an index for members by name. The record has Jonathan Edwards’s records of church discipline. There is also material from Solomon Stoddard—and from John Hooker, successor to Edwards at the church.
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“You might as well argue with the wind.”

Something about early American preaching that may have things to say about the Mormon pulpit and pew.

The discussion of the balance between the rational and the intuitive (in Mormonism we might say, reason vs. revelation, or the “mantle” vs. the “intellect”) is not a new one. Roughly 300 years ago New England pulpits rang with polemics, preacher against preacher, over things like itinerancy, extemporaneous sermons, lay testimony and emotional conversion experiences. Each might be seen as either the work of the Devil or the work of God. Clerical conferences, used to a few quiet conversations over theological points, were torn asunder by bitter conflicts between extremes. The enlightened vs. the pious.
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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):

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Making Your Calling and Election Sure, II. Mormonism and Intelligent Design: A Historical Meander.

A recent article in the New Era made me think about the Latter-day Saint version of the science-religion interface in the Joseph Smith period. And how that may have influenced the LDS thought tradition in the twentieth century.

The intellectual world of Joseph Smith’s

Joseph Smith repeated the traditions and to some degree the  science of his day. Just ask him why people got sick in Nauvoo. It was the smell man!

Joseph Smith repeated the traditions and to some degree the science of his day. Just ask him why people got sick in Nauvoo. It was the smell man!

era was marked by a near uniform belief in intelligent design. The Enlightenment of Locke, Newton and the so-called Founding Fathers of America was marked by a deep belief in the rational design of the Universe, Christian or not. Critics of Christianity, or American non-believers in general usually still passed muster as Deists. If the latter didn’t go for the Genesis account, they still saw the universe as the creation of a God, however impersonal and remote, lacing together a system that ran of its own accord, no intervention required.[1]
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General Priesthood Session. Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Learning from Alma and Amulek. #ldsconf

Alma the younger was a talented man by Mormon’s lights, a talent that followed the Pauline Path: he “actively opposed his father and sought to destroy the Church . . . he experienced great success.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency


Like Paul, Alma’s life changed course with a heavenly vision.

President Uchtdorf:

When Alma emerged from this experience, he was a changed man. From that moment on, he devoted his life to undoing the damage he had caused. He is a powerful example of repentance, forgiveness and enduring faithfulness . . . Every citizen of the Nephite nation must have known Alma’s story. The Twitters, Instagrams, and Facebooks of his day would have been filled with images and stories about him. He probably appeared regularly on the cover of the Zarahemla Weekly and was the subject of editorials and network specials. In short, he was perhaps the most well-known celebrity of his day.

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Scripture and Mormonism: A Brief Look at Some Useful Ideas.

I want to point out some good reads in scriptural understanding here, and I’ll focus on the Bible since it’s the primary book of scripture on which other Mormon scripture comments, quotes, or critiques.

Probably the most familiar books in the Bible for Latter-day Saints are Genesis and the New Testament Gospels. Genesis is part of the Pentateuch or the first five book of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. The current state of scholarship in the Pentateuch consists of three main approaches.
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When Your Calling and Election is Sure (I): The Jerusalem Bishopric

In 1841, Lutherans and Anglicans decided that there were enough Protestants in the region of Jerusalem that they should be served by a formal church functionary. The region of service was to include Syria, “Iraq,” (the term at the time was “Chaldea”) Egypt, and Ethiopia. As you can imagine, such a scheme was bound to leave controversy and discomfort in its wake. And your imagination would be correct if it did that.
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One Hundred Seventy-Two Years Ago.

A Cultural, Political, and Religious Being.
A Few Scattered Random and Unschooled Thoughts.

Joseph Smith Jr (hereafter, JS) was in many ways a product of the Age of Jackson. Honor bound, captured by the flame of military pomp, the high ground of moral individualism over against the bureaucratic state, and a revolutionary and constitutional mythos. JS saw Old Hickory as a reminder of the power of individualism that (in legend) animated Washington, Jefferson, and the then current national feeling that America was divinely established and a portent of Millennial events to come. Jackson’s experience with the South Carolina Nullifiers helped prompt a revelation on future wars. JS was removed from many Democratic positions, however. He never supported the abolitionist movement, but he did offer that slavery was an economic issue, one that should be resolved by compensation and deportation. Neither Northern nor Southern Democrats could be in sympathy. Jackson had polarized the public, prophetically, JS did the same.
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The Joseph Smith Papers Project Releases Volume 4 in the Documents Series

Two of the General Editors[1] of The Joseph Smith Papers Project team were kind enough to invite us to the official release of the fourth entry in the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers. Matthew J. Grow and Matthew C. Godfrey were there to talk about the production of the volume (Godfrey was also lead editor for Documents 4) future plans for the papers series and of course, volume 4.

Matt Grow talks about the papers project future releases and plans.

Matt Grow talks about the papers project future releases and plans (Council of 50 minutes? September 15 or so). Yeah, my questions always puzzle him.

Documents 4 covers the period from April 1834 to September 1835. Major events in Joseph Smith’s life and for the Church included Zion’s Camp, the successful printing of Joseph Smith’s revelations as the Doctrine and Covenants, and the establishment of new church administration bodies, the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy, the financial preparation for, and construction of, the Kirtland House of the Lord, and the Book of Abraham. Documents 4 contains critical foundational documents relating to all these events.

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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Grow up, Superboy

Way back in the deeps of time, I was sitting on the bank of an irrigation canal. It was the end of summer, and the weedy bank was playing hide and seek with some bright afternoon sunlight trying its best to filter through the leaves of an old elm tree.

When I say “end of summer,” I mean school was about to start—five more days of freedom. The thing is, I was stuck in a crevice of time. My friends, the kids I had found a place with, were all a bit younger. Those kids were still in elementary (primary) school, whereas I was starting middle school (in fact, junior high school). A trick of birthdays and school deadlines put me in the way of a buzzsaw that would inevitably cut my friendships asunder. Not only that, the grade school had a different start date than my new fief of educational thralldom. They were already suited up in the new jeans and stiff-keep-your-shirt-tucked-in button up the center first day of school clothing prisons.
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Christopher Waddell: Sometimes it’s just hard to think about Jesus #ldsconf

Bishop Waddell tells us that we must not expect our faith to protect us from sorrow. But peace of mind can be present during the storms of life. The key is to keep our focus on the Christ.
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President Uchtdorf: Charity and Pride–Love Across Boundaries #ldsconf

President Uchtdorf’s address in the general priesthood meeting follows a pattern he introduced some years ago: it addresses both men and women and families of all sorts.

“. . . the same principles apply for our dear sisters.”

“These principles of saving relationships apply to all of us, regardless of whether we are married, divorced, widowed, or single. We all can be saviors of strong families.”
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Elder Donald Hallstrom: All are Children of God. #ldsconf

“In real life, we face actual, no imagined hardships.” Elder Hallstrom noted that there is real pain in life, physical, mental, spiritual pain. There are heartbreaks, when circumstances are different from what we anticipate. Social and personal injustice and it can be disorienting. There can be times of questioning, when doctrine or history is beyond our understanding at present.
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