My New JST Article

Kevin L. Barney, “A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57-105 here.

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A Footnote to the Extermination Order

Missouri Executive Order 44, commonly known as the Mormon Extermination Order, includes this text: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description.” The Order was rescinded in 1976, but prior to that time it was common for Mormons to wryly observe that it was legal for Missourians to kill Mormons on the street. Was that really true? Uh, no.

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The KJV in the BoM

Review of Royal Skousen, The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, Part Five: The King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies and Brigham Young University Studies, 2019).

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On Translating 1 Nephi 1:1 into Hebrew

Some years ago my friend Bryan Buchanan discovered a treasure in the Brigham Young office files. In January of 1846 an otherwise unknown man named Bernard Gadol sent Brigham Young unsolicited a translation of the first chapter of the Book of Mormon (equaling 1 Nephi 1:1 – 1 Nephi 5:22 in modern editions) into Hebrew. He offered to do more such translations into Hebrew, German and French in exchange for a team to take him with the Church into the wilderness. At the time Young was (as my first managing partner used to say) “up to his ass in alligators” and never responded. Absolutely nothing further is known of Gadol (although if Ardis sees this and takes it as a challenge, I won’t try to stop her from looking). His request might suggest he was a member, but he does not appear in early membership records.

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or caused it to be divided

Genesis 1:4 reads as follows: “4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
The parallel passage in Abraham 4:4 reads: “4 And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.” The parenthetical  “or caused it to be divided” is fascinating, as we can be fairly certain that these words derive from an academic source.

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The Seventy

My wife and I have been holed up in our house for a week and a half now, so she decided we should clean the pantry. My first job was to clean out an old file cabinet. The first thing I happened to pull out was an old manuscript of a Note or Comment  from 1986 intended for publication in Dialogue. I had no recollection of this piece whatsoever. The manuscript was in a Dialogue envelope with a letter from Lavina that seems to indicate it had been accepted for publication, but it never appeared. I’m guessing there arose an editor that knew not Joseph. Normally I wouldn’t want anything I wrote 25 years ago to see the light of day, but I read it over and decided I wasn’t ashamed of it, so I figured I would give it a belated publication here on the blog.

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Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

I’ve been practicing law in the City of Chicago since I graduated from law school in 1985 (almost 35 years now). Today I experienced the City in a completely new way. [Read more…]

Old Timey Food Storage

In the wake of the Coronavirus, a lot of Mormons have been a bit smug about our prophetic direction to store food for emergencies. But I’m here to tell you, hardly anyone does food storage anymore the way we used to do food storage. [Read more…]

Live Long and Prosper

Sam’s recent (and excellent) post on the Coronavirus and the sacrament inspired me to send the following text to my Bishop:

At work I’ve been getting a lot of COVID-19 material (employment law effects, securities law disclosure, etc.), which led to a random thought. Young men aren’t generally known for their excellent hygiene. Parishioners need to have a high level of confidence that anyone preparing or passing the sacrament has washed his hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It might be worth it to make sure that the young men understand this and are committed to it.

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2 Nephi 12

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the JST, but in this BoM year the thought occurred to me that I’ve never really spent much time looking at how the BOM modifies biblical quotation text. So to dip my toes in this I copied Isaiah 2 into a Word document, made a new version, then copied in 2 Nephi 12, and then ran a comparison. I found the results interesting, so thought I’d share just a few examples of what I found here. Deletions will be italicized, additions in bold. [Read more…]

Author-Attributed Manuals

For virtually my entire life, Church manuals have been anonymously written, produced by committees, reviewed extensively by the correlation process, and churned out for various church classes.  In 1980, I think it was, John Sorenson called me to my first post-mission calling, as Elders’ Quorum Instructor. That manual was just such a nameless production. I remember that John told me it was a “personal study guide,” and that I should not follow it slavishly but do more in our classes. Every manual I’ve used in the Church since that time has been similar: nameless and highly correlated. I think we may have used an author-attributed book for the church history year of seminary, which would have been some time between 1972 and 1976, but for me personally that was it.

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My Christmas Traditions

On this Christmas Eve I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you a bit about the Christmas holiday traditions I have developed over the years with the hope it will inspire you to share your traditions with us as well. [Read more…]

The Christ Child

The Church has just put out a new video on its You Tube Channel: The Christ Child: A Nativity Story #LightTheWorld, available here . On Facebook Daniel McClellan had high praise for it, so I thought I would check it out.

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HB 1 16:13

In April of this year the First Presidency repealed the captioned Handbook policy, commonly referred to by many members as the “Policy of Exclusion” (or the “PoX” for short). This was an absolutely stunning development. The Church is not in the habit of overturning policies buttressed with claims of capital R Revelation within four short years of promulgation. The Church hates to be put in the position of appearing fallible in some sense, even though our leaders are human beings and therefore our leadership is by very definition fallible. I give the Church a major fist bump for this action. Sure, it would have been better not to have promulgated the policy in the first place, and yes, i’m sure it wasn’t easy, but it was very much the right thing to do.

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Seeing Jesus as a Jew

Review of Trevan G. Hatch, A Stranger in Jerusalem: Seeing Jesus as a Jew (Eugene, Oregon: WIPF & Stock, 2019) [Read more…]

JWHA 2019 New York

I just returned from the annual JWHA Conference. In the past I would live blog these things, but that has just gotten too hard, so this will simply be some retrospective comments, nothing in real time and all from memory without contemporary notes.\ [Read more…]

Parsing the Word of Wisdom

In light of the recent Church announcement regarding the Word of Wisdom, I’m seeing a lot of chatter on Facebook where people are trying to figure out how the text of the revelation actually relates to our current interpretation and practice. So I thought it might be worthwhile to set out the text of the revelation (omitting the beginning and ending that do not contain specific prohibitions) and give you my take on them, and give you an opportunity to add your own commentary. [Read more…]

The JST and the Adam Clarke Commentary

Two and a half years ago on March 16, 2017, Haley Wilson and her mentor for this research, Thomas Wayment, published “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research, available here. This is not the research itself, but rather a precis; the actual research paper is still forthcoming. This is an exciting development, and I for one am looking forward to it eagerly. [Read more…]

FSY Conferences Are Coming to Town

Yesterday the Priesthood and Family Department of the Church distributed a Notice to the effect that the Church is going to start holding FSY (“For the Strength of Youth”) Conferences in the United States and Canada. Apparently this is already a thing internationally; they are just bringing the program to the domestic market. The FSY Conferences will be modeled after the EFY (“Especially for Youth”) Conferences that have long been a fixture on the BYU campus. [Read more…]

Country Work

So I cracked open the latest BYU Studies Quarterly 58/2 (2019) and read the first article, Reid L. Neilson and Carson V. Teuscher, “Pilgrimage to Palmyra: President B.H. Roberts and the Eastern States Mission’s 1923 Commemoration of Cumorah.” B.H. Roberts was the President of the Eastern States Mission, and September 1923 was going to be the 100-ywar anniversary of Moroni’s appearance to Joseph Smith on the Hill Cumorah, and Roberts wanted to hold a big event to celebrate that milestone (which would be attended by the Church President and several Apostles). As part of the spiritual preparation, Roberts instituted a season of “country work” that summer for the missionaries. “Country work” or “country tracting” is a Mormon expression for having the missionaries leave the cities and towns in which they are stationed, walk out into the countryside, and rely on the kindness of strangers for food and lodging. This is the Mormon version of preaching the Gospel “without purse or scrip.” I find this old practice really interesting and so resolved to blog a bit about it. [Read more…]

Becoming the Beloved Disciple

Eric Huntsman is working on the Gospel of John volume of the BYU New Testament Commentary. When it appears, it no doubt will be three inches thick, weigh several pounds, and be substantial enough to serve as a door stop if need be. But as an appetizer to that forthcoming tome, Eric has recently published a slighter, less intimidating volume at 155 pages, which is more of a devotional overview of the Gospel, titled Becoming the Beloved Disciple: Coming unto Christ through the Gospel of John, published by Cedar Fort, of which this blog post is a review. [Read more…]

Lesson 26: “He Is Risen.” Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21 #BCCSundaySchool2019

This is my first crack at one of these Gospel Doctrine lessons, and at first I didn’t have a good sense as to how to approach it. I began by reading the scriptural selections. Then I read the Come Follow Me manual, and I’m sorry, but there’s just not much there. My next thought was to focus on the differences  among the accounts, which would require the creation of a Taylor-siblings-style really big chart, which could be fun. But that seemed like it was going to develop way more material than would fit in a blog post (and it also seemed like way too much work). So finally I decided to focus on Mark 16:1-8. Part of the reason is to try to model  how there is a virtue to focusing on a single Gospel at a time in lieu of always pursuing the harmonization project. Also, this is the earliest resurrection account that we have. And finally, it seemed an opportunity to intrract with Julie’s Mark commentary. [1] So that is the plan. [Read more…]

The Stranger and His Friend

A couple of months ago the sister in charge of our sacrament meeting music wanted to arrange for someone to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” today, June 23, because it would be the Sunday before June 27. She asked one guy to do this, and he agreed at first, but it turned out he wasn’t really excited to do it, so I said I’d do it if I could turn it into a talk first and give an introduction to the song, which turned out to be fine. So I did it in sacrament meeting this morning, and it turned out pretty  well. I didn’t write down the text of my remarks, so while they’re still fresh in my mind I’m going to write them down here for future reference: [Read more…]


I’m fairly involved in the broad field of Mormon Studies. My own particular niche in Mormon Studies is as a scripturist; more common is for folks to focus on Mormon history. I follow history studies as best I can (such as by reading the journals and attending the conferences), but I don’t consider myself an actual historian the way so many of my friends are. I’m more a consumer of history than a producer of it, and I admire and envy my many friends who are full fledged history nerds. [Read more…]

MHA SLC 2019

It’s that time of year again–time for some serious Mormon History Association action at the Sheraton on Fifth South in Salt Lake City. For those who are participating in the conference, please post your notes, comments and observations here. Those who are unable to be there in person will greatly appreciate whatever nuggets you are able to share. [Read more…]

Review of Blumell, NT History, Culture and Society


This post is a review of Lincoln H. Blumell, editor, New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in cooperation with Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2019). 836 pages.

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Special Assignment

About two and a half years ago a local church leader gave me what he dubbed a “special assignment” to go and visit with a young couple who had had a faith crisis and were no longer believers. He had talked to them and they told him they would appreciate such a visit, but this leader didn’t feel competent to discuss the things they wanted to discuss. I told him I would be happy to go to their home and talk to them about their issues, but I wanted to manage expectations. That is, I didn’t want anyone to think I was somehow miraculously going to cure their faith crisis. If I did it, my goals would be much more modest. I would want them to understand that no, they’re not crazy; and yes, these kinds of issues exist. If they wanted to talk about specific issues I would be happy to do so, but more from a perspective of trying to explain how many Saints deal with such issues, and not from a perspective of trying to argue against their newfound knowledge altogether. He agreed with these constraints, so I made the visit. [Read more…]

A Tale of Two Restorations

Expanatory Note: In 1999, the fledgling organization FAIR (more recently FairMormon) held its first ever conference, in Ben Lomond, California. I had nothing to do with the group at the time, but someone invited me to present at the conference, and I agreed to give it a shot. (That first conference was held in a Relief Society room, and the number of speakers almost exceeded the audience. This was a very humble beginning compared to the conference centers and large crowds of today.) My effort was a comparison and contrast of the restorations of Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith. I have copied the main text below, as I’m confident the vast majority of our readers has never seen this piece. For space considerations I have omitted the Introduction, a Chronology, a Bibliography and Notes; that apparatus can be found where the presentation is archived at the FairMormon website. The piece is 20 years old, so I cannot claim to stand by everything I wrote at the time, but I hope some of you may find it interesting nonetheless [Read more…]

Joseph Smith and Translation

On January 11th of this year (2019) Brian Hauglid and Robin Jensen gave a guest presentation at the Maxwell Institute titled “A Window into Joseph Smith’s Translation.” I watched the presentation at some point later after the video had been posted online (and enjoyed it). Jeff Lindsay at Mormanity [1] has recently taken exception to that presentation, both here and here, to the effect that the speakers were irresponsible not to balance their more naturalistic take on the production of the Book of Abraham (including a probable belief he was translating the Sensen Papyrus) with some of the more apologetic scholarship on the topic. But for my part, I actually appreciated their naturalistic take on the process. Let me try to explain why. [Read more…]

The Keys of the Beard

I got a call a week ago from a woman asking me to meet with a member of the temple presidency about possibly becoming an ordinance worker. My Bishop and SP had both suggested my name. I was honored that they had confidence in me, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea; I’m already Executive Secretary, which isn’t a bad gig but it does mean meetings starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays, so I wasn’t exactly sure about the possibility of adding another substantial calling on top of that. But I have always enjoyed spending time in the temple, and I have friends from around the stake who serve there, so I resolved to approach this possibility with an open mind.  [Read more…]