2017 Christmas Gift Book Guide

Well, despite Relief Society and Priesthood moving to GenCon talks for three out of four weeks, we can collectively appreciate that they have resisted the impulse towards entirely topic-based lessons for Sunday School. 2018 is time for the Hebrew Bible, or at least topical lessons at least tangentially related to the Hebrew Bible. Fortunately, there is a lot more to read than the Sunday School lesson manual. [Read more…]

The William Clayton Diaries?

Yesterday, the good folks at the LDS Church History Library announced that the Church Historian’s Press would be publishing the William Clayton diaries. Mormon History Nerds united in celebratory meme-making. I imagine that most Mormons when faced with this news would likely shrug. The news of new Missionary interview questions and smartphone proselytizing has way more traction. I dusted off the appendix I included in my review of Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2 (and yes having a review appendix is absurd, but I still think it was a solid review), and have updated it with info from the intervening half decade.
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JSPP, Documents, Volume 6: Initial Thoughts

I got a copy of D6 this weekend, and burned through it. Basically a solid reading of all the intros, careful readings of all the minutes, and documents not in the JS Letterbooks, and skimming everything else.  Special emphasis on the sermons.  And honestly superlatives fail.
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Nauvoo era(ish) succession

A friend asked me about succession after the Gospel Doctrine lesson and wondered if I could help find more detail about what was going on. So just thinking about the immediate years after JS’s death I responded as follows:

When JS died it was not obvious who would run the church. It was not something that was provided for in the Doctrine and Covenants, for example. It was pretty clear that JS wanted Hyrum, and then Samuel Smith to lead the church after him, but Hyrum died with JS, and Samuel died soon after.

The main “factions” were:
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Plans of Salvation

It seems like everyone is familiar with those diagrams with various circles that explain Mormon cosmology, and which outline the progression of the human soul through eternity (do an image search for “plan of salvation” for some beauties). I thought it would be fun to sketch out the Plans of Salvation for various sources.
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Lesson 18: “Establish … a House of God” #DandC2017

Sorry this is a little late.
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Lesson 15: “Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts” #DandC2017

Purpose
To help class members identify gifts of the Spirit, seek to obtain them, and use them to serve others. [grin]

The early Restoration, anchored by the Book of Mormon, was essentially an anti-cessationist protest. Moroni is archetypal, but not anomalous. Not only does he riff on Paul’s litany of spiritual gifts, he goes on to say that if miracles have ceased and angels aren’t around, it is because people have lost faith in Christ, and it is there had been no redemption. I don’t want to spoil my book, but next time you read the Book of Mormon, take note of what it says about the Power of God. [Read more…]

Lesson 13: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You” #DandC2017

Goal: “To help class members appreciate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s role in bringing forth the word of the Lord in this dispensation.” The Lesson has two main emphases: translation and the story behind the Book of Commandments. Both are interesting. Let’s start with translation.
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175 Years of Relief Society

Lesson 11: “The Field Is White Already to Harvest” #DandC2017

This lesson includes a slew of sections—all pretty similar. And some we may be quite familiar with. Let’s take for example Section 4. I understand that many mission presidents ask that their missionaries to memorize it. Here is a fundamental question:
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Lesson 10: “This Is My Voice unto All” #DandC2017

All right. This is a really fun one. The primary text is the revelation to Emma Smith calling her an “Elect Lady.” Let’s dig in.
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Review: At the Pulpit

A proposition: As women have composed the majority of church members, we cannot comprehend the church without accounting for the voices and experiences of women.
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The Restoration

I delivered something similar to this to my ward a couple of weeks ago.

Some years ago I took [my son] with me while working in upstate New York. We visited Seneca Falls, Fayette, and Palmyra. I was delighted that some of the history nerdiness that saturates our household had permeated him as demonstrated by his cheerful responses to the missionaries and his piercing questions. I keep my favorite memory of those days from the Grandin printing office. After walking through the exhibits demonstrating the publication methods of the Book of Mormon, the missionaries directed us to a hanging copy of “Moroni’s Promise.” One sister earnestly explained it to [my son] and asked if he had ever followed its exhortation. “No,” he responded, and the missionary’s eyes flashed with the opportunity. “I don’t need to.” And I leaned over and whispered that I didn’t either. I was grateful at that moment that my son had learned that there is more than one story associated with that scripture.
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Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood #DandC2017

The restoration of the priesthood can be somewhat difficult to approach because there have been so many layers of re-reading. For example, we often say that John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood and later Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. The thing is, those terms and their meanings didn’t exist for another five or six years after the events occurred.
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Lesson 7: “The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel” #DandC2017

We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that these ordinances are 1st, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d, Repentance; 3d, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

– Joseph Smith, the Wentworth Letter, 1842

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Lesson 5: “This Is the Spirit of Revelation” #DandC2017

This is a really interesting set of revelations we have to discuss. They are primarily the responses to Oliver Cowdery’s efforts to help translate the Book of Mormon (D&C 6, 8, and 9). The lesson manual includes a link to a helpful write-up on “Oliver Cowdery’s Gift” from Revelations in Context. There are a lot of things to talk about here, but I’d like to focus on one particular narrative.
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Lesson 2: “Behold, I Am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World” #DandC2017

At the dawn of the restoration, there were three primary views of the Atonement that swirled around Joseph Smith’s family and other early Mormon believers. [Read more…]

Lesson 1: Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants #DandC2017

I don’t feel educated enough to truly appreciate the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament is probably the most poignant scripture for me.  It calls me to a deep and severe repentance, while filling me with hope.  The Book of Mormon gives me Alma 7, what I believe is Mormonism’s greatest gift to Christianity—an empathetic atonement.  It is a powerful call to Christ.  But, the Doctrine and Covenants is the door to something wholly different—an exploration of the mechanics of religion and its making. Because we have so many of the documents and so much of the context within reach, we can truly witness the restoration. On the one hand it is a book of revelation texts with little if any context or story.  On the other it is an invitation to find it.  It takes work, but there has never been in the history of the Restoration a better time to do this work.  This process makes simple stories complicated, but it consequently makes them more real.

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2016 Christmas gift book guide

Another year, another Christmas gift book guide. I’m not going to call out the books germane to the 2017 Gospel Doctrine curriculum; however you can see those recommendations here.
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Tools for teachers 2017: Doctrine and Covenants and church history [Updated]

2017 brings to Adult Sunday School the Doctrine and Covenants and church history. Let’s just take a moment and offer up thanks that the plan for topical Sunday School lessons was scrapped. Now, the Doctrine and Covenants is a great opportunity, because we have more context for it than any other scripture in our canon. There is also a fair amount of terrible material masquerading as study helps out there. This post is an outline of the best resources we have for approaching the text and preparing lessons in the coming year. Also, as a bonus, BCCers will be putting up lessons throughout the year, including lesson-specific resources.
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Ed Kimball, thank you

I never met Ed Kimball face-to-face, and I regret that. He passed away yesterday, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
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Neither brutish, nor a fool

I don’t talk to people on planes. I think it is terribly rude. In the past couple of years and hundreds of hours in flight, I have spoken to only a couple of people who don’t work for the airlines. I rarely even make eye-contact. However, recently I ended out sitting next to someone and somehow a conversation emerged that I found not only interesting, but illuminating. I later learned that the person sitting next to me was something of a rising star, but I didn’t know that at the time.
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MHA 2017 Call for Papers Deadline Extended

Dear friends of the Mormon History Association:

Due to recent requests, we have extended the deadline for proposals for the 2017 MHA conference to be held in the St. Louis, Missouri metro area, to 1 November 2016. Please see the Call for Papers HERE for additional information. We will still send notification of acceptance or rejection by 15 December 2016.
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Stevenson: the memory of Mary #LDSConf

We remember young Mary Elizabeth Rollins for grabbing scattered pages of the Book of Commandments and running into the fields. As Elder Stevenson shared, there is much more to remember than this admittedly memorable act. She left for Zion where she became a regular interpreter of glossolalia. Her mother, ever faithful, anointed and healed her in Nauvoo, and angels ministered to her in her greatest moment of anxiety (when Joseph Smith proposed to her). She eventually wended her way West, but not immediately with Brigham Young. It was Young who confessed to her that “he would give anything to have seen what I had.”

If Mary is someone you would like to remember, here (PDF) are some excerpts from her autobiography. She was a great human being.

Gems from #MHA2016 – C50 minutes

The Mormon History Association held its annual conference at Snowbird at the beginning of June. It was a fine affair, and I thought I would post a few items highlighting some of the fun things that went down. First a quick primer:
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2016 Mormon History Association Annual Conference – Early Bird Registration

The Mormon History Association is the single best source for information about Mormon history and to engage in Mormon studies. Every year the association holds a conference where professional scholars, engaged non-professionals, and interested observers gather to present and interact with the latest research on topics ranging from Pioneers to Race, and from Liturgy to Gender. This year the conference will be held on June 9 through 12, at Snowbird, Utah. And to be fair it isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but it is absolutely worth it. Discounted early bird registration is open until May 7. I encourage you to join us.
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Elder Russell M. Nelson: Power #ldsconf

It is a rare thing for a church leader to describe something so personal. [Read more…]

Review: Journals, Volume 3, 1842-1844 of the JSPP

It has been a very long time.
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Free conference, March 3-4 in Provo and SLC: Women and Mormon history

Next week, BYU and the History Department of the Church are hosting a free conference on women and Mormon History. Thursday will be at BYU in Provo, and Friday will bat the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Both events are open to the public–just show up. The program is available here.
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Book of Mormon geography, archives edition

I read Ardis’ recent report on her Gospel Doctrine introducing the Book of Mormon (you should too). Her section documenting the shifting language about the ancestry of Native Americans reminded me of a couple of relevant documents. I don’t know how many Mormons believe that Lehites are the primary ancestors of Native Americans; I would suspect that most of the readers here don’t. But I’ve heard people in my ward talk about the “heartland” theory, and I’ve spoken to more than one person who found the admissions in the Book of Mormon DNA essay released by the church to be incongruous with the worldviews expounded in their childhoods. I think it is worth pointing out that church leaders haven’t really held unanimous and monolithic views, though some have been very influential. [Read more…]