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…]

Stapley’s 2015 Christmas gift book guide

Another year, another Christmas gift book guide.
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Weakness and strengths

I gave a talk similar to this today.

Twenty years ago today, I woke up early in the morning. After showering and getting dressed I fixed myself the same breakfast that made every morning for the next eighteen months. Baguette with Nutella and hot chocolate. I read the Book of Mormon for half an hour, studied my French Gospel lessons and then sat down with my fellow-traveler to study a handbook of Missionary practice designed to hone our proselytizing efficacy. There in the cold apartment near the French-German boarder we were the apex of a century-long process that transformed every facet of Mormonism.
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Suffer little children

This morning as we made breakfast, packed lunches, and got our little ones dressed, my wife and I talked about the policy change, the reactions of friends and family, and the national news coverage. My twelve year old overheard me say “this is really bad,” and asked what it was that was bad. I choked and walked around picking up socks and packing the lunches, even after he asked two more times. If I tried to speak I would have cried. My wife saved me and I walked into the bathroom and just wept.

I have been working on a chapter about baby blessings and the sources are fresh on my mind.

“In some minds there seems to be an idea that there should be a different form of blessing for children born of non-members and for those who are identified with the Church; and it is from such sources that in the case of children belonging to members of the Church ‘the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ and all the attendant favors are frequently conferred upon the child. This is all wrong. If we take the example of our Lord and Redeemer, who is our pattern and whose example we cannot too closely follow, we find that He blessed all who were brought to Him. We have no hint that He asked whose children they were, or the standing or faith of their parents. His remark was, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven;’ and He laid His hands upon them and blessed them. All little children, no matter what their parentage may be, are innocent in the sight of heaven, and they should be received as such and blessed as such.”

The Editor [George Q. Cannon], “Topics of the Times,” Juvenile Instructor 34 (March 1, 1899): 137-138. Reprinted in Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 61 (March 30, 1899), 198-199; Latter-day Saints’ Southern Star 1 (April 29, 1899): 170.

Destroyed in the flesh

In Gospel Doctrine we hit on the first part of 1 Corinthians this week. In chapter 5 Paul is fairly irritated that Church hasn’t done anything about the guy who is shacking up with his stepmom. This was clearly verboten in the Torah, but it is also apparently one of those things we are going to keep. A good call, I think. Paul’s instructions are pretty clear: kick this guy out.
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Michael Austin in Seattle, September 12

Michael Austin will be speaking on Job at the home of Molly Bennion on September 12 at 7:00 PM. You may know his book on Job won the Association of Mormon Letters Award for Nonfiction for 2014. He is a fine man and a fine Mormon. He’s also a man of wit and charm, an excellent speaker. He is currently working on a book about the over 100 19th century novels by or about Mormons. You can check out his posts here at BCC for a sample of his keen and humane acumen. Here is the deal: first come, first served so RSVP with Molly (molly.bennion@gmail.com). No charge but donations for airfare are always appreciated.

Saturday Night Fireside:
“The Book of Job and the Challenge of Scriptural Poetry”
One of the disadvantages of the King James Translation, which Latter-day Saints use as our official version of the Bible, is that it makes no distinction between poetry and prose. Every line is printed as straight prose, and every sentiment is elevated to the high linguistic register of poetry. But the Old Testament is made up of a mixture of prose and poetry, and of a blending of styles and registers, that readers are supposed to notice. Nowhere are these interpretive difficulties more evident than in the Book of Job, which alternates between prose and poetry—and between simplistic prose and elevated poetry—in ways that readers are supposed to notice. This presentation will explain the structure of Job and explore how understanding its shifts in style and register can help us make sense of one of the ancient world’s greatest works of literature.

Bio
Michael Austin received his Ph.D. in English at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1997 and taught English literature for many years. He has written or edited nine books, including Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, which won the 2014 Association for Mormon Letters Award for Nonfiction. He currently lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he is a Provost, whatever that is.

“knowledge, and power, by revelation”

I just learned that a twenty-two-year-old friend of our family died in a car accident this morning. I was immediately wrenched back seven years to when my nephew died. I can still hardly talk about it. I wrote this short piece after I came home from his funeral. In the time since I have researched and written on related topics, I’ve had two more children, and the pain still smolders. God be with my friends as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. May they know that they are never alone.
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Divergent Tribes

A bit ago Kevin fielded a question from the BCC inbox relating to the meaning of tribal assignments in Patriarchal Blessings. I liked his response. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a couple of years ago. We went out for some overpriced burgers and chatted about his declared lineage to one of the more uncommon tribes. I’d certainly never met anyone who professed a similar assignment. He wondered what I thought it might mean.
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Blessed Are the Dead Who Die in the Lord

boyd-k-packer-largeMy first clear memory of Elder Boyd K. Packer, beyond an awareness of his existence and position, was mediated through my father. Fresh off of my mission my dad had attended Stake Presidents’ training by Elder Packer and taken copious notes.  The text was nitrous oxide to the engine of my post-mission soul. In the time since that moment, through my training as a critical observer of our history and as believing member, I have consistently viewed our recently deceased Quorum of the Twelve President through those pages. He rightly understood our tradition to be venerable, and confessed the primacy of revelation. [Read more…]