Addenda: Last rites: Deathbed blessing

I have the habit of creating addendum files for any project that I have worked on. Once an article is published for example, and I stumble across a relevant source document, I drop it in the appropriate file. For some projects, the files are rather large. In rereading some material, I thought that I would put up a couple of posts highlighting material that I think adds to anything previously published.

For this first post, I am sharing a document relating to deathbed blessings. [Read more…]

The stories we tell

Aaron’s recent post about idiosyncratic mission rules was a fun look at the origins of the types of stories that every missionary hears, types of legends. I wonder if and how the stories of Aaron’s skateboard and window were told and retold. It was with these thoughts that I came across a paragraph from a 1898 Mississippi Conference circular in the recently digitized Southern Star: [Read more…]

Citing Joseph Smith’s sermons

I was reading through a recent journal article, and noticing that it cited a Joseph Smith sermon, I thought it would be appropriate to write up a brief post about the source. The author referenced Ehat and Cook’s tremendously useful Words of Joseph Smith [1] and in particular the George Laub account of the July 16, 1844 sermon often called the “Sermon in the Grove.” It pointed to Laub’s fascinating material as being descriptive of JS’s thought. [Read more…]

The Garden Chrism

Holy Thursday, or Maundy for the anglophilic, commemorates the last Thursday in the life of our Lord. At supper, Christ introduced his sacrament, then washed the Apostles’ feet. [Read more…]

Mormon temple sealings

This is a brief post to characterize modern Mormon temple sealing practice in light of Max’s write-up at Salon and Blair’s response.

Several months ago, I shared an excerpt from my article on adoption, in which I tried to describe the heaven revealed by Joseph Smith in conjunction with the introduction of the Nauvoo temple liturgy. This heaven was a network of people linked as husband and wife, child and parent, and these linkages were forged in the temple through ritual sealings. Those not sealed as spouse and as child within this network were “single & alone” in the eternities. Mormons were literally creating heaven on earth.

[Read more…]

Instructing children in church liturgy

Kevin’s recent post about children bearing testimony reminded me of the instructions to the children’s Religion Class teachers for a number of years in the second decade of the twentieth century. Each class was to include a regular schedule (in order) of singing, prayer, a memory exercise, a lesson, testimony bearing, and a closing song and benediction.

[Read more…]

BYU Church History Symposium: President Joseph F. Smith, March 2-3

Joseph F. Smith, nephew of the Prophet and son of the Patriarch, is often overlooked by academics and church members for his importance in the development of every aspect of church life and thought. In a few weeks, however, we have a symposium dedicated to remediate this situation. The same weekend as ApastaCon (March 1-2) brings us a conference on Joseph F. Smith hosted by the LDS Church History Library and BYU. Whereas the apostasy conference is Thursday and Friday at the Harold B. Lee Library, the JFS conference will be Friday afternoon at the Conference Center in SLC, and Saturday morning at the BYU Convention Center.

I invite all those available to attend. [Read more…]

Databasing Mormonism

As a chemist, if I want to perform a literature search on a specific compound, reaction, or system, there are several different databases to mine. [Read more…]

Joseph Smith, handbooks, and the evolution of Church liturgy

I’m working on a number of projects that analyze Mormon liturgy. One of the major themes across the projects is the shift from folk liturgy to formal. What that means is that in the early church, there were no rule books or written instructions describing how and why to perform various rituals and worshipful acts. Instead, people learned how to perform ritual generally by example or oral instruction. Those familiar with current church practice can recognize a difference in how things are done today. [Read more…]

Mormon History Association Awards Nominations: Deadline Feb. 15

From the Mormon History Association:

The Mormon History Association will give its yearly awards for the best books, articles, dissertation, thesis, and student papers published or writte on Mormon history during 2011 at its annual 2012 conference, which will be held in June in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The submission deadline is February 15, 2012. [Read more…]

Review: JSPP, Journals, Volume 2, 1842-1843

Spring along the Mississippi River is the most pleasant time of year. It is shockingly green. The air is not yet oppressive. Everything feels alive and smells deeply fecund. The pests are not out in full. I don’t know if Joseph Smith was inspired by his environment, but the spring of 1842 in Nauvoo is among the greatest seasons in the history of the Latter-day Saints. Like all things ecological, it is also so very complicated; but the recorders did inscribe at least some details in a book that was a nexus between times and spheres. And the Joseph Smith Papers editors have brought us into that space with the publication of the second volume of the Journals series.

[Read more…]

Mental Illness and George Albert Smith [UPDATED]

This post received much more attention than I anticipated. Due to some reader feedback, I have added some information about LDS Family Services to the end of the post. I also recommend Matt W.’s lesson outline, which incorporates some of this information.

I think that the Curriculum Committee of the church missed a tremendous opportunity with the production of the manual for study this year. [Read more…]

The Cosmological Priesthood

I think that modern observers generally engage in anachronistic readings of “priesthood” as it was discussed by Joseph Smith and others, particularly as it related to the temple and the Relief Society. [Read more…]

2011 Christmas gift book guide

In a couple of decades, connoisseurs will gather around the shelves of their bibliophilistic conceit and all concur: 2011 was a very good year. [Read more…]

Review: LDS Beliefs

More than sixty years ago a 46 year old member of the First Council of Seventy published Mormon Doctrine [Read more…]

President Beck

Just a quick note to say that I am really enjoying President Beck’s Women’s Conference talk.

How We Got the Book of Mormon: An interview with co-author Richard E. Turley Jr.

Richard E. Turley Jr. is currently an Assistant Church Historian with responsibilities over the Church History Library. With William Slaughter he has recently co-authored How We Got the Book of Mormon (Deseret Book – read Blair Hodges’ review here) and he has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about it.
[Read more…]

An Interview with Robin Scott Jensen on the JSP Published Revelations

Robin Scott Jensen is an editor with the Joseph Smith Papers, working extensively on the Revelations and Translations series. He has kindly agreed to answer a few questions regarding the material of the recently released, Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations (review here). A little over a year ago, Robin answered questions on the Manuscript Revelations Books (here and here). We thank him for his time and engagement.

Question: Today the name “Doctrine and Covenants” registers primarily as the name of book of scripture to Latter-day Saints. When the first edition was printed, however, the words had specific meanings and to a certain degree represented a shift in Mormon parlance. Can you discuss the evolution and use of the terms “commandment,” “revelation,” and “covenant” as they are employed in R1 and R2?
[Read more…]

Review: The Joseph Smith Papers, Published Revelations

At an early release publicity event, volume editor Robin Jensen stood at a table and grabbed a pile of what seemed to be spiral bound reams of paper. These were the research materials deprecated by the single new volume celebrated at the meeting. Volume 2 in the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers presents a battery of materials, heretofore available to researchers, but in very inconvenient or unreliable formats. For example, before this volume was published, the easiest way to access images of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was on an anti-Mormon website. Published Revelations (hereafter referred to as R2) delivers in the most important ways and it provides some tantalizing pathways for researchers to approach the texts of interest. The JSP team have wielded their sharpened editorial skills to present the texts of Joseph Smith’s (et al.) revelations as they were variously published during his lifetime, using a mix of transcripts and duotone facsimiles. In the days immediately following this review, we will also be publishing an interview with Jensen, in which he discusses some interesting aspects of the volume and its documents.
[Read more…]

A Pioneer Day Talk

I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting yesterday about pioneers, it being the 24th. I began by recounting my experience of finding Green Flake’s grave following the description I posted a couple of weeks ago (note that some of the latter comments in this post assume that the Flake material is freshly delivered). I then proceeded along this outline:
[Read more…]

Teaching the Priesthood Restriction

After the lesson, one individual in particular waited to talk to me, and holding up a phone showed me a picture of a grandchild hugging a black person. They were to be married in a few months. I can’t claim special revelatory knowledge, but after the discussions of that day–of what we do know–this good person, who had struggled, was now healed. We both blinked back tears.
[Read more…]

Review: Church History Library Catalog

My first research trip to the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was many years ago, when it was nestled on the main floor of the Church Office Building. One had to pass through a security door and by a desk that displayed a proscription against carrying packages beyond. I never asked, assuming it was a lingering memorial to the bizarre and lethal events of previous decades. As I remember, I spent the first, and maybe second day, sitting in front of a computer, pouring over the catalog, trying hundreds of different search queries and listing collection after collection to review as the time allowed.
[Read more…]

Mormonism’s Adoption Theology

The recently released summer issue of Journal of Mormon History leads off with two articles on “Mormonism’s Adoption Theology.” The first, “Early Mormon Adoption Theology and the Mechanics of Salvation,” was authored by Sam Brown. As it ties in with his In Heaven as It Is on Earth (forthcoming, Oxford University Press) you will have to read the hard copy. I wrote the second article, “Adoptive Sealing Ritual in Mormonism,” which is available here. Prefacing these articles is a short introduction, which follows:
[Read more…]

“From a small to a great capacity”

Today I drove by a small pioneer cemetery as I have countless times. This time, with my two oldest children, I stopped. When my sons asked me what we were doing, I explained that this was a cemetery, and that I wondered if we knew anyone that was buried there. “Oh, a grave yard.” Yes.
[Read more…]

Last rites and my personal intersection with history

As noted on the sidebar, the recently released issue of BYU Studies includes an article, which I wrote on Mormon last rites. It describes the liturgical dynamics in Mormonism, accounting for the rise, and transmission of rituals over time. Specifically, I look at deathbed rituals (e.g., dedicating the dying to the Lord), ritualized care of the corpse, and grave dedication. There is some fun stuff about how things become formal part of Mormon liturgy and how priesthood rituals, become priesthood rituals. Additionally, the editors ask that I include a few paragraphs of personal reflection, perhaps relating how the topic of the paper reflects on my status as a believer to include in a sidebar. Not having done such a thing for other projects, I thought it would be appropriate to share here what appears there:
[Read more…]

Review: In the Whirlpool

I imagine that in the minds of most American Mormons, there is a faint recollection of a grainy image of church leaders sitting together in the striped vestments of Federal criminality. The reality of virtually all general church leaders and many local leaders either being incarcerated or on the lam is so incongruent to modern lived experience as to be almost absurd. Enter Reid Neilson, the current chief operator at the LDS Historical Department, who has edited a collection of letters written by Apostle and Church President Wilford Woodruff to a family with whom he hid from the Marshals.
[Read more…]

Random thoughts about healing relics and appreciation for the JSP

In the article Kris and I wrote about the development of Mormon healing to 1847, we discussed the rise of healing relics:
[Read more…]

I am a Mormon

I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations. I have no respect for attempts to conventionalize them. Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.
[Read more…]

Review: Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds

It has generally been the case that when those interested in Mormon history gather to chat about the latest publications, it is frequently primary documents which elicit much excitement. When synthesis is subject of the chatter, one hears names like Alexander or Bushman or Walker invoked. Only in the dark recesses of lonely hallways does one hear of others: Jonathan Z. Smith, Victor Turner, or Mary Douglas.

When people discuss the new New Mormon History (or the post-new Mormon History, or whatever), I think many envision something like Steve Taysom’s Shakers, Mormons and Religious Worlds. I also think that there are people that for any number of reasons (not excluding generational bias) just won’t like Taysom’s volume, which analyzes Shaker and Mormon boundary maintenance. He employs what the kids like to call “theory.” [Read more…]

Of the Constitution and the Canon

Along with many others this weekend, I attended the Duck Beach of Mormon history nerds: the annual MHA Conference. This year it was in St. George, Utah. It was as splendid as ever. I did not present this year, but I did respond to a panel.

Emily Jensen wrote an article on David Pulsipher’s paper—a history of Latter-day Saint exegesis of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi passages of the Book of Mormon. I noticed that Emily did not comment on the cogent remarks of the responder. Bah. [Read more…]