“Outlines of Mormon Philosophy” and the King Follett Discourse

Lycurgus Arnold Wilson was born in Salem, Utah in 1856.[1] Wilson did a stint as a school teacher in Utah valley and then decided on the Law as profession, eventually founding the firm, Booth and Wilson. In 1891, Wilson became tithing clerk for Presiding Bishop William B. Preston.[2]

With the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Wilson joined the staff of the temple as a recorder.[3]

It was during his time as temple recorder that Wilson produced a little book that forms an important marker in the timeline for KFD2 (you know this as the King Follett Discourse). KFD2 was delivered in 1844. So what does Wilson’s little 1905 book have to do with anything. Well, it turns out that the volume was vetted by a First Presidency reading committee. And the important bit there is that, yes, it passed.

Be calm, ladies, be calm.

Be calm, ladies, be calm.


Textually, the contents of Wilson’s book may be traced to the Roberts-Nelson theological trends that were in place by 1895.[4] That’s important because all three reference a KFD2 text in support of their theological propositions, and all three make the same case: individual men (and women) are eternal in reverse. The details are too involved to give here, but here is a brief quote from Wilson, which makes me like him, for a number reasons:

Notwithstanding the desire for knowledge, the simplicity of truth has ever entailed upon it an unfriendly reception at the hands of men. It seems to be almost a law of the human mind that our preconceived notions, whether true or false, stand in the way of new ideas, and usually our principal effort is put forth in trying to reconcile a new thought with the old theory, rather than in an endeavor to give to each its proper valuation.

Have a read. It’s worth it.

———
[1] (Lycurgus- presumably after Sparta’s legendary law-giver.) A prolific afterlife polygamist, he ended out sealed to nineteen wives. Wilson was a real-life polygamist as well, marrying four living wives, one in 1907 at the tail-end of quasi-church plural marriage. After the 1907 marriage, Wilson was sent to Bombay as a missionary, then traveled in a church capacity ending up in Cardston, Canada. Wilson repatriated to Utah in 1911 and went back to a law practice. Wilson was outed by the Tribune in 1907 and again in 1910

[2] While there, Wilson produced a genealogy of Preston’s family.

[3] Wilson’s second wife (1885), Melissa Patton, was a relative of early Mormon Apostle, David W. Patton. Wilson went on to author a famous (infamous?) Patton biography (during his time at the temple) Life of David W. Patton, which contains that exciting story of Patton’s encounter with none other than Cain, that murderous son of Adam. (See Matthew Bowman, Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2007.)

[4] B. H. Roberts, Nels Nelson. Roberts was a general authority, Nelson a church employed teacher.

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7 Responses to “Outlines of Mormon Philosophy” and the King Follett Discourse

  1. J. Stapley says:

    I’m quite surprised it got through in 1905. The Americana and the HC discussions weren’t too long after this. Was it because Lycurgus played it cooler than Roberts?

    • WVS says:

      I think Winder, Smith and Lund were less keyed up about the thing than Penrose. The latter seemed to be the driver of controversy, convincing Smith and Lund of the heretical nature of Roberts’ ideas. Almost surely, Wilson took his cue from Roberts and Nelson. Also I think Wilson’s book had small circulation and didn’t draw the attention that Roberts and Nelson did, especially Roberts’ YM manual of 05.

      • WVS says:

        Another thing important about Wilson’s little book: it shows the subject was under discussion and a range of people had adopted Roberts’ position well before the turgid discussion of the coming years.

  2. ricke says:

    Interesting. Under what circumstances were books vetted by the First Presidency? Were there many in those days that were vetted that way?

    • WVS says:

      Not everything got First Presidency attention of course. As an employee of the Salt Lake Temple, WIlson had some standing and may have been seen as a church voice. In the 1890s, church leaders came under scrutiny by the First Presidency in terms of the political participation. It was both an echo of the pre-manifesto politics and a desire to control the narrative, hence the elevation of the Talmage books via official recognition and review.

  3. Tod Robbins says:

    Bill,

    Just a reminder that if you include the Archive.org link that is behind BYU’s proxy those of us without BYU IDs can’t see it. Here’s the regular Archive.org URL:

    http://archive.org/stream/outlinesofmormon00wils#page/n11/mode/2up

    And as always, great post!

    Cheers!

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