Antebellum Liberty vs. Mormon Individuality

I put this one up a couple of years ago, but I want to revisit it in light of some current discussion on Mormonism and politics. Patrick Mason’s recent article in Church and State (summer 2011) 53:349-375, made me wonder again about our presentist impositions.

In a 1990 article, Gregory Schneider observed,

Early versions of republicanism conceived of liberty and rights as belonging to the people taken as a whole in opposition to the power and interests of rulers. Liberty was, first of all, public and political, not private and individual. Hence, there could be no legitimate opposition between individual liberties and the common good of the people in the republic. Those who place their private interests above the common good were diseased tissue in the body politic, and might be subjected to harsh remedies. Unity in the cause of the common good, then, sometimes required an oppressive conformity.[1]

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“Apply the subject to the cases of such as are convinced of the truth of Christianity but do not heartily embrace it, and openly espouse its cause”

Within the little village of Palmyra, New York, at the corner of Main Street and Canandaigua Road stand four churches. Read more of this post

KFD5 (the Sermon in the Grove) and Display Postscript

I’ve been using LaTeX to construct typographical facsimiles for Joseph Smith (JS) sermon docs. The packages available to create “critical texts” are pretty feature rich, but limited in how text can be manipulated. Twenty odd years ago, Steve Jobs started NeXT Computer. The display technology was a breakthrough in a number of ways. One thing it allowed was the possibility to form and shape text like never before. Drag and drop on steroids. Pushing text around, shrinking/growing font size, moving text and characters upside down, sideways, curving it, writing sideways in margins. It was perfect for projects like mine. But it died and nothing like it seems to be available now. This is just a wish for it to return.
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The Riches of Parley Parker Pratt

Franklin Thomas Pomeroy[1] an LDS missionary to the Southern States in the 1890s encountered one John A. Peel. Peel was an eyewitness to the death of Parley Parker Pratt. It’s this fortuitous encounter that led to the present account of Parley’s last words found in the “Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” It’s interesting things like this that you’ll find in two new books on LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt.
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A Review Note on David F. Holland: Sacred Borders

David F. Holland
Sacred Borders
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 2, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780199753611
ISBN-13: 978-0199753611

David Holland’s recent work through Oxford is an examination of New England’s flirtation with the Bible and its status among Protestants of various constitutions. Is the Bible the last word on canon, if so, which bible? Can you “tear off the back cover” so to speak, and tack more on? Is the Bible a revelation or a historic collection of revelations/histories? Is it the end of revelation or merely an example of it?

Holland looks at these questions and others asked by Christians of various sorts as well as other figures from the Early Republic. Puritans, Shakers, Evangelicals, Transcendentalists and other liberals, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics and deists all get their turn.

It is in few words, a fine book. An excellent treatment of an important subject which will surprise you at various turns. You get to know wonderful figures like Ann Hutchinson and Jemima Wilkinson, Rebecca Jackson and Orestes Brownson.

The book keeps its focus, which is an admittedly narrow one, yet it drills down to the very meaning of faith in early America and allows the reader to see across a fabulous landscape of interpretation and opinion. For anyone interested in religion in the antebellum period, this book is a necessary brick in the wall of your education.

The cost? It’s not cheap. $63 from Amazon. I really don’t see what Oxford is playing at here. You’re not paying for expensive pictures or multicolor illustrations. But if you’ve got a dog in this race, pony up! (har) Either that or grab it at your local library. I’d let you borrow mine, but I’m on my second read.

Sacred Borders: open your wallet and curb the trips to Wendy’s for a while. Your brain will be glad and so will your heart.

P.S. See Sam Brown’s more extensive review here.

Summertime and Recycling #5. D&C 107. Part 3: More Background.

We continue our discussion of the November 11, 1831 revelation (see part 1 and part 2) with the second portion, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery.
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The 11 June 1843 Discourse – Temples

[No, not a funeral sermon, but it could have been.]
When the 1850s Mormon historians were dealing with the perplexing problem of constructing coherent texts of Joseph Smith’s sermons, a high priority was dealing with Joseph’s discourse of June 11, 1843. The reason: it offers key justifications for that inevitable activity of Mormonism—
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The Rapture and Joseph Smith

The recent prediction of the “rapture” by an obscure elderly radio preacher (for yesterday!)[1] opens up some fun considerations. Like most premillennialist Christians in the antebellum period, Joseph Smith wanted to know when the second coming of Christ would take place. Enthusiastics of all sorts made predictions, one of the most prominent being William Miller. Smith made his own based on an 1832 experience. Joseph’s earnest prayer about the eschaton or final events was answered by an audible voice which declared that if the Prophet lived to age 85, he would see Jesus.
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George A. Smith vs. the Old Fogies vs. “The Fast Age”

George A. Smith (1817-1875) was nothing if not up with the times. This is one I couldn’t resist.

I thought I would take the liberty of addressing the younger brethren,
as a great portion of this congregation are what might be termed in
the States, Young America, if you please, or among us, “Young
Mormons,” those who have been raised in the midst of persecutions, and
the instructions the Saints have enjoyed. President Young, in the
course of his remarks, introduces the subject of the divisions that
exist in New York politics; for instance, it is customary in the
political circles of New York, and has extended from that capital
throughout the Union, to denominate men that have become somewhat
superannuated in their veins, or have got the old-fashioned slow
motion about them, “old fogies.” For instance, there are but few of us
but what can remember when railroads were first introduced into the
United States. It is not difficult for old men to remember when the
first steam boat was built, or when the first telegraph wire was put
in operation; and it is properly denominated the “fast age.” Men who
have got the old principles of locomotion-that cannot accommodate
their feelings to the great improvements of the fast age-that have got
their education on the slow track, and are determined to follow it, it
would be better for them to stand aside, and clear the track for the
telegraph speed of the present generation just rising up on their
heels.[April 1855]

The impact of technology is enormous. (g)

Appreciating Historiography: Jonathan Grimshaw and George A. Smith

Sitting here recovering from a little carving by an MD, I thought I’d express some thanks.

Most Mormons would be ignorant of the position the two men in the post title hold in regard to the ways we appreciate Joseph Smith. By appreciate, I suppose I really mean apprehend, as a body, as a Church. I’ve posted about Grimshaw before, and it is important not to underestimate him, but Smith was a careful supervisor of the work of the Historian’s office of the 1850s in Utah, with his marks being left in sometimes subtle but important ways. While the kind of ultra-careful and transparent work currently taking place with say, the Joseph Smith Papers Project[1] is not in evidence, the staff was diligent, sacrificing personally in many ways to do the work of documenting the rise of the Church, Joseph Smith’s life and the contemporary prospects of the kingdom.
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The Value of a Sermon Critical Edition. Part 2.

[Cross posted from BCC.]

In part I, I tried to lay out a few of the issues surrounding the problem of recovering a sermon delivered in the period of early Mormonism and what that might mean. Part of this problem is contiguous with subjectivity (mental events) vs. objectivity (external events) at several points in the process of delivery, perception and recording. This in turn is connected to the technical problem of recording sermons in the era. Discussing this results in a rehash of some things from part I but what the heck.
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Inspired History

With Christmas closing in, I’ve been wondering about what we might mean in regard to history as it relates to faith. Can history be faith-promoting?
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Joseph Smith’s Sermon of February 5, 1840

A recent broadcast from lds radio featured Ron Barney and Jeff Cannon of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, on Joseph Smith’s visit to Washington, D.C. in late 1839, early 1840.[1] While no diary was kept during the journey, there were letters sent from Washington by Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee, and an account of meeting(s) with President Martin Van Buren survive in the memoirs of Illinois democrat John Reynolds who introduced Smith and Higbee to Van Buren. Van Buren, the epitome of political savvy at the time, held a states rights view of US politics and excused himself from intervention in the Mormon question on that basis. As Reynolds put it, Joseph left Washington a “red hot Whig.” While Joseph was in the East, he did take the opportunity to deliver several sermons to both Latter-day Saint congregations and to other interested parties.
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Mormon pronouncements on the meaning of “spirit” (I’m thinking of statements like D&C 131:7) are interesting, but for the most part seem to be jousting at thin air these days. Latter-day Saints are mostly ignorant (in my limited experience) of the issues that make the tone of this passage seem just a little combative.
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Prepublication Note: Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, vol. 3

Maybe you can class this as rumor. ;) I just saw Pete Crawley over at the library. He told me he’s about a month away from handing over the ms for vol. 3. Just checking sources now. This series has been a big help to me in spots. I highly recommend the first 2 volumes. Vol. 3 will again be published by the Religious Studies Center at BYU. Vol. 3 goes up through 1857. Pete says this date represents a sea-change in Mormon imprints.


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