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.

Early Polynesian Traditions and Mormon Ideas About the Origin of Man

Traditional language among Latter-day Saints regarding preexistence has sometimes been vague, romantic and non-specific. Observe Ruth Fox’s remarks at the beginning of her June 1912 YLMIA conference address: “Man’s intellect is God-given and is a spark of that eternal intelligence which governs all things.”[1] I can’t be certain, but perhaps this is a reference to D&C 88:7-13 or something similar.
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The Length of a Papyrus Scroll

A while ago, someone asked me a question about determining the length of a papyrus scroll  (before you unroll it obviously). The question pertained specifically to, you guessed it, P. Joseph Smith (the document of breathing part). I thought about this for a few minutes and it’s really not a hard problem.

The inverse problem, deciding what a scroll looked like in its rolled state, if you encounter it unrolled may be of interest, but both problems are connected to basically the same set of measurements.

Some of you geeks might be interested in how it goes, if you haven’t already guessed it.  This of course is clearly connected to the name of this blog, if not to the charter, but, rules are made to be broken (again and again).  Have a little sleep-inducing fun: (Note, the presentation has been updated based on various email responses and misunderstandings, etc., etc.)

Papyrus-length-comp

Correlation: FAIL

So, on a recent Sunday morning in our high priest group we took up the lesson on “creation” from the “Gospel Principles” manual published by the LDS Church.

Our group is an eclectic bunch in terms of training. Ex-car salesmen, olympic coaches, astronomers, mathematicians, physicians, dentists, farmers, classicists, historians, inventory specialists, elevator technicians, programmers, business executives, mailmen, music teachers, linguists and that’s only the ones I can think of right now. (I used the plural, but actually in a number of cases, there’s only one example.)
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James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts, Joseph Smith and the Phase and Group Velocities of Mormon Thought

Ok, if I could have placed a really big smiley in the title, I would have.
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The Infinite, part 2. Parsing infinity – In the Beginning.

In the last post, we looked a little at meanings. What do we mean by “finite”? And the answer was that it depends. If we are measuring size, it is a matter of counting: counting is just a matching exercise. Match numbers to the number of cows that pass the gate for example: one, two, three, . . . 25. 25 cows came through the gate. Our ordinary experience prepares us for such things. But when the number of objects becomes too large, the process becomes less meaningful. Scriptural accounts that suggest certain things are just too large to comprehend can be understood on several levels. Whether they entail the infinite will be examined later. Questions like “How many moons does Jupiter have?” and “How many water molecules are in a cup of water?” are not just different in scope, they are different in meaning. Abstraction and approximation are the only ways to deal with the second question. (The “answer” is *about* 8 x 1024. Ten to the 24th power is so large that we can only deal with it as an abstraction. But it is a finite number!)

Some cultures avoid counting things when they are too large in size. But the accountants won’t give us that luxury now. Budget and deficit and loss discussions bat around extraordinary figures. Our common experience does not prepare us to understand the idea of a trillion dollars and it may be impossible to do so. So we deal with these kinds of things as abstractions. Does that make you a bit nervous?
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“Learn How to Live and How to Die”

Much of Joseph Smith’s preaching about death was meant to compel his listeners to faith. Over the years of my own life I have seen death. Even if you don’t experience death as it was in the early 19th century, if you live long enough, you will see it impact your life.

I have buried a son, a brother, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and unrelated friends. Looking at death as inevitable has become a routine matter. But what is it for us survivors? It is first and foremost, loss. Whatever theology one subscribes to, or to no theology at all, this is the universal fact. The dead don’t come back. You don’t find him or her sleeping in their bed the next morning after the funeral.

They are gone.
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The Spirit — The Meaning in Small Changes

Some time ago I offered this note about Lorenzo (Dow) Barnes. I also quoted a couple of excerpts from Joseph Smith’s eulogy for Barnes. Like all the funeral sermons, this one demonstrates a fair number of variants in its imprints. Probably the most important imprint of the sermon is the one appearing in the History of the Church. As I have noted before, once an edition of a given sermon appeared in the 20th century, the text essentially settled down. Full sermons remained in the public eye as reprints of anthologies or other volumes, rarely as separate documents (those demonstrate more variation).
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Nibley: One Eternal Round again

Just a heads up for the release of Nibley’s last book (chronologically). It should be out in a short time. Mike Rhodes, who was primary editor of the book mentioned to me that MI hopes to have it out for Nibley’s 100th birthday (March 27, 2010). Rhodes’ second volume on P. Joseph Smith has been in the pipe for a number of years. MI seems to have its own priorities. We’ll see.

Make a Critical Text!

Want a fun little exercise? Try taking a few of the summaries of addresses given at the recent conference like here for example, and here for example, there are several others, and try reconstructing what was actually said. Or at least try to give some guarantee that you can give a few of the exact spoken words (no fair using transcripts or video/audio!). Then compare your careful pains taking work with the online video or audio or your own recordings. Miss anything important? Oh, by the way, if you happen to have actually seen and heard the addresses, perhaps even close up in the conference center, how well does your reconstruction match the sensory experience of the address(es)? Good luck!

Short Review: The Joseph Smith Papers Revelations and Translations (first volume in the series)

Just a short review of the R&T volume. I’ve been so busy with school matters that if I don’t do it now, I’ll forget again. (I’ve altered some of the verbiage here to correspond with Constance Lewis’s comment below.)

This volume: 23x40cm, you’ll need to use the tall shelf. Weighing in at 7lbs 10oz, you won’t want to take it jogging or haul it in the brief case very far. There are 707 standard pages, with front matter numbered in Roman. Pages are of high quality matte finish acid free paper. Color and format of the dust jacket follows the initial volume of the Papers, volume 1 of the journals series. At $99.95 retail, a bargain.
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Martin Luther, Matthew – and the Devil

Last night I was working away on the sermon book and I wanted to use Luther’s remark that even Matthew in writing the gospel named for him was influenced by Satan. But, then I could not for the life of me recall where I read that. I tried checking around in my books, did a google search, but I cannot seem to find it. So, I need some help. Anyone know a source for this? Or am I completely wrong and it was someone else who said this. But it does sound like something Luther might have said. I can almost picture the Latin version of the phrase but I can’t remember where it came from. Help!

Robert J. Matthews. RIP

Robert Matthews, long time religion professor at BYU and JST scholar passed away today. Sympathies to his family and friends. Perhaps now he knows the answers to many of those deep questions.

Former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University, Robert Matthews played a significant role in many LDS Church projects. He worked to thaw relations between the (then) Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his study of the manuscripts of Joseph Smith’s biblical revisions, held at the time in RLDS archives.

Among many Church assignments, Matthews served as president of the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork, Utah.

Nathan Baldwin and Unknown Joseph Smith Sermons

Nathan Bennett Baldwin was born in Grenville, “Upper Canada” in 1812. He joined the Church of Christ (later The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) April 28, 1833. He journeyed with “Zions Camp.” Baldwin was selected as a member of the first quorum of Seventy (Feb. 25, 1835). He received the Nauvoo endowment Jan. 3, 1846. Nathan Baldwin came west as a pioneer and eventually settled in southern Utah.
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More yet – Boap.org and Early Saints’ Journals, etc.

One of my favorite things on boap.org is the ever growing collection we call in house, “Early Saints.” It has a much longer, more descriptive title on boap.org. If you scroll down the home page, you’ll see a link about diaries and journals, that’s it. This is a set of autobiographies, biographies, diaries, letters and reminiscences of people who had some contact with Joseph Smith.
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