The Lord’s Prayer and Early Christian Eschatology

This post is based on a post I did at By Common Consent last year. I’ve reworked it a bit because I like the subject and I present it to you here.

Reading the New Testament

First, a cautionary note. All the New Testament literature we have is written from a post-resurrectional perspective. This is completely independent of whether one believes in the resurrection of Jesus or not. Thus, any discussion of that literature must take place within that contextual background, and in particular, that applies to the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, how Jesus may have originally spoken the prayer, what it may have meant to him, or to the disciples at that time, is largely beyond the scope of what we can do from these texts–the end of the Gospel colors the whole narrative and that can be important in subtle ways.[1] One might argue that LDS texts like section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants convey some original intent or meaning of Jesus’ words but I’m not at all sure this is the case.

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Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation

I’ve got a book in the editing process at Greg Kofford Books. With luck, it may appear this December or possibly February 2017. Here’s a bit of the preface (excuse typos, it’s in progress):

The July 12, 1843 revelation was the last of Joseph Smith’s formal written revelations and it was a watershed in Mormonism. Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation, constitutes a study of the text of that revelation, its genetic profile as an endpoint for a number of trajectories in Mormon thought, liturgy, and priestly cosmology, together with a brief exploration of its historical influence and interpretation.

Here's the planned cover. It's Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (my original title was: The Restoration of Hagar: Doctrine and Covenants 132, or something of the sort.

Here’s the planned cover. It’s Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (my original title was: The Restoration of Hagar: Doctrine and Covenants 132, or something of the sort.

Polygamy, the main theme of the July 12 revelation, is a complex subject in Mormonism. This short work can only hope to discuss a few aspects of that institution as it relates specifically to that revelation. Essentially beginning in Nauvoo, Mormon polygamy functioned as a threshold of loyalty to Joseph Smith and his priestly office. Taking the step of participating in polygamy was a high cost commitment for women and men, and that high cost generally translated to high value in the memories of those who participated in it. Thus, polygamy not only tested loyalty to Smith, —it increased that loyalty well beyond the death of the Prophet. While Smith generally invited those into polygamy who were already close to him and had demonstrated their commitment to Mormonism, it was risky to challenge fundamental boundaries of the religious and social landscape— and that risk turned to danger in some cases when initiates could not pass the threshold of belief and practice. Some of those dissenters, like First Presidency counselor William Law, acted to publically oppose

My general plan follows from the shift in scripture studies in the academy over the last few decades. Instead of appealing just to the historical-critical method, I consider the evolving influence and interpretation of the revelation over time. Peter Martens’s work on Origen is an example (Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford Early Christian Studies).

In other news, I’ve been working with the Joseph Smith sermon book, the current working title is this: Every Word Seasoned with Grace: A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith. I like the title for its reference to the text of one of Smith’s sermons that in turn depends on one of Paul’s letters (Col. 4:6).

New Content at Joseph Smith Papers Web Pages

Check out the updated content at the Joseph Smith Papers website.

Edited Volumes: George Whitefield, Mormon Women

My second favorite Methodist itinerant has spawned a new volume:

George Whitefield: Life, Context, and Legacy (Oxford UP) edited by Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones. The material originated in a conference at Oxford University in 2014 to observe the tercentenary of the Grand Itinerant’s birth.
The excellent Kate Holbrook and Matt Bowman have collected some important essays on Mormon women in Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (U of U Press).

Look for them at a bookstore or website near you.

Early National Systems: Millennial Hopes, III (Catholics in America)

Catholics in America were Millennialists, not in name or official doctrine, but in other more fundamental ways. Should a visiting alien observe antebellum America’s religious practice, he/she/it would find rather interesting parallels among the practices of Protestant pre-millennialist sects, post-millennial socialism, and Roman Catholics. To be sure, Catholics were more staid, less free to experiment in some ways, but they didn’t shy from revival methodology, and centuries long Catholic practice could be seen in double exposure among various American Millennialist offshoots, including Shakers, Owenites, Albert Brisbane, and others.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, II. William Miller.

Joseph Smith seems wedged in the creases of nineteenth-century Protestant worldviews in any number of ways. From Election to Scripture, to Millennial aspiration, he separated, combined, and “synergized” a vibrant world that respected a deep tie between science, such as it was, and a fractured system of religious beliefs that overlay a diverse and growing marketplace of ideas and economies. Smith interacted, mostly at a distance, with the lights of his day and one of those was William Miller. Shaken from a Deistic picture of God’s interaction with the world by what he, as a eighteen-year-old captain in the war of 1812, saw as divine intervention, Miller began a religious journey of devotion and disappointment. That journey turned out to be a microcosm that portended the larger society’s gradual descent from optimism to a grudging acceptance of lesser purpose.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, I

Many Americans in antebellum times saw their nation as an engine for the bright future of biblical end times. Ranging from Henry Clay’s practical and even semi-realistic “American System”[1] to social engineering designed to hurry Christ’s return to earth, it was characteristic of the age that even non-believers saw the idea as a comfortable metaphor for the destiny of what they considered a political example to the world. Modern Americans seem far from such notions, but there are pockets of American society where those nineteenth-century ideas persuade and guide the minds of dedicated souls, Mormons among them.
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