Joseph Smith and the Taxonomy of “Intelligence(s),” Part 2-Ground Rules.

Ok, this is part 2 of our discussion of Joseph Smith and certain words. Part 1 is here.

In this part, I mostly just want to map out a little of what I will exclude from the discussion.

“Intelligence” and “intelligences” are words that occur with some frequency in Mormon texts. But much less in modern authoritative discursion than a hundred years ago, say. Partly, the reasons for this involve the emotional baggage they accumulated during the first 70 years or so of the last century.[1] And that is part of the reason why I will avoid discussing the usage of these words and their correlates in Mormonism after 1844.

The words “intelligence” and “intelligences” were in use in antebellum literature. I’m also not going to discuss where and when here.[2]

Joseph Smith used the word “intelligence” in the dictation of his revelatory midrash of John 1, in 1833, now found as LDS Doctrine and Covenants section 93. While this usage is historically important and a great deal of exegetical energy has been spent on it, I will not touch on it much here, if at all.

Even before this, there was Smith’s expansion of the Biblical text in what is usually now called the “Joseph Smith Translation.” The 1830 translation of Genesis is somewhat relevant, but I shall effectively ignore it in what I want to do.

There is one mid-1830s era text which has some impact on what I’m going to say, and that is the Book of Abraham. A careful examination of the sources leads me to conclude that most of the book was in existence by the fall of 1835, at least the parts relevant to our discussion. This is perhaps not a standard view in the literature, but I think it is true none-the-less. This is somewhat important for what I will say here, but not vital.

Finally, words and their relationships are what its all about. The words I will regard as correlates (in certain specific texts) to the subject words, are “spirit,” “spirits,” “souls,” and “minds.” Some may sense a slight break with some traditions here, but remember, no post-1844 texts are allowed to enter the discussion (unless of course, I say so).

There is one more issue I want to note here and that is that the archetypes of the texts we will discuss are almost always not texts at all, but public, extemporaneous addresses. In text theory, this makes them a kind of specialty unto themselves, and we shall be allowed some latitude in our discussion because of it.

Ok, those are most of the general ground rules. There may be a few specific ones I will unilaterally declare as needed, later. Next time, we should get to the problem at hand.
[1] Two interesting examples of the depth of this emotion are Sidney Sperry’s 1960 Doctrine and Covenants compendium, and Truman Madsen’s Sunday School manual for teenagers in the 1970s. Both initiated private calls from apostles wanting certain parts excised or changed, even though Sperry published with the outlaw Bookcraft.

[2] I should note however that Fawn Brodie cleverly observed (in her No Man Knows My History) that some early Mormons were acquainted with Thomas Dick’s 1827 Philosophy of a Future State. Dick employs “intelligences” in a way and context similar to, but quite distinct from, Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham.

12 Responses to Joseph Smith and the Taxonomy of “Intelligence(s),” Part 2-Ground Rules.

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Stuff like this just makes me happy.

  2. DavidC says:

    I’d be interested to know the story behind the “interesting examples” of footnote #1.

  3. ricke says:

    I agree with DavidC. You shouldn’t tempt us like that :). What were the manuals, what was found to be objectionable, and by whom?

  4. W. V. Smith says:

    Well, I gave you the important info. Madsen produced a Sunday School manual (I think it was for 14-15 year-olds, but I’m not sure). It came out late and so was distributed in 8.5×11 format with no cover or endpapers, just stapled on the spine like a report. The vetted version was rather different. Both Sperry and Madsen had stuff about the title words. If you’ve read Madsen’s “Eternal Man”, you have an idea what he had in his manual. That was pretty much cut and burned. Sperry had something similar. As to who objected, well, maybe we should let the dead sleep. But there was some emotion behind it. The reasons for the emotion extend from history that is far too involved to do justice to here. You’ll see some of it in the book. Chapter 7 intro and appendix.

  5. ricke says:

    No need for you to have gotten a degree in marketing – you are a natural!

  6. W. V. Smith says:

    There is a potential post coming over at BCC that may give you some ideas.

  7. DavidC says:

    Since I’ve read and enjoyed Truman Madsen’s “Eternal Man,” I find your comments more unsettling that anything Michael Ash is dealing with in his blog. I am reminded of comments about correlation by Hugh Nibley, Leonard Arrington and more recently Daymon Smith.

  8. W. V. Smith says:

    Well correlation does tend to take some of the fun out of Sunday School, but I’m not sure you could assign the particular thing with Madsen to that exactly. There was controversy, and some people felt that a Sunday School manual, or a doctrinal work by a well-known BYU person would place certain other people in a bad light perhaps. Rather than have the whole thing completely opened up for some kind of public debate say, you just blanket it. I can see the virtue of that in some respects, especially at that particular period. The rule (then) among general authorities was: protect your own in public. It made for better relations all around, and brought focus on the important matters at hand perhaps. Let me be clear: I’m not criticizing what happened in those backwater events. They’re just interesting to me as a historian type. Institutions change slowly. The Church has changed to some degree. The Joseph Smith papers, in its present incarnation, would never have seen the light of day in 60s-70s. People’s attitudes change. I think the institutional focus has not changed much, but the duck and cover policies of the past are gradually being seen as actually unimportant or even detrimental to the mission of the Church. I think that’s fascinating, and personally I agree with it. And by the way, I think Arrington, Bitton, Allen, Leonard and crew were a big part of that, even though things didn’t work out at the time.

  9. Pingback: Joseph Smith and the Taxonomy of Intelligence(s), part 4. Text and Context for the King Follett Discourse «'s Blog

  10. Pingback: Antebellum Liberty vs. Mormon Individuality «'s Blog

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