Joseph Smith and the Taxonomy of “Intelligence(s),” Part 2-Ground Rules.
April 24, 2010 12 Comments
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. 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.
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.
 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.
 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.