The Pearl of Great Price – A History

[Reposted from 2010.]

In our priesthood meeting a few weeks back a part of the lesson involved inviting class members to offer brief accounts of “how we got them and what’s in ’em” in regard to the Mormon scriptures. Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants went about as short and sweet as you might imagine, but no one volunteered anything about the Pearl of Great Price beyond the usual bit about its contents. (I don’t usually comment – unless someone points at me and asks. Its been a good policy)
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The Sermon, The Mormon, and General Conference

In sermons, perhaps in every single one of them, there is a tension at work between inspiration and artifice. Delivery versus what is delivered is not precisely what I’m getting at here. That tension is important, even if the sermon-giver is partially or wholly unconscious of their own artifice. I give you Neal A. Maxwell. Is artifice inspired? Some might say yes, or yes with qualification. I’ve become a more avid listener of late. And I’m looking forward to the conference to come. See you there. If only in “spirit.”

Relief Society, Relief Societies, and the Future

Benevolence movements in antebellum America were a way for Protestant women to shape culture in a nonconfrontational, indirect way. These organizations began from a variety of personal and group motivations. Of course there was genuine care and concern for the needy. But there was also a certain anxiety about living in increasingly urban environments that contained ever larger numbers of the poor. Add to that the community minded who saw the lower edges of society as a drag on the economy and public culture. It’s not clear how the Nauvoo Female Relief Society fit this framework but one has to assume that different members saw it in different terms. The obvious difference was the quasi-priesthood aspects of Relief Society.
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The Once and Future Book: Steven L. Peck’s “A Short Stay in Hell” returns!

Fellow blogger, applied mathematician and BYU faculty member Steven L. Peck’s stunning little book “A Short Stay in Hell” is now on sale.  Go thou and buy it.  What is eternity?  Shiver. 

Joseph Smith Papers Project — Introduction of Histories Volume 1 — Live Blog

Here at the CHL, waiting for the festivities to start. I’ll add things as they happen.

So here we are on the 4th floor of the CHL, waiting for things to start. I’m listening to Ardis type on her cool bit of tech — she’s like a machine gun compared to me — you know, fast.

Seven minutes to go.

Mark Ashurst-McGee putting out the originals. iphone lens is dirty, sorry.

Matt Grow welcomes. JS histories from 1832 to 1844. Having some technical difficulties.

Cover of Volume 1 Histories

Matt notes JSPP online additions from Community of Christ archives. See

Mark: Originals on the table.

Showing the ripped-out signature.

Richard Jensen: revelation — a record is to be kept among you. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and finally John Whitmer asked to keep records. JW asked to do history, but reluctant to do so without a “commandment” — (a revelation of obedience).

JS, working with Frederick G. Williams puts together a short retrospective.

Others involved: Phelps, Partridge, Corrill, Cowdery, First Presidency.

Volume 1 of Histories focuses on documents where JS has involvement. History drafts that somehow had JS oversight at least.

Mark showing JS letter book one. Contains JS’s first retrospective history.

Mark shows 1834-1836 history.

Mark shows 1838 draft history. Looks like a gathering torn out of a book early in 1833, turned it inside out and started writing in 1839. Copied into book used for 1834-36 history (turned upside down and backwards first). Became volume A-1 and source for Times and Seasons serial history. A-1 has more stuff (via Willard Richards) than appears in T&S.

Mark shows a copy of Rupp, Orson Pratt’s “several remarkable visions” Howard Coray’s deadend workup, other stuff.

What value does “Histories” add? Use of originals, various technologies, to get best version they could. Doc analysis in the volume is new and important.

Editor Karen Davidson: Coray Fair copy A-1 in First Presidency vault. Either JS or Coray decided to shorten and be less defensive and hostile. Coray stuff is a major bonus.

Differences between Rupp and Wentworth. Just before he died, JS saw Rupp’s book. Importance of Pratt’s several remarkable visions in writing of Wentworth and Rupp.

Charts: docs, scribes, coverage, dates produced.

There’s a Stemma! YES!! Life is good.

Nathan W. A year from now all of H1 online? Other stuff within a week or so. Coray draft copy (in H1) and fair copy (not in H1) will be online.

Mark and others answer various questions from trouble makers like Jonathan Stapley.

One of the most interesting things in the presentation to me was the probability that the 1832 history used a precursor manuscript. I’m guessing a reconstruction might be done. Just guessing.

Here's a graphic of the projected printed volumes. Note a second oversized volume. Excellent stuff forthcoming. Stats

I thought some of you might be interested in some recent stats for (no not this blog). Here’s what happened so far this month: March 1-18, 2012.

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Documentary and Critical Editions

Mary-Jo Kline’s A Guide to Documentary Editing has been a standard for years. Even in earlier editions of the book she noted the coming of the the e-edition and despite all the questions of permanence, distribution and accessibility, it, and its associated new techniques, will be a dominant force in the world of editing. I think it’s possible that it will replace print in that genre. The recent announcement of Scholarly Editing in electronic form only and by necessity the same for its content shows how far we have come. New editing software based in html, xml, LaTeX and so on brings both new and old formats to bear.

I like a wonderful cloth-bound-quality-paper book as much as the next person. But the day of low demand dense textual scholarship finding an exclusive place in that format seems to be at an end. Better get used to it folks.

With much of the grub work on chapter 10 of the book nearly finished, I’m contemplating what might come for publication. There is still considerable work ahead in checking documents, fleshing out sermon edition notes and then there are formatting issues I’ve put off in a few of the later chapters <grin>. What is the future then? I’ll probably try shopping some chapters around. But there are matters I don’t want to compromise on. One of those is formatting and facsimiles. To say nothing of color. I wonder.

In the meantime, over at BCC I’ll have a pre-conference series running: The Presiding Bishopric. Starting on the 18th and running about every two days in 6 parts. It has some fun stuff from the Joseph Smith Papers.

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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Lorenzo Dow. Methodist Itinerant Extraordinaire.

Lorenzo Dow was legendary in late 18th century — early 19th century America among believers and preachers alike. He was judged harshly by many of his colleagues for his flamboyant manner and sharp tongue. Dow’s popularity is evidenced by the number of male children named after him during period. Just looking through the narrow lens of Mormonism, we find people like Lorenzo Snow, Lorenzo Dow Young and Lorenzo Dow Barnes. These and others prove the point. He was a revered and despised guy, fitting the Moroni Profile. But just to prove that Dow was not all show, here is an excerpt from one his many imprints:
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The Dividing Line. What of “Gospel Scholarship?”

Preaching in 18th century New England tended to fall out in two ways. Here’s one example:
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