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).

Hyrum on Prophets

Hiram said before the High councel that no prophet ever did trangress but was directed by the impulse of the spirit involuntarily Also He said that a man shall take his brothers wife and raise up seed unto him as it was in israel must be again established

A youthful Franklin D. Richards (in a few years, Apostle Richards) recorded a number of sermons in Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith was the occasional object of Richards’s jottings. Richards didn’t take his little notebook to sermon events, rather, he wrote down what he heard either from notes, or memory. No notes are in evidence, but that was often the case for early sermon reporters. An excellent example is John Quincy Adams. Adams reported Sunday sermons in his journal after the fact, and often he was not friendly about it, in great contrast to Hyrum who was evidently as loyal as concrete. The remark has obvious references to Joseph, who was far from perfect—a man of sometimes towering temper and odd claims on subjects ranging from politics to anthropology to medicine (and of course, polygamy).

The point of the post is really that Richards’s youthful ardor for the cause meant that he often left little on the floor. He didn’t give all the details perhaps, but he is useful in a number ways. One of those ways is as an illustration of how sermon events were (and are) remembered for the most part. They were almost never perfect transcriptions (even in Utah when shorthand methods grew into use). But they are revealing with respect to reception and the way recorders assimilated, processed, and saw meaning in their own thought-worlds. You can see more of Richards’s reports of Joseph Smith sermons in particular by going over to the Parallel Joseph at BoAp.org and searching on “Scriptural Items,” the name Richards attached to his little record book. Have fun!

Print Culture and Orality in Early Mormonism

Working through the Funeral Sermon book, trying to put together a real draft, I’m attempting once again to write an introduction (presently designated as Preface). I’ve written large chunks that have been (and no doubt others that will eventually be) discarded. This post is stuff on the chopping block, but it has some important features that deserve some discussion I think. So I am dumping it on you all. No doubt it is terribly boring stuff, but that’s the nature of the beast. What follows was just an initial draft, so I don’t claim a serious stake in it.

[Cross posted at By Common Consent.]
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Joseph Smith Papers Newsletter: Number 1.

To have a look at the first newsletter for the JSPP, click through.

Documents 1 of JSP in Leather

A leather-bound collector’s edition of Documents Volume 1 of the Joseph Smith Papers series is almost ready to be released – it should be available beginning of July. They are expensive, but beautiful editions if you go in for that sort of thing.

If you are interested and aren’t on the mailing list, you can contact Stephanie Ogden at the Salt Lake City Deseret Book Store (801-328-8191).

Invitation: 36th Annual Meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing

Registration is now open for 36th Annual Meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing on July 24-26 in Louisville, Kentucky. The Local Arrangements Committee, headed this year by ADE Secretary Darrell Meadows, is organizing our visit to this historic city at the Falls of the Ohio that dates its origins to the period of the American Revolution and has seen so much history. Our meeting site will be the Seelbach Hilton, the grand and legendary Beaux Arts hotel that opened in 1905 and gave F. Scott Fitzgerald his inspiration for the setting of Tom and Daisy’s lavish wedding reception in The Great Gatsby. Take a look at the outstanding meeting program created by President-Elect John Lupton and the Program Committee (http://www.documentaryediting.org/wordpress/?page_id=94) and you will agree that this meeting is not to be missed. (A PDF copy of the Preliminary Program is attached for your convenience.)
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Lyman Butterfield Documentary Editing Award Nominations

The Lyman H. Butterfield Award committee—Gregg Lint, Ken Bowling, and Mary Hackett—solicits nominations for a recipient of the award in 2014. This award is presented annually by the Association for Documentary Editing to an individual, editorial project, or institution for notable contributions in the areas of documentary publication, teaching, or service. A list of past recipients of this award can be seen at
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