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).

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.
Read more of this post

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.]
Read more of this post

From BoAP Archives: Who is Iscah?

This originally appeared a few years ago at BCC. Since it’s Old Testament times in Sunday School, I thought this curiosity might be fun for you.

Abraham’s family life is the stuff of Jew, Gentile, and Mormon legend. But, I’m not going to break into that territory much. It’s too complex and I don’t have the mental space for it now. But, who is Iscah? The name appears once in the Hebrew Bible, just after the genealogy of Abram:
Read more of this post

Polygamy 101

I don’t really have anything new here, just pointing out my series of posts on D&C 132, starting here. Links to successor posts are in the headers. Have fun.

Charles W. Penrose and Adam-God

Joseph F. Smith noted the following in his journal p. 81, 1912.

“Our Father Adam by C. W. Penrose– Impt. Era, vol. 5– pages: 873 to 880-” Important for what it doesn’t say as well as what it does. Even more important is JFS’s notation.

The New God: John Robinson

Anglican Bishop John Arthur Thomas Robinson (1919-1983) shocked the world of Christianity in 1963 with his book, Honest to God. Its assertions were so radical, that I’m not sure if Mormonism even brushed by it in the theological waters of the twentieth century.
Read more of this post