Strengths and Weaknesses of Modern Missionaries

Here is an excerpt of a report by a General Authority who toured several LDS missions in the Southern and Eastern United States.

I can justifiably praise the humility, obedience, and on the whole, industry of the missionaries in these missions . . . but when these virtues are named, speaking of the missionaries as a whole, you name the sum of their qualifications for missionary work, and there are serious defects in their “equipment” for the work required of them; among which may be suggested first, the lack of knowledge amounting to almost total ignorance of the current religious thought of the present day, with a consequent lack of ability to make any application of our religion to modern thought, or what is of any immediate interest to people . . . the existence of a “boyish” conception of things . . . . inadequate education . . . not in terms of academic achievement as much as a lack of ability to read with ease the most common books, to speak grammatically, to say nothing of speaking coherently, logically or forcefully . . . there is a serious lack of training in simple “good manners” . . . on the whole, this reveals our deficiencies as a community on which is laid the responsibility of instructing the whole world in . . . moral and religious matters.[1]

Discuss.

———–
[1] Edited for length, a certain harshness, and with some silent summary.

Presiding Bishopric, IV.

With the revelations of November 1 and 11, 1831 helping to define the role of the bishop,[1] you can see that the road was being paved for more bishops in the Church. As temporal ministers, it was only a matter of time before more were called as Church population increased (when Partridge was called there were about 150 members in Ohio). At first, two population centers developed: Zion (Missouri) and Kirtland (Ohio). Bishop Partridge was a leading voice in governance in Zion. At the end of 1831, another bishop, Newel Kimball Whitney, was called for the Kirtland area (by that time Ohio membership numbered about 1,500) and among other things to work in tandem with Partridge in the United Firm (UF — the Church “corporation” if you will). Partridge, Whitney and their counselors formed an important financial administrative body in the firm. Whitney was relatively well off and his business operations in Kirtland became the heart of the firm there.[2]
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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
Smith.

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.
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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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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:
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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.
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God Knows Everything. —ish

We are behind in the ph/rs lesson sequence and today was our crack at the Lorenzo Snow manual, lesson 7. One man, a retired university professor, steered the discussion into evil and foreknowledge. The usual sorts of responses then showed up:
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King Follett and Stuff.

So I promised something on King Follett. Because of BCC persecution, I put it over there.

Richard Whately and Preaching/Teaching the Word in Mormonism

Richard Whately (1787-1863) was an academic churchman. First a Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, then the Rector of Halesworth, then Principal of St Albans Hall, then Drummond Lecturer on Political Economy at Oxford and last but not least Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. Read more of this post

Stemmata for the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith

Here’s an example for one of the funeral sermons.

Preaching event at the top. Arrows represent text dependence.

This particular sermon was published in full a comparatively large number of times. The more times in print the more complicated the variorum. In this particular case, one excerpt has appeared (just in recent years) over a hundred times in Church conferences and literature. That is rather unusual and somewhat odd, given the earth shaking stuff you *could* come up with. The stemma reveals the most influential editor: MS2. It is not always easy to identify the real editor of published Church documents and in the typesetting era often more than one set of hands dealt with a given text like this one. Complete texts of Joseph Smith’s sermons tend to be published by the Church at large during in a cycle very similar to this one. Aside from reprinting certain standard imprints like Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and a few independently published versions of the sermons, new “official” imprints stopped after 1952.
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The Return of the B. H. Roberts Cabal

The 19th century produced some prominent thinkers in Mormonism. But the 20th century also had its share. One particular group (I use the term in a loose sense) was what I choose to call the “B. H. Roberts Cabal.” Roberts himself was not entirely self taught, but he trolled the waters of intellectualism in his day and in some respects sought to show Mormonism consistent with or even ahead of the science and philosophy of the times.
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D&C 107. Part 13. Succession and Discipline.

One of the interesting issues raised by the history of Doctrine and Covenants section 107 is the question of a transgressing President of the Church. The November 11 revelation (second half of D&C 107) introduced a church court system (see parts 2 and 3 in the series). The two leading offices in the early church were the bishop and the president of the high priesthood. The revelation defined a way for each officer to be disciplined, should the need arise. This was to work by using each of the court systems attached to these officers to judge the other.
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