Happy Birthday Relief Society!

The Nauvoo Female Relief Society had its founding meeting 175 years ago today. This necessary-to-complete-restoration organization has had a marked effect on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A comprehensive history of Relief Society still waits to be written but a number of important volumes are recently in the wind from the Church Historian’s Press and Alfred A. Knopf. Not in any order of importance, see

1. Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016).

2. Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, eds., At the Pulpit: 185 years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2017).

3. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017).

May I also recommend you pursue the Relief Society meeting minutes of April 28, 1842 here. You’ll see two documents in parallel, the original minutes, and an edited version by church historian George A. Smith, put together 16 years later. The contrast is remarkably revealing if somewhat disappointing. The sisters did not give up however. They read and reread Joseph Smith’s commission from the original in the succeeding decades. It became a powerful totem for women in their spiritual service and leadership.

Yay Relief Society. Can’t wait for 200.

Early National Systems. Slavery and Its American Social Constructs: part 1.

Industrialization of the North–Cotton

The Jeffersonian ideal of the independent tiller of the soil (“Agrarian Republicanism”), not cramped in diseased, polluted cities but exercising economic self-sufficiency and ruling with the patriarchal hand all under his purview. That patriarchal hand meant that the income that might be generated by wife and children, belonged to him, as did the associated laboring bodies. That ideal was most prominently subverted by the Lowell, Massachusetts textile industry. The Textile mills in Lowell were an important innovation in American enterprise on two fronts. The most interesting here was the matter of labor.
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The Lord’s Prayer, Nineteenth-Century Update

I suspect that most Latter-day Saints do not know that Joseph Smith revealed a Lord’s Prayer for the New Dispensation. No, not in the Inspired Version (or Joseph Smith Translation, revision) of the Bible. This was a revelation, almost certainly connected to that biblical revision work, but separate from it, a New Prayer for the Last Times, much like the original prayer was a prayer for the last times. To catch the vision here, I’ll take the Mathean prayer and place it in parallel with this new prayer, that was dictated on October 30, 1831. The context of the prayer is important, and it serves as a kind of preface for foundational revelations of November 1831 that defined church polity and established a form of government that carried on through modern manifestations of Mormonism.
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The Lord’s Prayer and Early Christian Eschatology

This post is based on a post I did at By Common Consent last year. I’ve reworked it a bit because I like the subject and I present it to you here.

Reading the New Testament

First, a cautionary note. All the New Testament literature we have is written from a post-resurrectional perspective. This is completely independent of whether one believes in the resurrection of Jesus or not. Thus, any discussion of that literature must take place within that contextual background, and in particular, that applies to the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, how Jesus may have originally spoken the prayer, what it may have meant to him, or to the disciples at that time, is largely beyond the scope of what we can do from these texts–the end of the Gospel colors the whole narrative and that can be important in subtle ways.[1] One might argue that LDS texts like section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants convey some original intent or meaning of Jesus’ words but I’m not at all sure this is the case.

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New Content at Joseph Smith Papers Web Pages

Check out the updated content at the Joseph Smith Papers website.

Edited Volumes: George Whitefield, Mormon Women

My second favorite Methodist itinerant has spawned a new volume:

George Whitefield: Life, Context, and Legacy (Oxford UP) edited by Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones. The material originated in a conference at Oxford University in 2014 to observe the tercentenary of the Grand Itinerant’s birth.
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The excellent Kate Holbrook and Matt Bowman have collected some important essays on Mormon women in Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (U of U Press).

Look for them at a bookstore or website near you.

Review. Jeremiah’s Scribes: Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England

Jeremiah’s Scribes : Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England
Meredith Marie Neuman
University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia) 2013.
Hardcover: $64.00 (Amazon).
280 pages.

I have been meaning to write something on Meredith Neuman’s study of Puritan preaching for some time, first because I enjoyed her careful work on sermons and their impact in a community that valued preaching as the Christian prophetic voice. Second because I found it useful in my own work on preaching. Neuman’s approach reveals much of preaching as lived religion in early New England.
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