Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, Jedediah S. Rogers, editor, Signature Books (2014), Kindle & Hardback, 480 pages.

Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, editor: Jed Rogers

Jed Rogers and the team at Signature Books have produced an important, quality volume that includes all available and relevant documents about the ellusive, but key ‘Council of Fifty’.

Continue reading “Council of Fifty: A Documentary History” »

Documents, Volume 3 of the Joseph Smith Papers released

I had the good fortune to attend a media event with members of the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) team on Dec 1st for a couple of exciting announcements and updates.

A major web “refresh” was just released for the JSP website, and the 3rdDocuments” volume covering February 1833 to March 1834 has been released. We had a chance to hear from four members of the team.

City of Zion plat

Included in Documents, vol 3 are plans for the City of Zion, Jackson County Missouri – including 24 central temples between Jerusalem, Zion, Bethlehem and Kirtland Streets.

Continue reading “Documents, Volume 3 of the Joseph Smith Papers released” »

Miller Eccles Study Group – Texas Edition: The Mundane and the Sublime in Mormon Art

Michelangelo, Pieta

Michelangelo, Pieta

[A]ll good things…come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. – Norman Maclean[1]

This last Sunday, the teacher in Elders Quorum relayed some experiences he’d had building temples for the Church. He explained that temple construction was just like any other construction project with deadlines, stresses, idiotic bosses, setbacks, etc. He noted that this had at times challenged his faith and even tainted his temple experience. In his mind, the temple is the House of the Lord. Isn’t it supposed to be above all the trappings of this telestial world?

Continue reading “Miller Eccles Study Group – Texas Edition: The Mundane and the Sublime in Mormon Art” »

2015 Summer Seminar: “Organizing the Kingdom: Priesthood, Church Government, and the Forms of LDS Worship”

The Maxwell Institute will be sponsoring another summer seminar for graduate students, CES educators, and other qualified individuals on the BYU campus in Provo, UT, from June 14 to July 23. Participants will study LDS ecclesiology, focusing on the origin and development of church organization, the evolution of public worship services and practices, and related topics along with the underlying theology. The iteration will be conducted by Terryl Givens.

For further information, including funding and applications, see the PDF attachments below. Be sure to apply if interested!



The Polygamy Revelations of Joseph Smith

The recent gospel topics essays by the church on plural marriage provide an unprecedented, frank look at a number of aspects of plural marriage previously not included in church discourse. With an announcement in the Church News, a letter to church leadership and plans to include the essays in some curricula, attention will turn to the topic of polygamy.[1]

Emma and Joseph at the organization of the Relief Society

The essay “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” discusses the introduction of plural marriage by Joseph Smith, noting that his close associates said he received the revelation around 1831 and that “the revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843.”[2] On July 12, 1843, Hyrum Smith asked Joseph Smith to provide a revelation to help convince Emma Smith to accept polygamy. Joseph said he knew the revelation by heart and did not need to use the Urim and Thummim, and dictated the “revelation on marriage” (as it’s referred to in the essay) published in the LDS Doctrine and Convents, Section 132 (which I’ll refer to as D&C 132).

The first revelation on polygamy has been traditionally dated to 1831. In 1935, Church Historian and Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“The exact date I cannot give you when this principle of plural marriage was first revealed to Joseph Smith, but I do know that there was a revelation given in July 1831, in the presence of Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps and others in Missouri, in which the Lord made this principle known through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Whether the revelation as it appears in the Doctrine and Covenants [w]as first given July 12, 1843, or earlier, I care not. It is a fact, nevertheless, that this principle was revealed at an earlier date[3]

A reading of the 1843 revelation indicates that some aspects of it had to do with events current to 1843.[4] This raises the question of how much of the revelation came from 1831, how much was given in 1843, and if there were other sources between those dates. There are a number of references to revelations by Joseph Smith having to do with polygamy in addition to the 1831 and 1843 revelations – some of which may have informed Joseph Smith as he dictated 1843 revelation “from memory”.

In this article, I’ll look at revelations through Joseph Smith regarding polygamy. I’ll review evidence for the 1831 revelation as well as look at ten other potential revelations in addition to D&C 132 received by Joseph Smith about polygamy. I will list only those mentioned in sources before Joseph Smith’s death in 1844 – avoiding recollections occurring decades after the fact.[5]

Continue reading “The Polygamy Revelations of Joseph Smith” »

The Gospel Checklist: Crowding Out the Spirit?

[T]he Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become. – Dallin H. Oaks[1]

Toward the end of my mission after yet another district meeting in Carson City, Nevada, my district met together for lunch at a member-owned Wienerschnitzel. The conversation turned into a discussion about a relatively new (i.e. the past year) mission quota: 2 hours of door-to-door tracting and 10 street contacts a day. Some of us expressed skepticism toward the effectiveness of this new expectation. It seemed strange that what were considered the two least productive methods of missionary work according to the Church’s own Missionary Handbook were given so much emphasis. Elder Oaks had pointed to studies just prior to my mission that showed the baptismal rate of member-based missionary work was ten times that of missionary efforts (i.e. tracting and contacting).[2] My zone leader countered this skepticism by pointing out that the baptisms and confirmations mission-wide had reportedly been increasing over the past year, the assumption being that this increase correlated with the implementation of the new quota. My zone leader stated as a matter-of-fact that “obedience” to the new quota had brought about the “blessings” of increased baptisms. I countered that a more likely explanation was the increasing percentage of experienced missionaries. The influx of new missionaries at the beginning of my mission was huge, making the Las Vegas West mission overwhelmingly green in a matter of months (I think at one point 60-70% of the missionaries were out only 6 months or less). I was part of several big waves of newbies. During this time, baptisms dropped. However, by the time of our friendly debate, the pendulum had swung the opposite direction. The mission majority now had less than 6 months to go. It seemed more likely to me that the increased experience and talent of missionaries had more to do with increasing success than any quota, especially since (if I remember correctly) very few baptisms were coming from tracting or contacting.

I predicted that the mission would see another downturn in baptismal rates as the veterans went home and the mission became largely green again. I also noted that the reported stats of tracting and contacting were likely unreliable. I knew for a fact that over the past year missionaries had lied about their stats. I had lied about my stats on occasion. I also knew that missionaries stretched the definition of a “contact” (the mission president apparently recognized this too and attempted to define what counted as a contact) in order to boost their numbers. One could say that these missionaries (including me) just didn’t “have the Spirit” with them. Perhaps. One could also say that we were responding to incentives. These numbers supposedly represented our quality as missionaries. In an effort to avoid spiritual shaming and the (unlikely) possibility of being sent home (I’d already been threatened with that for something entirely unrelated), we missionaries fudged our numbers. This meant that the statistics were either based on fabricated numbers or so lacking in quality that they might as well have been. Instead of catching the vision, we were focused solely on making our quota. Continue reading “The Gospel Checklist: Crowding Out the Spirit?” »

Academic Job Posting from BYU

Our friends at BYU asked me to post the following job announcement for a faculty position in Church History and Doctrine, starting Fall 2015. I’m sure we have some WWE readers who are qualified and would be great for this position.

Position Information

Position Title Faculty–Church History & Doctrine Fall 2015
Posting Number 140157FAC
Desired Beginning Date Fall 2015
Department Church History & Doctrine
Number of Positions to be Filled 1
Job Type Full Time
Job Category Faculty
Job Duration
Work Location Main Campus
If other, specify
Eligibility to Apply All Qualified Applicants
Pay Level
Approximate Starting Salary Range
Part-time Pay Level

Continue reading “Academic Job Posting from BYU” »

Come Support Our Bloggers at the Sunstone Symposium!

SunstoneSeveral Worlds Without End bloggers will be presenting at the upcoming Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium, held at the University of Utah from July 30 to August 2, 2014. If you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love if you’d show your support by attending their sessions!

The most—uh, colorful?—of the presentations will undoubtedly be Michael Reed’s “Off-Label Uses for Consecrated Oil and Holy Water.” Mike will chronicle the use of consecrated oil and water for enemas by nineteenth-century Church leaders. I have to take some of the blame for Mike presenting on this topic. I’ve been daring him to do it since he first told me about it a couple years ago. :)

On Friday at 2:00 PM, Cheryl L. Bruno will present “Sealing and Salvation in Early Mormonism: Perspectives on the Law of Adoption.” This is a long-time research interest for Cheryl, so the audience can expect a well-documented and well-polished presentation. Continue reading “Come Support Our Bloggers at the Sunstone Symposium!” »

Faith & Knowledge Conference CFP

I am very happy to announce the 5th biennial Faith & Knowledge Conference to be held at the University of Virginia February 27-29, 2015.  The CFP may be found here:

The first F&K conference, held in 2007 at Yale Divinity School, was borne out of Richard Bushman’s desire to provide a venue for Latter-day Saint graduate students in religious studies (and related disciplines) to explore new ideas and discuss the challenge of studying religion critically as LDS believers.  Richard invited Taylor Petrey, Ariel Bybee Laughton, and myself to join him in organizing a conference with these specific goals in mind.

Without question, the 2007 Faith & Knowledge conference has had a profound and positive impact on both my academic and spiritual life.  I know many conference attendees from past conferences have similar feelings.  Past F&K conference attendees, have formed lasting and meaningful friendships with like-minded scholars and, speaking personally,  it has been gratifying to see so many conference attendees go on to make significant contributions not just to Mormon Studies, but to the wider academy as well.


Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor

43A-Image Emma Smith Bidamon Writing_editedIt has come to my attention that Brian Hales has commented on my article Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842-1844 which was published in the Fall 2013 issue of Journal of Mormon History. Brian’s comments appear in the Letters to the Editor section in JMH 40, no. 3 [Summer 2014]. In order to give a timely response to his remarks I reproduce them here, with my responses given in bold italics. Please join in with your observations as well!

Emma’s Awareness Continue reading “Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor” »