10 questions and answers about Joseph Smith and seer stones

While working on a review of a book about Joseph Smith and seer stones, my daughter came home from church and told me they had talked about seer stones in Sunday School. “The teacher said we should believe Joseph Smith was a prophet,” she said, “even though he made mistakes like using seer stones.”

The comment provided a good opportunity to discuss how seer stones were not a mistake, but rather Continue reading “10 questions and answers about Joseph Smith and seer stones”

10 questions with R. Eric Smith (addendum)

After receiving interview responses from R. Eric Smith and Matthew J. Grow for an upcoming “10 questions,” it occurred to me I may have forgotten an important question.

Experts are often asked the same questions over and over. Yet are there questions they wish someone would ask?

As it relates to the Council of Fifty minutes, I asked R. Eric Smith this very question in an addendum to the “10 questions” interview.

Photo courtesy of R. Eric Smith

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10 questions with Russell Shorto

In January 2018, I had the privilege to interview Russell Shorto for “10 questions.” Shorto is the author of Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom.

Shorto is noted for his work in narrative history. He is the author of six books, a contributor to the New Yorker, and is currently contemplating a historical work – about the present.

Photo courtesy of Russell Shorto

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Book Review – The Council of Fifty: What the records reveal about Mormon history

“The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal About Mormon History,” is a timely book published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center. While the minutes of the council were published in their totality via the Joseph Smith Papers in 2016, they still remain somewhat inaccessible to general readers. “The Council of Fifty” contains 15 essays by leading scholars about relevant topics of interest. Continue reading “Book Review – The Council of Fifty: What the records reveal about Mormon history”

10 questions with S. Kent Brown

In December 2017 / January 2018, I had the privilege to interview S. Kent Brown, an emeritus professor of ancient studies at BYU.

My contact with Brown stemmed from an interview with Philip Jenkins wherein he mentioned scholars at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship who were studying the same time period as he covered in his book, Crucible of Faith. After contacting the Maxwell Institute I was eventually put in touch with Brown, who has done some work on the period of 250 BCE to 50  CE, including the publication of The Lost 500 Years: What Happened Between the Old and New Testaments.

S. Kent Brown

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The Council of Fifty minutes on perfect revelation

The Council of Fifty minutes include a fascinating quote on “perfect revelation,” or whether a revelation requires perfect wording to be the word of God.

The Council of Fifty was an exclusive organization founded by Joseph Smith in 1844. The minutes of the council were published by the Church Historians Press in 2016 as part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. The minutes include a wide variety of topics ranging from spiritual teachings to discussions about Indians to desires to form a new government.

The context for the quote is a series of discussions within the Council of Fifty about drafting a new constitution. The committee was somewhat paralyzed by fear of making a mistake and thus had difficulty getting started. One of the viewpoints shared was that of Brigham Young, who commented on Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority.

Included in his commentary is a fascinating quote about the word-for-word perfection of revelation. Continue reading “The Council of Fifty minutes on perfect revelation”

Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham

John Gee is perhaps the leading Mormon commentator on the Book of Abraham – a portion of Mormon scripture that is simultaneously vital to the Mormon belief of premortal existence and heavily debated inside of academic circles. As a believing Mormon with a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Yale University, Gee brings a wonderful mix of perspectives to the discussion. Continue reading “Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham”