Seer stones have long been a part of religious history but are largely absent from religious discussions today. Nonetheless, seer stones are currently undergoing something of a renaissance, especially as they relate to Joseph Smith and the translation of the Book of Mormon.
After receiving interview responses from R. Eric Smith and Matthew J. Grow for an interview, 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.
“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.
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.
“An Introduction to the Book of Abraham,” the latest book by BYU professor John Gee, explores common questions and overarching themes of the Book of Abraham.
In 2000, Gee published “A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri,” intending to provide readers with the latest scholarly research and LDS commentary. However, so many new discoveries have come to light in the past 17 years Gee decided to write a completely new book instead of revising the old one.
Gee sets out to provide general readers with an understanding of the complex historical and academic issues associated with the Book of Abraham. He presents synopses of important issues ranging from how Joseph Smith obtained the papyri to what is known about the original Egyptian owners to the book’s central role in revealing the Latter-day Saint doctrine of premortal existence.
Readers interested in learning more will be delighted by chapter notes that provide bibliographic references with very short — and understandable — summaries. The book has a number of helpful charts and illustrations as well as frequent references to the latest research from the Joseph Smith Papers.
“An Introduction to the Book of Abraham” is an ideal resource for those studying the Old Testament and Pearl of Great Price.
Gee has a doctorate in Egyptology from Yale University and is the William “Bill” Gay Assistant Research Professor of Egyptology at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.
Truman Madsen (1926 – 2009) told the story of a Latter-day Saint religious service in a prison I have occasionally seen pop up as a joke in Mormon culture. In the story, someone is offering a prayer and uses an absent-minded phrase that echoes an expression you can often hear in benedictions at Mormon congregations: ‘Please bless that those who are not here today will be here next time.’
Various forms of the joke use slightly different wording but the general substance is always the same. While you may pray that someone who is not at church today can be in attendance the next time, you probably do not want to pray that the location for their particular church services will be a prison.
I always thought this was just a joke, but I recently stumbled across a story that suggests it is based on an actual incident.
In early 2017, I published a short Q&A for the Deseret News on Joseph Smith and seer stones. The article was intended for a general audience and based upon a book by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Nicholas J. Federick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones. This is the full text of an addendum interview with Nicholas Frederick from November 5, 2016.
On June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam in Idaho failed. What began as a small crack spread to a substantial break within hours. As the surrounding area began to flood, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quickly mobilized and prevented what could have been a dramatic loss of life. Nonetheless, the damage was significant. Homes and business were ruined. Access to water and utilities was curtailed, if not entirely inaccessible. The situation was awful.
In the coming days and weeks, thousands would flock to the area to help with cleanup and rebuilding. My father, Howard Manwaring, was a teenager at the time and among those who traveled to Rexburg, Idaho, from Pocatello, Idaho to assist in the efforts.