Scholar explores era, events that help shape modern religions in ‘Crucible of Faith’

A recent book by Philip Jenkins looks at a tumultuous time in history that contains lessons for believers trying to navigate today’s religious landscape.

Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World” (Basic Books, $19.99) covers a time period of about two centuries prior to the birth of Christ to a half-century after his death.
So much happened in such a short amount of time such that Jenkins refers to it as a crucible in which different world faiths were shaped.

Continue reading “Scholar explores era, events that help shape modern religions in ‘Crucible of Faith’”

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.

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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”

Justice A. H. Ellett and the origin of a Mormon joke

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.  Continue reading “Justice A. H. Ellett and the origin of a Mormon joke”