“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.
A companion article to this review will appear shortly in the Deseret News under the title, “Five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty.”
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.
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.
“An Introduction to the Book of Abraham” is precisely that – an introduction of the issues most important to both believers and scholars. The book is quite matter-of-fact in its tone, although there is the sense of subtle chastisement for both believers and scholars who approach the book with bias and extremism. As a result, the reader never feels compelled to come down on either side of any issue. Instead, the book serves quite nicely as an informative introduction regardless of any preconceived opinions.
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.
The book is rather short, but not necessary entirely conducive to concise and understandable descriptions of common questions about the topic. In an effort to secure quotes about popular questions that could easily fit within the narrative tone of the article, I contacted the authors for an interview.
Frederick consulted with Mackay and responded to the three questions I posed on November 05, 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.