Mormon scholars ‘shoot for the top’ in new Oxford publication that shares 13 essays in historical context

SALT LAKE CITY — From the gold plates and the Book of Mormon to the Nauvoo Female Relief Society Leadership and Minute Book to several of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s journals and letters, the collection of 13 essays in “Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources” (Oxford University Press, $74, 448 pages) utilizes insights from the Joseph Smith Papers and a focus on historical context to more fully understand foundational texts of Mormonism.

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The Joseph Smith Papers: The First 10 Years

The Joseph Smith Papers recently published its 17th volume associated with the life and works of Joseph Smith. The project, which began with the work of a single individual, has grown in scope and influence over its first decade.

Along the way, the project has changed in numerous ways, overcome challenges, garnered unprecedented popularity, secured academic prestige, and set the stage for a new era of Mormon history.

Joseph Smith Papers Release Party (Nov. 2008). Elder Russell M. Nelson was one of the Quorum of the Twelve advisers for the Church History Department at the time; Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy was Church Historian. Photo provided by Sharalyn Howcroft

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10 questions with John Gee

*Updated: Feb. 2, 2018

In January 2018, I had the privilege to interview John Gee, author of “An Introduction to the Book of Abraham.

Gee is perhaps today’s most well-known Mormon Egyptologist and has been gracious enough to sit down for an interview to share his thoughts and experiences about the intersections of faith and scholarship.

John Gee, courtesy of BYU Religious Studies Center

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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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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”