Blog Archives

Agency and the Plan of Salvation

November 16, 2009
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Agency and the Plan of Salvation

Before the world was, so say the prophets and prophetesses, our spirits dwelt in a heavenly sphere. As the world was to be made, the two eldest spirits came before heaven’s host assembled and presented two grand plans for our future mortality. The vision of the first was one of unity, a chorus of souls bringing glory to God through perfect obedience, from which there could be no deviation of individual will. By contrast, the vision of the second appeared to be cacophony. Mortal souls, empowered by agency, would be free to act, in turns, more righteously, and less. But…

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Your posterity shall “avenge the blood of the Prophets and Patriarchs” with the help of savage Indian warriors

June 13, 2008
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I’ve finally finished my review of Michael Marquardt’s Early Patriarchal Blessings volume for the next JWHA Journal. This fascinating new resource is a compilation of patriarchal blessings given by Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, and William Smith. I’ve posted previously about how Joseph Sr.’s blessings illustrate his continuing preoccupation with buried treasure and spiritual gifts that we today would consider magical.

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The Next MHA

May 31, 2008
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The Next MHA

A number of the bloggernacle’s luminaries descended on the party town of Sacramento, California, last weekend for the 2008 conference of the Mormon History Association (MHA)—a theme many have blogged about. If you missed all the fun, there’s no reason to be bitter because there’s always next year! And if you thought they couldn’t top Sacramento, hold onto your stove-pipe hats…next year, MHA’s going to Springfield…(wait for it)…Illinois!

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Laymen = Clergy: The Genius of Mormonism?

April 22, 2008
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Laymen = Clergy: The Genius of Mormonism?

When the Church of Christ was organized on April 6, 1830, none of its members were professional clergy, but all its adult male members were endowed with “priesthood.” For millennia, Christians had wrestled with defining the roles of lay people and the clergy in expressing piety. If the sacraments were the preserve of the clergy, how should pious lay people channel their devotion to God? The Mormon answer to this question would be straightforward: in the restored church, laymen were the clergy.

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The Greek and Roman Testaments: A Scriptural Analogy

April 18, 2008
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The Greek and Roman Testaments:  A Scriptural Analogy

One of the interesting panel discussions at last weekend’s Restoration Studies Symposium was entitled “The Future Status and Use of the Book of Mormon in the Community of Christ.” The essential question raised is: if you aren’t sure (or don’t believe) that the Book of Mormon is a literal history, do you have to throw the book out with the bath water? (Community of Christ leaders apparently don’t think you have to…) This discussion got me to thinking about scriptures in general and I came up with an analogy that I wanted to bounce off folks. I think that the…

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Deep in the Heart of Mormondom

April 3, 2008
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Deep in the Heart of Mormondom

Outside of my own library and the virtual community I’m connected to through the internet, Mormondom has very little impact on my immediate environment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The LDS Institute has a prominent place next to the university, but the LDS chapel is across the river in a part of town we rarely visit. The Community of Christ chapel is in the Old West Side historic district across the street from the home of our closest friends and there’s a Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite) branch out past Target. Once every six months or so we have a missionary…

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What If They’d Put Nauvoo in Iowa?

March 25, 2008
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What If They’d Put Nauvoo in Iowa?

Nauvoo was a mistake. At the close of the Missouri Mormon War in the winter of 1838-39, the Saints crossed the icy Mississippi. The people of Quincy, Illinois, were aghast at their condition and opened their hearts and their homes to the refugees. A new gathering place needed to be planted and the church soon found a hopeful location upriver from Quincy — approximately at the border between Illinois, Missouri and the Iowa Territory.

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Mark Your Calendars — 2 Upcoming Conferences IRL

March 18, 2008
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Meeting together in person to exchange ideas, you ask? Haven’t you heard of the “internets” John Hamer? Hasn’t the awesome nature of the MormonMatters Blog made attending a Mormon studies conference IRL (in real life) as obsolete as reading a printed book?! As incredible as online connections can be, you can’t imagine the fun you’re missing at a real life Mormon studies conference until you’ve been to one in person. I went to my first Mormon History Association conference in May of 2003 and I got hooked. Like the guy in the old Gillette commercials, “I love these things so…

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What Comes Next for the FLDS Church?

March 11, 2008
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What Comes Next for the FLDS Church?

Since news first broke that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or FLDS church) was building a new Zionic city in western Texas, I’ve been excited to watch history unfold (and perhaps repeat?) At first there was little more on the site than three large dormitories masquerading as “hunting lodges.” However, it didn’t take long before aerial photos began to show an expanding grid of roads. The grid reminded me instantly of Joseph Smith’s “Plat of Zion,” after which so many 19th-century Mormon towns were patterned.

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Clinton Comes to Kirtland

March 3, 2008
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Clinton Comes to Kirtland

I was in the offices of the new Kirtland Temple Visitor Center last Thursday when the call came through. According to the mayor’s office, Bill Clinton was coming to Kirtland on Saturday — to hold a rally and to tour the Temple. This would make Clinton the first US President to tour the Temple since James Garfield. The Temple staffmembers were excited, but skeptical. If Clinton were coming, wouldn’t they have heard from the secret service directly?

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A Veil Runs Through It: A Mormon Cosmogony

February 24, 2008
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A Veil Runs Through It: A Mormon Cosmogony

The Earth we perceive with our physical eyes is billions of years in age. Life began to inhabit this sphere eons ago and evolved to fill the world through a process of natural selection. Several millions of years ago the ancestors of humankind diverged from our nearest surviving cousins and our basic physical form was achieved perhaps 200,000 years ago. Unlike some of their religious contemporaries, early Mormons did not reject or fear science; they embraced it. Their cosmology (view of the universe) expanded the Biblical scope of creation to include souls on worlds without number. Their cosmogony (explanation for…

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Lost Hemisphere: A Traditional Book of Mormon Geography

February 18, 2008
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Lost Hemisphere: A Traditional Book of Mormon Geography

When I was 6 and my sisters were 5 and 3, we read the Book of Mormon with my parents as a family. I was already very geographically minded and the book cries out for a map. So make a map we did.

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The First Black Apostle of the Restoration: A Black History Month Story

February 14, 2008
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I think we’ve now achieved consensus in the United States that without regard to race, everyone should have an equal opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A century ago, however, our ancestors and the country fell far short of achieving that ideal. 1910 was in the middle of a particularly poor era. In the South, reconstruction had been abandoned and the policies of segregration and disenfranchisement of blacks had been established. The first great wave of black migration from the South to the North had begun. In the North, African Americans found industrial jobs, but they…

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Can Mormons Be Savvy Voters?

February 9, 2008
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There’s a lot of talk in the media and across the ’nacle to the effect that Romney’s Mormon identity was the critical factor that torpedoed his candidacy. The argument is that a large percentage of Republican primary voters have anti-Mormon sentiments that kept them from supporting the candidate who, by the numbers, shared all the values positions that mattered to them most. The comparison has specifically been drawn with Log Cabin Republicans: Are Mormons a second group in the GOP’s big tent that find themselves despised by their fellow Republicans? If that’s where Mormons find themselves, we should ask:  What…

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Breaking News: Romney Dropping Out

February 7, 2008
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The wires are alive with the story that Romney is dropping out of the race. More as the story develops. See Breitbart, TIME and CNN for the story.  Romney is quoted saying: This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters … many of you right here in this room … have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming president. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love…

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9 Mormons Who Ran for President

February 5, 2008
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9 Mormons Who Ran for President

During this campaign season I’ve been helping Newell Bringhurst and Craig Foster edit their forthcoming book, The Mormon Quest for the Presidency. The book tells the fascinating story of 9 Mormons who ran for president prior to Mitt Romney’s bid and I thought I’d briefly share their stories while Mitt’s fate is being decided today… 1844 Joseph Smith Jr. (no party) — In an era when the separation of church and state were still absolute, Smith was the first clergyman to run for president. As such, he did not emphasize his role as a prophet or as president of the Mormon…

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The Power to Move Mountains and More!

February 2, 2008
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I’ve been reading through a new compilation of early patriarchal blessings, given by the first Mormon Presiding Patriarchs: Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith and William Smith. These revelations can be mined for any number of treasures — enriching our understanding of the expectations and beliefs of our early Mormon ancestors. The early Latter Day Saints believed that Christ would return in their lifetimes to usher in the Millennium, so I was not surprised at all to see that so many of the blessings included the promise that the recipient would live to see that day. For example, Joseph Sr. blessed…

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LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints

January 27, 2008
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My uncle emailed me the other day. The bishop in his ward gave a talk about the Kirtland Temple and explained how the LDS church donated $100,000.00 per year to the Community of Christ for its upkeep. My uncle wanted to know, “is that true?” I knew it wasn’t. My work with the John Whitmer Historical Association for the last few years has allowed me to form close connections with a number of Community of Christ leaders. But since this had been preached from the pulpit as a fact, I wanted to respond with definitive facts. So I talked to…

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Why I Voted for Mitt in Today’s Michigan Primary

January 15, 2008
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Why I Voted for Mitt in Today’s Michigan Primary

I just got back from my neighborhood polling place, where I voted for Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary. Let me tell you why… Mitt Romney is a terribly weak candidate. He comes off as a phony, primarily because he is a phony. The charge of being a “flip-flopper” has stuck to him (because it’s true) and Romney’s counter message — that he’s legitimately changed his mind and become a true believer in regressionism — has gone no where because it’s not genuine. Ultimately, even if Romney eventually is the last man standing in the Republican primary season and becomes…

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Planet Kolob to Mormons: It’s not our weird beliefs, it’s our credibility

January 10, 2008
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We know there’s a problem. Here’s how the bulk of us as Mormons see the problem: SYMPTOMS: Americans have an anti-Mormon bias which manifests itself on the right with Evangelicals who call Mormonism “non-Christian” (and who cost Mitt Romney the Iowa Republican Caucus) and on the left with secularists and atheists decrying Mormonism’s foundational stories as an obvious “fraud.” DIAGNOSIS: Mormons are “persecuted” by non-Mormons for their “weird” beliefs. RECOMMENDED TREATMENT: De-emphasize (or eliminate) weird beliefs. Explain Mormonism using highly-nuanced language, which we (as Mormons) believe will satisfy non-Mormon ears (“milk before meat”). We keep going back to the doctor…

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