Author: Kent Larsen

Literary BMGD #14: Awake! ye Saints of God awake!

Eliza R. Snow

Perhaps the most dramatic incident in gospel doctrine lesson #14 is Enos’ prayer; an example that has no doubt led many LDS Church members to wonder about their persistence and perseverance in prayer. Indeed, Enos’ story of his prayer is generally taken as a lesson in how to pray and what prayer means. It might also be said that Mormonism began with a prayer, and an answer to that prayer that came by way of a vision. That fact, as well as many other examples of prayer, is common in Mormon literature. However, few poems actually discuss the role of prayer or give the kind of lesson that Enos does.

Sunday Morning Session

President Eyring conducted the Sunday morning session, featuring talks by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Sister Julie B. Beck, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and President Thomas S. Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; all other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments and discussion notes at the end of the post in italics are my own editorial comments. Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Teach me to Walk in the Light of His Love President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, on broken relationships and obtaining mercy: “We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous, and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that we have…

Saturday Morning Session

President Uchtdorf conducted the Saturday morning session, featuring talks by President Boyd K Packer, Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, Elder Paul E. Colliger, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Eyring, with brief introductory remarks by President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; all other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments and discussion notes at the end of the post in italics are my own editorial comments.

A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

Yeah Samake

We’re all familiar with unintended consequences. Recent news reports claim that the unintended consequence of last year’s Libyan civil war, which resulted in the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. According to these reports, many of Gaddafi’s trained warriors were ethnic Tuaregs from northern Mali. When they returned after the Libyan war, these fighters joined the long-simmering Tuareg rebellion, which heated up suddenly in January. The result? Last week a group of Malian soldiers staged a coup, ousted the Malian government, and cancelled the forthcoming elections. Yes, the same elections that featured an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake.

All History is Local: A Review of Tiki and Temple by Marjorie Newton [minor update]

Newton__Tiki

Newton, Marjorie. Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958. Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012. Paperback. 343 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58958-1210. $ 29.95. Former Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, “Tip” O’Neill, is well known for saying All politics is local. By that he meant that voters choose who they support based on how it effects them locally, instead of on major national ideological issues. While how true this is may be debatable (don’t here, its off topic), I think it extends to history also. All history is local.

Call for Papers: IV Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference

IV Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference Annual Conference of the ABEM (Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons) Theme “The Relationship between Headquarters and Periphery in the LDS Church” January 19, 2013 São Paulo, Brazil   Call for Papers In 1830, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in Manchester, New York State, when the movement had only three distinct congregations: one in Manchester / Palmyra, another in South Bainbridge (NY) and third in Harmony (PA). In just over a year, Smith consolidated the three congregations in the area of a fourth and new congregation, directing all his followers to move to Kirtland, Ohio. A few years more and Smith founded another congregation in Missouri, and began to gather new converts to both of these two sites. Adverse events forced them to abandon Ohio, and then Missouri, and Smith founded a new city to which all Mormons would migrate, Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1847, after the murder of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young Saints relocated…

Literary BMGD #13: Pratt’s Historical Sketch

While eclipsed by the Iron Rod imagery in Nephi, the Olive Tree imagery in Jacob is still well-known and referred to frequently. Like so much of Mormon theology, it attempts to give an explanation for the whole swath of human history and show that we are in the last days. Since both images are unique to the Book of Mormon, they are only found in Mormon sources. The earliest use of the Olive Tree imagery in literature is from Parley P. Pratt, who included it in his poem, Historical Sketch from the Creation to the Present Day. This poem was included in The Millennium, the first published book of Mormon poetry, which Pratt published in 1835. Here’s what Pratt wrote: Historical Sketch from the Creation to the Present Day, Part 3 by Parley P. Pratt Go ye and preach in all the world. Baptizing in my name, He that believes and is baptized Salvation shall obtain. Then rising from Mount…

Don’t forget the theological issue in posthumous baptisms

It occurred to me the other day when I read Givens’ beautiful description of why we perform ordinances for the dead that our response to some critics of the practice of posthumous baptism may be too defensive. In response to those who believe that baptism or some other ordinance or event is required to enter God’s Kingdom, shouldn’t we go on the offensive and ask them what they are doing about those who were never baptized? Near as I can tell, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of humans have died without even having heard the gospel of any western religion. If your religion consigns them to hell, what are you doing about it?

Literary BMGD #12: Aristocracy

0---Orson_F._Whitney

A major element of Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 2 is his condemnation of pride and those caught up in their riches. In that sermon, Jacob not only preaches against pride, but argues for equality, saying “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.”(2:17) and adding “one being is as precious in His sight as the other.” While Jacob likely lived too early in Nephite history for inherited classes to develop, still these views seem to clearly argue against classes and social hierarchy.

Literary BMGD #11: Eternity of Matter

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In Nephi’s final writings (2 Ne. 31, discussed in Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine lesson 11) he teaches about the “doctrine of Christ,” focusing on Christ’s baptism and redemption of the world from sin and on urging his readers to “endure to the end.” This doctrine is the heart of the gospel, the key element of the plan of salvation and eternal progress. Which makes the following poem fit well with the lesson. I only wish that the poem also somehow mentioned baptism.

The Bott Gaffe: A Chronology [Updated 6Mar12 9:45p]

Randy Bott

Since Wednesday, when I read the Washington Post article that cited BYU Professor Randy Bott, I have been surprised at two elements of the news and commentary I’ve read about it. First, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the unanimity of the response—no one that I’ve seen has tried to defend the ideas that Bott expressed. Second, I’ve been surprised at the speed of the official response. If it is possible, the response makes the views expressed by Bott seem anachronistic to Mormonism today. And I hope this response will make clear to those who still maintain some version of these racist views that they are no longer tolerated among Mormons.

Literary BMGD #10: An angel came down from the mansions of glory

William Wines Phelps

Perhaps the most common theme in early Mormon poetry is the restoration. But while the Book of Mormon itself prophesies about the restoration (as it does in the 10th Book of Mormon lesson), it wasn’t until this hymn was published in 1833 that Mormon poetry addressed the subject. Of course, soon after the Restoration became a very common theme in Mormon poetry from many authors. William Wines Phelps, the author of this hymn was also one of the first and most prolific of Mormon poets, although unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps never published a volume of his own poetry. He is also unique because he is likely the author of the only poem, outside of scripture, attributed to Joseph Smith (The Vision, a paraphrase of D&C 76). If I recall correctly, he is still the Mormon author with the most hymns in the current hymnal.

Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

Thomas B. Marsh

Scripture is often repeated in scripture, and poets have rarely been shy about re-using lines of poetry, often without attribution. Plagiarism is everywhere, and our view of it as a faux pas is really relatively recent—this view is certainly more recent than the mid 19th century, when Mormon newspapers started churning out poetry and other forms of Mormon literature. The 9th Book of Mormon lesson is also about repeated scripture, specifically Nephi’s use of the early chapters of Isaiah which seem to make up the bulk of 2nd Nephi. Perhaps Nephi served as an example for the poetry I’ve chosen for this lesson.

Enough, already!

Simon Wiesenthal

I was a little annoyed to hear it on the radio again yesterday. The Church was apologizing because apparently over-enthusiastic members had performed temple ordinances for recently-departed Jews, AGAIN! This time the situation was particularly egregious because the Jews involved are the parents of the late Nazi-hunter and war-crimes expert Simon Wiesenthal. Can those who keep submitting these names stop already?

Literary BMGD #8: Twas on that dark, that solemn night

Manchester Hymnal

Active Mormons hear poetry about the atonement each Sunday in the sacrament hymn, so finding a poem to go with Jacob’s discourse on the atonement in 2 Nephi 9 isn’t too much of a burden. The hard part is finding something that isn’t already well known and is unique to Mormonism, which I’ve generally tried to do in this series. There are 28 sacrament hymns in the current hymnal, most of which are probably familiar. However, there have been a number of other sacrament hymns that are no longer in our current hymnal. Most of those are not by Mormons. And, while I have not been able to identify the author of this hymn, I have so far only found it in Mormon hymnals, starting with the Manchester Hymnal put together by Brigham Young, John Taylor and Parley P. Pratt in 1840.

Literary BMGD #7: Joseph, From Out of the Dust

Orson F. Whitney

Lehi’s final counsel in the Book of Mormon is to his son Joseph makes an interesting literary link between Joseph in Egypt, Joseph the son of Lehi and Joseph Smith, Jr. But, LDS authors have largely ignored this link, especially before 1900, when any mention of Joseph was usually a reference to Joseph Smith, Jr. But I did manage to find an exception in Orson F. Whitney’s epic, Elias. As far as I can tell, other than general righteousness, the only real link between these three is that they happen to have the same name. Their histories aren’t really comparable in any way that I can see. Still, Whitney at least mentions the prophecy of Joseph’s name, and connects it to Joseph in Egypt. While perhaps overly turgid in his prose, Whitney is as or more sophisticated in his imagery than any of his poetic Mormon predecessors that I’ve read. To me the oblique references made to biblical, book of…

Conference Report: 3rd Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference

Captain Moroni?

I returned yesterday from attending the 3rd annual conference of the Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (Brazilian Mormon Studies Association) inspired with the fascinating subjects covered during the conference and ready to dive into another year of research in preparation for next year’s conference. In particular, one presentation was groundbreaking, changing the perception of Mormonism in Mexico before WWII.

Literary BMGD #6: Man’s Free Agency

Opposition in All Things by Ben Crowder

One of the fascinating things that happen in Lehi’s fatherly advice to Jacob in 2 Nephi 1 and 2 is that he tries to put together an overall philosophical basis for the gospel. Here the war in Heaven is related to our ability to choose, the fall is related to the atonement, and our choices are related to the very nature of existence, which, Lehi says, requires that there be an “opposition in all things.”

MLB Hall of Fame and Soccer Draft Updates

0---Jack Morris

I’ve been a bit remiss in keeping up with my interest (OK, perhaps mania) with Mormons in sports. Baseball selected the newest members to the Hall of Fame early this month, and both men and women’s soccer have had their drafts, but I’ve missed them both. So, its time to catch up.

Literary BMGD #5: Trials

The story of Lehi’s family and their travels to the promised land perhaps reaches its height in the crisis point during the storm while they are on board the ship they built. The internal divisions within the family have lead to yet another dispute, and the Lord puts them through a trial to help them work it out. In fact, this is just the last of three stories in this lesson, all showing a similar pattern — and  in each case showing faith and diligence (as the lesson describes it), leads to the Lord’s assistance in resolving the trial.

Literary BMGD #4: On the Latter-day Dispensation

From a literary point of view the second part of Nephi’s vision, his vision of the future, is very like an epic. It covers a broad sweep of human history and mentions the actions of a series of heroes and heroic groups who have an impact on the fate of humanity. Unfortunately, the broad nature of this epic vision is difficult to cover in a short form, like a blog post or something you might share in a Gospel Doctrine lesson.

Times and Seasons’ 2011 Mormon of the Year: Jimmer Fredette

Times and Seasons has selected Jimmer Fredette as Mormon of the Year for 2011. James Taft “Jimmer” Fredette began 2011 leading BYU’s basketball team to the NCAA championships, leading many to expect that the team might make the later rounds of the playoffs. While those hopes were unrealized (in part due to the sudden withdrawal of BYU’s next most important player, Brandon Davies), BYU’s performance in the tournament set a high point that hasn’t been rivaled by a BYU team since 1981, and Jimmer earned every major National Player of the Year honor, including the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy. After finishing the season and graduating, Fredette was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, who promptly traded him to the Sacramento Kings as part of a previously arranged deal. Although his first season was cut short by the basketball strike this past year, Fredette played his first game December 17th. He is…

Literary BMGD #3: Hymn of Praise

While perhaps not the most important symbol in the Vision of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8-11), the Iron Rod may be the one that has received the most attention, at least in recent decades[fn1]. But I think I was able to find something that kind of fit with the whole vision instead of just mentioning the Iron Rod. I like this hymn for not just (vaguely perhaps) invoking some of the imagery of the vision, but also for placing an emphasis on the Lord’s role in assisting us.

Literary BMGD #2: The Pilgrims’ Hymn

In looking for a literary work to go with the second Gospel Doctrine lesson this year, I was struck by some of the parallels between what Nephi experiences in the first few chapters in the Book of Mormon and what the early Mormons went through in traveling to Utah. Many of those we call the pioneers left comfortable homes, like Nephi and his family, and traveled to a “promised land” “into the wilderness.” And perhaps half or more of the pioneers also had to travel over an ocean to reach the promised land.

Vote for Mormon of the Year 2011

This post opens the voting for Mormon of the Year. Votes will be taken until midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, January 7th, at which time the voting will close. The voting mechanism will attempt to restrict votes to one per person. The order of the choices is set at random, and is different each time the form is presented. THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!!

Literary BMGD #1: Address to the Book of Mormon

I’m pleased that Julie has begun a series of posts that cover this year’s lessons on the Book of Mormon. With this post I will begin a kind of companion series: Mormon poetry and literary texts that can accompany each week’s lessons. Since Mormon literature often gets short shrift (usually from those who haven’t actually read what they dismiss), I think that connecting this literature to a regular part of our worship may help members become more aware of and familiar with our culture.

An Argument for Huntsman

00-jon-huntsman-jr-1

With the impending vote, most Mormons may assume that Mitt Romney is the clear favorite. He has been the most consistent front runner for the Republican nomination for President this year, and his views may be most consistent with those of most Mormons. So why vote for Jon Huntsman, Jr.…

The Literary, Linguistic and New York City Life of Pratt

0195375734

The first Institute class held in our upper Manhattan apartment in 1988 explored Mormon philosophy and intellectual life. The readings included a 1969 Dialogue article by Leonard Arrington, “The Intellectual Tradition of the Latter-day Saints,” (pdf) which mentioned a questionnaire Arrington had sent to 50 Mormon intellectuals asking them to list the five most eminent intellectuals in Mormon History. I was then surprised to find Parley P. Pratt on that list.