Author: Chad Nielsen

Chad’s three great intellectual passions in life are science, history/religious studies, and music. He has pursued a career in biotechnology, but maintains an active interest in both of his other passions on the side. Chad is a four-time winning contestant in the Arrington Writing Award competition held at Utah State University for his essays on Mormon history and has presented at the Logan Institute of Religion scholar’s forum and the annual meeting of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology. He is a faithful Latter-day Saint who has served in a variety of music, teaching, and clerical callings at his church as well as in the music ministry of a Presbyterian church. Currently he is serving as a music missionary as a member of the Bells on Temple Square.

Michael Austin on the Book of Mormon

A fascinating read that was recently published is Michael Austin’s The Testimony of Two Nations. I’ve already done a review of the book, but wanted to highlight a recent interview that Michael Austin did at the Latter-day history blog From the Desk that shared some interesting insights from the book. What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

You Might Be a Pharisee if…

The Pharisees get a bad reputation from their portrayal in the gospels, but it probably isn’t deserved. Jewish scholar Amy-Jill Levine recently discussed why that is likely to be the case that we are guilty of misunderstanding the Pharisees in a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a copost to that interview. To start, Amy-Jill Levine shared some information about who the Pharisees were: In much of the Christian imagination, beginning with the Gospels, the Pharisees (with a few notable exceptions) represent hypocrisy, misogynism, elitism, xenophobia, the letter of the law rather than on the Spirit, and generally everything that Christians, and by extension, everyone, does not like. Conversely, Jews have, since the Middle Ages, recognized the Pharisees as the predecessors of Rabbinic Judaism: The Pharisees encouraged the Jewish people to increase the sanctity of their lives and fully to be a “priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Even within the New Testament, however, the picture is complicated: The Gospels show them in synagogues, as hosting Jesus at dinner, and as teaching the people. When Matthew states that the Pharisees “cross sea and land to make a single proselyte” (23:15), the impression is not one of separation but of active engagement with fellow Jews to help them better to follow Torah. Josephus also talks about the popularity of the Pharisees among the masses despite not being a fan. (Josephus…

Joseph Spencer on Bruce R. McConkie’s Legacy

Long-time followers of my blog posts (if any exist) are likely aware that I have a complicated relationship with Elder Bruce R. McConkie. He was hugely influential to me in my teenage years and early twenties before my own views of Latter-day Saint theology began to conflict with his in a few very notable ways. I still have a large amount of respect for him, both for his role as an apostle and his intellectual efforts to create a systematic theology, but I also find that his authoritarianism and some of his views rub me wrong. I don’t seem to be alone in this wrestle, however, as there seems to be a large segment of Latter-day Saints who have downplayed McConkie’s contributions, even while other Latter-day Saints tend to see his work very favorably (hello there, Dennis Horne!). Joseph Spencer has recently offered a reassessment of Bruce R. McConkie in an interview on the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk that has led me to ponder more on Elder McConkie’s legacy. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

Theology in Alma

Just in time for us to study Alma in “Come, Follow Me,” the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk published an interview with Kylie Nielson Turley about theology in Alma. Kylie Nielson Turley wrote the Maxwell Institute’s brief theological introduction to the first half of the Book of Alma and has a lot of insights to share from her time researching and studying about Alma. What follows here is a copost to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations

I don’t think it’s a secret that I have an ongoing fascination with the Doctrine and Covenants. I am, after all, publishing a book about it this winter and (as my Mexican Mission Hymns project is coming to a close), I’m beginning work on an annotated edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. But that fascination extends beyond the Doctrine and Covenants to include other documents that are similar to those found within. Thus, I’m excited to note that BYU and Deseret Book recently published a new collection of Joseph Smith’s non-canonical revelations. And the authors recently shared some information about their work on Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a copost to the full discussion.

Doxologías

Doxologías is an expanded text based on “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”, but it was eventually phased out in favor of the latter by the time that the 1942 hymnal was published.

One Day More

Hymns—for Home and Church will be getting its first preview tomorrow! Back at the start of April, the Church announced that “12 hymns of the new ‘Hymns—for Home and Church’ will be available on May 30, 2024.” We already know that “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” will be among those (that was explicitly stated in the April announcement and has been shown in footage related to the release), but we aren’t sure what the other ones are yet. After this first release, there will be “new batches coming every few months.”

“Mensaje de paz”

“Mensaje de paz” by Joel Morales is notable as being the song that was sung when Elder Melvin J. Ballard and then-ambassador J. Reuben Clark, Jr. visited with the Latter-day Saints in Mexico in 1932. Morales is also the author of “La Proclamación” and “Final.”

Temples in the Tops of the Mountains

Temples in the Tops of the Mountains: Sacred Houses of the Lord in Utah by Richard O. Cowan and Clinton D. Christensen (BYU RSC and Deseret Book Company, 2023) helped me solve a long-time mystery about my life. You see, when I was six years old, I went to the Vernal, Utah Temple open house. For some reason, I walked away believing that there was only one temple baptismal font for the whole church that they just moved between temples. I even told my Primary that is what I learned at the open house when they asked me about it. Obviously, that’s not the case—each temple has its own baptismal font (and the book also informed me that there are some temples that will soon have two baptismal fonts)—but I have always wondered what led me to that conclusion. 

Theology in Mosiah

One of my favorite sets of publications in recent years are the Brief theological introductions to the Book of Mormon. James E. Faulconer’s excellent contribution to the series is the volume focused on the Book of Mosiah. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Faulconer shared some of his insights related to this book. What follows here is a copost to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

Septuagint

When Jesus and the early Christians talked about the scriptures, they were using a version that is different from the manuscript basis of most English translations, including the King James Version that is so often used in Latter-day Saint circles. In a Hellenistic world, they relied on the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Tanakh (Old Testament). In a recent post at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Philip Jenkins (professor of history at Baylor University) discussed more about the Septuagint. What follows here is a copost (a shorter post with some commentary).

On Willard Richards

I’ve written previously about the reality that many of the counselors in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a huge impact on the Church, but they may not always be remembered by the general membership after a generation or two. I made that remark specifically with George Q. Cannon in mind, but Willard Richards is another example that was recently explored in an interview with Alex Smith at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Thoughts on David A. Bednar

I recently worked on reviewing the addresses of Elder David A. Bednar to put together a David A. Bednar quotes page over at From the Desk. As I worked on it, I noticed some interesting patterns and other observations that I thought I would share. These include a standardized structure he seems to follow, some core concepts that he reiterates over and over, and his sources.

“La Ofrenda”

“La Ofrenda” is a sacrament hymn written by José V. Estrada G. It is possible that it was based on “Venid Hermanos En La Fe” by Edmund Richardson or drew inspiration from similar places. It is one of the hymns that was only published in the 1912 edition of the Mexican mission hymnals.

The Copper Scrolls

One of the more interesting finds among the dead sea scrolls is a text that was written onto copper rather than papyrus of animal skin. It’s a unique find, and has become an area of interest for the noted scholar George J. Brooke, who recently spoke with the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk about the copper scrolls. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview, covering some of what these copper scrolls are.

“Venid Hermanos En La Fe”

“Venid Hermanos En La Fe” is another example of the prolific hymn writer Edmund Richardson. It bears some notable resemblances to “La Ofrenda,” another sacrament hymn written by José V. Estrada G., though the Richardson text was written first.

“La Voz de Jesucristo”

As mentioned previously, Edmund Richardson seems to have had a particular interest in linking indigenous Mexican peoples to the Book of Mormon narrative and “La Voz de Jesucristo” is the third example of this. For some relevant historical analysis, see the following posts:

¡Oh gente afligida!

Edmund Richardson seems to have had a particular interest in linking indigenous Mexican peoples to the Book of Mormon narrative. In many ways, however, his approach was a colonizing narrative in which the indigenous peoples were ignorant, benighted peoples in need of civilizing through the efforts of Euro-American Latter-day Saints. “¡Oh gente afligida!” is just one example of Richardson’s poetry on the subject, with “La Obra Ya Empieza” and “La Voz de Jesucristo” being two other examples. For some relevant historical analysis, see the following posts:

Golden Plates

Richard Lyman Bushman’s most recent book focuses on presenting a cultural history of the gold plates. I’ve reviewed Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates in the past, but Dr. Bushman did an interview that was recently published on the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk that had some interesting tidbits. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Joseph White Musser

Mormon Fundamentalism is a well known collective term for groups of Latter-day Saints who attempt to replicate the doctrines and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840 – 1890 era, most notably plural marriage. Less well-known, perhaps, are the figures who initially organized and developed the Fundamentalist Mormon movement, such as Joseph White Musser. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Cristina Rosetti discussed some of who Joseph Musser was and what his lasting legacies have been. What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

The Heart of the Matter: A Review

The Heart of the Matter, by President Russell M. Nelson, is a book to live by. It serves as a collection and presentation of his core messages as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and provides guidance for both belief and living as a member of that church.

The House of the Lord in Kirtland

The House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio has been a major topic in the news as of late, thanks to the recent transfer of ownership between Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the very same day that the transfer was announced, the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk shared a post discussing the history of the Kirtland Temple. What follows here is a co-post to that discussion.

Atonement in the Book of Mormon

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is central to our faith and also central to the message of the Book of Mormon. What exactly, however, does the Book of Mormon say about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Nick Frederick discussed Atonement in the Book of Mormon. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

The Purifying Power of Gethsemane

As we are in Easter season, it is appropriate to ponder on the life, teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. One of the best talks given by Latter-day Saint leaders on the subject is “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”, Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s final testimony. The talk was discussed in a recent post at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a copost to the full discussion.

The White Horse Prophecy

There are a few high-profile apocalyptic prophecies in Latter-day Saint history that have pretty shaky provenances. Perhaps foremost among them is the White Horse Prophecy. This complicated document was recently discussed at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full discussion.

Sins of Christendom: A Review

Anti-Mormon literature is always a touchy subject, but Sins of Christendom: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Evangelicalism by Nathaniel Wiewora handles it deftly, putting it in a broader context of change and debate within Evangelical Christianity. 

American Zion: A Review

If I were to ever write a single-volume history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I hope that it would turn out like Benjamin E. Park’s American Zion: A New History of Mormonism (Liveright, 2024). It is a very nuanced, insightful, and well-written take on Latter-day Saint history in the United States. It takes into account viewpoints from many different groups that have been a part of the Latter-day Saint movement over the years or who have split from the Church into their own faith communities. American Zion also builds upon a lot of important research that has happened since Matthew Bowman published The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith in 2012 (the previous reigning academic history of the Church). Five stars out of five, as far as I’m concerned.