The Bible is “the bedrock of all Christianity” and women play some very key roles in the stories that it shares. Camille Fronk Olson has worked to highlight these female Bible characters as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Olson discussed some of what she has learned about the women of the New Testament through her studies and work in writing Women of the New Testament. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).
Sunday School lessons – Book Reviews – Interviews
Vengeance Is Mine
The story goes that J. Golden Kimball was once preaching to a crowd in the South and became concerned when he noticed that only men were present. As he opened his mouth to talk, however, All at once something came over me and I opened my mouth and said, . . . ‘Gentlemen, you have not come here to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . You have come to find out about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy, and God being my helper I will tell you the truth.’ And I did. I talked to them for one hour. When the meeting was out you could hear a pin drop. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a topic that tends to have that effect, and a long-anticipated book on the topic is about to come out. Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown is an exceptional and highly-recommended book that delves deep into the aftermath of the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. The authors have done a remarkable job in presenting a comprehensive and detailed account of the massacre and its cover-up. The book is a follow-up to the 2008 publication Massacre at Mountain Meadows and takes readers on a journey through the aftermath of the gruesome massacre. It examines the attempts of the local southern Utah leaders to conceal their crime by suppressing witnesses and disseminating lies. Government…
The Mountain Meadows Massacre Aftermath
One of the most significant books in Mormon studies being published this year is Rick Turley and Barbara Jones Brown’s Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath. It’s been years coming, but is worth the wait. I’ll probably publish my own review next week, but wanted to highlight that Turley and Brown recently shared some about the book and the Mountain Meadows Massacre in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).
Rebaptism in the Church
One of the interesting aspects of how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints approaches the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is that it is seen as a renewal of covenants. What may not be as widely known is that the idea of renewing covenants may have originally emerged in the Church in connection with the practice of rebaptism. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog From the Desk, historians Jonathan Stapley and David Grua discussed Latter Day Saint rebaptism. What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).
Voice of the Saints in Mongolia
Voice of the Saints in Mongolia by Po Nien (Felipe) Chou and Petra Chou is an informative account of the establishment and growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mongolia. As the first comprehensive history of the Church in Mongolia, the book breaks historical ground and provides valuable insights into the challenges and blessings of bringing the gospel to a rugged, harsh climate and a people with deeply rooted (non-Christian) beliefs and traditions.
W. Paul Reeve on Race and the Priesthood
The race-based priesthood and temple ban that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had in place from the 1850s until 1978 is a heavy, but important subject to study. I’ve shared a review about W. Paul Reeve’s recently-released Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood where I stated that it was one of “the best and most important entries in a fantastic series”, and I stand by that statement. Recently, W. Paul Reeve shared some of the insights he has gained from his research on the topic of race and the priesthood in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). W. Paul Reeve describes the history of the race-based priesthood and temple ban as a three-stage arc. In the interview he stated that: The book is divided into three phases which lay out the chronological history of the racial priesthood and temple restrictions as I have come to understand them: Phase 1. In phase one there were no restrictions. Priesthood and temples were open to people of all races and ethnicities. In fact the First Presidency published an article in the Nauvoo newspaper in 1840 announcing their intent to welcome “persons of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color” into the temple that they would start to build the following spring. Phase 2. Sadly, that open…
Sink Me, the Prophet’s a Poet
Joseph Smith rarely wrote poetry, but there are a couple notable exceptions.
Susa and Alma’s Divorce
In Saints, volume 2, one of the key players was Susa Young Gates. A prominent daughter of Brigham Young who went on to do a lot of notable activities herself, Susa is a relatively well-known figure in Latter-day Saint history. One aspect of her story that received attention in Saints was Susa Young Gates’ divorce with Alma Dunford. The was an important part of both of their life stories, and an aspect that was the focus of a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk with Lisa Olsen Tait. What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). One of the great difficulties in talking about any divorce is that they affect many parties and involve many different factors. To make matters more difficult in this case, as Lisa Olsen Tait observed, “we have to remember that in those days, divorce was an adversarial process—one party had to file a complaint against the other party establishing grounds for divorce. There was no such thing as ‘no-fault’ divorce.” It can also be difficult to write about situations that lead to divorces when domestic abuse is involved, as was the case for Susa and Alma. People are complicated and have many aspects in their lives to consider, but abuse is also abhorrent and should not be excused. With all of that in mind, Tait wrote that she recently published a study of the…
Ken Adkins and Belle Harris
Belle Harris‘s experience in prison is an interesting story from late nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint history. Part of why it’s fascinating is that she kept a record of her time while she was in prison. Recently, Church historian Ken Adkins talked about the Belle Harris prison journal at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, partly due to the recent online publication of the journal by the Church Historian’s Press. What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). Who exactly was Belle Harris? Ken Adkins explained that: Belle Harris was raised in rural southern Utah. She wasn’t wealthy and didn’t come from a particularly prominent family. But she had ambition, loved to read, and was taught by her family to speak her mind. I tend to think generationally—for better or worse—and I think it is important to note that she is the same generation as Heber J. Grant. They are the first generation of saints to be born in the Utah territory, and they are the last to practice polygamy in the states. Her parents are Joseph F. Smith’s generation, they were born and raised in the faith, but came across the plains as children. So, we are talking about a third-generation Latter-day saint. He added that, at the time: The Edmunds Act was passed in March 1882, and the federal district courts were eager to test it out. Famously, Rudger…
Herod the Great as the Messiah
A repeating theme in Second Temple Judaism is the expectation for a political messiah that would rule Judea. While Christians are aware of this primarily through the expectations that Jesus of Nazareth encountered during his ministry, there are many other people who tried to fulfill that role. Herod the Great may have been one of these people who claimed messiahship. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Jodi Magness discussed Herod the Great. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). First, it is important to note who Herod the Great was. As Jodi Magness explained: King Herod ruled Judea as client king on behalf of Rome from 40 BCE until his death in 4 BCE. He was the son of an Idumaean Jew named Antipater and a Nabataean woman named Cypros. … For most people, Herod is probably most known for the massacre of the innocents described in Matthew 2:16, according to which he ordered all boys under the age of two in and around Bethlehem put to death after being informed that the Messiah had just been born. … Among archaeologists who work in Israel, Herod is known as the greatest builder in the country’s history. So, Herod the Great has a few things for which he is known, even today. And his descendants are also found throughout the New Testament time—such…
The Spencer W. Kimball Journals
President Spencer W. Kimball is well-known for encouraging members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to keep journals. He set an example of doing this, and produced a large journal that was recently made available through the Church History Library digital collections. Recently, Latter-day Saint archivists Jeffrey Anderson and Brandon Metcalf discuss the journals of President Spencer W. Kimball in an interview at the Church history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a copost to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). Wilford Woodruff is probably the other president of the Church who is best known for his prolific journal keeping, and his records provide the major backbone for Church history in the mid-to-late 1800s. It’s possible that Spencer W. Kimball’s could come to serve a similar function for Church history in the mid-1900s. As the interviewees explained, President Kimball’s journals are notable because: First, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as President of the Church, he witnessed and captured key information about the development of the Church as it was happening. Second, he kept a journal. Not everyone does. During his time as a member of the Twelve, he wrote nearly every day. Third, his entries are lengthy, rich, and insightful. His writing style is delightful, and at times, those of us familiar with his conference talks can hear that same unique personal style in his…
Fully Divine and Fully Human
After the death of Jesus Christ, early Christians spent centuries grappling with understanding who he was. The early creeds developed largely as an effort to reach an official consensus on understanding Jesus’s divine and human natures. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the primitive church, early Christianity and the debates they had are still part of our heritage and history. At a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog, From the Desk, Jason Combs discussed some of these early debates and the resulting Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion).
Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood
Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood by W. Paul Reeve is a thought-provoking and insightful book that explores some key aspects of the intersection of race and religion in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To me, this volume is up there with Brittany Chapman Nash’s Let’s Talk About Polygamy as both the best and most important entries in a fantastic series. Reeve, a professor of history at the University of Utah, draws on his extensive research to provide a nuanced and detailed account of the Church’s racial policies and practices from its founding in the early 19th century to the present day.
Who was Mary Magdalene?
Mary Magdalene is a well-known figure in the New Testament whose life has been the subject of speculation and storytelling for much of Christian History. One of the more recent instances of this is The Chosen. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, From the Desk, Bruce Chilton discussed Mary Magdalene, offering insight into who she was, who she isn’t, and how she has been portrayed over time. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).
Carol Madsen on Emmeline B. Wells
Emmeline B. Wells is a powerful figure in Latter-day Saint history. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Carol Cornwall Madsen discussed some of why that is so. What follows here is a copost to the interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion). To set the stage, though, let’s look at an earlier interview about the Emmeline B. Wells diaries where Cherry Silver described who Emmeline B. Wells was: Emmeline B. Wells was the most renowned Latter-day Saint woman of her generation. She was celebrated as an editor, public speaker, community activist, and defender of her faith. Born in Massachusetts in 1828, she emigrated first to Nauvoo and then from Winter Quarters to Utah in 1848. She edited the Woman’s Exponent from 1877 to 1914, was involved in local politics, and served on the boards of national women’s organizations. She led the Relief Society as its fifth general president between 1910 and 1921 and died in Salt Lake City in April 1921. Emmeline was married three times and had six children. A son with James Harris died in infancy in Nauvoo. Two daughters with Newel K. Whitney were born in Salt Lake City and became civic leaders. Of her three daughters with Daniel H. Wells, two died of illness as young adults. The third, Annie Wells Cannon, had twelve children and became a state legislator, stake Relief Society president, and member of…
The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints, Revised Edition
Thomas Wayment’s The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints, Revised Edition is an exceptional resource for anyone, and particularly a Latter-day Saint, interested in studying the New Testament from a fresh and modern perspective through its clear and readable translation, insightful commentary, and expanded introductory material. One of the standout features of this book is its readability. The translation is clear, easy to understand, and faithful to the original text. The text flows well and is not bogged down by archaic language or convoluted syntax, making it more accessible than, say, a 400-year old translation. In many ways, I also found it more accessible than the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) (my usual go-to translation). Additionally, the commentary in the footnotes is insightful and enriching. Wayment provides helpful background information on cultural and historical contexts, as well as offering his own interpretations of certain passages. The footnotes are well-researched and thought-provoking, providing a deeper understanding of the text without being overly wordy or academic. The revised edition differs from the original in several ways. First, the revised edition includes upwards of two hundred updates and corrections to both the translation and the footnotes, taking into account recent scholarship to improve the accuracy of the translation. Second, the revised edition features expanded introductory material that includes discussions of the Joseph Smith Translation and on reading scripture, which were both interesting and helpful. Finally, the appendices detailing the instances in which…
Thomas Wayment on New Testament Canonization
An interesting point made by the late Eastern Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware is that the books that were selected to be contained in the Bible are a tradition that developed within and passed on by the Proto-Orthodox Church. The process by which that tradition solidified into official canon was a gradual (and messy) one. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, biblical scholar and BYU professor Thomas Wayment discussed that process of canonization of the New Testament (in connection with a chapter in Ancient Christians: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints). What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). Now, a big part of the discussion revolves around the fact that it took several centuries to formally establish the Christian canon. As he states in the interview: One of the key points of conversation about the canon is the idea that it took several centuries for the church to firmly establish its own textual canon. The process was messy in many ways, and as one might expect, problematic statements were made about specific scriptural texts. It seems to me that much of the interest in this topic is to destabilize the notion of a binding scriptural canon because the process itself was not direct. Another problem in the conversation is that the duration of the conversation seems to give the impression that Christians were widely…
Patriarchal Blessings as Revelations and Catalysts of Revelation
Patriarchal blessings have been an ongoing part of the Latter-day Saint tradition from very early on. As something that many Latter-day Saints experience, it’s an area that many people have questions. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog From the Desk, Latter-day Saint historian Keith Erekson discussed some of the insights about patriarchal blessings he had in connection with his book Making Sense of Your Patriarchal Blessing. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion). When I first studied the Church History in the Fulness of Times manual that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published, its description of how the practice of patriarchal blessings struck me as a statement about how powerful these patriarchal blessing documents are. As is written in the manual: The calling of Patriarch to the Church was one of Joseph Smith’s responsibilities. Frequently individuals wanted him personally to ask the Lord for a revelation for them, but as the Church grew, this became impractical. On 18 December 1833, while giving blessings to his family, the Prophet was inspired to call and ordain his father as the first Patriarch to the Church. From that time until his death in 1840, Joseph Smith, Sr., traveled among the branches, holding special blessing meetings where he gave many faithful Saints their patriarchal blessings. In addition to providing revelation to individuals, the patriarchal…
My Lord, He Calls Me
To say that My Lord, He Calls Me: Stories of Faith by Black American Latter-day Saints, ed. Alice Faulkner Burch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022) is an important collection would be an understatement. While small (clocking in at 225 pages), the volume contains around 35 chapters written by Black American Latter-day Saints, including conversion stories, testimonies, and other experiences and thoughts. The contributors cover a range of ages and time periods, including the words of 19th century Latter-day Saints–like Jane Elizabeth Manning James or Samuel Davidson Chambers–to contemporary teenagers in the Church. In addition, several poems are also included that are quite powerful and touching. The book was compiled with several reasons in mind. As explained in the introduction: “It is meant to strengthen and aid the Black American Latter-day Saint community as well as educate other members of the Church who want to better understand the experiences of Black American Latter-day Saints…. Ultimately, the hope of this book is to help all Church members become united through better understanding or another.” As part of opening a view into the experiences of Black American Latter-day Saints, the book does not shy away from discussing racism. The intro begins by noting that the experiences shared in the book “offer sacred truths in maintaining faith while overcoming challenges, including racism,” among other things. Individuals share experiences where they have experienced racism. For example, Hayle and Millie Fletcher write that: “Since…
The Ordeal of Dr. John Milton Bernhisel
I’ve talked before about how if we knew and experienced the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for ourselves, we might be surprised by who were the most influential members in shaping the developing Church. Dr. John Milton Bernhisel is another of those individuals who had a surprisingly large impact compared to how often we talk about him today. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Bruce W. Worthen–author of Mormon Envoy: The Diplomatic Legacy of Dr. John Milton Bernhisel (University of Illinois Press, 2023)–shared insights on this important character from early Latter-day Saint history. What follows here is a copost to the full interview. Bruce Worthen explained some of why John Bernhisel was so important. Dr. John Milton Bernhisel was a man whose fingerprints are all over early Latter-day Saint history. He was a rare upper-class convert to the faith who negotiated between America’s political leaders and the angry Latter-day Saints residing on the western frontier. From his unsuccessful attempts to save the life of Joseph Smith to his success in securing a presidential pardon for Brigham Young, Bernhisel was in the middle of the Latter-day Saint conflict. As a representative of the Latter-day Saints in Washington, Bernhisel negotiated the boundaries of Latter-day Saint theopolitical ambitions with some of nineteenth-century America’s most influential political figures, including Henry Clay, Thomas Benton, Stephen A. Douglas, Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan, and Abraham…