Category: Latter-day Saint Thought

Doctrine – Theology – Philosophy

Stay Thou Nearby: A Review

The 1852–1978 priesthood and temple ban on Blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those affected most directly by it. I have been grateful, however, for efforts in the Church to address the issue more openly in recent years, including several publications from Deseret Book relating to the subject. These include both My Lord, He Calls Me and Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood, with the most recent contribution to the subject from Deseret Book being Stay Thou Nearby: Reflections on the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood. 

George Q. Cannon was far too Helpful and Talented

It is not an uncommon experience in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve other than the president of the Church to functionally run the Church or to have a huge impact on the Church. In the twentieth century, for example, J. Reuben Clark, Harold B. Lee, and Gordon B. Hinckley played that role when the older members of the First Presidency were in poor health. In the nineteenth century, the most prominent example is George Q. Cannon. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Kenneth L. Cannon spoke about his George Q. Cannon biography and why George is so important. What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator, a Review

I have to say that I’m a fan of the trend towards short, accessible biographies of notable figures in Latter-day Saint history. Between University of Illinois Press’s “Introductions to Mormon Thought” series and Signature Books’s “Brief Biography,” there is a lot of excellent work being published. One of the most recent, Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator by George B. Handley (University of Illinois Press, 2023), is a stellar addition to the library of any Latter-day Saint.

Premortal Existence, Foreordination, and Abraham

The Book of Abraham, chapter 3 is, in many ways, the most important foundational text for the Latter-day Saint concept of a premortal existence. In it, Abraham is shown his own foreordination to be a leader in God’s work as well as the events of the War in Heaven. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, From the Desk, Stephen Smoot discussed the foreordination of Abraham. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Thomas Wayment on the KJV

Why do Latter-day Saints regard the King James Version as the official English translation of the Bible for the Church? It’s a question that has been asked many times by different people, especially since there are translations in modern English that have a better textual basis in Greek manuscripts. In a recent co-post at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Thomas Wayment discussed why Latter-day Saints use the King James Version (KJV). What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

Diné dóó Gáamalii: Navajo Latter-day Saint Experiences in the Twentieth Century: A Review

Alicia Harris—an Assistant Professor of Native American Art History at the University of Oklahoma—wrote that “If the LDS Church really can work for all peoples, we need to more attentively listen, hear, and be represented by a much greater variety of voices. We must more actively prepare a place for dual identities to be touched and nurtured in the culture of the gospel.” Farina King’s Diné dóó Gáamalii: Navajo Latter-day Saint Experiences in the Twentieth Century (University Press of Kansas, 2023) provides a great opportunity to do just that by listening to the experiences of the Diné dóó Gáamalii (Navajo Latter-day Saints).

Temple Architectural Heritages: Mexico City

The Mexico City temple is unique architecturally in that it draws on the Mayan Revival Style. From Wikipedia “Though the name of the style refers specifically to the Maya civilization of southern Mexico and Central America, in practice, this revivalist style frequently blends Maya architectural and artistic motifs ‘playful pilferings of the architectural and decorative elements’ with those of other Mesoamerican cultures, particularly the Central Mexican Aztec architecture styling from the pre-contact period as exhibited by the Mexica and other Nahua groups. Although there were mutual influences between these original and otherwise distinct and richly varied pre-Columbian artistic traditions, the syncretism of these modern reproductions is often an ahistorical one.” Evidently Frank Lloyd Wright, among others, drew on this style, but frankly when presented with examples of Mayan Revival Style I can’t really draw much of a common thread between them (probably due to my own lack of artistic sense), so to be more direct I just asked GPT-4 to list me some examples of Mesoamerican architecture that look like the building in the picture. It just give me the greatest hits of Mesoamerican architecture in general, but still the comparisons are elucidating. The LDS temple in the image is the Mexico City Mexico Temple, and it has been mentioned that its design is influenced by ancient Mesoamerican architecture. Here are a few Mesoamerican structures that share similarities with the architectural style of the Mexico City Mexico Temple: Teotihuacan: The ancient…

A Catholic-to-LDS Dictionary

Pope Francis recently dismissed a US bishop from his post. This is a pretty big deal in the Catholic world, but in the Latter-day Saint chatter I’ve been privy to there is some confusion about why this should be newsworthy. After all, if an area authority 70 was openly snarking about President Nelson to the press, nobody would or should be surprised if he was released.  However, in my experience there is a tendency among members to draw simple one-to-one analogies between us and Catholics. After all, we are both hierarchical, centralized faiths that believe in an ordained priesthood. However, such one-to-one equivalences have a tendency to gloss over fairly significant distinctions.  Therefore, here I am providing a Catholic-LDS institutional dictionary of sorts; providing the closest equivalent terms but then describing the ways in which one doesn’t exactly mean the other. Priest=Bishop In Catholicism the head of a congregation is a priest, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the head of a congregation is a bishop. Of course, the former is professional clergy and the latter is lay clergy.  Bishop= Apostle or Stake President Diocese= Stake or Area During the Romney campaign the media loved to compare a stake to a diocese. If you were forced into a 1-to-1 equivalency I guess this is true in the sense that both are the next higher level of organization after a congregation, but again that papers over a lot…

The First Vision in Two Churches

The recently-published Restorations: Scholars in Dialogue from Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a fantastic glimpse into the similarities and differences between the two largest churches that emerged from the legacy of Joseph Smith, Jr. One of the highlights was a discussion between Keith J. Wilson and Lachlan E. Mackay about the First Vision. An interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk with Keith J. Wilson highlighted some of what they had to say on the topic. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Pure Language and Egyptian Language Documents

One of the articles to have recently been published in the Journal of Mormon Studies that has generated a lot of buzz is about a Pure Language Project and the Grammar and Alphabet documents produced by Joseph Smith and his associates in Kirtland, Ohio. And while the article by Michael MacKay and Daniel Belnap is, as the authors put it, “limited to the ivory tower of university journal access,” they did do a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

The Value of Education

Guest post by Caleb Griffin. Recently, I listened to an interesting round table discussion from leaders of the Church of Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ on the value of education. Throughout the course of the discussion and the post-discussion lecture, the speakers seemed to place the value of education on its ability to bless the lives of others, with a lesser emphasis on providing for one’s own family, and an even lesser emphasis on the fact that education has some sort of eternal value. Furthermore, one of the speakers, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that we should be thinking of education as a means to an end, rather than an end itself.

Temple Architectural Heritages: Los Angeles

The Los Angeles is an example of a “modern single spired design” like the Bern, Switzerland Temple and the London, England temple. It is also one of eight temples that have an assembly room. Being in the priesthood assembly hall–a large, cavernous room in the bright, holy context of a temple–is a special experience that I was able to have during the Washington DC temple rededication.

Waiting for Saints, Volume 4

Saints, Volume 3 came out on April 22, 2022. Given the estimated biannual cadence of releases for the series, we are likely to see Saints, Volume 4: Sounded in Every Ear come out sometime next year. Now, I hope by now that it’s clear that I am a fan of the series and when we were approaching the release of Saints, Volume 3, I published a post discussing what we could likely look forward to from the history. I would like to do the same for Volume 4. The intention here is not to publish a wish list of what I want in the book, but to have some fun taking educated guesses at what is likely to be discussed in the history.

The Miracle of Forgiveness: Experiences from President Kimball’s Journal

Journal text selected by Dennis B. Horne.   Some liberal dissidents of that day and this take issue with Elder Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness, thinking Elder Kimball to have been too hard and harsh on those who indulge in sin and won’t repent. For this reason I have included many diary entries documenting his writing the book and the highly influential results of its publication—including what certain of his Apostolic associates thought of it. Also what President Dallin H. Oaks thought of it.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 20: Stakes and Temples

The Third Convention was reunited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part due to the observation that stakes with local leadership and local temples would come only as the schism healed and the Church continued to become stronger in Mexico. It took some time, but stakes and temples did come.