Category: Latter-day Saint Thought

Doctrine – Theology – Philosophy

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.

Temple Architectural Heritages: Manti

From Wikipedia: The Manti Temple is “Castellated Gothic.” From the Church website: “A castellated style reflects construction influences of Gothic Revival, French Renaissance Revival, French Second Empire and colonial architecture.”

The Many Lives of the King Follett Sermon

I have to admit that I have had an ongoing fascination with the King Follett Sermon. I had been acquainted with bits and pieces of it here and there, but only really became familiar with the full text early on in my mission. But it has shaped a lot of my theology and views in the years since then. Apparently, I’m not alone – William V. Smith just published an entire book about the sermon (The King Follett Sermon: A Biography [BCC Press, 2023]) and talked about his research in a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Review: Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, “Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance”

Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye’s new book, Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance, confirms her status as reigning queen of great subtitles. It also confirms her status as one of our tradition’s most insightful pastoral-ecclesiological thinkers, worthy heir to the great Chieko Okazaki. Melissa has the professional training, the personal background and experience, and most of all the unwavering faith in Zion to raise the most important questions about this precarious moment in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Inouye sees that the global expansion of the Church urgently requires a re-formation of North American Saints’ sense of ingroup identity to take in the full sweep of our tiny-but-worldwide membership. At the same time, the solidarity of the North American Church is being tested as never before by the fracturing effects of politics expanding its salience in all forms of association, including churches. She cogently asks, given global inequality, cultural acrimony, and the aggressive incursion of ideologies, “With such different understandings of how the gospel of Jesus Christ should unfold in everyday life, in a local political and cultural context, what holds us together?” (163).  The opportunities and challenges of global Mormonism have taken center stage in Mormon Studies of late. What makes Inouye’s treatment different is its framing in Latter-day Saint theology. Melissa places the struggle for Zion in the context of the plan of salvation–our Heavenly Parents’ ongoing intention to teach…

Temple Architectural Heritages: Cardston

I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT-V’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples by uploading an image, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings.I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. From Wikipedia: It is one of eight temples that does not have an angel Moroni statue, and one of six without spires, similar to Solomon’s Temple. It is also one of only two temples the church built in the shape of a cross, the other being the Laie Hawaii Temple. [STC: It is worth noting that Catholic and other Christian churches are often built in the shapes of crosses]. STC Addendum: Commenters below noted Frank Lloyd Write’s influence on the Cardston temple, specifically his Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois. From the picture below, the resemblance is pretty clear.  This building showcases an intriguing mix of architectural styles, but certain key characteristics stand out: 1. **Art Deco**: The emphasis on vertical lines, stylized and geometric decorative elements, and the layering and stepping of the building’s profile are reminiscent of Art Deco. This architectural style, which gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, is known for its combination of modern styles with fine craftsmanship and luxurious materials. 2.…

Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Review

Richard Lyman Bushman’s Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 2023) is an important contribution to Book of Mormon studies. As a cultural history of the gold plates, the book traces the story of the plates and the translation of the Book of Mormon, reactions to the story and the development of folklore about the gold plates over the subsequent two centuries. It also discusses how the plates have been portrayed in artwork and literature, used in teaching programs in the Church, and some of the debates about the plates.  Even while visiting the story of the plates—as he has before in Rough Stone Rolling and Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism—Bushman provides fresh perspectives on the story. For example, he focuses on the idea that Joseph Smith may not have understood the purpose of the plates as a record that needed to be translated initially, rather than being a treasure. At first, Joseph Smith may have approached the plates with his treasure hunting in mind rather than a religious perspective. After all, the idea of a book-length record on gold plates wasn’t really something that was a common idea. It was only gradually, as he became acquainted with the interpreters and what was on the plates that he realized it needed to be translated. It was a perspective that I’ve not seen emphasized before (at least within my memory). As you read, you can tell…

Temple Architectural Heritages: Kirtland

I was just given access to Chat-GPT’s image upload functionality. I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings.I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. Colonial Revival: The symmetry of the building, the arrangement of windows in a regular pattern, and the classical gable on the central portion of the facade are reminiscent of the Colonial Revival style. This style was popular in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and sought to revive elements of American colonial architecture. Examples include the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and numerous homes and buildings throughout New England. Federal Style: The arched windows and the decorative detailing around them are reminiscent of the Federal style, which was prevalent in the United States between 1780 and 1830. The style is characterized by its use of symmetry and classical motifs. The Octagon House in Washington, D.C., is a prime example of this style. Gothic Revival: The building’s pointed arch windows on the upper floor and the tower are reminiscent of Gothic Revival, a style that was popular in the 19th century and inspired by medieval…

Memories: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context. This is part 4 of an ongoing series of excerpts from Spencer W. Kimball’s journals.

Temple Architectural Heritages: Provo

I was just given access to Chat-GPT’s image functionality. Now you can upload images and have it answer questions about it. (Yes, I know, but bear with me, after this I think it will be a while before we have anything fundamentally new in the AI space, so this might be my last AI series for a while).  I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings. I’m not an expert, but it appears to have basically gotten it right, although I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. 1. **Modernism**: The building’s clean lines, large flat surfaces, and minimal ornamentation are indicative of modernist architecture. Modernism emerged in the early 20th century and was a response to ornate Victorian and Edwardian styles, emphasizing function and the use of new construction technologies. – *Example*: The Villa Savoye in France by Le Corbusier is a prime example of modernist architecture with its emphasis on functionalism and the use of reinforced concrete. 2. **Classicism**: The building shows simplified elements of classical architecture. Symmetry, proportion, and the use of columns or pilasters are reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman buildings. –…

Lowell Bennion

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saw a group of highly-impactful university professors during the 20th century who helped to shape Latter-day Saint thought. For many, Hugh Nibley, Truman Madsen, Eugene England are a well-known part of their experience with the Church. Another figure that deserves to be remembered in that group is Lowell Bennion. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, biographer George Handley discussed Lowell Bennion and his contributions to the Church. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Meeting Church Leaders: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context.   This is the third of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.

Neal A. Maxwell: Disciple Scholar

A favorite speaker at general conference when I was growing up was Neal A. Maxwell. Eloquent and deeply thought out talks were something of a hallmark for him, with plenty of alliteration thrown in for good measure. His life and discipleship was discussed in a recent interview with Bruce C. Hafen at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview. 

Presidents of the Church: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context. This is the second of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.

Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball, Part 1: Leadership

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context. This is the first of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.

Latter-day Saints in Micronesia and Guam

At the last general conference, I was impressed by something briefly mentioned by Quentin L. Cook. He talked about a seventh-generation member from Tahiti, with her ancestors joining the Church in 1845 (2 years before the Latter-day Saints in the U.S. migrated to Utah/Deseret or Brigham Young organized the First Presidency).[1] It was a brief (but important) reminder that the history of the Church is larger than the United States and the United Kingdom, even in the earliest days of the Church. While Micronesia and Guam do not have as long of a history with the Church as Tahiti or Hawai’i, they still are home to notable populations of Latter-day Saints and a rich history. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, R. Devan Jensen discussed the history of the Church in Micronesia and Guam (in connection with the book Battlefields to Temple Grounds: Latter-day Saints in Guam and Micronesia).

Was it the Angel Moroni?

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the day Joseph Smith said that he saw the golden plates, with last night being the anniversary of the evening that he recalled the Angel Moroni appearing to him. Yet, from time to time, there have been questions raised about whether Joseph Smith consistently said that it was Moroni who appeared to him. A couple of those questions have been addressed in posts from the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk about the Angel Moroni and the Salamander Letter. What follows here is a co-post, focusing on the question of who Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by.

The ancient owner of the Book of Abraham papyri

Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Abraham was a translation of some of the papyri he purchased along with some mummies in Kirtland. It is difficult to ascertain the full nature of those papyri since a lot of them burned. But we can learn some about the history of those papyri from the fragments which remain. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, Kerry Muhlestein discussed some of what we know about the ancient owner of the Book of Abraham papyri. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Harold B. Lee: Life and Thought: A Review

Harold B. Lee: Life and Thought by Newell G. Bringhurst (Signature Books, 2021) is a highly affordable and readable biography of one of the most influential figures in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although his tenure as president of the Church was short, Harold B. Lee had already reshaped much of the Church’s administration in the forms of Correlation, the Welfare Program and the mentoring of general authorities even before becoming the prophet-president. Bringhurst explores the life of this remarkable man in this volume of Signature Books’s Mormon Lives (or brief biographies) series.

Discussion on Scripture with the Community of Christ

The Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sibling churches, both descending from the early Latter Day Saint movement. Since each group went their own way after the death of Joseph Smith in the 1840s, however, they have spent the last 170+ years growing and developing in different ways. In a recent interview over at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Kat Goheen (member of the Community of Christ) and Joshua Sears (Latter-day Saint) discussed how the two groups have developed differently in their approach to scriptures. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). First off, what are the differences in canonized scriptures in each community? Both groups accept the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants in their canon. (The Pearl of Great Price was a later addition to the Latter-day Saint canon, so was never a thing in the Reorganization.) The Doctrine and Covenants is different. As Joshua Sears summarized about the differences between the Doctrine and Covenants: “The obvious difference is that we each include new revelations that the other church does not accept.” At the time that the two groups split, the Doctrine and Covenants consisted of most of the sections up through Section 107 in the Latter-day Saint version, along with Section 133 and 134. Most of the sections after 107 were added to…

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 15: War

The Mexican Revolution impacted every Mexican, and that included the Mexican Latter-day Saints, some of whom did their best to stay out of the conflict, some of whom became casualties of war, and some of whom joined in the revolution.

The Law of the Gospel

A couple years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints included a list of the covenants made during the endowment session in their general handbook. It was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. Yet, I missed a part of the significance of the text presented until reading a recent interview with Samuel R. Weber over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk—not only are the specific covenants included, but definitions were as well. In particular, the Law of the Gospel, had an official definition pinned down for the first time in recent history, which is the subject of the interview.

Jesus’s Female Ancestors

Jesus the Messiah was the son of a righteous and godly woman named Mary, through whom he had many ancestors discussed in the Hebrew Bible. Among those were several remarkable women. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, Camille Fronk Olson discussed some of the women in the genealogy of Jesus. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

George Q. Cannon: Politician, Publisher, Apostle of Polygamy: A Review

George Q. Cannon: Politician, Publisher, Apostle of Polygamy by Kenneth L. Cannon II is an entry in the Signature Books brief biographies series focused on one of the most influential and best-known Latter-day Saints in the 19th century. As a missionary, publisher, representative for Utah Territory to the United States Congress, businessman, apostle, and long-term First Presidency member, he accomplished a lot during his lifetime. The brief biographies are essentially a Latter-day Saint version of the Penguin Lives series that was published by the Penguin Random House and Viking Press–short, accessible biographies of notable individuals. At 250 pages (plus index material), this George Q. Cannon biography pushes the bounds of “brief”, but the subject led such a big life and left so many records of his efforts and accomplishments that it is understandable why it didn’t fit into 100-150 pages.