Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Interview from the Elders' Journal

In the July 1838 issue of the early LDS periodical Elders' Journal, edited by Joseph Smith and published at that time from the LDS settlement in Far West, Missouri, Joseph Smith and the rest of the editorial board together provided answers to a Q&A-format interview, the questions for which had been mentioned in the previous (November 1837) issue. Here's the text of the interview, taken from Elders' Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1/3 (July 1838): 42-44:

Question 1st. Do you believe the bible?

Answer. If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does. For there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.

Question 2nd. Wherein do you differ from those sects?

Answer. Because we believe the bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the bible, and their creeds.

Question 3rd. Will every body be damned but Mormons?

Answer. Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness.

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.

Question 5th. Do you believe Joseph Smith Jr. to be a prophet?

Answer. Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. "For the testimony of Jesus, is the spirit of prophecy." - Rev. 19:10.

Question 6th. Do the Mormons believe in having all things in common?

Answer. No.

Question 7th. Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one.

Answer. No, not at the same time. But they believe, that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again. But we do disapprove of the custom which has gained in the world, and has been practised among us, to our great mortification, of marrying in five or six weeks, or even in two or three months after the death of their companion. We believe that due respect ought to be had, to the memory of the dead, and the feelings of both friends and children.

Question 8th. Can they raise the dead.

Answer. No, nor any other people that now lives or ever did live. But God can raise the dead through man, as an instrument.

Question 9th. What signs do Jo Smith give of his divine mission.

Answer. The signs which God is pleased to let him give: according as his wisdom thinks best: in order that he may judge the world agreably to his plan.

Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger.

Answer. Yes, but it was never a very proffitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.

Question 11th. Did not Jo Smith steal his wife.

Answer. Ask her; she was of age, she can answer for herself.

Question 12th. Do the people have to give up their money, when they join this church.

Answer. No other requirement than to bear their proportion of the expenses of the church, and support the poor.

Question 13th. Are the Mormons abolitionists.

Answer. No, unless delivering the people from priest-craft, and the priests from the power of satan, should be considered such. - But we do not believe in setting the Negroes free.

Question 14th. Do they not stir up the Indians to war and to commit depredations.

Answer. No, and those who reported the story, knew it was false when they put it in to circulation. These and similar reports, are pawned upon the people by the priests, and this is the reason why we ever thought of answering them.

Question 15th. Do the Mormons baptize in the name of Jo Smith.

Answer. No, but if they did, it would be as valid as the baptism administered by the sectarian priests.

Question 16th. If the Mormon doctrine is true what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles.

Answer. All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can finally be judged.

Question 17th. Does not Jo Smith profess to be Jesus Christ.

Answer. No, but he professes to be his brother, as all other saints have done, and now do. - Matthew 12:49, 50 - And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples and said, Behold my mother and my brethren: For whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Question 18th. Is there any thing in the Bible which lisences you to believe in revelation now a days.

Answer. Is there any thing that does not authorize us to believe so; if there is, we have, as yet, not been able to find it.

Question 19th. Is not the cannon of the Scriptures full.

Answer. If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so.

Question 20th. What are the fundamental principles of your religion.

Answer. The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, "that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;" and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.

These questions were, in the preceding issue, identified as "a few questions which are daily and hourly being asked by all classes of people whilst we are traveling" (Elders' Journal 1/2 [November 1837]: 28).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Today's Quote for Thought

The remark I'd like to share today comes from seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci's T'ien-chu Shih-i, a Confucian-Christian dialogue, the title of which may be rendered into English as The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven. At one point in the course of that dialogue, the Christian sage remarks:
For the calamity which has befallen mankind is that, having become sick in mind, men no longer know the excellent flavor of virtue. (Matteo Ricci, T'ien-chu Shih-i 313)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some Plural Marriage Anecdotes

I found the following excerpt while glancing through the unfortunately anonymous 1881 book - billed only as being "by an apostle's wife" - The Mysteries of Mormonism: A Full Disclosure of Its Secret Practices and Hidden Crimes. A shame about the sensationalistic title, but I suppose that's par for the course. I think these stories are worth sharing, though; the following comes from page 56:
As the Mormons are a most prolific people, every divorced woman having two or three children by a different husband, and the husband having so many children by different wives, their relations sometimes get so mixed that no one could understand them. One man I was acquainted with married a divorced woman with three little girls, all under the age of seven. When the girls grew up he married all three, thus becoming the husband of four women, though he had but one mother-in-law, that mother-in-law being his own wife. But this is easy compared to some of their problems of relationship, which they almost go crazy themselves trying to work out. Here, for example: A man married a woman with a daughter nearly grown. When she reached womanhood, she was married to the father of her mother's husband, making him his step-daughter's step-son, and when a son was born to the father, the mother's husband became half brother to his own grandchild. The original pair also had a child - but this is getting so mixed, like everything else in Utah, that I leave it to wiser heads than mine to work out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Truman Coe on LDS Beliefs

In 1836, a Presbyterian pastor named Truman Coe, who had lived in Kirtland for several years by that time, published an article for The Ohio Observer explaining what the Latter-day Saints were like and what they believed. Today I'd like to quote from his summary, as reprinted in Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe's 1836 Description of Mormonism", BYU Studies 17/3 (1977): 5-6.

In regard to their religious sentiments, the fundamental principle of Mormonism is, that God continues to hold intercourse with the saints on earth by visions and revelations, as freely and familiarly as he has done in any age of the world. That the true church have the same power to cast out devils, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, to drink poison unhurt, and to recover the sick by laying on of hands. They make great use of the declaration of our Savior in Mark xvi. 17, 18, and strenuously contend that the promise applies to all that believe in every age.

They contend that the God worshipped by the Presbyterians and all other sectarians is no better than a wooden god. They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself. They believe in the final restoration of all men except apostate Mormons. They blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, and can never have forgiveness, [...] neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Their avowed object is to restore christianity to its primeval purity. In the true style of fanaticism they regard themselves as the exclusive favorites of heaven; and the whole religious world as natural brute beasts that know nothing. After the example of our Savior they have recently ordained and commissioned twelve apostles and seventy elders, to go throughout this heathen country and to give a final call to repent and be baptised and believe in Mormonism before the wicked are cut off. The people of this region are viewed by them as standing in the place of Chorasm and Bethsaida, and Capernaum, unwilling to believe, in spite of all the mighty works they have tried to perform. They are habitually pretending to perform. They are habitually pretending to speak in tongues, and to the working of miracles, but nobody can have any evidence of these wonders but those who have Mormon ears.

If you can use your imagination for a moment, think about what someone like Truman Coe - a non-LDS pastor living in an LDS-saturated community and many of whose congregants are fleeing the area to get away from the LDS presence - would write as a description of basic LDS beliefs today. How would it match up with this? How would it differ? And why?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thomas Aquinas on True Prophets

Recently I was glancing through various portions of Thomas Aquinas' Commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews, and I found an intriguing section. In section 16, Thomas Aquinas presented a list of the characteristics of a true prophet. Needless to say, this seems very relevant here. The first thing required of true prophets, he says, is that to them are revealed "things which transcend human knowledge"; in short, they need to be recipients of revelation. Second, he says, the prophet must have an understanding of what he or she has received. Thomas gives the example of pagan rulers in the Bible (Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar) who received revelation in dreams and visions but who were not prophets because they did not grasp the revelation. Third, Thomas seems to say that the prophet must not mistake or misrepresent the symbols for the symbolized; for "otherwise, he would not be a prophet but a lunatic who apprehends imaginary things as though they were real". Fourth, the prophet must perceive the revelation clearly "as though known through demonstration". Fifth, the prophet must actually convey the revelation in an expressible way. Here he does not specifically stress the need for these revelations to be veridical and from God; this is simply assumed. Elsewhere, however, Thomas Aquinas does declare that "nothing false can come under prophecy" (Summa theologiae II-II, q171, a6, respondeo), and that "prophecy, properly and simply, is conveyed by divine revelations alone; yet the revelation which is made by the demons may be called prophecy in a restricted sense", and so one must beware of false or demonic prophets as well (Summa theologiae II-II, q172, a5, respondeo). The reason why false prophecies can invalidate a prophet (whereas true prophecies are not a firm guarantee) is that a "true prophet is always inspired by the Spirit of truth, in whom there is no falsehood, wherefore he never says what is not true; whereas a false prophet is not always instructed by the spirit of untruth, but sometimes even by the Spirit of truth" (Summa theologiae II-II, q172, a6, ad 2). But it must still be noted, as Thomas Aquinas does in the seventeenth section of his commentary on Hebrews, that "the spirits of prophecy are not always present in the prophet, but only when their minds are enlightened by God".


Monday, April 25, 2011

Sidney Rigdon on Other Christians

I found this remark by Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876; served in Joseph Smith's First Presidency from 1832-1844) while looking aimlessly through the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, and knew I ought to mark it down for further consideration:
The Savior of the world, of whom it was said, that he was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, was called by all other sects in religion in his day, the beelzebub, the very prince of devils. So little did they know of either the Father or the Son, that when the express image of the Father was before them, in the person of the Son, they supposed that it was the prince of devils himself. Those sects and parties knew as much of God, as do the sects of this day. The Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the Baptist, and the Campbellites, know as little of the Father and the Son, as did the Pharisees and Saducees of the Savior's day, and the Savior has said, that, "If they have called the Master beelzebub, so will they call the servant also." (Sidney Rigdon, in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate [March 1837] 3:478-479)
It would seem that if one makes sweeping claims that, say, Methodists don't know the Father or the Son even a slight bit better than the Pharisees did, one must therefore be denying that Methodists are true worshippers of God at all, and therefore cannot be Christians. What are your thoughts on this? For Latter-day Saint readers, would you stand by Rigdon's remarks today?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Parley Pratt's Poem on the Restoration

The following brief poem on the Restoration comes from Parley P. Pratt (1807-1857; served on the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1835-1857) in his A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People (New York: W. Sanford, 1837), 121:
Ye gloomy scenes! far hence, intrude no more.
Sublimer themes, invite the muse to soar
In loftier strains, while scenes, both strange and new,
Burst on the sight, and open to the view.

Lo! from the opening heavens, in bright array,
An Angel comes, to earth he bends his way:
Reveals to man, in power, as at the first,
The fulness of the Gospel long since lost.

See earth obedient, from its bosom yield,
The sacred truth, it faithfully concealed.
The wise confounded startle at the sight,
The proud and haughty tremble with affright.

The hireling priests, against the truth engage,
While hell beneath, stands trembling, filled with rage;
False are their hopes, and all their struggles vain,
Their craft must fall, and with it, all their gain;
The deaf must hear, the meek their joy increase;
The poor be glad, and their oppressions cease.
Later on in the same work (168-171), Parley Pratt presents an even longer poem of his about the eschatological consummation of all things in the resurrection; he skillfully includes both biblical figures and Book of Mormon figures at the marriage supper of the Lamb:
Hail, glorious day, by prophets long foretold;
And sought by holy men, from days of old;
Who found it not, but readily confessed,
As pilgrims here, they sought a promised rest;
Hear Abel groan, as first he yields his breath,
And is succeeded by his brother Seth;
He dies in faith, to wait till Christ appears;
To rise and reign with him a thousand years.

Hear Enoch too, the wonderous scene foretell,
While future glories did his bosom swell;
The vail was rent, while wonders strange and new
Before him rose, and opened to his view.

Long, long he heard the earth in anguish mourn;
Saw heaven weep, while oft his bowels yearn'd;
While all eternity, with pain beheld
The scenes of sorrow which his bosom swell'd:
He saw the Lamb of Calvary expire,
While rocks were rent, and cities wrapped in fire;
He saw him burst the tomb, and mount on high,
Enthroned in glory, 'mid the upper sky.

Obtained the promise, he would come again
To earth, in triumph with his saints to reign,
His soul was glad, with joy he tuned the lyre;
And sung the glorious reign, of king Messiah.

Hosanna to the Lamb, that shall be slain;
All hail the day, when Zion comes again;
Out of the earth the truth in power He sends,
While righteousness from heaven, shall descend,
And these shall sweep the earth, as with a flood
To gather out the purchase of his blood;
Unto the Zion which he shall prepare;
And Enoch with his city, meet them there;
When all the ransom'd saints shall join the lay,
And shout hosanna in eternal day.

Wide o'er the earth, the Saviour's name extend;
And peace o'er all prevail, from end to end.

Thus Enoch sang, while all the heavenly choir;
Join'd in hosanna, to the king Messiah.
Noah too by faith beheld the scene afar;
And as a type, he did the ark prepare.

Condemned the world, by water overthrown,
While to his view, the light triumphant shone
He gazed with joy on all the glorious scene,
But mourn'd the darkness, that should roll between.

Abram with joy, beheld the day of rest;
When in his seed, all nations should be bless'd,
And gladly wandered, as a pilgrim here;
And fell asleep, to wait till Christ appear -
In sure and certain hope, to rise and reign
In Canaan's land, a right he had obtained.

Isaac and Jacob, had the glorious view,
Rejoiced in death, and so did Joseph too;
While patient Job, in pain look'd far away,
Saw his Redeemer in the latter day,
Stand on the earth, while he himself should rise,
And in the flesh, behold him with his eyes.

Moses and Joshua, Samuel and Isaiah,
Did each in turn, this solemn truth declare;
While David tuned the lyre in joyful lays;
Spake of Messiah's reign, and sung his praise.

Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zacheriah,
And Malachi, have spoken of Messiah;
When he should set his feet on earth again,
Burn up the proud, and o'er the nations reign.

Jesus and Peter, John and James, and Paul,
The time would fail me here, to mention all;
Who wrapt in vision clear, in turn foretold,
The day of wonders I would fain unfold.

Lehi, Nephi, Alma and Mosiah,
Abinedi, who once rejoiced in fire;
Mormon, Moroni and Ether, testified;
For this they lived, and in this faith they died;
And all the saints of God, in all the earth,
Down from Old Adam, to the latest birth;
And all the vast creations, which extend,
Through boundless space till man can find no end,
And all the heavenly host, around the throne,
Shall sound his praise in reverential tone;
Millions unnumber'd, at his feet shall fall,
Hail him as king, and crown him Lord of all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

John Larsen on LDS Awareness of Broader Christian Thought

As some of you might know, I enjoy listening to the Mormon Expression podcast on a regular basis (still haven't worked completely through all the past episodes, but I'm getting closer). Earlier today, they released an episode in which podcast host John Larsen interviews Grant Palmer. It was quite an interesting interview, and one in which Palmer laments the LDS Church's failure to focus quite as fully as they might on Jesus and what he taught. I recommend giving the podcast a listen. But the interview as such isn't what caught my attention most; rather, it was a remark that John Larsen made from 27:45-28:26, which I transcribe as follows:

I've said this before to some of the listeners, but when I was struggling with faith, I started reading a little bit, like I said, in the Bible, and I realized quickly that I did not understand what I was dealing with. So I got two books, I got one on the history of the church - you know, the Christian church - and I got another basic systematic theology book. And I'm no expert in those today, but I soon realized that I had no idea, you know, I just-- there'd been these questions, these debates going on for two thousand years, deep theological thinking - not like some flippant 'servant of Satan trying to deceive', but people really trying to understand - and I realized I didn't even understand the basic questions they were asking.

This came in the context of a discussion of what LDS thought has really contributed, if anything, to the broader Christian tradition. And what John Larsen essentially realized was that, as a somewhat typical Latter-day Saint, he didn't even have a framework within which to actually dialogue with the larger Christian tradition, because he'd never attempted to grapple with the sorts of questions they'd faced. Now, of course there are exceptional Latter-day Saints who have actually studied these things (and they deserve a great deal of credit for that), and of course most people in general - LDS, Evangelical, and others - are all woefully ignorant of these things. But, as I've mentioned before, this is a real problem in establishing any sort of meaningful dialogue.

What thoughts do you have about the awareness of the typical Latter-day Saint - or, to pinpoint the situation even more crucially, the average LDS missionary - of broader Christian thought?

[Edited to add: According to my Dashboard, this is the 100th post here at Study and Faith!]

Al-Majdalus on Monotheism

Today I'd like to share some remarks from Abu al-Majdalus's Arabic commentary on the Nicene Creed, as translated into English by Samuel Noble. What follows are his comments on the first few words of the creed, which are an affirmation of biblical monotheism:

First, the believer says, "We believe in one God." This expression is taken from the Law of Moses, since God said in it, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one" [Deuteronomy 6:4]. They began by confirming God's sole lordship, as in unity he is the God of every thing. No one is his partner, no likeness resembles him, and no opposite rivals him. In his eternal essence there is no mass and no breadth because mass is bounded by dimensions and dimension confines it and form touches it. The parts of that which is divided separate and what is described is bounded by its description, but the Absolutely One is not resembled by his works or comparable to his creature. He is not described except by the attributes of his eternity because he was the Creator before every attribute and description. His essence is unrestricted and his work is unimpeded. He is veiled from intellects just as he is veiled from vision. He has no bounded description and no numbered time. Shortcomings and defects do not reach him. Times and seasons do not change him. Pre-eternal, he remains eternal. His existence has no beginning. "Pre-eternal" is an expression referring to one before whom there is nothing. "The Absolutely One" is an expression referring to one who has no second. Just as 'alif' is the first letter and nothing precedes it, the Creator - may he be praised - is the first without beginning, eternally existent with nothing before him. Everything depends on his will and comes out of his volition.

Moses bore witness in his great Law and all the prophets in their prophecies to the oneness of God and the pre-eternity of his being eternal. God, may he be exalted, said in the Law, "Hear, O Israel, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Do not worship any god other than me and do not bow to any god besides me" [Deuteronomy 5:6-9]. He also said, "Look, look, I am he and there is no god other than me. I cause death and I bring life. I strike and I heal. No one escapes from my hand" [Deuteronomy 32:39]. The prophet Isaiah said, "I am the first and the last. There is no god before me nor will one come after me" [Isaiah 44:6; 43:10]. The one is unique in oneness. No one shares in it. The prophet Isaiah said, "You are the mighty God, the God of Israel who sits upon the cherubim. You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth" [Isaiah 37:16]. The prophet Jeremiah said, "Our Lord is one. We do not worship another with him". The Holy Gospel said, "Bow to the Lord your God and worship him alone" [Matthew 4:10].


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today's Quote for Thought

What I wanted to share for thought today consists of a few stanzas from a wonderful classic hymn, "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" by Joseph Hart (1712-1768):

View Him prostrate in the garden,
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th' incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I find this to be a powerful, moving hymn with a view-enlarging message. Christ has suffered, Christ has died - what more could we possibly require to free us from our guilt and shame and sin? The one who suffered for us was and is God indeed, and he presents his blood in the heavenly tabernacle as an atonement; what ground is there for dividing our trust between Him and any other cause? Let us place our faith firmly in him. And although it's so tempting to shrink back in fear, believing our sins to be too great or supposing that we need some worthiness of our own before we can approach, we have this promise: All we need to enter into this forgiveness, to be set free, is to know that we need Christ and to surrender ourselves to him. And in turn, God accounts our faith - our feeble, barren, trembling trust - as righteousness in his sight, a righteousness that obscures and replaces our sins and works in us to bear good fruit. We need no other worthiness than to turn to Christ and follow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Some Preliminary Musings on "Worship-As"

[Note: As is usual in my 'preliminary musings' posts, this is sort of an initial shooting-from-the-hip type of post. All conclusions herein are highly tentative and more or less un-proofread. Hopefully after more extensive thought on some of the points, I'll be able to write more detailed posts on them. Also please note that this post is directed at a certain particular strand of LDS theological thought, and there may be forms of LDS theology to which many if not all of the following points are inapplicable.]

In a number of dialogues with Latter-day Saints, I've often heard the sentiment initially expressed that they worship the Father but not the Son or the Spirit. At other times, however, I've heard the different message that they worship the Father as the Creator and the Son as the Redeemer, or the Father as the Father of their spirits and the Son as the Savior, or some other treatment like that. As I understand it, the operative concept here is one of 'worship-as', namely rendering worship to a person when that person has earned it by some contingent act, in the absence of which they would not worship that person. That is as best as I can seem to parse the concept in terms of worship simpliciter.

It's very difficult to tell if I've got the idea here, because I've heard a vast number of very confused mixed messages from Latter-day Saints on this issue, and those whom I've asked have often become even more evasive than usual. This whole framework, however, is rather foreign to Evangelical ears. Christians have typically held that God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - are intrinsically worthy of worship by all. (In this and hereafter, by 'worship' I mean 'worship simpliciter' in a robust Christian sense, which involves a recognition of the object as perfectly divine and as ultimately authoritative and valuable without external peer.) Worship is not something that can be earned by any act. If God is worthy of worship at all, he is worthy of worship whether or not he does X. If God is not worthy of worship apart from doing X, then he is not worthy of worship with it either. Worship-worthiness is not relative; it is absolute. If an entity Y is worthy of receiving worship from person A, then any person B similarly has an objective duty to worship Y as well; and if B does not worship Y, then B does wrong. And furthermore, because the act of worship is an act of recognizing another as ultimate, then there cannot be a multiplicity of alternative objects of legitimate worship, as there cannot be alternate valid ultimates. This, it seems, is the lofty vision of worship that has largely been upheld by Christians throughout history, and seems also to be at least implicit in the biblical text, as I read it.

And it's in light of this that I think we see why some LDS teachings, both official and unofficial, are utterly unthinkable to traditional Christians like Evangelicals. We do not worship the Son simply because he has saved us. If the Son had never come to earth, he would still have been worthy of our worship in the robust sense above. This is why 'worship-as' has never been a significant concept in Evangelical discourse. Furthermore, it seems to be plagued by additional difficulties: why should certain roles merit worship and others not? Could not a pagan argue that she worships Zeus as lord of the sky, Poseidon as lord of the sea, Aphrodite as lady of love, and so forth?

Also, this shows why the idea of further deities beyond the Father who are allegedly 'irrelevant' to us is so peculiar to Evangelicals. (This idea is affirmed by some but not all Latter-day Saints.) Suppose that the Father also has a Heavenly Father of his own whom he worships as the Father of his spirit. This 'Heavenly Grandfather' would surely be a God in his own right. And with the notion of worship outlined above, it seems as though it would be wrong for any individual anywhere to not worship Heavenly Grandfather. (The same could be said for a slightly more familiar figure in the LDS 'pantheon', namely Heavenly Mother.) Also, if even Heavenly Father considers Heavenly Grandfather to be worthy of worship, how could we not worship Heavenly Grandfather? Another difficulty is that part of true worship is full devotion such that we wish to proclaim the greatness of our object of worship to all. Thus, if Heavenly Father had a higher God to worship, then it follows that if Heavenly Father worships this higher God perfectly, then Heavenly Father would teach us to worship Heavenly Grandfather as well to bring greater glory to Heavenly Grandfather. (Alternatively, Heavenly Father might worship Heavenly Grandfather imperfectly, but this would mean that Heavenly Father is currently imperfect and indeed a sinner at present, which conflicts very strongly with any Christian vision of God, whether Evangelical, LDS, or otherwise.) Even the LDS notion of 'worship-as' doesn't seem, so far as I can see, to deal with this problem, because if the grounds for Heavenly Father's worthiness for our worship is that he is the Father of our spirits and thus our benefactor... well, he could hardly have done this without the prior patronage of Heavenly Grandfather as the Father of his spirits, making Heavenly Grandfather the Grandfather of our spirits - and are we not taught to respect and revere our elders?

And even cutting out the notion of higher deities, consider the instance in which our Heavenly Father is locally highest but has a number of peers elsewhere in reality. Given the notion of worship mentioned previously, there are only a few options. Either they worship Heavenly Father, or Heavenly Father worships them, or they have no such worship relation. We can strike Heavenly Father worshipping them, since that would correspond roughly to the scenario above. If they worship Heavenly Father, then it would seem that they cannot be his peers as deities in their own right, for they would have to insist that they are unworthy of anyone else's worship, which must be redirected to our Heavenly Father. (Note that the scenario depicted in some forms of LDS exaltation eschatology corresponds to the framework established here. If we become 'gods' who give rise to a new generation, then we surely will teach them about our Heavenly Father and direct them to worship him rather than us; to do otherwise would be to withhold glory from him and so to dishonor and sin against him. Thus, it seems that we can never really become 'gods' in the sense in which he is 'God'.) So let us then suppose that there is no worship relation between them. As noted above, if an entity is worthy of worship by some, he/she/it is worthy of worship by all, such that failure to do so is a serious wrong. Thus, if there is no worship relation between them, then either the other deities are sinners and therefore not gods at all, or else our Heavenly Father does not merit our worship either, which is false.

As said before, these are some reasons, I think, why Evangelicals may have a difficult time entering into this particular LDS mindset on worship, which certainly appears to offer a significantly minimized view of God in comparison with that found in traditional Christian theology.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The 1830 Copyright Sale Revelation

Today I'll be offering one of the earliest uncanonized Joseph Smith revelations, as I'd transcribe it with modernized punctuation and spelling. This revelation dates to early 1830 and directs a group of Joseph's early followers to sell the copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada - a hope that ultimately failed to come to fruition, as there were no buyers there.

A revelation given to Joseph [Smith], Oliver [Cowdery], Hiram [Page], Josiah [Stowell], and Joseph Knight, given at Manchester, Ontario C[ounty], New York:

Behold, I the Lord am God; I created the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them, wherefore they are mine and I sway my scepter over all the earth. And ye are in my hands to will and to do, that I can deliver you out of every difficulty and affliction according to your faith and diligence and uprightness before me. And I have covenanted with my servant that earth nor hell combined against him shall not take the blessing out of his hands which I have prepared for him, if he walketh uprightly before me: neither the spiritual nor the temporal blessing. And behold, I also covenanted with those who have assisted him in my work, that I will do unto them even the same because they have done that which is pleasing in my sight (yea, even all save it be one only).

Wherefore be diligent in securing the copyright of my work upon all the face of the earth of which is known by you unto my servant Joseph and unto him whom he willeth according as I shall command him, that the faithful and the righteous may retain the temporal blessing as well as the spiritual, and also that my work be not destroyed by the workers of iniquity to their own destruction and damnation when they are fully ripe. And now behold, I say unto you that I have covenanted and it pleaseth me that Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Knight, Hiram Page, and Josiah Stowell shall do my work in this thing, yea, even in securing the copyright, and they shall do it with an eye single to my glory, that it may be the means of bringing souls unto salvation through mine Only-Begotten.

Behold, I am God; I have spoken it and it is expedient in me. Wherefore I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine Only-Begotten - and if ye do this, ye shall have my spirit to go with you, and ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me. And I grant unto my servant a privilege that he may sell a copyright through you, speaking after the manner of men for the four provinces, if the people harden not their hearts against the enticings of my spirit and my word. For behold, it lieth in themselves to their condemnation or their salvation. Behold, my way is before you, and the means I will prepare and the blessing I hold in my own hand. And if ye are faithful I will pour out upon you even as much as ye are able to bear, and thus it shall be. Behold, I am the Father and it is through mine Only-Begotten which is Jesus Christ your Redeemer. Amen.

This revelation is recorded by John Whitmer in the Revelation Book 1, pages 30-31, as "23 Commandment AD 1830".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Today's Quote for Thought

Once again, our quotation of the day comes from Gilbert Keith Chesterton:

I do not admit that theological points are small points. Theology is only thought applied to religion; and those who prefer a thoughtless religion need not be so disdainful of others with a more rationalistic taste. (The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton 20:276; emphasis added)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Latter-Day Saints and the Image Problem

Over at By Common Consent, Mark Brown has put up one of the most interesting posts ("Outreach, ur doing it wrong") I've seen in a while. It touches on the issue of just how unfavorable the public image of Latter-day Saints is, and what might be done about it; for some other insights, I'd also recommend Jack's post "A short post on why people don't like Mormons" at ClobberBlog. Turning back to Mark's post - which I would strongly recommend to all readers, and especially to Latter-day Saints - one of the sections that caught my interest so strongly and which I think needs most to be heard is this:

Much of the problem is because we seldom associated with people who aren't LDS. The simple fact is that we are insular, and this insularity inevitably produces unsatisfactory and dysfunctional interactions and conversations about religion. [...] Lawrence gave an example. Many Americans believe that LDS practice polygamy. We have expended lots of time, effort, and money to try to persuade them that we don't, and we get our noses out of joint when people confuse LDS with FLDS, for instance. But he then asked the group how many of us understand the differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Nobody raised a hand, to us, they are all Lutherans. Until we are willing to understand others, we have no standing to insist they understand us.

I've put emphasis on the sentence that I believe most captures the crucial point here. (And for another story that expresses the problem, see Jeremy's comment #10.) I can also attest that I've met quite a few Latter-day Saints who, for example, are willing to make sweeping claims of apostasy without having a clue about broader church history, or who are very willing to complain about the errors in the way people view the LDS, but are not only blind but obstinately so to their own errors in viewing other groups. Now, unfortunately this is by no means a uniquely LDS problem. Evangelicals, for instance, are frequently not only clueless about what separates one group from another, but also about what separates our own groups from others. And we by no means have cornered the market on charity; quite far from it. But what this does go to show is that all of us have room to grow and problems to address. Religious ignorance has proliferated so massively that it threatens to eviscerate the potential productivity of religious discourse. For my part, I intend to do what I can to continue learning at least the basics of every group I might encounter, and to do so in a way that lets me fairly and sensitively represent the beliefs of those groups to others in order to dispel this sort of ignorance. I rather like Ken's suggestion that the MTC program incorporate information about other faiths into its instruction for prospective LDS missionaries. As for Evangelicals, we don't have one unified program and so it may be more difficult to address these sorts of problem, but a greater emphasis on a broad education would be pretty fantastic as a start. And I have, of course, met both Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints who have a broad understanding of religious beliefs, but unfortunately this is a lot rarer than it ought to be.

Messenger and Advocate on the Gathering of Israel

The following remarks on Native Americans and the gathering of Israel are taken from The Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2/4 (January 1836): 245.

One of the most important points in the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints, is, through the fulness of the everlasting gospel, the gathering of Israel; - the happy time when Jacob shall go up to the house of the Lord, to worship him in spirit and in truth; to live in holiness, when the Lord will restore his judges as at the first, and his councellors as at the beginning; when every man may sit under his own vine and fig-tree, and there will be none to molest or make afraid; when he will turn to them a pure language, and the earth will be filled with sacred knowledge as the waters cover the great deep; when it shall no longer be said, The Lord lives that brought up the children of Israel out of the Land of Egypt, but the Lord lives that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the North, and from all the lands whither he had driven them; yea, that day is one all-important to all men! - And in view of it, with all the prophets have said, before us, we feel like dropping a few ideas, in connexion with the official statements concerning the Indians, from the general Government.

In speaking of the gathering, we mean to be understood, according to scripture, the gathering of the elect of the Lord, out of every nation on earth; and bringing them to the place of the Lord of hosts, where the city of righteousness shall be built, and where the people shall be of one heart and one mind when the Savior comes; yea, where the people shall walk with God like Enoch, and be free from sin.

The word of the Lord is precious, and when we read that the vail spread over all nations, will be destroyed, and the pure in heart see God, and live with him a thousand years on earth, we want all honest men, should have a chance to gather, and build up a city of righteousness, where even the bells on the horses, shall be holiness to the Lord.

The book of Mormon has made known who Israel is, upon this continent, and while we behold the government of the United States gathering the Indians and locating them upon lands to be their own, how sweet it is to think that, they may one day, be gathered by the gospel.

The author went on to give details about the government's declaration about Native Americans and some various statistics. The author is only marked with a "P." at the end, which I assume to possibly be William W. Phelps.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Return to Blogging, and Some Miscellaneous Rambling as Usual

Hello again, friends. I'm pleased to say that my break in blogging has now, more or less, come to a close. Thank you very much for your prayers and encouragement. I haven't exactly found a solution to my situation - particularly since my conference minister isn't returning my calls - but after crunching the numbers I think I may be able to grit my teeth and bear things for another year in my program here. I'll be blogging lightly still until the end of this month, since I have plenty of work that needs to get done and too many distractions as it is. Needless to say, I'm quite glad that I still have that stockpile of finished-yet-unpublished posts! Not much substantial, but enough to do for now, I hope. It may be a while before I resume reviewing Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. In the meantime, while I've been absent, I read Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845: A Documentary History, and since then I have begun to read The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History, though I don't intend to read much more of that until the last few days of April, when I'm freed up. (Not sure when I'll have a chance to read the third volume in the set.) Nevertheless, both volumes are giving me some excellent insights into the development of the various temple ordinances; it surprises me at times just how freely some of the early Saints (most notably William Clayton) were prepared to talk about most aspects of the endowment. Interesting reading, and while I doubt I'll be devoting any reviews to those books here, I do want to take a moment now to remark on how much I recommend their sensitive yet comprehensive treatment. I haven't gotten around to listening to the General Conference talks yet, but I have enjoyed the diverse range of reviews and reactions I've been getting from various blogs and podcasts in the meantime. Also, today I've done some more updates to this blog's introductory post.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling - 04

Richard L. Bushman
Chapter 4: "A New Bible: 1830" (pp. 84-108)

In the first through third chapters of this biography, Richard Bushman skillfully covers the life of Joseph Smith from its beginnings up until the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, offering a brief survey of the initial public reaction to it. Here in the fourth chapter, Bushman steps back from the chronology of Joseph's life and adopts a more thematic approach; this chapter concerns itself entirely with the Book of Mormon. Bushman opens with a concise summary of the subject matter of the text:

The Book of Mormon is a thousand-year history of the rise and fall of a religious civilization in the Western Hemisphere beginning about 600 BCE. A briefer history of a second civilization, beginning at the time of the Tower of Babel and extending till a few hundred years before Christ, is summarized in thirty-five pages near the end. The founders of the main group were Israelites who migrated from Jerusalem and practiced their religion in the New World until internal wars brought them to the verge of extinction in 421 CE, when the record ends. During the thousand years, wars are fought, governments crumble, prophets arise, people are converted and fall away, and Jesus Christ appears after His resurrection. (84)

After a mention of divided literary reception of the text - noting, for instance, Mark Twain's reference to it as 'chloroform in print' on the one hand but Fawn Brodie's favorable assessment of it on the other - Bushman notes that most contemporaries of Joseph Smith seem to have classified it as a 'bible' in some sense. This was the case outside of Joseph's movement, of course - newspapers derided it as the 'Gold Bible' - but also the case inside of Joseph's movement, as when Martin Harris called it the 'Mormon Bible' while negotiating with E. B. Grandin to get it printed. Bushman notes that the format of the text creates a strongly biblical feel, although one major difference is that in the Book of Mormon, "these books are not divided into histories and prophetic books" (85).

Bushman then goes on to give a more detailed summary of the plot of the Book of Mormon, beginning with the prophet Lehi in Jerusalem just before the onset of the Babylonian Captivity. Lehi and his family "are led into the wilderness of the Arabian peninsula" and wander in the wilderness for eight years before constructing a ship somewhere along the seacoast, perhaps on the Arabian Sea (85). Eventually they reach their promised land, universally understood as the New World but never explicitly stated to be so in the text itself. After reaching their destination, "the migrants build a temple and follow the law of Moses much like the society they left in Palestine, but their religion is explicitly Christian" (85). The quarrels of Lehi's children result in the formation of factions that develop into rival civilizations: the Lamanites and the Nephites, who "battle year after year until, after a thousand years, the Lamanites destroy the Nephites" (86). The final Nephite prophet, Moroni, completes the collection of texts inscribed on golden plates and buries them; it is 1400 years later that he returns as an angel to lead Joseph Smith to them. At this juncture, Bushman makes special note of the way in which, according to the Book of Mormon, the New World experienced three full days of darkness between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, and that Jesus visited the Nephites after his resurrection, delivered the Sermon on the Mount, appointed twelve Nephite disciples, instructed them in baptism and communion, and then departed (86).

The Book of Mormon, as Bushman describes it, presents itself as primarily the work of the Nephite military leader and prophet Mormon (the father of Moroni), who led the Nephites from 327 to 385 during their nation's twilight (86). Mormon ventures to the hill Shim, where a wide assortment of Nephite records are stored, and from these records Mormon compiles a history onto a new set of plates (87). As Bushman tells it, the resulting text is "an elaborate framed tale of Mormon telling about a succession of prophets telling about their encounters with God" (87). After offering a sense of the sweeping depth of the world that is evoked, Bushman mentions some of the main characters: Nephi the son of Lehi; Sariah the wife of Lehi; the Nephite king Benjamin who addressed his people from a tower; the "warrior missionary" Ammon who served under a Lamanite king; Alma, a Paul-like figure who underwent a radical conversion to become "a champion of the gospel"; Moroni the Nephite general; the Lamanite prophet Samuel who warned the Nephites from a wall; the heretics Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor; the assassin Kishkumen; and Gadianton, who organized "secret bands for robbery and murder" (88).

After making a note that the bulk of the 584 pages of text must have been dictated in around three months at most, Bushman moves onward to survey early criticism of the Book of Mormon. Early local criticisms, even before the book was released, regarded it as "part of a scheme to swindle gullible victims" like Martin Harris; newspaper editors "placed Joseph Smith in a long line of false prophets beginning with Muhammad" (88). Among early critics, one of the most reasonable initial critiques was by American religious leader Alexander Campbell, another restorationist theologians and the founder of the Disciples of Christ; his attention was drawn to Joseph Smith's movement when it began drawing converts from his own movement, including one of his preachers, Sidney Rigdon. Campbell took the Book of Mormon seriously and presented a critique in his Millennial Harbinger on 7 February 1831. He alleged that Joseph Smith had "cobbled together fragments of American Protestant culture, mixed theological opinions with politics, and presented the whole in Yankee vernacular. The book had touches of anti-Masonry and republican government, interspersed with opinions on all the contemporary theological questions", which was understandable a quite suspicious mix for an allegedly ancient document (89). Campbell regarded the plot and the character array as simply a 'romance' (90).

Later critics wanted to give more attention to explaining how a seemingly illiterate Joseph Smith could possibly have produced such an intricate and lengthy plot. In 1834, Painesville Telegraph editor Eber D. Howe published the findings of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, an excommunicated Mormon who "found a half dozen old-timers in Conneaut, Ohio, who thought the Book of Mormon resembled a novel written twenty years earlier by Solomon Spaulding, a Dartmouth graduate and former town resident" (90). As they remembered it, Spaulding's novel talked about "lost tribes of Israel moving from Jerusalem to America led by characters named Nephi and Lehi", and some even recalled the names 'Moroni' and 'Zarahemla' (90). When Hurlbut found Spaulding's widow, he eventually did uncover a 'Manuscript Found' written by Spaulding, but this was about a group of Romans who were blown off course to America and lived among the Indian tribes and wrote down their experiences, with the conceit that Spaulding discovered their Latin manuscript and translated it into English. Hurlbut concluded that the residents of Conneaut must have been talking about yet another story by Spaulding; he decided that Sidney Rigdon had obtained this other manuscript in Pittsburg, transformed it into the Book of Mormon, and then conveyed it to Joseph Smith and only later pretended to be converted when missionaries reached him with the finished product in 1830 (90).

For decades, this 'Spaulding theory' remained the dominant critical explanation for the Book of Mormon until the 'Manuscript Found' resurfaced again in 1884 in Hawaii and came into the hands of Oberlin College president James Fairchild, who examined it and concluded that there never was a second manuscript and so that there was simply no good evidence for the 'Spaulding theory' (91). This opened the way for new critical explanations to emerge, and around the turn of the century, people like I. Woodbridge Riley, Theodore Schroeder, and Walter Prince began to maintain that the Book of Mormon "showed signs of Joseph Smith's psychology and culture, and so must be his work" (91). This was the perspective adopted in 1945 by Fawn Brodie, niece of David O. McKay and biographer of Joseph Smith. In 1977, interest in the Spaulding theory briefly revived at the suggestion that perhaps Spaulding's own handwriting appeared in the original Book of Mormon manuscript, but the handwriting experts then backed off from their own suggestion.

Bushman then mentions first a number of arguments from critics and then a number of arguments from defenders, and I would do Bushman's presentation a disservice if I didn't quote both. First, he states:

The modern critics write with the same confidence as the nineteenth-century skeptics. They are certain that any reasonable person who takes an objective, scientific approach to the Book of Mormon will recognize "the obvious fictional quality" of the book. They point to evidence in the book of the anti-Masonic agitation stirring New York in the years when it was being translated. In the doctrinal portions, they see anti-Universalist language and imitations of camp-meeting preaching. The critics complain that the Isaiah passages quoted by Nephi draw upon portions of the book now thought to be pseudepigrapha, composed long after the Nephites left Jerusalem. Turning to archeology, they point out that archeological digs have produced no evidence of Nephite civilization, yielding no horse bones, for example, an animal named in the Book of Mormon. Most recently, an anthropological researcher has claimed that Native American DNA samples correspond to Asian patterns, precluding Semitic origins. In view of all the evidence, the critics believe defense of the book's authenticity is hopeless. (92)

This, of course, is only a brief sampling of the criticisms, and here as in the third chapter, Bushman regrettably gives a noticeably slanted portrayal of the current field of research. As will be seen, he casts the critics as uniformly intellectually arrogant and lacking in expertise, while the defenders of the Book of Mormon are characterized as unquestionably superior scholars who nevertheless express a commendable epistemic humility. Both of these are caricatures, and Bushman's work is all the worse for their inclusion. Here is his presentation of the work of Book of Mormon defenders, which of course omits any mention of the further strong rejoinders presented to some of these points by the critics:

The proponents are not searching for a single conclusive proof that the Book of Mormon is ancient; instead they draw attention to scores of details that resemble the local color and cultural forms of ancient Hebrew culture, many of them unknown even to scholars when Joseph Smith was writing. They find passages written in the Hebrew poetic form of chiasmus, where a series of statements reverses at a midpoint and repeats itself in reverse order. The proponents notes how chapters about a Nephite king bestowing his crown on his son conform to the coronation rituals of antiquity. The "reformed Egyptian" in the Book of Mormon, the proponents say, compares to ancient Meroitic, which used Egyptian characters to write Meroitic words. The extended parable of the olive orchard in Jacob 5 reveals an accurate understanding of olive tree culture. In response to the absence of horse bones in Latin American archeology, the proponents point out that no archeological evidence of horses has been found in regions occupied by the Huns, a society dependent on horses. Proponents are quick to note that a Book of Mormon archeological site in the Middle East has been tentatively located. The Book of Mormon describes Lehi's journey down the Arabian peninsula and directly east to the Gulf of Arabia. Here Lehi's people came upon a pocket of fertile land and bounteous food in an otherwise desert area. A site in Oman fulfills many of the Book of Mormon requirements. Along this route, a site has been located that bears the name "Nhm," corresponding to the name Nahom given in the Book of Mormon as one stop on Lehi's journey. On point after point, the proponents answer the critics and assemble their own evidence. Unlike the critics, they do not claim their case is conclusive; they accumulate evidence, but admit belief in the Book of Mormon requires faith. (93)

Even if it should happen that the proponents are correct in their arguments - which is far from a foregone conclusion - this sort of prose is ill-befitting a historian of Bushman's caliber. Moving along from the thoroughly biased presentation of this dispute, Bushman goes on to laud the revisionist view of Book of Mormon geography. He has no choice but to grant that early readers of the book - including, though he doesn't mention it here, Joseph Smith himself - all firmly believed that Book of Mormon geography covered essentially the whole of North and South America (93). This had been the universal view of Latter-day Saints until recent revisionist interpretations emerged. Bushman notes that these scholars have questioned whether such a scope is feasible in light of the journeys on foot recorded in the text; thus, he says, the action may have been confined to "a patch of land comparable in size to ancient Palestine" (93). Bushman does not deal with the numerous obstacles for the limited geography thesis, such as the strong sense in the text that the land of the Book of Mormon is the land of the Native Americans, with several key sites (e.g., the Hill Cumorah, the burial site of 'Zelph', etc.) being obviously far, far removed from the 'limited geography' locales. This makes room for the existence of numerous other civilizations alongside the Nephites and Lamanites; Bushman claims, though provides no evidence, that "tiny hints of their presence turn up in the text" (94). Finally, Bushman briefly notes that non-LDS scholars have virtually uniformly dismissed LDS apologetic claims, but quickly rushes on to the isolated handful of "maverick" scholars and others who have produced research that could be used to support Book of Mormon authenticity (94). As in so many cases before, Bushman soft-peddles many things that could cast too much doubt on LDS beliefs, preferring to give wildly disproportionate emphasis to the exceptions rather than the rule. It may be that the maverick scholars are completely right and the mainstream scholars are wrong, of course, but Bushman's citations of critics of LDS apologetics are so few and far-between that the reader is not enabled to investigate this further.

Leaving this all behind, Bushman observes that most early readers - both the early Mormons and their early critics - regarded the Book of Mormon as being "a history of the Indians" (94). Joseph Smith clearly regarded the Lamanites, for instance, as being 'the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians'. However, Bushman wishes to call all of this into question. He asserts that there was no reason that Joseph Smith in particular should have been interested in the origin of the Native Americans, despite the general fascination with the topic in the United States at that time. Bushman states that "the Smiths exhibited no particular interest in the original occupants of the land until Joseph got involved with the gold plates" (95). Bushman does grant that, among the many speculations on the issue that were prevalent in the 1820s, one was that the Native Americans were descended from the lost tribes of Israel; Bushman admits that this was popular but stresses that it was not universally accepted (95). Bushman mentions how in 1823, Vermont minister Ethan Smith published his View of the Hebrews promoting this idea; it talks about migrations from Palestine to Ameica with the result being a great civilization that split into a civilized branch and a savage branch, with the latter winning out in the end; there is also a possibility that Oliver Cowdery was familiar with this work before he went to meet Joseph Smith (96). After all, Ethan Smith was Oliver Cowdery's pastor during the period when View of the Hebrews was written. Bushman does not delve further into some of the other similarities that have been seen between the texts.

However, Bushman says, the Book of Mormon "was not a treatise about the origins of the Indians, regardless of what early Mormons said" (96). It was very different from other such treatises, because it never used the word 'Indian' and also didn't attempt to assemble evidence and argue a case. Of course, both of these are irrelevant as to whether the Book of Mormon was a nineteenth-century story about Native Americans. Bushman also notes that other such works usually drew alleged parallels between Native Americans and the Old Testament, whereas the Book of Mormon is unique by presenting the prophets as teaching "pure Christianity" even before Christ's coming (96). Bushman must grant, however, that early Mormons disregarded these differences and "eagerly cited all of the scholarship about the original inhabitants of North and South America as proof of the book's accuracy" (96). Bushman cautions, however, that where other books set among the Native American contained numerous references to stereotyped Native American practices, the Book of Mormon never used Native American names for things and lacked any of the "trademark Indian items" (97). Bushman notes that, while bows and arrows were used, they were accompanied by more classical weapons foreign to Native American use; the closest the Book of Mormon "comes to an Indian identification is the description of Lamanites as bloodthirsty and bare-chested" (97).

Bushman's next area of attention is the alleged racism of the Book of Mormon, since it talks about the Lamanites being marked with dark skin as a curse from God, and then presenting the Lamanites as stereotyped savages, which sounds "like the Jacksonian view of Indians common to most Americans in 1830" (98). Bushman counters, however, that the Native Americans are presented as being God's chosen people destined for greatness in world history. As presented in the Book of Mormon, "the Lamanites are destined to be restored to favor with God and given this land, just as Jews are to be restored to the Holy Land"; Bushman also notes that, despite their evil dark skin, the Lamanites are sometimes presented as occasionally righteous (98). Bushman reads the Book of Mormon as stressing the greatness of the Native Americans and presenting the later European settlers as Gentile interlopers whose sole function is to support the Native Americans or else be doomed to perish. This reading is, needless to say, highly idiosyncratic.

Bushman's next area of focus is the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. He notes that the Book of Mormon relies heavily upon the Bible, often reproducing considerable segments of it and including numerous common phrases - rendered, of course, in the style of the King James Version. The Book of Mormon is presented as a further confirmation of the Bible, and yet "the Book of Mormon challenges the authority of the Bible by breaking the monopoly of the Bible on scriptural truth" (99). The Book of Mormon charges that "biblical revelation has been depleted" and "declares the Bible to be deficient" (100). Bushman goes on to claim that the Book of Mormon presents a highly nuanced understanding of the Bible, not as "a book of holy words, inscribed by the hand of God in stone", but rather as texts "coming out of a people's encounter with God" (100). Bushman's efforts not withstanding, it seems clear that the verses he cites do not bear the tremendous philosophical weight he places upon them. Bushman moves on to note how the Book of Mormon presents all the tribes of Israel as having their own distinctive scriptures to someday contribute, and observes how the Book of Mormon castigates and ridicules all Christians who don't accept its message and who instead think that the Bible contains the fullness of scripture to be given in this age (100). The Book of Mormon, as it presents itself and as Bushman presents it, "is but one record in a huge world archive", and this paves the way for Joseph Smith as producing further new American scripture (101).

Bushman next attacks the popular American reading of the Book of Mormon as a nationalist text. Bushman observes that the vision of future Gentile prosperity in the land occupies a mere nine verses of the Book of Mormon, and "American constitutionalism is faintly invoked and then dismissed" (102). For Bushman, the style of government in the Book of Mormon is thoroughly un-American, presenting monarchy rather than anything approaching democracy. He grants that there are some mitigating points, but notes that there is a transition from monarchy to rule by judges, not rule by a constitutional republican government. In this new judgeship, successors to the first judge inherit the office, which exalts aristocracy. "The most valued features of republican government - regular elections, a representative legislature, and checks and balances - are absent. Moreover, throughout the text, church and state are liberally intermixed" (103).

The Book of Mormon does not focus on liberty but rather on an extension of Israelite history, focusing on the themes of apostasy and restoration; the Book of Mormon rejects the popular American self-conception as a new Israel and instead restores that term to fleshly Israel. Israel is the focal point. As Bushman goes on to say:

In the Book of Mormon, Gentile Christianity has apostatized. The book repeatedly condemns Gentile religion - for disbelief in revelation and miracles, for preaching for pay, for disregard of the poor, for erasure of key parts of the Bible. Although long favored by God to become a mighty people, the Gentiles have built up false churches as monuments to their own pride. Now they have a choice. They must either join Israel or be cast off. (103)

The Book of Mormon itself represents a great turning point, the beginning of the fall of the Gentiles and the renewed rise of Israel. The book "was not only the herald of restoration; the Book of Mormon was the instrument for accomplishing it" (104). As Bushman presents it, this "turned American history upside down" by rejecting the Europeans and favoring the natives, by exalting the Book of Mormon rather than the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, by stressing the gathering of lost Israel rather than the establishment of liberty. While the early Latter-day Saints understood the Book of Mormon as a confirmation of their old beliefs and patriotism, Bushman charges them with seriously misunderstanding their own book. Whatever the merits of a few of his points, I think the contrast between, on the one hand, the entire prophet-led community in which the text came forth and the whole tradition of its authorized interpreters, and on the other hand, an isolated historian treating all these issues in a single chapter of a biography, speaks for itself.

Bushman finally moves on to the role of Joseph Smith. He stresses that, at a mere age of twenty-three, Joseph Smith "dictated the Book of Mormon without any practice runs or previous writing experience. It came in a rush, as if the thoughts had been building for decades" (105). Bushman dedicates some space here to pondering the ways in which Joseph Smith might have seen himself in the text he was producing; Bushman compares Joseph to the character of Nephi (106). Bushman also observes that the production of this text marks the victory of Joseph's religiosity over his impulse towards treasure-seeking, because the Book of Mormon "thinks like the Bible" (107). In the Book of Mormon, religion is "a public concern", with messages directed to communities and the focus being on the national and communal rather than the individual.

Bushman concludes with a brief investigation of what captivated early converts about the Book of Mormon. For some, it was a sense of the presence of the Spirit as they read; for others, it was the very fact that the book was there at all. Bushman stresses that the overwhelming emphasis of the Book of Mormon is simply the gospel of "Christ's atonement for the world's sins", which resounds in passages that "anchored Mormonism in orthodox Christianity", despite all the later doctrinal and practical innovations (108). For the Latter-day Saints, "the Book of Mormon, their third testament, held them to the fundamentals" and bound them to certain traditional Christian beliefs at a time when 'higher criticism' was soon going to begin eroding it in some mainline churches. Bushman here perhaps overplays the degree to which the Latter-day Saints actually were kept anchored by the Book of Mormon.

Overall, while Bushman presents a decent summary and treatment of the Book of Mormon, this chapter was marked by a number of serious flaws. On the one hand, his treatment of criticisms of the Book of Mormon was so obviously slanted in favor of its defenders that one wonders if Bushman at this point even considered attempting to be balanced. On the other hand, he seems determined to minimize all standard readings of the text in favor of a radically idiosyncratic and revisionist approach that, if Bushman is right, went virtually unnoticed by prophets, apostles, and devout students of this work for over 150 years. In the space provided, I simply don't think Bushman has been entirely successful on that score. From here, however, Bushman goes on in his fifth chapter to cover the establishment by Joseph Smith and his early followers of the Church of Christ.