Tuesday, May 3, 2011

LDS Temple Documentary History Books

I wanted to take a moment to remark on some things I've been reading. I've recently completed the first and second books in a three-volume set edited by Devery S. Anderson (the first two co-edited with Gary James Bergera) on the history of LDS temple worship. The first of those volumes, Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845: A Documentary History, naturally covers the period from the organization of the Quorum of the Anointed (also known as the Holy Order) up through the point in late 1845 when the Nauvoo temple was sufficiently prepared to begin doing the ordinances there. The second volume, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History, covers just a few months but with such rich documentation that it requires about 621 pages to do so. Thanks in large part to William Clayton and also to the Seventies Record (Book B), we have an immense wealth of detail, including various names and statistics pertaining to virtually every performance of every ordinance that happened there. And all of it is included in this book, along with all sorts of associated records. These two books so far have been a great help in learning about the development of temple ordinances and related subjects from LDS sources, largely diaries and record-books. I stress again, these were extremely informative, and I'm quite eager to read the third volume, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History. (Alas, it will most likely be quite some time before I get my hands on it.)

There truly are some gems in here, even if much of the material leans towards the mundane. Here are a few bits and pieces that I found interesting. The first comes from Heber Chase Kimball on 27 June 1845, the first anniversary of the death of Joseph Smith (1:121):

One year ago Joseph and Hirum [Smith] was killed in Carthage Jail [Illinois]. So we met in cou[n]cil to pray that God would curs[e] those that had spilt there [the martyrs'] B[l]ood and all those ^that^ percicute the Saints. O Lord I [Heber C. Kimball] thank Thy holy name that Thou dost hear Thy servents and bring trouble on them [who do us harm]. Even now they are dum, and cannot do business and are all thrown in to confusion, in answer to the prayers of Thy servents, as we have felt to pleede with The[e] with uplifted hands in token of our regard to The[e].

As an example from the second volume, one might choose the diary entry made by Thomas Bullock pertaining to 23 January 1846, where he says (2:468, 471):

At dusk I [Thomas Bullock], Henrietta [Bullock] and Lucy [Clayton] went to the Temple, dressed, sat in the Cel[estial]. Room, and shook hands with B[righam]. Young, H[eber]. C. Kimball, O[rson]. Hyde, P[arley]. P. Pratt, [and] A[masa]. Lyman. Went into the President's room when I and [the] two others were sealed up to eternal life, thro[ugh]' time to come forth in the morn of the resurrection, and thro' all eternity. Were sealed up against all sin except the sin against the Holy Ghost and the shedding of innocent blood by A[masa]. Lyman. I praise the Lord for this great manifestation of his love and mercy towards me and grant that the happiness which I now enjoy may last for all eternity. And may my whole soul continually praise his holy name. Amen. Afterwards we staid till midnight rejoicing to the sound of music with songs of praise. Pres[ident]. Young addressed the assembly and H[eber]. C. Kimball offered up prayer to our Heavenly Father - especially for those who had made covenants that night.

The editing done on these volumes is, in my mind, top-notch. And the sources they present are truly invaluable and give a great deal of insight. (And, for those with concerns, the editors do edge around presenting the few aspects of the temple ceremonies that members are genuinely forbidden to divulge.) I've learned plenty from these books, and I recommend them highly.

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