Revisiting the Journal of Discourses

In LDS Perspectives Podcast’s first doubleheader, they present an episode covering the discrepancies between the shorthand versions of speeches of early LDS Church leaders in Utah and their published versions. First, Russell Stevenson interviews Gerrit Dirkmaat about the research he and LaJean Carruth did comparing the shorthand notes of George Watt to some of the speeches in the Journal of Discourses.

Dirkmaat-Gerrit-1

The authors examined hundreds of sermons and sometimes they varied by hundreds of words. Dirkmaat points out that when one is talking about doctrine, words matter. While the essence of these speeches are similar in the shorthand and published versions, the words used vary greatly.

The Journal of Discourses have historical and religious value, but Dirkmaat urges members to be careful quoting specific passages and to realize that in most cases, there is know way to know the specific words used.

LaJean Purcell Carruth has an unusual skill: she can read the shorthand of George Watt, the transcriber of the speeches contained in the Journal of Discourses, his private printing venture. Over the past thirty years, she has learned his distinctive style — the unique upturns and curves he made in his notations. As she transcribed his notes, she noticed that they varied — sometimes greatly — from the printed versions of the same speeches. She wrote a poem about what she noticed:

There was a man named George Watt,

Who could improve Brigham Young, so he thought.

So he took out words here,

And he added words there,

And his accuracy was not what it ought.

LaJean Purcell Carruth©

LaJean expounds on what she has learned about the speaking styles of early religious leaders. They spoke extemporaneously and without notes and were more prone to engage in speculative theology than current leaders.

She emphasizes that Brigham Young was a powerful speaker. He cared about the people, and they knew that he cared about them. When George Watt changed Brigham Young’s words, he changed what Brigham Young said about himself. She feels the real Brigham Young has been lost to us as we view him through his discourses printed in the Journal of Discourses.

In her research, she discovered that the “one drop” phrase attributed to Brigham Young by Wilford Woodruff did not exist in the original shorthand transcription of George Watt and other statements relating to the priesthood and temple ban varied as well.

LaJean shares with Laura Harris Hales what she has learned about Brigham Young from the words left out of the Journal of Discourses and other important speeches.

Be sure and check out the resources mentioned in this podcast at LDS Perspectives Podcast.

Can We Talk?

A few weeks ago, I was getting a haircut and chatting with my stylist/therapist. She asked me what I was doing these days. I told her. She asked me if I was getting paid.

“Um, no,” I replied. “Then why are you doing it?” Crickets.

The question caused me to pause. In all honesty, I realized, the reason I started a podcast is the same reason I am involved in all of my non-profit projects: there is either a resource I want that is non-existent or a resource I can create that I wish I had had at one time in my life.

In this case, it is probably a mixture of both. I began my audio-listening habit about three years ago after replacing my full-time cubicle in a law office for part-time work from a computer at home. With extra time just floating around waiting to be harnessed, I combined remodeling my home with buffing up my religious education.

It was time. My children were looking to me for answers, and I didn’t even understand the questions. Over ten thousand hours of church participation had prepared me to bear my testimony but not to evaluate criticisms regarding foundational truth claims.

So I started studying, and as I studied I became more and more curious … in a good way. My appetite for “new” information grew as I began to slowly take items off of my proverbial shelf. This was actually starting to be fun.

I started in the land of Dehlin because that’s where the LDS scholars were sharing their goods. That turned south pretty quickly.

I listened to every episode the Maxwell Institute had to offer, meeting some phenomenal biblical scholars like Peter Enns and Amy-Jill Levine.

Soon I moved on to podcasts by non-LDS biblical scholars. Mark Goodacre’s NT Pod was fantastic, presenting bite-sized pieces of biblical insights.

Then last February, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a talk to CES employees encouraging them to seek out the best LDS scholarship available, which is what I had been trying to do for the last several years.

Guess what?

It sounds easier than it actually is unless you have unlimited time and an unlimited budget. (Two things, unfortunately, that I am sadly lacking.)

I knew there had to be a way to present the best LDS scholarship available in a time- and budget-friendly manner.

LDS Perspectives Podcast grew out of a desire to fill the void between the excellent devotional podcasts of the Mormon Channel and the “Doubtcasts” that proliferate the internet.

My team and I hope to offer a place for mainstream members to learn more context about history, seek more depth to doctrine, and gain more support with cultural challenges.

Each week one of our podcasters sits down with a respected LDS scholar, author, or educator and has a casual discussion about some aspect of LDS doctrine, history, or culture. We are just everyday Mormons, but we are sharing extraordinary conversations about our religion and our faith.

Whether you are just beginning your studies or are an expert, we hope you will enjoy listening to our conversations.

Browse our past episodes today, and check back tomorrow to catch our latest episode, “When Was Jesus Born?” with Jeffrey R. Chadwick.

Episode 1: The Historical Jesus – Thomas Wayment Sep 19, 2016

Episode 2: What is Grace? – Brad Wilcox Sep 28, 2016

Episode 3: LDS Artwork Revisited – Anthony Sweat Oct 4, 2016

Episode 4: Homosexuality and the Gospel – Ty Mansfield Oct 12, 2016

Episode 5: Book of Mormon Central – Neal Rappleye Oct 19, 2016

Episode 6: DNA Detective Work – Ugo Perego Oct 26, 2016

Episode 7: Pursue-Withdrawal Relationship Syndrome – Jonathan ShermanNov 2, 2016

Episode 8: What is Isaiah Doing in the Book of Mormon? – Joseph Spencer Nov 3, 2016

Episode 9: Joseph’s Seer Stones – Michael Hubbard MacKay Nov 15, 2016

Episode 10: Book of Mormon Scholarship, Theories, and Folklore – Brant A. Gardner Nov 23, 2016

Episode 11: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus – Eric Huntsman Nov 29, 2016

Episode 12: Revelations in Context – Matthew J. Grow Dec 1, 2016

 

 

Recommended Reading for CES Instructors, in light of Elder Ballard’s recent remarks

If you follow any Mormon topics on any form of social media, it’s likely you’ve heard about Elder Ballard’s recent remarks:

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and the teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.”

What I hope to do in this post is list a few resources that a seminary/institute (or even a really dedicated Sunday School teacher) could read to help them get the knowledge to either give good answers to these questions or to know where to look and find the answers. Continue reading

Toward A True International Church

It has been more than five years since the LDS Church counted more members outside of the United States than inside. For a Church that believes it will cover the whole earth, this is good news. That does not mean that it has reached “World Religion” status by a long shot. Although making the statement with a dismissive tone, Prof. Douglas J. Davis was right when he said calling Mormonism a World Religion at this point is dubious. Nor is it likely that it will be until the Millenium (but that is a topic for later). With 7 Billion people in the world and growing, 12 million doesn’t cut it as anything beyond a deeply humbling statistic. Missionary work has a long way to go.

Despite a long road ahead, the LDS Church is taking strides toward a true international church. Too many members are getting confused between the designation of “World Religion” with numbers, political power, and social influence and “International Church” where a sizeable membership lives in different countries. It is the latter designation that Mormonism has made progress with more promise.

A few have noted a diverse crop of international located leaders have been called in the lower ranks of general officers. It is a good sign that the future might be less U.S. centric. Leaders in lower positions can be called to the highest responsibility. South America is where the largest number of new leaders are emerging. Interesting enough, Cantonese turned out to be the first non-English language spoken in General Conference by Elder Chi Hong “Sam” Wong of Hong Kong. Hardly the most represented language of the LDS Church, although the Spanish spoken by Elder Eduardo Gavarret of Uruguay is for a large portion of members.

A few years ago former general authority Elder John K. Carmack predicted someday General Conference could be held outside Utah and even the United States:

“The international church may yet become stronger than in the United States,” said Elder John K. Carmack, an emeritus general authority of the LDS Church. “I’m not a prophet, seer or revelator, but I believe this will happen.

“I can envision general conference being held in Sao Paulo or Mexico City or Manila. . .”

Now, six years later, Carmack said, “We can see the dim outlines of the benefits that surely will come to the international church. Already, a not insignificant number of our leaders in areas with the program are coming from the ranks of PEF recipients.”

Carmack said the church’s area president for northern South America recently reported that more than 10 percent of the region’s stake presidents and bishops are PEF graduates.

Brazil is the clear hot spot for the fund, followed by Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The prediction General Conference will be held outside of Utah is not particularly feasible. Salt Lake City still remains where the central resources are situated. Technology has made logistical requirements for a traveling conference unnecessary. The LDS Church, however, will continue to have speakers give talks in their own languages. English and Spanish will be the two main languages over the pulpit, with others included as the leadership desires. Of course, that means that English speakers will have to get used to reading or listening to interpreters as a large portion of LDS membership outside the U.S. already does.

This is an exciting development. It is a tremendous opportunity. As Elder Carmack said, we are close to, “where it is time to trim the parts that are peculiar to the United States and not relevant to the international church.” That means asking what are the basics of the Church in a world of multicultural and political geography.

The Order of the Relief Society

This is the final in a series about Mormon Priesthood theology and development. The others can be read here, here, and here although this one is about the Relief Society. No discussion about the Priesthood is complete without a mention of this organization of women.relief society logo true blue

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, regardless of birth and station in life. A person does not even have to belong to the Church for the atonement to help in repentance and answers to prayers. The formation by the Lord of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to have an authorized organization to spread the Gospel and administer the ordinances of Salvation and Exaltation. Church is where the Priesthood is gathered for administration of those ordinances that include baptism and Temple work. For Mormonism, those who do not have the Priesthood are without authorization to administer those ordinances. For believers, Joseph Smith restored the ancient covenants and authority that had been lost since the time of the Apostles. No person or group can claim having the Priesthood unless they can prove an unbroken line directly to Joseph Smith and those he ordained. A revelation to those already in authority or a visit by angels are the only ways those who were not allowed the Priesthood can receive it. What the Lord takes, He can give. What He gives can be taken away, such as Israel in the days of Moses. The Priesthood is forever. Any mortal person’s right to it is not.

When the Priesthood was given to Joseph Smith, the Lord gave it to men and not women. The Scriptures and history indicates it has been that way from the days of Adam and Eve. Men have been tasked with leading the Church and giving the ordinances. It is an awesome responsibility that has not always been appreciated. Sad experience has proven that not all men are worthy of wielding such a precious and powerful tool. Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, no one on Earth is perfect. That is why there is a need for the atonement. Both men and women can partake of this divine gift and prepare for greater blessings. Women may not have the Priesthood as currently understood, but the Lord has provided them with their own authority and responsibility to work along side the Priesthood structure. The Relief Society is much more than a gathering of women in Church. Fully utilized, it can be a powerful influence for good, or as Emma Smith put it, “something extraordinary.” Continue reading