Review of William B. Smith Biography

Dr. Kyle R. Walker 1 has produced the first biography of Joseph Smith’s controversial brother, William B. Smith.

William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet was published in June 2015 by Greg Kofford Books, and offers a thorough and gentle view of the last surviving brother of Joseph Smith.

Dr. Walker seems thoroughly on Team William, focusing on William’s great efforts on behalf of the Church. However Dr. Walker is not willing to hide contemporary documents completely, and gives credence to contemporary reports from Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff regarding William’s unorthodox marital/sexual behavior. Thus Dr. Walker is ultimately unable to avoid recounting facts leading to William’s inability to retain a leading role in the Church William’s brother had founded. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Kyle Walker has a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Brigham Young University.

Guest post for Pioneer Day

This is a guest post by Huston.

“Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Salt Lake Valley. There God holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There God decrees
the kingdom of Zion will rise again. Bear up.
Save your strength for better times to come.”

This is a quote from Brigham Young.

Here, the Mormon leader motivates discouraged pioneers as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home. He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured. He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west. Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost. This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize their destiny.

Oh, no, wait. That’s not right. This is actually a quote from the Trojan hero Aeneas in Virgil’s classic The Aeneid (Book I, lines 238-244, Robert Fagles trans.).

“Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Latium. There Fate holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There the gods decree
the kingdom of Troy will rise again. Bear up.
Save your strength for better times to come.”

Here, the Trojan leader motivates discouraged warriors as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home. He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured. He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west. Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost. This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize their destiny.

Sorry for the confusion, but you can see how I got these two epic journeys mixed up. They have so much in common.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for us.

Handcart Trek: Corsets and Army Boots

corset-bootThis weekend our stake held their fourth “trek” youth conference, of which members of my family have participated in three. This is my second trek, accompanying my daughter who is autistic.

Eldest daughter, as passionate about fiber arts as I am about the history of polygamy, decided we would be greatly benefited by participating in authentic period costume, including corsets. Now that I know what it is to wear one and how it shapes the body, I can see the corsets on all the pioneer women in pictures from the 1800s. Speaking for myself, my reaction went from “You have got to be kidding!” to “Not bad.”

The handcart trek experience is becoming one of the experiential touch points of being a Mormon young person. In contrast to all the intellectual hand wringing I see on the internet, the trek experience is down to earth and visceral. This is no simple lecture about how hard life was for the early Saints. It is days of sleeping on the hard ground, pushing and pulling a cart carrying your few possessions, not knowing ahead of time what will happen, how long the road will be, or what natural delights and perils await on the path ahead. Continue reading

LDS General Authorities and Ageism.

With the sorrowful passing of two Apostles, once again the subject of age of the leadership has been brought up. The calling of one Prophet or Apostle to replace another is accompanied by the term gerontocracy. This is the idea that the leadership is much older than the general population. Yes this is true, but the attitude expressed by those reporting it often has a critical tone. This criticism does at times become a mocking accusation that none of them are fit for the position. There is a thinly veiled stereotype of sickly isolated curmudgeon set in their ways.

Reporters and those outside of Mormonism aren’t the only ones who think negatively of the ages. Many critics inside the LDS Church, and especially those who want to see a more lenient or worldly moral and theological change, feel the General Authorities are too old. They argue that the higher ages stifle innovation and perhaps keep revelation to a minimum. Younger leadership, they often argue, would see things differently and more expansive.

A pastime for both the faithful and those who aren’t as orthodox is to guess how many years a General Authority has to live and then who will take their place, Whole charts have been developed to see who is oldest and youngest among them, and then make educated guesses who will make it to the Presidency of the Church. Death of the leadership has become something of an obsession. Continue reading

The Council System in the Church

Rational Faiths has recently posted an article arguing that — by the LDS Church’s own definitions — the LDS Church has slipped into apostasy. The central argument (there are side arguments I won’t touch on here) is that in LDS rhetoric and literature, the primitive Christian Church fell into apostasy when it began to rely on councils and creeds rather than apostolic direction and prophetic revelation.

Today, the author argues, the LDS Church does the same — rather than being led by a prophet receiving direct revelation from God, the Church is led by the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, a council, he argues, that directs the Church by issuing creeds, activities very similar to those the LDS Church attributes to the great apostasy. Two comments: Continue reading