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.

“Oh Say, What Is Truth?”: Evaluating Claims Regarding Nauvoo Polygamy

A Detailed Response to Meg Stout by Brian C. Hales (Click here to see PDF) and a Brief Response by Laura Harris Hales (see below)

A few weeks ago I patronized my favorite car wash after a particularly bad rainstorm. As I approached the entrance, an attendant straddled the pesky conveyor rails and proceeded to guide me to my destination with clear hand movements: straight forward … a little bit to the right … straighten it out again. Rats! My left tire was on top of the conveyor because I had overcompensated with my last adjustment. Realizing I had done the very thing I was trying to avoid, I turned the steering wheel slightly, and the tire slid off its perch and into place. Continue reading

Debunking that Quote about Brigham Young’s Greatest Fear

Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_Carter

The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” – Brigham Young

This quote is probably familiar to many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have participated in online discussions about the church.

Faithful members have had it thrown in their faces by dissidents and detractors on numerous occasions. Dissenters see it as a powerful sound-bite in support of the notion that members of the church must be continually vigilant that the fallible leaders of the church do not lead the church astray.

And as a soundbite it is reasonably effective. But there is one problem: Brigham Young never said it. The quote is completely spurious.

Continue reading

Mormon Monuments at the U.S. Capitol and Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

Statue of Lady Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol BuildingMy family visited Washington D.C. for a vacation this October. We had a wonderful time exploring the National Monuments and Smithsonian Museums. There is so much to learn, think about, and do, and never enough time for all of it. It was also a great time to talk with our children about our country, its history, and its founding documents and principles.

I want to highlight a couple of unexpected encounters with Mormonism and LDS related ideas we had while there, with photos I took myself.

LDS visitors to Washington D.C. may be interested in going out of their way to see some of these Mormon monuments. And should Mitt Romney be successful in winning the election for President of the United States, interest in some of these may increase among those who are not members of the LDS church as well.

The U.S. Capitol Building is beautiful. The room where the House of Representatives used to meet from 1819 to 1857 is now the National Statuary Hall, where they display statues of prominent Americans. Each state of the Union is allowed to send two statues, of either bronze or marble, to be displayed at the Capitol, many in the statuary hall. Continue reading