The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

By June 1829 Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer had verbalized a desire to be the special three witnesses alluded to in the Book of Mormon.

D&C 17 records a revelation affirming their roles as witnesses and was given to Joseph Smith through a seer stone he apparently found while digging a well in 1822.

As witnesses, the three were very different. Martin Harris was zealous, impetuous, and even a bit eccentric. Oliver Cowdery was an intellectual. And David Whitmer was regarded as clear-thinking, down-to-earth, and honest.

David Whitmer was, perhaps, the strongest witness because he lived so long, never wavered in his testimony of the vision, and gave several newspaper interviews that give us additional details regarding the experience. David reported seeing several plates, the sword of Laban, the Liahona, and the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph Smith was understandably relieved to have others to testify of the existence of the plates. Larry Morris concludes that the experience of the Three Witnesses was both an empirical and spiritual experience.

Join Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast as he interviews Larry Morris as part of the Revelations in Context podcast series.

What is LDS Doctrine?

Dr. Michael Goodman was part of the team tagged to write the institute cornerstone course The Eternal Family. He and his team developed 28 lessons using the 600-word “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as a framework.

When deciding what to include, the writers needed to determine what was doctrine and what was individual interpretation.

Using definitions provided by LDS Church leaders, they were able to articulate clear criteria.

Doctrine is what the current prophets, seers, and revelators are teaching. They include eternal, essential truths necessary for our salvation and meet three criteria:

  1. Doctrine is eternal; it does not change through time.
  2. Doctrine is sustained by the united voice of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.
  3. Doctrine is necessary for our salvation.

On LDS.org, the nine basic doctrines of the Church are listed and are now the current focus of the seminary Doctrinal Mastery program.

Dr. Goodman points out in his discussion with Laura Harris Hales of the LDS Perspectives Podcast that just because something isn’t doctrine, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t come from God. It simply means we can look at it in light of its non-doctrinal nature.

Visit LDS Perspectives to find links to resources including the Basic Doctrines listed on lds.org.

Mormon Studies in the 21st Century

Historian, author, and educator Patrick Mason tells his students that Mormon studies is just a really fun place to play. It gets to the heart of the questions we have in 21st century society.

By studying Mormonism, we can learn more about the world we live in as it touches on the following:

  • Minority/majority relations;
  • How we can organize a democratic society;
  • The role of religion in the public sphere;
  • Gender issues;
  • Marriage; and
  • Family.

Mormonism, Mormon history, Mormon theology usually has something to say about these foundational issues.

Host Russell Stevenson of LDS Perspectives Podcast interviews Patrick Mason about how the way historians do their business has changed over the last 100 years. In the 19th century, history tended to be bipolar with anti-Mormons on one end and church leaders, members, and historians offering their version from a faith-promoting perspective that acknowledged God’s involvement in affairs.

By the late 20th century, historians began to weigh truth claims in a more dispassionate manner. Their goals were less polemic and more directed toward enhancing understanding–wherever that may lead.

Please join us for this interesting discussion.

LDS Women Speaking Up and Speaking Out

Editors Jenny Reeder and Kate Holbrook, respectively 19th- and 20th-century women’s historians, discuss their multi-year project to bring LDS women’s speeches together in At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women in this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast.

This is the second book to come out of the Church Historian’s Press in as many years with the goal of making LDS women’s experiences, history, and discourses available to the mainstream membership.

Before the reader even opens the book, the nostalgic cover art of At the Pulpit brings to mind its two opposing themes: change and familiarity. One glance at the over-sized corsage adorning Belle Spafford’s tailored dress may spawn a flood of memories. When was it that they stopped having women wear corsages at conference anyway? The scene is as familiar and comforting as it is foreign.

Because women didn’t typically speak in conference settings before the mid-20th century, the definition of “discourse” is stretched a bit for this anthology. To Reeder and Holbrook’s credit, this makes the book seem less like a collection of discourses than treasured glimpses into the relationship LDS women have had to their God over the last 185 years.

It is less a collection of talks than a creative medium for teaching about how attitudes toward the roles of women at home and in the LDS Church have changed and in some ways remained the same.

Many may find the introductions to each discourse the most enjoyable portions of the book. In these brief overviews, readers not only receive context for the discourse but also context for the time in which it is given.

Overall this is a welcome addition to the fine work coming out of the Church History Department and to the library of anyone wishing to entertain a more nuanced view on the amplitude of women’s voices in LDS discourse over the years.

Mental Health Myths

Religious LDS culture has historically struggled to find a place for matters of mental health and depression as it dovetails with our mortal experience and our theology.

As a result, many members may be unsure of how we as a people stand with respect to issues of depression, anxiety, and other common mental health issues.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison writes: “I assure you that Latter-day Saints are in no way exempt from the burden of mental illness, either as victim, caregiver, family member, or friend. In every ward and stake, there are severely depressed men and women; elderly people with failing memories and reduced intellectual capacities; youth or adults struggling to escape the dark specter of suicide; persons of all ages, both sexes, and every walk of life, who exhibit aberrant, even bizarre behavior.”

Using Elder Morrison’s book “Valley of Sorrows” as a backdrop resource, Brian Murdock, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and LDS Perspectives host Nick Galieti begin their discussion by debunking common myths about mental health issues.

Murdock then addresses the topic of clinical depression: what depression is, and what it isn’t. He offers some insights to consider for people who are currently suffering from depression, as well as to those who are interacting with those experiencing clinical depression. This episode also offers some practical advice for bishops, or other members of the church who want to help those with depression.

This episode is a great introduction and survey of the subject of one of the most common mental health issues we find in our society.

Access mental health resources mentioned in this episode at LDS Perspectives Podcast.