An Unexpected Revelation

In episode three of our Revelations in Context Series, host Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast interviews Matthew McBride of the Church History Department about his essay entitled “The Vision.”

In 1832 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon reported receiving a vision at the John Johnson home. Apparently while working on a revision of the New Testament, Joseph had just completed “translating” John 5:29 when the vision commenced.

The early nineteenth century culture was highly religious and most Christian sects believed that the Bible was all sufficient. For Joseph Smith to revise what was already considered to be complete was radical. What he and Sidney saw in vision was even more surprising.

The vision touched on matters dealing with one of the most contentious religious debates of the time: who is saved? Suprisingly, the revelation confirmed the least popular position.

Brigham Young, arguably one of Joseph’s most loyal supporters, struggled with this Universalist position for quite a time. Other members had difficulty accepting this paradigm shift as well.

Matthew McBride uses this historical backdrop to provide a powerful metaphor for modern-day members to use when dealing with doctrine that may be difficult to accept.

This is an episode you won’t want to miss.

The Book of Mormon as a really interesting, well, piece of literature

Grant Hardy became intrigued with world religions, especially those of East Asia, as a young missionary. He has reasearched and written widely on various topics, but his study of the Book of Mormon led him to publish two landmark books that share important insights.

In his brief overview to Understanding the Book of Mormon, Hardy gives us ten observations about the Book of Mormon:

  1. It is a long book.
  2. It is written in a somewhat awkward, repetitious form of English.
  3. It imitates the style of the King James Version.
  4. It claims to be history.
  5. It presents a complicated narrative.
  6. It is a religious text.
  7. It is basically a tragedy.
  8. It is very didactic.
  9. It is a human artifact.
  10. Its basic structure is derived from the three narrators.

It is this last observation that forms the thesis for the majority of his work. Hardy contends that “If you’re not seeing the narrators at every turn, you’re not really reading the Book of Mormon–because that’s how the book is constructed, regardless of who the author(s) may have been.”

The three main narrators (Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) each had distinct approaches as they presented history and revelation in their writings.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she has an enjoyable back-and-forth with an outstanding Book of Mormon scholar.

Check out LDS Perspectives for links to materials referenced in this podcast.

Revelations in Context: D&C 134 – Of Governments and Laws

In November 2014, Smithsonian Magazine named Joseph Smith as the most influence American religious figure of all time.

This founder of the Mormon religion also ran for president of the United States during the last year of his life. Though he left a much smaller imprint on the political scene than the religious one, there is one document in our current canonized scripture that is dedicated to enumerating LDS beliefs regarding governments and laws.

Ironically, though Joseph Smith would refer to it during his lifetime, he didn’t actually author it.  What is now D&C 134 was written in 1835 by Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon and was accepted by common consent in a conference held in Smith’s absence. No leader then or now referred to it as direct revelation from God but rather a declaration of principles.

The document proved highly adaptable as it was used to protest and support the US government. It was also used in petitions to the US Congress for redress from Missouri persecutions.

As part of the Revelations in Context series, McBride shares his insights into this document and its reception and use by early Mormon Apostle Lyman Wight.

Spencer W. McBride believes that members will benefit from the study of the past. He maintains that “Mormons will better understand their own religion if they have a deeper understanding of American history, and Americans will better understand their past if they understand the smaller aspect of the Mormon world.”

Exploring Near Death Experiences

In 1975, Dr. Raymond A. Moody coined the term “near-death experiences” in his bestselling book Life After Life.

Mormons have latched on to this concept, which is not surprising, considering our unique doctrine regarding the afterlife.

Dr. Brent Top has researched extensively near-death experiences, especially by those outside of the LDS community.

He has identified several common elements to these experiences such as the “life review,” encountering loved ones, and spirit communication.

Far from fading as a fad, the topic is becoming more and more popular.

While Dr. Top finds his studies interesting, he warns of the danger of trying to establish doctrine through experience. He emphasizes what the LDS doctrine is regarding the afterlife rather than anecdotal experiences. He also introduces a concept he coined as the “Apocraphal Principle” to help us evaluate these stories.

Check out links to extra resources at LDS Perspectives.

Joseph Smith’s Papyri

Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast interviews Dr. John Gee about the history of Joseph Smith’s papyri.

Dr. Gee has studied the papyri and the Book of Abraham for over thirty years, yet believes there are still many mysteries still to be unraveled.

He shares with listeners fascinating details regarding what we know about Joseph Smith’s purchase of the papyri in Ohio in 1835 to the Church’s acquisition of its remaining fragments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the late sixties.

Along the way he shares some interesting stories about the Book of Mormon translation, its teachings, and how Mother Smith used the papyri and mummies to provide for herself as a widow.

He also sheds light on issues regarding the provenance (where it came from) of the Book of Abraham and how its teachings on the pre-existence proliferated throughout the Church in the years after Joseph Smith’s death.

Be sure to check the links to articles written by Dr. Gee on both of these topics on the LDS Perspectives website.