Last Sunday, I attended a Latter-day Saint Elders Quorum meeting for the first time since March of 2020, when I taught Elders Quorum on the last Sunday before Latter-day Saint services shut down because of COVID. I had enjoyed most of the sacrament meeting (I took issue with some parts of some talks, but I have to admit that I miss the size, songs, and sense of community of Latter-day Saint services), but Elders Quorum turned out to be kind of a disappointment.
One of the more awkward passages in the Book of Mormon (at least from an ecumenical perspective—there’s much worse in there) is in I Nephi 3:220-222, where an angel has this to say with Nephi, the current narrator of the book: “Behold, there are save two churches only: the one is the church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil. Wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
preface A quick preface: This is a post that I originally wrote nearly two years ago for By Common Consent. Lately, it’s been bugging me that I don’t have a version of it up on my own site, and since I haven’t had a lot of time this week to write anything original, I’m going to repost this here. This post elaborates on one of my favorite close readings of the Book of Mormon.
I don’t remember how I discovered this book, but when ordering some books from France early in the pandemic, I couldn’t pass up the chance to read a Lebanese scholar’s treatment of the Three Nephites in the original French. That said, while there were interesting bits in here, I just don’t know that I follow academic French well enough to really get this. I have a PDF of the English translation that may be worth briefly revisiting.
I am one of those people who responds to a lot of work coming my way by ignoring that work and instead trying to think about how to change my routines and workflows. With the summer coming to an end and a new academic year approaching, I’ve been reading productivity books, thinking about the software that I use, and wondering what needs to change. switching to Habitica In particular, as I’ve posted over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about switching habit trackers.
I’m a fan of Dan McClellan’s YouTube channel—he posts a lot there (nearly everything is a repost from TikTok), and I watch most of what he posts. Yesterday, he posted an interesting video on the “Lucifer” name and character in the Bible, describing how traditional Christian ideas about the figure are all post-biblical innovations that don’t neceessarily line up with the text. In particular, the name “Lucifer” is an artifact of the Vulgate, and even in the Vulgate, the name itself is a reference to a Babylonian king, not to a fallen angel who became the devil.
Growing up Latter-day Saint, I knew that polygamy was part of our past, but I was so defensive about it not being part of our present that I often failed to understand just how important it was to my ancestors (both literal and figurative). About a month ago, I stumbled on a passage in RLDS missionary Charles Derry’s autobiography (which I recently finished) that reminded me that polygamy was a huge prority for 19th century Latter-day Saints:
Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about an important part of RLDS history that I mostly love but also get slightly annoyed by. In short, Wallace Smith, who was then prophet-president of the RLDS Church, was put on the spot by a local seminary professor, who asked the following question: If our mutual studies of Christianity and the RLDS Church were to discovere that there was a discrepancy between what Jesus taught and what Joseph Smith taught, which would you accept?
📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 for Restoration Scriptures: A Study of Their Textual Development, by Richard Howard
I picked up a copy of this book at the 2023 World Conference of Community of Christ, after it being on my wishlist for some time. It does an excellent job of examining the subjectivity of Restoration scripture by tracing its evolution over time. I remarked to a friend earlier this week that it’s a shame it was written in the 90s (and originally, the 60s) rather than now, when there’s so much more available to do this kind of work.
What a weird, profound, and beautiful book. This is a very Mormon novel, and in all the best ways. It takes Mormonism seriously—even literally—but not uncritically. I’d wager that Peck has read Grant Hardy, and my favorite bit in an amazing book is a throwaway joke about farewell expressions in French in a way that only someone who knows and loves the Book of Mormon would do. More than all of that, it is a profound and optimistic (but never naïve) story about redemption knowing no bounds.
Long read but a good read. link to ‘Mormons in Mexico and the Search for Truth, Pipe Wrench no. 8:’
I have to admit I was skeptical of the title, but this is a very interesting reading, and I’ll never read 4th Nephi the same again. link to ‘The 4th Nephi Dystopia – Wheat & Tares’
I’ve written a fair amount already on my rereading the Book of Mormon project, where I’m entertaining the idea of what a modern language edition of the book (or at least the Book of Mosiah) might look like. In my work thus far, I’ve been proceeding under the assumption that this is an inherently liberal project: In both the LDS and RLDS traditions, there has been considerable resistance to large-scale changes to the English language text of the Book of Mormon, largely because the English text is held to be translated through divine power and therefore unassailable.
After recently finishing an excellent biography on Brigham Young, I’m starting to make my way through some other Mormon Studies books that I own but have not yet read. This has brought me to Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. It’s very good so far, and I regret having waited until now to read it. I’m currently working through Reeve’s chapters describing Mormons’ relationship with American Indians, and I just now read a paragraph that really surprised me.
I am a big fan of the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the reasons that I stuck with Community of Christ when transitioning out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the book is problematic, and I doubt its historicity, but I’m still an advocate for making some religious meaning out of it. There are diverse opinions about the Book of Mormon in Community of Christ, and while there’s plenty of room to believe lots of different things, the default institutional view tends to be either indifferent or suspicious of the text.
This week and last, I’ve been reading up on Mormons’ commitment to both the language of the King James Version (Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible is a fantastic read) and what is seen as the authoritative text of the Book of Mormon. In Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography, he quotes the official Latter-day Saint Scripture Translation Manual as including the following guidelines for translators of the Book of Mormon:
When I made the decision to join Community of Christ, it wasn’t (just) because this was a denomination that aligned with my current religious and social values, but because I knew it would be a denomination that pushed me to improve my current religious and social values. I know that I have room to grow in being a better person and in making the world a better place, and I felt that Community of Christ is a denomination that would not only show me grace for who I was but also walk with me as I tried to grow in these ways.
One recurring question that I’ve had while working on my “rereading the Book of Mormon” project is asking what should be understood by the common phrase “the Lord” in the text of this book of scripture. In Bible translations, this is a bit more straightforward: “the Lord” is often used as a euphemism for the divine name YHWH and could be read in that way. Before going any further with this discussion, I want to acknowledge that my writing out and speculating on the divine name here may (or will likely) be seen as disrespectful or offensive by many Jews (and even some Christians—I admire Wil Gafney’s approach to the divine name).
A few weeks ago, I posted about Book of Mormon dependence on the King James Version and the way that that sometimes raises interesting questions about how the text should be understood. As I continue my project of what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon might look like, I’ve run into another example. 1 Corinthians 15:55 is referenced three times in the Book of Mormon, including in Mosiah 8 (Mosiah 16 LDS), where I’m currently working my way through the text.
It’s a bit of a truism to say that the Book of Mormon is dependent on Biblical language, but one thing that’s been on my mind for the past few years (especially since reading Thomas Wayment’s excellent The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints) is how specifically dependent it is on the particular language of the King James Version of the Bible. Over the past year or so, as a personal project, I’ve been toying around with what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon would look like.