Seer Stones and Prophetic Authority

Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national and international news by releasing photographs of a seer stone used by Joseph Smith during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For some contemporary Latter-day Saints and for some outside critics of the church, the fact that Joseph Smith used a [Read More...]

Mormons and New World History

Recently, I have been posting on fringe and mainstream ideas in scholarship, and have identified a number of working principles. Today I am going to illustrate these themes through one particular religious text, namely the Book of Mormon. This story also has lessons for mainstream Christians, who to varying degrees also have to face the [Read More...]

Tom Brady and Joseph Smith, Lies and Liars

“And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar,” informs Lawrence Wright in his best-selling Going Clear. In an epilogue, Wright compares Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the founding prophet of Mormonism. As evidence, Wright points to Smith’s denial of polygamy and his claim that scrolls of Egyptian papyrus contained the writings of the biblical [Read More...]

The Mormon Bonhoeffer

20th-century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey

In the 1970s, Latter-day Saint leaders began to quote C.S. Lewis in the semi-annual General Conference talks. Earlier this month, Mormon Apostle D. Todd Cristofferson made a rather striking reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a discussion of marriage. Cristofferson quoted at length from a May 19, 1943 sermon that Bonhoeffer wrote while [Read More...]

Mormons, Race, and Slavery

Reeve

In the middle of 1870, Scipio Africanus Kenner feared losing the girl he loved. For some time, he had been courting Isabel Park with her family’s encouragement. Then, suddenly, Park’s mother cooled on the match and asked Kenner never to visit the home again. Park, however, did not stop seeing Kenner. According to Kenner, Agnes [Read More...]

Jesus Delayed

Sutton

Christians have no good reason to believe Jesus is coming soon. Okay, in the final chapter of John’s Apocalypse, Jesus himself says, “See, I am coming soon” (I prefer the King James Version’s “Behold, I come quickly”). But let’s face it, “soon” and “quickly” do not usually mean after two millennia. Indeed, a surface reading [Read More...]

Be Nice to Missionaries

Harline Way Below

There are many good reasons to read Craig Harline’s Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. First of all, it offers solid proof that at least some historians have a wicked sense of humor and can employ it in writing. This [Read More...]

The Kirtland Temple

Kirtland Temple, 1934, from the LOC Historic American Buildings Survey collection

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836 by what was then the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The vast majority of those visitors are members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they come in part to see where Joseph Smith and Oliver [Read More...]

Why Mormons Love Margaret Barker

James Tissot, Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, ca. 1886-1894

Several years ago, a Latter-day Saint friend encouraged me to read British Methodist theologian Margaret Barker’s books. Now I understand why. A cautionary note. Barker has a large corpus of books to her credit, including The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God and The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. [Read More...]

Grace and Apostasy

Unveiling Grace

As a historian, I am grateful for anti-Mormon exposés. Admittedly, the genre poses obvious problems. Those who leave (and especially those who are expelled from) a religious organization often have an obvious axe to grind. At the same time, they have been inside the organization and know things about which outsiders are not privy. And [Read More...]


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