Death, Sealing Power, and “Trusting into Transformation”


[Preliminary note: This is the first of two posts relaying insights from a few years of reflecting on Mormon ideas about salvation and family in light of Sam Brown’s masterful study of early Mormonism, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death.] My favorite invocation/description of what Mormons call “the sealing power” comes from the eulogy that inspired the King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith’s boldest challenge to the brand of Calvinism popular among ma … [Read more...]

Matt Bowman and Ben Park Talk Seer Stones On RadioWest

Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr., Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 For the lucky few vacationing in isolated corners of the world without internet access, you may have missed the furious hubbub surrounding Joseph Smith’s seer stone. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conjunction with the Community of Christ released previously unseen photographs of the stone along with a new volume of manuscripts from the Joseph Smith Papers Project, sparking a conversation among Mormons about its significance and relevance to faith.Former Peculiar P … [Read more...]

A Review and a Farewell: Of Manuscripts and Seer Stones

I've been, as Mormons say, "less active" here at the blog for the past few months. A number of changes have forced me to contribute less---among them graduation ("Doctor Spencer," now!) and a move to Utah. And I'll now actually be signing off from the blog entirely. I'd like to make one last contribution before doing so, and that in form of a review. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend the press conference held in connection with the release of the newest volumes of the Joseph Smith … [Read more...]

Joseph Smith Papers: Documents Volume 3

A couple of weeks ago, I participated---by Skype---in the launch event for the newest Documents volume of the celebrated Joseph Smith Papers Project. I assume the project needs no introduction at this point, having already published more than a half-dozen volumes. The installment I'll review here is already the third published volume in the Documents series (though note that seven or more volumes are projected in this series!). I'll just say a bit about this volume, and perhaps about the … [Read more...]

Consecrating the widow’s mite


The Filipino widow’s miteThe widow’s mite is a poignant story, but one in which we might be missing the point Jesus meant to convey. What if instead of admiring the woman’s sacrifice, he was instead lamenting that her condition was countenanced by the people all around her, particularly those with substantial means? What if he was criticizing both that the rich garnered public approbation for their generous donations made out of their surplus, and that the woman, after consecrating her all, … [Read more...]

Kirtland Temple: An Excerpt from the Book

On June 2, the University of Illinois Press released my first book, Kirtland Temple: The Biography of Shared Mormon Sacred Space. For my post this month, I thought that I would give the readers a small sampling of my new work. While most of my book covers the Kirtland Temple in the twentieth century, the following excerpt is drawn from my first chapter that narrates the emergence and uses of the temple in the 1830s and 40s. This excerpt pays particular attention to how Joseph Smith created a … [Read more...]

On Translation Theories and the Interpretation of the Book of Mormon

Since Blake Ostler's landmark article appeared in Dialogue in 1987, there's been something of a trend among believing Mormon intellectuals. Increasingly, the tendency is to account for the English text of the Book of Mormon by positing a kind of weave of several agents operative in the production of the Book of Mormon---one of them divine (God, in some form), one of them human but ancient (the original authors of the book), and one of them human but modern (Joseph Smith). The most elaborate … [Read more...]

There’s So Much to Do, Outside the Ivory Tower!

I am an independent scholar. Not independently wealthy unfortunately – I have to earn my bread – but I am one of the growing number of people with PhDs who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not pursuing a traditional career track of teaching and scholarship, but rather have day jobs that variously engage our talents – academic and otherwise – while we continue to engage in the life of the mind on our own terms.  I’ve only been on this path for a little over two years, since earning my PhD i … [Read more...]