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...]

Ghost Stories

I'm revisiting Judith Richardson's Possessions: the history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley as I start thinking about nineteenth century spiritualism for a new book project, and this time I've been struck by her emphasis on place.  The tangled and broken landscape of the Hudson Valley, full of cliffs and culverts and sharp bends in the river, makes for an ideal habitat for the unquiet dead. But just as powerful is the cultural landscape, marked since the seventeenth century with the … [Read more...]

How Mormons Read the Bible

A little more than a week ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an update to its online edition of the Bible and other authoritative texts, with a print edition to follow later this year.  Some of these changes reflect better historical knowledge of LDS history, as well as improved study aids, and some historical contextualizing of some important LDS texts.  The new edition of the LDS Bible is incremental, offering a few minor spelling and punctuation updates to the King J … [Read more...]

*Angels in America* at 20: Revisiting Tony Kushner’s Millennium — and His Mormons — in the 21st Century

2013 is the 20th anniversary of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize for his groundbreaking play Angels in America, which first appeared on Broadway in two-parts in 1993. Kushner's sweeping epic critiqued conservative politics in Reagan-era America and confronted the devastating realities of HIV-AIDS for the gay community. Along the way, Angels engaged with a variety of American identities, cultures, and issues, many of which are grounded in religion and spirituality. In addition to the obvious … [Read more...]

“It’s like Methodism, only more”: Mormon Conversion and Narratives of the Great Apostasy

A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School, a middle-aged woman shared her conversion story to Mormonism. Born and raised a Methodist, she noted that she always felt like something was lacking. When she discovered Mormonism, she explained, "it was like Methodism, only more."I smiled to myself as she said this, recognizing in her own conversion narrative a common refrain that dominates the autobiographical writings of her 19th century predecessors. Among the first generation of converts to … [Read more...]

French Polynesia and Mormonization: Rethinking Mormon Origins

On January 3, the Community of Christ’s First Presidency called Maureva M. Arnaud Tchong to serve in the Council of Twelve Apostles. The current mission center president over 60 congregations in French Polynesia, Arnaud will be the first individual of native Polynesian heritage to serve as an apostle in any church descended from Joseph Smith’s nineteenth-century Restoration movement. She will also be the first woman from outside of the United States to serve in the Community of Christ’s Council o … [Read more...]


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