Considering the Task of Latter-day Saint Intellectuals in the Church’s Third Century

Considering the Task of Latter-day Saint Intellectuals in the Church’s Third Century August 10, 2021


Not my mother's St. George
The St. George Utah Temple glows at nightfall in the center of St. George proper. The major suburban areas of Washington and Bloomington are not shown in this photo from the Utah Chamber of Commerce.  The Pine Valley Mountains — still snowcapped in this Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph — loom behind the city lights.




Audio Roundtable: Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 34: “A Principle with Promise” (D&C 89-92)

The Interpreter Radio Roundtable for Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 34, “A Principle with Promise,” on D&C 89-92, featured Martin Tanner, John Gee, and Kevin Christensen.  Purified of commercial interruptions, and extracted from the 11 July 2021 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show, the discussion may now be heard at The Interpreter Radio Show is broadcast every Sunday evening from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at




Here are five more links to articles from a prior issue of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


Duane Boyce, “Text as Afterthought: Jana Riess’s Treatment of the Jacob-Sherem Episode”

Review of Jana Riess, “‘There Came a Man’: Sherem, Scapegoating, and the Inversion of Prophetic Tradition,” in Christ and Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7, eds. Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2017), 17 pages (chapter), 174 pages (book).

Abstract: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute recently published a book on the encounter between Jacob and Sherem in Jacob 7. Jana Riess’s contribution to this volume demonstrates the kind of question-asking and hypothesis formation that might occur on a quick first pass through the text, but it does not demonstrate what obviously must come next, the testing of those hypotheses against the text. Her article appears to treat the text as a mere afterthought. The result is a sizeable collection of errors in thinking about Jacob and Sherem.


Nathan B. Oman, “Welding Another Link in Wonder’s Chain: The Task of Latter-day Saint Intellectuals in the Church’s Third Century”

Abstract: This is a challenging moment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. Both its efforts at retention and missionary work are less effective than they have been in the past. At this moment, what is the most important task facing Latter-day Saint intellectuals? In contrast to those who argue that faithful thinkers and writers should focus either on defending the faith or providing criticisms of the Church’s failings, this essay argues that the Latter-day Saint clerisy should focus on celebrating the Restoration and finding new language in which to express what makes the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ a compelling and attractive force in people’s lives. The language which we have used in the past no longer seems to be as compelling as once it was. This is unsurprising. The history of the Church shows a cyclical pattern focused on missionary work, with seasons of harvest giving way to fallow times and seasons of planting. However, over time the Church tends to transform itself in the image of its most successful messages for proclaiming the Gospel. Latter-day Saint intellectuals have an important, albeit subordinate, role in finding such messages. Pursuing the project of celebrating the Restoration need not involve either usurping the prerogatives of Church leaders nor compromising one’s intellectual integrity. In this moment in the history of the Church, it is the most important project to which Latter-day Saint thinkers can turn their attention.


Duane Boyce, “Jacob Did Not Make a False Prediction”

Review of Adam S. Miller, “Reading Signs or Repeating Symptoms,” in Christ and Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7, eds. Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2017), 10 pages (chapter), 174 pages (book).

Abstract. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute recently published a volume on the encounter between Jacob and Sherem in Jacob 7. Adam Miller’s contribution to this book is a reiteration of views he published earlier in his own volume. One of Miller’s claims is that Jacob made a false prediction about the reaction Sherem would have to a sign if one were given him — an assertion that is already beginning to shape the conventional wisdom about this episode. This shaping is unfortunate, however, since the evidence indicates that this view of Jacob’s prediction is a mistake. Once we see this, it is easier to avoid other mistakes that seem evident in Miller’s approach.


John Gee, “The Joseph Smith Papers Project Stumbles”

Review of The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, eds. Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018), 381 pages.

Abstract: Volume 4 of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers does not live up to the standards set in previous volumes. While the production values are still top notch, the actual content is substandard. Problems fill the volume, including misplaced photographs and numerous questionable transcriptions beyond the more than two hundred places where the editors admitted they could not read the documents. For this particular volume, producing it incorrectly is arguably worse than not producing it at all.


Noel B. Reynolds, “The Language of the Spirit in the Book of Mormon”

Abstract: This study provides students of the Book of Mormon with the first comprehensive analysis of the many ways in which the word “spirit” is used in that volume of scripture. It demonstrates how the titles “Holy Ghost,” “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of the Lord,” “Holy Spirit,” and “the Spirit” are used interchangeably to refer to the third member of the Godhead. It also shows that the Holy Ghost was understood to be a separate being. The analysis is thoroughly integrated with scholarly studies of references to the spirit (rûah) in the Hebrew Bible. The functions of the Holy Ghost are also identified and explained.




“Perspective: Hollywood’s wrong — traditional faith is strong: Instead of only highlighting those who leave religion, what about a show that depicts an equally compelling and common decision to enter it?”




And, finally, here’s a brief compendium of items from the apparently inexhaustible Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©:


“Relief Society in Action, August 2021”


Posted from St. George, Utah



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