“Jonathan Edwards’s Unique Role in an Imagined Church History”

“Jonathan Edwards’s Unique Role in an Imagined Church History” June 24, 2022


The seat of the Supreme Court of the United States
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)




A new article has just appeared in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


“Jonathan Edwards’s Unique Role in an Imagined Church History,” by Spencer Kraus

Review of Jonathan Neville, Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Digital Legends Press, 2021. 339 pages. $22.99 (paperback).

Abstract: This is the second of two papers reviewing Jonathan Neville’s latest books on the translation of the Book of Mormon. In Infinite Goodness, Neville claims that Joseph Smith’s vocabulary and translation of the Book of Mormon were deeply influenced by the famous Protestant minister Jonathan Edwards. Neville cites various words or ideas that he believes originate with Edwards as the original source for the Book of Mormon’s language. However, most of Neville’s findings regarding Edwards and other non-biblical sources are superficial and weak, and many of his findings have a more plausible common source: the language used by the King James Bible. Neville attempts to make Joseph a literary prodigy, able to read and reformulate eight volumes of Edwards’s sermons — with enough genius to do so, but not enough genius to learn the words without Edwards’s help. This scenario contradicts the historical record, and Neville uses sources disingenuously to impose his idiosyncratic and wholly modern worldview onto Joseph Smith and his contemporaries.




Tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:30 PM, I’ll be the concluding speaker at the Joseph and Polly Knight 2022 Family Reunion:




I would like to have participated in the whole thing but — having just returned from Europe late last night, being jet-lagged, and not yet being fully prepared for tomorrow’s remarks and for other imminently scheduled lectures — it just hasn’t worked out.




Incidentally, speaking of that just-concluded stay in Europe:  My Malevolent Stalker, who will in the not too distant future enter into his third decade of continuously and anonymously demonizing me online, points out that I appear to be obsessed with Nazism.  (He darkly insinuates that I rather admire the National Socialists’ cruelty and anti-Semitism.)  And, indeed, my having spoken to my tour group about Hitler and the Nazis and my having posted several times from the tour about the Third Reich are extremely odd and difficult to explain.  Why on earth would visits to Munich and Berlin on a tour that was focused on German history and culture ever prompt somebody — any more than a sojourn on the beach at Malibu or a day spent at Disney World in Orlando would — to think occasionally of the Nazis?  Completely inexplicable and manifestly damning.




By the way, the Interpreter Foundation’s theatrical film Witnesses has been selected as a finalist for one of its awards by the Association for Mormon Letters:


“2021 AML Awards Finalists #3: Film, Drama, Poetry, Podcasts”




One writer for National Review terms it “The Greatest Victory in the History of the Conservative Movement,” and I’m not strongly inclined to disagree.  The overturning of Roe v. Wade has been a long time coming.  But, at last, it has now come.  Decisions regarding the regulation of abortion have been returned to the people and to their elected state representatives, where, under God and under the Constitution, they have always belonged.  (There is further good coverage at National Review.)




I was tired on yesterday’s flights from Munich to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, so I didn’t read very much.  Instead, I watched movies.  Mostly Casino Royale (2006), Skyfall (2012), and No Time to Die (2021), which I had not seen before.  But I also watched the 1972 Bob Fosse film Cabaret, starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey.  Somehow, incredibly and although it is widely regarded as a rather great film, I had also missed it.  Probably, I’m guessing (since I don’t really remember), because it came out in 1972, and I spent half of 1972 out on my mission in Switzerland.


Many if not most here will probably be familiar with Cabaret.  Even I was, in the sense that I was already aware when and where it was set.  That’s why I chose to watch it this time, of course — because it is set in Berlin at the beginning of the 1930s, shortly before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany.  (More proof, I suppose, of my delicious fascination with the Third Reich?)


Based on Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical The Berlin Stories (1945), Cabaret paints a picture of the hedonistic amorality and toxic individualism, the anomie and decadence, that flourished in some places in Germany during the Weimar Republic and that, in some ways, seem to have paved the way for, or to have allowed, the rise of Nazism.  It’s a very well done film that I found more than slightly unpleasant, even repellant.  Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that I never really liked any of the characters in the movie.  But they were certainly well portrayed.  The film won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Original Song Score and Adaptation, and Best Film Editing, as well as taking the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey), Best Director (Bob Fosse), and Best Actress (Liza Minnelli) — that’s eight Academy Awards, altogether, which is evidently still the highest number of Oscars ever won by a movie that didn’t also take Best Picture.  So it’s a significant film.  But did I like it?  No, not really.




It’s not, obviously, as newsworthy or as significant for our daily lives as the recent trial involving Amber Heard and Johnny Depp but, still, one would think that the lethal persecution of Christians in Nigeria deserves at least some attention from the news media.  It’s almost enough to make me sympathize with Rolf Dobelli’s denunciations of “the news” in his book Die Kunst des digitalen Lebens, which I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry.  I’m reminded of a fake news broadcast from many years ago on Saturday Night Live, in which the anchorman said something like the following:  “Good evening!  In our top story today, China falls into the sea following a massive earthquake.  Eight hundred million people are feared dead.  But, first, America’s love affair with the corn dog!”



Browse Our Archives

Close Ad