“Brother Brigham”

“Brother Brigham” September 24, 2022

 

From roughly the east
The San Diego California Temple in an iPhone photo taken early Friday evening by my wife, following a session there.

 

Three new items appeared today in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.  As with all such articles, they are made freely available to anybody who might be interested:

 

““For Their Good Have I Written Them”: The Onomastic Allusivity and Literary Function of 2 Nephi 25:8,” written by Matthew L. Bowen

Abstract: Nephi’s writings exhibit a distinctive focus on “good” and divine “goodness,” reflecting the meaning of Nephi’s Egyptian name (derived from nfr) meaning “good,” “goodly,” “fine,” or “fair.” Beyond the inclusio playing on his own name in terms of “good” and “goodness” (1 Nephi 1:1; 2 Nephi 33:3–4, 10, 12), he uses a similar inclusio (2 Nephi 5:30–31; 25:7–8) to frame and demarcate a smaller portion of his personal record in which he incorporated a substantial portion of the prophecies of Isaiah (2 Nephi 6–24). This smaller inclusio frames the Isaianic material as having been incorporated into Nephi’s “good” writings on the small plates with an express purpose: the present and future “good” of his and his brothers’ descendants down to the latter days.

 

“The Continuing Saga of Saints,” written by Craig L. Foster

Review of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days: Volume 3: Boldly, Nobly, and Independent: 1893–1955 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2022). 757 pages. $6.90 (paperback).

Abstract: Volume 3 of Saints is a readable and engaging narrative discussing a dynamic and transitional period of the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As with the previous volumes in the series, it is approachable and enjoyable for almost all reading audiences.

 

“Interpreting Interpreter: For Their Good,” by Kyler Rasmussen

This post is a summary of the article ““For Their Good Have I Written Them”: The Onomastic Allusivity and Literary Function of 2 Nephi 25:8” by Matthew L. Bowen in Volume 53 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the “Interpreting Interpreter” series is available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreting-interpreter-on-abstracting-thought/.

The Takeaway:  Bowen proposes that Nephi used the term “good” to demarcate his quotations of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 6-24, similar to how he seems to have done for 1 and 2 Nephi more generally, suggesting that Nephi included those chapters for the “good” of Lehi’s descendants.

 

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You might be interested in this commentary from a veteran American religion journalist who happens to be Greek Orthodox:

“Podcast: Are Brigham Young sports controversies about sports, religion or politics?”

 

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I didn’t know Eugene England particularly well — he was in a different BYU department than I was, for one thing, and about two decades my senior — and we disagreed on a number of political issues and even a few ecclesiological matters.  In fact, we once even had a brief and minor clash that I scarcely remember now.  I think it can safely be said that, on at least some issues of both church and state, he leaned left where I lean right.  But I invariably found him interesting, and his devotion to the Restored Gospel was deep and unwavering.  (For some odd reason, in thinking of Gene I’m reminded of Tommy Lasorda’s famous declaration that he bled “Dodger blue.”  Much more aptly, I’m also reminded of the comment that, despite their many disagreements, Brigham Young once made about Elder Orson Pratt:  “If Brother Orson were chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out Mormonism was true.”)

 

Now that we’re beginning to pivot just a little bit toward our new project, Six Days in August, which will focus on the succession of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail, I’ve been re-reading a favorite book by Eugene England, his Brother Brigham (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1980).  I snapped Brother Brigham up and read it immediately after its initial publication (as I did with all of his books) and have read it again at least once since then.

 

But I’m re-reading it now with a different purpose and from a different vantage point, and I must say that I’m liking it very, very much and that I recommend it very, very strongly to anybody who would like to learn more about the second president of the Church.  Gene England wasn’t a trained historian.  Rather, he was a perceptive scholar of literature and an accomplished essayist.  Thus, his insights into Brigham Young’s character are extremely worthwhile.  If you can find a copy of Brother Brigham, give it a look.

 

Here are a couple of passages from Eugene England’s “Preface” to Brother Brigham that I really liked, and that give a sense of his approach to his subject:

 

Too many books about Brigham Young have been written without love or faith.  And they have suffered from the lack of insight into human character that only sympathy, even empathy, can bring.  They have thus not provided much penetration into the most profound springs of feeling and motivation for a man such as Brother Brigham: the hand of God on his life and his own transforming conviction that the true gospel of Christ had been restored — that, however inadequate he might be, he was called to serve Jesus Christ as one of his latter-day apostles.  (vii)

 

One great excitement in my own rediscovery of Brigham Young, and one that has made him able to move me emotionally and to change my life for good, has been to see him as a warm, fallible, humorous, loving father, husband, friend — that is, as a man, as well as a prophet of God.  I am convinced that those who knew him in this way were compelled to respect Brother Brigham — and often to love him.  And they were moved, the better they knew him, to faith in God and themselves and to courage and energy to be better and build better than they had before.  These essays attempt to bring us, through the special means of language, to reach back more than a hundred years and to know that man — one made of the same common clay as each of us, and yet a man transformed into a vessel of honor by a divine fire that is available to us all.  (viii-ix)

 

Posted from Newport Beach, California

 

 

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