Two new articles went up today on the website of the Interpreter Foundation. We wish you a happy weekend!
Abstract: The prophet Joseph Smith was paced through a life steeped in ritual and symbolism. Notable things Joseph did or experienced under angelic guidance may be seen as ritual procedures that may require careful consideration to discern their meaning, what they symbolize, their purpose, and their importance to the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure to recognize the function of ritual has resulted in much misunderstanding and criticism of Joseph. Many of his early actions and procedures were closely related to the ancient temple. They amount to an anticipation and witness of the temple and its coming restoration through him. This will be illustrated in several ways, including the manner in which Joseph received and translated the plates of the Book of Mormon, a witness of Jesus Christ.
This post is a summary of the article “Joseph Smith at the Veil: Significant Ritual, Symbolism, and Temple Influence at Latter-day Saint Beginnings” by George L. Mitton in Volume 58 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. All of the articles may be seen at https://interpreterfoundation.org/category/summaries/. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreting-interpreter-on-abstracting-thought/.
The Takeaway: Mitton argues that various aspects of Joseph’s early experiences with the Book of Mormon evoke ritual temple symbolism, such as the ritual ascent to Hill Cumorah as a cosmic mountain, visions being timed to align with ritual feasts, and the use of a veil in the translation of the Book of Mormon.
Some of you may be aware that I’ve commented several times here on the “Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods” Faceb and on the continuing controversy about the proposed Cody Wyoming Temple. If you haven’t noticed, please see, in chronological order, “A small tempest about a small temple in Cody,” “In the world after the Fall,” “Once More, on the Conflict in Cody.” “An Update on the Continuing Crisis in Cody, Wyoming,” “Peggy Brown, Dale Brown, and the Cody Wyoming Temple,” “My Last Comment on the Temple in Cody? (Probably Not),” and “My last post on the temple in Cody? Maybe, for a while at least.”)
Aware of my comments on the tempest in Cody, someone who probably doesn’t really want to be thanked here by name sent me a link to this wonderful four-minute video of a prank focus group meeting conducted by Sacha Cohen in Kingman, Arizona. I apologize for the fact that the recorded language isn’t always appropriate for a sacrament meeting:
مقلب مشروع بناء مسجد في اكثر المدن عنصرية في امريكا
The Arabic caption translates as “Prank Proposal for Building a Mosque in the Most Racist City in America.” If you enjoy it one quarter as much as I did, you’ll be laughing uproariously by the end.
I am a strong advocate of religious liberty and the First Amendment. And consistently so. I spoke out publicly in favor of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” that was proposed for Manhattan many years ago, and I have defended the building of mosques in various communities. I’ve also actually spoken in mosques in several American states, as well as in several foreign nations.
Incidentally, one of the most recent allegations that I’ve seen from an opponent of the temple in Cody is that — and no evidence is offered for this — the wealthy Latter-day Saint who donated the land for the temple is now dividing up parcels adjacent to the temple site and selling them off for huge mark-ups as residential lots. But I had thought that the proposed temple would destroy the residential area and depress adjacent property values. Clearly, a bad thing. Also, though, that the temple would raise property values and, thus, increase property taxes. Obviously, a bad thing. Which means that reduced property values would be a good thing. It’s all so confusing!
This 8 December 2015 news release from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems apt here, and it expresses my own sentiments quite well:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns. However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom. The following statements by Joseph Smith from 1841 and 1843 are consistent with the Church’s position today:
If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.
—Joseph Smith, 1843
Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city …
—Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1, 1841
I also point to this recent article in the Deseret News by Judge Thomas B. Griffith: “Perspective: Latter-day Saints have a distinct charge to uphold the Constitution: Contempt has replaced disagreement in politics. Latter-day Saints may be situated to heal the divide”
On quite a different note: We are currently in the throes of casting for the Interpreter Foundation’s next significant movie project, Six Days in August. And none too soon, either: We begin filming in just a few days. In that light, I was especially amused to read some recent complaints about alleged misogyny in Interpreter’s previous theatrical film, Witnesses. It seems that, in a film that was focused on the interwoven stories of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, too few of the principal lead actors were women and too little of the film revolved around women.
The complaint makes me wonder: Perhaps we should seize this opportunity, while we’re still casting, to be on the radical edge and to make a transgressive statement. What do you think? Should we cast Brigham Young as a genderfluid Black Latinx who was assigned female at birth? It would be nice, for once, to be celebrated by progressives.