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About Gregory L. Smith

Gregory Smith studied research physiology and English at the University of Alberta but escaped into medical school before earning his bachelor’s degree. After receiving his MD, he completed his residency in family medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montréal, Québec. There he learned the medical vocabulary and French Canadian slang that he didn’t pick up in the France Paris Mission and won the Mervyn James Robson Award for Excellence in Internal Medicine.

He now practices rural family medicine in Alberta, with interests in internal medicine and psychiatry. A clinical preceptor for residents and medical students, he has been repeatedly honored for excellence in clinical teaching. He holds an appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary. Since 2014 he has served as a community medical director for Alberta Health Services.

A member of FairMormon since 2005, he volunteers as their FairMormon Answers wiki managing editor. He was an associate editor of the Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2011–2012. Smith has a particular research interest in Latter-day Saint plural marriage and has been published in the FARMS Review and elsewhere on this and other topics.

With twelve years of classical piano training, he is a lifelong audiophile and owns far too many MP3 files. A self-described biblioholic, he would probably be buried in books had he not discovered the Kindle, and is grateful that he didn’t have e-books to distract him in medical school.

He lives happily with his one indulgent wife, four extraordinary children, and two cats.

“From the Sea East Even to the Sea West”: Thoughts on a Proposed Book of Mormon Chiasm Describing Geography in Alma 22:27

Abstract: Jonathan Neville, an advocate of the “Heartland” geography setting for the Book of Mormon, claims to have identified a novel chiastic structure that begins in Alma 22:27. Neville argues that this chiasmus allows the reconstruction of a geography that stretches south to the Gulf of Mexico in the continental United States. One expert, Donald W. Parry, doubts the existence of a fine-tuned chiasmus in this verse. An analysis which assumes the presence of the chiasmus demonstrates that multiple internal difficulties result from such a reading. Neville’s reading requires two different “sea west” bodies of water: one “sea west” placed at the extreme north of the map and a second sea to the west of Lamanite lands, but neither is to the west of the Nephites’ land of Zarahemla. Neville’s own ideas also fail to meet the standards he demands of those who differ with him. These problems, when combined with other Book of Mormon textual evidence, make the geography based upon Neville’s reading of the putative chiasmus unviable. Continue reading

A Welcome Introduction

Review of Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015, 198 pages + index.

Introduction1

Brian C. Hales has established himself as an authority on Latter-day Saint plural marriage. Following his initial award-winning work on “fundamentalist” plural marriage,2 Hales produced an impressive and exhaustive three-volume history of Joseph Smith’s polygamy and its attendant theology.3 (Throughout the review, when referring to this longer work, I will denominate it JSP.) Continue reading

Cracking the Book of Mormon’s “Secret Combinations”?

Abstract: The Book of Mormon has been explained by some as a product of Joseph Smith’s 19th century environment. Advocates of this thesis have argued that the phrase secret combinations is a reference to Freemasonry, and reflects Joseph’s preoccupation with this fraternity during the Book of Mormon’s composition in 1828–29. It is claimed that this phrase is rarely, if ever, used in a non-Masonic context during 1828–29, and that a type of “semantic narrowing” occurred which restricted the term to Freemasonry. Past studies have found a few counter-examples, which are reviewed, but none from during the precise years of interest. This study describes many newly-identified counterexamples, including: anti-Masonic authors who use the term to refer to non-Masonic groups, books translated in the United States, legislature bills, grand jury instructions, and works which so characterize slave rebellions, various historical groups and movements, Biblical figures, and religious groups. These examples are found before, during, and after the critical 1828–29 period. Examples from 1832 onward likewise demonstrate that no semantic shift occurred which restricted secret combination to Masonry. This element of the environmental hypothesis has now been robustly disproven. Continue reading

A Response to Grant Palmer’s “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo”

Abstract: Grant H. Palmer, former LDS seminary instructor turned critic, has recently posted an essay, “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo,” on MormonThink.com. In it, Palmer isolates ten interactions between women and Joseph Smith that Palmer alleges were inappropriate and, “have at least some plausibility of being true.” In this paper, Palmer’s analysis of these ten interactions is reviewed, revealing how poorly Palmer has represented the historical data by advancing factual inaccuracies, quoting sources without establishing their credibility, ignoring contradictory evidences, and manifesting superficial research techniques that fail to account for the latest scholarship on the topics he is discussing. Other accusations put forth by Palmer are also evaluated for correctness, showing, once again, his propensity for inadequate scholarship. Continue reading

Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part Two of Two)

Review of Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift, Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011. 510 pp., no index. $25.97.

Claims #4 and #5: The Source of the Authority of Brigham Young and the Apostles After Joseph’s Death

Snuffer writes of the apostolic succession:

In 1847, Brigham Young publicly explained his understanding of the keys he obtained in these words: “an apostle is the Highest office and authority that there is in the Church and Kingdom [of] God on the earth. From whom did Joseph receive his authority? From just such men as sit around me here (pointing to the Twelve Apostles that sat with him.) Peter, James and John were Apostles, and there was no noise about their being seers and revelators though those gifts were among them. Joseph Smith gave unto me and my brethren (the Twelve) all the Priesthood keys, power and authority which he had and those are the powers which belong to the Apostleship” (87).1 Continue reading


  1. Snuffer cites Richard S. Van Wagoner, editor, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2009), 1:241. The original is in the Woodruff diaries; see Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–85), 3:257 (15 August 1857). Cited as WWJ hereafter.