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About Stephen O. Smoot

Stephen O. Smoot graduated cum laude from Brigham Young University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. His areas of academic interest include the Hebrew Bible, ancient Egyptian history and religion, Mormon studies, and German Romanticism. He blogs on Latter-day Saint and other topics at www.plonialmonimormon.com.

The “Fiery Darts of the Adversary” in 1 Nephi 15:24

After receiving a revelation (1 Nephi 11–14) that clarified the meaning of his father Lehi’s dream (1 Nephi 8), Nephi explained to his rebellious brothers the significance of the various symbols of that dream. Concerning the “rod of iron,” which led to the tree of life, Nephi recorded, Continue reading

Vanquishing the Mormon Menace

A review of Mason, Patrick Q. The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. pp. 252 + xi, including notes and index. $31.95.

Abstract: Patrick Mason has offered a fascinating look at the history of nineteenth century anti-Mormonism in the American South with his 2011 volume The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South. Situating nineteenth century Southern anti-Mormonism in its historical context, Mason narrates a vivid account of how Mormons at times faced violent opposition that stemmed from deep cultural, religious, and political differences with mainstream American Protestants. Mason’s volume is an excellent resource for those interested in Mormon history. Continue reading

Saved by Charis: A Review of “Relational Grace: The Reciprocal and Binding Covenant of Charis”

Paul Writing His Epistles attr. Valentin de Boulogne (17th century).
Paul had a thing or two to say about salvation.
The Book of Mormon famously teaches, “For we labor diligently to
write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). This teaching has prompted a number of explorations into Mormon soteriology (the theology of salvation) and has left not a few Evangelical critics of Mormon doctrine peeved at what is perceived to be a “works based” theology of salvation. I myself, I confess, have paid little attention to the debates surrounding Mormon teachings on grace beyond some of the popularized work of Stephen Robinson and Brad Wilcox and a quip by C. S. Lewis.[i] Of course, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a moving General Conference sermon on the topic of grace not too long ago that I appreciated,[ii] but beyond this handful of material and a 2010 article by John Gee,[iii] my interest in grace has been limited. There’s the treatment of grace by Latter-day Saint thinker Adam Miller,  which has been recommended to me by a number of my friends and acquaintances, but frankly I haven’t, at this point, mustered enough interest to pursue this work.[iv] (This admission, I hope, is not misconstrued as an indictment against Miller, but rather as an example of my own laziness.)

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What You Will Read About in the New Institute Manual on Early Church History

Some time ago I blogged about a new seminary manual on the Doctrine and Covenants released by the Church. The manual is significant because it includes discussions of sensitive topics related to Church history, such as the multiple accounts of the First Vision, the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Utah War, the history of plural marriage, and the history of the priesthood ban. It appears that by including these topics the Church is taking steps towards more transparency when it comes to its history and “inoculating” its young members who are likely to encounter antagonistic websites that can easily blindside them with these issues if they aren’t prepared. Continue reading

Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel

Abstract: Biblical “minimalists” have sought to undermine or de-emphasize the significance of the Tel Dan inscription attesting to the existence of the “house of David.” Similarly, those who might be called Book of Mormon “minimalists” such as Dan Vogel have marshaled evidence to try to make the nhm inscriptions from south Arabia, corresponding to the Book of Mormon Nahom, seem as irrelevant as possible. We show why the nhm inscriptions still stand as impressive evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Continue reading