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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 Council of Fifty and Its Minutes: A Review

Review of Matthew J. Grow et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846 (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016). 525 pp. + introduction, appendixes, reference material, index, etc. $59.95.

Abstract: The publication of the Council of Fifty minutes is a momentous occasion in modern studies of Mormon history. The minutes are invaluable in helping historians understand the last days of Joseph Smith and his project to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. They offer an important glimpse into the religious and political mindset of early Latter-day Saint leaders and shed much light on events once obscured by lack of access to the minutes. The Joseph Smith Papers Project has outdone itself in its presentation of the minutes in the latest volume of the series. The minutes are essential reading for anyone interested in early Mormon history. Continue reading

Reading A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon

Review of John Christopher Thomas, A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon: A Literary and Theological Introduction, Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2016. 448 pp. + bibliography. $24.95

In recent years the Book of Mormon has enjoyed increased attention from the scholarly world.1 This is entirely welcomed by the Latter-day Saints, especially when such attention comes from a place of fairness
and open-mindedness. A praiseworthy example of how non-Mormon academics can fruitfully engage the Book of Mormon is John Cristopher Thomas’s new volume A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon: A Literary and Theological Introduction.2 Thomas is well-equipped to approach the Book of Mormon on a literary and theological angle. He is, after all, an erudite biblical scholar whose work on New Testament text and theology has appeared in such prestigious venues as Sheffield Academic Press, T&T Clark, Eerdmans, Mohr Siebeck, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, and Novum Testamentum.3 He is also friendly toward the Latter-day Saints, both in his academic work and, I’m told, in his personal dealings with his Mormon acquaintances.4 Continue reading

Mormonism at Oxford and What It Signifies

Review of Terryl Givens and Philip L. Barlow. The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). 647 pp. + index. $150.00

Abstract: The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism is a welcomed addition to the current scholarly discussion surrounding the history, theology, and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It should be read and studied by all interested students of Mormonism and signals that the scriptures, theology, and history of the Latter-day Saints are all increasingly being taken seriously in mainstream academia. Continue reading

Telling the Story of the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon

Review of MacKay, Michael Hubbard and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, Provo, UT, and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2015. pp. 256 + xvii, including notes and index. $24.99

Abstract: The book From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat is an outstanding resource for anyone interested in early Latter-day Saint history and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It provides a compelling narrative about the recovery, translation, and publication of the Book of Mormon that utilizes the most cutting-edge historical scholarship available today. Continue reading

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