LDS Perspectives Podcast: “The Lectures on Faith,” with Noel Reynolds

Listen on the LDS Persectives site, or directly with this link.

In 1835, the church published the Doctrine and Covenants, which contained significant additions to the 1833 Book of Commandments. At the beginning of the collection of revelations were seven theological lectures that had originally been delivered at the Kirtland School the preceding winter.

Details about the purpose and curriculum of the Kirtland School, later referred to as the “School for the Elders” or “School of the Prophets,” are uncertain. Most of what we know is taken from late reminiscences recorded nearly fifty years after its commencement. Lessons included at least an English grammar element and the seven theological lectures, which were part of a series to “unfold … the doctrine of Jesus Christ.” The classroom consisted of prospective missionaries and church leaders and, by all accounts, was presided over by Sidney Rigdon.

The lectures were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition, but they did not fade away. They have proven to be particularly buoyant as they have experienced resurgent popularity over the years and an ability to maintain a loyal following. But the history of the Lectures on Faith are a cautionary tale for members of the church that illustrates the dangers of historical forgetting.

It was common knowledge in the 19th century that the lectures were written by Sidney Rigdon, but by the mid-twentieth century it was thought that the Prophet Joseph Smith had penned them. Perhaps enamored with the arcane rhetorical style of the arguments, some members latched on to them as a source of deep theological thought. What they didn’t realize was that the style mimics that of the preachers of the 19th century and of the Campbellites in particular. Especially telling is the reference to a binary Godhead in the fifth lecture. Joseph Smith explicitly declared in Nauvoo that his concept of the Godhead had never changed, and he had always taught the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were separate entities.

But all the historical evidence to discredit Joseph Smith and attribute Sidney Rigdon as author was circumstantial. It wasn’t until Noel Reynold’s discovered some new documents that he realized he had found the “smoking gun” and the confirmation that he needed to form a solid argument for Sidney Rigdon as the author.

Join Laura Harris Hales as she discusses with Noel Reynolds the mystery of the authorship of the Lectures on Faith and what we can learn from this episode in Mormon history.

Check out to the resources referenced in this podcast at LDS Perspectives

LDS Perspectives Podcast: “Genre in the Bible,” with Ben Spackman

Please note that this will not be available until July 19. We apologize for publishing the notice too early. Please check again on that date.

Listen on the LDS Perspectives site, or directly with this link.

From the New Testament, we learn that Jesus’s favorite mode of teaching was through fiction; he taught parables. Although the characters and events may not be historical, few Christians question the truth in the messages.

Despite comfort with parables, some Christians become unsettled thinking about elements of the Bible as being non-historical. Biblical scholar Ben Spackman points out that this hesitancy is inherited from Enlightenment thinking, which regarded revelation as truth and truth as scientific or historical fact. This thinking, Ben points out, causes many readers to jettison common sense and plain readings of scriptural text.

Often times when reading scripture, the assumption is made that the text is either literal or figurative, but these two categories are insufficient to describe the different genres of scriptures.

It would be more helpful to approach the Bible as if it were a library that contained books of many different genre instead of being all the same type of writing. No Christian would presume to label all scripture as parable. Likewise all scripture should not be labeled as history. The Bible contains books of satire, law codes, poetry, parables, myth, conquest narratives, and prophetic revelation among other things.

The type of “thing” or genre of a given book is indicated by genre markers. For instance, Americans can tell a book is a fairy tale if it begins with “Once upon a time.” Genre markers in the Bible can be identified similarly by biblical scholars familiar with the culture.

Readers should also keep in mind that ancient Israelites approached the use of history in scripture differently than modern authors. Historical accuracy is actually a modern concept. Biblical writers often fashioned history to teach a higher purpose. If some of the historical details were fudged, then that was regarded as acceptable if done to make a point.

Join Laura Harris Hales of the LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews biblical scholar Ben Spackman about the different genres of literature found in the Bible.

Check out the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives

LDS Perspectives Podcast: “The Genesis Group and the Priesthood Ban,” with members of the Genesis Group

Link to the original podcast website, or list directly here.

Don Harwell, Eddie Gist, and Wain Meyers make up the current Presidency of the Genesis Group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Genesis Group was started in 1971 as a dependent branch of the LDS Church with the charge to fellowship and meet the needs of a growing number of African-American members. It was considered “dependent” because members were dependent on other members for the priesthood.

This policy changed in 1978 under Church President Spencer W. Kimball.

After the 1978 policy change (Official Declaration #2), Genesis Group numbers began to dwindle as black members were integrated more fully into local congregations. However, in 1996, LDS Church leadership re-organized the Genesis Group as a support effort for the needs of a growing and diverse worldwide church.

Today the Genesis Group meets on the first Sunday of every month in Salt Lake City. In recent years, the membership has grown to over three hundred members of all ethnicities. Many come to experience a less traditional and some would say more fun Mormon worship service. The Genesis Group also hosts a gospel choir that tours and performs at local events.

Although the Genesis Group is the only official auxiliary of its type, other informal groups have been formed in scattered urban centers around the globe in order to offer similar support.

The history of race issues and the LDS Church is complex. To address the questions some have had about this issue, the LDS Church published an essay entitled “Race and the Priesthood.” It describes some of the history on this topic, from the first African-Americans to be ordained to the priesthood under first Church President Joseph Smith Jr. to the ban instituted under second Church President Brigham Young to the current policies and doctrines.

In this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, host Nick Galieti, the Genesis Group presidency, and their wives discuss their lived experience with race and the LDS Church.

Tune in for this delightful discussion as perspectives on the priesthood and temple ban are shared by faithful members who were affected by the restriction.

Check out to the resources referenced in this podcast at LDS Perspectives

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Stephen O. Smoot, “The Divine Council.”

Listen on the LDS Perspectives website, or on the direct link.

References to a divine council of gods are found in several ancient Near Eastern cultures, including Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt and Canaan. There are also numerous references to the divine counsel in the Hebrew Bible. The concept was pervasive.

Members of the LDS Church may not realize that references to the divine council are also found in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, the Doctrine and Covenants, and in Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo discourses.

The Book of Abraham’s depiction of creation, which includes a divine council, fits nicely in an ancient New Eastern cultural background and has strong affinities with the depiction of the cosmos found in other ancient Near Eastern texts. This places the divine council not only within the time frame of Abraham but also within the LDS canon.

Many of the Hebrew descriptions of the divine counsel mirror a heavenly court with God the Father sitting at the head of a court of angelic hosts. Joseph Smith preached in the King Follett discourse that the head of the Gods sat with the council of Gods and “concocted a plan” for God’s children at the Creation.

Does this mean that members of the LDS Church believe in polytheism or that the ancient Israelites did? The very concept, notes Stephen O. Smoot, may be jarring to Mormons.

The answer to both questions is complicated. In fact, if Stephen were to travel back in time to ancient Israel and pose the question of whether the people were monotheistic or polytheistic, they would likely be confused. The ancient Israelites conceptualized their relationship with God more in covenantal terms, rather than in terms of strict monotheism or polytheism.

Smoot also notes that undoubtedly the Israelites were aware of Caananite creation myths and the Mesopotamian creation epic known as the Enuma Elish. The creation account in Genesis may have been an engagement with or reaction to these (and other) ancient myths.

On this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, join Laura Harris Hales as she discusses with Stephen Smoot the divine council’s role in the religions of the ancient Near East and what references to the divine council in the LDS canon could mean for Latter-day Saint theology.

Check out the resources referenced in the podcast and a transcript of The Divine Council with Stephen O. Smoot at LDS Perspectives

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Jed Woodworth, “The Word of Wisdom.”

Listen on the LDS Perspectives website, or on the direct link.

Jed Woodworth works in the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also the author of the Revelations in Context essay on Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants entitled, “The Word of Wisdom.”

In the early 1830s, the Temperance Movement was in full swing in the United States. Chapters of temperance societies had an undeniable influence on the discourse of the day. The story of the coming forth of the revelation recorded as Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants has sometimes failed to take into account how the movement may have been an influence on Joseph Smith and the Saints.

Much like other prophetic revelations, the catalyst for this revelation seems to have come from multiple circumstances. Historical context helps to shed light on the extent to which the Temperance Movement may have been an influence and what that means.

In this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, host Nick Galieti and Jed Woodworth delve into what is often referred to as the “Lord’s Law of Health.”

Check out the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives