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

Remembering and Honoring Māori Latter-day Saints

Review of Robert Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange, Matakite Māori and the Mormon Church,” in Mana Māori and Christianity, ed. by Hugh Morrison, Lachy Paterson, Brett Knowles and Murray Rae (Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers, 2012), pp. 43–72;1 and of Selwyn Kātene, ed, Turning the Hearts of the Children: Early Māori Leaders in the Mormon Church (Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Publishers, 2014). 231 pp. Glossary (pp. 220–22), Index (pp. 223–31). N.Z. $39.99.2

Abstract: Dr. Robert (Rob) Joseph’s essay on Māori matakite (seers) is described and assessed, along with the contents of a book, edited by Dr. Selwyn Kātene, consisting of essays on twelve nineteenth-century Māori Latter-day Saint “leaders.” All these essays are indications that Māori scholars are setting out and defending the Māori Latter-day Saint narrative. These essays also make available to future generations the stories of some of the Māori who subsequently helped set in place a Māori community of Latter-day Saints in Aotearoa (now the official Māori name for all of New Zealand rather than merely the name for the North Island). One crucial fact is that there were divine special revelations to Māori seers that opened the way for the message brought to them by Latter-day Saint missionaries. These essays will help Māori Saints (and others) remember and honor earlier encounters with the divine that yielded what was for at least a hundred years primarily a Māori community of Saints in New Zealand. Continue reading

Perhaps Close can Count in More than Horseshoes

Review of Gerald E. Smith, Schooling the Prophet: How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2015). pp 305. $19.95.

Abstract: Schooling the Prophet provides a good survey of many early Latter-day Saint doctrines. It suggests that there is a causal link between the Book of Mormon and those doctrines. Sometimes it makes the case; many times it is close but doesn’t quite support the thesis of the book. Continue reading

Beyond Agency as Idolatry

Review of Adam S. Miller, Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Adam Miller has already established himself as the most venturesome and original of LDS thinkers exploring our complex inheritance of Mormon beliefs with the tools of contemporary academic philosophy. Richard Bushman, certainly the most highly honored living scholar of Mormonism, in a foreword to an earlier collection of Miller’s essays, Rube Goldberg Theology, praised the author as today’s “most original and provocative Latter-day Saint theologian.” This originality and provocation are all the more impressive given Miller’s institutional prominence in the LDS academic establishment as, practically, the leading philosopher/theologian of BYU’s Maxwell Institute, where he is a series co-editor as well as co-founder of the book publisher Salt Press, which was absorbed by the Institute in 2013. Continue reading