Not Leaving and Going On to Perfection

A Review of Samuel M. Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2014. 167 pp., index. $16.95.

In his most recent book, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (hereafter First Principles), Samuel M. Brown observes that “the Plan of Salvation [is] fundamentally about relationships.”1 This recognition drove the prophet Joseph Smith and early Church members to “forge communities [of saints] that could endure beyond the veil of death” (151). Today, the importance of the temple and its ordinances to family relationships, eternal in their design, are clear to most Latter-day Saints. However, our collective view of the meaning of the principles and ordinances that precede the temple — and lead us to it — is somewhat murkier. Brown demonstrates that what Latter-day Saints sometimes perfunctorily regard merely as “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:4) are — every bit as much as the temple itself is — about relationships. In fact, one cannot fully contextualize the temple and its ordinances unless one understands this aspect of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Continue reading

The Prodigal’s Return to the Father: House of Glory and Rediscovery

Review of S. Michael Wilcox. House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple, 1995. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. 146 pp. with bibliography and index. $14.99 (paperback).

Abstract: The temple of God is a new experience with any visit, but its wonders are nigh astonishing to someone who has lost the privilege for a long time. Wilcox’s House of Glory is more than a guidebook to the House of God, it is a camera panning from the physical (such as the meanings of symbols and the appearances in and outside of temples) to the intensely personal (like the requirements and rewards of temple work, its ancient history, its powers of protection, and so on). Essentially a book for the experienced temple goer (one no longer stunned by the newness of it all), Wilcox’s prize-winning book fills in the blank spaces and answers questions. And awes the Prodigal Son. Continue reading

Careless Accounts and Tawdry Novelties

Review of Lofte Payne. Joseph Smith the Make-Believe Martyr: Why the Book of Mormon Is America’s Best Fiction. Victoria, BC, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2006. xxi + 331 pp., with appendix and index. $23.10 (paperback).

Abstract: The faith of Latter-day Saints is rooted in Joseph Smith’s recovery of the Book of Mormon, which presents itself as an authentic ancient text and divine special revelation. Book-length efforts to explain away these two grounding historical claims began in 1834, and have never ceased. They are often the works of disgruntled former Saints. In 1988 Loftes Tryk self-published an amusing, truly bizarre, seemingly countercult sectarian account of the Book of Mormon. In 2006, now under the name Lofte Payne, he again opined on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He discarded the notion that Joseph Smith was a demon. He now claims that the Book of Mormon was Joseph’s sly, previously entirely unrecognized covert effort to trash all faith in divine things. In this review, Payne’s explanation is compared and contrasted with books by Alan D. Tyree, a former member of the RLDS First Presidency, and Dale E. Luffman, a recent Community of Christ Apostle, as well as that of Robert M. Price, a militant atheist, and Grant Palmer, and also the Podcraft of John Dehlin, all of whom have in similar ways opined that the Book of Mormon is frontier fiction fashioned by Joseph Smith from ideas floating around his immediate environment. Continue reading

“The Great and Terrible Judgments of the Lord”: Destruction and Disaster in 3 Nephi and the Geology of Mesoamerica

Review of Jerry D. Grover, Jr., Geology of the Book of Mormon. Vineyard, UT: Self-Published, 2014. 233 pp. +xi, including index and references. $39.99.

Abstract: Over recent decades, several Latter-day Saint scholars and scientists have offered analysis and comparison to geologic events and the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi 8-9. Jerry Grover makes an important contribution to this literature as he provides background on geologic processes and phenomena, details the geologic features of the Tehuantepec region (Mesoamerica), and applies this information to not only the description of 3 Nephi 8-9, but other incidents in the Book of Mormon likely connected to geologic events. In doing so, Grover yields new insights into the narratives he examines, and adds clarity to geographic details that have been subject to varying interpretations. Continue reading

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of a Friendly and Thoughtful Evangelical

A review of Richard J. Mouw, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2012, 99 pages.

Some Latter-day Saints will recall Richard Mouw from the introductory remarks that he offered in November 2004 when the Evangelical Protestant apologist Ravi Zacharias was the featured speaker at a special interfaith meeting in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the course of his remarks, Professor Mouw apologized to Latter-day Saints for the way in which Evangelicals have often treated the Mormon faith. Carrie Moore, of the Deseret News, reported about Zacharias’s speech on 15 November 2004: Continue reading