A Pilgrim’s Faith

Review of Russell Stevenson, Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables. (self-published, 2014), 140 pp., 14.95.

Abstract: The history of the African-American community and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a confused one since the Church’s early days. Few blacks joined the fledgling group, and those that united with the Saints met with a mixed reception. This short biography by historian Russell Stevenson is the story of one of these pioneering souls, Elijah Ables, who was also the first black priesthood holder. Continue reading

Conversations with Mormon Historians

Review of Alexander L. Baugh and Reid L. Neilson, eds., Conversations with Mormon Historians, Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in cooperation with Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2015. pp.580 + xv, including index. $34.99.

Abstract: Conversations with Mormon Historians is a compilation of interviews with sixteen Latter-day Saint scholars. The book reveals why they went into their chosen professions, their rise to prominence as historians, and their thoughts regarding important topics such as the Prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 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

Untangling Scripture from the Philosophies of Men

Review of Terryl L. Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014). 424 pp.

Abstract: Terryl Givens’ masterful work Wrestling the Angel takes on the daunting task of examining the history of Christian belief while also examining the worldly philosophies which shaped its scriptural interpretation. As in the biblical story of Jacob’s struggle with the angel, we all must forge our own testimonies while confronting a secular world including godless philosophies. Sometimes testimony wins, and tragically sometimes the world wins and a testimony is lost. In dealing with this intellectual “matter unorganized,” interpretation of the secular philosophy becomes the key. With the right interpretation, philosophies deemed “secular” or “godless” can be seen as helpful and even providentially provided by the Lord to help provide a philosophical grounding for a testimony instead of destroying it. Aspects of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant can be seen as laying a groundwork for much of contemporary American philosophy, Continental philosophy, and a possible basis for interpretations of these philosophies, which help rather than hinder the spread of the gospel. Kant’s concept of the synthetic a priori, for example, can help us understand how humans organize our individual ideas about reality from “matter unorganized,” perhaps in a way similar to how our “human” God organizes our world. Kant’s philosophy had vast influences, arguably resulting in a new way to see the relationship between God and mankind, which is compatible with the gospel. Finally I examine Givens’ view of humanism and how it can be interpreted as helpful rather than hindering the gospel. Continue reading