Monday, April 14, 2014

Passion Week

From the 1st volume of the Improvement Era:

Read it online here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Favorite Nibley Quote

...I have a testimony of the gospel which I wish to bear. Again, as Brigham Young says, because I say it's true doesn't make it true, does it? But I know it is, and I would recommend you to pursue a way of finding out. And there are ways in which you can come to a knowledge of the truth. When is a thing proven? When you personally think it's so, and that's all you can do. And that's true, of course, in science or anything else. When enough experience, and enough impressions, enough thought and so forth, build up in your own mind so that a thing is proven to you, that's the proof....You can't force another person to believe....No two of us, you see, have the same experience, have the same background, have the same evidence, or anything else. All we can do is reach the point where, ahah! that is it, you see. Then you have your testimony, and all you can do is bear your testimony and point to the evidence. That's all you can do. But you can't impose your testimony on another. And you can't make the other person see the evidence as you do. Things that just thrill me through and through in the Book of Mormon leave another person completely cold. And, the other way around, too. So we can't use evidence, and we can't say, I know this is true, therefore, you'd better know it is true. But I know it is true, and I pray our Heavenly Father that we may all come to a knowledge of the truth, each in his own way, as Brigham Young would have us do it.1

1 Hugh Nibley, "Brigham Young as a Theologian," discourse delivered June 9, 1967

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Temple and Garment

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom... (Matt 27:51)

In ancient times, only the High Priest was allowed to pass through the veil into the Holy of Holies, and was limited to doing so one time a year on the Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:1-7). When the veil was "rent in twain" during the crucifixion of Christ, entrance to the Holy of Holies became available to all who were worthy to enter the temple, and more specifically, to those who were worthy to enter the presence of the Lord.1 Years ago, I first read Hugh Nibley's, Temple and Cosmos. There is plenty to glean from this tome, but there is one line cut from the text into my mind that has drawn the curtains back a little to shed light on an enigmatic subject. In discussing the ancient significance of the temple veil he notes that those who passed through the veil were "in a world surrounded by light." Nibley then quotes Marc Philonenko, who drew an interesting connection between the temple veil and temple clothing.Before quoting Nibley's translation of Philonenko, however, it would be well to understand the context of the subject that Philonenko was discussing.

Did the Atonement Take Place on the Cross at Calvary?

"...Jesus' death on the cross is not the place or the primary means of atonement for the author of Hebrews. Rather, when the writer claims in 8:4 that Jesus can only serve as a high priest in heaven, he intends to say that the great redemptive moment of the Christ event occurred not when Jesus was crucified, but after he was resurrected and ascended into heaven. There he presented himself alive and incorruptible before God. Just as Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement] does not focus on the slaughter of the victim, but the presentation of its blood--that is, its life--before God, so also the author of Hebrews thinks in terms of the presentation of Jesus' indestructible life before God as the central act that effects the atonement."1

Read the rest of this interesting article here, starting at page 211.

1 David M. Moffitt, "Blood, Life, and Atonement: Reassessing Hebrews' Christological Appropriation of Yom Kippur," in The Day of Atonement: Its Interpretations in Early Jewish and Christian, ed. Thomas Hieke and Tobias Nicklas (Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2012), 211-212

Situating Literary Context

Another articulate insight from James Charlesworth:
In a deeper sense, in our search for a social understanding of Early Judaism, we must acknowledge the multi-dimensional role of linguistic phenomena. We have been preoccupied with the meaning of the language in the texts, yet there is another extremely important dimension to them, namely the function of the language of the text for the early Jew who was embodying in his or her own contemporary world the functional meaning of the text. As W.A. Meeks, a New Testatement scholar and a social historian who is a moderate functionalist, writes, 'The comprehensive question concerning the texts that are our primary sources is not merely what each one says, but what it does'....It is a sensitivity to the social dimension behind (and somehow within) our texts that should guard us from repeating distortions, caricatures and false portrayals.1
1 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Prolegomena for the Study of Christian Origins (Society for New Testament Studies, Monograph Series 54; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 22-23; Charlesworth's citation for Meeks: W.A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983), 7

Context vs. Proof Texting

Brilliant words from James H. Charlesworth:
In the attempt to move closer to the ancient authors and to grasp their needs and dreams it is essential to be ever self-critical of who we are and from where we are coming, and to struggle for a sensitive indwelling of their world. While we are primarily occupied with their bequeathed words we must always endeavor to supplement the received words with other non-literary artefacts and archaeological discoveries, and to define words, broadly, inter alia, in terms of their essence, their content, their function, and their social setting. I presume that they, like we, struggled towards an intended meaning, not scouring around in search of words, but by flowing through perception and intentionality to communication. Words, after all, come somewhat mysteriously as we shuttle between worlds of silence. Since most words in the Pseudepigrapha have not yet influenced our lexicons, and since most of the ancient Semitic words disappeared when Hebrew and Aramaic died out, it is unwise to support arguments or develop ideas by myopically citing lexicographical data. It is the living word, not the dead record of how it was employed in a few surviving texts, that alone can open our eyes to that world two thousand or so years ago when the documents in the Pseudepigrapha and in the New Testament were being composed and read aloud.1
It is too easy to impose a presentist interpretation of ancient texts when we read the scriptures and other ancient documents. It would be well to read the scriptures (and all ancient literature) by reading them as though we "were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago..."2 and to heed Charlesworth's admonition to be careful that we understand context, lest we be guilty of proof texting these documents in a way that they were never intended to be understood. 
1 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Prolegomena for the Study of Christian Origins (Society for New Testament Studies, Monograph Series 54; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 4-5
2 Brigham Young, The Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 128

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Passover, the Day of Atonement, and Margaret Barker's Forthcoming Book

March 2, 2014
by Tim Barker


About a year ago I began reading Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.1 It has been an extremely interesting book and has been quite informative regarding parallels between the Passover and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. A synopsis and discussion of these parallels will follow in a subsequent post. While the parallels between these two events are striking, still, I was left to wonder why Christ's Atonement occurred in connection with the Passover, rather than on Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. The rituals associated with Yom Kippur, which seem to me to best foreshadow the Atonement of Jesus Christ, intriguingly, was not concurrent with Christ's actual sacrifice. Passover commenced in the middle of the month Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar (the Jewish new year is celebrated during springtime), whereas, Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei). For various reasons that Pitre posits, the Passover festival provided an appropriate setting in which the infinite atonement took place, but did not explain why the Passover was a more appropriate context than the Day of Atonement (nor was it his intention to cover this topic in particular). In the foreword to Pitre's book, Scott Hahn writes:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Melchizedek's Seal and Scroll - Mitchell

September 5, 2013
by Tim Barker

I have recently discovered that some of my writings on the Seal of Melchizedek (in which I have written five posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) have been utilized in a recently self-published work entitled Melchizedek's Seal & Scroll, by Alan Rex Mitchell. The author provides the following summarization of his book:
Multiple Melchizedek associations are brought together in this illuminating book; originating with the popular Seal of Melchizedek as a symbol for rebirth, resurrection, and righteousness, and culminating in the Dead Sea Scroll named Melchizedek. Using ancient sources from Coptic Christianity, 2nd Enoch, Joseph Smith, and the prophets Alma and Daniel, the narrative leads to the Scroll's prophecy of the King of Righteousness in the last days.
The book is broader in scope then the necessarily limited nature of my posts that he cites, nevertheless, I appreciate that the author has taken notice of my writings and incorporated some of this material into his discussion of the Seal of Melchizedek. It appears that the majority of the book focuses on DSS 11Q13, frequently referred to as the Melchizedek Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and some other canonical and non-canonical writings. The link to Amazon above will allow any interested parties to preview the book's contents.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A "Mormon Studies" Discussion

August 17, 2013
by Tim Barker 
Blair Hodges from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship added a link on Facebook to his post on "A Mormon Studies Blogliography" on the Maxwell Institute's blog. I felt that the post was pretty good overall, but felt it was also problematic in how it portrayed John Gee's discussion of the matter. I certainly do not speak for John Gee; nonetheless, I took the liberty to comment on what I felt was a misconstrued portrayal of Gee's salient points, and offered my own inarticulate interpretation of what John Gee said and what I believe he meant.
I should clarify that I believe my blog's namesake, LDS Studies, to be largely in the same vein as Mormon Studies, in that it comprehends all things 'Mormon.' The distinguishing difference, however, includes the approach as well as the scope of the subject. Mormon Studies is being approached in terms of academic studies, whereas my blog represents a written portion of my personal studies on Mormonism. My scope is limited to whatever I feel is relevant to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the 'only true and living church' with which the Lord is well pleased. Mormon Studies has a scope that seems to be in the process of being defined and seems to be continually evolving. I personally believe that an academic approach from any scientific field that adds knowledge and value to understanding the subject, which is any and all things 'Mormon,' is entirely relevant and appropriate, but this also includes a religiously engaged approach. Some might feel otherwise. I believe this disparity exists because they differentiate between science and religion as though they were opposites, or at least incompatible. I see the two as being somewhat synonymous. Both involve the same processes, just with different tools to measure the results. However, an academic study of religion that excludes attempting to understand the religion consistent with how its adherents understand it, is irresponsible in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

President Hinckley - The Keys of the Kingdom

July 10, 2013 (revised July 26, 2013)
by Tim Barker

When the Mark Hofmann drama took place I was too young to appreciate how the church handled the situation and responded to his confrontational documents. While I had heard of the counterfeit artist in my youth, it wasn't until the mission field when I first encountered issues surrounding his forgeries. A friend from home had actually written me a letter wanting to know about the "white salamander" that Joseph Smith allegedly saw. This supposed vision was based on a letter from Martin Harris to W.W. Phelps that Mark Hofmann had forged in 1984, intimating Joseph's occult practices (money digging, etc.), and included a replacement of Moroni with a white salamander. Of course the letter was fraudulent with no basis in history or reality and should have been buried years previous, but of course these types of absurdities occasionally rear their ugly heads. The letter was the forger's attempt to tie Joseph Smith more closely with the occult, since a salamander in the 1820's could refer to a "mythical being thought to be able to live in fire." This was one of a number of documents that Hofmann concocted.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Margaret Barker on Temple Theology and Mormonism

June 26, 2013
by Tim Barker

Following Margaret Barker's lecture, "Our Great High Priest: The Church Is the New Temple," given at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary as the Fr. Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture on January 31, 2012, she addressed a few questions relevant to her discourse and scholarly studies. The second question is of particular interest for Latter-day Saints and is quite complimentary:
Q. "One of the other questions which came about prior to your visit to St. Vladimir's, is a curiosity about why people of the Mormon faith are interested in your work. Maybe, again you could explain their attraction to understanding of temple worship?"
A. "Well, you never know who is going to read your books. And many years ago now, I was contacted by a leading scholar of the Latter-day Saints, and he came to see me when he was in England, and he said, when he read this particular book, The Great Angel, he couldn't believe it hadn't been written by one of their community. And he was intrigued how somebody working outside their community, just using the conventional tools of scholarship, could come up with something very, very similar, unusually identical to their teachings. And we explored this, and I have developed a very happy relationship with many top Mormon scholars, really good Biblical scholars, who know their temple stuff. And what they've come up with, and what I've come up with, is just about identical. So, I work with Mormons because in terms of temple scholarship, they are the best available."
My thanks to Kevin Christensen for referencing this discourse.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Direction of the Maxwell Institute

June 22, 2013
by Tim Barker

The Direction of the Maxwell Institute
My posts are generally intended to be somewhat formal, so this post will be a bit of a departure for me. I suppose my commentary on this subject is a bit late, but I wanted to comment on the direction that the Maxwell Institute seems to be heading in with the benefit of hindsight. It has now been just over a year since Dan Peterson and others were unprofessionally dismissed. Numerous online blogs and other venues have commented on this drama. I, like many others, was disappointed in the decision made by Bradford; however, I was also gratified to see Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture formed and the prolificacy that has resulted in connection with that formation.
So, what is the direction that the Maxwell Institute is heading in? According to Blair Hodges, who currently seems to be the only active voice at MI,1 the organization's mission statement declares that their objective is to "deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints and to promote mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts." The organization is further identified as an academic unit at Brigham Young University. I'm not sure how mutual respect and goodwill among people of other faiths will be achieved through academic publications, nevertheless, I'm not opposed to a good cause such as this.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Chptr 3

June 2, 2013
by Tim Barker

Shortly after the publication of Richard Bushman's monumental tome Rough Stone Rolling, he began recording his candid observations of the publication's aftermath in his personal journal. Included in his entries he discussed some of the reviews of his book, and the following entry addresses one of his primary concerns with some of the critical reviews received:
I am annoyed by what the reviewers choose to emphasize in Joseph's life. Most of them pick up a few fragments and present them as if they were the key elements. There is something so cavalier about the implicit assertion that they have delivered the essence of the man.1
The opposite has been true thus far in this biography. Rather than reviewers inappropriately highlighting fragmentary information, the biographer has actually provided us with morsels of Brigham Young's life and character. In fact, in the first ten pages (of 25 within this chapter), Brigham is virtually all but missing from the content. There are some passing references to him with surface-level attention given to some of his actions, but minimal insight is gained in capturing his character development. Brief reference to Brigham's contributions during the Missouri period in church history are overshadowed with the narrative of general church history. Professor Turner intermingles LDS and non-Mormon perspectives, providing somewhat of a balanced summary of this historical period, but he distances the narrative from biography and, I believe, underplays Brigham's role in this larger setting.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Chptr 2

March 15, 2013
by Tim Barker

I suppose my frustration with this book thus far, is based on a couple of issues that I see as significant shortcomings. First, I am bothered with the labeling of this book as a biography, especially as a definitive biography, because it has yet to provide adequate biographical information. John Turner has provided a contextual landscape, but neglected to sufficiently delineate Brigham Young's portrait within the book's canvas, at least through the first fifty-four pages. Second, Turner's hostile bias towards Joseph Smith distracts from Brigham as the primary focus in this chapter. The author's inability to appreciate Joseph for his leadership and ability to inspire and attract disciples fatally flaws his ability to comprehend, or at least articulate, why Brigham was so devoted and such a strong disciple of the restorational prophet. Additionally, on a side note, I am confused as to why LDS reviewers are treating this book as favorably as they have been. While Turner's in depth research is apparent, his selective inclusion of  information leaves the contents materially deficient and he has created an imbalanced portrayal hardly acceptable under scholarly standards. All that I can conclude thus far, is that propaganda evolves and becomes more elaborate. I will further address each of these issues in detail below.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Chptr 1

March 3, 2012
by Tim Barker

The late Peter G. Mode, formerly Assistant Professor of Church History in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, opened his encyclopedic entry on Mormonism by introducing the Prophet Joseph Smith as being "of neurotic, superstitious parentage..."1  John G. Turner's introduction of Brigham Young's heritage is a bit more subtly stated, but ultimately mirrors Dr. Mode when noting that the Prophet's ancestors, "bequeathed to their descendants a robust belief in supernatural phenomena" (pg 10). This assertion follows shortly after discussing Brigham's great-grandparent's house as being haunted. Leading up to this sensationalistic portrayal of his ancestor's basis underlying their religiosity, Turner focuses on the Young family's perpetual state of poverty. All of this is preliminary, however, to his focus on their membership and participation in Methodism.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Prologue

January 26, 2013
by Tim Barker

Continuing where we left off, we now move into the Prologue. I should preface my continuing critique of Turner's book by noting that I certainly do not intend to be critical of his entire book without highlighting the positive as well. However, thus far Turner is simply setting the stage for the biography itself. When interesting and unique information or insightful perspectives are shared, I will eagerly acknowledge these contributions. For the time being, we really are just covering preliminary background information, and thus my concern of atmosphere looms heavily over this segment of the story.
Turner's Prologue uses a New Year's Day speech given by Brigham Young in 1877 at the dedication of the St. George Temple to introduce his character. What is striking to me is how Turner interprets the text of this speech. His preconceived notions color the atmosphere through his choice of text that he quotes and the language he employs in describing how Brigham spoke to the people gathered at the temple. Turner starts by noting President Young's emphasis on the restoration of sacred temple ordinances not exercised in full since the days of Adam, so far as any knowledge had been given. "Then," Turner sets the stage, "Young's tone gradually changed." From this point forward Mr. Turner narrows his focus solely upon his perception of Brigham Young's escalating tone and scathing remarks to the gathered saints. He points out that Brigham accused Elders of choosing hell over heaven, of choosing a dollar over salvation, and calls attention to Brigham's mention of too many Mormons being "damned fools." He continues to bolster this paradigm by using phrases such as, "Young demanded...," and "Building to a crescendo, Young upbraided...," and "Young thundered as much as his aging lungs would permit...." Turner concludes by saying that President Young was "blunt spoken, pugnacious, and sometimes profane."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Preface

January 14, 2013
by Tim Barker

Why read the preface?

In my first post on this book review I suggested that Turner's preconceived notions and biases would inevitably present themselves throughout this biography. Since the preface introduces the outline and scope of the book, it is the appropriate place to assess the highlights and agenda of his work. My initial concerns with respect to how Turner would portray Brother Brigham is reflected to some degree in the preface and is further enhanced by what is said, as well as by what is left unsaid. A biographer may cast their subject in whatever light they so choose based on how their arguments and assertions are structured, even if the facts have been incorporated into the narrative. Hugh Nibley pointed this out years ago in a book he wrote that similarly addressed critiques of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. He cites Hugh Trevor-Roper as follows:
Nowadays, to carry conviction, a historian must document, or appear to document, his formal narrative, but his background, his generalisations [sic], allusions, comparisons remain happily free from this inconvenience. This freedom is very useful: against an imaginary background even correctly stated facts can be wonderfully transformed."1
What the author can successfully achieve is staging an atmosphere so that everything else is judged under the desired lighting. To argue that scholars are above this petty notion is simply naive. The extent to which a facade is presented of course will vary based on the integrity and objectivity employed by each author, and of course by the extent to which they recognize their own lack of objectivity. At any rate, I am still optimistic regarding this book, but share the following brow-raising statements.

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Intro

January 14, 2013
by Tim Barker

So I had been deliberating about whether to buy this book based on the available online reviews thus far. Some tout it as the definitive biography on Brigham Young, surpassing Leonard Arrington's masterpiece, or even as the companion volume to Rough Stone Rolling. It has been labeled as fair, balanced, and critical. John Turner is a respected scholar and is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. After determining that I'm sufficiently open minded and acknowledging an appreciation for sophistication, I decided to buy it.

From the get go, I already have my reservations. Considering that the book is only 500 pages (413 pages of text), I can hardly imagine that this book will do Brigham Young the justice that he deserves. Rough Stone Rolling barely covered sufficient ground on Joseph Smith's short life of thirty-eight years in its 740 pages (561 pages of text). It is hard to imagine that Brigham Young's life of seventy-six years and his volume of accomplishments in mortality can be sufficiently captured in a book limited to this length; especially so when one considers the mountains of data that exist relative to his life. Any reasonable assessment must take into consideration the thousands of discourses he delivered, the volumes of notes, journals, and letters composed by himself and dictated to scribes, the personal actions he took as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as well as Governor of Utah, colonizer, patriarch, temple builder, economist, and the cultural context of his character development, as well as personal assessments formed by his closest associates and character perception by his public audiences. I am certain that my short list vastly understates all of the dimensions which culminate in the man, Brigham Young. At any rate, based on my judging the book by its size (the cover seems good enough), I am apprehensive about Turner's alleged monumental accomplishment in condensing Young's life into such a little book.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Jaredite Scriptures and Tsohar

December 15, 2012
by Tim Barker

Updated December 29, 2012

A Pre-Mosaic Bible

The Bible, as we have it, begins with the Pentateuch (or the Torah to the Jews), which is the five books of Moses. Similarly, the Brass Plates referenced in the Book of Mormon also seems to begin with the Pentateuch (1 Nephi 5:10-11). Assuming traditional Mosaic authorship of these books,1 our Bible potentially dates as far back as some time between the 17th and 13th centuries B.C. (depending on standard Christian and Jewish chronologies). Since Genesis includes history long before Moses' day, one may wonder whether he drew upon extant writings or possibly oral traditions to document the Book of Genesis. Fortunately for Latter-day Saints, the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 1:1 through 6:13 brought about the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.2 From this book of scripture we learn that Moses was on an exceedingly high mountain where he spoke with the Lord face to face, and while conversing with the Lord, was given a vision of the creation, the garden of Eden, the fall of man, and ultimately "beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created..." (Moses 1:8). Accordingly, it seems reasonable that Genesis could have been documented by Moses based on his vision.  On the other hand, it is possible that Moses had access to ancient texts that he relied on, in part, to formulate Genesis.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Date of the First Vision

November 4, 2012 (updated March 17, 2013)
by Tim Barker

"It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day,
early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty" (JS-H 1:14).

Joseph Smith's "first vision," the foundational event of the restoration, may have been in April 1820.  We do not have any contemporary documentation regarding this event, or any subsequent documentation from Joseph regarding the date of this event.  We do, however, have Orson Pratt stating almost fifty years later that it occurred in April of 1820:1

Temple Themes in the Scriptures

November 4, 2012
by Tim Barker

A subject that cannot merit enough attention in our scripture studies is the identification of temple themes.  In reading the scriptures we generally identify something here or there that relates to our temple worship; however, many scholars have contributed articles in various venues that elaborate on these themes.  It may be surprising to see that temple themes are pervasive throughout all of our canonical books of scripture.  The purpose of this post is to point the reader to some of these great articles to supplement our scripture studies from a temple worship perspective. 

Seeing Third Nephi as the Holy of Holies in The Book of Mormon:


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Eight-Pointed Star, Melchizedek, and Divine Light

May 29, 2012
by Tim Barker

Cefal├╣ Cathedral, Sicily, Italy, ca. 12th century - Melchizedek1

The "concept of Divine Light," according to Constantin Marinescu Marin, "...reveals the way the human being had been experiencing luminosity as an attribute that was shared "by all things considered divin[e] and holy.""2   According to Marin, in the ancient world there were two types of "stellar symbols," connected with divine light, including the "star with eight points expressing the concept of a supernatural radiance emanating from a deity as per se, disregarding the being of the deity.  This type of star is unfailing in Christian art and it is called along this work, the Star of Nativity."  The second symbol is the "eight-pointed star, formed by two squares overlapped diagonally, [and] is another type which expresses a dual meaning, the being of the deity and his energy."3  Both were eight-pointed stars, but fashioned differently.  The star that Marin refers to as the "star with eight points," or the Nativity Star, is depicted in the following 12th century late-Byzantine style mosaic in Palermo, Italy:

Monday, April 30, 2012

The 1824 First Vision Reference - Joseph Smith, Sr. and Martin Harris

April 30, 2012
by Tim Barker

In my post, The First Vision in the Formative Years of the Church, I discussed the various accounts of the First Vision related by the Prophet Joseph Smith, as well as by his contemporaries (such as Orson Pratt and Orson Hyde).  In addition to these accounts there were other early Latter-day Saints, as well as non-Latter-day Saints, who made reference to the First Vision during the prophet's life.  Later reminiscences were also recorded by those who knew the Prophet and were familiar with this foundational event.  My post was an overview of these various references and accounts of the First Vision and provided a summary of research that has been available through various resources, such as BYU Studies, Dialogue, Sunstone, and FAIR.  I added some additional information discovered through my own efforts in researching this topic as well.The purpose of this post is to further discuss one of these particular accounts in greater detail.

1824 - Martin Harris and Joseph Smith, Sr.

The chronologically latest published account refers to the chronologically earliest discussion of the First Vision in Willard Bean's 1838 book, A.B.C. History of Palmyra and the Beginning of Mormonism.  This is the earliest published source for the 1824 account between Martin Harris and Joseph Smith, Sr.  The relevant excerpt from Bean's book is provided below:2

Monday, March 5, 2012

Legendary Lives of the Patriarchs - Melchizedek

March 5, 2012
by Tim Barker

In 1871, the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould published one of his many works, Legends of Old Testament Characters From the Talmud and Other Sources, Vol. II: Melchizedek to Zechariah.  In this collection, he provides an array of ancient sources that illustrates various views held on the character of Melchizedek.  Speculation ranges from Melchizedek being the same person as Enoch, Shem, and even the Savior Jesus Christ.  All of the information included below feeds into the complex puzzle of the identity of Melchizedek and his career and role as a priest of the God Most High.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Fake Death of Martin Harris

February 16, 2012
by Tim Barker

Martin Harris died in Clarkston, Utah, in 1875, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 1837 he had been excommunicated from the Church and spent most of his life in Kirtland, Ohio, until he was rebaptized in 1870, after which he moved to Utah where he spent the remainder of his life.  As one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon (having seen the plates with the engravings thereon, and having heard the voice of God testify that it was translated by His gift and power), Martin's life was often under spotlight.  He had been given considerable attention during the early days of the Church because he mortgaged his farm to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon.  Pomeroy Tucker, a resident of Palmyra, stated that "nothing could be done in the way of printing [The Book of Mormon] without his aid..."1  In 1841, Reverend John Clark, also of Palmyra, recalled a conversation with Harris after he had returned from meeting with Charles Anthon in 1828.  Clark noted that Harris was willing to "take the spoiling of his goods" in support of Joseph Smith and the publication of the Book of Mormon.  He insisted that Martin, "was determined that the book be published, though it consume all his worldly substance."2