This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Dan Belnap. To download the PDF and read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the ritual behavior of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latest volume to address that subject is Jonathan Stapley’s The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, published by Oxford University Press. Grounded in his extensive studies concerning individual healing rites and Latter-day Saint sealings, Stapley explores the concept of priesthood and authority. He does so through five chapters, each one focusing on a specific practice: chapter 1 concerns priesthood ordination; chapter 2, sealing; chapter 3, infant blessings; chapter 4, a number of ritual behaviors outside of temple settings; and chapter 5, the presence of the “cunning-folk” tradition within nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint culture.
Though a relatively slim volume (the text is only 128 pages), Stapley does an excellent job of noting some of the theological and historical challenges that arise from Latter-day Saint ritual praxis, including the participation of women and blacks, a subject that remains a historical concern for many Church members. Moreover, Stapley adds to the ongoing dialogue on Latter-day Saint praxis by discussing ritual behavior that is often unaddressed, such as those rituals often considered to be “nonsalvific” (that is, not necessary for salvation).