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LDS Religion and Doctrine

Examining Six Key Concepts in Joseph Smith's Understanding of Genesis 1:1

Revelation often results after wrestling with ideas, and Joseph's struggle with the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 seems to have yielded six concepts, which he expressed either in the King Follett Discourse or in a parallel discourse he gave on June 16, 1844. When propounded in 1844, each of these six ideas was no doubt considered unusual or unorthodox by those of other religious traditions (as well as by... Read more

Can God Be Pictured?

A little boy was hard at work with a crayon. "What are you drawing?" his teacher asked. "God," he replied. "Oh, but we don't know what God looks like." Still busy and without looking up he replied, "We will in just a minute." On the picturability of God, Mormonism is with the little boy, though perhaps not with his picture. The rest of Christendom tends to agree with the teacher. Read more

Grace in the Book of Mormon

Teachings about grace in the Book of Mormon are more at home in the worlds of the Bible and the ancient Mediterranean than in the modern understanding that grace is a free, unearned gift. The Book of Mormon teaches that grace is part of a covenant that places requirements on the receiver. Grace manifests God’s goodness to humankind and is closely aligned with mercy and Christ’s Atonement to meet... Read more

A New Pneumatology: Comparing Joseph Smith's Doctrine of the Spirit with His Contemporaries and the Bible

While Joseph Smith's teachings on the Holy Ghost appear to fall within the mainstream of the enthusiastic outbursts of the Second Great Awakening (circa 1800–1840), a closer look shows that his restored doctrines made an abrupt and radical departure from the pneumatology of his day. Many historians interpret Joseph's claim to revelation as a creative response to the cultural and religious... Read more

Mormonism, Philosophical Liberalism, and the Constitution

Why should a Mormon celebrate the bicentennial of a secular constitution? Wouldn't any such reverence contradict the injunction against idolatry? Doesn't the first commandment's demand that we give our complete fidelity to God rule out our allegiance to any other nomos? What about our constitutional history as a persecuted religious minority? The Constitution provided no solace when vigilantes... Read more

Death Being Swallowed Up in Netzach in the Bible and the Book of Mormon

One way to read the Book of Mormon is to be attentive to ways in which it comes across as a translated text. Being mindful of this is wise, because all translations—even inspired translations—lose something of the primary language, particularly as meanings shift when words are rendered into the vocabulary or idioms of the target language. While the exact nature of the original language used by... Read more

Minding Business: A Note on "The Mormon Creed"

On Christmas Day 1844, William Wines Phelps wrote a letter to William Smith in which he described Mormonism as "the great leveling machine of creeds." Smith would have understood Phelps's meaning. His late brother, the Prophet Joseph, had always maintained that Mormonism should not only resist the pat confessions of Christian orthodoxy—which, as he said, "set up stakes . . . to . . . the Almighty... Read more

Establishing the Church Simply

The author looks at the simplified program of the LDS Church, which is designed to help small branches with a large number of new converts. The simplified program was pioneered in the 1970s and developed in the 1980s. The author tells of his experiences in using these programs in the Navajo nation, in Saskatchewan, and in inner-city Detroit. The success of the program offers dramatic evidence of... Read more

Latter-day Saint Returned Missionaries in the United States: A Survey on Religious Activity and Postmission Adjustment

Each year, approximately twenty to thirty thousand Latter-day Saint young adults leave to serve missions throughout the world.1 Once these young adults return home from their missionary service, most go on to further their education, begin a career, marry, and establish a family. Returned missionaries are a unique group in the Church and are often a point of interest. Parents, for example, note... Read more

Did Christ Visit Japan?

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Jesus Christ as Elder Brother

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often refer to Jesus Christ as their elder brother. This expression of endearment appears in sermons, lessons, and publications. In current usage, the term elder brother reflects an understanding that Jesus was the firstborn of the Father's spirit children and, since we humans are all spirit children of the Father, Jesus is our elder... Read more

All Ye Need to Know

Chemistry and biochemistry professor John D. Lamb, recipient of the 2013 Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award, delivered this forum address on May 20, 2014 at Brigham Young University. Taking his theme from Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Lamb discusses the value of learning and different ways of gaining knowledge. He contrasts opportunities for light and learning with forces that... Read more

Mere Mormonism

Devotees of C. S. Lewis will recognize that I have adapted the title of my remarks from Mere Christianity , his classic exposition of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. An hour lecture is not the forum to attempt for Latter-day Saint Christianity what Lewis achieved for traditional Christianity. In any event, I lack the skill to pull that off. What follows is something much more modest. I... Read more

The Mormon Missionary: Who Is That Knocking at My Door?

Robert L. Lively Jr., dean emeritus at the University of Maine at Farmington, is the author of the 2015 book The Mormon Missionary: Who Is That Knocking at My Door? Lively conceived this book after inviting missionaries to visit his religion classes and realizing that a non-Mormon had never written a book that tells the story of Latter-day Saint missionaries. His research involved over 275... Read more

Self-Interest, Ethical Egoism, and the Restored Gospel

The gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Latter-day Saint Church may be seen as advocating a legitimate focus on our own interest. Thus some people have argued that the gospel is the same as ethical egoism, which is that people ought to act only in their long-term interest. This article examines the relationship between the gospel and ethical egoism and concludes that they are not equal, for... Read more

Online Genealogical Research Resources

More than three million Internet sites offer their services to genealogists and family historians for research. This truly exhausting array of Internet sites makes online genealogical research more convenient and more confusing for beginners and professionals. Keeping up with innovations can easily distract an Internet researcher. Individuals, family organizations, corporations, nonprofit... Read more

N. L. Nelson and The Mormon Point of View

This article discusses the publication of a periodical entitled The Mormon Point of View in 1904. Its ''editor" was Nels Lars (usually known as N. L.) Nelson, a professor of English at Brigham Young University. Intended to provide intellectual food for Latter-day Saints, the quarterly appeared just four times. The story of this brief venture provides a glimpse into the preoccupations of the... Read more

Jesus Was Not a Unitarian

David Paulsen, Jacob Hawken, and Michael Hansen discuss Sir Anthony Buzzard's work Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian (2007). In this theological review essay, the authors show that the problems inherent in the doctrines of unitarianism and trinitarianism are addressed elegantly in the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Editor's Note: At the authors' request, we have posted... Read more

"To Dress It and to Keep It": Toward a Mormon Theology of Work

This article takes an interdisciplinary approach toward a Mormon theology of work. Walker Wright argues that Adam's earliest calling in "the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen 2:15 KJV) implies that work is part of man's original purpose. He then examines a diverse amount of ancient prophecies and their use of Edenic imagery to describe the world to come, thus echoing and expanding... Read more

Probabilistic Record Linkage for Genealogical Research

With increased interest in family history research, there is a great need for the improvements in procedures for generating genealogical information. One of the most time-consuming parts of the work is searching through records (such as civil records, church records, census records, immigration records, wills, deeds, and certificates of births, marriages, and deaths) for information about an... Read more

Priesthood Restoration Documents

Few events in the history of the Restoration are as consequential as the bestowal of the priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The following excerpts from early Church documents recount all of the known direct statements from the first twenty years of Church history specifically concerning the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. In addition to compiling the... Read more

Sizing Up the Divide: Reviews and Replies

In August 1997, Stephen E. Robinson and Craig L. Blomberg published through InterVarsity Press a book that broke important ground in LDS and Evangelical circles. The award-winning book— How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation —is a bold attempt to conduct an ongoing, civil dialogue between Mormons and Evangelicals. As the title suggests, HWD asks a significant question... Read more

Toward a Theory of Human Agency

In this lecture, Bergin discusses the psychology of self-regulation. Regarding self-control, he states that while many people act as if they weren't responsible for their own actions, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes believe they are entirely responsible for everything to do with them. Under-control can be caused by a number of factors, most notably impulse... Read more

Some Problems in Translating Mormon Thought Into Chinese

It was Gordon B. Hinckley who once told a group of missionaries in Taiwan never to forget their Chinese, for the Church would need at least twenty mission presidents when it finally spreads across the China mainland. Hopefully, the future will see the Gospel going to all of China, after its period of tutelage in Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is essential that we lay a good foundation now, and one of... Read more

Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis

Feeding the Flock is a landmark study of the history of the practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Professor Terryl L. Givens’s aim in the book is to answer the question “What did Joseph Smith and his successors understand the purpose of the church to be, and how did the resultant structure and forms of practice evolve over time?” (x). As the compound form of this question... Read more

The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective

On Sunday afternoon, 7 April 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith delivered what has been called his greatest sermon, the King Follett Discourse. It has also been published more frequently than any other of Joseph's discourses. In the speech, which lasted over two hours, the Prophet spoke concerning some twenty-seven doctrinal subjects, including the character of God, the origin and destiny of man, the... Read more

Respect for Life: Abortion in Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

While the indiscriminate taking of life is condemned by major religions and ethical systems worldwide, killing in some well defined situations is less clearly condemned. For example, most major religious traditions put killing in war in a separate category. Euthanasia, which the Netherlands legalized in 2000, is passionately debated. Probably today's most debated means of taking life is abortion... Read more

The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text

The King Follett Discourse of April 7, 1844, perhaps the most significant sermon delivered by the Prophet Joseph Smith, was preserved in manuscript form by Thomas Bullock, William Clayton, Willard Richards, and Wilford Woodruff. Though a version of this sermon was published only four months later in the Times and Seasons , the version in general use today is an "amalgamation" made in 1855 by... Read more

The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology

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,... Read more

The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse

With his clerks to record his words and thousands of Saints, sinners, gentiles, and dissenters to hear, discuss, and react to his comments, Joseph took the stand at 3:15 P.M., Sunday, 7 April 1844, and delivered the most controversial sermon of his life, unparalleled in Mormonism in historic and doctrinal significance. Mormonism could never be the same thereafter. The dispersing congregation... Read more

Foundations of the Restoration: Fulfillment of the Covenant Purposes

This volume is a collection of fifteen papers presented at the forty-fifth annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, held in October 2016. The title and subject matter of the symposium were drawn from the LDS Institute course titled "Foundations of the Restoration," which explores the events surrounding the founding of the Church and early Mormonism. The editors, Craig James Ostler, Michael Hubbard... Read more

Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century

At its heart, Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century is a celebration of religious studies in general and of Mormon studies in particular. The book presents twelve provocative essays written by scholars from multiple disciplines and various parts of the world. The essays are divided into five parts, each part focusing on either a topic or a methodology. Though the book does... Read more

Let Us Reason Together: Essays in Honor of the Life's Work of Robert L. Millet

Let Us Reason Together is a Festschrift honoring the work of Robert L. Millet, a renowned scholar and former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. The volume covers a variety of disciplines and subjects, representative of the breadth of Millet's corpus, which comprises over sixty publications on a variety of topics. Let Us Reason Together is likewise broad in its coverage,... Read more

Without (the) Law

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At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

At the Pulpit joins other notable recent books on Latter-day Saint women such as The First Fifty Years of Relief Society , The Witness of Women , the books in the Women of Faith series, and the long-running series of books from the BYU Women's Conference. Each of these seeks to bring the records of female Saints out of relative obscurity. Editors Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook help move this... Read more

Joseph Smith's Christology: After Two Hundred Years

During the last decade, a recurring question has been posed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Is the church "changing?" In addition, it is asked, Is there some effort on the part of the church leadership to have the church and its teachings, particularly those concerning Jesus Christ, become more acceptable to and thus more accepted by other Christians? The natural... Read more

Mysteries of the Kingdom: More or Less

In 1732, Conrad Beissal, an immigrant from Germany, broke off from a religious group known as the Brethren in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and formed the Ephrata Community in Cocalico, Pennsylvania. When Beissal was asked to perform a baptism as proxy for a deceased person, he agreed. The practice of baptizing for the dead continued for some years among the small community. Some claim that Joseph... Read more

The Meaning of Christ—The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Analysis of B. H. Roberts' Unpublished Masterwork

Truman Madsen reviews and analyzes B. H. Roberts's three-volume masterwork The Truth, The Way, The Life. This previously-unpublished work was meant to reach out to members of other religions and to help them better understand the Latter-day Saints. Roberts focuses on the fact that Jesus Christ is the source of all truth. He discusses the magnitude of Christ as creator of the universe and as the... Read more

The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect

I have come to believe that it is the tendency for many members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and leadership, present and past, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it, perhaps, is not harmful. It is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic... Read more

The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation, 1830-1900

Mormon historian Gordon Irving explains the idea of the law of adoption in early Mormonism. From the beginnings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon concept of salvation has continually broadened and deepened. The Saints originally thought that salvation, attained through faith and baptism, meant dwelling with God after this life. They were then taught about degrees of... Read more