Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Masonic Royal Arch ritual and Oliver Cowdery's gift of translation

 Rod of Aaron used in the
Royal Arch ritual

Later, William Cowdery and his brother Warren became members of a Royal Arch Mark Masters lodge. William was the lodge's Master Overseer in 1805, and a Junior Warden in 1807 and 1809. Oliver's brother Stephen was involved in the lodge before 1816. Given William Cowdery's draw to the esoteric, he may have taken the opportunity to involve himself in the Council of the Cryptic Rite when Jeremy Cross established it in Poultney around 1817.

Oliver Cowdery was born in 1806 and eventually became a Mason.  His use of a rod was likely influenced by his family's ritualistic use of a rod in Royal Arch Masonic ceremonies, his own involvement in Masonry, as well as his father's use of a rod to receive revelations as one of the New Israelites.

Sprout, Rod, Thing of Nature: Naming the Gift of Aaron

1831 version of D&C 8
This past weekend I (Clair Barrus) had the opportunity to present a paper on Oliver Cowdery's rod at the Mormon History Association conference in St. George.  I've divided my presentation into two posts:
  1. Evidence that the various titles for Oliver Cowdery's rod ("the sprout" / "the rod" / "thing of nature" / "rod of Nature" / "the gift of Aaron.") in earlier versions of  D&C 8 were related to divining rods. This section was to address Michael Quinn's critique an of an earlier paper that the title "sprout" was likely not derived from non-KJV biblical texts discussing Aaron's "sprouted" rod as I had proposed, but from a magic/treasure seeking context.
  2. Parallels regarding the concept of restoration / translation of scripture between Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and the Royal Arch Masonic ritual.
Note: the various texts of the "Rod of Nature" revelation can be compared here.

On April 5th, 1829 Oliver Cowdery met Joseph Smith, and began recording dictations on April 7th as Joseph Smith translated the gold plates through his seerstone. Oliver had a rod in his possession through which he had been receiving revelations [D&C 8:6,12] and later that month, Joseph Smith received revelations through his seerstone related to Cowdery's rod and his desire to become a translator.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Church History Catalog

The church historian's office announced a new tool at the Mormon History Association conference in St. George this weekend, an online Church History Catalog.  Of particular interest are the digital collections, making available many items previously available only by visiting the library in person, or purchasing the expensive 2002 Selected Collections from the Archives DVD. Patrons may also request items to be digitized.  Some of the digitized data will be images only, however in time, searchable text will be added to many items.

"Book of Mormon" sets record for fastest selling digital release

The Book Of Mormon [Explicit] [+Digital Booklet]Excerpts of BOOK OF MORMON Cast Recording Named Fastest Selling Digital Release

The Original Broadway Cast Recording for THE BOOK OF MORMON, released digitally by Ghostlight Records on May 17, is the fastest selling digital release of a cast recording in history, according to Billboard Magazine. THE BOOK OF MORMON's cast recording was the #6 digital download of the week. Ghostlight Records will release the CD for THE BOOK OF MORMON on Tuesday, June 7, featuring a booklet which includes color photos, complete lyrics and liner notes by Frank Rich.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Book of Mormon" wins most Outer Critics Circle Awards

Excerpts of 'Book of Mormon,' 'War Horse' win Outer Critics Circle Awards, LA Times Blog

"The Book of Mormon" won in four of the six Outer Critics Circle Awards categories it received nominations in,  including best musical, best actor (Josh Gad), direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker) and music score.

The Outer Critics Circle Awards are bestowed by 90 journalists at newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and other media outlets situated beyond New York City. Historically, they've proven to be shrewd harbingers of what will win Tonys.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recent and forthcoming books



Latter-day Dissent: At the Crossroads of Intellectual Inquiry and Ecclesiastical Authority by Philip Lindholm.  Greg Kofford Books, 2011.  236 pp. $24.95. Paper. Includes interviews (conducted in 2003-04) with Lynne Whitesides, Paul Toscano, Maxine Hanks, Lavina Anderson and Mike Quinn (five of the September Six--Avraham Gileadi declined to be interviewed) as well as Janice Allred, Margaret Toscano and Thomas Murphy (intellectuals/writers who experienced similar events).  Donald Jessee, a former employee of the LDS Church Public Affairs Department provides a counterpoint perspective.


Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore edited by W. Paul Reeve and Michael Scott Van Wagenen.  Utah State University Press, 2011. 243 pp. $24.95. Paper.  Mormons gave distinctive meanings to supernatural legends and events, but their narratives incorporated motifs found in many cultures. Many such historical legends and beliefs found adherents down to the present. This collection of eight essays employs folklore to illuminate the cultural and religious history of a people.  Topics include Cain as Bigfoot, the Dream Mine, the Bear Lake Monster and accounts from Southern Utah of possession by spirits of Gadianton robbers.

Violent Encounters: Interviews on Western Massacres by Deborah and Jon Lawrence. University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. 258 pp.  $34.95.  Merciless killing in the nineteenth-century American West, as this unusual book shows, was not as simple as depicted in dime novels and movie Westerns. The scholars interviewed here, experts on violence in the West, embrace a wide range of approaches and perspectives and challenge both traditional views of western expansion and politically correct ideologies.  Of the nine interviews, two are of particular interest to a Mormon audience.  In the first, Will Bagley talks about both the events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and writing about it.  In the other, Margot Mifflin discusses Olive Oatman who was kidnapped by Native Americans while traveling with her family (part of a Brewsterite group) to California. Also mentioned several times is the Bear River Massacre involving troops from Utah.


Converging Paths to Truth: The Summerhays Lectures on Science and Religion edited by Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody.  Religious Studies Center, 2011. 174 pp. $19.99. The Summerhays lectures and this collection of eight essays are dedicated to discover and share insights on how the truths of revealed religion mesh with knowledge from the sciences.  Contributors, drawn from the science and religion departments at BYU, include Robert Millet, Steven Jones and Michael Rhodes.


Much Ado About Mormons: What Famous People Have Said About the Mormons edited by Rick Walton.  Covenant, 2011.  $16.99. Paper. From the time pioneers settled the Salt Lake valley, Mormon culture has drawn the public eye and colored the public record—for better or for worse. This volume explores nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century Mormon society through the perspectives of journalists, novelists, travel writers, presidents, and other well-known public figures, including such varied people as Susan B. Anthony, Buffalo Bill Cody, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Vincent Price, Will Rogers, Angela Lansbury, Walter Cronkite, Margaret Thatcher, President John F. Kennedy, and dozens more.


Women of Character: Profiles of 100 Prominent LDS Women by Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger.  Covenant, 2011. 379 pp. $24.99.  In this book, the authors celebrate noble women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with one hundred inspiring biographies of LDS women who have accomplished the extraordinary, leaving an indelible mark on history. In addition to expected choices such as Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow, sketches of lesser-known women such as Emma Lou Thayne, Vienna Jacques and Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner are included.




Corianton: A Nephite Romance by B. H. Roberts.  Lynn Pulsipher, 2011. 111 pp. $15.95.  Pulsipher, an avid B. H. Roberts collector, has reprinted Roberts' Corianton, a very difficult item to find in the original.  Corianton, first published as a serial in the Contributor in 1889 and then as a booklet in 1902, is a short romantic novel set during Book of Mormon times.  Though the text is in the public domain, Pulsipher has taken pains to reproduce the original wrapper on the front cover. "...undoubtedly the scarcest major Mormon literary work." – Collectible Mormon Books of the Twentieth Century by Richard Saunders.


FORTHCOMING (next two weeks)


"Swell Suffering": A Biography of Maureen Whipple by Veda Tebbs Hale. Greg Kofford Books, 2011. 456 pp. Paper. Maurine Whipple, author of what some critics consider Mormonism's greatest novel, The Giant Joshua, is an enigma. Her prize-winning novel has never been out of print, and its portrayal of the founding of St. George draws on her own family history to produce its unforgettable and candid portrait of plural marriage's challenges. Yet Maurine's life is full of contradictions and unanswered questions. Veda Tebbs Hale, a personal friend of the paradoxical novelist, answers these questions with sympathy and tact, nailing each insight down with thorough research in Whipple's vast but under-utilized collected papers.


"My Candid Opinion": The Sandwich Islands Diaries of Joseph F. Smith, 1856-1857 edited by Nathaniel R. Ricks. Smith-Pettit, 2011. Limited to 250 copies. Oversize hardback.  For the first time, the earliest surviving diaries of Joseph F. Smith will be available. Smith arrived in the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaiian Islands) in 1854 at the age of fifteen. For the next three years, he labored to bring native converts into the Church while combating loneliness, depression, a fiery temperament, and doubts about his own competence. Ricks has carefully annotated these diaries of Joseph F. (earlier volumes were destroyed in a fire) to make them accessible to modern readers.


Benchmark Books
3269 S. Main St., Ste. 250
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
801-486-3452 (fax)
800-486-3112 (orders)
Hours: Mon. - Fri., 10-6; Sat., 10-5

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mormon Stories Conference

Mormon Stories Salt Lake Conference, June 10-12 2011

Conference Theme: "Open Mormon Pioneers in the 21st Century"

Speakers: Carol Lynn Pearson, Joanna Brooks, Jared Anderson, Margaret Toscano, John Dehlin

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dress code changes for Mormon women employees and missionaries

Excerpts of Pantyhose begone: LDS female employees give thanks, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune
[T]he LDS Church changed its policy to allow female employees in the church's Salt Lake City headquarters to forsake their pantyhose and go barelegged.

This follows a similar move from last summer, loosening the pantyhose requirements for "sister missionaries"

On top of that, these young women are now allowed to wear "brighter colors, patterns and even accessories ... to make sister missionaries' appearance more inviting to investigators."

The church also is allowing sister missionaries to shorten their skirts above mid-calf but are still required "to cover the knees when sitting or standing."

Read the full story here

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mormon Gold

MORMON GOLD - Mormons in the California Gold Rush Contributing to the Development of California and the Monetary Solvency of Early Utah"...Most people don't realize that Brigham Young actually promoted the mining of gold under his direction and control.  Over eighty thousand dollars in gold went into the Mormon mint between 1848 and 1851 ... Had it not been for these nineteenth century gold diggers, the infant Mormon economy in the Salt Lake Valley might well have foundered"

"Brigham Young realized the allure of gold, and in order to keep his people in Deseret, he publicly preached against gold mining.  At the same time, he confidentially called or authorized men to go into the gold fields as gold missionaries ... tithing payments were entered into a log known as Brigham Young's Gold Dust accounts. ..."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Electronic Journals

In addition to the announcement for the Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies, I thought I would mention some other sources of Mormon studies found online. Most of these are available for subscription.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri

Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39 by Leland Homer Gentry and Todd M. Compton has just been released from Greg Kofford Books.

Compton has revised and updated Leland Gentry's 1965 PhD. dissertation A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839. During the last forty-five years a flood of primary sources has been made available. Compton has made use of this new material to create this new work.

Compton is one of the more gifted Mormon historians who is producing work today.

Mormon U.S. Olympic chef de mission resigns over same sex marriage controversy

Excerpts of Vidmar steps down as U.S. Olympic chef de mission by Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune
Peter Vidmar stepped down Friday as chef de mission of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the wake of a controversy over whether his public opposition to same-sex marriage made him the right person to be symbolic head of the team that will compete at the London Summer Games.

In a statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Vidmar said, ``I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States.  I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family.

Vidmar had told the Tribune his opposition to same-sex marriage came from exercising his religious freedom as a Mormon. 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Metal Plates faked

Excerpts of Exclusive: Early Christian Lead Codices Now Called Fakes by Natalie Wolchover, Live Science
Seventy metal books allegedly discovered in a cave in Jordan have been hailed as the earliest Christian documents.

"Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history," reported the BBC.

Slowly, though, more and more questions have arisen about the authenticity of the codices, whose credit-card-size pages are cast in lead and bound together by lead rings. Today, an Aramaic translator has completed his analysis of the artifacts, and has found what he says is incontrovertible evidence that they are fakes.

Same-sex unions recognized in Brazil

Excerpts of Same-sex unions recognized by Brazil's high court, CNN

Brazil's Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the nation should recognize same-sex unions.
The court voted 10-0 in favor of recognizing the unions. One justice abstained because he had spoken publicly in favor of same-sex unions when he was attorney general.
The court ruled that the same rights and rules that apply to "stable unions" of heterosexual couples will apply to same-sex couples, including the right to joint declaration of income tax, pension, inheritance and property sharing.
The ruling does not allow same-sex marriage, but gay rights activists hailed it as an important advance for same-sex couples.

The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War, 1857-1858

The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War, 1857-1858The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War, 1857-1858  David L. Bigler (Author), Will Bagley

America s first civil war played out in the Far West

In 1857 President James Buchanan ordered U.S. troops to Utah to replace Brigham Young as governor and restore order in what the federal government viewed as a territory in rebellion. In this compelling narrative, award-winning authors David L. Bigler and Will Bagley use long-suppressed sources to show that contrary to common perception the Mormon rebellion was not the result of Buchanan s blunder, nor was it a David-and-Goliath tale in which an abused religious minority heroically defied the imperial ambitions of an unjust and tyrannical government. They argue that Mormon leaders had their own far-reaching ambitions and fully intended to establish an independent nation the Kingdom of God in the West.

California Attorney General: Prop 8 supporters can't defend marriage ban

Excerpts of Calif AG: Prop 8 backers can't defend marriage ban by LISA LEFF, Associated Press
California's attorney general has again come out against the state's same-sex marriage ban, this time telling the state Supreme Court the proponents of successful ballot initiatives do not have the right to defend their measures in court.

'Book of Mormon' leads Tony nominations

Excerpts of Tony Nominations lead by "The Book of Mormon" by Tom August, kozmedia

The Tony award nominations were announced earlier today and the musical comedy "The Book of Mormon" was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, making it one of the most celebrated Broadway shows since "The Producers". The controversial show makes fun of several classes of people and was made by the same creators of the animated satirical show "South Park".
The show had won critical acclaim and sold out within days after it had opened. The story about Mormon missionaries in Africa was praised by most critics but had also garnered significant criticism due it the racial and religious insensitivity portrayed in its comedic satire.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

History of the Word of Wisdom

Mormons are not
supposed to drink coffee
The next topic at LDS-Church-History will be the Word of Wisdom.  Every day, a few items regarding the history of the Word of Wisdom will be posted, gradually covering its entire history.

Some have suggested the Word of Wisdom has taken the place of polygamy as the common outward badge of identification for Latter-day Saints.
With the abandonment of polygamy by the LDS church and the increased enforcement of the Word of Wisdom into the mid-20th century, members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints are more likely to be identified as those who don't drink coffee, alcohol, or smoke.

A vigorous temperance movement
swept the U.S. in the early 19th century
Factors related to the Word of Wisdom include an evolving standard of compliance for church members