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Nevo

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  1. Samuel M. Brown wrote an entire essay parsing Lucy's statement. It's worth a read: https://ensignpeakfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Reconsidering-Lucy-Mack-Smith’s-Folk-Magic-Confession.pdf He reads Lucy's statement (against Quinn) as disavowing the family's involvement in "folk magic." But he also thinks that Lucy was dissembling. He writes, for example, that "it seems likely that at some point Joseph Jr. and Joseph Sr. used magic circles as part of their treasure hunting activities" (5) and that "the Smiths almost certainly believed to some extent in the efficacy [of Abrac triangles and magic circles]" (7). His conclusion: "That Lucy denied her family’s involvement in deprecated folk religion does not mean the Smiths were not involved in activities that their critics called 'magic.' But it does suggest that they saw folk rites as distinct from honorable religion and were publicly embarrassed by these rites" (9).
  2. I was wondering about this too. It turns out others did make that connection. Richard Van Wagoner assembles a surprisingly large number of accounts in Natural Born Seer:
  3. This story comes from Joseph Knight Sr: https://www.byustudies.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/17.1JesseeJoseph.pdf Richard Bushman provided a brief but vivid description of Knight's account in an essay several years ago:
  4. I hope you're right. I spent the last half hour looking for a letter of Quinn's that I remember reading in Sunstone. I finally found it. He closed with this: I've never forgotten this. In one of his books he wrote the following dedication: "To my mother, a sixth-generation Mormon, whose love for Mormonism and her faith in its essentials continue strong despite the difficulties of her own experience and her awareness of the 'weaknesses of men.' Thank you for nurturing that love and faith in me." D. Michael Quinn's love and faith also continued strong despite the difficulties of his own experience—to the end, it seems. May he be welcomed home with open arms.
  5. Of the two, I think Compton is generally seen as more careful and judicious in his use of sources. His book won the Mormon History Association's Best Book Award and is cited, albeit only once, in the Church's essay on plural marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo. Van Wagoner is not antagonistic, but he uses more questionable sources than other writers. He knows they're problematic but tends to bury this information in the endnotes (see this critique for some examples). Both authors have a naturalistic outlook that colors their presentation. Latter-day Saints wanting to get a believing historian's perspective will need to look elsewhere (Bushman, Fluhman, etc.)
  6. I took it in the context of the verse he cited from Alma 32 about experimenting upon the word and exercising a particle of faith, even if it's no more than a desire to believe. The rest of the passage in Alma talks about "let[ting] this desire work in you" and "giv[ing] place, that a seed [of faith] may be planted in your heart." To give it place means that we "do not cast it out by [our] unbelief." I think this language of yielding ("let...", "give place...") is important. A friend and someone I have long admired wrote an account on another board that illustrates what "choosing to believe" can look like in practice.
  7. I liked the talk. I was never a big fan of President Nelson's talks when he was a member of the Twelve. But, as president of the Church, he's consistently delivered powerful, memorable conference talks. Today's was no exception. As a doubter, I welcomed his suggestions for increasing my faith. I appreciated his emphasis once again on the need for spiritual "work" to gain personal revelation. And on the need for humility and patience, to "give place, that a seed may be planted in [our] heart," and allow the Lord to lead us. I am sure I have been falling short on that front. I didn't feel judged by the line "stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters," because I mainly increase my doubts by rehearsing them with believers I'm sure some people will use the talk to "bash" doubters, since it takes for granted that doubt is bad and belief is good. It also takes the view that belief is a choice. A doubter, then, is one who does not choose to believe. In my own case, I see my doubts as arising out of honest seeking. I cannot simply choose to believe in, say, the historicity of the Book of Mormon. That would not be an intellectually honest position for me, as I see the evidence. But I also recognize that I may be wrong. I take seriously Paul's admonition: "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20; compare Jacob 6:8).
  8. I don't reject the supernatural altogether. I want to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, so I don't discount the possibility of resurrected beings per se. I'm just skeptical that there were Nephites. What do I think happened on September 21, 1823? Joseph said in his 1832 history that he was praying for forgiveness (having fallen into "transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul") and the Lord "shewed unto me a heavenly vision." I suspect that's what it was: a nighttime vision or dream. Given the teenage Joseph's interest in buried treasure and lore about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, I think it's quite plausible that he believed he was visited by the spirit of an ancient American who was the guardian of a treasure buried in a nearby hill (believed to be an Indian burial mound). But having stood in a replica of the cramped, low-ceilinged bedroom where the encounter allegedly took place, I'm skeptical a heavenly being was physically present in the room that night. For one thing, there's nowhere to hover, even for a person of middle stature.
  9. I haven't read any of these, but I'll chime in anyway My dad read the one by Helen Castor and enjoyed it. I read a short one years ago by Mary Gordon, in the Penguin Lives series. I liked it but have nothing else to compare it to. From the reviews I've read, Castor's book is a straightforward work of history, well told (Castor is a medieval historian who specializes in telling women's stories), whereas Harrison's book is more interpretive and idiosyncratic (Harrison is a novelist and memoirist). I also highly recommend the movie that Rory mentioned, The Passion of Joan of Arc, by Carl Theodore Dreyer. The dialogue is taken from the transcripts of Joan's trial. It's unforgettable, particularly with the soundtrack by Richard Einhorn.
  10. I don't know if it is relevant. I just thought it was worth noting that these verses were inserted years later by Joseph Smith. They were not part of the original revelation.
  11. I think Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are probably fictional. Elijah may be as well. Elias, an otherwise unattested prophetic contemporary of Abraham, appears to be an invention of Joseph Smith. The view that the patriarchal narratives contain "substantial historicity" was largely abandoned by biblical scholars and archaeologists over 40 years ago. It is now common for textbooks to discuss the late, legendary character of the stories and basically dismiss their historical reliability. Lester Grabbe, for example, notes that the patriarchal stories have "no direct external confirmation, either epigraphic or literary" "except for Jacob/Israel, the references to the patriarchs are attested in Israelite tradition only late. Apart from the Genesis texts, Abraham and Isaac are little mentioned." "the patriarchal narratives in Genesis in their present form reflect a later time, with many anachronistic details" (Grabbe, Ancient Israel, 52–53) J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes, in A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, essentially write off Genesis to Joshua as "folk traditions" and start their historical investigation with the Book of Judges. William Dever has likewise recently noted that the pentateuchal narratives (including all of Genesis) are "largely useless for historical reconstruction." He continues: "Some of the events narrated in Genesis may have some historical basis, but there is no direct archaeological corroboration. Indeed, the patriarchal stories as they now stand combine so many diverse elements from so many periods that the narratives cannot be dated or placed in any one archaeological phase or historical era. . . . These stories are part of a late literary construct, an attempt to create a prehistory and an identity during the monarchy, one that is beyond our reach. The story is more cultural memory than history" (Dever, Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah, 120). In a similar vein, P. Kyle McCarter and Ronald Hendel note that "the men and women who appear in Genesis 12–50 are less accessible as historical individuals than as typological prefigurations of the later Israelites and their neighbors. In many cases, they are eponyms; that is, persons from whom the names of the later groups were supposed to be derived" (McCarter and Hendel, "The Patriarchal Age," in Ancient Israel, ed. H. Shanks, 4). Konrad Schmid writes: "It does not seem possible any longer, by literary-critical means, to get behind the national-historical form of the Jacob cycle we now have, which is intended to equate Jacob with Israel and Esau with Edom, with Laban consequently standing for Aram" (Schmid, The Old Testament: A Literary History, 59). Later, he observes that the Isaac traditions are likely older than the Abraham traditions and that "the present genealogical sequence of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as grandfather, father, and son is probably a basic reflection of the transformations in the political significance of these figures: with the fall of the Northern Kingdom and the dissolution of the sanctuary in Bethel the originally important figure from central Palestine, Jacob, gradually declined in significance in contrast to the Judahite figures of Abraham and Isaac, so that Jacob ultimately took his place at the end of the relational sequence" (85). According to Schmid, the Joseph story was originally a separate novella probably composed during the exile (perhaps in Egypt), and the "overarching patriarchal narrative containing Genesis 12–50" was "created in the exilic period by means of the redactional joining of these existing cycles plus the Joseph narrative" (123).
  12. At least half the people named in vv. 6–12 are likely fictional, so there's no problem with Moroni being included with them. Also, these verses were added later by Joseph Smith. None of those figures were mentioned in the original revelation in 1830.
  13. Some additional Brigham Young quotes on divorce:
  14. Yes, what would heaven be without inequality and caste systems? What a wretched vision of priesthood.
  15. No. To clarify, Hedges is talking about women marrying in their "mid-teens", not at 18 or 19. His source here is Spencer Fluhman: Fluhman cites Todd Compton, “Early Marriage in the New England and Northeastern States, and in Mormon Polygamy: What Was the Norm?,” in The Persistence of Polygamy: Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormon Polygamy, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2010). Compton writes: After reviewing all sorts of data, Compton finds that "very early marriage was rare" in nineteenth-century New England and northeastern states culture. "In mid-nineteenth-century New Jersey, for example, only 1.9 percent of young women married at age 14–16, and most of that group, 1.4 percent, were married at age 16. The percentage married at age 14 (.1) was almost negligible. The incidence of very early marriage in Joseph Smith's plural family, and in later Mormonism, was much higher than that. The IPUMS data I cite show that in the New England and Northeastern states, both in 1850 and 1880, marriage age at 13 to 15 was usually less than or about one percent" (230). In contrast, Greg Smith calculates that 21.2% of Joseph Smith's wives were age 14–17, while 9.1% were age 18–19.
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