Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Critique of John Dehlin's LGBT Research

This paper shows that John Dehlin has been playing fast and loose with statistics and surveying methods.

John Dehlin and the Weaponization of Scientific Research by Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Future of the Church

            Some of the enemies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have predicted its demise over its stand opposing gay marriage and homosexual sin. They predict that within a few decades the Church will disintegrate and be no more.
            Below is what the prophets have said, to the contrary. Somehow I just don’t think we need strain our minds with great mental exertions and run about in circles suffering anxiety and panic to figure out which voices speak the truth. I think President Hinckley’s thoughts pretty well sum it up, and President Packer’s confirm:  

President Gordon B. Hinckley discussed this very question:
I noted from last Sunday’s papers that a new book is off the press, put together as a “history” of this work by two men who have spent much time gathering data. I have not read the book, but the conclusion, reported one reviewer, is that the future of the Church is dim.
Without wishing to seem impertinent, I should like to ask what they know about that future. They know nothing of the prophetic mission of this Church. The future must have looked extremely dim in the 1830s. It must have looked impossible back in those Ohio-Missouri days. But notwithstanding poverty, notwithstanding robbing, notwithstanding murders, notwithstanding confiscation and drivings and disfranchisement forced upon the Saints, the work moved steadily on. It has continued to go forward. Never before has it been so strong. Never before has it been so widespread. Never before have there been so many in whose hearts has burned an unquenchable knowledge of the truth.
It is the work of the Almighty. It is the work of his Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gospel of salvation. Men and women may write now, just as Hurlburt and E. B. Howe and others wrote in those days, but the work goes on because it is true and it is divine. These are the best of times in the history of this work. What a wonderful privilege it is to be a part of it in this great era.

President Boyd K. Packer has declared: “Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow.”

Will there be a sifting of the wheat from the tares as the years pass? Of course. Will the weak and even a few of the elect be deceived? The prophecies so state. But I think the above quotations speak for themselves, despite the gnashing of teeth by the adversary and his online spokespeople.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gay Activism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ruminations on Promoting Sin

Editor's note: an earlier version of this appeared here on February 13, 2016.

(Revised and Enlarged)

President Gordon B. Hinckley knew exactly what he was talking about when, in a 1997 general conference, he cautioned members of the Church, saying: “I hope you will never look to the public press [or bloggers/social media] as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” His point was that most commentary from such sources fails to one degree or another to accurately represent or communicate Church doctrine, practice, and policy. The result is that many readers are given a false impression of the Church’s position and judge it falsely thereby. Of course, such a result—misunderstanding and confusion—is usually what the reporter or blogger—often a gay activist—seeks. They know there is nothing easier to sway than an outraged but misinformed audience.

The Position of the Church

The Proclamation on the Family, issued by the First Presidency, teaches that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] The First Presidency has further stated:

We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord. As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[2]

During an occasion when activists and media were agitating, President Hinckley stated the following, which is the same thing he would say today if he still lived:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #42: George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton

Editor's note: This is the last of a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            George Smith, owner of Signature Books, is an atheist and critic of the Mormon Church who interests himself in issues and episodes of LDS history that he dislikes—polygamy being one of them. His publishing company’s ultimate purpose seems to be to reinterpret Mormon history so that the divine element is missing. On occasion he self-publishes his own works; hence his version of the journals of William Clayton. While most students of LDS history are grateful for those publications that make available new sources and documents, they do have an expectation, often disappointed, that what they buy will meet established scholarly standards. In this case, they are again disappointed.

            James B. Allen, former assistant church historian and BYU history professor, reviewed An Intimate Chronicle for BYU Studies with the eye of one who had already spent considerable time himself with the journals for his own scholarly works. He discovered that G. D. Smith was using purloined notes of the journals instead of the originals for his transcriptions, and that he was purposely omitting parts of the journals to make them seem more sensational. For example:        “Though editors have the right to determine what to eliminate, it is unfortunate in this case that some seemingly significant entries were excluded while some relatively insignificant passages were retained. Sunday, March 8, 1840, for example, was a very eventful Sabbath day for Clayton. In the morning, he prayed with a Sister Burgess, who had a serious infection on her breast. He also recorded where he had breakfast, who spoke at Church meetings during the day and evening; the ordination of certain men to the priesthood; some baptisms and confirmations; visits he made to members of the Church; gifts he received of oranges and money (he often recorded such thing as a reflection of his gratitude for people who supplied him with food and other needs while he was working without purse or scrip); and, finally, a cryptic comment about using ‘liberty’ toward Alice Hardman. In his abridgement, however, Smith kept only about one-sixth of the total entry: ‘Sister Burgess came. Her breast is very bad. I prayed with her…. Supper at Hardman’s. Used great liberty toward Alice Hardman’ (33). By including only the somewhat titillating material and leaving out the much more important information about Clayton and what he was doing as a missionary, this ‘abridgement’ does little but distort the day’s activity” (BYU Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2 [1995], 166).

            Because this distorted version of Clayton’s journals was published in paperback, it was more widely distributed than many other Signature publications—how many unsuspecting readers will be fooled, or at least misled, by this manipulated mess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #41: David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship

Editor's note: This is # 41 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The mysteries of Godliness attempts the first historical treatment of the development of the endowment and other temple rites. The preface acknowledges the sensitivity of this theme and promises ‘to treat the ceremony with respect’ in order to ‘enhance understanding of the temple for both Latter-day Saints and others by providing a history of the endowment’ (vii, ix). Yet, ‘given exaggerated claims about the temple and its origin by some enthusiastic apologists’ [just who these persons are and what constitutes their exaggerated claims the author does not tell us], he argues that ‘a degree of specificity in detail is unavoidable” (viii). Using many unpublished primary sources and published exposes written by anti-Mormons, Buerger traces endowment history from its beginnings in 1831 to the present day. His narrative is specific enough to offend the sensitivities of most devout Mormons, despite his disclaimers.

            “All sacred texts and sacred ceremonies, when they become the object of historical analysis, should be treated with delicacy and care…. Buerger, attempting to speak through his sources, some of which are openly antagonistic to Joseph Smith and the ceremonies revealed through him, fails to pass the sensitivity test. Nevertheless, basing his history on a plethora of documents (many of which are restricted by the Church because of their sacred content and thus cannot be studied by general researchers to determine their meaning, veracity, or historical setting), he does create an interesting narrative. …

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #40: Bryant S. Hinckley, Daniel Hammer Wells and Events of His Time

Editor's note: This is # 40 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            In his autobiography, the main author wrote:

“At that period [1939-42] I did considerable correspondence for the President [Heber J. Grant], and wrote a small book for the Beneficial Life Insurance Company, the title of which was, “Heber J. Grant, a Businessman.”

            “Then he had me write the life of Daniel Hammer Wells, explaining that Annie Cannon Wells, an experienced writer and author, would assist me. His brother-in-law, Genton Wells, had worked for a year in the Library gathering information for that book. All of this was turned over to me, and it took me about a year to write the book, working at it whenever time permitted. Mrs. Cannon died before doing much on it.

            “President Grant paid me $100.00 per month additional while working on it. My wife, May, was a great help in putting it together. She worked very hard at it. That first book was a big job. There was an edition of 3,000 copies which cost the President about $3,000.00. He died soon after it came off the press or he would have gotten all his money back and then some.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, The Autobiography of Bryant S. Hinckley, [unpublished], 44.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #39: George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet

Editor's note: This is # 39 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The authorship of The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet has been the object of some debate. While the book bears only the name of George Q. Cannon, historical sources inform us that it was actually a collaborative effort within the Cannon family. The reason for dispute is that some historians have named Frank J. Cannon, a son of President Cannon, as the principal or “real” author. This is provocative because silvery tongued Frank Cannon often did not live the standards of the Church, bringing public shame to his highly prominent father, and after his (George’s) death, became a bitterly apostate anti-Mormon who travelled the United States giving lectures seeking to harm the Church as much as possible.

The journals of Cannon family members reveal that Frank wrote a rough first draft, but that it was extensively added to and revised by President Cannon and his sons Abraham H. and John Q. For example, one entry from President Cannon’s journal reads; “Friday, September 1, 1888. I worked very hard at the message of my ‘Life of Joseph.’” Other journal entries from President Cannon speak of his work on various chapters. A journal entry from Abraham Cannon reads: “I got his [G. Q. Cannon’s] consent to get John Q. to revise the ms. of ‘Joseph the Prophet’ which Frank prepared, after which Father and Joseph F. Smith will review it and we can then print the same.” President George Q. Cannon had final approval of the finished product. Each of these Cannon family members were literary men, often earning their living as editors and publishers of newspapers and books. A parallel might be drawn with today’s college professor, who produces a book with his own name as sole author, when in reality one or more assistants have substantially contributed to the research and writing. Obviously, as a practical matter, President Cannon’s name would help the book sell better than his less prominent children. President Cannon’s biographer, Davis Bitton, wrote, “Of course George Q. Cannon had the final right of approval and was responsible for the final product” (Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography, 296 and 511 n.140.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #38: John A. Widtsoe

Editor's note: This is # 38 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

John A. & Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom:

            From Elder Widtsoe’s autobiography:

While on my long European mission assignment in 1927-33 it became very evident that there was too much illness among the people and that poor nutritional practice was partly responsible for much of it. …

            As the years increased we tried to find some competent and willing person to show how the general principles of the Word of Wisdom corresponded with those of the modern experimentally established science of nutrition. Several doctors (M.D.) desired to help, but found no time. Finally, an assignment to do some work at the University of Southern California gave me the opportunity. My wife joined in. I took the negative teachings of the Word of Wisdom, she took the positive aspects. The book was written as our crowded lives permitted. Then, unknown to us, before publication, the manuscript was recommended, after presentation to the First Presidency, (Heber J. Grant, President) and accepted by the Presidency and Twelve, as a year’s text for study by the priesthood quorums of the Church in 1939. This gave wide publicity to the cause of the word of Wisdom and gave its modern interpretation acceptance by the Authorities of the Church. This not only helped to establish the positive parts of the Word of Wisdom in the minds of people, but also furnished a guide in answer to the many food cults unsupported by scientific evidence. It is just as important to understand and practice the truths taught in the positive as well as the negative aspects of this law.

            When the book was being used in the priesthood quorums, an elderly man, a stalwart in the Church, a high priest, stopped me on the street to announce that woman’s work was not fit for priesthood study. After he was exhausted, I asked if he had read the revelation on the Word of Wisdom recently. ‘O, yes.’ Had he noticed that it was first given ‘to a council of high priests’? The conversation ended abruptly.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #37: Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment & One Eternal Round

Editor's note: This is # 37 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

This seems to be an ideal opportunity to mention a recently published correction to a quotation from Hugh Nibley found in his intellectually staggering work, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment, first edition. The Prophet Joseph Smith is here (incorrectly) credited with “furnish[ing] a clear and specific description.… ‘The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is (1) beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and (2) a small part red, ink or paint, (3) in perfect preservation.’” It has since been found that Oliver Cowdery provided that description, not Joseph Smith. For a discussion of this correction, see Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment, second edition, edited by John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes (Salt Lake City & Provo, Utah: Deseret Book & FARMS, 2005), xxi-xxii, 2n.5.
Furthermore, of great importance is this statement: according to the editors of the second edition, “There is no reason to assume that the papyrus Joseph Smith I + X is the source of the Book of Abraham.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had no official position on the issue, and most members do not believe that it is. The Egyptologists are adamant that it is not, and so everyone seems to be in agreement on that issue.” I mention this because I have noticed some anti-Mormons ignorantly stating otherwise—even publishing translations of the papyri that do still exist—all in an effort to discredit Joseph Smith. The Church today simply does not possess the original papyri text of the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith used to make his translation now found in the Pearl of Great Price. Those papyri went up in ashes in the great Chicago fire and no amount of clamor and false charges by enemies of the Church can change that fact.

Hugh Nibley:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #36: Merlo J. Pusey, Builders of the Kingdom: George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, George Albert Smith

Editor's note: This is # 36 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            “In 1958 Mr. Pusey was considering requests that he write the biographies of several distinguished jurists when the children of George Albert Smith asked him to write this story. He responded to the request because he had warm memories of George Albert Smith from his days as a Deseret News reporter when he covered the LDS Church Office Building in the early 1920s. He found the journals of George Albert Smith and those of his father and grandfather to be both informative and delightful—full of trials and difficulties as well as joys and triumphs.” (Foreword, Leonard Arrington)

            “I began working on the story in the late 1950s at the request of George Albert Smith’s two daughters, Emily Smith Stewart and Edith Smith Elliott, and his only son, George Albert Smith, Jr., then a professor at the Harvard University School of Business Administration. They made available to me the journals of all three of their distinguished progenitors and a vast array of letters, memoranda, and other data in George Albert’s personal papers. To supplement this information, I read widely in church history and interviewed an enormous number of church and civic leaders, friends of the family, and others who had had an impact on George Albert’s career. By this means I was able to obtain extensive information in the early 1960s that would not be available today [ca.1980]. Most of the original manuscript was written in those years, but publication was delayed in deference to objections from one member of the family to my treatment of some episodes with what I deemed to be proper objectivity. I have tried to tell the story as I found it, with lights and shadows, problems as well as achievements, and with candid reporting of controversy where it has existed. Recently the manuscript has been extensively revised in the light of historical research that was not available in the early sixties.” (Preface, Merlo J. Pusey)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #35: Dennis B. Horne, Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights from His Life and Teachings, 1st and 2nd enlarged edition (2000 and 2010)

Editor's note: This is # 35 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            I have never shared this experience in anywhere near this detail in public before. I have little doubt some unscrupulous parties could twist and distort what I write into something other than what occurred; I hope such does not happen. Some names have been withheld or a title/position used instead for obvious reasons. No offense is meant and no ill will is held toward anyone involved. In fact, pretty much everyone involved were/are very fine people and valiant disciples of Christ, each in his/her own way trying to deal with a complex situation. Enough time has passed and enough of the principal participants have passed away that I have decided to share this information with interested lovers of Mormon books/biographies. I can only tell my side of the story; I am sure if certain other parties were to tell what they observed or thought, a different perspective would emerge. I have withheld some few details that I felt still too sensitive. Some of the below is from an outline I wrote years ago, some is from documentation I preserved, and some is from memory. I apologize for any inaccuracies.

Sometime around 1990, give or take, I was in company with Brit McConkie, one of Elder McConkie’s brothers, and took the opportunity to ask him if a biography would ever be written about his apostle brother by a McConkie family member. His answer was “probably not.” This was disappointing because I had become enthralled by Bruce’s doctrinal teachings while on my mission and even more so in the years following. I felt a deep affinity for his writings and teachings and received joy and edification studying his works and listening to his talks. I had also developed a love for Mormon biography, especially that of prophets and apostles. (For me, the greatest episodes in all Mormon history are when men and women commune with Heaven, and many such instances are spread throughout good Mormon biography.)

            As time passed I realized that I enjoyed not only reading works of doctrine and history, but also researching, collecting materials and books, and even writing. Eventually the idea came that I might venture to write something myself. In discussing the notion with others more experienced, I learned how hard it was to break into legitimate (non-self-publishing) print. (Self-publishing is far more common and acceptable today than it was twenty-five years ago.) That led to some strategizing and then the realization that I needed what I termed to be an “angle”—meaning a solid subject a publisher would find irresistible and that would virtually compel them to accept the manuscript. (Publishers are money-making businesses that view manuscripts like bankers do loans—will it make them a profit or not?; most won’t and are therefore rejected.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #34: Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son (2003)

Editor's note: This is # 34 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

This book was the second biography of Elder McConkie to be released within a three year period after nothing for fifteen years. I am told that Elder McConkie had asked his family not to write one; he felt the message of supreme importance, not the messenger. However, as time would tell, this desire proved unrealistic. The life of the messenger, or Witness, was simply too compelling.

Elder McConkie’s story begged to be told, with the first major attempt being my Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights from His Life & Teachings which appeared in 2000 and again in 2010. This work concentrated more on the public ministry and contributions of that great apostle, while Joseph’s aimed more at telling the family perspective, usually phrasing Elder McConkie’s deeds or teachings in a manner to draw a lesson—sort of a teaching biography (Elder Boyd K. Packer’s biography used a similar formula). Joseph stated his reasoning thusly: “This volume finds justification in the thought that to know something about the life of an Enoch, an Elijah, or one of their modern-day counterparts might be of help to some in obtaining the faith common to such great witnesses of Christ. A life well lived is a story worth telling.”

Joseph’s book had the advantage of drawing on family records and other materials that were not made available to me—thereby providing a fuller portrait. For whatever reason, Joseph’s book did not acknowledge the existence of my earlier work. And perhaps its greatest weakness is that the author imposed so much of his own personality and feelings upon the narrative that sometimes it becomes difficult to tell which thoughts and conclusions are the subject’s and which are the author’s. (Boyd Peterson’s biography of Hugh Nibley had the same weakness, the son-in-law occasionally imposing his own thoughts and beliefs into the text as he wrote, thereby causing readers to mistake them as the subject’s.) Nevertheless, The Bruce R. McConkie Story is a very fine, highly-commendable production that I for one appreciated and was pleased to read more than once.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #33: Bruce R. McConkie, Sound Doctrine, Doctrines of Salvation (3 vols), Mormon Doctrine, and A New Witness for the Articles of Faith

Editor's note: This is # 33 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            [I should note that the below accounts are cobbled together from several sources and therefore may read a little uneven and slightly repetitive; however, I think the material represents a fine review of what is known of Mormon Doctrine and others of Elder McConkie’s fine doctrinal works.]

At the commencement of his service as a new member of the First Council of the Seventy in 1946, Bruce McConkie visited with President J. Reuben Clark, a Counselor in the First Presidency—a conversation meant to orient and prepare the new General Authority for what lay ahead of him. Bruce recorded: “Pres. Clark called me in for an informal talk.  He . . . said he wanted to counsel me, in the language of Dr. James E. Talmage, against the ‘witchery of words.’  He also said that he knew I was a student of the gospel but wanted to tell me that there were two viewpoints on many points of doctrine which were held by good Latter-day Saints, and said not to try to force my views on anyone for that would only lead to hurt feelings and ill will. . . .  Pres. Clark also said that I would get sat on, but to take it in good stead, and wherein I was wrong to correct the errors, but that wherein I was right, not to worry about the rebuffs.” Not long after this interesting interview, Elder McConkie recorded further counsel given him and other General Authorities by the prophet: “[In a Council meeting of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles] Pres. [George Albert] Smith spoke for about 20 minutes on various subjects…. He said that when any man present wrote anything as doctrine that great care should be taken to be sure it was correct, and that if there was any doubt, it should be left unwritten.  People would think it was the voice of the Church when those present wrote, he said.” These settings of inspired counsel set the stage for the literary developments spread throughout Elder McConkie’s life; some that went well, some not as well.

Sound Doctrine

            The compilation of Doctrines of Salvation, and the encyclopedic Mormon Doctrine, were not really Bruce R. McConkie’s first literary efforts. He was actually involved with editing and abridging the Journal of Discourses into what was proposed to be a multi-volume set (probably 10). In asking one of Bruce’s brothers about whatever happened to this project, he said something to the effect that President J. Reuben Clark had halted it, with the idea being that they weren’t going to have a Seventy correcting the sermons of apostles and prophets. I don’t know how accurate that statement was by the time it got to me; people tend to summarize and reword when telling old stories.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #32: Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball

Editor's note: This is # 32 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

          The below are entries in Orson F. Whitney’s diary related to his work on this seminal volume of Mormon biography, mentions from his mother Helen Mar Kimball Whitney’s diary, or mentions of information from those diaries by me. They are mostly self-explanatory but have a little commentary also; they are taken from my Life of Orson F. Whitney: Bishop, Poet, Apostle, published in 2014 by Cedar Fort Inc., and dates are in the notes:

“Last month . . . commenced ‘Life of Heber C. Kimball’ for which I am to get $1000 from the Kimball boys [children of Heber].”[1] Shortly thereafter, he “Received of Sol. F. Kimball $250, first payment on Life of H. C. Kimball.”[2] In a letter to President Joseph F. Smith he wrote: “I am now writing the Life of Heber C. Kimball. The family hold a reunion on his 86th anniversary June 14—at Fullers Hill. . . . I will write a sketch for the reunion, simply, and finish the history afterwards.”[3] To do the work, he borrowed some items from his mother, Heber’s daughter: “Orson called at evening to get some of the items from my writings in the [Women’s] Exponent; took home one book and some of father’s small journals.”[4]

By June Orson had prepared his sketch far enough on the life of Heber C. Kimball to read an outline of it at the Kimball family reunion.[5]

Ort also received another payment for his work writing the biography of Heber C. Kimball for the Kimball family.[6]

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #31: Orson F. Whitney, Elias: An Epic of the Ages

Editor's note: This is # 31 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The below information about this now largely forgotten book of “epic” and doctrinal poetry is taken from a chapter of my biography, Life of Orson F. Whitney: Bishop, Poet, Apostle:
            The death of his Zina, with its accompanying intense grief and heartache, and the foiled attempt to obtain a plural wife, sent Orson into deep depression, serious enough for him to wish he were dead. He explained:

            This poem [Elias] was begun in the spring of 1900, not long after the death of my wife Zina, and while I was prostrate upon a bed of pain [grief]. The inspiration was timely. I needed something of the kind to occupy my thoughts and dispel my gloomy feelings. While pondering upon the situation, and wondering whether my life’s work was drawing to a close, I heard or seemed to hear a Voice—inaudible to the outward ear, yet plain to the inward understanding—the same Voice that had spoken to me on former occasions in hours of distress or deep anxiety. It now said:

            “Do you really wish to go?”

            “No,” I replied; “I must not go until I have finished my work.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #30: B. H. Roberts, Succession in the Presidency

Editor's note: This is # 30 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

“On his manuscript Priesthood and the Right of Succession, which was later published as Succession in the Presidency, Roberts closely collaborated with President Wilford Woodruff. … When the parliament and its accompanying pressures ended, Roberts resumed his heavy writing schedule. The volume Succession in the Presidency was published. John M. Whitaker had taken Roberts's dictation on this and other projects in the early part of 1892. He comments: ‘He [Roberts] is making plans for another great historical effort that will be of intense interest to the coming generation. He is a great, painstaking, student and one of the most accurate I have met with in all my days.’

“President Woodruff gave Roberts's book on priesthood succession an open endorsement when, after a public lecture in which the book was summarized, he arose and said: ‘He [Roberts] has given us an excellent discourse, and has told us the truth….’” (Truman G. Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 205-06)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #29: John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement

Editor's note: This is # 29 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            “President Taylor and his literary-minded secretary [George Reynolds] launched into a related but more ambitious project, that of tracking the scriptural passages on the atonement of Jesus Christ and the law of sacrifice in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Most of the resulting book Mediation and Atonement, which saw many reprintings, is a compilation of scriptural passages, although there is important commentary as well. This was the first attempt by a Church president to write a theological treatise of any length or depth. Significantly, President Taylor and George Reynolds drew on the ‘Inspired Translation’ of the Bible, a product of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. This work, although Joseph Smith had intended to publish it, was not in print until 1867, when it was published by Joseph Smith III and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Brigham Young had not trusted this publication and refused to countenance anyone’s using it. But John Taylor was of a different mind and cited it frequently in his new book. Some of the commentary in Mediation and Atonement also bears the marks of George Reynolds’s unique literary style, thus suggesting an actual coauthorship or a ghost writing.”  As to how the actual writing President Taylor did with George Reynolds took place, “President Taylor dictated and George Reynolds drafted the copy” (Van Orden, Prisoner for Conscience Sake: The Life of George Reynolds, 120-21).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #28: James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord

Editor's note: This is # 28 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            The first edition of The House of the Lord is considered a very collectible book for several reasons. It falls under the subject of temple literature, a perennially popular category. Secondly, there is a fascinating story behind the reason for its existence. Furthermore, the first edition contained a photograph, accompanied by an explanation of its use, of the most sacred room in the temple, the Holy of Holies. This photograph appeared in the 1912 first edition, but was omitted from later printings. This fact has made the first edition especially appealing to collectors. The later paperback editions have little monetary value and are easily obtained.

The Holy of Holies room photograph, as well as a close-up of the stained-glass depiction of the first vision found in the room, has since appeared in other works such as The Salt Lake Temple: A Monument to a People, which used the original glass plates of the photographs taken by Ralph Savage to reproduce large, sharp, black & white pictures of the temple, some of which were not included in The House of the Lord. Just a few years ago, the First Presidency gave church employees a leather-bound edition of The House of the Lord as a Christmas present (a different title is given every year as something of a bonus); the beautiful new edition contained the rare picture.

            The book was written as a means of diffusing a blackmail plot against the Church. Since the story of the scheme is recounted in great detail elsewhere, it is only briefly reviewed here. It involved unscrupulous people gaining entrance to the Salt Lake Temple to obtain pictures of its interior. Then an agent was used to try to blackmail the Church by threatening to sell the photographs to movie houses and publishers.

President Anthon H. Lund of the First Presidency wrote particulars in his journal that convey the perspective of Church leadership: “We have discovered a plot to have someone go inside the Temple and photograph its rooms to be used in moving pictures. (August 8, 1911)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #27: B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God

Editor's note: This is # 27 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

“From his days in the mission office in Liverpool, Roberts had the idea of writing a three-volume series on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, treating them separately yet inseparable as witnesses for God. Now he began systematic organization of the material. His aide and assistant was once again John Whitaker:

‘During this time he often digresses and discusses many important doctrinal matters of great interest, and many secrets of his busy life. And it is interesting and inspiring to see his determination to leave a witness of the truth in so many ways. He told me of his trials and how hard it is sometimes to make adjustments. But he is leaving a witness in his carefully documented historical writings and on doctrines that will keep his name fresh in the minds of Latter-day Saints for generations to come. He is very painstaking, exact and accurate and states facts as they are, without coloring or favoring this or that point. He says history must be accurate or it is of little value.’

“In July 1894, Whitaker recorded further work on the New Witness series and added, ‘He is doing wonderful work in writing on Church history and many other subjects, and he keeps busy all the time in the work of the Seventy.’

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #24: LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder

Editor's note: This is # 24 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            Elder Thomas S. Monson wrote:

            “LeGrand Richards was also a choice individual with whom to work. It was my opportunity to print for him the book A Marvelous Work and A Wonder, as well as Israel, Do You Know? When his manuscripts would come to us, they were prepared just as he spoke—all in one sentence. It was necessary for his administrative aid, Lee Palmer, from the Presiding Bishopric’s Office, to do a lot of editorial work on Brother Richards’ manuscripts with regard to grammar and sentence structure. I was impressed with the knowledge that LeGrand Richards would accept no royalty for his books, feeling that he wanted to keep the price as low as possible for the benefit of the membership of the Church. He still had a mortgage on his home and could have used the royalty. In fact, as time was to prove, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder became a runaway bestseller and would have produced literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for Brother Richards. He never regretted his decision and kept that particular book under-priced on the market as long as he lived, thanks to his refusal to accept a royalty. (Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1985], 176-77.)

            Regarding A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, in 1983 Elder Richards said:

That’s the greatest missionary book the Church has got except the Book of Mormon. They sell more of it than any book they have except the Book of Mormon. At the present time they have distributed about two million copies; they distribute from fifty to a hundred thousand copies a year; have done for the last five years here out of Salt Lake and there is a printing plant over in England where they publish for all of the British Isles, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and then it’s published in eighteen different languages in other nations. I had written an outline for my missionaries down in the South called “The Message of Mormonism.” I had that mimeographed and gave them each a copy and when I came home I got so many requests for that I said to myself—Why don’t I develop those outlines the way I would present them if I were going into a home one night a week for six months and that’s what brought the Marvelous Work and a Wonder into existence. (; go to 43:30)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #26: Mark E. Petersen, The Way of the Master

Editor's note: This is # 25 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            “As a reporter in 1932, [Mark] had covered a story on a man who announced the world would end in 1937. It seemed only logical to go on to study polygamists, dream-mine advocates, the Church of the Firstborn, and various other groups whose common denominator was their belief that the Church had gone astray. Mark found many good qualities in most of the members of these organizations, but he felt that their leadership was extremely misguided. He hoped that The Way of the Master might convince some of his ‘clients,’ as he called them, to reconsider the source of plural marriage. He was pleased when the First Presidency ordered a special edition of 5,000 copies to be sent to all the bishops and stake presidents in western America and wherever the polygamists might be” (Peggy Barton, Mark E. Petersen, 108).

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #25: Thomas S. Monson, Conference Classics

Editor's note: This is # 25 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

             “After being in the Twelve for a considerable period, I observed that a number of people who were publishing books were, without my permission, quoting material which I had given in public addresses. Feeling that I indeed would like to have a permanent record of some of these accounts which I had experienced in my life and that I would like them to appear in a book which I authored, rather than in someone else’s volume, I at length determined to publish a book. Arrangements were made with Desert Book Company. I have a negative feeling about writing for profit; hence, I visited with Wilford W. Kirton so that any royalties that would accrue from my works would automatically go into a trust fund to assist our children in their desires to own homes of their own. (Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1985], 329.)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #23: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (James E. Talmage), Latter-day Revelation

Editor's note: This is # 23 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            Few people today, outside of LDS book collectors and historians, have heard of this short-lived official church publication. In his article, “The Living Canon,” Richard O. Cowan explained: “In 1930 the Church published a volume containing extracts from the Doctrine and Covenants. Entitled Latter-day Revelation, this collection presented forty-one of the sections in whole or in part. It was only about one-third as long as the regular edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The book’s preface explained that many early revelations dealt only with individual callings or with conditions which existed only at a particular time. ‘Except as illustrative instances of the Lord’s way of directly communicating with His prophets, many of these revelations, once of present and pressing significance, became relatively of reduced importance with the passing of the conditions that had brought them forth.’ Under the direction of the First Presidency, Elder James E. Talmage had the responsibility of preparing the selection, and much of his time on weekends during the later months of 1930 was devoted to this project” (Hearken, O Ye People, 26).

            Further detail is found in Elder Talmage’s journal, which states: “[June 28, 1930] By prearrangement I sat with the First Presidency during the afternoon, and together we examined in detail the copy I had prepared for the prospective bringing out of a book containing extracts from the Doctrine and Covenants. The purpose of this undertaking is to make the strictly doctrinal parts of the Doctrine and Covenants of easy access, and to reduce its bulk, furthermore making it suitable for distribution by missionaries and for general use by investigators. Many of the revelations received by the prophet Joseph related to personal directions in temporal activities incident to the early years of the Church, the immediate importance of which was localized as to time and place. Part of my work in the immediate future will be the carrying of this book of extracts through the press.” A few months later he wrote: “[Sept. 13, 1930] Action by the First Presidency this day authorized procedure in bringing out the Doctrine and Covenants extracts along the lines recommended by the Council of the Twelve.”

            He was also able to record—“[Nov. 22, 1930] I had the pleasure of presenting to the First Presidency advance copies of the little book ‘Latter-day Revelation’ which is described on the title page as ‘Selections from the book of Doctrine and Covenants.’ The selections were decided upon by the First Presidency and Twelve and the matter of arranging, editing, proof-reading, etc., has been under my immediate direction, and I must be held personally responsible for the correctness of the type and matter.”

             On release of the book, a notice (probably written by Talmage) appeared in the Deseret News for November 24, 1930, clarifying that “In no sense is the new volume a substitution for the Doctrine and Covenants, which will be continued in publication as heretofore, but it comes as a welcome and convenient summary of many of the most important and impressive revelations, presented in attractive and readable style, so arranged as to make it easy to refer to the standard work for comparison and amplification when desired. ‘Latter-day Revelation’ will doubtless appeal to investigators in the mission fields, while it is equally desirable for home and class reading among the Latter-day Saints. Mechanically the book is strictly up to date and is a product of The Deseret News press and bindery, of which the establishment has good reason to be proud.” (A very similar review, written by Talmage, appeared in the June 1931 Improvement Era.)

            Despite the good intentions and hopes of wide usage of Elder Talmage and Church leaders in printing this book of extracts, it did not catch on in the manner desired, and only one edition was issued—it seemed that Latter-day Saints consistently desired more revelations, not less. Also, issues of “bulk” have changed because of fine thin onion-skin paper and the triple-combination.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #22: J. Reuben Clark, Our Lord of the Gospels

Editor's note: This is # 22 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            Elder Thomas S. Monson wrote the following account:

We met [with Elder Mark E. Petersen] in the office of J. Reuben Clark, Jr. President Clark advised me that he was going to prepare a book, a harmony of the Gospels, the preliminary work for which he had accomplished when he was a law student in his young manhood. President Clark retrieved from his roll-top desk pad after pad of yellow legal-size sheets which contained his handwriting concerning the manuscript. Brother Petersen then left the room, and I had the opportunity to become better acquainted with President Clark as he invited me to work with him on the book. Every working day for the next six or eight months I had a brief visit with President Clark, at his suggestion, as we put together the manuscript which became Our Lord of the Gospels….

During the course of President Clark’s research, he told me he wasn’t certain regarding a particular subject relating to the number of times the Savior had appeared since His resurrection. He gave me a particular number and then said, “Let me think about it over the weekend.” He had put a question mark by the number he had provided me.

            The following Sunday morning while I was at a meeting, Frances received a long distance telephone call from Grantsville, Utah. The caller said, “Is President Monson home?”

            She replied, “No; he’s at church.”

            The caller asked, “Do you think a bishop ought to be in church on Sunday?”

            I’m sure Frances wondered, who is this individual? She responded, however, “Oh, I would think so.”

            Then the caller said, “I would agree with you. This is President J. Reuben Clark. Would you have Brother Monson call me when he returns?”

            When I returned home and called President Clark, he simply said, “Tom, you may remove the question mark from the number I gave you. It is correct.”

            I felt President Clark had received a confirmation by the Spirit as well as through his research regarding the question which he had on the manuscript.” (Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1985], 175-76)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Where to Find Authority on Doctrine

Editor's note: This is number 39 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

Edward H. Anderson (from the Improvement Era):

            A correspondent has written asking whether or not articles appearing in the Improvement Era, the Liahona, the Young Ladies’ Journal, the Relief Society Magazine, and other publications of the Church, may be quoted as authority on doctrine; and wishes us to answer how far these publications may be quoted, and just to what extent they can be taken as authority.  He cites, for example, an article by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith in the January number, 1916, of the Improvement Era, on the second death, entitled, “Is Man Immortal?”

            Replying, we will say that all writings, sermons, instructions and admonitions by the authorities of the Church are to be taken as authority as far as they agree with the printed word of revelation, as contained in the standard books of the Church, namely, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  Whatever any writer or speaker may express on doctrine should be considered as personal instructions, for which the person who speaks or writes is responsible, and not the Church.  Such instruction may be, and is, of great advantage and benefit to those who may listen or read, in aiding them to come to conclusions and to understand the word of the Lord, but as far as its being taken as authority, no instruction may be so taken in the way of doctrine except it shall be in strict conformity with the revealed word of the Lord, and in harmony with the teachings of the living prophet of the Lord.  We believe that the arguments set forth in the article referred to, “Is Man Immortal?” will stand this test.

            This should be remembered:  The Latter-day Saints believe in continuous revelation, and that the general authorities of the Church so designated and sustained, are in very deed prophets, seers and revelators to the people.  Also that whatever, under authorized conditions, the leaders of the Church, in their appointed places and positions, expound unitedly to the community, is the word of the Lord to the Latter-day Saints; and, as is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be Scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”  Those instructions we may look for continuously, because we believe in continuous revelation, and it is just as much an obligation upon the Latter-day Saints to conform to the instructions of the living oracles, as it is to believe and practice the principles of life and salvation, as explained in the standard works of the Church, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  All officers are subject to and should act in unison with the prophet, who, in turn, is subject to the inspiration and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Edward H. Anderson, “Where to Find Authority on Doctrine,” Improvement Era, vol. 25 [1921-1922], 645-46.)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #21: Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine

Editor's note: This is # 21 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

Considered a standard today, meaning one of a series of books containing the teachings of modern prophets that has been compiled and edited and approved, Gospel Doctrine was compiled as a means of getting President Joseph F. Smith’s sermons into print for the benefit of members of the church in one collection.

Because it has been known as a standard collection of excerpts from a prophet’s sermons for so long, it is little known today that some small controversy among the Brethren greeted the first edition. The journal of Anthon H. Lund (one of Pres. Smith’s counselors) states that: “Some of the Apostles met and discussed Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s speech on Peter’s denial of Jesus and that it was not the unpardonable sin, because he did not have the Holy Ghost bestowed upon him. We think that it would have been better that this had not been put into a book for a text-book to the Priesthood. (September 9, 1919)

“We met with the Priesthood committee and talked over some points in Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s book used as a text-book in the Priesthood quorum. His belief is that Peter’s sin would have been a sin against the Holy Ghost if he had received it before hand, but as he did not receive it until after the resurrection of Christ, his offense was forgiven him. Also he holds that Judas not having received the Holy Ghost could not commit the unpardonable sin. These two propositions were defended by Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. and David O. McKay and Rudger Clawson. Pres. Charles W. Penrose felt they should be eliminated from the new edition. The mode of ordaining was also objected to as opposed to the Book of Mormon and to the practice under all foregoing Presidents and Pres. J. F. Smith himself said that he made no objection to the old method as it was just as good. There were several other points raised but it was agreed to print a new edition with an addenda printing the words of the President therein.” (September 10, 1919, Anthon H. Lund journal)

            Gospel Doctrine has not been a popular book to collect in first edition, mostly because that edition was noted for bad bindings with poor hinges. Still, those collectors determined to have the major Mormon works in first edition acquire it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Apostasy and Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ

Editor's note: This is number 38 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

            A few years ago Brigham Young University sponsored an academic conference to explore and present new research on the Latter-day Saints’ concept of the apostasy of the primitive, or meridian, Church of Jesus Christ. This volume was the result: Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy. I have not read this book (except for a version of the epilogue) and therefore cannot personally speak to it. I have read a review posted by someone at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, which included this sentence: “The authors aren’t shy about respectfully challenging claims made by LDS leaders as well as prominent LDS scholars.”

            If this sentence accurately reflects the book’s content, one wonders why BYU would sponsor such a conference that challenged the teachings of its leaders. Be that as it may, I personally have no problem when scholars do legitimate, rigorous and sound research and present/interpret/publish their findings, as long as those findings are in harmony with revelation and how such revelation is interpreted by those who hold the keys. For myself, I have always placed the word of God over the word of scholars that tends to change a lot. If scholars’ findings tell us that we have misunderstood to some extent a long period of time in the past, that is just fine. If we learn that much of enlightening value, more than we knew before, went on during the middle ages, or, that various persons over the centuries received divine knowledge or an occasional gift of the spirit via the light of Christ—that’s fine, no problem. Such knowledge might even have some use somewhere somehow. (I hope these scholars don’t think they now know all about the past.)

            However, if these scholars’ purpose is to reinterpret/weaken the historical narrative of the apostasy and restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ to the point of almost eliminating it (and for some of them it seems it is) then we should take instant strenuous issue and cry foul. Anything that denies the loss of the priesthood, keys, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple ordinances after the death of the apostles is false. Likewise, anything that denies that true and pure gospel doctrine and ordinances became corrupted and sullied with the passage of the centuries, is also false and insidious.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #20: Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards

Editor's note: This is # 20 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The story of a book of wide acceptance and far-reaching significance

On the morning of November 22, 1941, Dr. John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve and one of the editors of the Era; Elder Richard L. Evans of the First Council of the Seventy and managing editor of the Era; Marba C. Josephson, associate editor of the Era; Dr. G. Homer Durham, compiler; and John Kenneth Orton, business manager of the Era, having previously met in the office of Dr. Widtsoe by appointment, drove to the home of President Heber J. Grant….

The President was seated in the living room by the front window overlooking the valley. He was jovial and in good spirits [for his 85th birthday]….

Greetings having been exchanged, Dr. Widtsoe explained the purpose of the visit, and introduced each member of the official party in the order in which their remarks appear below:

Remarks by Elder John A. Widtsoe: “We are here representing the fifty-three thousand or more subscribers to the Era.

"All who are associated with The Improvement Era recognize that not only were you the practical founder of The Improvement Era, but also through your continuous, vigorous support, The Improvement Era has become an influential and serviceable magazine in the Church. We have felt that the Era would do itself honor to remember and recognize in a special manner your eighty-fifth birthday anniversary. In thinking the matter over we concluded that the Era could perhaps best show its appreciation by compiling for wide public use, throughout the Church and beyond, the essence of your teachings to the people throughout your long official life within the Church. We felt that in your public utterances you have presented the gospel as needed in our day and generation. Joseph Smith the Prophet applied the principles of the gospel to his day; Brigham Young did the same in his day, and your other predecessors in the presidency used the gospel to meet the issues of their days. A compilation of your sermons and writings would, therefore, it seemed to us, be but a continuation of the messages delivered by the presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith to your own time….

Monday, July 18, 2016

Elder Boyd K. Packer on evolution and letters

Editor's note: This is number 37 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

            Evolution has long been a hotly debated and emotional issue—even in the LDS Church where it shouldn’t be. Nothing said here will resolve that debate. However, in this blog series the purpose is to teach how Mormon doctrine is determined and settled. By learning to do so, one can navigate the sometimes complicated nuances of Mormon history and teachings.

Basically, the below quotations amount to an apostle clarifying a question involving a private letter from a president of the Church that has caused confusion with some. The lesson to be learned is to be careful and cautious about determining doctrine; always remembering to examine the channel that delivers it and the source from which it comes. In this case the source seems credible at first glance, but the method of delivery is not definitive.

On a side note, I have noticed that most in the world and even some in the Church have falsely declared the debate over with finality, the issue resolved—victorious for evolution. Those so pronouncing do not speak for the Church and do not determine its doctrine.

On the other hand, I have noticed that the Ensign magazine reprinted the document on “The Origin of Man” in the February 2002 number. Keeping in mind that the Ensign itself has its own complexities as a channel and source of doctrine, the document included this introduction: “In the early 1900s, questions concerning the Creation of the earth and the theories of evolution became the subject of much public discussion. In the midst of these controversies, the First Presidency issued the following in 1909, which expresses the Church’s doctrinal position on these matters. A reprinting of this important First Presidency statement will be helpful as members of the Church study the Old Testament this year.”

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #19: Franklin D. Richards, Autobiography of Franklin D. Richards (Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles)

Editor's note: This is # 19 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            This work, copyrighted and published in 1974, is evidently a personal endeavor of Elder Richards, since no publisher’s name is indicated. From the content it is safe to assume that it was printed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its extreme rarity presupposes that it was written for family and close friends only, as does its inclusion of strictly personal and family items such as patriarchal blessings, setting-apart blessings, etc.

            The book (406 pages) covers his early life and business career in some detail, but most of it is meant to give a recounting of the years Elder Richards served as a General Authority, with a chapter for each year of service. This writing pattern assures the reader of an unusual view of the intense laborious life followed by such men living “in the harness.” It contains a few “nuggets” that make it a worthwhile find for those very few that do. For instance, he tells of an administration received as a child: “The power of the priesthood was dramatically demonstrated to me when as a boy of nine I was stricken with rheumatic fever and was in bed for several months and necessarily out of school. The doctors told my parents that I probably would not live to be eighteen years of age. I was administered to by the elders of the Church, and through faith and the power of the priesthood my health was restored” (7).

            Another comes from an experience received as a General Authority. A close friend and his family had died in a plane crash: “Elder Howard Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve and I spoke at the funeral. It was a humbling experience to look down from the pulpit over the four caskets and contemplate what had happened…. As I was talking, I clearly understood why John was taken. The spirit manifested to me that he was needed to carry on missionary work in the spirit world. I knew this to be true and bore testimony to this effect. The spirit of the Lord was abundantly present and His comforting influence was felt” (198).

            Because the author reviews his work as an Assistant to the Twelve in so much detail each year, the book conveys a sense of perspective but also of repetition; however, the comments regarding his occasional interactions with senior Church leaders help make the book a decent, but not great, autobiography.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Theory of Evolution and the Origin of Man

Editor's note: This is number 36 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

The following material is excerpted from two sources, a Deseret [Morning] News article and a Brigham Young University information packet on the subject of the origin of man. The packet was compiled by BYU administrators to provide students with statements giving the official position of the Church on that subject, as well as guidance in determining such official positions and statements. The contents of the packet were approved by the BYU Board of Trustees, which includes the First Presidency. As quoted from Determining Doctrine:

Deseret News:

            A packet of LDS Church declarations on evolution was compiled at Brigham Young University this month to avoid confusion in the classroom about the church’s official position….

            Only statements made by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be considered official, [William] Evenson said. Evenson, Provost Bruce Hafen and Robert Millet, dean of religious education, compiled the 10-page packet. Hafen asked Evenson to head the project.

            “The goal is not to achieve some kind of balance among the views that have been expressed, but to give students of this subject the full range of official views so they can judge for themselves the different positions they encounter,” Evenson said.

            The packet includes First Presidency declarations from 1909, 1910, 1925, excerpts from a 1932 First Presidency meeting and a brief article from the “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” published this year.

            “The church has said a lot more about the origin of man than evolution,” Evenson said....