Monday, December 27, 2010

The Proclamation, President Packer, and Revelation

December 27, 2010
by Tim Barker

I had a conversation with a friend a month or two ago, regarding the subject of continuing revelation, which is, perhaps, the most distinguishing characteristic of Mormonism.  Among other issues discussed, questions arose as to what qualifies as a revelation, and how Latter-day Saints are to recognize or distinguish a revelation from an opinion.  This subject arose because of a change in wording from the discourse delivered by President Boyd K. Packer in General Conference entitled Cleansing the Inner Vessel, compared to the subsequently released printed version.  In his talk, President Packer stated that The Family: A Proclamation to the World, "qualifies according to definition, as a revelation..."  The printed version states that the proclamation "is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow."  The assumption was that President Packer's change in wording was an apparent correction, indicating that the proclamation was not a revelation, and this would be disconcerting to members who believed that it was.  Other changes in the printed version have received a degree of publicity and criticism, and there has been no shortage of speculation as to President Packer's motives.1  

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lost Books of the Book of Mormon

October 17, 2010
by Tim Barker

A reading of the Old and New Testaments will provide reference to numerous books that are not included within our current canon of Biblical scripture.  For example, within the Old Testament, the Book of Jasher is specifically mentioned (Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18), as are the Book of Samuel the Seer, the Book of Nathan the Prophet, and the Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), to name a few.  In the New Testament, several epistles from Paul are referred to, including an additional letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9), and possibly the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3), and an epistle to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).1  These and other books are cumulatively referred to as the "lost books of the Bible."  With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi texts, and other apocryphal literature, rising interest in ancient texts has led to numerous publications and republications of apocryphal literature.2  This should come as no surprise to Latter-day Saints, since forthcoming scripture is prophesied of within the scriptures (see 1 Nephi 13:38-39, 2 Nephi 29:13, D&C 93:18, Articles of Faith 1:9).  It is astonishing that so much literature has surfaced since the Gospel has been restored.  Generally, discussion of the lost books has centered on potential scripture identified within the Bible, or other old world archeaological findings; however, there are references within the Book of Mormon to additional books of scripture as well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

When was Section 132 First Revealed to Joseph Smith Jr.?

by Adam J. Christensen

It will be my attempt to provide evidence that Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the revelation on plural marriage, was first made known to Joseph Smith in 1833, rather than in 1831, as previously believed. A general observation of the opening verse in this section indicates that this revelation was in answer to a query most likely springing from the translation of the Bible.1

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David, and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines--
If indeed this revelation was received during the process of the translation of the Bible, it appears reasonable that it would have been later than May 6 1833, but before July 7, 1833. This two month window places Joseph in Kirtland during this time. This theory is based on 1) the revelation and how it compares against other revelations of its era, and 2) the basis that the Bible translation timeline shows that scriptures used to formulate revelatory questions were lightly handled in 1831, but that the strength of Old Testament scriptures referencing plural wives and concubines came at a later date.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lucy Harris vs. Joseph Smith: The 1829 Proceedings - Courts in Context

September 29, 2010
by Tim Barker


In my original posting on this subject, I stated that the circumstantial evidence available had led me to preliminarily conclude that Judge Alexander R. Tiffany was the magistrate who dismissed the Lucy Harris case against Joseph Smith, and that the case was held on Tuesday, May 26, 1829.  The purpose of this post is to explore the New York legal environment in 1829, and identify pertinent laws, as well as identities of judicial characters from this period that may be relevant to this case.  Additionally, the motives behind Lucy's suit will be explored and her explanation of the case will be assessed in light of relevant New York Statutes. In assessing this history, we will better understand the context of the Lucy Harris case. My preliminary conclusion will be revised where necessary based on the results of any pertinent findings.

Lucy Harris vs. Joseph Smith: The 1829 Proceedings - Lucy Smith's Narrative


Sketch of Lucy Smith.46

The Lucy Mack Smith Account

The only known source to discuss these proceedings was Lucy Mack Smith's family biography. She records that Lucy Harris' purpose in pursuing the case was to prevent her husband Martin from visiting Joseph Smith, and to "bring Joseph into difficulty, which would perhaps hinder him from ever accomplishing the work in which he was engaged." Her method for achieving these results consisted of proving that "Joseph never had the Record which he professed to have, and that he pretended to have in his possession certain gold plates, for the express purpose of obtaining money." To prove that Joseph did not have the plates and that he was trying to obtain money, Lucy went from house to house until she obtained a sufficient number of witnesses to serve her purposes. "Having ascertained the number and strength of her adherents, she entered a complaint against Joseph, before a certain magistrate of Lyons." Additionally, she had "made affidavit to many things herself, and directed the officers whom to subpoena," including her husband Martin. Lastly, she "sent word to Lyman Cowdery, requesting him to come thither, prepared to go post haste to Pennsylvania, (provided the decision should be given against Joseph), to assist the officers in securing and confining him in prison." Lucy Smith indicates that Lyman Cowdery answered the call immediately.47

Lucy Harris vs. Joseph Smith: The 1829 Proceedings - The Legal Details


The Legal Details

Lucy's case was based on proving that "Joseph never had the Record which he professed to have, and that he pretended to have in his possession certain gold plates, for the express purpose of obtaining money."69 If Lucy could prove this in court, Joseph could face jail time in a state prison. The New York statutes stated, that "whoever, with intent to defraud another, designedly, by colour of any false token or writing, or other false pretence, obtains any signature of any person to any written instrument, or obtains from any person any money or valuable thing, is punishable in a state prison not exceeding three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding three times the value of the money or thing so obtained, or by both such fine and imprisonment."70 The allegation fell under the status of being a criminal charge.

Lucy Harris vs. Joseph Smith: The 1829 Proceedings - Analysis


What Have We Gained?

While we do not know the identity of the magistrate, or the date of the trial, we have a better understanding of New York law in relation to the context of the proceedings. Additionally, however, we have a better appreciation for Martin Harris for his bold testimony in defending Joseph Smith, the prophet, and we have better insight as to Lucy Harris' concerns and motivations. By worldly standards, her concerns are wholly founded. She wanted to see the plates and to stop her husband from divesting the family wealth. Both issues are rational from a worldly perspective. Perhaps, if she had exercised faith and had been content with the will of the Lord, she may have received her wish to see the plates similar to Mary Whitmer's experience.98 Instead, she chose a path to alienate herself from her husband and from the establishment of the Lord's kingdom on earth.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Historical Melchizedek - The Book of the Bee

August 10, 2010
by Tim Barker

The Book of the Bee was a sacred Christian History by the Nestorians, who were a Christian offshoot, based on the teachings of Nestorius the "Patriarch of Constantinople."  This movement began sometime in the mid 5th century A.D. after Nestorius' teachings were condemned by the Catholic Church as heretical in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.1 The text of this book is believed to have been written around 1222 A.D., by a Syrian Bishop named Solomon and contains many Biblical legends.2  From the text it is interesting to note that Melchizedek is given a genealogy from Noah through Shem, whose son was Arphaxad [Arphaxar below], and that Melchizedek received the priesthood from Shem.  The chapter on Melchizedek is included below:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Seal of Melchizedek

August 8, 2010 (updated September 3, 2010)
by Tim Barker

The "Seal of Melchizedek" is becoming a popular icon within modern Latter-day Saint culture, generally popularized by stories regarding the design of the San Diego Temple, and briefly discussed by Hugh Nibley, in his Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present.  Brother Nibley includes an illustration by Michael Lyon of the below mosaic, and describes it as follows:
Another Ravenna mosaic, c. A.D. 520, shows the priest-king Melchizedek in a purple cloak, offering bread and wine at the altar (Genesis 14:18-20).  The white altar cloth is decorated with two sets of gammadia, as well as the so-called "seal of Melchizedek," two interlocked squares in gold.  Abel offers his lamb as Abraham gently pushes Isaac forward.  The hand of God reaches down to this sacred meeting through the red veils adorned with golden gammadia on either side.  The theme is the great sacrifice of Christ, which brings together the righteous prophets from the past as well as the four corners of the present world, thereby uniting all time and space."1
The Three Sacrifices of the Old Testament. Abel, Melchisedec, and Abraham (6th-7th century).
Mosaic, Ravenna, Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe.2

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Apocryphal Melchizedek - The Book of the Secrets of Enoch

August 4, 2010
by Tim Barker

Abraham and Melchizedek, Verdun Altar, Bergun 1181 by Nicholas of Verdun

The purpose of this post is to document apocryphal writings relating to Melchizedek. This will be a continuing series, beginning with the Book of the Secrets of Enoch.  To take into consideration to our apocryphal studies, is Elder McConkie's statement that in order for us to "gain any real value from a study of apocryphal writings, the student must first have an extended background of gospel knowledge, a comprehensive understanding of the standard works of the Church, plus the guidance of the Spirit."1  Additionally, Hugh Nibley adds insight regarding a study of the corpus of apocryphal writings available.  He comments that "what makes the documents so exciting is that they follow along familiar grooves to the end and then continue onward into new territory, expanding the confines of the gospel."  He continues:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Scriptural Melchizedek

August 3, 2010
by Tim Barker

Melchizedek offering bread and wine to Abraham, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome

The purpose of this post is to document all the references to Melchizedek and the Melchizedek Priesthood  (where specifically mentioned) within the scriptures.  Succeeding posts related to Melchizedek will be forthcoming, including an analysis of the Scriptural Melchizedek, the Apocryphal Melchizedek, the Messianic Melchizedek, and other similar studies will be forthcoming.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Connection between Melchizedek and Shem

August 1, 2010
by Tim Barker

"...According to Jewish traditions, Melchizedek is Shem, the son of Noah, whom God consecrated to be a priest for ever, and who set up a kingdom on Salem."1 Included in his book on the Legends of Old Testament Characters, the Reverend Sabing Baring-Gould includes a quotation from the Targumim, stating, "Melchizedek, who was Shem, son of Noah, king of Jerusalem."2 Louis Ginzberg continues this tradition, in his Legends of the Bible (a condensed version of the 7-volume Legends of the Jews), stating that "when Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of God Most High, and king of Jerusalem, came forth to meet him with bread and wine."3 More recently, scholars Raphael Patai and Robert Graves note that, "others again say that Melchizedek (also known as Adoni-Zedek), was Abram's ancestor Shem, and that he now taught Abram the duties of priesthood..."4 Numerous other historical Jewish sources confirm this same teaching.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thomas Jefferson and the Restoration

June 28, 2010
by Tim Barker

The growth of the church from its infancy through today, amazes me.  I think the growth today is different from the 1800's, however, not just because of the size of the missionary effort in our day, but because the converts then and now, come from significantly different cultures.  Concerns today, collectively, are different than what they used to be.  It seems that there has been a general growing indifference towards religion for many years.  In the 1800's there were many people prepared for the Gospel because they saw the corruption of Biblical teachings within the churches they attended.  The Protestant movement was a key factor in the enlightment age, and within the U.S. there were "great awakenings," that inspired people towards religion.  A number of Christians considered themselves as "restorationists," who believed that the gospel was inoperable due to a lack of authority, but a restoration of Christ's primitive church and gospel would occur.  One such individual was Thomas Jefferson.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Skousen and the Atonement

May 24, 2010
by Tim Barker

In 1999, while serving as a missionary in Tampa, Florida, I read Cleon Skousen's talk on the Atonement for the first time.  It was a typescript of an address that had been delivered to missionaries in the Dallas, Texas Mission on December 18, 1980.1  At the time I read the discourse, it was one of the most fascinating talks I had ever read (up to that point).  Brother Skousen presented a number of issues that I had not previously considered that caused me to ponder the gospel from a new perspective.  I wasn't prepared to accept everything put forth because there were a number of items that frankly, seemed strange; particularly, Skousen's concept of "intelligences."  Regardless, I felt that the talk was inspiring and uplifting.  I am not providing the content of the talk here because I believe it is protected under copyright laws, however, it is available for purchase online, or an abbreviated summary is also available in Skousen's work The First 2,000 Years.2

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lucy Harris vs. Joseph Smith: The 1829 Proceedings

April 26, 2010
by Tim Barker

Note: A more detailed and expanded study of this subject is available here.

Lucy Mack Smith's Account

The only known source describing a court case regarding Joseph Smith's character, as instigated by Martin Harris' wife Lucy, is the Joseph Smith family biography dictated by Lucy Mack Smith in 1844-1845.  Orson Pratt published the manuscript in London in 1853, and entitled it, "Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations." 

About a year after the loss of the 116 pages, Martin Harris wanted to visit Joseph in Harmony, PA, to see how the work was progressing.  Lucy Smith explained that in order to prevent Martin from visiting Joseph during the summer of 1829, Lucy Harris went from house to house stirring up trouble, and after ascertaining the "number and strength of her adherents, she entered a complaint against Joseph [Smith], before a certain magistrate of Lyons."  She explains the day of the proceedings as follows:

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Dating of Doctrine & Covenants 10 - Part 1

March 25, 2010 (updated April 11, 2010)
by Tim Barker

The original header to Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, as published in the 1833 Book of Commandments (as Section 9), indicated that the revelation contained therein was received in May 1829.1 In the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the caption was modified to read that the revelation was received in the “summer of 1828.”2 This date has remained consistent through subsequent publications including our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

The reason for the change likely relates to B.H. Roberts’ research as published in the History of the Church. He stated that the May 1829 date is “clearly an error,” based on available circumstantial evidence.3 The Community of Christ (formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) had previously modified the revelation date in their version of the Doctrine and Covenants by 1897. Their publication indicates that the revelation was received in July 1828.4  Their 1952 publication has the timing of the revelation updated as “July or August 1828.”5

Melchizedek Priesthood - Restoration Timeline

Last updated March 26, 2010
by Tim Barker

Note: This is a working draft!  References will be added next update.

Spring 1829
Emma acts as Joseph’s scribe part time while at their home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

By this time Joseph had already suffered the loss of the 116 pages which Martin Harris had transcribed. Joseph and Emma are in Harmony, Pennsylvania and she acts as scribe for Joseph part time while they continue their daily labors of farming, housekeeping, etc. The translation process moves slowly. Samuel Smith and Reuben Hale also contribute as scribes to a limited extent.

March 1829 – Joseph Smith receives D&C 5

In Harmony, a revelation is given through Joseph Smith to Martin Harris. Included in this revelation, the Lord mentions that Joseph would be ordained hereafter (vs. 6), three witnesses will be called and ordained (vs. 11), the witnesses will see the records and testify of them (vs. 11-13, 15), the Lord tells them that they are not yet ordained (vs. 17), and Joseph is told to “stop for a season” regarding translation of the Book of Mormon, “until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee” (vs. 30, 34).

Seek Ye Diligently...

December 17, 2009
by Tim Barker

D&C 88:118
In December 1832 and January 1833, Joseph Smith received a revelation, known to us today as Doctrine & Covenants section 88, and known to early Latter-day Saints as the “Olive Leaf” revelation. Within this revelation, the Lord told Joseph, “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118). Joseph Smith described this particular revelation as “the olive leaf which we have plucked from the tree of paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us…we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Lord approves of us, and has accepted us, and established his name in Kirtland for the salvation of the nations; for the Lord will have a place, from whence his word will go forth, in these last days, in purity…” Joseph then adds, “the Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build an house of God, and establish a school for the prophets.”1 While it is not within the scope of this talk to go into much detail regarding the context of the School of the Prophets, or of the Temple, it is important to note that learning by study and faith was to be an integral part of the preparation process for the Temple endowment, and some of this preparation took place within the School of the Prophets, and subsequently, the School of the Elders.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Discussion on Pre-Mortality

December 12, 2009
by Tim Barker

Pre-Mortality As Taught in the Bible.

“If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.”1

In its historical context, Anathema has generally been understood to mean that a person would be excommunicated from the Church and accursed. As of 553 AD, this doctrine was established to abolish the idea of pre-mortality within Christianity. The doctrine of pre-mortality in regards to “historical Christianity” has generally been characterized as an untrue Hellenistic ideal that entered the emerging church through many of the early converts. This view asserts that mankind did not exist prior to birth, and that any allusions to the concept within the canon of scripture should simply be interpreted as referring to God’s foreknowledge.

Recently, while searching for a lecture given by Hugh Nibley on the subject,2 I stumbled upon a video of a Christian explaining why we, as Mormons, misinterpret Jeremiah 1:5. His message essentially repeats the idea that it was simply God’s foreknowledge referred to in this verse. He also asserts that this is a “key” Biblical verse used by Mormons to substantiate the idea of pre-mortality. While he is correct that it is a key verse, we are at odds with his interpretation of the scripture. In response to this video, I posted some verses from Proverbs chapter eight that I believe are also “key” verses on the subject.

Fire on the Montan(ists)

December 12, 2009
by Adam Christensen

The Montanists were a Christian sect that arose towards the close of the second century and well into the third century. This schism is most remembered for their stand of continuing revelation after the Gospels and after the apostolic reign of the Church. It’s most famous member, Tertullian, a revered Church Father by his own right, is all that is left for us in a “Pro” argument for the group, himself a convert, as the congregations that followed this “New Prophecy” as they were sometimes dubbed, are all but dismissed as heretical from the fragments we have from that period and all that is left possess a very negative feel. That said, although Montanist scripture remains in few and scattered pieces today (mostly from Tertullian’s letters and discourses), thus giving us only an Apologetics description, the “Con” side of the argument is also very unclear (Eusebius uses as the bulk of his text an author whose name is lost even to Eusebius).1 For this reason a good, well rounded critical analysis is lacking in realistic formulation until more ancient records may surface from the dust. Even the negative commentators of the time were not in agreement as to just how, in one consensus, the Montanists were in particular heretical.

Benjamin F. Johnson – A Brief Biography

December 12, 2009
by Tim Barker

Note: I had written this biography while in school a number of years back. While it is brief, and really only focuses on his life in early church history, his story is inspiring and insightful.

Among the early converts and pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are those lesser-known Saints who have contributed significantly to its establishment and growth. From its humble beginnings, the church grew rapidly because of devoted members who quickly embraced the gospel, and shared it with loved ones and neighbors. These Saints loved and supported their prophet, Joseph Smith, Jun., and went to great lengths to help him in all of his endeavors. Although most early church leaders are generally recognized by Latter-day Saints today, there were many men and women who gave all that was required of them, but have faded on to the backdrops of history. Among these noble pioneers was Benjamin Franklin Johnson, an early convert, personal friend of the Prophet, and his private secretary. As such, Johnson was able to recount the events in his own life, as well as shed greater light on to the personality of the Prophet Joseph Smith for others. His life is an example of one great pioneer who was faithful throughout his life, but unfortunately is not generally well known among Latter-day Saints today.