Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nauvoo temple, old and new

More computer folder cleaning out.

Here are some photos of the old Nauvoo temple and the new.

The original, dedicated May 1st, 1846

(The front wall, the last standing wall after the fire and tornado destroyed the rest.)
The new, dedicated June 27th, 2002


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book of Mormon parallels that are all too easy to find

(by Daniel Peterson 8-20-15)

Critics have long seen the “Gadianton robbers,” a violent revolutionary group that plays a recurring role in the Book of Mormon, as clear proof that Joseph Smith drew upon his early 19th-century American environment to create a fictional narrative. Although Freemasonry is far less central to American life today, it was a very big deal in the Republic’s formative years. Moreover, controversy swirled about it in western New York precisely while Joseph lived there. Almost since the publication of the Book of Mormon, therefore, some critics have dismissed the Gadianton robbers as thinly disguised Freemasons.

I’ve addressed this topic several times, including in a prior column , and I hope to treat it yet again. In the meantime, though, I call attention to a piece that I published not long after that 2010 column.
I’ve previously attempted to demonstrate that the parallels some have seen between the Gadianton robbers and the Masons are neither uniquely modern nor peculiar to Freemasonry. In other words, they don’t, by themselves, prove a 19th-century American origin for the Book of Mormon.

I’ve shown, for example, that the military behavior of the Gadianton organization is very similar to that of other groups both anciently and since 1830, and that it followed well-documented principles of guerrilla warfare. This is important, in my view, not only because it weakens the proposed link to the Masons but also because it demonstrates the historical plausibility of the Nephite record. (Further, it seems beyond the capacities of Joseph Smith, who was neither a student of military history nor an experienced guerrilla fighter.)

My “Exploratory Notes on the Futuwwa and Its Several Incarnations” was published in 2011 in an anthology of articles (“Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown”) written to honor a beloved colleague. (He’s now retired and, with his wife, serving as a volunteer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Turkey. His own path-breaking Latter-day Saint commentary on the gospel of Luke — "The Testimony of Luke" — was initially published as an e-book and is now available in print.)

In this more recent article, I describe a rather mysterious movement (or family of movements) in medieval and late-medieval Islam. I do so not merely because I’m an Islamicist and the topic interests me; rather, in my judgment, this obscure group or cluster of groups represents at least as close a parallel to the Gadianton robbers, in several respects, as American Freemasonry does. The point isn’t to claim a direct link between the Gadianton robbers and the Muslim “futuwwa” — I don’t believe that such a link exists — but to demonstrate that groups remarkably like the Gadianton robbers have existed in the Middle East over centuries, without any influence whatever from Freemasonry. Thus, if Freemasonry plays no role in accounting for those historically authentic Middle Eastern groups, there’s no need to invoke Freemasonry to account for the Gadianton robbers, either.

I’ll use the apparently eighth-century Arabic term “futuwwa” to refer to this entire complex of interrelated groups within Islam, some of which functioned as quasi-religious fraternities and even military units but some of which also eventually turned into guilds of tradesmen. The word carries the sense of “youth,” though the “fityan” (as they were called) could actually be men of any age. The associations assumed numerous forms over the centuries, but, as with the Gadiantons, the fundamental characteristic of the “futuwwa” seems to be the keeping of oaths and secrets, which were claimed to be venerable because of their antiquity.

Also among the major aspects of the movement was the ideal of the absolute obedience of the disciple to his superior. Further, the “fityan” were obliged to defend and avenge one another, in a kind of cult of friendship — and to do so even, some sources claim, in matters that might seem to be unethical or immoral.

The Book of Mormon offers a parallel here, too. The Gadianton robbers, it says disapprovingly, had “covenants and … oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings” (Helaman 6:21-22).

I’m merely scratching the surface here. But this is my bottom line: In my view, those who equate the Book of Mormon’s secret combinations with the Masons of 19th-century America simply haven’t read widely enough. Parallels to the Gadianton robbers are easy to find, from antiquity through the medieval Near East to today. “They are had among all people” (Ether 8:20).


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Recounting the preservation of the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon

(by Trent Toone 8-6-15)

In June 1878, a vicious tornado ripped through parts of Richmond, Missouri, killing more than 10 people and leaving hundreds homeless, including one prominent person in LDS Church history.

David Whitmer, then age 73 and one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was injured by flying objects when the cyclone tore through his two-story house.

In the midst of the destruction, however, one room in the Whitmer home was miraculously preserved, according to Robin S. Jensen, a volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers.

“It was the room with the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon,” Jensen said. “He believed that was providential, that God was protecting that manuscript.”

More than 135 years later, the revered document continues to be preserved in the latest installment of the Joseph Smith Papers project, “Revelations and Translations, Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon.”

The printer's manuscript is the 11th published volume in the Joseph Smith Papers series. The objective of the project, which published its first volume in 2008, is to make every document produced by Joseph Smith or his scribes available to the public.

The new volume was introduced at a press conference Tuesday at the LDS Church History Library. It includes high-quality, full-color images of the printer's manuscript with transcription of the text on the facing page, along with images of a seer stone and details about its role in the translation process of the Book of Mormon. The volume was produced in collaboration with the Community of Christ, which owns the printer's manuscript.

“It’s really going to be this wonderful scholarly resource for those interested in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon,” Jensen said.

Two manuscripts

Upon completing the original Book of Mormon manuscript, Joseph Smith asked scribe Oliver Cowdery to make a second copy for the typesetter.

“This may have also been for security purposes. Joseph had already lost 116 pages,” Jensen said. “Oliver Cowdery is sort of this unsung hero, the many hand cramps he must have suffered. But he creates a second copy and we call it the printer’s manuscript.”

The printer’s manuscript contains the most complete history of the early text of the Book of Mormon. It is not just another copy, said Royal Skousen, a professor of linguistics and English at Brigham Young University who also served as a volume editor.

“There are interesting things we see in this manuscript,” Skousen said. “It tells us about the history of the publishing of the Book of Mormon that we wouldn’t otherwise know about or fully understand.”

In 1841, Joseph Smith placed the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. It was recovered decades later and had sustained substantial water damage. Only about 28 percent of the manuscript survived, Jensen said.

Cowdery gave the printer’s manuscript to Whitmer shortly before his death in 1850. Whitmer guarded the manuscript until his grandson George Schweich sold it to the Community of Christ in 1903.

“Whitmer saw it as his sacred duty to preserve this manuscript," Jensen said. "He was offered vastly large sums of money, but he refused to sell. He saw it as a divine commandment to be the caretaker of this manuscript. A lot of early manuscripts were lost because subsequent generations didn’t understand what they had inherited. They were left in attics or basements and damaged. The Whitmer family knew what the printer’s manuscript was and knew of its importance. When George Schweich realized his family couldn’t be the long-term caretaker, he sold it to the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ).”

While the printer’s manuscript was in David Whitmer’s possession, he didn’t mind showing people or sharing his special testimony of the Book of Mormon, according to Jensen.

“Missionaries (of the time) traveling to the East Coast wrote in their journals about seeing the manuscript and hearing David Whitmer share his testimony,” Jensen said.

One of David Whitmer’s more intimate memories relating to the Book of Mormon manuscripts had to do with a tattered piece of brown string.

When a portion of the Book of Mormon was translated at the Fayette, New York, farmhouse of Peter and Mary Whitmer, David’s mother Mary made a string to bind together the pages of the manuscript. When Cowdery finished the printer’s manuscript, another one of her homespun strings was used to hold the manuscript together, Jensen said.

“For him, this seemingly mundane artifact was important and personal. It became an artifact that connected the generations,” Jensen said. “Church members often talk about small and simple things. To me that represents the community nature of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”

Collaborative effort

The Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, owns the printer’s manuscript and has a shared history with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two churches formed a partnership to make the manuscript more accessible while preserving the original document.

“They have been wonderful stewards of the manuscript. It’s a credit to them the manuscript still exists,” Jensen said. “We are excited to present this volume not just to scholars, but members of both churches who are interested in this shared history.”

Much of Skousen’s career has been spent studying and transcribing the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. He used black and white photos of the printer’s manuscript to create a transcription in the late 1980s.

Around 1990, Skousen asked the Community of Christ if he could compare his transcription with the actual printer’s manuscript, arguing that he needed to see it in color to better examine the text.

Community of Christ archivist Ronald E. Romig and church leaders were startled by the request because no one had ever asked to see it, but they consented, Skousen said. Church leaders retrieved the manuscript from a bank vault in Kansas City and met up with Skousen and his wife in Missouri in April 1991. Using a chess clock to give himself seven minutes per page, Skousen scrutinized the printer’s manuscript for two weeks. He gained insight into typesetter John Gilbert’s punctuation efforts, accidental copy errors by Cowdery that weren’t obvious in black and white, and other interesting details previously missed.

“I immediately saw things in the actual physical document that you couldn’t have seen in photos, black and white or color," Skousen said. "I was able to figure out a lot of things because I was looking at the real document. There are interesting things we see in this manuscript. They tell us about the history of the publishing of the Book of Mormon that we wouldn’t otherwise know about or fully understand.”

The following year, Skousen returned with his brother, Nevin Skousen, a professional photographer. They received permission to take the first color photographs of the printer’s manuscript.

Gratitude all around

Romig is grateful to Skousen for requesting to see the manuscript. Otherwise, it might still be in the Kansas City bank vault, Romig said.

"Well, I think it’s really quite remarkable," Romig, now director of the Kirtland Temple Visitors Center, said in a press release at "We’re very appreciative of the scholars and the staff who have worked on the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Not only do I consider them to be close colleagues and friends in many cases, but … I’ve come to really value their contribution to helping preserve and make not only this particular manuscript but many of the sacred documents and scriptural materials of the restoration movement available to people who are sometimes just not going to ever see them if they weren’t scholars."

Skousen said there is something in this new volume of the Joseph Smith Papers for everyone who wants to learn about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

“For historians and scholars of the text, having the whole manuscript in this form is a wonderful thing,” Skousen said. “The average church member is going to be surprised. Most people pick up their scriptures and think this is what Joseph Smith did. They don’t realize everything that went into the typesetting, the editing, the punctuation, spelling, all the decisions that have been made in 15 editions from 1830 to the present, chapter and verse numbers, columns. When you see the printer’s manuscript, mostly in Oliver Cowdery’s hand, you say, ‘Wow, this came differently than I thought.’”


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mormonism Obsessed with Christ

(by Stephen H Webb 2-12)

Mocking Mormonism is one of the last frontiers of verbal lawlessness to be untouched by the vigilante powers of political correctness. What other group is ridiculed equally by Christians and secularists—and not just any kind of Christian or secularist but the most fervent and hard core? Fervent Christians see in Mormonism a mirror distorting their own faith, reflecting an image strangely recognizable yet recognizably strange. Hard-core secularists think Mormonism is the best example of the strangeness and danger inherent in all religious belief. Deriding Mormonism pulls off the neat trick of making the devout and the godless feel as if they are on the same side.

I too used to think of Mormonism as little more than an exotic and abnormal addition to Christianity. When I taught Mormon history to my students, I emphasized its remarkable spirit of endurance, its organizational savvy, and the sheer scope of its religious imagination. Yet I regret to say that I did not try to hide my condescension.

I have come to repent of this view, and not just because I came to my senses about how wrong it is to be rude toward somebody else’s faith. I changed my mind because I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is. Mormonism is more than Christianity, of course—most obviously by adding the Book of Mormon to the Bible—and that makes it much less than Christianity as well. Nevertheless, the fact that Mormonism adds to the traditional Christian story does not necessarily mean that it detracts from Christianity to the point of denying it altogether.

After all, what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God.

Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait.

I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time. I already knew the basic outline: that it recounts the journey of a people God led from Jerusalem to the Americas six hundred years before the birth of Christ. In America, they split into two groups, the good guys (the Nephites) and the bad guys (the Lamanites), who battled each other until there were no good guys left—except for Moroni (Mormon’s son), who buried the chronicles of their wars and then, in 1823, told a farm boy from upstate New York where to find them.

When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised. I was not moved, mind you. The Book of Mormon has to be one of the most lackluster of all the great works of literature that have inspired enduring religious movements. Yet it is dull precisely because it is all about Jesus. There are many characters in this book, but they change as little as the plot. Nobody stands out but him. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). And not just Jesus: A whole gospel in all of its theological details—right down to debates about baptism, the relationship of law to grace, and the problem of divine foreknowledge—is taught to the people of the New World centuries before Jesus was even born.

Christians have long interpreted the Old Testament in terms of the New—reading Christ between the lines, so to speak—but Smith went one big step further. He replaced the figurative with the figure himself. The truth of Jesus is eternal, Smith thought, so it should not be surprising to learn that Christ was made known in times and places beyond our imagination.

Long before his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus was eager to reveal the most specific details of his future life and ministry. Nephi, for example, who is said to have written the first two books of the Book of Mormon and to have been part of the migration from Jerusalem, already knew all about Jesus: “For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (2 Nephi 25:19). Likewise, a Nephite king named Benjamin declared around 124 b.c., “And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 3:7-8).

Every page of the book prepares the way for its stunning climax, which is a literal appearance of Jesus to the ancient peoples of America. For Joseph Smith, the ascension of Christ after the resurrection makes possible his descent into the Americas.

Non-Mormons, of course, do not believe that Jesus visited the Americas, but why should they be troubled if Mormons tell stories about Jesus that seem far-fetched? Imagine the following scenario. Your family gathers at the funeral of your dearly beloved grandfather, a world traveler. Your relatives begin telling the familiar stories about his great adventures. Soon, however, you notice another group of mourners at the other end of the room. As you eavesdrop on them, you realize they are talking about your grandfather as if they knew him well, yet you have never heard some of the stories they are telling. These new stories are not insulting to his memory, though some ring more true than others. Indeed, this group seems to have as high an opinion of your grandfather as you do. What do you do?

Do you invite them over to meet your family? That is a tough call. Many of your relatives will dispute the credibility of these stories, and some might make a scene. Others who think the stories are true will feel left out—why didn’t Grandfather tell us? The funny thing is, though, that this other group knows all of the stories your family likes to tell about the deceased, and the stories they add to the mix sound more like mythic embellishments of his character than outright lies. Clearly, the two groups have a lot to talk about!

However you decide to handle the situation, there is no need for you to change your love for your grandfather. There is also no need for you to react to this other group’s love for your grandfather as if they are intentionally threatening or dishonest. Whether or not you decide to expand your family to include this group, you can still welcome them as promoters of your grandfather’s memory. And the more you love your grandfather, the more you will be drawn to discover for yourself whether these new stories make any sense.

Of course, Jesus Christ is not your grandfather, and the stories we tell about him are grounded in Scripture, not family lore. Still, the Book of Mormon raises a question for Christians. Can you believe too much about Jesus? Can you go too far in conceiving his glory? Let me answer that question by posing another. Isn’t the whole point of affirming his divinity the idea that one can never say enough about him? And if Smith’s stories are not true, aren’t they more like exaggerations or embellishments than outright slander and deceit?

I am not denying that the Mormon Jesus is different from the Jesus of traditional Christianity. Mormons connect the atonement more with the Garden of Gethsemane than with the cross, since they think that is where his greatest agony took place (Luke 22:44). The Book of Mormon places the birth of Jesus in Jerusalem, much to the delight of biblical fundamentalists who use such discrepancies to score debating points.

The most significant difference is that Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was never purely immaterial. Smith developed his materialistic interpretation of the spiritual realm mainly after the Book of Mormon, but it is anticipated in that book’s most extraordinary scene. In an appearance to the unnamed brother of Jared, Jesus is so sensitive to the overwhelming impression of his corporeal form that he reveals only his little finger. Jared’s brother says, “I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood” (Ether 3:8). Later Jesus shows Jared’s brother his whole body, which, it turns out, is a pre-mortal spirit body, comprised of a finer material substance than anything known on earth.

Christianity has always affirmed the goodness of matter and the integrity of the human body, but Mormonism offers that Christian dogma gone mad. For Smith, Christ’s pre-existent form was as physically real as we are today. Christianity teaches that the incarnation happened in a particular place and time, but for Smith, taking Hebrews 13:8 (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”) very literally, the Son has always been Jesus. The body of Jesus Christ is the eternal image of all bodies, spiritual and physical alike. The incarnation is a specification (or material intensification) of his body, not the first and only time that God and matter unite.

The eternal embodiment of the divine is metaphysically audacious, and it explains why Mormonism is so inventive. Mormon metaphysics is Christian metaphysics minus Origen and Augustine—in other words, Christianity divorced from Plato. Mormons are so materialistic that they insist that the same unchanging laws govern both the natural and the supernatural. They also deny the virgin birth, since their materialism leads them to speculate that Jesus is literally begotten by the immortal Father rather than conceived by the Holy Spirit.

By treating the spiritual as a dimension of the material, Smith overcomes every trace of dualism between this world and the next. Matter is perfectible because it is one of the perfections of the divine. Even heaven is merely another kind of galaxy, far away but not radically different from planet earth. For Mormons, our natural loyalties and loves have an eternal significance, which is why marriages will be preserved in heaven. Our bodies are literally temples of the divine, which is why Mormons wear sacred garments underneath regular clothing.

This should not be taken lightly. The Mormon metaphysic calls for the revision of nearly every Christian belief. Still, not all heresies are equally perilous. If Gnosticism is the paradigmatic modern temptation—spiritualizing Jesus by turning him into a subjective experience—Mormonism runs in the exact opposite direction. If you had to choose between a Jesus whose body is eternal and a Jesus whose divinity is trivial (as in many modern theological portraits), I hope it would be an easy choice.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Creed or Chaos

(by David Brooks 4-21-11)
You can feel a jolt of energy surge through the audience of “The Book of Mormon” about a quarter of the way into the show’s first musical number. It’s a jolt of joy, gratitude and laughter — a confirmation that this Broadway production is going to live up to its rave reviews.
The jolts keep coming and the audience I was part of rose up at the end with a raucous standing ovation of the sort I’ve rarely seen. There are four musical numbers that are truly fantastic, and the rest of the show is clever, fast and surprisingly warm. The play is about Mormon missionaries who find themselves in an AIDS-ravaged, warlord-dominated region in Uganda. It ridicules Mormonism but not the Mormons, who are loopy but ultimately admirable.
The central theme of “The Book of Mormon” is that many religious stories are silly — the idea that God would plant golden plates in upstate New York. Many religious doctrines are rigid and out of touch.
But religion itself can do enormous good as long as people take religious teaching metaphorically and not literally; as long as people understand that all religions ultimately preach love and service underneath their superficial particulars; as long as people practice their faiths open-mindedly and are tolerant of different beliefs.
This warm theme infuses the play with humanity and compassion. It also plays very well to an educated American audience. Many Americans have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments.
The only problem with “The Book of Mormon” (you realize when thinking about it later) is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.
That’s because people are not gods. No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own, or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own.

The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.
Rigorous theology provides believers with a map of reality. These maps may seem dry and schematic — most maps do compared with reality — but they contain the accumulated wisdom of thousands of co-believers who through the centuries have faced similar journeys and trials.
Rigorous theology allows believers to examine the world intellectually as well as emotionally. Many people want to understand the eternal logic of the universe, using reason and logic to wrestle with concrete assertions and teachings.

Rigorous theology helps people avoid mindless conformity. Without timeless rules, we all have a tendency to be swept up in the temper of the moment. But tough-minded theologies are countercultural. They insist on principles and practices that provide an antidote to mere fashion.

Rigorous theology delves into mysteries in ways that are beyond most of us. For example, in her essay, “Creed or Chaos,” Dorothy Sayers argues that Christianity’s advantage is that it gives value to evil and suffering. Christianity asserts that “perfection is attained through the active and positive effort to wrench real good out of a real evil.” This is a complicated thought most of us could not come up with (let alone unpack) outside of a rigorous theological tradition.

Rigorous codes of conduct allow people to build their character. Changes in behavior change the mind, so small acts of ritual reinforce networks in the brain. A Mormon denying herself coffee may seem like a silly thing, but regular acts of discipline can lay the foundation for extraordinary acts of self-control when it counts the most.

“The Book of Mormon” is not anti-religious. It just endorses a no-sharp-edges view of religion that is all creative metaphors and no harsh judgments. The Africans in the play embrace this kind of religion. And in the context of a hilarious musical, that’s fine.

But it’s worth remembering that the religions that thrive in real-life Africa are not as nice and na├»ve as the religion in the play. The religions thriving in real-life Africa are often so doctrinaire and so socially conservative that they would make Pat Robertson’s hair stand on end.

I was once in an AIDS-ravaged village in southern Africa. The vague humanism of the outside do-gooders didn’t do much to get people to alter their risky behavior. The blunt theological talk of the church ladies — right and wrong, salvation and damnation — seemed to have a better effect.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Photos of Mormon Church founder's 'seer stone' seen for first time

(by Peg McEntee 8-4-15)

The Mormon Church released photographs on Tuesday of a so-called "seer stone" that members believe was used by the Utah-based faith's founder, Joseph Smith, to write the Book of Mormon, its principal sacred text.

Photos of the egg-shaped, chocolate-brown rock are in a new publication that also carries images of the first printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which Smith said was based on ancient records and include an account of a visit to America by Jesus Christ.
"Revelations and Translations, Volume 3: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon," is the 11th volume of a project by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make every document produced by Smith or his scribes available to the public.
The LDS Church teaches that Smith found gold plates engraved with ancient Egyptian symbols in upstate New York 185 years ago.
The faithful believe God helped Smith translate the text into English for the Book of Mormon, a companion to the Bible, while examining the "seer stone" inside a hat.
Smith's first manuscript appeared in 1829, but less than a third of that original document survives due to water damage during the 19th century.
Its remains are kept in the faith's Church History Library in Salt Lake City, while the stone is kept in a Church vault.
The publication of the original manuscript will follow in a future volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Church said.
The printer's manuscript, which is virtually complete, was created so that the original could be kept safe while the copy was sent to printers in New York to set type for the first edition of the Book of Mormon.
The LDS Church, which has more than 15 million members worldwide, said the publication of the latest volume represented a major milestone.
It said the print edition of the Joseph Smith Papers is expected ultimately to span more than 20 volumes divided into six series: Journals, Revelations and Translations, Histories, Documents, Administrative Records, and Legal and Business Records. The first volume of the project was published in 2008. (Reporting by Peg McEntee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

LDS Church release more documents from Joseph Smith, church founding

(The stone pictured here has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation. The stone Joseph Smith used in the Book of Mormon translation effort was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape. This stone passed from Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery and then to the Church through Brigham Young and others. (Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr. © 2015 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.)

(by Josh Furlong 8-4-15)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released new documents surrounding the translation of the Book of Mormon Tuesday.

The LDS Church, as part of The Joseph Smith Papers Project, released the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon and details of the seer stones used as instruments by Joseph Smith during the translation of the Book of Mormon. The documents are the 11th published volume of the project in the church's effort to release documents surrounding its founding.

The church said the publication, which will be entitled "Revelations and Translations, Volume 3: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon," represents a "major milestone in a longstanding collaboration between historians from the Church History Department and the Community of Christ."

Participating from the LDS Church were Elder Steven E. Snow, church historian, recorder and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder. Representing the Community of Christ, which owns the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, were President Robin Linkhart, president of the Seventy; and Lachlan Mackay, Nauvoo historical sites coordinator.

"We're very pleased that they've been partners with us in this process and exceptionally good stewards of this priceless document," Elder Snow said in a statement. "It's great to be able to cooperate like we have and to be able to print this particular volume. I think members of both churches will find this very, very interesting."

"Well, I think it's really quite remarkable," Romig said in a statement. "I'm remembering when there were times that there wasn't as much collaboration as there is today, and that's been very refreshing and I'm very thankful that that's the case."

The manuscripts feature several high-quality photos and give readers an inside look into the documents.

"High-quality, full-color images of the most complete early manuscript of the Book of Mormon give users of this volume unprecedented access, as though they were holding the original in their hands," Turley Jr. said in a statement.

In conjunction with the release of the printer's manuscript project, the LDS Church also posted Tuesday a magazine article — co-authored by Turley — about seership, seer stones and their roles in translation and revelation. Posted on its website, the article is scheduled to be published in print in the church's October 2015 issue of the Ensign magazine.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project was created to bring to light all the documents relating to the church's founder Joseph Smith and the church's founding. The project has released two volumes of documents and are expected to release approximately two dozen print volumes.