No One Knows My Editing

Death mask of Joseph Smith plaster mask, Ariah C. Brower and George Cannon, 1844. (Courtesy of Church History Museum, Salt Lake City. Photograph by Alex D. Smith.)

R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

“No man knows my history,” Joseph Smith Jr. said, later adding, “I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-e-1-1-july-1843-30-april-1844/351). With a nod to Joseph Smith, no one knows my editing!

All my jobs have been marvelous adventures. I started my career at Deseret Book, the Church Curriculum Department (now Publishing Services), and the Ensign magazine. Then in 2001 Richard Draper, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, hired me to help take the Religious Studies Center, in his words, to “a higher level of professionalism, efficiency, and organization.” We have certainly done that, and we continue to grow. Over the years, publications directors such as Richard Draper, Richard Holzapfel, Robert Millet, Richard Bennett, Dana Pike, Thomas Wayment, and Scott Esplin each provided vision and leadership that contributed to the RSC’s current vitality. Whereas the original annual output of the RSC was two books and a two-color newsletter, we now produce about fifteen high-quality books (winning many awards), two academic journals, a full-color campus magazine, a robust website, and a social media presence.

When initially hired, I told Andrew Skinner, dean of Religious Education, that I felt OK committing to five years and then reevaluating. During that five-year period, Covenant Communications copublished many books with the RSC. Richard Holzapfel firmly established the Religious Educator as a viable journal. We began relying even more on BYU editing minors to shoulder the increased editing load that Richard Draper, then Richard Holzapfel encouraged through their proactive recruitment of authors. Designer Carmen Cole redesigned the RSC Newsletter. Student Matt Grey (now a professor) started Studia Antiqua to publish student papers on the ancient world.

At the end of that five years, I told the new dean, Terry Ball, that I felt comfortable staying another five years. It was tricky to keep up with Richard Holzapfel’s creative mind, new projects, teaching, and travel schedule. He asked us to push hard to get all past content on the RSC website and translate selected materials into Spanish, Portuguese, and German. He encouraged us to create a magazine, which we designed with the help of Hales Creative and named BYU Religious Education Review. I recommended that we hire a publicity/production superviser to build the RSC brand. That spot was filled by Stephanie Wilson (part-time and then full-time) and then Brent Nordgren. Richard and Brent did an admirable job negotiating a copublication agreement with Deseret Book that dramatically increased our distribution network. That laid the foundation for financial stability.

After Richard Holzapfel’s departure, we had another five or so years with quick transitions between publications directors—leading to greater staff autonomy. Publications directors were Robert Millet, Richard Bennett (interim), and Dana Pike. While working under Richard Bennett, Religious Education began to pay for a staff member to take a professional development course each year. After I asked if he would send me to the Mormon History Association conference, he said that he couldn’t unless I had a paper accepted. So I began to craft and submit history presentations. That turned into a personal challenge—to document many interesting Mormon history and family history stories, branching out into related areas. Writing was done nearly always in my personal time but occasionally on RSC time when projects slowed down.

The next five-year segment began when Thom Wayment began serving as publications director. His leadership contributions included pushing for greater quality in our books and journal, expanding the author pool, adding strong members to our team, and promoting staff training that resulted in an increase in social media outreach and thus better sales. Challenges during this period were redoing contracts, increasing book production, dropping the review board, wrestling with design issues, and holding fewer RSC team meetings to coordinate efforts. After we resumed RSC team meetings to coordinate efforts, productivity soared. Brent hired Madison Swapp and then Emily Strong, a 3/4-time designer. Both have worked hard. Thom asked me to attend a conference of the Association of American University Presses, and I realized that we could do much more to build the RSC brand and promote our books. We started Facebook and Twitter accounts for the BYU Religious Studies Center, Religious Educator, and Church History Blog to share updates and promote our brand and books. We hired Felix Lara, our first media specialist intern, and then other interns who have helped authors promote their books, further increasing our financial stability. As an editor, I was inundated each year with editing sixteen academic books, two journals, and a magazine. When I mentioned that I was struggling to keep up, Thom brought in two editors from the Maxwell Institute. That has been a boon to our organization because Don Brugger and Shirley Ricks are marvelous team members, and the Religious Studies Center has become even more productive.

After Dean Top left, Dean Judd appointed Scott Esplin, another good friend, as publications director. As I look ahead to about fifteen years remaining in my career, I find myself in midlife mode (probably not crisis mode, but involving deep soul-searching). I have edited hundreds of books and hundreds of magazine and journal articles. So . . . what’s next? The Religious Studies Center brand is still slowly growing in popularity. For publicity, we have been discussing building on our BYU identity or the somehow including the name of our founder, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In my opinion, our next frontier seems to be publicity and coordination with other academic publishers. Regarding academic publishers, we have made headway in coordinating with Book of Mormon Central, BYU Speeches, BYU Studies, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Perhaps we could partner with other university presses as well.

Beyond Dogmatism

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center
Religion is sometimes attacked as a source of ignorance and conflict. While all humans are subject to confirmation bias, perhaps the real danger is dogmatism, or the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others, especially when it leads to prejudice or violence. That condition may affect both the religious and the nonreligious.
 
Is Snoopy being “dogmatic”?
As this article points out, people who dogmatically hold to any topic without being able to consider other perspectives “typically pay a high price for their dogmatism. Not only do they alienate many people, but they actually imprison their own egos inside their figurative fortress of conviction.”

The Expanded Canon

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Review of Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Petersen, eds. The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018. 258 pp. $25.95.

In The Expanded Canon, the first volume of the new UVU Comparative Mormon Studies series, the editors point out that Latter-day Saints, like many other faith traditions, have “an open canon—that the body of authoritative scriptural texts can expand as new revelations are made available and presented to the membership for ratification” (ix). Beyond the standard works, Latter-day Saints view other documents as scriptural but not canonized—for example, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The editors assert that church members deal with some complex scriptural matters such as Joseph Smith’s revisions of the Bible. In this case, the term translation does not tidily fit. As Kathleen Flake notes, it was more of “an interpretive response to the text” in which he “appeared more interested in preserving the meaning of the revelation rather than the language” (xv).

David Holland’s chapter traces how Christianity adopts scripture through a triangle consisting of the scriptures, the living representative of Christ, and inspiration from the Holy Ghost. Which has the greatest power? Protestants argue that authority comes from the Bible alone. Latter-day Saints, however, use all three sides of the triangle, because even statements by prophets must be sustained by church members, who are invited to gain their own witness through the Holy Ghost.

In her chapter, Claudia L. Bushman invites people to “read women back into the scriptures.” She proposes writings of women that should be considered as inspired, including Relief Society minutes, Eliza R. Snow’s poetry, Lucy Mack Smith’s history of Joseph Smith, and even Chieko Okazaki’s Lighten Up! 

In a very insightful chapter, Grant Underwood asks readers to relish the revisions of the revelatory process that produced the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith, he argues, was “more than a mere human fax machine through whom God communicated finished revelation texts composed in heaven” (182). According to Orson Pratt, Joseph received impressions and then had to “clothe those ideas with such words as came to mind” (182).

For those who want to learn about how faith traditions adopt and canonize scripture, and particularly Latter-day Saint scripture, I highly recommend this book.

 

Saints: Moving Stories Supported by Solid Sources

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Review of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018. 699 pp., $5.75 print, $1.99 digital.

Short version: The book is very readable, with personal accounts that share deep emotions felt during intense times of crisis. The book includes many, many female perspectives (both old and young). It is intimate, referring to Joseph and Emma Smith by first name. The writers weave together moving individual stories supported by solid historical sources. It relies on excellent source material from The Joseph Smith Papers, the Religious Studies Center, and many others. Readers can enhance their experience with new Church History Topics essays: https://www.lds.org/languages/eng/content/history/topics/awakenings-and-revivals?lang=eng.

Long version: As the first book in the Saints series, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 starts with a bang! A volcano in far-off Indonesia spews tons of ash into the air, causing dry weather patterns in Vermont and leading the Smith family to try farming in upstate New York. Joseph joins the local treasure hunters seeking for Spanish gold, a search he soon abandons. The book then races through uplifting and discouraging scenes of church history. Scott Hales, the book’s literary editor, described the book’s goals: “It’s designed to be a history for people who don’t like history. It’s meant to be very inviting, very engaging, very approachable. Some people hear the word ‘history’ and clam up or tune out. They think about boring high school history classes or history lectures. That’s not the reaction we want from our readers. We want people to read this book! We have written it in a way that will appeal to people from ages 12 to 112. We have been very deliberate in how we present the material so that it is accessible to a wide variety of people from all ages, all educational backgrounds, and all reading levels” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days,” Religious Educator 19, no. 2 [2018]: 175).

Steven C. Harper, the book’s historical editor, tells how the project started: “[It] began as an investigation into the feasibility of updating the Comprehensive History. In 2008 the Church Historian, who was then Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, made a proposal to the First Presidency to update it. The First Presidency authorized the Church History Department to come up with a plan to do it. A committee was called together and proposed the four-volume plan. . . . Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy has served as the Church Historian since 2012. He made Saints a high priority” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints,” 174).

Volume 1 deals transparently with complex issues such as the following:

  • Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision
  • Nineteenth-century folk religion and seer stones
  • Joseph’s 1826 arrest and trial for being a “disorderly person”
  • Translation of the Book of Mormon and testimonies of many witnesses, including Mary Whitmer
  • Restoration of priesthood authority and sealing keys
  • Dedication of the Kirtland Temple
  • The Book of Abraham
  • Complex feelings after the Kirtland Safety Society failed
  • Persecution of members in Missouri and vigilante actions by Danites
  • Plural marriage, including Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger and sealings to other women
  • Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor
  • The Council of Fifty and its plans to move church members to the West

I look forward to future volumes, as Scott Hales described below: “The second volume depicts the challenges of gathering the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley and the Intermountain West. It ends in 1893 with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. Volume 3 shows the Church entering the twentieth century and branching out beyond the Mormon corridor. It concludes in 1955 with the dedication of the Swiss Temple, the first temple dedicated in Europe. Finally, volume 4 is about the global Church. By the end of that volume, temples dot the earth and sacred ordinances are available to all worthy Saints” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints,” 173).

New Interim Religious Education Dean, Associate Dean, Publications Director

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Welcome to three new leaders of the Religious Studies Center team! Effective July 1, professor of ancient scripture Daniel K Judd began service as the interim dean for ReligiousEducation and director of the Religious Studies Center. He most recentlyserved as associate dean in Religious Education and previously served as chair of the Department of Ancient Scripture. He is the author of pathbreaking studies on Latter-day Saint mental health, including the first empirical study on the relationship between the grace of Christ and the mental health of Latter-day Saints: Daniel K Judd, W. Justin Dyer, and Justin B. Top, “Grace, Legalism, and Mental Health: Examining Direct and Mediating Relationships,” Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, June 2018.

J. B. Haws, an associate professor of Church history and doctrine, has been appointed to serve as an associate dean in Religious Education and associate director of the Religious Studies Center. He also serves as coordinator of the Office of Religious Outreach. He is the award-winning author of The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (New York: Oxford, 2013).

Church history and doctrine professor Scott C. Esplin has been named as the publications director for the Religious Studies Center. He also serves as the Religious Education Teaching Fellow. Editor of many books published by the Religious Studies Center, he is the author of Return to the City of Joseph: Modern Mormonism’s Contest for the Soul of Nauvoo (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018).

A New Year with Inspiring New Publications

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Happy new year! As LDS Church Gospel Doctrine teachers and students embark on a study of the Old Testament, we hope many will navigate their journey using our Gospel Doctrine supplemental reading. Readers may particularly enjoy our Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament and John Gee’s Introduction to the Book of Abraham.

Our books will include these:

Upcoming issues of the Religious Educator will feature articles such as Elder Tad R. Callister’s talk on the power of principles, Jenny Reeder’s paper on the importance of incorporating women’s voices in teaching history, and John Thomas’s insights on missionary use of the Book of Mormon around the turn of the twentieth century.

We hope these publications will be enriching and inspiring, and we hope you find as much joy reading them as we do!

A Second Look at the RSC and Maxwell Institute Partnership

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

The RSC and Maxwell Institute editors forged a publishing partnership in September to consolidate the two production teams. Let’s look at what the combined team has accomplished so far.

First, the RSC welcomed managing editor Don Brugger and senior editor Shirley Ricks, who, along with executive editor Devan Jensen, report to publications director Thomas Wayment and work closely with production supervisor Brent Nordgren and publication coordinator Joany Pinegar. The combined team has completed a staggering twenty-one projects since September!

RSC

  • Matthew J. Grow and R. Eric Smith, eds., The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History
  • Aaron P. Schade, Brian M. Hauglid, and Kerry Muhlestein, eds., Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament (46th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium)
  • John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham
  • Roy A. Prete and Carma T. Prete, eds., Canadian Mormons: History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada
  • RoseAnn Benson, Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith: Nineteenth-Century Restorationists (BYU Press and Abilene Christian University Press)
  • Ann N. Madsen and Shon D. Hopkin, eds., Opening Isaiah: A Harmony (eBook)
  • 2017 BYU Religious Education Student Symposium
  • Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr., The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective (eBook)
  • The Restored Gospel and Applied Christianity, 2017
  • Religious Educator 18, no. 3
  • BYU Religious Education Review, Fall 2017
  • Studia Antiqua (2017)
  • Reid L. Neilson and Wayne D. Crosby, Lengthening Our Stride: Globalization of the Church (forthcoming)
  • Donald G. Godfrey, In Their Footsteps: Mormon Pioneers of Faith (forthcoming)

Maxwell Institute

  • Adam S. Miller, ed., Fleeing the Garden: Reading Genesis 2–3
  • Adam S. Miller, ed., A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1
  • Mormon Studies Review (2018)
  • Spencer Fluhman, Kathleen Flake, and Jed Woodworth, eds., “To Be Learned Is Good”: Essays on Faith and Scholarship in Honor of Richard Lyman Bushman (forthcoming)
  • Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer, eds., Christ and Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7 (forthcoming)
  • Samir Khalil Samir and Wafik Nasry, trans., The Patriarch and the Caliph: An Eighth-Century Dialogue between Timothy I and al-Mahdī (forthcoming)
  • Adam S. Miller, Letters to a Young Mormon, 2nd edition (forthcoming)

 

Second, as with any other merger, the two publishers clarified expectations. Work has begun on four other Maxwell Institute projects yet to be announced.

Third, the RSC has approval to hire a designer to help with projects such as the Religious Educator, the BYU Religious Education Review, and our 2018 books:

  • Reid L. Neilson and Wayne D. Crosby, Lengthening Our Stride: Globalization of the Church
  • Donald G. Godfrey, In Their Footsteps: Mormon Pioneers of Faith
  • Shon D. Hopkin, ed., Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise
  • Debra Theobald McClendon and Richard J. McClendon, Commitment to the Covenant: Strengthening the Me, We, and Thee of Marriage
  • Richard O. Cowan, The Los Angeles Temple: Beacon on a Hill
  • Richard E. Bennett, ed., The Journey West: The Mormon Pioneer Journals of Horace K. Whitney with Insights by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney
  • Eric D. Huntsman, Lincoln H. Blumell, and Tyler J. Griffin, eds., Thou Art the Christ: The Person and Work of Jesus in the New Testament (47th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium)
  • LaMond Tullis, Two Martyrs in Mexico: A Mormon Story of Revolution and Redemption
  • Bruce A. Van Orden, “We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout”: The Life and Times of William W. Phelps
  • 2018 Religious Education Student Symposium
  • The Restored Gospel and Applied Christianity, 2018

We are planning to remodel the office to accommodate our new team members. All in all, we are enjoying our partnership and looking ahead to a bright and productive future.

Review of Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Apologetics

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Review of Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Apologetics

Those who want to learn about the art and practice of defending the faith—known classically as apologetics—will enjoy reading Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Apologetics, a compilation of essays edited by Blair G. Van Dyke and Loyd Isao Ericson (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2017). The fifteen authors share a variety of perspectives, both praising and critiquing past and present approaches. My review focuses on this survey of apologetics, as well as related definitions and questions.

Apologetics in the Past and Present

In the age of Hugh Nibley, the term Mormon apologetics referred to a fairly traditional set of papers defending the claims of the Church or attacking critics. Today’s apologetic approaches are more varied, including “traditional apologetics, new positive apologetics as typified by [Terryl] Givens and [Patrick] Mason, a form of official apologetics as with the Gospel Topics essays, pastoral apologetics as outlined by Seth Payne, [and] religious studies scholarship examining and discussing the same LDS doctrines and practices that apologists often discuss.” These scholars have professional training in fields such as history, literature, Near Eastern languages and culture, and philosophy. The book applauds apologetic work created by the Church History Department, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (21–22), and FairMormon (67). It seems an oversight not to mention the strong apologetic work published by BYU Studies, the Religious Studies Center, the Interpreter Foundation, and other sources listed at LDS.org.

Defensive versus Affirmative Apologetics

The book defines several vital terms. Van Dyke defines the term negative apologetics as “responses to criticism already levied against Mormonism” (2). Daniel C. Peterson clarifies that the term refers not to being “mean-spirited” but to “rebuttal and defense” (40). Peterson compares this act to “clearing the ground of weeds, and keeping it clear, so that the seed has a chance to take root and grow” (40). Accordingly, Michael Ash prefers the term defensive apologetics (65). Adoption of this term over the other seems important because of Mormon cultural desire to avoid negativity and contention, even to the point of avoiding uncomfortable conversations that lead to heated emotions or compromise.

Conversely, the term positive apologetics refers to “arguments that justify the faith and fortify her position ahead of disagreements and criticisms” (2). In Peterson’s analogy, this is planting the seed in the ground and nurturing it. Ash refers to this as affirmative or educational apologetics (65–67). The latter terms prevent ambiguity and potential criticism that apologists have a “positive” bent or mindset that precludes the possibility of dismissing credible evidence to the contrary of their position.

Evidentialism, Fideism, and Presuppositionalism

Evidentialism refers to attempts to anchor defense of one’s truth claims in objective evidence, such as the 1987 discovery of a steel sword near Jerusalem to justify Nephi’s claim about Laban’s sword (4–5). Conversely, fideism emphasizes subjective faith over objective evidence, suggesting that spiritual matters are deeply personal (5). Van Dyke notes that “Mormons consistently manifest strains of fideism” (6) and sometimes “anti-intellectualism” (12). Presuppositionalism identifies the assumptions all human beings make about which sources of evidence we trust and seek out for additional confirmation (15–17). As one example, after the 2013 US Supreme Court announcement in favor of same-sex marriage, the LDS Church asserted, “Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children.” Van Dyke claims, “Evidentiary proof does not bear out this claim” (19). We would be wise to evaluate the presuppositions and evidence of all parties involved in such vital arguments.

Cautions about Apologetics and Human Nature

The initial chapters offer much praise for the practice of apologetics. Neal Rappleye offers several examples of Book of Mormon defensive scholarship that pushes the boundaries of scholarship in a positive direction (52–61), tempering that praise with the need for nuanced evaluation of the contributions of King Josiah (45–46). Ash notes that we, as humans, see in terms of patterns and predictions (69–71), which necessarily lead to confirmation bias (74). Scholars sometimes harshly criticize the positions of others (including apologists), seemingly unaware of the presuppositions they themselves make (76–79). Echoing Thomas Jefferson’s call for a wall between church and state, Benjamin Park calls for a divide between Mormon studies and apologetics (90). In my opinion, Jack Welch and the BYU Studies team and Richard Bushman and the Joseph Smith Papers Project team have succeeded in both arenas through well-documented scholarship and cautious assertions. I add that the Maxwell Institute and Religious Studies Center have produced material satisfying both the academy and the church. Many other institutions might be added here.

Critiques of Current Apologetics

Ralph Hancock, David Knowlton, David Bokovoy, and Loyd Ericson critique currrent practices of Mormon apologetics, though from various places on the spectrum. For example, Hancock criticizes the newly re-created Mormon Studies Review for being too neutral in faith matters, engaging non-LDS scholars on their own terms (107–9). Knowlton tackles use of the term Lamanites by FairMormon, dismissing their lack of specificity as “a crisis of faith” (207). Ericson divides matters such as Book of Mormon studies very discretely into historical facts or “religious studies,” critiquing historical examinations of “things of the soul” (220). Bokovoy recalls his gradual acceptance of the Documentary Hypothesis of biblical scholarship and then claims, “Apologetics assumes that we have the answers” (227), arguing for more critical thinking. As expected in any book that gathers diverse perspectives, these voices will variously draw praise or criticism.

Women’s Voices

Three articles focus on women’s issues. Juliann Reynolds, who helped found FairMormon, asserts that Mormon women became ardent defenders of the faith when the Church faced persecution and prosecution for the practice of plural marriage. However, although many women actively promote and defend Church doctrine in venues such as the Ensign, FairMormon, Meridian Magazine, Mormon Women Stand, and social media, they rarely identify themselves as apologists (140–48). Julie M. Smith notes that apologists have often placed more emphasis on the status quo arguments and thus neglected women’s concerns (165). Fiona Givens upholds the ideal union of men and women in the Creation and in ecclesiastical collaboration, with the general implication that men and women ideally should combine in efforts such as defending the faith (something she and her husband have indeed done).

Questions

In sum, it seems fair to assert that “every argument defending any position . . . is an apology” (27). Let’s conclude with several questions about how to do apologetics: “Will we be honest? Competent? Civil? Will we be effective, or not?” (41). To which I add several questions of my own: Who is doing the best, most exciting work in apologetics at the present? What place does evidence play in relation to matters of faith? How can scholars be most effective in evaluating evidence for their arguments? How can we evaluate evidence effectively when we are subject to confirmation bias? And how tentative should we be in making assertions and conclusions? These are a few questions raised by a reading of this important book.

Click here to view the contents and selected essays and Q&A.

New Production Partnership Forged between Maxwell Institute and BYU Religious Studies Center

Over the past decade, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute has invested considerable resources in producing high-quality scholarly and faith-promoting books, periodicals, and films. For over forty years, BYU’s Religious Studies Center (RSC) has also published excellent Latter-day Saint scholarship that both educates and inspires. In reviewing their respective roles at BYU, Maxwell Institute executive director Spencer Fluhman and the RSC’s publications director Thomas A. Wayment discovered a duplication in efforts. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why maintain two separate production teams at BYU?’” Fluhman said of their early conversations. “We realized a formal partnership potentially could enable our respective campus units to focus on its particular mission and thrive.”

We are pleased to announce a new partnership between the Maxwell Institute and the Religious Studies Center. The Institute’s top-notch production team—which includes managing editor Don Brugger and senior editor Shirley Ricks—transferred to the RSC on 1 September 2017, strengthening their outstanding staff. As the Institute invests more resources in gathering and nurturing disciple-scholars, it will look to the RSC for professional production services. Established by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during his time as dean of Religious Education in 1975, the RSC exists to seek out, encourage, and publish faithful gospel scholarship. Both entities will continue to publish a variety of books and journals under their own imprints, with the RSC providing both units with services such as copyediting, proofreading, and typesetting—the technical things that make scholarly publishing possible. Dean of Religious Education and RSC director Brent Top agrees that this partnership strengthens both units. “We consider this a win-win for both the Maxwell Institute and the RSC,” he said. “We have complementary missions. In the end, we’ll all be in an even stronger position in providing religious scholarship to both scholars and the Church at large.”

Brugger and Ricks have provided invaluable service to the Maxwell Institute throughout its existence, and even before. Ricks has employed her keen editor’s eye for thirty years. Don Brugger has served as both senior editor and managing editor at the Institute, overseeing projects including the Mormon Studies Review, various Living Faith books, and other publications. Their kindness, competence, and professionalism will be missed at the Institute, but the campus will continue to be blessed by their gifts through their new institutional home at the RSC.

Review of The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5

By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Rogers, Brent M., Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Christian K. Heimburger, Max H Parkin, Alexander L. Baugh, and Steven C. Harper, eds. Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838. Vol. 5 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017. xlvi + 656 pp., illustrations, bibliography, index, $54.95 hardback.

Joseph Smith was a complex person. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in this volume discussing such a complicated period in US and LDS Church history.

As the introduction asserts, Documents, Volume 5 covers “moments of elation and moments of upheaval” (xix), including an 1835 recounting of the First Vision, purchase of mummies and manuscripts leading to the Book of Abraham, the School of the Prophets, a physical alteration between William and Joseph Smith, attempts at reconciliation, construction of the House of the Lord in Kirtland, glorious heavenly visitations during the dedication ceremony, a national recession and failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, widespread apostasy, launch of the Elders’ Journal, and Joseph Smith’s move to Missouri.

As with other volumes in the Documents series, the editing team succeeds in providing helpful and professional discussion of the documents, historical context, and artifacts.

Part 1 focuses mainly on an 1835 recounting of the First Vision (40–47) and translation of the Book of Abraham (69–88). This section raises intriguing questions: What connection do the Egyptian alphabet and grammar have with the Book of Abraham? How much time did the Prophet and his scribes focus on producing and recording revelation, and how much were they trying to reproduce the origins of human language? Here we are left with perhaps more questions than answers, but we look forward to more discussion in future planned volumes by Brian Hauglid, Robin Scott Jensen, and others.

Part 2 begins with tension. Elder Orson Hyde offered “a litany of complaints” against the top leadership (105). Then a disciplinary council led to a deposition by Lucy Mack Smith. An argument over that deposition erupted between sons William and Joseph Smith. When the Kirtland high council planned to censure William, he insisted he “had not done wrong” and accused Joseph of determining to always support his arguments “whether right or wrong” (111). After heated argument in a debating school, William and Joseph engaged in a fight, leaving Joseph “unable to sit down, or rise up, without help” (112). The brothers sought reconciliation. This section ends with a solemn assembly, washing and anointing, and a vision of the celestial kingdom involving the Father and the Son and the faithful deceased, including Joseph’s brother Alvin (157–59). The section of the vision involving Brigham Young preaching to “men of colour” is thought-provoking in light of the later move to Utah (160).

Part 3 describes the Hebrew School, priesthood ordinations, and heavenly visitations relating to the dedication of the House of the Lord. Some of the recorded visitations are quite dramatic (190). The hymn “Ere Long the Vail” was quite impressive (192–93). On page 206, the word “retuning” would benefit from an editorial clarification to “retu[r]ning.”

Part 4 recounts the familiar and well-documented visions of heavenly messengers (224–29). Less familiar is the section describing W. W. Phelps’s editorial about abolitionism in Ohio and the resulting backlash in Missouri (234–35), the ordination of blacks to the priesthood (235–36), and Joseph Smith’s seemingly contradictory claim in the April 1836 Messenger and Advocate “that the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan” (240). These documents and accompanying notes are vital as we seek to examine Joseph Smith’s notions of race, abolition, and emancipation.

Part 5 describes the banking experiment of the Kirtland Safety Society in ways that are both satisfying and challenging. The images of currency are particularly helpful. As the leadership pressed forward with a bank despite lack of state sponsorship, readers may wonder, What qualms did board members or the general members express about the way the leadership pressed forward? The editors do a fine job contextualizing how the national panic influenced the failure of the bank experiment.

Part 6 begins after the failure of the Safety Society with pressing financial and legal problems, dissension by Warren Parrish and many others, and Joseph Smith’s grave illness. As the volume introduction states, “The spiritual exuberance that attended the dediction at of the House of the Lord just eighteen months earlier seemed a distant memory” (xxxii). This section concludes with the bold and visionary calls of Wilford Woodruff and Jonathan H. Hale to preach as missionaries in “the eastern country” and of Heber C. Kimball to serve the first transatlantic mission in England.

Part 7 includes the launch of the Elders’ Journal; Wilford Woodruff’s report of missionary labors in New York, Maine, and the Fox Islands; excommunications in Kirtland; and Joseph Smith’s announcement of moving his family to Missouri. Brief mention is made of the burning of the Church printing press in Kirtland days after it was auctioned off (xxxiv, 537), a topic reserved for discussion in a later volume of the Documents series.

Overall, this volume makes an important contribution to Mormon history and is well worth the time to search for historical treasure therein.