“This Generation Shall Have My Word through You“
We usually don’t stop to think about it, but our conceptions of the nature of scripture play a key role in our understanding of spiritual reality. The fundamental question is: Do we use scripture to understand the rest of reality, or do we need to use other evidence first to understand the nature of scripture? Or is there a way where they can inform each other? So for example, do we take the scriptural descriptions of God at face value and try to understand life using that framework, or do we use our personal experiences and other sources to understand God and then use that understanding to engage with the scriptural accounts?
This lesson explores the scriptural contributions of Joseph Smith, and a key goal will be to explore the nature of Joseph’s revelations and the new scripture he brought forth, as well as their significance. This new scripture includes:
- Book of Mormon
- Book of Commandments–>Doctrine & Covenants
- Book of Moses/Joseph Smith Translation
- Book of Abraham
- Lectures on Faith (remember, these were included in the D&C until 1921!)
- Theologically significant sermons such as the King Follett Discourse
- The temple endowment
Since we have already talked about the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants, we will focus this lesson on the Joseph Smith Translation and Book of Abraham, while also touching on the idea of scripture as a whole and Joseph’s other contributions.
One Time Donation:
Student Reading: Bible Dictionary: Joseph Smith Translation, Our Heritage, pages 23–25, 41, 58 , Moses 1:40–41, 2 Nephi 3:11–15, D&C 84:19–25, D&C 88:15–24, D&C 76:50–112, D&C 93:29, D&C 107:23, 33, 35, D&C 124:37–42, D&C 128:16–18, D&C 130:22
Additional Teacher Reading: D&C 5:10, Heading D&C 67, Heading D&C 69, eighth article of faith, 1 Nephi 13:24–28, D&C 35:20; 37:1; 45:60–61; 73:3–4; 93:53, Genesis 5:18–24, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, Jude 1:14–15, Moses 6:21–68, Moses 7:1–69, Matthew 4, Heading D&C 76, D&C 76:15–19, Matthew 3:16–17; John 4:24; Acts 7:55, Joseph Smith—History 1:17; D&C 130:1, 22, Genesis 1:27, Moses 6:8–9, Ephesians 2:20; 4:11–16, D&C 107:23, 33, 35, 39, 58; 112:30–32, Hebrews 6:20; 7:17, D&C 84:19–25; 107:1–8, 18–19; Hebrews 7:11, D&C 13; 84:18, 26–27, 30; 107:1, 13–14, 20, Matthew 3:16, 3 Nephi 11:22–26; Moroni 8:8–12; D&C 20:71–74, Acts 8:17; D&C 20:41, 43; 35:6; 121:46, Jeremiah 1:4–5, D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:22–26, 1 Corinthians 15:29, D&C 128:16–18, Job 19:25–26; John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:22, Alma 11:42–45, 1 Corinthians 15:40–42, D&C 76:50–112; 131:1, Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 11:11, D&C 131:1–4; 132:19, Romans 8:17, D&C 88:107; 93:20; 132:20–24
You can access my Lesson Notes here.
You can access my Reading Notes here.
Continue the conversation by posting your comments and questions here, in the facebook group, or email them to me at MormonSundaySchool at gmail.
- Philip Barlow, Mormons and the Bible 2nd Edition
Joseph Smith Translation /Book of Moses
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on the Joseph Smith Translation
- Excellent References in EoM article:
- Jackson, Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible
- Jackson and Jasinki, Two JST passages translated twice
- LDS Creation narratives as “Mormon Midrash”
- Wayment and Lambert, Nature of pen and pencil markings in NT of Joseph’s translation
Book of Abraham
- Michael T. Walton, “Professor Seixas the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Abraham, Sunstone, 6, No. 2 (1981): 41-43.
- Response to Walton by Milan Smith
- Egyptian Grammar available through the Church History Dept
Lectures on Faith
- An entire book available online on the Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on the Lectures on Faith
- Van Wagoner, Richard S.; Steven C. Walker; and Allen D. Roberts. “The “Lectures on Faith’: A Case Study in Decanonization.” Dialogue 20 (Fall 1987):71-77.
- Gentry, Leland H. “What of the Lectures on Faith?” BYU Studies 19 (Fall 1978):5-19.
- Encylopedia of Mormonism article on the King Follett Discourse
- Larson, A Newly Amalgamated Text of the King Follett Discourse
- Cannon, Donald Q. “The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith’s Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective.” BYU Studies 18 (Winter 1978):179-92.
- Hale, Van. “The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse.” BYU Studies 18 (Winter 1978):209-225.
- The King Follett Sermon in the 1971 Ensign, Part 1 and Part 2.
- Ensign article: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/08/kinderhook-plates-brought-to-joseph-smith-appear-to-be-a-nineteenth-century-hoax?lang=eng (See Rough Stone Rolling pp. 489-490)
Many thanks to Devin Roth for the beautiful bumper music. Check out his arrangement of hymns and other work at DevinRothMusic!
Thanks to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for his timely efforts with post-production.
After recording that podcast, my wife and I sat down to watch Firefly. This excellent, excellent scene about the Bible came up – fits perfectly with Lesson 13 and the JST.
Why do you suppose that the JST is not the official scripture of either the LDS or RLDS church? I couldn’t tell if you discussed this at length on the podcast.
To have such an open concept of scripture is liberating but on the other hand it seems to lessen the authoritative or awe that one might have about the scripture. From the discussion, it would seems that scripture is whatever we want it to be. Joseph changed scripture, invented scripture, interpreted scripture, on and on. The church has removed scripture that was once canonized (lectures on faith, DC 101), and rearranged others so that one is left with this pliable idea of scripture. On one hand that is useful but this view of scripture does seem to lose its specialness that what God once spoke is so transitory. This is illustrated in the podcast discussion of the Book of Abraham. One guest, Ben I think, said he didn’t have a problem with the origins of it because he judged it based on its contents not on how it was transmitted. That’s fine, but that view must lead to the question of what the BofA claims to be, which is ancient scripture written by the hand of Abraham himself. So if you ignore the premise of what the book purports to be and just look of the content there is such a disconnect I cant get past. Fine, the content is interesting but is it reliable? Is it really something from God or is it the production of a man (Joseph) attempt to introduce doctrines and history into a new religion? Certainly we can have this loose, pliable view of scripture but this is not what the Church represents scripture to be ie. BofM represents what was on ancient gold plates written 2000 yrs ago. BofA represents the actual writings of Abraham himself 4000 yrs ago. If these premises don’t matter in evaluating the validity of scripture than why do they deserve any more weight than the writings of Plato, Victor Hugo, Tolkien, CS Lewis?
Astute point Chris. On one hand, I would say quite seriously that the writings of Plato, Hugo, Tolkein and Lewis very well might be as valuable as some works considered scripture. What makes scripture of course is not the text, but the readership. Scripture is writings considered sacred and authoritative by a community.
How do we determine whether something is truly of God? That is a challenging question. We need to deal with the reality that the origins of scripture (my area of expertise) is different than the *conception* of those origins, which is a factor of history of interpretation. So our options would be
1) try to maintain the “high view” of origins that does not match up to what we know of history
2) reframe our understanding of scripture in a way that both preserves the sacredness and value of scripture and gives room for a more accurate understanding of the nature of scripture.
2 is what I am trying to do with this podcast. I understand it requires an adjustment in thinking and can feel disappointing. I think it is worth it however.
A final thought, I’ve listened to MSS since its inception and really enjoy it. I have tried so hard to interject what I hear on these podcast into Sunday school but it is nearly impossible. Mormon Sunday school (at church, not the podcast) is about confirming belief not about exploring faith. I admire Jared’s attempts to model Sunday school with this podcast but its like trying to steer a tall sailing ship with a paddle. In the 5th Sunday lesson the bishop asked us to evaluate if the questions we ask in class are useful in promoting faith or used to question faith. This attitude is pervasive and as a consequence just shuts down any real discussion of a deeper faith.
Sorry to hear about your experience Chris. People have such different experiences in different wards. It is priesthood leader/community roulette to a degree. I wish I could come visit Church with you. 😉
Matt Russell says:
I love this, and I think it makes so much sense about how we “should deal with the messiness” of applying faith to the scriptures, prophets, and revelation.
Towards the end, it was discussed how some people stumble or are offended when the prophet’s perfection was called into question. Without getting into temple details explicitly, we promise to not talk bad about “the Lord’s anointed”. I had taken that to mean the prophet and / or the brethren for so long, but doesn’t “Christ” mean “anointed”? I think many people interpret this how I did for so long, and as an over-reaching behavior have developed a sensitivity to pointing out possible flaws in the characters of prophets. I see this reaction less and less, and I think that your discussion puts a good perspective on this matter.
Christian J says:
Jared and co.
Loved this episode very much. So glad that John Hamer was able to join in with a CoC perspective. I have to say that my study of the Bible through an academic lens over the past 5 years has left me wondering how I could ever appreciate something like the JST or POGP ever again. But, as usual, Jared and the group framed it in a fascinating way that I think I can actually hold onto for now. Comparing the JST to the gospel writers (copying and adding to Mark) was brilliant! As someone who finds a lot to be troubled with in regards to Mormon scripture and how we read the Bible, I was helped very much by this open discussion. Thanks.
Jared Anderson says:
Thanks so much for the feedback Christian; that means a great deal to me. Your response is exactly what I hope to accomplish in the podcast–acknowledge the complexities of life and history, while at the same time modeling an uplifting, nourishing, and effective approach to the scriptures and gospel.