Church History Matters

The Church History Matters Podcast features in-depth conversations between Scott and Casey where they dive deep into both the challenges and beauty of Latter-day Saint Church History

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5 days ago

The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith was among the most tragic and defining moments in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it continues to reverberate deeply in the hearts and minds of Latter-day Saints around the world. Hyrum was 44 years old and Joseph was 38 and a half when they were murdered in cold-blood in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Many have read the brief account of the events of that day outlined in section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants and wondered what more there was to know about this poignant event in our history. Like, how did they come to be incarcerated in Carthage Jail in the first place? What were the charges against them? Who had the motivations to kill Joseph Smith and why? Was Joseph betrayed by insiders or was this entirely an outside job? Who were those in the mob who actually pulled the trigger, and were they ever brought to justice? 
On this episode of Church History Matters, we begin a new series where we seek to begin pinning down answers to these and other related questions about this highly significant event. Specifically we will take a close look today at what we know about some of the external factors—especially political ones—that led to the martyrdom. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday May 14, 2024

What do we know about the purposes and function of the Holy of Holies? And do all temples have one? The word “seal” or “sealing” seems to have multiple meanings. What are those meanings? Also, has the Church’s teachings on wearing garments changed over time? And is there anything doctrinal about the length of garments? Since the garment length has changed in the past to accommodate changes in modern clothing styles, could we expect them to change again as styles continue to change? Furthermore, how do we reconcile examples of clear covenental changes in the endowment ceremony with the common narrative that the covenants don’t change?
Today on Church History Matters we sit down with Dr. Richard Bennett, one of the world’s foremost scholars on LDS temple development during the 19th century, to discuss these and other great questions. And, by the way, we apologize in advance for some difficulties with the audio recording of Dr. Bennett. For whatever reason, several times during this interview his audio didn’t record properly and so it was sadly unusable. But we hope you’ll enjoy what we were able to capture from the responses of this great Latter-day Saint scholar. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday May 07, 2024

1904 marked the beginning of what would become a grueling 4-year-long senate hearing of US sentator and apostle Reed Smoot. It is intriguing—and important—to learn how this crucible of intensive government examination into every aspect of the Church led to a posture of much greater openness about the temple to outsiders. In fact those hearings, followed by a backfired blackmail attempt by a man who threatened to release illicit pictures he had taken of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple, led Church leaders—really for the first time—to go on the offensive and proactively tell our own story about LDS temple beliefs and practices. 
In this episode of Church History Matters we’ll talk about the Smoot hearings and the blackmail attempt; as well as dig into the origin of temple garments, their symbolism, and changes made to their design over the years. We’ll also discuss major innovations in how the temple endowment was presented (which included some help from Walt Disney studios), a cool floating temple boat idea that never happened, as well as how President Gordon B. Hinckley’s temple innovations and prolific temple-building ministry became an inflection point which set the Church on a trajectory to build thousands of temples in the years to come.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Temple Work Without Temples

Tuesday Apr 30, 2024

Tuesday Apr 30, 2024

Beginning in 1846, thousands of Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois and trekked over one thousand miles west to the Salt Lake Valley.  Having, of necessity, abandoned the Nauvoo Temple for which they had worked so hard and sacrificed so much, they were now a temple-centered people without a temple. Now they certainly would go on to build more temples—the first of which was the Saint George Temple, completed in 1877—but how would the saints do temple related work in the meantime?
In this episode of Church History Matters, Casey and Scott walk through the unique story of how temple work continued during that 30-year season of no temples, where Church leaders used Ensign Peak, a multi-purpose building called the Council House, a one-of-a-kind building called the Endowment House, and administrative offices for these purposes. We’ll also highlight some important take-aways from Church leaders’ response to the crushing government legislation they faced in the late 1880s forcing the decision between losing all temples or ending the practice of plural marriage.  
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Apr 23, 2024

During the last years of his life, the prophet Joseph Smith gave multiple public sermons dealing with 2 Peter 1, wherein the apostle Peter encourages his readers to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (vs. 10). Commenting on this phrase the prophet explained that to have one’s “calling and election” made sure meant to “obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life.” And he explained that such a promise could be mediated through the keys restored by Elijah. By “this power of Elijah,” he said on one occasion, “we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. [And] to obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure.” In another sermon he confirmed, “the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure.” 
In 2 Peter 1, Peter also speaks of obtaining the “more sure word of prophecy” (vs. 19), a phrase the prophet Joseph similarly interpreted to mean “a man’s knowing that he was sealed up unto eternal life … through the power of the Holy priesthood.”  
This was the theology—the possibility of being sealed up unto eternal life under the keys restored by Elijah. 
Then came the practice. 
Beginning in 1843 in Nauvoo, the prophet introduced a sacred ordinance to his most trusted associates wherein, using the keys of Elijah which he held, husbands and wives were sealed up unto eternal life. This was not the marriage ordinance. This was more, given to those already married. It was an ordinance sometimes referred to in the historical record as “the second anointing.” 
In this episode of Church History Matters, Casey and Scott discuss what they know about the theology and early practice of the second anointing. We also discuss the early—and now discontinued—sealing practice called “the law of adoption” wherein men and women were sealed into the families of Church leaders as their children. They also briefly touch on the now extinct practice of temple-like prayer circles that were conducted outside of the temple for many years in our history. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Monday Apr 15, 2024

The prophet Joseph Smith’s final years in Nauvoo, IL constituted a season of rich theological and ritual convergence. It was a time when various threads of biblical and revealed theology gave birth to the Latter-day temple rituals that would enable us to enact that very theology. It was in Nauvoo that the picture became clear. Every revealed ordinance builds with deep meaning to the next, until finally reaching the pinnacle ordinance of sealing wife and husband together for eternity. All theological and ritual threads come together at this point. 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dig into when and where the ritual of marriage sealings first began in the Church and explore the tight weave between this ordinance and the theological threads of God’s true nature, the existence of Heavenly Mother, and mankind’s created purpose and destiny. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Apr 09, 2024

Welcome to our special bonus episode where Casey and I interview a friend of our show Lon Tibbitts. In our previous episode we discussed at length the relationship between masonry and the development of the temple endowment in Nauvoo—a topic a lot of people have questions about. So we thought you might enjoy hearing from Lon Tibbitts who has served both as an LDS ward bishop and as a Master of his Masonic lodge in Utah. Lon is a keen student of both masonic and LDS history, and in this interview he sheds light on the origins of freemasonry; on why so many Nauvoo Latter-day Saints joined the fraternity; on connections between masonry and the endowment, the Relief Society, and the martyrdom of Joseph Smith; as well as the later fraught relationship between freemasons and Latter-day Saints in Utah. We hope you enjoy it. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Apr 02, 2024

What Latter-day Saints today call the Temple Endowment was first given by the prophet Joseph Smith in 1842, two years prior to his death, to a small group of nine of his trusted associates in Nauvoo, Illinois. It was a key piece of the larger vibrant temple liturgy then developing in Nauvoo. But where did this temple endowment come from? What was its relationship to the prophet’s previous revelations? And what, if anything, was its relationship to masonry which Joseph Smith had joined only two months before administering that first endowment to his nine friends (who, by the way, were all masons as well)? 
In this episode of Church History Matters, Casey and Scott dig into the details of what we know (or think we know) about the origins of the Temple endowment ritual. They discuss several of what they believe are primary source materials the Prophet Joseph drew from as he formulated this important ordinance under inspiration. And they also offer a Nauvoo angle to the meaning of the word “Restoration.”
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Mar 26, 2024

As the climax of the Kirtland endowment on April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith received sacred keys in rapid succession from Moses, Elias, and Elijah. This was the primary purpose for which the Kirtland Temple was built! Joseph had now received all that was necessary for the next phase of temple building which he hoped would take place in Northern Missouri at the settlements of Far West and Adam-Ondi-Ahman. But, due to heinous persecution, neither of these temples ever came to be and the saints found themselves in 1839 as refugees in a swampy, milaria-infested peninsula in Illinois that the Prophet would name “Nauvoo.” It was there over the next few years that the theology, the rituals, and those Kirtland keys, like pieces of a puzzle, began to come together to reveal the stunning purpose of the Nauvoo temple and every temple that would be built thereafter. The Lord referred to this temple-purpose as restoring “the fulness of the priesthood.” The prophet Joseph referred to it as “the restoration of the priesthood” or as the work of connecting “the priesthood.” But what does this mean? And how would the ordinances given to men and women, living and dead, constitute the work of restoring “the priesthood”?   
In this episode of Church History Matters we’re excited to talk about all of this! 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Mar 19, 2024

In 1831 the Lord promised the New York saints that if they would gather together with Church members in Ohio they would there “be endowed with power from on high.” Trusting this promise most of them moved to Ohio in expectation of receiving this endowment, or gift, of power from on high. But what exactly was this endowment? What “power” was given from on high? Was it one thing, or several things? And how was this gift (or gifts) of power received in the Kirtland temple so crucial in the unfolding story of the development of Latter-day Saint temple worship in general and to our personal temple experience today? 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dig into the surprising yet satisfying answers to these important questions.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

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