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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Tuesday Sep 26, 2023

Because of our location in time and good record keeping, we are privileged to have an up close and personal view of the production of modern scriptural canon. And it’s a bit of a rollercoaster! From its first publication in 1835 to its current version today the Doctrine and Covenants has undergone major additions, deletions, rearrangement, and textual changes to its contents. 
In this episode of Church History Matters we’ll take a ride through the history of this iterative production of the Doctrine and Covenants from its earliest 1833 version known as the Book of Commandments, to its 1835 version which added new revelations and 7 major theological lectures known as The Lectures on Faith, to the 1844 version which added a few crucial revelations and was the last version most of branches of the Restoration agreed upon after Joseph’s death, to the 1876 version which contained MASSIVE additions and rearranging, to the 1921 version which de-canonized the Lectures on Faith, and finally to the version we use today which underwent revisions as recently as 2013. So please keep your arms and legs inside at all times as we as we now embark on our tour of the ongoing story of the Doctrine and Covenants!
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Sep 19, 2023

One of the biggest criticisms of scripture generally is the extent to which humans were involved in its production. On the one hand, we can’t really expect scripture to be effortlessly beamed down from heaven to flawed and imperfect humans and then interpreted flawlessly and recorded perfectly, can we? But on the other hand, how “divine” and trustworthy can scripture be if flawed humans were involved in writing it, compiling it, editing it, and publishing it?  
In this episode of Church History Matters, we discuss an important, albeit not fool-proof, process to mitigate against human weakness and error in scripture. And that’s called “canonization.” We look at the difference between scripture, scripture canon, and what we call “the harmonized scripture canon.” We discuss why these distinctions matter, what’s involved in the process of scripture canonization, and how the production of the Doctrine and Covenants itself offers us a window into this important process.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Sep 12, 2023

Did Joseph Smith ever consider his Bible translation work finished? Will the JST ever be canonized and replace the King James Version as the official Latter-day Saint Bible? Why haven’t any other of our prophets since Joseph Smith engaged in similar translation work? How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s Bible revision work with Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:19 which actually warn against adding to the Bible? Is there any evidence whatsoever that Joseph Smith consulted any outside sources in his Bible translation work? Does the fact that Joseph Smith’s Bible translation started out with massive amounts of new and significant revealed text and then tapered off at the end with only minor revisions support the narrative that Joseph became a fallen prophet? If not, how else can we make sense of this timeline?
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dive into all of these questions and more with Dr. Kent Jackson, a scholar on Joseph Smith’s Bible translation. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Sep 05, 2023

In his Bible translation project did Joseph Smith plagiarize the work of a prominent British scholar named Adam Clarke? Or, if you don’t want to call it plagiarism, did Joseph Smith “borrow” or appropriate phrases and ideas from Adam Clarke’s Bible commentary (without attribution) which are found in our JST footnotes today? This is the question at the heart of the biggest modern controversy surrounding Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation.
In this episode of Church History Matters, we trace the origins of this controversy back to a series of interviews and articles by BYU Professor Thomas Wayment and his research assistant Hailey Wilson-Lemmon beginning in 2017 and culminating in a book chapter published in 2020. And as we are inclined to do with all things related to Joseph Smith’s Bible translation, we’ll look to expert Kent Jackson for his take on the claims of Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon in an article he published as a critique and refutation of their research. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Aug 29, 2023

Because there are no explicitly stated purposes of Joseph Smith’s Bible translation project—either by him or in any of his revelations—all explanations offered about or criticisms leveled at his Bible translation are based on assumptions and best guesses at best.
But then, there’s nothing wrong with educated best guesses so long as we are not overly dogmatic and we humbly recognize the tentativeness of our position. The current best evidence from the best scholarship on the topic proposes that the Joseph Smith Translations of the Bible was intended to be and to do several things, rather than just one thing.
On this episode of Church History Matters we’ll review these potential purposes and offer another possibility about what we believe may be the PRIMARY purpose behind Joseph’s Bible translation—what we call the revelatory springboard effect.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Aug 22, 2023

Aside from his Book of Mormon translation project, Joseph Smith engaged in at least three other scripture production projects that we know of. The first was his ambitious Bible translation project we now know as the Joseph Smith Translation, the second was the printing of his own revelations which we now know as the Doctrine and Covenants, and the third was his project of translation which commenced after he acquired papyrus scrolls from Egypt which we now know as the Book of Abraham. Throughout this new series we will consider each of these fascinating projects in turn, including the points of controversy connected with each. 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we begin our exploration of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, or the JST for short. When did it begin? Why didn’t we get this into Latter-day Saint Bibles until 1979? What does the word “translate” mean in this context in light of the fact that Joseph Smith didn’t know Hebrew or Greek during this project? And what are some assumptions Church members often bring to the text of the JST that may not be warranted?
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Aug 15, 2023

Some people see a connection between the Church’s past restrictive policy towared blacks in the Church and the Church’s current restrictive policy toward gays in the Church—specifically prohibiting gay temple marriage. In what ways are these two issues similar and in what ways are they different? How can church members reconcile (a) the teaching that the prophet / president won't ever lead the church astray with (b) the fact that church presidents for over a century taught false doctrine about blacks? How might the scriptural basis of the Lamanites being cursed with a “skin of blackness” (2 Ne 5:21) have influenced early church leaders’ thoughts on justifying the initial priesthood and temple restrictions? And what should we make of that curse anyway? Why didn't God clearly communicate earlier to his prophets that it was His will that ALL His children would receive the blessings of the priesthood and the temple?
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dive into all of these questions and more with Dr. Paul Reeve, as scholar on race in Latter-day Saint history.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Aug 08, 2023

Paul Reeve recently wrote: 
In June 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation which returned the Church to its universal roots and restored what was lost, priesthood and temple admission to people of African descent. This … did not mark something new as much as it reestablished a commitment to the founding principles of the Restoration. [It] reconfirmed the Church’s original universalism, that the human family in all of its diversity is equal in God’s sight, that Jesus Christ claims “all flesh” as his own, that he is “no respecter of persons,” (D&C 1:34-35; 38:16) and that “all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden” (2 Nephi 26:28).
In this episode of Church History Matters, we take a close look at the details surrounding this watershed revelation of reversion and repair. Both out on the peripheries of the Church and at heart of Church headquarters within the presiding councils we’ll see the Lord gently influencing circumstances toward the fulfillment of his purposes. Yet he waited with divine patience until all of the apostles were unified in approaching him with a desire to lift the ban—then he made his will known with power. The story we trace today of how they get there under President Kimball’s gentle leadership is instructive on so many levels.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Aug 01, 2023

In 1907, the First Presidency codified the Church’s official policy about black African participation in both priesthood and temple declaring that, “No one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters not how remote a degree) can either have the Priesthood in any degree or the blessings of the Temple of God; no matter how otherwise worthy he may be.”
By contrast, in 2020 Church President Russell M. Nelson reminded all church members that, “Your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments and not the color of your skin.”
The major catalyst shifting the Church away from that discriminatory 1907 policy and toward the marvelous inclusivity encapsulated in President Nelson’s words, was the Lord’s revelation to Church leaders in 1978. But this revelation didn’t come all of the sudden nor out of the blue; in fact, it was decades in coming and grew out of the convergence of real-world circumstances in which Church leaders found themselves and the Church. 
In today’s episode of Church History Matters, we take a look at some of the relevant historical developments in the Church during the 70 year period from 1908-1978—from the decades-long season of racial hardening and exclusion, to a softening and relaxing of certain Church policies under President David O. McKay in the 1950s and 60s, to disharmony and divergence of views among the apostles in the 60s, and finally to the unexpected call of Spencer W. Kimball as Church president in 1973. So today we set the stage for next week's climactic episode all about the details of the 1978 revelation itself.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Jul 25, 2023

Once people come to terms with the uncomfortable idea that Brigham Young committed an error in endorsing a priesthood ban on church members with black African ancestry, a puzzling question naturally follows: “If the ban was an error, then why didn’t it get corrected earlier than 1978?! There were nine Church presidents between Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball and 101 years between President Young’s death in 1877 and President Kimball’s revelation in 1978. So why did it take so long to correct this mistake and again offer full privileges to black Africans in the Church as they had enjoyed in Joseph Smith’s day?”    
In today’s episode of Church History Matters, we attempt to offer at least the beginning of an answer to this question by tracing the key moments and decisions in the leadership councils of the Church when, instead of correcting this error, they came to conclusions that led to an unfortunate hardening in place of the priesthood ban. In this episode, the years 1879, 1904, 1907, and 1908 will sadly be added alongside the year 1852 as we piece together both the timeline and the reasoning behind this ban.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

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