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PDF Whither Mormon Studies? (Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture Book 4)

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Yet as Nephi's opening affirms alongside countless other passages that follow, the Book of Mormon, like all scripture, is a deeply sonic text. The claim may seem counter-intuitive: scripture is by its very name writing. And yet that veneer of writerly inscription obscures an underlying sonic world that ranges throughout scriptural traditions, whether in their form, content, or process of creation and revelation.

Other scriptures of the Abrahamic tradition highlight these sonic qualities in particular. In the Hebrew Bible, the central law emanates from a thundering mountain: sound as scriptural medium. Or even more centrally, the Qur'an, literally "a recitation," was delivered and promulgated orally, and despite being written down in the decades after its revelation, it continues to be understood as most complete when intoned aloud: sound as scriptural process. At first blush, the Book of Mormon might appear scripturally out of place, given its repeated fixations with its own textuality, its preservation as a book, and its incredible in all senses of the word origin story as engraved gold plates discovered in the nineteenth century.

But closer inspection suggests that perhaps the book doth protest too much-it simultaneously revels in, fears, and aspires to the condition of sound, despite its apparent obsession with writing and, by extension, visuality. What I call the aural logics of the Book of Mormon can be heard on three levels: first, in the book's repeated self-characterization as "a voice crying from the dust," casting itself not just as message but as a sonic medium; second, in the larger narrative of the book-its message-in which processes of sounding and hearing consistently undermine the stability of writing; and third, in the process of producing the book in the s, including Joseph Smith's dictating practices i.

Focusing on the acoustic registers of the Book of Mormon thus highlights the book's own theory-of-self as sound, an explanation of how certain events within the book unfold-from silence and disembodied voices after Christ's death to shaking prison walls and other architectural details-and critically, the sonic ecology of the book's own production, a process of particular interest since the recent publication of images of Joseph Smith's seer stone.

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. Read preview. Neilson Oxford University Press, A passage from Orson Pratt in the Journal of Discourses is representative of this view:.


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The Pope of Rome gathered together these contending persons in the form of a council, and they sat in judgment upon various manuscripts professing to be divine. That quarreling and contending Council decided that a certain number of books should be admitted as divine, and should form the true canon of Scripture, and that no other books should be added. We are informed that this Council rejected a vast number of books. Some of these books were considered by part of the Council to be of divine origin.

However, Pratt's characterization of the nature and significance of this council's actions as they relate to the canon of the New Testament is highly inaccurate and misleading on at least three major points: First of all, the Third Council of Carthage was not an ecumenical council convened by the bishop of Rome, but a provincial council presided over by Aurelius bishop of Carthage. It therefore made no claim to speak for or to the entire Christian Church.

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While it issued what appears to have been the first formal pronouncement regarding the limits of the New Testament canon, it was merely affirming what had already been largely settled by A. In the words of the late Prof. Bruce of the University Aberdeen, this council " The historical process by which the limits of the canon were established was distinctly not a conciliar one; its basis was not an appeal to the authority of a pope, or council of bishops, but to objective, historical qualities possessed by the books themselves.

Three criteria in particular seem to have guided the early Christians as they judged whether a book was God-breathed New Testament Scripture: Apostolic origin —a book needed to have its origin in the small band of Apostles appointed by Christ himself. Apostolic origin was understood to include several books penned by close associates of the apostles, written under their influence and during their lifetimes. For instance, the Gospel of Mark was considered apostolic because Mark was a close associate of the Apostle Peter.

In the words of Papias, bishop of Hieropolis A. Continuous usage by the Church — a book needed an unbroken record from ancient times of use in public reading among Christian congregations. This guaranteed its historical link to the Apostles. It was also practical evidence of its edifying value in the lives of countless rank and file believers. Thus, for example, Eusebius ca. Since God cannot lie or contradict himself, nothing he reveals will conflict with previous revelation Deuteronomy ; Galatians Considering the widespread, decentralized nature of the early Christian congregations, and the fact that each of the various New Testament writings was originally delivered to a single local congregation or individual, it is surprising to discover how quickly they were copied, circulated, and their status as Scripture recognized.

A reference in the Second Epistle of Peter shows that already in the apostolic age the epistles of Paul were being collected, and accorded the same status as the Old Testament Scriptures:. As early as A. Clement, for example, commended the reading of 1 Corinthians, saying, "Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit he wrote to you.

Among the early witnesses to the Scriptural status of these 20 books are the Muratorian Canon ca. Bruce M. Metzger concludes:. What is really remarkable is that, though the fringes of the New Testament canon remained unsettled for centuries, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained within the first two centuries among the very diverse and scattered congregations not only throughout the Mediterranean world but also over an area extending from Britain to Mesopotamia.

In the historical process by which the New Testament canon was finalized, only two limited areas of significant disagreement arose: One group of seven widely used books, ultimately included in the canon, but which some in the early Church disputed for a time, and a second group of four books which some initially accepted as Scripture, but which were rejected after further evaluation.

Books disputed by some. Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, John, Jude and Revelation were highly regarded and widely used in the early Church, but did not earn universal recognition as Scripture immediately. This is because some in the early Church had questions about their authorship. By the middle of the fourth century these questions had been resolved, and since then the books have been unquestioned within the historic Christian community.

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Books accepted by some. Four books — The Shepherd of Hermas, the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter — were highly regarded for a time by some in the early Church. However, they were ultimately rejected because they were determined not to be apostolic in origin, 32 and to include some teachings not in harmony with known apostolic doctrine.

It should be noted that in addition to these disputed writings, there was a much larger category of books vying for the early Church's attention, but which were rejected by virtually all in the early Christian community. These self-proclaimed apostolic works — such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Matthias, and the Acts of Paul — were obvious frauds designed to support the doctrinal agendas of various heretical groups. The contemporary reader need only peruse these works to see how obviously lacking they are in the simple grace and self-authenticating authority of the New Testament books.

In the words of M.

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James, "It will very quickly be seen that there is no question of anyone's having excluded them from the New Testament: they have done that for themselves. Bruce R. McConkie suggests that fleeting references to an otherwise unknown Laodicean epistle Colossians , and a third epistle to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians , mean the apostle wrote inspired books that were rejected or lost. For instance, what McConkie cites as an "epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans," is actually an "epistle from the Laodiceans" see Col. The epistle in question is probably simply the New Testament book of Ephesians, which was a circular letter — like Colosians itself Col.

Regarding the epistle mentioned in 1 Corinthians , this may indeed have been a letter of Paul that has not been preserved. However, in categorizing this as "lost scripture," McConkie simply assumes that everything written by an apostle was inspired Scripture. But there is no compelling basis for such an assumption. Instead, when we consider the early Church's universal respect for the writings of Paul, and the fact that its literature quotes extensively and exclusively from his canonical epistles, we may safely conclude that in the providence of God this unknown epistle was not preserved because it did not bear the stamp of inspired revelation.

Leon Morris cogently comments,. We need not be greatly surprised If it was capable of being misconstrued, and if the correct teaching was given more fully in a letter we now have, there was no point in preserving the former letter. These Jewish sectarian books date from the inter-testamental period B. Peterson and Ricks describe the New Testament Epistle of Jude as "draw[ing] heavily" on these works, 40 and they claim that in the early Christian community Enoch and the Assumption commanded respect equal to that of the canonical books.

However, there are serious flaws in both the facts and reasoning of the Peterson-Ricks argument, and compelling reasons for concluding that 1 Enoch and the Assumption are not inspired Scripture. First, contrary to the characterization of Peterson and Ricks, Jude's use of material from these two works is quite limited. There is a reference in Jude 9 to a dispute between Michael and the Devil over the body of Moses that appears to show literary dependence on the Assumption of Moses, 42 and a reference in Jude 14 to a prophecy of Enoch the ancient patriarch from the book of Genesis that is probably a quotation of 1 Enoch Second, it is a logical fallacy to argue that because an inspired biblical author such as Jude reports material from Jewish oral tradition or other extra-biblical sources, that those sources in their entirety must be considered accurate and theologically valid.

Third, Enoch and the Assumption are pre-Christian, Jewish books, that were not considered sacred Scripture by the ancient Jewish community. It is true our history has been written since Artaxerxes, very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.

This testimony is highly significant, because according to the Romans , the Jewish people were the divinely appointed custodians of Old Testament revelation "What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them are committed the oracles of God. And in Matthew and Luke ,51 Jesus' expression "from Abel to Zechariah" is a way of summarizing all the contents of these three divisions. None of the inter-testamental Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books were included in these three traditional divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures i.

In the words of the great biblical scholar Jerome ca. Jude the brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven catholic [general] epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch it is rejected by many. Nevertheless by age and use it has gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures. Apocalypse of Peter. In support of the scriptural status of this work, Peterson and Ricks cite its inclusion in the Muratorian Canon ca. However, they neglect to mention that the reference to it there includes this significant caveat: "which some of our people do not want to have read in the Church.

This book from ca. However, it is never so identified by any earlier writer, and modern scholars almost universally dismiss this view. And it is inaccurate to imply, as Peterson and Ricks do, that Clement of Alexandria died ca. In fact, he classes it a "disputed" work. Epistle of Clement. Unlike the Epistle of Barnabas, this work, from ca.

Like Barnabas, it enjoyed wide popularity in the early Christian community as an edifying work, but certainly not as authoritative Scripture. This is another book that was popular with many in the early Church, but which never achieved universal recognition as divinely inspired Scripture. The Muratorian Canon cites specific grounds for its disqualification, namely, that it was produced in the second century by Hermas, who was not contemporary with the apostles, and thus could not have written under apostolic direction: "But Hermas wrote the Shepherd quite lately in our time And therefore it ought indeed to be read, but it cannot be read publicly in the Church.

In summary, none of the six books suggested by Peterson and Ricks were universally recognized by the early Church as inspired Scripture, as were the canonical New Testament books. However, one wonders why even a Mormon should take the suggestions of McConkie or Peterson and Ricks seriously, since the First Presidency of the LDS Church has never chosen to incorporate any of these supposedly lost scriptures into its own editions of the King James Version Bible including the edition in which material from the Joseph Smith Translation has been added.

It would surely have done so if any of these books were known through the claimed gift of prophet, seer and revelator to be lost books of sacred Scripture. Latter-day Revelation As was noted at the beginning of this paper, it is a cardinal tenet of Mormonism that the canon of Scripture is not closed and that God is still revealing new truth through latter-day prophets. This is expressed very forcefully in 2 Nephi , Thou fool that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

And because I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. Elder A. Theodore Tuttle emphasized the importance of latter-day revelation in an address to the Spring LDS General Conference: "Our salvation is contingent upon our belief in a living prophet and adherence to his word.

There are two basic reasons.

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First, because the New Testament portrays the office of apostle as limited to the small band of men appointed by Christ himself at the time of his earthly ministry, and makes no provision for the succession of others to this one-time office. The apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus' earthly ministry and resurrection Acts ,22; 1 Corinthians , and their writings are the Church's foundation and final authority Ephesians The early Christians recognized the unique authority of Paul and "the Twelve.

Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ The humble words of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch A. They were apostles; while I am, even until now, a servant. The rationale given in a second century Christian document, the so-called Muratorian Canon ca. It illustrates both the conviction of the early Church that the office of apostle was not an on-going office, and the implications of this point for establishing the limits of the New Testament canon:.

But Hermas composed The Shepherd quite recently in our times in the city of Rome, while his brother Pius, the bishop, occupied the seat of the city of Rome. And therefore, it should indeed be read, but it cannot be published for the people in the Church [i. Just as the canon of the Old Testament dispensation was understood by the Jewish people and the early Church to have been completed and closed after the time of the prophet Malachi, so now the New Testament canon was understood to be completed and closed with the passing of the apostles appointed by Jesus Christ as his authoritative messengers.

Second, historic Christianity does not look for latter-day revelation because the Bible presents Christ's incarnation, atoning death, and victorious resurrection as the once-for-all culmination of God's plan of salvation foretold and foreshadowed in the Old Testament Hebrews ; ; ; Jude 3. Thus, how could additional revelation add anything essential to the Christian message? To the contrary, how could it avoid being merely superfluous, or far worse, a dangerous source of counterfeit spirituality 1 John ? Surely, at the very least, latter-day revelation would have to be in complete accord with New Testament apostolic Scripture Galatians —"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

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Hebrews asks a sobering question which highlights the foundation of the Christian message on the two-fold testimony of Christ and the apostles he personally appointed: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. The Church's task is rather to preach and teach and defend the faith "once-for-all delivered unto the saints' Jude 3 , until Christ returns.

Here is Joseph Smith's standard reply to those who challenged him on the matters of the finality of the Bible and latter-day revelation: "Is there anything in the Bible which licenses you to believe in revelation now-a-days? Is there anything that does not authorize us to believe so? Is not the canon of the Scriptures full? If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so.

In response to Smith, let it be said that there are indeed important biblical and historical grounds for believing that God is no longer revealing doctrinal truth to His Church, and for concluding that the canon of Scripture has been completed. In summary, the reasons are three:. These points are addressed in greater detail in the last section of this paper. As quoted by Elder A. Deseret Book Co. This detail is supplied in Matthew , a parallel account of Jesus' hearing before the Sanhedrin.

George Reynolds and Janne E. Sjodohl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon , 7 vols. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible!

A Mormon Studies Roundtable

Bookcraft, , p. Thus, for example, LDS George Reynolds in his Commentary on the Book of Mormon reports the scholarly consensus with which he apparently agrees established by the scientific examination of "thousands of manuscripts" that "in all essential particulars the text [of the New Testament] we have is identical with the original writings. Robinson," Early Christianity and 1 Nephi ," p. Nibley, p. Roger R. See especially, Revelation ; ; ; James E.

It is notable that although this book was originally published in , it remains in print and is copyrighted by the LDS Church. Thus, it apparently continues to accurately represent the LDS Church's official teaching on the subject of the Apostasy. For bibliographic references, see notes 10 and Ibid; cf. Ackroyd and C. Evans, eds. Cambridge University Press, , See the next section of this paper where details of the canonization process are discussed in greater detail.

Against Heresies, IV, Talmage, The Great Apostasy , p. Again, we note that this book was originally published in , but remains in print and is copyrighted by the LDS Church. In a similar vein, LDS apostle B. Roberts acknowledged that, "Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Journal of Discourses , 26 vols.