William James’s Mormon correspondent

April 13, 2004 | 6 comments
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This is just a little historical thing that I have been curious about and I thought that the collective knowledge that gathers here could produce a definitive answer:

In Lecture 19 of The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James discusses Joseph Smith’s revelations as an example of of “sensorial,” as opposed to “motor,” revelation. Then, in a footnote, James writes:

“The Mormon theocracy has always been governed by direct revelations accorded to the President of the Church and its Apostles. From an obliging letter written to me in 1899 by an eminent Mormon, I quote the following extract: ‘It may be very interesting for you to know that the President [Mr. Snow] of the Mormon Church claims to have had a number of revelations very recently from heaven. To explain fully what these revelations are, it is necessary to know that we, as a people, believe that the Church of Jesus Christ has again been established through messengers sent from heaven. This Church has at its head a prophet, seer, and revelator, who gives to man God’s holy will. Revelation is the means through which the will of God is declared directly and in fullness to man. These revelations are got through dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind, by voices without visional appearance or by actual manifestations of the Holy Presence before the eye. We believe that God has come in person and spoken to our prophet and revelator.’

My question is, Who is this “eminent” Mormon correspondent? I suspect it was B.H. Roberts, but does anyone know for sure?

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6 Responses to William James’s Mormon correspondent

  1. Nate Oman on April 13, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    Greg: I was once told by a person who had had access to George Q. Cannon’s diaries, that Cannon was the person who corresponded with James. Take that for what it is worth.

  2. Bob Caswell on April 13, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    I am the only person who finds no coincidence in Nate being the first to have an answer to this question? :-)

  3. clark goble on April 13, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    I’m curious as to what revelations of Pres. Snow he was refering to.

  4. Grasshopper on April 13, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    This bit doesn’t sound to me like B.H. Roberts:

    “These revelations are got through dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind, by voices without visional appearance or by actual manifestations of the Holy Presence before the eye.”

    It’s too colloquial.

  5. Scott on April 13, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    In Dr. Paulsen’s class on William James I remember that question coming up. But I can’t remember the answer. I would recommend that someone ask Dr. Paulsen.

    Scott

  6. Greg Call on April 13, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    As I recall, Paulsen guessed it was Roberts, but he wasn’t sure.

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