This first installment features Scott H. Faulring’s article, “An Examination of the 1829 ‘Articles of the Church of Christ’ in Relation to Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants,” available here. The long title introduces a careful examination of a fascinating document: the 1829 “Articles of the Church of Christ,” composed by Oliver Cowdery, is a little-known forebear to D&C 20, the 1830 “Articles and Covenants.” Faulring’s thorough treatment includes a discussion of the relationship between the two documents, a close summary of the “Articles,” and a complete holograph photographic reproduction of the handwritten text. The article raises compelling questions about the nature of revelation, the place of bibliographic research, and the role of the Book of Mormon in Latter-day Saint doctrine and practice. So go forth, read, and return and respond to the questions below, pose your own to Dr. Faulring, or otherwise discuss!
1. Scott Faulring presents almost all readers with a first-ever look at a document written by Oliver Cowdery in 1829, fully transcribed on pp. 76-79, and summarized on pp. 65-67. As you read this document, did it add anything to your understanding of Church history? How does it confirm or modify any assumptions you have made in the past about the beginnings of Mormonism? Is this an important document, or merely a footnote in Church history?
2. Terryl Givens’ By the Hand of Mormon argues that the Book of Mormon’s most important relationship to the restored Church is as “a concrete manifestation of sacred utterance, and thus an evidence of divine presence,” rather than as “a repository of theological claims”; that is, “what it signifies as an event may be more important than what it actually says.” Judging from the significant presence of Book of Mormon content in Cowdery’s “Articles,” should Givens’ point be qualified somewhat? Do you think that Cowdery would agree or disagree with Givens’ assessment of the Book of Mormon?
3. What, if anything, do Cowdery’s “Articles” tell us about the relationship between the Nephite church and the early restored Church of Jesus Christ?
4. Faulring sees quite a difference between Cowdery’s “Articles” and Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Do you agree with him? Is there any evidence that Joseph Smith had Cowdery’s document in mind as he revealed what would eventually be referred to as the “church articles and covenants” (D&C 33:14) or “the covenants and church articles” (D&C 42:13)? What do think is the nature of the relationship between the two documents?
5. Should bibliographic research be relevant to scripture study? If you could ask Scott Faulring a question about his bibliographic or documentary research in generating this article, what would you want to ask him? (With a little luck, we might be able to get him to answer!)
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