The Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk is approaching its 5-year anniversary. With those 5 years of content in mind, they have gathered snippets of information from their interviews into compilations, one each featuring the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Jr., and Brigham Young. They’re pretty fun and interesting to peruse to see what has been shared at From the Desk about those topics over the years.
For example, with the Book of Mormon, there is a lot of information to look through. Some if it is relatively well-known already, such as that the Book of Mormon helps Latter-day Saints Isaiah, the process that Joseph Smith went through wasn’t exactly a language-to-language translation in the sense we generally think of today, and Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote the current section headings. Other parts are less commonly-known, such as the fact that Jane Manning James held Joseph Smith’s seer stone, that there’s a lot more to the Martin Harris story than is commonly told, and that Emma Smith took efforts to protect the gold plates. For example, in discussing the seer stone story with Jane Manning, the following is shared:
Jane Manning James had the opportunity to handle Joseph Smith’s seer stones. Biographer Quincy Newell said that the priceless opportunity occurred while living in the Nauvoo Mansion House.
In the words of Jane Manning James:
One morning I met Brother Joseph coming out of his Mother’s room he said good morning and shook hands with me. I went in to his Mother’s room she said good morning, bring me that bundle from my bureau and sit down here.
I did as she told me, she placed the bundle in my hands and said, handle this and then put in the top drawer of my … bureau and lock it up.
After I had done it she said sit down.
Do you remember that I told you about the Urim and Thummim when I told you about the Book of Mormon?
I answered, yes Ma’am, she then told me I had just handled it. You are not permitted to see it, but you have been permitted to handle it. You will live long after I am dead and gone. And you can tell the Latter-day Saints, that you was permitted to handle the Urim and Thummim.
So, some good stuff to dig your teeth into.
The piece on Joseph Smith is similarly a mix of familiar and unfamiliar information. Among the familiar is information about multiple First Vision accounts, he was, in many ways, a normal human being that many of us can relate to, and that he ran for president. Still, there is a lot of unfamiliar facts to explore, such as there being a Lego Joseph Smith, interesting info about his family and their impact on his life and work, and suggestions of movies and books/articles that feature the life of Joseph Smith to explore. One snippet that caught my eye was a discussion about how he created a legacy of fighting against poverty:
The Prophet never accomplished his goals of creating economic parity among the Latter-day Saints. “For various reasons, the attempts had failed,” said Jeffrey Paul Thompson. However, his successor took up the mantle. Brigham Young founded Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) in 1869, with an eye on eliminating poverty about the Utah pioneers.
Given that the ZCMI interview came out last week that is being referenced in the quote, it’s a fair point to make that it’s worthwhile to check back in on these cornerstone pieces occasionally, as they will be updated.
In many ways, the Brigham Young piece is particularly fascinating to explore because he is often less well-studied than the Prophet Joseph Smith. Information about his preaching style and mannerisms, the accuracy of recorded sermons published in the Journal of Discourses, the number of wives he had and his cause of death, and even the Bear Lake Monster are included. Clarifications about elevators being included in the design of the Salt Lake Temple, whether his hearse is found in Disneyland, and how he was able to compliment the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2004 are given. And his relationship with the Latter-day Saints, his first wife, and even Emma Hale Smith are discussed. One snippet I found particularly interesting had to do with the theology he shared. As stated in the interview:
The nature of God’s progression is an open question in Latter-day Saint theology. Brigham believed that God progressed in knowledge, while his doctrinal sparring partner, Orson Pratt, took the opposite point of view.
The debate has continued into the present day. “I found it interesting that Brigham Young . . . and Elder McConkie . . . disagreed about this issue,” said Tim Morrison in an interview about the first 60 years of BYU Studies Quarterly.
It’s an interesting glimpse into an interesting mind, with links to a deeper look at the topic in question.
With the above in mind, I recommend heading on over to the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk to explore these cornerstone pieces on Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon.