Author: Chad Nielsen

Chad’s three great intellectual passions in life are science, history/religious studies, and music. He has pursued a career in biotechnology, but maintains an active interest in both of his other passions on the side. Chad is a four-time winning contestant in the Arrington Writing Award competition held at Utah State University for his essays on Mormon history and has presented at the Logan Institute of Religion scholar’s forum and the annual meeting of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology. He is a faithful Latter-day Saint who has served in a variety of music, teaching, and clerical callings at his church as well as in the music ministry of a Presbyterian church. Currently he is serving as a music missionary as a member of the Bells on Temple Square.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 13: A Mission Revived

The closure of the mission in Mexico in 1889 led to an 12-year gap in the presence of missionaries and official church leadership in central Mexico. Ammon Tenney worked to restart the mission, connecting with the Latter-day Saints who were effectively abandoned and beginning new efforts at proselytizing.

Remember the “F.” And seniority.

I know I’ve talked a bit about Joseph F. Smith (JFS) lately, but the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk recently shared another interview about him. This time around, Dennis Horne spoke about Joseph F. Smith’s succession to the presidency of the Church, but it also covers other info about this pivotal president of the Church. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with quotes and some commentary by myself).

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 12: Bautista’s Lamanites

While efforts to gather converts from central Mexico failed and the mission in central Mexico closed, there would still be future successes. Among the earliest converts in the 20th century in Mexico, the Bautista family would go on to have an impact on the Church for years to come, including the development of an indigenous-affirming perspective on Lamanite identity.

Carthage and the Nauvoo Expositor

The Joseph Smith Papers recently released a final podcast series, the Road to Carthage podcast, focusing on the final days and immediate aftermath of Joseph Smith’s life. It was an explosive time, filled with tension both within and outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, podcast host Spencer W. McBride talked about the events that led to Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). An important piece of the picture when it comes to events leading to Joseph Smith’s death is the way that information was shared at the time and place and the impact that had on public opinion. As McBride explains, the mechanism mostly focused on a network of local newspapers: There was no national newspaper that reached readers throughout the country. Instead, local newspaper editors borrowed liberally from each other, reprinting articles wholesale. This meant that really interesting news and opinions in one part of the country could eventually receive national coverage through this exchange network of newspapers. So, there was great potential in operating a newspaper, even far away from the country’s centers of population and power. Two newspapers in particular played a key role in the story: The Warsaw Signal was the premier venue for anti-Mormon editorials in Illinois. That paper stirred…

The Fiery Meteor

Joseph F. Smith “(remember the F)” is one of the most important and influential presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even though he isn’t frequently discussed in church settings. It was during his administration that the Church really started to take on its current form – rejection of polygamy, modern monetary auditing systems, the first attempts at correlation, temples outside of the United States, our understanding of priesthood as an entity unto itself, the vision that is now D&C section 138 was received, and the purchasing and development of historical sites all were developments overseen by Joseph F. Smith. As a person, Joseph was also extremely complex, making him a fascinating subject to study, as Steven Taysom’s recently-released biography Like a Fiery Meteor: The Life of Joseph F. Smith demonstrates. In a recent interview with the Latter-day Saint history blog, Steven Taysom discussed a bit about the life of Joseph F. Smith. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

“Like a wise man who built his house on rock”: A Pioneer Day Homily on Matthew 7:21-27

A sacrament meeting talk given 23 July 2023 At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, St. Matthew recorded that the Lord, Jesus Christ stated: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you who behave lawlessly.’ “Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7:21-27, NRSV.) Besides being the basis of a very fun song to sing with children, these words underscore the importance of both learning and acting upon the words of the Lord. Now, why did the Lord…

Asking Questions About the Book of Mormon

A central question about the Book of Mormon that has been asked over and over again is whether it is an ancient document or a modern one. Despite being asked and answered by so many people, that question is still being argued and fought over and probably will be indefinitely. But what other questions are being asked about the Book of Mormon? In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Joe Spencer and Nick Frederick talked about some of those questions in a discussion about the field of Book of Mormon studies. What follows here is a copost to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion.

Joseph Smith and the Mormons: A review

Joseph Smith and the Mormons, by Noah Van Sciver, is a fantastic addition to Mormon literature. And while not written as devotional literature, this graphic novelization of Joseph Smith’s life is very well-researched and makes a lot of effort to portray things in a fair and open manner. And the book itself is beautiful in its presentation.

Jesus Christ in Joseph Smith’s Teachings

There is an apocryphal story about John Taylor that was shared by Leonard Arrington: Shortly after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith in June 1844, a prominent eastern visitor to Nauvoo[, Illinois] was being ‘shown around’ by Apostle Taylor.  He remarked to Brother Taylor that he sincerely regretted the murder of the head of the Mormon Church.  Brother Taylor got a twinkle in his eye at this reference to the ‘head of the Church’ and replied, ‘Yes, and isn’t it wonderful that on the on the third day he arose from the tomb and came back to administer to the Saints’ (Leonard Arrington Journal, 14 May 1973). It’s a fun play on expectations, but also goes to the point that Jesus Christ, rather than Joseph Smith, is at the heart of the Latter-day Saints’ religion. In a recent interview with historian Keith Erekson at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, he pointed out ways in which Joseph Smith taught about Jesus Christ and about God. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 8: Colonization

One of the important aspects of the Church’s presence in Mexico was the establishment of colonies in the far north.  Intended as refuges against anti-polygamy legislation and persecution, the colonies were a constellation of settlements that proved successful for many years and, in some cases, still continue to exist to this day.

Translation or Revelation?

I posted about Book of Abraham translation a couple weeks ago as part of a co-post on an interview with Stephen O. Smoot. This time, we’re looking at a different interview with Michael Hubbard MacKay, who had a different perspective about Joseph Smith’s translation projects. The interview on Book of Mormon translation is over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, so what follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

The Jewish Revolt and the Abomination of Desolation

One of the more pivotal events in the development of both Christianity and modern Judaism was the First Jewish Revolt, which started in 66 CE and culminated in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Jared W. Ludlow discussed this event in connection with his chapter in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). To start, Ludlow discussed what the First Jewish Revolt was: The First Jewish Revolt beginning in AD 66 was an attempt by the Jews in the Roman province of Judea to gain independence from Rome. Rome had dominated the region since 63 BC, mostly under vassal kings like Herod, but also directly with procurators and prefects. The revolt culminated in a siege on Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70. Some of the rebels held out, particularly at Masada until AD 73. . . . There were various factors that caused the Jewish Revolt. There was long-simmering animosity among the populace against the local vassal kings and elites who worked closely with Rome. This animosity fed the rise of Zealots who wanted to purge the land from foreign, corrupt influence and return greater control of religious traditions to their understanding of…

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 6: Voz de amonestación

The first two years of missionary work in central Mexico brought some long-standing successes, such as the conversion of Desideria Quintanar de Yáñez and her family, and some frustrating failures, as was the case with Plotino C. Rhodakanaty.

Book of Abraham Translation

When Joseph Smith used the word “translate”, it meant something different than what we usually think of as translating. The Book of Abraham is a very intriguing example of the process that, while it still has a lot of unknowns, does provide some insight into the process. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Stephen O. Smoot discussed the Book of Abraham translation. What follows here is a co-post (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion).

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 5: Thanks to Plotino

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints post-WWII, the statement that a socialist and anarchist was largely responsible for initiating missionary work in the country that is home to the second-largest community of Latter-day Saints is unexpected. Yet, that is exactly what happened in Mexico thanks to Plotino Constantino Rhodakanaty and his associates.

Temples, Communication, and Covenants

Temple rituals form an important part of Latter-day Saints’ covenant relationship with God. A recently-released book by Jennifer C. Lane entitled Let’s Talk About Temples and Ritual delves into the importance of temple rituals. Lane has shared some of the insights she gained that are captured in that book in an interview with the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (with some related information from a second interview included as well).

Wilford Woodruff and Adoption Sealings

Wilford Woodruff was hugely important in the development of temple work as we understand it today. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Jennifer Mackley (the executive director and CEO of the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation) discussed some of the influence that Presisent Woodruff had on temple work. The interview covers a lot of ground, so this co-post is going to zoom in on one specific aspect–Priesthood Adoption Sealings.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 1: Westward to Mexico

It’s time to return to the Mexican Mission Hymns project, with a slight change. Instead of running hymn translations and the brief history discussions together, they will be separate posts moving forward. To do this properly, the previous history segments are going to be rerun as their own posts, starting with this one.

Camille Fronk Olson on Women in the New Testament

The Bible is “the bedrock of all Christianity” and women play some very key roles in the stories that it shares. Camille Fronk Olson has worked to highlight these female Bible characters as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Olson discussed some of what she has learned about the women of the New Testament through her studies and work in writing Women of the New Testament. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

Mercy, kindness, and caring – a Sunday Sermon

At one point in his ministry, “an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.” He wanted to see what Jesus would answer, asking him: “Teacher … what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To this, Jesus responded with a question of his own: “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” As an expert in the Law of Moses, the lawyer quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” To this, Jesus responded: “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” The lawyer wasn’t fully satisfied with the answer, however, and “wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Rather than responding with a question, this time Jesus responded with a parable: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with…

Vengeance Is Mine

The story goes that J. Golden Kimball was once preaching to a crowd in the South and became concerned when he noticed that only men were present. As he opened his mouth to talk, however, All at once something came over me and I opened my mouth and said, . . . ‘Gentlemen, you have not come here to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . You have come to find out about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy, and God being my helper I will tell you the truth.’ And I did. I talked to them for one hour. When the meeting was out you could hear a pin drop. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a topic that tends to have that effect, and a long-anticipated book on the topic is about to come out. Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown is an exceptional and highly-recommended book that delves deep into the aftermath of the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. The authors have done a remarkable job in presenting a comprehensive and detailed account of the massacre and its cover-up. The book is a follow-up to the 2008 publication Massacre at Mountain Meadows and takes readers on a journey through the aftermath of the gruesome massacre. It examines the attempts of the local southern Utah leaders to conceal their crime by suppressing witnesses and disseminating lies. Government…

The Mountain Meadows Massacre Aftermath

One of the most significant books in Mormon studies being published this year is Rick Turley and Barbara Jones Brown’s Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath. It’s been years coming, but is worth the wait. I’ll probably publish my own review next week, but wanted to highlight that Turley and Brown recently shared some about the book and the Mountain Meadows Massacre in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).