Author: Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green has been described as a scholar of German, master of trivia, and academic vagabond. He is an instructor of German in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at the University of North Dakota. His books include Printing and Prophecy: Prognostication and Media Change, 1450– 1550 (2011), and The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess: Paths of Prophecy in Reformation Europe (2014).

Review: Christopher Blythe, Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse

Christopher James Blythe. Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN 978-019-7695159. Terrible Revolution traces the central place of apocalypticism in LDS history and belief along multiple axes. Chronologically, the book traces the varieties of apocalypticism from the American religious context of Joseph Smith’s earliest activity through the Church’s Utah period and into the 21st century.

The original sins of Mormon blogging

If the discussions here and at sites like this one are sometimes less than satisfactory, it’s partly because of unstated conventions and informal norms that got started nearly two decades ago and that we’re often barely conscious of today. Two especially need to be rethought.

How I taught the Proclamation on the Family

As the Sunday School president at the time (December 2021), I told the teachers in advance that I wanted them to do two things. First, I wanted them to teach the doctrine. Second, I wanted them to teach it so that whoever their students were and whatever their situation, they would feel welcome and accepted. Then as the teacher of a youth Sunday School class, this is what I said.

Missions and memory

People keep asking me for proof that the irritating tics in Mormon writing I’ve mentioned actually exist. In that respect, Taylor Kerby’s post over at BCC is useful in a couple of ways.

I once was Lehi

In the scriptures, we find (among other things) stories we slip into in order to make sense of our lives. We are Adam and Eve, Joseph preparing for a famine, David facing Goliath, Alma the Younger looking back at his choices. We teach people to seek answers by earnestly praying like Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. I’ve never been the rich young man, but I’ve been a good Samaritan a time or two. And I was once Lehi, warned to take my family and flee. I mean that metaphorically, but not figuratively.

Notes on Revelation

[As I was going through my files, I found this draft that written four years ago. As it has about 24 hours of relevance left, I’m publishing it now. Happy New Year.] When I teach Revelation 1-11 to my youth Sunday School class, I’ll probably start off by saying something about gasoline.

Prosper in the Land

In a long-ago post, John Fowles referred to a Book of Mormon couplet as the book’s thesis: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence (2 Nephi 1:20)

Book of Mormon historical revisionism

As we study the Book of Mormon next year, there will be suggestions to read between the lines, to resist the surface or official or dominant reading, to see through the authoritative narrative to the unvarnished reality behind it – like the standard works, these suggestions too come around every four years. The instinct is understandable, as that’s how scholars are trained to read, and a lot of us have different varieties of scholarly training – but attempts at historical revisionism are misguided.

Reading the Book of Mormon in wartime

Next year, the focus of scripture study in Sunday School and Seminary classes will cycle again to the Book of Mormon. Compared to previous years when the Book of Mormon has been the focus, war will loom larger in the background than it has since at least the 1960s, even including the messy realities of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004.

Five things to know about MacKay and Belnap’s “Pure Language Project”

First and foremost: “The Pure Language Project” in the current volume of the Journal of Mormon History is the best explanation to date of the significance of the documents relating to the Egyptian papyri (referred to collectively as the “Egyptian Language Documents,” or ELD for short) for the development of Church doctrine and Joseph Smith’s understanding of the cosmos.

Ward capacity

It seems like ‘church capacity’ would be a useful concept. In parallel to ‘state capacity,’ church capacity might describe the ability of a religious organization to carry out its missions, promote its doctrine, gain adherents, participate as an entity in broader society and accomplish its other purposes.

Translation theory won’t decide your polemic argument

One of the recurring irritations of reading apologetic, polemic, or scholarly work in Mormon Studies addressing Joseph Smith’s translations of ancient scripture is that the authors nearly always ignore the perspective of practicing translators and the field of translation studies, instead basing their analyses in simple notions of linguistic equivalence that may still prevail in graduate language exams, but that the field of translation studies abandoned as unworkable several decades ago.

“As far as we have any right to give.” A Note about Abraham Facsimile 2

The re-use of characters from JSP IX on Facsimile 2 doesn’t mean that the marginal characters in Abraham manuscripts A-C weren’t used in the translation. I think it actually makes it more likely that they were. Before I unpack what this means, you might want to read the published version of Tim Barker’s 2020 FAIR presentation or Jeff Lindsay’s summary.

T&S welcomes guest poster Ivan Wolfe

If you’ve been following the LDS blogging world for the last 20 years or so, you’ll recognize Ivan Wolfe from posts and comments at various blogs. Ivan lives in Arizona, where he teaches writing at ASU. He has published essays on several topics I’d like to hear more about, including Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy, The Princess Bride and Philosophy, and others. Please join me in welcoming Ivan Wolfe.

About that FEC fine

It’s true: In March 2022, the FEC fined the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign for incorrectly declaring payments to an oppo research firm involved with the Steele dossier. As a Democratic voter in 2016, I must say that news of the fine means…absolutely nothing to me. The stakes in the 2016 election were a lot higher than whether the FEC agreed with every point of the Clinton campaign’s interpretation of campaign finance law.

IX. Joseph the Seer

How did Joseph Smith and his associates create a translation that shows knowledge of a grammar that presumes the existence of the translation? Given what we know of the documents and the timeline for the translation of the Book of Abraham, the only way to solve the chicken-and-egg problem is this:

VII. The GAEL and Linguistic Typology

The GAEL provides for a mode of interpretation that finds expansive (but not unlimited) meaning in seemingly simple characters. Zakioan-hiash, as we have seen, is both a name, a word with a specific phonetic realization, and the equivalent of at least one sentence.

IV. The GAEL and the structure of Abraham 1:1-2a

In his 2009 article, Chris Smith argued for the textual dependence of the Book of Abraham on the GAEL. While Dan Vogel’s recent book about the Book of Abraham and related apologetics strenuously objects to any suggestion that the GAEL was reverse engineered from the translation of Abraham, Vogel nevertheless entirely rejects the basis of Chris Smith’s argument.