The Interview:Just one day before Jonathan Stapley was awarded the best book award for The Power of Godliness by the Mormon History Association, I visited with him about the history and development of core ideas essential to current Mormon identity such as priesthood, authority, and ordinances.
We also discussed how priesthood power relates to temple practice and what Jonathan refers to as the ordering of heaven.
His volume is an academic history of Mormonism, and as such it’s intent is to understand and analyze the past and contextualize and historicize the present.
In this episode, Jonathan Stapley shares his perspective on Latter-day Saint liturgy in theory and practice.
About Our Guest:Jonathan Stapley is an award winning historian and scientist. Oxford University Press recently published his volume, The Power of Godliness. Jonathan received his Ph.D. from Purdue University and has been active in the field of Mormon History for over a decade. You can read some of his publications here. He writes for the academic history Juvenile Instructor blog, and at By Common Consent, a Mormon blog. He is also the Chief Technology Officer for a bio-renewables company.
This podcast is cross-posted with permission of LDS Perspectives Podcast.
Transcript: Go to http://traffic.libsyn.com/ldsperspectives/LDSP_Jonathan_Stapley.pdf
When I publish something, even when it does not seem to others to be directly related to my faith as a Latter-day Saint, I make a conscious effort not to write in such a way that others will have no reason to doubt that I am am anxious to defend that build the Kingdom of God. I am not a bit troubled by being known as an apologist for faith of the community of Latter-day Saints. However, I now regret having urged posted caution to Dennis and Glen. Why? My caution resulted in some comments that deeply trouble me.
I strive to know as well as I can what others really believe, and especially if I am at all inclined to engage their opinions in something I publish. I am anxious to know as well as possible what exactly others believe and why, and especially when I have any reason to believe that they are critical of the faith of Latter-day Saints, or confused about the crucial historical foundations of the faith of the Saints.
I think it is a very serious mistake to comment on an author, or a book, or an essay, that one has not read. And it is also a mistake to merely mushy labels, rather then engage what an author has actually set out. And one must make every effort to understand the opinions of others, as much as possible, as they understand themselves.
And I genuinely hope that both Dennis and Glen will not see me at The Enemy for having explained as clearly as possible why I wrote what I did.
Another good (black) paint job, Lewis, and another patronizing swipe. You’re not the enemy—no need for martyrdom, but I am disappointed by your continued insistence that I am both unfair and shallow. As I’ve said, I feel that over the long years I have easily read enough to be able to clearly recognize liberal wordcraft and fog to know of its toxicity to the Saints. Must I really read their tomes cover to cover to comment? Have you read the Tanners’ Mormonism: Shadow or Reality cover to cover so as to know its worth? I am so sad to see a fence thrown up between some whom I have viewed as disciple-friends.
More and more I see intellectualism as a disease. It’s in the breathing air in the proverbial academics’ clubhouse. Discipleship there is bracketed, open — kind-of like ‘open marriages.’ I will remember henceforth to just stay out, to not even knock.
My gosh, now *I* am playing a martyr! 🙂
Louis, no offense taken and none meant.
Note that Vogel’s book did not win the Best Book Award from MHA. Kathleen Flake won that year. Other winners have included Richard Bushman, Matthew Grow, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and W. Paul Reeve. Pretty reasonable company.
Also note that Stapley has been a proponent of not forgetting McConkie and taking his views seriously.
And how can you critique Stapley’s work if you refuse to read or listen to it?
Dan Vogel received the Turner-Bergera Best Biography award by the Mormon History Association in May 2005 for his biography Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet.
I think the purpose of reviews is to let a potential reader have a overview or summary of what a book contains. I have read some of these reviews and been deeply disappointed by what they say his book contains. His new words and theories are unimpressive to the point of rubbish to me (as I have read the reviews and his blogs).
I wish that both Glen and Dennis were a bit more charitable and wise in their assessments and opinions. And also a bit less certain that everything that the Brethren said or published flowed directly from divine special revelation or an accurate grasp of our scriptures. And I suspect that Dennis both draws from and reads into his favorite Apostle what he insists all the rest of us must believe.
I’m shocked to see this from Louis Midgley. Now that I have been personally labeled both charityless and unwise by one of my favorite church scholars, let me just say that I never alluded to our pioneer leaders or McConkie’s as being flawless channels of divine light, nor would I ever. Regarding my statements about Progressives, Liberals, and Secularists—I have seen their toxic tongue dung since earliest Eugene England/Dialogue/Sunstone days of the 1970’s. Yes, they have through the years gotten some things right—the history of blacks in the Faith being one. To that I would say, so what. Lucifer got some things right, and Mussolini kept the trains running on time. There is plenty of fresh, clean water in a septic tank; the trouble is it is mixed with other things. The Liberal culture habitually welcomes and showcases apostates in their ranks. The MHA gave their most prestigious book award to Vogel’s book whose thesis is that Joseph Smith was a pious fraud. Other examples are legion. It is a PATTERN in their culture. So, what are we allowed to say? When are we allowed to call out without being “uncharitable and unwise”? Do decades of reading and studying, and university training in religious studies count for anything, or am I still just a voice without a PhD with no license to speak without being dissed and dismissed? By a Louis Midgley??
In my experience, when people ask for kindness and charity in assessments and opinions (when they are critical), it is usually because they are trying to sneak suspect doctrine past the unwary, or cover it up/disguise it, so it is more inviting and palatable. Liberal/dissidents do that all the time. I am not saying Lou is doing that, just that I often see people who teach false or mixed doctrine using those words as an excuse to publish their suspect views and theories.
As for me, I think it “wise” to expose those philosophies of men, for what they are; the doctrines of men, not of God. Others are welcome to disagree, but the more charity and kindness we muster to excuse bad doctrine, the more it flourishes and deceives. A little deception can go a long way.
I believe I gave a list of names much longer than one as excellent sources for inspired and insightful doctrine on the priesthood, though I would be privileged to admit to a bias in favor of one of them
The moment we become theorists and scripture interpreters unto ourselves, even as scholars, and diminish the authorized position and importance of the apostles and prophets as God’s interpreters and expounders for the Church, that is the moment we begin to walk the path toward apostasy. While not everything they have ever said is inspired or uncanonized revelation, the vast majority of what they say and teach, especially today, is inspired counsel. My favorite apostle was one of the finest expounders and interpreters of the gospel and scriptures to ever live, and I am proud to say so. Those people whom I have the highest respect and regard and trust for in doctrinal and spiritual matters, both mentors and friends, agree with me. But no one is required to learn from him.
One might carefully consider why the First Presidency, since around 1970, has delegated doctrinal review oversight to Correlation review staff, and why the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are known as the Correlation Committee of the Church–they have the responsibility to keep church doctrine pure. Jonathan Stapley’s theories, as I have seem them quoted and explained in reviews of his book, and as I have read in certain of his blogs, are not found in church publications or the scriptures. They should not be promoted. If such an opinion is thought by some as unwise or uncharitable, so be it; but I prefer to see it as wise, thoughtful, and especially, discerning.
I have to completely agree with Glen. I have not read Stapley’s book and won’t, but I have read a few reviews of it posted online. His theorizing about a “Cosmological” priesthood and other like matters do not square with the scriptures or the teachings of modern prophets and apostles (the authorized interpreters of the scriptures), and are his own theories, of dubious worth.
I find his posts on the liberal-to-the-point-of-dissident blogs mentioned to be liberal to the point of dissident. For instance, his post declaring Brigham Young as the uninspired racist originator of the priesthood restriction on blacks was nonsense. I have seen him disparage Elder McConkie in his posts and comments on posts, someone with a far greater grasp of the scriptures and the doctrines of the kingdom than Stapley.
If we want sound doctrine on priesthood, I suggest we stick with the writings of Joseph Smith, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, Bruce McConkie, Boyd K. Packer, Dallin H. Oaks, D. Todd Christofferson, and other like inspired instructors that get their doctrines from the source: the scriptures and modern revelation.
I strongly question the wisdom of Interpreter posting this interview; it has them crossing the line of orthodoxy and propriety, a place they should not be going and where Elder Holland would not encourage them to go.
Latter-day Saint liturgy is spiritual in its very essence, purpose, and goals. I couldn’t be less interested in a Liberal academic’s analysis of it. Liberal blog fog. For what it’s worth.