As we’ve mentioned before, publication of the Book of Mormon pre-dates the Pentecostal movement by almost 8 decades. What are some examples? Dr. Christopher Thomas teaches at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, and he shares his thoughts about speaking in tongues in the Book of Mormon.
Chris: Then, the next big section of the book, I wanted to put the Book of Mormon into conversation with Pentecostalism.
GT: Right. Yeah, that’s where I wanted to go next. That’s awesome.
Chris: I started with these kind of proto-Pentecostals with whom there seems to have been some connection with the restoration. There was this Irvingite pastor who met with Joseph Smith in Kirtland. I think it was 1835. He proposed an amalgamation because the Catholic Apostolic Church believed in the restoration of apostles, prophets, etc. and in the gifts of the Spirit. So, it’s documented that there was this meeting. Smith, or one of his assistants, apparently respond to this, but several years later. Some, I think it’s Bruce Van Orden, argues that this piece, it may have been the Times and Seasons, was not written by Smith, but by one of his subordinates.
GT: W.W. Phelps, probably.
Chris: Yes, thanks for that. In part, because apparently, Joseph is acknowledging certain status issues for women. But part of the reason the Irvingites get rejected, in this article, is because of the role women played at the beginning of the movement. So, that’s been an interesting tension that people have picked up on. I wanted to look at that. I wanted to look at this guy named John Alexander Dowie. Dowie, I think he may have been Scottish. He wound up in Australia. His daughter nearly dies. He becomes a healing evangelist. He comes to the United States, passes through Salt Lake. It’s in older newspapers, Dowie’s story, and he wants to be an apostle in the LDS church. When they explain that’s not quite how it works, Dowie castigates them all, moves to Chicago and establishes Zion, Illinois.
Chris: Then, you can track it in the newspapers. He sends word to Salt Lake that he’s bringing 3000, I think it was, evangelists and he’s going to convert the lot of Mormons.
GT: John Hamer spoke about this at John Whitmer a couple of years ago.
Chris: Did he? The brethren said, “Well, come on.” What people didn’t know was that Dowie was going to reveal that polygamy was to be lived out in Mexico, and this was right in the middle of the mopping up period. This was 1890s.
GT: Right. Mormons were doing that, anyway.
Chris: That’s right. Then, there was this guy who some look upon as the founder of Pentecostalism who believed in British Israelism. His name was [Charles F.] Parham. [He was] very similar to the man who did the concordance on the Book of Mormon, George Reynolds.
GT: Oh, George Reynolds was also the guy who the Supreme Court case was about for polygamy.
Chris: That’s right. That’s right, and Reynolds was very similar in the British Israelism. Now, I was never able to quite connect Parham. I’d heard him a rumor that he had been laughed off a stage in the Independence group. But I could never track that down. But I tried to ease into things that way. Then I looked at early Pentecostal responses to the Book of Mormon and Mormonism in the early Pentecostal periodical literature. The very first one was amazingly generous, because somebody had written into the paper and said, “Why don’t you talk about the Mormons speaking in tongues?” The editor kind of castigates the Mormons, “They’re not trustworthy,” blah, blah, blah. Then he says, “But when I lived in the Rocky Mountains in the 1870s, I came across this older woman, who seemed to be a real saint of God, who told me that the Mormons were like the old time Methodists.” He said, “It reminded me of the text that said, ‘God may have a people even among these people.'” Well, I didn’t expect that. Because it’s usually knives and daggers, right? So, nobody have ever done that.
What are your thoughts on the connections between Pentecostals & Mormons? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Thomas.
583: Troubling Stories in Scripture (C. Thomas)
582: Protestant Theology in Book of Mormon? (C. Thomas)
581: Tongue-Speech in Book of Mormon (C. Thomas)
579: Is Book of Mormon a Pacifist Book? (C. Thomas)