There are many people who claim that the Book of Mormon and Lectures on Faith contain trinitarian ideas. Denver Snuffer, on the other hand, says that the Book of Mormon contains Nauvoo-style theology, rather than the trinity. How does he come to that conclusion?
GT: Also, I’ve read Lectures on Faith, and one of my understandings is Lectures on Faith is very Trinitarian. I feel like that’s kind of why the LDS Church put that away. So, I’m curious, because you’ve re-canonized that. To me, the Lectures on Faith sounds very Trinitarian and the Book of Mormon, as we have it, does sound very Trinitarian. So it’s interesting, to me, to hear you say, “Well, if you take out the punctuation…I guess it would support more of a Nauvoo-style theology. Is that what you’re saying?
Denver: Oh, yes. Yes, I think so.
GT: So, how would you respond to that?
Denver: Well, let me see if I can find the language. The Lecture that talks about who God is. See, one of my problems is that I just got this on the 25th, and this is the 28th. I haven’t gotten to Lectures on Faith to look at it just yet. There’s a definition given of who God is, in Lectures on Faith, and it says that there is God the Father who is a personage of spirit, power, glory, and then there’s God the Son. And he’s a personage, and then there’s the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the mind of the Father and the Son. That is very Nauvoo-era doctrinally correct.
Have you read Lectures on Faith? Do you think it trinitarian? Do you think re-punctuating the Book of Mormon would make it less trinitarian? Check out our conversation….
I’m excited to introduce Denver Snuffer. He is the founder of the Remnant Movement. We will learn more about Denver’s movement, and he has an exciting announcement about a new set of scriptures for their movement.
Denver: These are prototypes. It’ll go into production. But we now have a print copy of a new set of scriptures. There are three volumes. The Old Covenants volume is the Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament. It begins with Genesis that most LDS people would recognize as the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. So, the Joseph Smith translation, Genesis text, it begins with the book of Moses. Then it follows the Joseph Smith translation version of the Old Testament to the end. That’s all in the first volume called the Old Covenants.
Denver: Joseph Smith also always intended to publish both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon in a single volume. So, the first volume is called the Old Covenants, because those are the covenants (plural) that went with Adam and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Moses, down to the time of Christ. The second volume is called the New Covenants. It’s the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Again, it has the same Joseph Smith translation version put into it with all of the corrections, the most complete version. But in addition, we have a different Book of Mormon text.
Denver: Well, the Doctrine and Covenants contained as its very first section, the Lectures on Faith. A committee was appointed to deal with the revelations, the Book of Commandments material. Joseph Smith was part of that committee, but apparently didn’t contribute. His diaries say that he spent his time editing and correcting Lectures on Faith. There are those who say that Lectures on Faith appear to be the product of Sidney Rigdon, and not Joseph Smith because they did word comparisons. Joseph Smith, before the publication of Doctrine and Covenants, spent his time editing and correcting Lectures on Faith. When he finished with that, and that is apparently the only thing he worked on getting ready for the Doctrine and Covenants to be printed. He said he would vouch for the correctness of the doctrine that is contained in what he had done, that he would stand by every word of it. That portion in the front of the Doctrine and Covenants is the doctrine. The covenants are the revelations. Well, the committee that was working on the revelations included Sidney Rigdon, and he took even more liberties than had Oliver Cowdery with revelations that had come to Joseph. So, what you have in the LDS version of the Doctrine and Covenants are two steps removed from the original revelations to Joseph. What is in the Teachings and Commandments is a chronological layout that includes Lectures on Faith, that insofar as we are able to accurately do so, recaptures exactly what the original revelation was, and states, as near as we can get at present comprehensively, chronologically and accurately in the form that it came as a revelation to Joseph Smith.
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Don’t get confused with the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!
A few months ago, Dr. Thomas Wayment made headlines in the Mormon community when he came out with news that the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible relied heavily on Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary.
Thom: A student assistant of mine, Haley Wilson-Lemmon, was working for me about four years ago now. And I’ve worked on the JST my whole career. It’s been interesting because it makes a claim to originality, at least modern Mormons claim that. And so, I’ve been probing it throughout my career. And, I had begun to think that Joseph Smith used a variety of sources, but I hadn’t nailed it down. And so, I said to Haley, I think you should take Buck’s Theological Dictionary. I think you should take Thomas Scott’s Notes and I think you should take Adam Clarke and start comparing it to a series of test passages in the JST and just see what crops up because I’m suspecting there’s influence, but I don’t know.
And she comes back, and we look at the column of Adam Clarke and it’s overwhelming. There are some strong parallels. And so, over the course of about 12-14 months, Haley compared every single JST to all of these and we have a massive amount of data, and sure enough it. It’s very clear. It’s conclusive that Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke. And when I say use, I want to stick by that term. This isn’t him simply saying, “Okay, here’s three sentences in Clarke. I’m going to copy it out and call that inspiration.” It’s not that. He has words that come from Clarke that now come into kind of an expanded sentence that Joseph has created. Clarke will recommend flipping the order of verses and Joseph will do that. Weird words like unicorn in Isaiah, Joseph will go to [Clarke] to realize that’s not unicorn. And so, he’ll add [Clarke]’s statement about it or he’ll say, this is re’em.
What implications does that have for Latter-day Saints of faith?
Thom: That’s really been how the conversation has kind of taken life, which in some ways is unfortunate. In some ways it is a good moment for pause. What I see as a scholar is it’s confronted a narrative about the JST that people have, that the JST is a moment of absolute revelation. No other influences happened that he was giving us the Bible as it was originally. And if you had that view, it’s going to be a hard thing. And, yet as a historian, it’s unfortunate. Joseph never made that claim. He never tells us that the Lord commanded him to start it. There is no revelation that currently exists where he is directed or says he was directed to go translate the Bible. We find him recording a commandment to work on Matthew but not Genesis. And so, in this sense, he never canonized it.
He never, if you will, said, “This is the original Bible.” And during this time, he has another statement that we refer to as a revelation. “Seek ye out learning from the best books.” And for heaven’s sakes, that’s what he’s doing it. It’s really a practical process. I suspect that there are other sources. I suspect it’s not just Clarke and in the coming years, I’ll play that hand a little more broadly. But this is him working on the Bible. For the Latter-day Saint who feels confronted by this, we know he studied Hebrew after this. He’s trying to engage both his role as prophet, so he owns the text in one sense, but he continually feels like, “I need some training.” And Clarke is a really good resource of the day and a modern scholar wouldn’t feel that and I don’t feel that, but of the day it’s very good and I think he comes to trust Clarke. I think later he says, “Well, maybe I could learn Hebrew. And he does some work in Hebrew in Kirtland 1835 period. And I think again, like he went with the Book of Mormon, he went to Luther Bradish, he goes to Charles Anthon and others to say, “Can you help me?” Or, “Can you translate this?” He has a scholarly component in every one of his translations and that to me seems pretty normal. But, maybe to the modern believer it might confront a narrative of faith that they had that was an absolute point.
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