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Critiquing the Gospel Topics Essays

Between 2013-2015, the LDS Church published a series of essays dealing with sensitive topics in the LDS Church.  They are known as the Gospel Topics Essays.  Dr. Newell Bringhurst and Dr. Matt Harris have produced an anthology that will be released later this summer critiquing these Gospel Topics Essays.  In our final conversation, Dr. Newell Bringhurst will tell us more about the work that he’s been putting together on these essays.

Newell:  We go through all 13 Gospel Topics Essays.  It’s composed of 13 chapters.  I probably should pull out my notes so I can remember the name of all the contributors.  We start with the Book of Mormon and look at the historicity of the Book of Mormon, critiquing that essay, critiquing the essay on DNA and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and of course the different accounts.  We critique the essay that was written on the various accounts of the First Vision, the historicity and authenticity of the Book of Abraham which is another very controversial topic.

We look at peace and violence along the Mormon frontier.  John Turner who did the biography on Brigham Young did the essay on that for us.  He is kind of a marquis figure.  He really did an outstanding job in looking at the whole issue of violence and how it involved the saints.  Although I think one of the strongest essays in there is Gary Bergera who presented at [Sunstone.]  He presented on Joseph Smith and his involvement with polygamy.  Of course, he has a much different spin on whether Joseph had sex with those other women.  {chuckles}

We’ll talk about the other authors as well!  Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to hear our other episodes on polygamy, blacks, and women in religion!  (A transcript of the entire interview will be available soon!)

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Trouble in Cincinnati: Ables’ Time in Ohio #BlackHistoryMonth

Following Elijah Ables’ Canadian mission, he returned for a short time to Nauvoo where he helped Joseph Smith escape from a mob from Missouri.  Then he went to Ohio and encountered more Trouble in Cincinnati!  Russell Stevenson continues our focus on #BlackHistoryMonth, and discusses some of the race riots and other difficulties Elijah Ables encountered in Ohio.

Russell:  In about 1842, or it might have even been the fall of 1841, there had been a massive race riot break out in Cincinnati between local white workers and the African-American community.  It was quite violent.  Many prominent abolitionists found themselves under fire.  Their homes, their offices, their businesses were all targeted for mob attack, and it’s reasonable to suppose that Rees E. Price would have found under attack as well.

So the fact that Elijah could navigate these white spaces, it tells you he had the skill to be in both worlds.  And yet, in spite of this ability, in spite of this comfortability with white spaces, we know that in 1843, I speculate due to some of these heightened tensions that had developed due to this race riot, that locally, three apostles:  Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, and Orson Pratt, they banned Elijah from preaching to people not of African ancestry.

GT:  Ok, so approximately what year was that?

Russell:  Not approximately, it was 1843.

GT:  1843, so he had some restrictions placed on him.

Russell:  Yes.  I can’t emphasize enough, though, it was not a priesthood restriction.  They had the opportunity.  If they wanted to take the priesthood from Elijah at that time, they could have.  That was the perfect opportunity to do so.  They did not.  In the minutes that tell us about this episode, he is explicitly identified as a Seventy and there is no comment made about him losing priesthood, and two years later, there is a newspaper article again referring to Elijah’s workings in that branch where he is also referred to as a Seventy.

Russell also talks about speculation Elijah may have helped with the Underground Railroad to free blacks from slavery!

Russell:  Now did that lead to some sort of collaboration in helping with the Underground Railroad?  That’s a very interesting speculation.  It also goes beyond the evidence.  Trust me, I would love to know that Elijah played an active role in assisting with the Underground Railroad.  We just don’t know that.

Don’t forget to learn more about Elijah’s Canadian mission, and his work on the Kirtland Temple.  Check out our conversation…..

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Ables’ Canadian Mission & Escape from the Mob #BlackHistoryMonth

February is Black History Month and we’re continuing our conversation with Russell Stevenson.  He’s the biographer of Elijah Ables and in this next episode, we’ll talk about Ables’ Canadian mission.  Did you know that he had to escape from a mob?

Russell:  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at approximately the same time, Elijah is being chased by a tar and feather mob.  He runs to the home of Sarah Beckstead.  Who is it that ends up defending Elijah’s life?  It isn’t the man of the house, but it is Sarah Beckstead, who comes out with a rifle in hand and opens fire on the mob and they quickly disperse.

GT:  Oh wow.

Russell:  Sarah Beckstead saved Elijah’s life that night.

GT:  Wow, that’s crazy.  I’m trying to remember, but I believe that there was a charge of murder against Elijah Ables.  Is that right?

Russell:  Yes, yes that is correct.  There were rumors being spread that he had committed several murders in fact.  It’s likely that played a role in his persecution as well.

Here’s a couple of other noteworthy moments from Able’s Canadian mission.

Russell:  We know that he played a role in ordaining another man to the priesthood, William McIntire.  That is again clear from very good contemporary evidence.

GT:  So this is a black man ordaining a white man to the priesthood?

Russell:  Yes.

GT:  Wow, that’s pretty cool.

Russell:  Yes.  We know that Elijah had success in converting a woman by the name of Eunice Kinney.  Eunice Kinney was a woman living in Madrid, New York and she said as she heard Elijah speak, even though he didn’t have the same ability to read and to engage written texts as others did, she felt the spirit so powerfully when he preached.  She wanted badly to affiliate with the saints and to become acquainted with the saints, based on his testimony alone.

Don’t forget to learn more about Elijah’s Ohio conversion and work on the Kirtland Temple.  Check out our conversation…..