Five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty

The Council of Fifty was a secret organization founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844. The previously inaccessible records — or minutes — kept by the group remained a source of much speculation until they were made public in 2016. A new book titled “The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History” contains 15 essays about various topics of interest from the minutes of the council.

Among the many insights shared in the book are five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty minutes. Continue reading “Five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty”

10 questions with S. Kent Brown

In December 2017 / January 2018, I had the privilege to interview S. Kent Brown, an emeritus professor of ancient studies at BYU.

My contact with Brown stemmed from an interview with Philip Jenkins wherein he mentioned scholars at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship who were studying the same time period as he covered in his book, Crucible of Faith. After contacting the Maxwell Institute I was eventually put in touch with Brown, who has done some work on the period of 250 BCE to 50  CE, including the publication of The Lost 500 Years: What Happened Between the Old and New Testaments.

S. Kent Brown

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Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham

John Gee is perhaps the leading Mormon commentator on the Book of Abraham – a portion of Mormon scripture that is simultaneously vital to the Mormon belief of premortal existence and heavily debated inside of academic circles. As a believing Mormon with a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Yale University, Gee brings a wonderful mix of perspectives to the discussion.

“An Introduction to the Book of Abraham” is precisely that – an introduction of the issues most important to both believers and scholars. The book is quite matter-of-fact in its tone, although there is the sense of subtle chastisement for both believers and scholars who approach the book with bias and extremism. As a result, the reader never feels compelled to come down on either side of any issue. Instead, the book serves quite nicely as an informative introduction regardless of any preconceived opinions.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the book is Continue reading “Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham”

10 questions with Philip Jenkins

In December 2017, I was privileged to interview Philip Jenkins in association with the publication of his latest book, Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World. My brief interactions with Jenkins were impressive. He came across as professional, prompt, and witty – a rare trifecta of interview subject attributes.

Photo courtesy of Basic Books

A book review of Crucible of Faith will be published shortly in the Deseret News. In the meantime, I am privileged to begin the feature series, “10 questions,” with my interview of Philip Jenkins.

Continue reading “10 questions with Philip Jenkins”