Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Yesterday I wrote about taking steps towards being more involved and engaged in the Provo Community. Today I'm sharing my newest educational experience. I signed up for an Adult Religion Class offered through BYU Continuing Education. One of the things that I most enjoyed upon retiring was the weekly Institute Class held at the Mesa Stake Center each Thursday morning. I have really missed it this last year as my Utah time became more and more and my Arizona time less. It was time to find a substitute and what a great substitute have I found.
I am enrolled in The Nauvoo Teachings of the Prophet: A Year-by-Year Examination taught by Richard Holzapfel, Professor of Religion and History at BYU. The class meets on Tuesday evenings for an hour and a half in the BYU Conference Center. I will be in town for most of the lectures. The lecture last night on primary sources verses "The Cult of the Amateur" which now exists on the Internet was enlightening. He talked about the process involved in good research and publishing vs. searching on the Internet and accepting whatever is found as truthful and correct.
He went on the explain how amazing the current Joseph Smith Papers project is and how it will enable us to understand and know the Prophet Joseph Smith in more depth and with subsequent insight and admiration. This is a years long project with a goal to publish all documents, minutes, lectures, sermons, diaries, etc. of Joseph Smith.
He explained how fortunate we are to be living at a time when more and more information is available. During the Depression Years, the Huntington Library in California sent representatives to Utah to offer money for old pioneer diaries. Those are now becoming available. More and more families are sharing their written dairies. There is also improved relations between The Church of Jesus Christ and the Church of Christ (former RDLS) with regards to the documents, manuscripts, and papers that they have, many of which Emma Smith had possession of at the time church members left for the West.
Professor Holzapfel related the tradition of testimony meeting years ago. The "old Nauvooers" or those who knew the Prophet Joseph Smith personally were asked to speak first and bear their testimonies so that those in attendance would know more about the Prophet. Oh, to have been at one of those meetings! However, we do have primary sources to help us learn about and know as well as personal revelation to fortify our testimonies.
New editions of the Scriptures were released on August 1, 2013. The headings for different sections of the Doctrine and Covenants will be changed. There is an elimination of the History of the Church in headings which was put together by Willard Richards, George A. Smith, and Wilford Woodruff. They did the best they could with what they had available. As documents are now being studied with the ability to digitize and magnify, mistakes are being found. Professor Holzapfel shared some examples last night. For instance, Willard Richards had pretty awful handwriting which is hard to decipher resulting in inaccurate wording. Insertions made later to some sources are now known to be later because of the different handwriting used which is now easy to recognize.
I was grateful for the insights provided in last night's lecture. During this year's Education Week, I heard John W. Welch say that if church members would spend as much time reading LDS research, history, and scriptures as they do pursuing what they find on the Internet; they could avoid a crisis of faith.