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Q&A with Joseph Spencer for The Vision of All February 27 2017

322 pages

Paperback $25.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-632-1)


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How and when did you begin to recognize the need for a different approach to studying the Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon?

Well, I've always been overconfident about what I might be able to accomplish, so I first decided to tackle Isaiah in earnest when I was a teenager. Of course, I understood little, because I knew no real resources. I read carefully through the King James Version of the text, and I followed every footnote in the LDS edition. I spent a whole summer doing that, and I gained little more than some familiarity. I turned to Isaiah again shortly after my mission, when I was taking an introductory course on Hebrew. Studying straight from the Hebrew, using dictionaries and a few other tools, I felt like I came to understand the text a bit better, though I only worked at the time through about five chapters of Isaiah. At about the same time, I discovered a few other scholarly resources, especially the old FARMS volume Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Those helped orient me in Isaiah's world a bit better, but I wasn't yet doing the sort of thing I've come to do now.

What changed things was twofold. First, my wife, Karen, and I were studying First Nephi, and we struck on some structural features of Nephi's record that make clear he means to emphasize Isaiah above all else in his record. (I've talked about these structural features in my books.) That spurred me to give closer attention to Nephi's treatment of Isaiah than I had before. Up to that point, I'd tried only to approach Isaiah on his own terms, using just a few scholarly resources. But stumbling onto the idea that I could see how Nephi reads Isaiah fired me up. And it got me more interested than before in understanding Isaiah on his own terms as well. I figured that understanding Isaiah himself would allow me to see how Nephi was using him in his own inventive ways. So I began, finally, to read the massive scholarly literature on Isaiah. Second, I was asked to teach early-morning seminary one year, while we were living in Oregon. The course of study was the Old Testament, and I asked for permission to focus the whole year just on Genesis, Job, and Isaiah. The bishop granted it, and so I worked with my students all the way through Isaiah for three months. In preparation for each class discussion, I did nothing but read commentaries, and then we came together and just wrestled with the text of Isaiah. By that point, I was finishing work on my first book, An Other Testament, which is largely about how the Book of Mormon handles Isaiah, so working carefully through every line of Isaiah with my students helped me to see even better how inventive and interesting Nephi is in his reading of Isaiah.

So I suppose it's been a circuitous path. The short answer is that it was only when I saw (a) that Nephi really means to privilege Isaiah and (b) that he deliberately reads Isaiah in his own way that my project began to take shape.

In what ways does Nephi use Isaiah inventively? And how might his usage differ from scholarly consensus on Isaiah's original intent?

On my reading, Nephi explicitly tells his readers that he's reading Isaiah inventively. I believe this is what he tries to signal with the word "likening" (see, for example, 1 Ne. 19:23). He sees Isaiah's prophecies as having a meaning of their own, which we might call their immediate meaning. But then he sees the possibility of finding in Isaiah's prophecies a basic pattern that's replicated in Israel's history at times and in places where Isaiah wasn't himself focused. This is clearest when he applies prophecies from the Book of Isaiah, which in their biblical context are clearly about the return of exiled Jews from Babylon during the sixth century before Christ, to things he sees in vision regarding Lehi's descendants in modern times. He explicitly recognizes that passages from Isaiah have their natural fulfillment in the return of Jews from exile to the land of Judah, but then he suggests that the same passages can be likened to the return of latter-day Lamanites to the gospel of Christ their ancestors knew. He seems to see Isaiah as outlining patterns of how God works with Israel, whether in whole or in part, whether anciently or in modern times, again and again. And so he sees the possibility of adapting Isaiah texts to events that arguably outstrip the straightforward meaning of those texts. That is, I think, a rather responsible (because self-aware) form of inventive interpretation.

Of course, such an approach to the Book of Isaiah differs drastically from the kinds of approaches on offer in scholarly work on Isaiah today. For one, Nephi asks a rather different set of questions about Isaiah than do modern scholars. Academic work on Isaiah aims at reconstructing the historical origins and context of the Book of Isaiah, as well as the processes through which what originated with Isaiah came to have the shape we're familiar with from the Bible. Nephi isn't at all interested in these questions. He's apparently familiar with the basic, straightforward historical meaning of prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, but he moves pretty quickly beyond such meanings to explore other possible meanings and applications. Further, though, there are many other ways Nephi seems to differ from the conclusions of modern scholarly work on Isaiah. For instance, he clearly regards the whole of Isaiah 2–5 as a larger unit of text (as can be seen from connecting words and original chapter breaks in the Book of Mormon), but most interpreters today regard those chapters as divisible into at least two larger units (Isaiah 2–4 and Isaiah 5, for example). That only scratches the surface, of course. There are still larger issues of conflict between the way Nephi (or really, the Book of Mormon quite generally) handles Isaiah and the conclusions drawn by modern scholarship, but that would take some work to develop.

How does The Vision of All negotiate this sometimes tense or conflicting terrain of modern scholarship and a more philosophically-grounded reading of Isaiah?

First and foremost, I think it's important just to make clear that there are various ways of reading Isaiah, and that Nephi acknowledges the uniqueness of his approach. We're far too prone as Latter-day Saints to think that there's one correct answer to questions about the meaning of a passage of scripture. We tend to think that we're done with a text once we know the "right" interpretation. And, in many ways, that's mirrored in modern scholarship, although modern scholars come up with a very different set of answers about the meanings of Isaiah's writings. The result is that too many academics think that average believers (Mormon or otherwise) simply get scripture wrong, and average believers return the compliment by claiming that scholars in turn get scripture wrong. What Nephi teaches us, I think, is that a given passage of scripture can have a variety of meanings and applications. Meaning is dynamic and contextualized by the act of reading. The result is that there's more a history of interpretation than there's a definite meaning for any particular passage or text. In Nephi's writings we can glimpse Lehi's approach to Isaiah, and it's quite different from Nephi's. And then he sets his own interpretations side by side with Jacob's, which are similar but far from identical. Even within just the sermon Nephi quotes from Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10, we can track two rather different interpretations of one and the same passage (Isa. 49:22–23).

Just getting clear about all this can help us to feel a good deal more at home with Isaiah. Our job isn't to figure out the one true meaning of Isaiah, but to let Isaiah's words work on us. They provide us with patterns and images, relationships and themes. Our task is to dwell in the text and to let it begin to shape the way we see things. We won't be able to do this very well if we don't become familiar with the range of meanings the text can accommodate. So we ought to read Isaiah scholarship to become familiar with historical reconstructions of Isaiah's (apparent) original meaning. In fact, it's important to read some of this scholarship just to become familiar with the fact that no two interpreters agree on Isaiah's meaning. There are key passages in Isaiah that are literally interpreted in a dozen different ways by major modern interpreters. And then it'd be helpful for us if we became more familiar with the history of interpretation of Isaiah. How have Jews read Isaiah 53? Do different sorts of Christians read Isaiah 11 in different ways? How does a Seventh-day Adventist read Isaiah's references to the remnant by comparison with a mainline Protestant? And then how might we, as Latter-day Saints, find meaning in Isaiah? These are questions that go a good deal further than I ever do in The Vision of All, but I try in the book to open the way to these kinds of approaches, since I argue that Nephi does something like this in his own context.

Can you give us a concrete example of a passage that Latter-day Saints may be prone to interpret a specific way, but which consideration of other interpretations, both within modern scholarship and other religious traditions, may be beneficial?

It's probably easiest here just to begin with an example that's decently known already. Most Latter-day Saints are familiar with those passages in Isaiah that play a prominent role in Handel's Messiah. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). These kinds of passages are generally understood by average Mormons to be straightforward prophecies of Jesus Christ's birth. Modern scholars, however, generally read these passages in a fundamentally different way, say, as prophecies concerning events that were to happen within Isaiah's own lifetime. Some familiarity with the history of Jewish interpretation also helps to reveal how differently these texts can be read. Even many modern Christians, usually in mainline Protestantism, don't read these passages as direct references to Jesus Christ. It turns out that there are many different ways of making sense of these texts. They can be read as predictions of Jesus's birth. But they can also be read in many other ways, often informatively. Now, I don't mean to suggest that the other ways are necessarily the best ways. They may or may not be. But any reading of these passages will be stronger and more interesting if it acknowledges that it approaches the text from a certain perspective, from the perspective of a certain faith.

And really, that's what matters here, I think. When I say that we can benefit from familiarity with the ways that other traditions or modern scholars read certain passages of Isaiah, I mean that we can grow out of the naive assumption that there's only one possible way to understand a text (an assumption that too easily leads us to think that everyone who doesn't see things our way is simply stupid), and we can grow into a recognition that our readings are rooted in our own system of beliefs. I might put that another way: we can grow out of the naive idea that our interpretations of Isaiah are a matter of straightforward knowledge, and we can grow into the deeply mature realization that our interpretations of Isaiah are a matter of invested faith. Now, I suspect that most who become a bit more familiar with the variety of interpretations of Isaiah will come to interpret some of the texts in a new way. I certainly have as I've studied. And that's good, I think. But I think also that the best readers will also find reasons to defend uniquely Mormon interpretations of many passages of Isaiah, even while recognizing that those interpretations are rooted in a very specific perspective of faith. Why shouldn't we grow all the fonder of interpretations that grow directly out of our faith commitments, even as we recognize that the text can be read in many ways? I think we should, that we should feel free to defend an understanding of Isaiah that's informed by other traditions and scholarly work but that's simultaneously rooted in the Restoration.

Switching topics, let's talk about the style of the book: The Vision of All is laid out as a series of twenty-five classroom-style lectures. Give us some insight into your decision to use this approach and if it had any precedent that inspired you.

A few things came together that led me to do the book this way. First, over the past few years, I'd begun to write some of my public presentations in this style, instead of always delivering a more formal or finished paper. I found I really enjoyed the writing process of producing something less formal, something where I don't have to tie up every loose thread and can focus on rhetorical delivery. Experimenting with that form of writing got me thinking. Second, I'd begun teaching courses on the Book of Mormon at Brigham Young University, and I'd found that students responded very well to my lectures on the Isaiah material. These weren't written up even in an informal style, but I began thinking that the sort of presentations I was making in the classroom with Isaiah might be more accessible to Latter-day Saints in general. Finally, I've been working steadily on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon for more than a decade now, and I began to think that I had too many ideas piled up in my head that really needed to be put in writing in some form or another, and writing up popular lectures would allow me to work quickly. These all came together at once, and so I began writing the book, one lecture a week.

In writing the book, I didn't try to follow any particular precedent. At the same time, I thought often while I was writing the book about a few similar projects. I thought sometimes about Hugh Nibley's four volumes of lectures on the Book of Mormon, which are literal transcripts of a four-semester honors course he taught on the Book of Mormon at BYU. I haven't read or watched all of those lectures, but certainly some of them, and I often thought about him providing a kind of example of something useful. Of course, my style in the lectures is quite different from Nibley's. Nibley largely began at one end of the Book of Mormon and worked his way to the other end, and he didn't always seem to have a sense of what he wished to accomplish in any given hour of lecture. I tried to impose a larger architectonic on the project, and I tried to assign myself several specific tasks in each lecture. But then, like Nibley, I let the time limits (or really, for me, word limits) decide where I had to stop. And so a lot of the lectures wrap up with overly quick summations of things. But that's meant to give readers a feel for how much more needs to be said than can be said about the subject of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. I hope it's effective.

Final question: Where do you hope your readers will go from here in their study of Isaiah?

I hope they'll start studying Isaiah on their own! Really, I hope the book itself makes clear that I want readers to take this just as a primer, a way of getting started. A recent review of The Vision of All criticized it because many of the lectures end with something like "Ack! We're out of time! We can't really tie up all these loose ends or get into everything we'd like!" The reviewer suggested that I was unwilling to write an extra thousand words to tie all the loose ends together, or that I was too lazy to work my way toward appropriate conclusions. But the fact is that I deliberately wrote the lectures this way. I want readers to feel how much work needs to be done, and I want them to feel responsible for that work. I want them to see how we might go about working on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, but I want them to know that I can't and won't do all that work for them. Neither I nor anyone else is going to write the book that sorts out everything important that needs saying about Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. But there's a danger in writing scholarly books, a danger that readers might think that reading the scholarly book is all that's needed. So I wanted to write a book that does scholarly work and nonetheless makes perfectly clear that it just points in the right direction, rather than travels the whole length of the road to its ultimate destination.

I'd love to see dozens, hundreds, even thousands of Latter-day Saint readers of Isaiah, scholarly and not. We of all people ought to be invested in making sense of Isaiah's writings. Perhaps I could even wish for the emergence of a marked Latter-day Saint approach to Isaiah, one that becomes recognized as uniquely Mormon and worthy of interest from outsiders. I'd love to see that Latter-day Saint reading be profoundly responsible academically, fully informed about the best scholarly literature. But I'd love just as much to see that Latter-day Saint reading be deeply invested in the unique faith claims of the Restoration, deeply rooted in faithfulness to what Mormonism claims about the world. Our own unique scriptures ask us to take Isaiah seriously, but we tend to leave that task to scholars whose writings we can barely understand or to oddball amateurs who borrow their interpretations from the fundamentalist Christian tradition. What if we began to work on Isaiah in a way that didn't ultimately feel it necessary to conform to every scholarly conclusion (while nonetheless being aware of them) but also didn't look like wacky esoteric speculation? I think we could forge an interpretive tradition that could speak to the world.

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On the tenth day of Kofford: 30% off war and peace titles! December 10 2016


War and peace titles are 30% off December 10th. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code PEACEONEARTH (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

War & Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives
Edited by Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
by Duane Boyce

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
by Charles Shirō Inouye

Retail: $13.95
Sale price: $9.77

Saints of Valor: Mormon Medal of Honor Recipients, Updated 2nd Edition
by Sherman L. Fleek

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37


On the fifth day of Kofford: 30% off Contemporary Studies in Scripture titles! December 05 2016


All Contemporary Studies in Scripture titles are 30% off December 5th. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code STANDARDWORKS (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

Authoring the Old Testament, Volume 1: Geneses—Deuteronomy 
by David Bokovoy

Retail: $26.95
Sale price: $18.87

Re-reading Job: Understanding the World's Greatest Poem
by Michael Austin

Retail: $20.95
Sale price: $14.67

Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels
by Julie M. Smith

Retail: $27.95
Sale price: $19.57

Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon
by Bradley J. Kramer

Retail: $21.95
Sale price: $15.37

The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi's Record
by Joseph M. Spencer

Retail: $25.95
Sale price: $18.17


On the first day of Kofford: all Brant Gardner titles 30% off retail price! December 01 2016

 

Greg Kofford Books is pleased to offer 30% off of the following titles on December 1st. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code BOOKOFMORMON (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 1: First Nephi
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 2: Second Nephi through Jacob
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 3: Enos through Mosiah
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 4: Alma
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $49.95
Sale price: $34.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 5: Helaman through Third Nephi
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 6: Fourth Nephi through Moroni
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Best Religious Non-fiction Award, The Association for Mormon Letters


Twelve Days of Kofford Christmas Sale 2016 November 30 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM GREG KOFFORD BOOKS

Greg Kofford Books is pleased to announce our annual holiday sale on select popular titles beginning December 1st – December 12th.

Here's how it works: at the stroke of midnight each day, a new blog post will go live on our website listing that day's special offerings along with a discount code that you can enter at check-out to get the holiday price. It's that simple. We will also be posting the daily offering and discount code on our Facebook page at 7am.

*Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping (continental U.S. customers only). Local Utah customers can stop by our office in Sandy to pick up their orders as well. Holiday inventory on some titles may be limited, so be sure to take advantage of the daily sale early.*

To help you plan in advance, here are our scheduled sales:

Day 1 — Brant Gardner titles

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon series
by Brant A. Gardner


30% off each title

The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon
by Brant A Gardner
Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
by Brant A Gardner
Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Best Religious Non-fiction Award, Association for Mormon Letters

 

Day 2 — Adam Miller titles (essays in Mormon theology)

Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology
by Adam S. Miller

Retail $18.95
Sale price: $13.27

Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology
by Adam S. Miller

Retail: $18.95
Sale price: $13.27

 

Day 3 — Personal Essays

Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family
by Boyd Jay Petersen

Retail: $22.95
Sale price: $16.07

Mr. Mustard Plaster and Other Mormon Essays
by Mary Lithgoe Bradford

Retail: $20.95
Sale price: $14.67

Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism
by Jack Harrell

Retail: $18.95
Sale price: $13.27


Day 4 — Blake T. Ostler titles

Exploring Mormon Thought series
by Blake T. Ostler

30% off each title

Fire on the Horizon: A Meditation on the Endowment and Love of Atonement
by Blake T. Ostler

Retail: $17.95
Sale price: $12.57


Day 5 — Contemporary Studies in Scripture

Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis — Deuteronomy
by David Bokovoy

Retail: $26.95
Sale price: $18.87

Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem
by Michael Austin

Retail: $20.95
Sale price: $14.67

Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels
by Julie M. Smith

Retail: $27.95
Sale price: $19.57

Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon
by Bradley J. Kramer

Retail: $21.95
Sale price: $15.37

The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi's Record
by Joseph M. Spencer

Retail: $25.95
Sale price: $18.17

 
Day 6 — International Mormonism

The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901–1968
by Shinji Takagi

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Mormon and Maori
by Marjorie Newton

Retail: $24.95
Sale price: $17.47

Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association

Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958
by Marjorie Newton

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association

For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830–2013
by Russell W. Stevenson

Retail: $32.95
Sale price: $23.07

Best Book Award, Mormon History Association

The History of the Mormons in Argentina
by Néstor Curbelo

Retail: $24.95
Sale price: $17.47

From Above and Below: The Mormon Embrace of Revolution, 1840 – 1940
by Craig Livingston

Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association


Day 7 — Polygamy titles

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History and Theology
by Brian C. Hales

Now in paperback!

30% off each title

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding
by Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales

Retail: $19.95
Sale price: $13.97

Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto
by Brian C. Hales

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37

Best Book Award, John Whitmer Historical Association

Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle
by Jessie L. Embry

Retail: $24.95
Sale price: $17.47

Prisoner for Polygamy: The Memoirs and Letters of Rudger Clawson at the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, 1884–87
by Stan Larson

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97


Day 8 — Contemporary Issues

Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact
by Neylan McBaine

Retail: $21.95
Sale price: $15.37

Common Ground—Different Opinions: Latter-day Saints and Contemporary Issues
Edited by Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37

The Liberal Soul: Applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Politics
by Richard Davis

Retail: $22.95
Sale price: $16.07

Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd

Retail: $32.95
Sale price: $23.07


Day 9 — Biography

Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life
by Boyd Jay Petersen

Retail: $32.95
Sale price: $23.07

Best Biography Award, Mormon History Association

“Swell Suffering”: A Biography of Maurine Whipple
by Veda Tebbs Hale

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37

Best Biography Award, Mormon History Association

William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet
by Kyle R. Walker

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Best Biography Award, John Whitmer Historical Association

The Man Behind the Discourse: A Biography of King Follett
by Joann Follett Mortensen

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97


Day 10 — War and Peace

War & Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives
Edited by Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
by Duane Boyce

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
by Charles Shirō Inouye

Retail: $13.95
Sale price: $9.77

Saints of Valor: Mormon Medal of Honor Recipients, Updated 2nd Edition
by Sherman L. Fleek

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37


Day 11 — Mormon Image in Literature

The Mormoness; Or, The Trials Of Mary Maverick: A Narrative Of Real Events
by John Russell
Edited and Annotated by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall

Retail: $12.95
Sale price: $9.07

Boadicea; the Mormon Wife: Life Scenes in Utah
by Alfreda Eva Bell
Edited and Annotated by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall

Retail: $15.95
Sale price: $11.17

 

Day 12 — Ebook Flash Sale — $1.99 for select titles

To be announced. Stay tuned!


Q&A with Julie M. Smith for As Iron Sharpens Iron July 26 2016

Edited by Julie M. Smith
188 pages

Paperback $20.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-501-0)


Pre-order Your Copy Today


Give us a little background into how this project started.


I read a review copy of Matthew Richard Schlimm's This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities. Its aim is to help the modern reader figure out what to do when a work they regard as sacred seems to promote genocide, slavery, etc. There is a brief section in the book—just a page or two—where he presents a fictitious dialogue between Ruth and Ezra. Ezra is the one who commands the Israelites to divorce their foreign wives. Ruth, of course, is a foreign wife. Now, in real life, they never had this conversation—they didn't even live at the same time. But Schlimm has created this conversation that shows them exploring their positions on what we would call interfaith marriage. It is civil, but neither concedes. They explore their disagreement. This dialogue stuck in my mind. A few weeks later, I was still thinking about it. I wished that I could read an entire book of dialogues like that. And since I know some pretty clever people, I decided to ask them to write a book like that for me.
 
Why is it important for readers of scriptures to understand that there are various, sometimes even contesting, views within the scriptures?
 
Usually, one of two things happens: we either don't read closely enough to notice that there are differences, or, as soon as we notice the differences, we work as hard and as quickly as we can to come up with some theory that makes the difference disappear. But what if the contesting views are supposed to be there? What if they are a feature and not a bug? This book is an exercise in exploring those differences. If they are there, they are a feature of the scriptures, and we might just be able to learn something from them.
 
Why did you choose to portray these different views within scriptures as fictionalized dialogues among scriptural figures? Does this approach tie into a more anciently-practiced approach to scriptural hermeneutics?
 
In some ways it is similar to the Jewish practice of midrash because it is creative and because it goes beyond the text itself. But whereas midrash often tries to fill “gaps” or solve problems, it was important to me that we specifically not do that, but rather try to stay true to the text itself. As far as using fictionalized dialogues, it seemed to be a reader-friendly manner of presenting the diverging opinions. It also models civil dialogue—something I think this current moment is lacking and might benefit from seeing modeled.
  
What are some of the larger themes within scripture that are particularly relevant to a modern audience?
 
Can I say “all of them”? I'm not sure there is much that they wrestled with that we don't, at least in some iteration. For example, my dialogue concerns Mark and Luke discussing (or, as Ben Peters described it, “mansplaining”) women's proper roles. Luke's viewpoint is that we honor women by honoring what women have traditionally done; Mark's is that we honor women by removing restrictions from their behavior. But is Mark's view requiring women to act like men in order to be worthy of honor? Is Luke's view too limiting of what women can do? It's 2,000 years later and we are still having precisely the same conversation about women's roles. This is true for all of the dialogues. 
 
Can you provide an example or two of topics that casual readers may assume unity among Biblical writers that, upon closer scrutiny, may actually show tension?
 
Nicholas Frederick has a great piece contrasting the different views about the nature and divinity of Jesus within the New Testament. Heather Hardy's piece highlighting the different ways that Joseph (in the Old Testament) and Nephi think about rivalry and reconciliation with their siblings is just fantastic. Ronan James Head writes about contrasting views of Satan.
 
How does understanding the different views and ideas presented in scripture help us to have a deeper, more rewarding experience in reading them?

Well, I find the places of tension to be the most productive locations for really pondering because they raise such important questions about how to resolve those tensions. I'm a big proponent of the idea that when you are pondering and wrestling, you are creating space for the Spirit to speak as you let the questions tumble around.

Pre-order your copy today.


Year in Review and the Year Ahead December 29 2015

2015 was another amazing year for Greg Kofford Books! Here is a recap of the year and a look ahead to what is coming in 2016 and beyond.

Award-winning Publications

Several Kofford titles won awards from the Mormon History Association and the Association for Mormon Letters in 2015:

MHA Best Book Award

For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013
By Russell W. Stevenson
$66.95 hardcover
$32.95 paperback

“Invaluable as a historical resource.” Terryl L. Givens, author of Parley P.
Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism
 and By the Hand of Mormon: The
American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion

MHA Best International Book Award

Mormon and Maori
By Marjorie Newton
$24.95 paperback

“Unflinchingly honest yet unfailingly compassionate.” — Grant Underwood,
Professor of History at Brigham Young University

AML Religious Non-Fiction Award

Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem
By Michael Austin
$50.00 hardcover
$20.95 paperback

“A new gold standard for Mormon writings.” — Julie M. Smith, author, Search,
Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels

 

All 2015 Titles

Here are all of the great titles that Greg Kofford Books published this past year:

Mr. Mustard Plaster and Other Mormon Essays
By Mary Lythgoe Bradford
Published January, 2015
$20.95 paperback

“Vibrant portraits of a kind and loving soul.” — Boyd J. Peterson, author of
Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and
Family

Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Scriptural Theology      
Edited by James E. Faulconer and Joseph M. Spencer
Published February, 2015
$59.95 hardcover
$24.95 paperback

Each essay takes up the relatively un-self-conscious work of reading a
scriptural text but then—at some point or another—asks the self-conscious
question of exactly what she or he is doing in the work of reading scripture.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding
By Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales
Published April, 2015
$19.95 paperback

“It is a book that will be read and discussed for years to come.” — Robert L.
Millet, Professor Emeritus of Religious Education, Brigham Young University 

Even Unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
By Duane Boyce
Published May, 2015
$29.95 paperback 

“Indispensable for all future Mormon discussions of the subject.” — Daniel C.
Peterson, editor of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture

William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet
By Kyle R. Walker
Published June, 2015
$69.95 hardcover
$39.95 paperback

“Walker’s biography will become essential reading.” — Mark Staker, author of
the award-winning Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph
Smith’s Ohio Revelations

Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd
Published July, 2015
$32.95 paperback

“Timely, incisive, important.” — Joanna Brooks, co-editor of Mormon
Feminism: Essential Writings
and author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A
Memoir of an American Faith

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
By Brant A. Gardner
Published August, 2015
$34.95 paperback

“Illuminating, prismatic views of the Book of Mormon.” — Mark Alan Wright,
Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and
Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

 

Looking Ahead at 2016 and Beyond

Here are a few eagerly-anticipated titles currently scheduled for the first part of 2016 and a look at what is in the works for the future:

The Mormon Image in Literature Series
Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall, series editors

The Mormoness; Or, The Trials Of Mary Maverick: A Narrative Of Real Events
By John Russell, edited and annotated by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall
Available January 26, 2016. Pre-order your copy today!
$12.95 paperback

Published in 1853, the first American novel about the Mormons is also one of
the best. John Russell, an Illinois journalist and educator, witnessed the
persecution in Missouri and Illinois and generally sympathized with the Saints.
The Mormoness tells the story of Mary Maverick, the heroine of the novel,
who joined the Mormon Church when her husband was converted in Illinois.
Though not initially a believer, Mary embraces her identity as “the
Mormoness” when her husband and son are killed in a Haun’s Mill-like
massacre–and at the end of the novel, she must find a way to forgive the
killer.

The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
By Charles Shirō Inouye 
Available February 16, 2016. Pre-order your copy today!
$13.95 paperback

Environmental decline, political gridlock, war and rumors of war, decadence,
and immorality. The End of the World, Plan B traces the idea of the end, or
destruction, of the world through a number of spiritual traditions. It shows that
our present understanding of the “end game” has been distorted by a modern
emphasis and demand on justice as the ultimate good. As an alternative to
this self-destructive approach, Charles Shirō Inouye shows that in these
traditions, justice is not the isolated end in itself that we ought strive for; rather
it is taught in tandem with its balancing companion: compassion. Plan B is a
hopeful alternative to our fears about how things are going.

 

Also forthcoming...

More volumes are in the works for our The Mormon Image in Literature, Contemporary Studies in Scripture, and Perspectives on Mormon Theology series.

Saints, Slaves, and Blacks by Newell G. Bringhurst, revised and updated

Lot Smith: Utah Hero, Arizona Colonizer by Carmen Smith and Talana Hooper

The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968 by Shinji Takagi

Science the Key to Theology by Steven L. Peck

And much, much more...

Thank you for making 2015 exceptional and we are excited about 2016!

 

 

 

 

 


LDS Theory of War in 3-Part Series October 08 2015

Kofford Books author Duane Boyce recently discussed the Mormon theology of war and violence in a three-part series at Meridian Magazine.

Boyce is the author of the Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War (2015), which has garnered the following praises:

“A careful and detailed argument against pacifism has long been needed, and it is hard to imagine someone doing a better job of it. The scholarship in this volume is impressive, and it is likely to be the definitive work on the subject for years to come. Truly a major accomplishment.” — K. Codell Carter, Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

“Finally, we have a comprehensive and thorough discussion of war from an LDS perspective." — Royal Skousen, Professor of Linguistics, Brigham Young University, Editor, Book of Mormon Critical Text Project

In the first part of his series, Boyce discusses the question of pacifism vs. non-pacifism in LDS theology. He states:

"There are two fundamental views of war: pacifism, which argues that war cannot be justified and instead must be rejected as a matter of principle, and non-pacifism (of which just-war theory is an example), which argues that war is justified in certain circumstances.

It is easy to understand the appeal of both points of view. On one hand, all disciples of Christ detest violence; it is in the DNA of Christian embrace. And that gives pacifism a natural gravitational force: its appeal is both intrinsic and compelling. But an equally intrinsic and compelling influence in Christian DNA is the love of our families and of our brothers and sisters in general, and the obligation we feel to protect them from being brutalized and murdered.

The pull of these two moral forces creates a natural tension. The love of peace and the love of our brothers and sisters are both genuine, and both exert a natural influence on disciples of Christ. People end up leaning one way or the other, but it seems that everyone actually feels the pull of both.

The same tension seems to appear in the scriptures themselves."

Read part one: "Pacifism or Non-Pacifism? The First Great Question in Developing an LDS Theory of War."

In the second part of his series, Boyce examines the scriptural context of war:

"[One] view thought to support non-violence is the assertion that Book of Mormon wars occurred only because the Nephites were unrighteous. Every war they fought was completely unnecessary because the Lord promised Nephi that the Lamanites would never bother the Nephites if only the Nephites remained righteous (1 Nephi 2:23). We cannot, therefore, draw support for righteous conflict from the Nephites, since it turns out that the Nephites were always unrighteous when involved in conflict.

This claim, however—like the others—also appears to suffer when we examine the text more closely. It turns out that the Book of Mormon actually reports multiple occasions on which the Nephites suffered attack even though they were righteous—a feature of the record that straightforwardly disproves this categorical claim about them."

Read part two: "Do the Scriptures give us a Theory of War?"

In the third part of his series, Boyce discusses a theory of "just war" from an LDS perspective:

"Granted that the Lord abhors violence, what reason is there to think that he abhors all violence for the same reasons? Are all forms of violence the same? Do they all have the same moral character? Are the violence of a rapist and the violence of his victim the same? Do their violent acts have the same moral status? And are all forms of abhorrence-of-violence, then, the same?

And try this question. Why does scripture seem to countenance violence in some teachings/episodes and condemn it in others? Is there any reason to think the different cases and contexts are equivalent? Isn’t it more natural to wonder if there are differences between them and that that’s why they seem to teach different attitudes toward violence?"

Read part three: "Just War Theory and Key Gospel Texts"


Q&A with Traditions of the Fathers Author Brant Gardner June 30 2015

by Brant A. Gardner

Approximately 590 pages

Paperback $34.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-665-9)

Pre-order your copy today.

Q: You've already commented extensively on the Book of Mormon, first in your multi-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, and The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of MormonHow does this volume differ from these previous volumes? 

Brant: Second Witness was an attempt to provide a comprehensive commentary on the Book of Mormon that included multiple perspectives, including a historical context. There is so much in Second Witness, that only the most persistent reader could gain a chronological understanding of how the Book of Mormon fits into a particular time and place. Traditions of the Fathers concentrates on the story rather than the doctrine. It pulls together the history in a more compact and more easily readable form. It also includes information and insights available since the publication of Second Witness.

 

Q: There are many volumes dedicated to investigation and study of the Book of Mormon, including the questions of its historicity. What makes this book stand out from those?  

 Brant: Even the best of the previous volumes on the history and historicity of the Book of Mormon use somewhat of a shotgun approach to understanding the text. Some have had better aim, but the process has still been to rely heavily on proposed similarities--that sometimes are not that similar. Traditions of the Fathers looks more closely at tying together multiple types of information belonging to the same time and location, as well as providing some in-depth analysis of some previous suggestions that were more enthusiastic than correct. In addition, the intent of the book is not necessarily to provide proofs of the Book of Mormon, but rather to give it the kind of historical and cultural background that we have for the Old and New Testament. Understanding those historical and cultural contexts can deepen our understanding of the Bible, and the proper historical and cultural background for the Book of Mormon should similarly deepen our understanding.

 

Q: What is most valuable about this book for the believing Latter-day Saint? What is there to recommend it for the interested reader who is not a believing Latter-day Saint? 

Brant: The believing Latter-day Saint should begin to see the people and actions recounted in the Book of Mormon in new and more human ways. The characters and events of the Book of Mormon should become more real, and therefore we should be able to see our own humanity transformed in similar spiritual ways. For those who are not believing Latter-day Saints, Traditions of the Fathers can provide a way to understand why Latter-day Saints accept it as history, even when many assume that it doesn't seem similar to known populations. Those similarities and the way to see the Book of Mormon in history should be easier to understand.

 

Q: Can you give us an example or two of the work you do in teasing out the culture and context for where the Book of Mormon is said to take place? 

Brant: There are two important aspects to placing the Book of Mormon in time and space. The first is to find the right place, since the text provides the timeframe. Geography is only a first step to that determination. Other major factors deal with the people discussed in the text. For example, there is no direct communication between Jaredites and Nephites. There is the last king of the Jaredites who lives with the people in Zarahemla before the Nephites arrive. That tells us that there must be a physical separation between the original Nephite lands and those of the Jaredites.

Once there is a time and place, the culture of the area is compared to the events in the Book of Mormon to see if there are correspondences where the Book of Mormon is reflecting the culture or events at the appropriate times. That comparison leads to insights elaborated in Traditions of the Fathers about why Nephi's people wanted a king, why Mosiah fled at the time he did (and in the direction he did), why Mormon is so interested in the Gadiatons, and why the Nephite final battle occurred when it did and not earlier (or later).

 

Q: What are some of the ways of discussing the Book of Mormon and historicity that you find are not helpful or are even detrimental? 

Brant: When the approach to discussing Book of Mormon historicity doesn't have sufficient controls on the evidence presented, it is too easily dismissed. It is also dangerous when believers start to base testimonies on fundamentally flawed approaches.

 

Q: How might you describe the current state of Book of Mormon studies? What do you hope to see in the future? 

Brant: This is a very interesting time for Book of Mormon studies. There are a wider number of serious studies looking at a larger number of aspects of the text. The work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon helps answer some simple questions that help understand certain confusions. The work on poetic and other literary features of the text look at it in new ways. There are new aids in deepening our understanding of the theology behind the text. There are studies looking at the place of the Book of Mormon in our own modern history. We are seeing more and better correlations between the text and the ever-increasing amount of information coming from archaeology and history, both in the Old and New Worlds.

The future should see a continued expansion of and refinement of all of these fields. Personally, I'd love to see a continued shift away from attempts to prove the Book of Mormon to better understanding the Book of Mormon--to see it in history not to prove what only spiritual witness can prove, but to bolster that spiritual witness by better understanding the real people who lived the lives behind the Book of Mormon stories.

 

Pre-order your copy here.


Greg Kofford Books Award-Winning Titles June 12 2015

Since its first publication in 2001, Greg Kofford Books has established a reputation as a publisher of consistently award-winning titles in Mormon history and literature. Check out this comprehensive list of each of our books that has received an award:



2015 Best Book Award, Mormon History Association:For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013, by Russell Stevenson. 



2015 Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association:  Mormon and Maori, by Marjorie Newton.



2014 Best Religious Non-fiction Award, Association for Mormon Letters: Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem, by Michael Austin. 



2014 Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association: From Above and Below: The Mormon Embrace of Revolution, 1840-1940, by Craig Livingston.



2013 Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association: Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958, by Marjorie Newton. 



2012 Best Biography Award, Mormon History Association: Swell Suffering: A Biography of Maureen Whipple, by Veda Tebbs Hale.



2011 Best Criticism Award, Association for Mormon Letters: The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, by Brant Gardner. 



2011 Best Book Awards, Mormon History Association and John Whitmer Historical Association: Hearken O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith's Ohio Revelations, by Mark Staker. 



2007 Best Book Award, John Whitmer Historical Association: Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto, by Brian Hales. 


2003 Best Biography Award, Mormon History Association: Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, by Boyd Petersen. 


Kofford Authors at MHA June 01 2015

Greg Kofford Books authors have long been well-represented as speakers and panel chairs at annual conferences of the Mormon History Association, and the 2015 Conference at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, June 4-7, is no exception! Check out the titles of their presentations and panels below: 

  

Russell Stevenson, author of For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 will present, "We Aren't Africa: Mormonism in Nigeria, 1960-1964."

 

  

Joseph Spencer, author of For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope will present, "Canon and History: On the Revelation to Emma Smith."

 

    

Boyd Petersen, author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life and Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family will chair theTheology and History panel. 

 

  

Claudia Bushman, co-editor (with Caroline Kline) ofMormon Women Have Their Say: Essays from the Claremont Oral History Collection will present "Early Decisions," as part of the Exponent II: Present at the Creation panel.

 

    

Lavina Fielding Anderson and Newell Bringhurst, editors of Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century will chair a panel and present a paper, respectively. Lavina will chair the Mormon History Journals Editors panel, and Newell will present "President David O. McKay's 1954 Encounter with the LDS Church's Black Priesthood Ban: An Important but Forgotten Episode."

 

  

Thomas Alexander, author of Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930, 3rd ed. will speak as part of the Culture of the Early Mormon History Association roundtable. 

 

 

  

Todd Compton, author (with Leland H. Gentry) ofFire and Sword: A History of the Latter-Days Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39 will present "Ganado Mucho, Navajo Headman, and the Mormons."

 

  

Don Bradley, author of the forthcoming The Lost 116 Pages: Rediscovering the Book of Lehi will present, "From Cumorah's 'Ark' to Joseph's Hat: Sacred and Mundane Objects in the Emergence of the Book of Mormon."

 

 

  

Christine and Christopher Blythe, editors of the forthcoming Mormonisms: A Documentary History, 1844-1860 will chair panels and present papers. Christine will present, " 'Presiding at Birth:' The Creation of Folk Theologies among Latter-day Saint Women," and she will chair the Mormonism and Material Culture panel. Christopher will present, "Martyrdom Canes and Vernacular Mormonism" in that same panel.

 

  

Stuart Parker, author of the forthcoming History through Seer Stones: A Hundred Years of Mormon Pasts will present, "Margarita Bautista's 'Eternal Mexico:' A Revolutionary Mormon proto-Chicanismo."

 

 

 

 


Q&A with Even unto Bloodshed author Duane Boyce May 19 2015

Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War

by Duane Boyce

322 pages

Paperback $29.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-630-7)

Available May 26th in print and e-book

Pre-order your copy today

 Preview Even unto Bloodshed here. 

 

Q: What prompted you to begin writing this book? 

Duane:  Nothing is sadder than war, and yet nothing seems more common. Although it is tempting to just sit back and hope conflict will go away, there is really no hope for this. And that means disciples of Christ, in particular, must be extremely thoughtful on the subject. Is war ever permitted? If not, why not? And if it is, under what circumstances? What can possibly justify the devastation and human misery entailed by military conflict?

It is not difficult to find a multitude of mortals’ opinions on such matters, but for followers of Christ this is far from the main concern. Ultimately, to whatever degree we can discover it, we want to know the Lord’s own disposition toward violence and to embrace that. And that means we want to search the scriptures with care and to bring to bear every relevant consideration. We cannot assume that the matter is simple and that it can be settled with a quick verse or two. It seems to me that the issues are more complicated and subtle than that. That’s why my study led to a book rather than to an essay.

 

Q: A broad readership is always the most desirable, but is there also an intended audience for this book? And what do you hope they get out of it?

Duane:  At some point, almost everyone becomes intensely interested in the moral evaluation of war. It’s hard to say when that will happen, but I think most people face it at some point. This book is for anyone who decides it’s time to consider the matter comprehensively, from a gospel point of view. Comprehensiveness seems important to me. After all, it’s not hard to have a couple of passages in mind that seem to settle the question of war, but the problem is that others can have a different set of passages in mind that, to them, settle the question in a different way. I think many would find it helpful to read a book that tries to approach the matter more comprehensively than that.

In my view, all the relevant scriptural passages cohere in a unified framework about war. They actually don’t compete but genuinely synchronize in their collective illumination of this gospel topic. Anyone interested in how this is possible will be interested in this book. Or so it seems to me, at any rate.

       

Q: In this book you argue that the position of the pacifist is not tenable, either on secular or scriptural grounds. Why might a Christian be drawn to pacifism, and, conversely, why might another Christian be drawn to non-pacifism? 

Duane:  All disciples detest violence. It is in the DNA of Christian embrace. And that gives pacifism a natural gravitational force: its appeal is both intrinsic and compelling. But an equally intrinsic and compelling influence in Christian DNA is the love of our families, and of our brothers and sisters in general, and the obligation we feel to protect them from being brutalized and murdered.

The love of peace and the love of our brothers and sisters are both genuine and both exert a natural influence on disciples of Christ. People end up leaning one way or the other, but I think everyone actually feels the pull of both. Given the set of choices, the result is a genuine psychological and spiritual tension. Who doesn’t feel it?

 

Q: You spend a good deal of time in the book outlining "Just War Theory," a concept first articulated in the Christian tradition by St. Augustine as an attempt to describe the criteria that must be present in order for Christians to morally participate in war. Can you briefly explain how this might or might not intersect with LDS beliefs? Do LDS need Just War Theory in order to understand how to engage in war in the present time? 

Duane:  Just-war theory is valuable for two reasons. First, in any comprehensive look at war, it is important to consider secular arguments as well as spiritual ones. Just-war theory is a natural starting place because, as far as it goes, it captures most people’s intuitions, and is very helpful. Second, because its origins are Christian, its principles are not uncongenial to a Christian point of view and therefore the theory is relevant to any consideration of an LDS approach. To the degree it is possible to create an LDS framework about war, just-war theory can help in thinking about it. 

 

Q: Where do you see this book being positioned with regard to the ongoing conversation concerning LDS perspectives on war and peace? What original contribution does this book make to that conversation? 

Duane:  Given the tension identified previously, it is only natural that positions will coalesce around one pole or the other. The focus will be either on the evil of violence or on the necessity of defending human beings from brutality and murder. Both are legitimate, of course, so the real question is how to address both matters within a single conceptual frame. What point of view can give full weight to both considerations and simultaneously remove the tension between them? Creating that kind of frame is the purpose of this book.

 

Q: If a person holds non-pacifist beliefs regarding war, does that mean such a person is "pro-war?" What are some of the elements of your position that you think pacifists misconstrue or misunderstand? Can the same be said for non-pacifists' understandings of pacifism? 

Duane:  As to the first question: Stated this broadly, it seems to me impossible for a disciple to be “pro-war.” A fundamental hatred of violence is a property of discipleship, and this means the proper default position is always one of vigorously resisting war as a solution to problems.

As to the second and third questions: I think mutual misunderstanding is unavoidable given the tension between detesting violence and loving those suffering from aggression. Whichever way we lean, it is easy to conclude that those on the other end just don’t appreciate what we appreciate. That’s why people with different views can be impatient with each other. It’s easy to see others as blind to what really matters. In my view, both really matter and no approach to war can be satisfactory if it does not give full weight to both. 

  

Q: Having devoted a lot of time to thinking about war and peace with regard to Christian discipleship, what would you say is the problem most difficult for Latter-day Saints to wrestle with? 

Duane: The most difficult problem is the tension I’ve mentioned. It occurs not only in our hearts, but in the scriptures themselves, which at times seem to prohibit violence and at other times to promote it. This seems contradictory. Are the scriptures themselves disconnected? It can seem as if they are, and, if so, we then seem doomed either to flip-flop between the competing views or to settle permanently for one but at the cost of minimizing the other. None of this seems satisfactory. Disconnected scriptures? Spiritual flip-flopping? Permanent underestimation of a legitimate scriptural perspective?

Fortunately, I think all of this unnecessary. In my view, the tension actually rests on a mistake. When we frame the issue more carefully it turns out that scriptural teachings about war fit together perfectly and they do so without minimizing anything. Appreciating the gospel message at a deeper level, the tension at the surface evaporates. To me the reasons for all of this are both fascinating and highly illuminating. It takes a book to show it (at least if we want to attempt anything close to comprehensive), but if I am right that the result is the removal of a common spiritual tension, the effort has been worth it.   

 

Pre-order your copy here.