How would you map Joseph’s thought. If you had to reduce his thought to four or five major areas, what would they be. The ones I am using are:
a. The simple gospel of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and endurance.
b. Zion, gathering, the millennium.
c. Priesthood, ordinances, endowment of power, temple, rituals.
d. Family bonds: baptism for the dead, priesthood marriage, sealings.
e. Stories of eternity: the accounts of God’s history and nature, the nature of individual free intelligences, the purpose of life, the hereafter and human destiny.

7 comments for “Joseph

  1. I would have to say that a core area of his thinking was the value of friendship and the bond of brotherhood. I know it isn’t a core doctrine or even a part of the restoration, but it was a core part of what made Joseph Smith what he was.

  2. I think the core unifying vision is the Kingdom of God.

    The simple gospel brings us in and everything else gets us involved–recruits us as co-workers in the cause of expanding the capacity of eternal intelligences.

  3. To me right up there is his revelation of the true nature of God and his true relationship to us as a Father.

    Then comes the revelation of our own eternal natures and how that fact, coupled with the doctrine of moral agency provides answers to age-old philisophical questions such as the problem of evil.

    Finally, (I only need three) the above revelations create the ground work for the Plan of Happiness and how that plan reconciles the demands of Justice and Mercy

  4. Richard: It seems to me that b through e are actually quite unitified. It seems to me that priesthood ordinances and temples end up becoming a ritual story about gathering and Zion, which is ultimately realized through family sealings, which mark the final solution to the problem of isolated and eternal intelligences. I have often thought that Joseph’s theology was ultimately concerned with the problem of intelligences. If we are self-existent we face the possiblity of ultimate isolation, unmitigated even by metaphysical dependence. It seems to me that the strongly communitarian aspects of Joseph’s theology (particularlly his conceptions of salvation and exaltation) such as gathering Zion, family sealings, priesthood councils, etc. are all ways of overcoming the radical individualism of intelligences co-eternal with God.

  5. Nate: I couldn’t agree with you more. I picture the universe as made up of a congeries of individual, peculiar, idiosyncratic, somewhat mishapen, quirky intelligences. God is trying to persuade this odd lot of beings that by working together we can accomplish great things, and here are the fundamentals. In a sense any kind of corporate enterprise is divine–including business corporations. Anything that brings together this chaotic assembly is notable. To help us out God instills in us primal needs to join forces–sex and family–both of which compel us to work together. But beyond that we are learning how best to do it. When I find myself in tug of wars with my colleagues at BYU I want to teach them a little theology. We have to get along. That is the great point. So far as I can see, the Gospel and the Church takes farther toward mutuality than any other group. Perhaps the blog is next on the list.

  6. I would say it is Joseph Smith’s Unified/Unifying “Theory” of Theology. Just think of the whole idea of “The Plan of Salvation” and the Eternal Nature of Reality; what was is, what is will be One Eternal Round. He was looking for more than just Truth as much as Connection to the Divine. O I would list:

    a) Increase our spiritual and physical relationship to God, by
    b)Increasing our spritual and physical relatiohship to each other, by
    c) Christ’s mission to make a and b a possibility.

    I must not forget e) The free will to seperate ourselves from both a and b, although with consiquences.

  7. Hello. I first heard of you when u wrote a response to Wes Walters on the 1820 revival. I had heard of Dialogue , started subscribing,asked some americans what the leadership thought of the mag. They said that they were disappointed in an issue whre an lds historian responded to a critic and did not do a very good job. I soon after getting some backissues that was you.
    Do you still think the camp meeting down the road is sufficient evidence for a revival. When do u think the family joined the Presbyterian Church? After 1823 seems ,more likely to me anyway. I spoke with one writer who is very knowledgable in this area and he thinks you may not deal honestly with some of the problematic areas like treasure seeking, polyandry , Book of Abraham. I had a lengthy letter exchange with Wes Walters.Its a pity he died, I would have liked to see his comments on your upcoming biography, especially that part dealing with the First Vision.

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