Earlier, I recommended The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts (Greg Kofford Books, 2018) for your Christmas list. Let me renew that recommendation with comments on a few chapters from the second half of the book. Most essay collections are of fairly uneven quality, with a couple of excellent pieces and several ho-hum entries. I’d say that every single essay in this collection is top-notch.
Chapter 9, “The Ascendancy and Legitimation of the Pearl of Great Price,” is a short, informative, and fairly candid essay on what has become a very controversial topic in Mormon Studies. The author notes that Joseph Smith had no apparent intention of canonizing material now in the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham; that the 1851 publication of that material in England was not approved by the President of the Church; and that Orson Pratt’s editing of the Book of Moses for the LDS 1878 edition of the Pearl of Great Price relied heavily on RLDS manuscripts of the “Inspired Version” (the RLDS title for what LDS call The Joseph Smith Translation). The author tries to stick to the facts with as little commentary as possible. For example: “We know that examining the three Facsimiles strictly from the perspective of Egyptology creates serious problems for Joseph Smith” (p. 156).
Chapter 13, “The Art of Scripture and Scripture as Art: The Proclamation on the Family and the Expanding Canon” — I sort of avoided this chapter at first because I thought it was going to talk about art. No, it’s all about the Proclamation on the Family, which has somehow attained scriptural authority despite not being canonized. The gist of the chapter might be summarized as, “What the heck is a proclamation?” My answer: It is a very useful uncanonized non-revelation.
Chapter 12, “Spiritualizing Electronic Scripture in Mormonism,” reviews the love-hate relationship the Church has had with the online world. Initially there was resistance to the idea of electronic scriptures on your phone or iPad displacing the printed scriptures you used to lug around church on Sunday. The 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures, which was first released only in digital form, really marked the full acceptance of electronic scriptures. The essay also discusses the larger issue of the LDS view of technology, in which technological advances are welcomed as God’s gift to the modern world and the Church, while at the same time being leery of other things the Internet provides easy access to. Consider, for example, the fraught issue of giving cell phones or iPads to missionaries. Yes, we want them to have a cell phone like every other adult in America. But we don’t want them to be able to email friends or family members, or watch, you know, videos. Technology is either a blessing or a threat, depending on what day it is.
So expand your mind with The Expanded Canon.