A Compelling New Interpretation Of Early Mormonism, Samuel Brown S In Heaven As It Is On Earth Views This Religion Through The Lens Of Founder Joseph Smith S Profound Preoccupation With The Specter Of Death Revisiting Historical Documents And Scripture From This Novel Perspective, Brown Offers New Insight Into The Origin And Meaning Of Some Of Mormonism S Earliest Beliefs And Practices The World Of Early Mormonism Was Besieged By Death Infant Mortality, Violence, And Disease Were Rampant A Prolonged Battle With Typhoid Fever, Punctuated By Painful Surgeries Including A Threatened Leg Amputation, And The Sudden Loss Of His Beloved Brother Alvin Cast A Long Shadow Over Smith S Own Life Smith Embraced And Was Deeply Influenced By The Culture Of Holy Dying With Its Emphasis On Deathbed Salvation, Melodramatic Bereavement, And Belief In The Providential Nature Of Untimely Death That Sought To Cope With The Widespread Mortality Of The Period Seen In This Light, Smith S Treasure Quest, Search For Native Origins, Distinctive Approach To Scripture, And Belief In A Post Mortal Community All Acquire New Meaning, As Do Early Mormonism S Masonic Sounding Temple Rites And Novel Family System Taken Together, The Varied Themes Of Early Mormonism Can Be Interpreted As A Campaign To Extinguish Death Forever By Focusing On Mormon Conceptions Of Death, Brown Recasts The Story Of First Generation Mormonism, Showing A Religious Movement And Its Founder At Once Vibrant And Fragile, Intrepid And Unsettled, Human And OtherworldlyA Lively Narrative History, In Heaven As It Is On Earth Illuminates Not Only The Foundational Beliefs Of Early Mormonism But Also The Larger Issues Of Family And Death In American Religious History This is a good book I think I need to re read some parts The idea that Joseph was establishing a community that would transcend death is a great thought that Mr Brown worked to illustrate This is a book you would read after reading Rough Stone Rolling good history. A fascinating journey through Mormon doctrine as viewed through the lens of Joseph Smith s quest to literally conquer death. As a scholarly analysis of the origins of the religious thinking of Joseph Smith and of how the continuing evolution of his thought influenced the ritual and theology of first generation Mormonism, this work will be valuable to anyone interested in the religious and intellectual history of the first half of nineteenth century America whether Mormon or Gentile.The work is objective, scholarly, deeply researched It does not explicitly proselytize While respecting Mormon traditions, implicitly defending them, the author s emphasis is on Smith as a thinker, one shaped by his cultural environment, rather than as a prophet shaped by supernatural events His intention is to write a history, secular rather than supernatural, that readers skeptical of, or antithetical to, Mormonism can appreciate, can have confidence in as factual And he has a commanding knowledge of early Mormons and their thought not only the writings and sermons of Smith, but those of a broad range of his followers and critics His scholarship is not only deep but broad, encompassing the wider religious and cultural environment of that period The first part of the book is devoted to how the various intellectual currents of this time, the Zeitgeist , were incorporated translated into tenets of the Mormon religion how Masonic ritual, the curiosity about Native American origins, fascination with Egyptian hieroglyphics, even the changing view of heaven from one of theocentric worship by individuals to a heaven where families could enjoy eternal life together were all adopted and expanded and transformed into Mormon doctrine This analysis of Smith s encounter with and adoption of contemporary ideas forms the basis of an intellectual biography of the man a detailed narrative of the development of his religious thinking However, a reader might wish this intellectual biography would have beencomprehensive been oneof the man himself Though much of his life is given, other parts are totally ignored the time he spent in Missouri is slighted, as is all his political and economic activity A full biography is not the author s intention, but if some of Smith s life experiences influenced his religious thinking, surely the war in Missouri did, involving as it did, the lost of Eden and the site of Christ s second coming, the New Jerusalem, and yet those Missouri years are almost completely ignored And,troubling, his activity as a political figure, as a candidate for the American presidency, is not even mentioned and is not related to his religious thought in any way But it is the second part of the book that is truly brilliant the half dealing with Fruits rather Roots In it the author organizes all of Smith s religious thinking, his doctrines as well as his temple rites and ritual innovations around one grand idea the Conquest of Death He provides, so to speak, a unitary theory of Mormonism and does so in a rationally coherent way demonstrates how everything can be seen as contributing to the one goal of achieving assured immortality Even the most exotic doctrines polygamy baptism of the dead the family relationship, the conspecificity , of God and angels and mankind etc have as their primary purpose the certain attainment of immortality, not only for individuals but for entire families to replace the Calvinist s worry about election or the arminian Methodist fear about backsliding, with absolute surety of salvation to replace the fear of loved ones being denied heaven, by a vision of a domestic heaven where the continuation of earthly families is guaranteed via sacerdotal rituals, patriarchal blessings, or even a genealogical connection to Adam and Eve, to God himself The author has a real talent for this for imparting on the whole range of Mormon beliefs a theological organization, one that is rational, coherent, and based on a single goal, the gaining of a life in heaven that is domestic, much like life on earth, but better with friends and family eternally united a family not nuclear, but one encompassing all its past and future generations Course, this is not the only possible way of structuring Mormon doctrines and rites A skeptic might, for example, see the underlying principle of Smith thinking as his desire to maintain authoritative control over his followers, to win their allegiance by satisfying their deepest spiritual needs, guaranteeing them heaven, a heaven whose keys are held in his hand Because the author makes no truth claims for Mormon doctrine or revelations, I found a deep ambiguity at the heart of this work It is conceivable that a Mormon reader might justifiably regard the book as a defense of Joseph Smith and of the traditional Mormon faith while a Gentile might, with equal justice, regard it as a debunking of the supernatural origins of that faith, accomplished by the author s demonstration of its all too real, worldly origins And perhaps a reader might even regard this work as an attempt by the author to distill the Mormon faith into one core belief, the belief that life in heaven will be much like life on earth and to free that core faith from all the non essential, contingent externalities from which it emerged In the first part of the book the author demonstrated how the Mormon faith emerged from the religious and intellectual environment of the first half of the 19th century That environment no longer exists No one wonders about the origins of Native Americans No one is puzzled by Egyptian hieroglyphic script No one thinks the papyrus Smith purchased with the mummy collection was a book actually written by Abraham No one now believes in a historical Adam and Eve, from whom all mankind is descended And while the Mormon faith as a lived religion is still strong, still satisfying the spirituals needs of millions of good people, the historical claims made by Mormon theology are no longer plausible Even the young missionaries who come knocking on my door are defensive about them So I wonder if this work is an attempt by the author to free Mormonism from the non essential an attempt to view Smith as a spiritual thinker, one perhaps with great insight into truth, but not as a Seer translating ancient scriptures with magic glasses However, such an intention seems high likely Muchlikely is it that this book is a subtle apologia for early Mormonism, a defense of it as a respectable belief system that reflects and is comparable to the contemporary thought of its time It does this by elucidating the origins of Mormon doctrines and rites secularly, presenting them freed from all the supernatural elements in their origination, and thereby making them understandable to non Mormons, making them acceptable as ideas rather than revelations For this, for the author s lucid, historical explanation of Mormonism, this book is highly recommended It is the best, the most accessible, survey of early Mormon theology. Samuel Morris Brown, an Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Utah Intermountain Medical Center so a medical doctor , has written a wonderfully creative and convincing academic study of Mormon culture as it defines and is defined by death culture Framed in the broader hearth of early American religious death culture, which includes holy dying, Brown demonstrates how much of Joseph Smith s religion making so to speak focused on dealing with, resolving, and conquering physical death From the traumatic near death experiences during his youth to the loss of his older brother and idol Alvin to the loss of many of his children in child birth to continual death threats and his inevitable execution martyrdom in adulthood, Joseph Smith was continually confronting death in a way that is often hard to imagine for the modern, 21st century American Written as a chapter in Mormon Studies, it takes the form of a masterfully coordinated interdisciplinary American Studies work.Although I am a bit wary of works that seem to start with a conclusion and then fit evidence to support a claim, Brown does a convincing job of demonstrating just how central overcoming physical death was to Joseph Smith and early Mormonism Protestantism in America had degrees of doubt in who was saved and who was damned, but Joseph Smith s doctrine assured believers that ALL would be saved and experience a literal, physical resurrection Further, he re focused the true aim of life away from worrying about salvation and avoiding damnation to a focus on establishing relationships that would perpetuate into the afterlife Hence, Smith s preoccupation with Native American and Egyptian texts linking the past societies to the present , his temple rituals that sealed his community together in a complex fashion not just husbands, wives, and children but also other friend to family relations , and his radically egalitarian view of Divine Anthropology equating men and women with God given time, experience, and divine help For Mormon believers, death was literally conquered by Christ, but Joseph Smith interpreted this conquest with assured confidence as distinguished from other Christian denominations that often left room for doubt, fear, and misinterpretation This book is rather academic and dense, but it is well worth a look if you are interested in examining why Mormons tend to be overwhelming optimistic despite continual tragedy it speaks to the foundations of an eternal perspective, as it is known in the tradition, which makes death a small transition into an eternal continuity of life. Recently, I finished Samuel Morris Brown s book entitled In Heaven as It Is on Earth Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death I picked this book up in conjunction with my capstone research at the suggestion of Jonathan Stapley, who was kind enough to suggest a few possible research avenues to me At that time, I planned to discuss the ramifications of the theme of necromancy within the context of the Restoration and Isaiah 29 4 While I would still like to pursue this angle, I quickly realized that I needed anarrow focus for a 25 page paper and scrapped the Restoration angle, focusing on the ancient literary evidence I still had to read the book, becauseit s a bookand I had it in my possession Besides, the title was to die for The Plot As a brief overview, the book seeks to analyze the influence Joseph Smith s encounters with death had in his teachings It discusses the profound affect Alvin s death had on young Joseph, and the general feeling of contemporary churches toward death It also expounds upon Joseph s views on angels, his re imagining of the hierarchy of heaven and the family, temple ordinances, etc Finally, the book finishes with Joseph s personal conquest of death within the context of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints theology.My Analysis Honestly, I m still trying to figure out whether I liked this book or not While I appreciated Brown s thorough research, his esoteric analysis of Joseph s life seemed far fetched much of the time For example, location 458 I read this book on my Kindle says, Alvin, the Smiths oldest boy and auxiliary head, looms over the family like a mythic hero The author then goes on to describe the affect Alvin and his death had on Joseph and the entire family The entire explanation was couched in language similar to the quote above While it made for an enjoyable read, I felt that the context of the Smith family was often overly mythologized.Another issue arose when Brown began discussing Joseph s interaction with Masonic rights This is where the book got a little weird While I did not completely disagree with his eventual conclusion on the matter and could easily see certain parts of LDS temple worship being influenced by Masonic rights, I was bothered by the fact that he seemed to ignore the ancient roots of the temple Maybe this hasto do with my major than anything else, but it seemed that the discussion was severely lacking due to oversights such as this It made me feel that his claim wasn t properly fleshed out and therefore his whole argument was to be suspect.My last major problem with the book was the overall esoteric vibe it exuded I felt that the author s embellishments on the life of Joseph Smith were often unfounded True, they could bear merit, but there was little real evidence and much of the book was speculation This was probably my biggest complaint with the book I felt that evidence was slightly manipulated to favor his argument where it did not warrant such action Having studied the Second Great Awakening, I feel that the supernatural tenor that seems so strange to us now was the expression of religion of the day Of course some of this feeling would have carried over with Mormonism s converts Why are we placing our current ideals and understanding on the history we re trying to portray It won t work.Final Thoughts In the end, I enjoyed the book, but would only recommend it to someone who has a significant understanding of early Church History and its context I appreciated the book most for fresh perspective it presented on the development of Mormonism s theology as I am incredibly interested in the topic Indeed, I already have a few potential paper topics from ideas I had while reading And while I agree with Brown s general conclusion that Joseph conquered death through a unique theology, I hold some reservations on his methodology I didn t throw my Kindle at the wall while yelling at the author for being an idiot, so I feel the book was worth something.Peace out, book scouts Post also found at my blog I was hooked the first time I heard about Samuel Brown His work closely mirrors my own he is a critical care physician and involved in bioethics part of the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities.I, too, search for meaning to explain suffering, disease and death.This is an incredibly scholarly work that I wasn t prepared for It is extremely well written and meticulously researched It took quite a bit of time for me to digest all this information.I really enjoyed learningabout the Masons.Favorite quotes These Americans 1700 1870 s knew death intimately, confronted it regularly, and brought significant cultural resources to these encounters Death conquest set of approaches to the meaning of life, a framing of aspirations for the afterlife, and controversies about the security or stability of salvation as expressed in human struggles with mortality In the divine anthropology stand many of early Mormonism s most startling departures from American Protestantism Knowing who the early Mormons were and what they were seeking requires coming to terms with this radical set of beliefs Despite its obvious distinction, the divine anthropology sounded surprisingly familiar to many listeners There were proof texts and ancient threads of Christian or Hebrew religion to support every one of the beliefs Smith advanced In his afterward But it would be wrong to discount the gift of life prolonged through applications of advanced medical technologies.our modern death culture suffers from serious defects and distortions.Still, I believe that elements of the older death culture, particularly its emphasis on the deathbed as a place of healing, community and vision, could improve our experiences when, despite our best efforts, we, too, confront the end of our mortal sojourn From Scholars Testify website The God I worship is a God who relates, and the truths I seek are found within Divine relationships Of all the various facts and propositions that can be entertained, accepted, or disputed about the nature of Divinity, it is those that serve relationships among humans and God that matter most to me. While in the MTC 98 I heard a talk about some smart guy who wanted to serve his mission in Russia, was called to Louisiana instead, resented it and almost didn t go, but went anyway and loved his experience.Last year I encountered a book on early Mormonism published by Oxford, written by Sam Brown John G Turner said he was a manic genius I looked up this guy s testimonial and said, hey that s the guy they spoke about in the MTC.I decided to read this book because I m very interested in the evolution of Mormonism from a Christian primitivist movement into a sacramental and liturgical tradition that converged with Eastern Orthodoxy, and I thought that his book would trace some of the steps along the way.Brown situates Joseph Smith in an milieu wherein premature death is rampant, and interprets revelations based on conquering death This is a good improv exercise on seeing things through the same lens Religion Arises out of contemplation of deathTreasure digging hidden relics were a means to connect with the deadBook of Mormon A recovery of a great but now dead Native American civilizationBook of Abraham Great wisdom from Egyptians, who were masters at preserving the deadAngels Premortal humans or humans who have diedTemples Masonic rites formed commitment meant to survive even deathEternal families Since death often destroyed family bonds, families were sealed together in a way that outlasts deathAdoption Bonded convert to preacher in a way that superceded deathPolygamy Extending death conquering eternal families to a larger segment of societyPolytheism Declaring humans to be conspecific with beings in the postmortal realmHeavenly Mother Imputing the family structure to the postmortal realmMartyrdom Death cannot conquer the hero againThis book does well in sticking to its thesis and also serves as a great reference for background on revelations to Joseph Smith. Worth reading simply for the chapters on the evolution of temple theologywhether you accept Brown s overall theme regarding death s influence on Joseph Smith s development as a prophet or not A fascinating read A fascinating take on Joseph Smith s religious innovations from the vantage point of antebellum American death culture Sam Brown is a medical doctor by profession, so his focus on early Mormonism s confrontation with death clearly stems from personal experience But the book is an impressive and well researched academic work.The book begins with a thorough exploration of the general preoccupation with death in early 19th century America and the Smith family s experience with death in particular, showing that Joseph was on fairly close terms with death from the beginning Brown then walks through Joseph s prophetic achievements and details with meticulous research how each step in the development of the Mormon program seeks to mend the rifts death rends The result is a life infusing Mormonism that binds individuals and generations to God and one another While the idea is intuitive enough on some level for Mormons familiar with the sealing rites and vicarious ordinances of temple worship, Brown s thesis also has some surprisingly fresh applications to other familiar and less familiar doctrines and practices The Book of Mormon and the translation of the Egyptian papyri unfold as spiritual bridges to long dead civilizations Even the young Joseph s early frolicking in treasure seeking, which seems so strange to 21st century Mormons and critics, receives a pretty enlightening explanation when situated in the context of the early American habit of seeking out physical relics of the dead Along the way, Brown breathes life into several fascinating episodes in the less traveled precincts of early Mormon history, including the Smith family s apparent exhumation of brother Alvin and Joseph s extemporaneous revelation on the Lamanite prophet Zelph Good stuff.Brown does bog things down a bit with jargon and academese I think the word cultus gets about two hits a page, for example But the end result is still a readable and enlightening study of early Mormonism, its antecedents, applications, goals and rewards.
Samuel Morris Brown born 1972 , a medical researcher and physician, is Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Associate in the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Utah and attending physician in the Shock Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Intermountain Medical Center He investigates hidden rhythms in heart function during life threatening infection
- 392 pages
- In Heaven as It Is on Earth
- Samuel Morris Brown
- 20 April 2017 Samuel Morris Brown