Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A well-read prophet

At least twice (in two different discourses) this past General Conference, President Hinckley made reference to books he has has recently read. On another occasion Sunday morning, he actually brought one of his books (A History of Joseph Smith by His Mother) to the pulpit to show as he quoted from it.

By no means did his messages seem to be responses to the timeless question, "What books are at your bedside?", but I got a thrill both times to hear that our prophet reads. And not Harry Potter, the USA Today, or simply the Ensign. Two of the three mentioned books were scholarly studies: one on the compilation of the biblical texts (title not given and author noted only as a "renowned scholar"), and the other was a study of religiosity of young people published by Oxford UP. Did any of you have a similar reaction? I really liked these acts, but I can't say exactly why.

Here of some possibilities for my reaction:

1. I am a bibliophile (discriminating, to be sure) and like to see reflections of my own interests in President Hinckley.

2. His mention of these readings might be an implicit call for the membership of the church to engage in informal but valuable continuing education, and see that as going hand-in-hand with our other religious duties.

3. It is one thing to say that we have a living, healthy 95 year-old prophet at our head; it is quite another to say that this same prophet has the mental acuity to read and digest scholarly publications, and that he is able to see the importance of these academic works in his role as leader of the church. That is more miraculous than mere survival to an unusual age (though I would personally not claim it as a divine proof of the church).

There are probably other possibilities. Who else cheers inside for a well-read prophet?


At 4/15/2005 01:52:00 PM,

Jason, I had those exact thoughts.

I'm guessing the unnamed book he cited is Jaroslav Pelikan's new work called "Whose Bible is it?"

At 4/15/2005 03:45:00 PM,

I don't' know much about that one. My roommate studies classics and early christianity, and he guessed off the top of his head that it was "Lost Christianities" by Bart Erhman. But that one, for all its scholarly prominence, seems a little too liberal and explicit (giving the bizarre details of the worship systems of many early deviations) for President Hinckley to reference in Conference.

But, again, it is truly heart-warming to contemplate.

At 4/21/2005 02:03:00 AM,

I thought it was pretty cool too. It also made quite a stir amongst the LDS population of the Yale Div School.

I've spent a lot of time lately as I'm getting ready to go out into the world and start writing things that will potentially be ingested by large audiences exactly what role scholasticism ought to have in the way I approach writing about LDS issues -- in other words, whether I ought to take a purely devotional tact, a sociological tact, a Shakespearian, atheological aesthetic tact...

At 6/27/2005 09:29:00 AM,

Bibliophile is a good word. Oliver Wendell Holmes called himself (Autocrat of the Breakfast Table) an omniverbivore, that is, he devours all words. I like that, to read many different genres to the point that one may be said to devour the written word.  

Posted by Floyd the Wonderdog

At 6/29/2005 01:38:00 AM,

Omniverbivore is priceless, Floyd--thanks for sharing that one.




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