Honorary Volume Focuses on Church History and Doctrine

Richard Lloyd Anderson-known as a devoted teacher, careful writer, and perfect gentleman-has had a great impact on the study of LDS Church history. In The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, one of two Festschrift volumes published in recognition of his work, friends and colleagues have written 18 scholarly studies in his honor. Several of these papers were presented on 8 March 1997 at a conference titled “Pioneers of the Restoration.”

In his introduction to The Disciple as Witness, Andrew H. Hedges (who edited the books along with Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry) reminds us of Anderson’s notable contribution to the study of LDS Church history: “Trained as both a historian and lawyer, the cautious, probing, analytical approach he brought to the field more than forty years ago revolutionized the way scholars have researched and written about Joseph Smith and the church he restored. Taking nothing for granted, Anderson reexamined the sources we thought we all knew, asked questions we never considered, and mined archives we never knew existed. The result was nothing short of spectacular, as the publications resulting from these efforts have largely rewritten our understanding of many of the seminal experiences of the early church and her founding prophet.”

Anderson’s legacy in the field of LDS Church history extends beyond his groundbreaking books and articles. Hedges suggests that Anderson “has interjected a much-needed professionalism and dignity into a field plagued with scathing accusations, rancorous debates, and emotional responses. Eager to collaborate and ever willing to share, he has influenced many who have come under his tutelage toward a career in church history and education, at the same time building bridges of trust and respect with many whose personal beliefs about Joseph Smith and the restoration differ markedly from his own.”

Each contributor to this volume has been touched by Anderson’s kindness and the caliber of his work. The breadth of topics these studies cover and the quality of their research and writing reflect Anderson’s own work.

An essay by Davis Bitton, “The Ram and the Lion: Lyman Wight and Brigham Young,” chronicles apostle Lyman Wight’s disaffection with and ultimate excommunication from the church following Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. Fiercely loyal to the Prophet, and having missed out-as a result of circumstances beyond his control-on opportunities to develop a close relationship with Brigham Young and others of the Twelve during the Missouri exodus and the British mission, Wight was unable to support Brigham after Joseph’s death and find his niche in the postmartyrdom church. Bitton’s subsequent insights and conclusions are based on several years’ study of Wight and constitute a significant addition to the literature on this challenging period in church history.

In another article, “The Role of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible in the Restoration of Doctrine,” Robert J. Matthews considers a topic he has spent a lifetime studying. Discussing the importance of the JST, Matthews notes how changes in the Bible over the centuries have reduced its clarity and points out the problems that face scholars who try to recover the original text and meaning. Still, the need to restore the original biblical message is pressing. “I do not think it sufficient for the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price alone to restore the missing doctrinal truth,” Matthews writes. “Justice requires that the Bible itself be restored as an expert witness.”

Matthews invites all scholars to consider the JST with deeper respect and urges them to recognize its distinctive contributions to biblical studies and the restoration of gospel doctrines. Correlations between the dates of JST manuscripts and the timing of revelations now included in the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price lead Matthews to conclude that much of the doctrinal development of the restored church occurred as Joseph Smith made inspired corrections to the Bible.

“The Return of Oliver Cowdery,” by Scott H. Faulring, chronicles the gradual reconciliation of Mormonism’s “second elder” with LDS Church leaders. Faulring observes that Oliver Cowdery evidently retained amicable feelings toward the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Twelve, and the church in general while he was estranged from them following his excommunication in 1838. Using previously unavailable sources, Faulring illuminates the ideological and practical complications that prolonged Cowdery’s separation from the church and notes the eagerness of church leaders and Cowdery himself to bring about his rebaptism and reordination in 1848. Faulring’s study builds on Richard Anderson’s own work on Cowdery and adds considerably to our understanding of the character and struggles of this pivotal figure in the restoration.

The Disciple as Witness features further essays on Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, LDS museums, the Lectures on Faith, the printing of the Book of Mormon, the Kirtland Revelation Book, LDS missionary efforts (Anderson developed an early prototype of the missionary lessons used by LDS missionaries in their teaching), and early LDS Church history from scholars such as James B. Allen, Susan Easton Black, Glen M. Leonard, and Royal Skousen. Also included are topical and chronological bibliographies of Anderson’s work compiled by David J. Whittaker.

The companion volume, titled The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, is devoted to studies of ancient history, the Book of Mormon, and the Old and New Testaments (see the April issue of Insights for details). The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson can be ordered through the FARMS Web site by clicking here.

Click here to order The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson