Monday, November 3, 2014

Religious Community Founding at Kirtland

There is a complex of revelations that together form the founding charter of the religious community that Joseph Smith Jr was setting up the Mormons and Campbellites in Kirtland to be.

The precondition had been D&C 38 (JS Papers version) given at the Fayette Church conference in New York, January 2nd, 1831, just before the departure (which had been established in D&C 37 (JS Papers version) as a response to the harassment of the Church in NY).

D&C 38 established (v18) that the Church members had been promised a land of "milk and honey" as part of the new covenant with God, which they would keep in eternity (v20). There they could segregate themselves from the wicked and their enemies (v31; v42) and live under God's law and be endowed from up high (v32). The revelation also announced that there would be several men (vv34-36) to take care of the poor and the needy, selected from among the Church members by the Church members--a foreshadowing of the role of the Bishop).

D&C 41 (JSP version) of February 4th, 1831 and D&C 42 (JSP Version Part 1, vv1-72, and Part 2, vv73-93) of February 9th and 23rd, 1831, respectively, together form the founding document of the religious community.

D&C 41 begins by recapping the expected revelation of a law for the religious community. It then provides for a home "to live and translate" in for the prophet (who had been working on an improved Bible translation, cf. D&C 37, v1), and a room for Sidney Rigdon (later amended to "should live as seemeth him good"). The remainder summarily calls Edward Partridge to the role of a bishop, leaving behind his "merchandise", without specifying any details concerning the task of bishop, "see to all things as it shall be appointed in my Laws in the day that I shall give them".

D&C 42 (in its two parts) establishes the community rules. In the earliest extant copy, the revelation is headed with "The Laws of the Church of Christ[,] Kirtland[,] Geauga [County,] Ohio".

The first part, after an opening (vv1-3), gives the call for the elders to go in pairs and preach the imminent Kingdom of God (vv4-9), with restrictions for Joseph Smith Jr and Sidney Rigdon (who are busy with the fullness of the Gospel, cf. v15), until Zion is revealed (at which point it is either too late to join or there is no point in building up congregations at other locales) (v9).

The exposition continues with the criteria of authorization to teach within the community (vv11-17). [(v10) which re-iterates the call to service of Edward Partridge as bishop, would have been castigated as an insertion by a later scribe in every other hermeneutic context, and the scribe called a dolt for missing the fact that the Laws of the Church of Christ as general rules of guidance are somewhat at odds with a particular temporary appointment. The closing formula of "Amen" would suggest that it had been a self-contained pronouncement previously.]

Next comes the exposition of the church rules in a more constrained sense (vv.18-29). [The emphatic "I speak to the Church" in (v18) is somewhat clumsy.] While the contents is very similar to the Ten Commandments,  the focus is on the possibility of obtaining forgiveness for the transgression---a key issue in an apocalyptic and millennial context, as the consequence is to be removed from the elect and thus to be counted among the lost. Furthermore, all the issues raised are inter-personal issues, and thus affect community cohesion.

Next comes the law of consecration proper (vv.30-39), with its notion of stewardship and the role of the Bishop's storehouse and the accumulation of residues. The exposition covers the logistics of the exchange (vv.30-32), the purposes of the storehouse contents (vv.33-36), and the how to handle the exit condition in the case of a casting out (vv.37-38). (v.39) is intriguing, as it suggests that the WASP Americans will even out the socio-economic status of the Indians.

The next section (vv.40-42) covers everyday behavior within the community, exhorting them to work and morally good exterior. Then (vv.43-52) the process for dealing with sickness in the community is outlined, and the success of the charismatic healing is tied to the faith of the individual (but not of the elders). The outcome of death in the case of laying on of hands is explained (vv.44-47), and the point raised that dying without a hope of resurrection is the worst (v.45).

The following sction (vv.53-55) returns to the problem of stewardship and represents a rejection of specific forms of communitarianism, by insisting on private property and intra-community trade (v.54) and directed all surplus again to the storehouse [of the Bishop] (v.55).

The next section (vv.56-69) talk about the role of scripture in guiding the behavior of the community members, and how the knowledge of Zion will be given, and mysteries that will be revealed to those that obey the commandments. [Confusingly, after earlier demanding that the missionaries go westward (v.8) and build up churches in all the regions there, the missionaries are now told to go eastward and get the converts to move West, to escape the secret combinations (v.64). For the future, missionizing in all cardinal directions is prophesied (v.63).]

The next section (vv.70-73) returns to the problem of remuneration of people from the storehouse, having the bishop and the counselors and the elders and the high priests either supported thence or provided with just remuneration.

The second part, originally revealed two weeks later, begins with adultery one more time (vv.74-83), before going into a distinction between the law of the Land and the law of God and how different deeds lead the miscreant to be turned over to one law or the other (vv.84-93). Thus stealing, lying and robbing are to be dealt with by handing over to the Law of the Land. These then are the rules of the religious community for expelling members into the broader social context without treating the expulsion as exculpation. But community internal things are to be regulated in the minimal context possible, even to the point of preserving secrecy (v.92).

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