John G. Turner’s recent book, The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (Harvard University Press, 2016) presents a wonderful overview of the various ways Mormon scripture, leaders, and lay members understand Jesus Christ—and how these views developed over time, and why. As a non-Mormon historian and scholar of religions, Turner approaches this subject in a way not easily imitated by LDS scholars, seeing things about the teachings about Christ in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, and other texts through lenses and thought frameworks that are unencumbered by decades of Mormon interpretation or assumptions that they will all be consistent with each other. Tackling not only LDS scripture, but also messages about personal religious experiences, the role of prophets as mouthpieces for Christ, changing views about the Second Coming, understandings of Jesus as our “elder brother” and the “son of God,” as Jehovah of the Hebrew Bible, whether or not Jesus was married and the place of Second Anointings in LDS theology, and also Mormon depictions of Jesus Christ through various artistic media, Turner presents a rich and interesting array of ideas, controversies, and official (as well as folk) beliefs and the story of their development. Mormonism, for Turner, is thoroughly Christian, with many of its ideas about Christ congruent with (or with roots in) at least some lines of thought in wider Christianity, but with others quite striking or unique.
In this episode, John Turner joins a podcast favorite, historian of LDS doctrine Charles Harrell, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in an engaging discussion of several of the books’ subjects and arguments. As always, we discover that Mormon doctrine is not straightforward, nor did it evolve to its current positions via a clear revelatory path—which is just one reason it is always so fascinating!
Please listen and then share your comments in the discussion section below.
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John G. Turner, The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (Harvard University Press, 2016)
John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard University Press, 2012)
Charles R. Harrell, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2011)
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There was one theory of the atonement that I was waiting to hear you and panelists discuss and I was surprised you didn’t mention it, unless you mentioned it by another name I did not recognize.
Several years ago, I sought to understand the how of the atonement and the answer I found was by proxy, Christ stands in to receive the spiritual consequences that otherwise we would merit. It seems consistent with the practices of baptism for the dead and vicarious ordinances.
If you did discuss this theory, what did you call it so I can study some more about it?