February 4, 2011

Edward Tullidge's Miltonian "Gathering of the Grand Council of Hell"

In 1858 Edward Tullidge wrote to Brigham Young to volunteer himself as the epic chronicler of the Restoration. The off-and-on again British convert to Mormonism enthusiasticaly described his fifteen-thousand-line epic style biography of Joseph Smith, "The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century." He compared his work to Homer and John Milton and promised more to come.1 Evidently, Tullidge never completed the project.2 Fortunately, however, one chapter was published in The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star in January 1858. I located a scanned image via Google Books,3 but since I couldn't find a reliable transcription online I decided to furnish one for your reading, copying, and pasting enjoyment. I numbered the lines for easier reference and put together this quick comparison between Tullidge's chapter and Milton's Paradise Lost.

Tullidge's debt to Milton is pretty obvious in structure and theme, with a few interesting exceptions. Structurally, he wrote the epic in the meter of iambic pentameter, which means that nearly all lines consist of ten syllables, just like Milton's Paradise Lost and many other earlier English epics. Milton wrote in blank verse but Tullidge opted for rhyme, much like John Dryden did in "The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man" (London, 1674), an early adaptation of PL. Length-wise, Tullidge projected 15,000 lines, which would have been 4,435 lines longer than the final 12-book edition of PL! Thus, the books in PL averaged about 880 lines whereas Tullidge's chapter contains 291. He had a lot of catching up to do.4 Like the second edition of Milton's PL, Tullidge also provides an "Argument" at the outset of the chapter to summarize its content.  

Thematically, Tullidge's and Milton's respective epics descend into the recesses of Hell where a council takes place between Satan and his lesser lords. Satan takes center stage in this chapter as the primary speaker, as he does in several books in PL. Debates over the centrality of Satan in PL aside, it isn't certain whether Tullidge's other chapters would have featured Satan so prominently. As in PL, Tullidge's Satan discusses the war in heaven. Unlike PL, Tullidge's poem describes the "first estate" foes of Satan as being premortal humans, "Jacob's offspring—chosen of the skies" (lines 160, 169). These foreordained spirits are now "setting out for earth" in "daring bands" to confront Satan in "the final struggle" (lines 232-234). Joseph Smith is among them as the "pre-ordinated [sic] Seer" (line 273). Conversely, in Milton's epic Satan and his armies faced off against Michael the archangel and armies of angels. The angels were not pre- or post-embodied humans as in Tullidge's cosmology. Thus, in Tullidge's account, the premortal war in heaven continues as a battle on earth between the same participants, whereas in Milton's account humans were created to inhabit the earth after Satan and his hosts had been cast out of heaven.

Perhaps the finest achievement in Tullidge's chapter is Satan's reminiscent declaration of victory over Jesus Christ. Satan reminds his minions how they caused Jesus to suffer, bleed and die—their moment of triumph. But as Douglas J. Davies points out, an ironic double meaning echoes in Satan's exultations:      

“When came the Son to break our iron bands,
“And wrest the sceptre from our powerful hands,
“(My haughty rival—him whose name I hate,—
“With whom we battled in the first estate,)
“We fired our minions, hung him on the cross;
“His life and kingdom were at once his loss;
“Blows were his honours, mock'ry his renown,
“The rugged tree his throne, and thorns his crown:
“Say, my brave princes, was not triumph here!!
“Was he not mighty on his bloody bier!!”5

Although the poem is not without its flaws, its obvious derivation being one, Tullidge managed to Mormonize Milton's biblically inspired plot line and the poem itself is still worth reading.

Check out the full transcription of the chapter by clicking here.

1. See Ronald W. Walker, "Edwin Tullidge: Historian of the Mormon Commonwealth," Journal of Mormon History vol. 3 (1976), 57.

2. See The Life of Joseph the Prophet (Plano: Illinois, Board of Publication of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), 687, which mentions that Tullidge had "partly written and published an epic poem entitled 'The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century."

3. E.W. Tullidge, "A Chapter From the Prophet of the Nineteenth Century," The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star no. 1, vol. 20, 2 January 1858, 14-16.    

4. Milton's original 10-book version of PL was later broken into 12 books with fifteen additional lines, bringing the total to 10,565 lines. See John T. Shawcross, "Milton in Print: A Review of Some Recent Editions of Paradise Lost," Milton Quarterly, vol. 40, issue 3 (October 2006), 221.

5. Tullidge, lines 166-175. See Douglas J. Davies, Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 160.

Edward Tullidge: "A Chapter From 'The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century'"

(An Unpublished Poem By E. W. Tullidge)

Gathering of the Grand Council of Hell. Speech of Satan: He reviews the past, glories in his rebellion, and boasts of the victories of the infernal host. The wicked glee of his Council. Their determination not to yield the dominion of the earth, but to battle to the last. Satan calls attention to the Latter-day Work; he informs his princes and lords that it is about to commence, and that the Grand Councils of heaven were even then sitting upon the matter. The intelligence strikes them with terror, and even their chief is for a moment overcome. Arrival of a herald announcing the dismissal of the Celestial Assembly and the departure of the Father and Son from the courts of day to reveal themselves to Joseph the Chosen. A celestial Messenger bears a Petition from the Youth. Furious breaking up of the Infernal Council.

When Silence, waiting, walks her solemn round,              1
And busy Life in slumber spells is bound,
Great sable Night, who veils the King of day,
In awful grandeur treads her misty way.
Where mark her footsteps curling vapours spread,          5
And darkness circles round Natura's head;
Grim sentinels of horrid Death's domain
Keep watch till morning breaks the spell again:
Then Pluto's horrid regions start to life,
And haunts of Mischief are with murder rife;                 10
The ghostly world unlocks its prison doors,
And on the earth its phantom army pours;
And spirits, doomed to dwell with black Despair,
With measured steps tread incorporeal air
To haunted glen or adamantine cave,                            15
Where sea-gods visit and the surges lave,
Or crumbling ruins of some castle bold
Of extinct races, where dread spirits hold
A midnight, whirling, demon, revelry,
Or consultations o’er their misery.                                20
Thus in the confines dread of sulph’rous hell—
The prison-house of spirit-hosts that fell,
Where grim Despair and sable Night retire—
Regions of horrors and of lurid fire—
There dwell descendants of the Gods above,                25
For crimes and malice hurled from realms of love,
Who, goaded by their fierce internal flames,
Will writhe, and curse, and spit out dreadful names
Against the sacred Majesty of heaven,
Or, by their direful hate and anguish riven,                     30
Will rush to plot some fiendish horrid plan
To roll fresh floods of woe on fallen man.
       The lords of hell a solemn conclave hold;
Its princes gather and Its warriors bold.
Not like the rushing of a lawless band                           35
Do these assemble; but a council grand:
With stem resolves the awful congress meet,
And sullenly each takes his princely seat:
Throughout the region of the dark domains
A fearful and a heavy silence reigns.                             40
       Now hell's great king the car of Mars ascends;
The vengeful god of war his chief attends,
And open flies the monarch's palace gate
Where chosen guards their mighty lord await.
His cavalcade with funeral steps advance;                    45
All catch his mood and wait his speaking glance.
Well might be hell's infernal sceptre hold,
And rule those fallen, rebel spirits bold!
His sunken eyes that look like darkened suns,
Would smite with awe and blast hell's fiercest ones.      50
O'er his broad chest he hangs his massive head,
Which waves as the impatient coursers trend,
As does old Ocean when the storm-king roars
And heaves the billows on the sea-girt shores:
And gloomy thoughts o'er his dark spirit brood,            55
Which give new blackness to his fearful mood:
But, like the pent-up fury of volcanic fire,
It bursts and blazes out tempestuous ire,
“On!” On!” he cries. His voice like thunder rolls:
‘Twould shake the earth and echo round the poles.       60
The demon coursers heed their master's cry.
And o'er the trembling ground like whirlwinds fly.
The council hall the rushing chariot gains;
The steeds then halt and proudly shake their manes;
The Chief descends, the vaulted chamber strides,          65
‘Mid shouts of welcome, as if many tides
Had furious met, and, roaring, dashed their spray
To kiss the clouds. Thus, as he bent his way
Where stood his throne exalted 'bove his peers,
Their voices mingle - frighted Chaos hears.                    70
Now hell's great monarch takes the sov'reign chair,
And grasps the sceptre which his princes fear;
Then, waving it in mystic circles round,
Deep silence reigned, and made its spells profound.

As when the treacherous calm the storm king rides,       75
And close behind old Boreas fiercely strides,
When air is dead and with foul gases filled,
And Ocean's breathing seems for ever stilled,
Dark clouds roll up and blot the azure blue,
The dreadful sign affrighted sailors view:                       80
It tells of storm to their accustomed eye,
And shipmates drowned, around their vessel cry,
And mocking sprites are chuckling in their ears:
The Tempest, with his foaming coursers, nears.
Thus the deceitful calm that reigned in hell                      85
When Satan, rising, broke the death-like spell.
“Companions—Princes—Chieftains, famed in war,
“Whose dreadful prowess set the heavens ajar,
“When nobly we defied their sovereign's might,—
“I’ll call ye greater—even Gods by right!”                     90
With boastful pride, he spake in accents bold;
His mighty voice like rumbling thunder rolled.
As stands a frowning mountain near the skies,
To which when Spring returns, old Winter hies.
And caps its summit with eternal snow,                         95
Nor deigns to heed the genial sun below;
So stood the awful king.
He seemed like some great rebel-god dethroned
Of standing high, who once creations owned,
And having paused, to let his words digest,                   100
Again he spake, and thus his lords addressed:—
“I have not called you here, ye princes great,
“To counsel o'er events of little weight:
“Such weighty matters ne'er before us rose
“As that which I would now to you disclose.                 105
“Call up the past; let mem'ry take its sway,
“And on it mount to realms of endless day—
“Our native home—that dear primeval world
“Where once we dwelt till heaven's dread sovereign hurled
“His bolts of thunder in resistless storms,                      110
“That brought dismay and paralyzed our arms.
“But for that dreadful, unforeseen surprise,
“We had been now the monarchs of the skies:
“But, though o'erwhelmed by heaven's resistless ire,
“Compelled to yield, and from those scenes retire,          115
“We were not crushed. Our strength and hate remained;      
“And even now the loss might be regained.
“Perchance that dreadful, unforgotten day,
“Which gave him vict'ry, brought to us dismay,
“Like His own thunder-cloud that hides the sun,             120
“Might be the prelude of a brighter one,
“When He the vanquished, we the victors stand,
“And heaven be conquered by our mighty band.
“Then you with me shall greater glory share,
“And earth and heaven shall both our sceptre fear.          125
“We were before but striplings in the fight,
“And unprepared to brave the tyrant's might,
“But now familiar with the deadly field:
“Our arms have often made his generals yield;
“Our skill in subtle stratagems of war                               130
“Has brought renown and sent our names afar.                                    
“When from the hand of her creative sire
“Fair Eden bounded, decked in rich attire,
“With thousand graces to bewitch the sense,
“And fragrant breath that made delight intense,                 135
“The cunning serpent I myself inspired,
“And woman's mind with ardent longings fired;
“For in that Paradise of virgin life
“Grew fruit forbidden both to man and wife;
“Its luscious clusters ravished woman's heart:                   140
“She ate that fruit, and gave her husband part:
“It cost them Eden, filled the world with woes,
“And showed to heaven we were no common foes.

“When man by our insidious snares was caught,
“And earth into our iron bondage brought,                       145    
“Displeasure seized the monarch of the skies,
“And o'er mankind His dreadful tempest flies.
“To break the spells with which the earth was bound,
“He sent the floods, and nearly all were drowned.
“Ha! Ha! That was a victory! Well might boast                150
“The wrathful monarch and his slavish host!
“It sent us captives to our dread domain,
“And gave us kingdoms to extend our reign!
“When man his broken race revived again,
“And shot his branches over land and main,                    155
“We led them on: still were mankind our prey:
“They hailed our sceptre and obeyed our sway:
“We ruled their kingdoms, made their lords our slaves,
“And held the sons when greened the fathers' graves.
“E'en Jacob's offspring—chosen of the skies—                160
“The people sacred in Jehovah's eyes,
“On whom He poured the richest streams of grace,
“We made a hardened and rebellious race;
“The Prophets stiffened in their martyred gore;
“The guilty fathers guilty children bore;                              165
“When came the Son to break our iron bands,
“And wrest the sceptre from our powerful hands,
“(My haughty rival—him whose name I hate,—
“With whom we battled in the first estate,)
“We fired our minions, hung him on the cross;                   170
“His life and kingdom were at once his loss;
“Blows were his honours, mock'ry his renown,
“The rugged tree his throne, and thorns his crown:
“Say, my brave princes, was not triumph here!!
“Was he not mighty on his bloody bier!!”                         175
He paused: a wicked glee inspired his band,
While servile, taunting imps the mock'ry fanned:
Convulsive Laughter all his chorus brings;
With boist'rous mirth, the council chamber rings.
As when a struggling wretch, with cares opprest,             180
By hope forsaken, anguish in his breast,
And hurried on, with madness in his brain,
To find in death oblivion for his pain,
Makes suicide the antidote of woe,
And by self-murder sends his ghost below,                      185
Finds as he dies a mocking host is near
To fright his soul and chuckle in his ear;
So was the humour of that rebel host
Called up by their more wicked chieftain's boast:
Again he speaks; again a heavy spell                               190
Hangs o'er the fierce assembled crew of hell.

“Ye know, my lords, since that triumphal day
“When David's heir and they who owned his sway
“Were, by our direful wrath, deprived of breath
“And sent as captives to the realms of death,                    195
“Our vengeful arms no Prophet host has dared,
“But hell's dread sceptre every nation feared.
“Monarchs of earth!—its undisputed lords!—
“We gave the honours, meted out rewards,
“And Virtue's children—Merit’s gifted race,                    200
“We sank in mis'ry, heaped on them disgrace,
“Robed them in rags, exalted them to slaves,
“And Nature's nobles found unhonoured graves.
“To those with spirits kindred to our own
“We gave distinction, built for them the throne:                205
“Say, princes, say—shall our strong chains be broke,
“And earth released from our long-fettered yoke?
“Shall any from our grasp dominion tear;
“And earth, redeemed, another's sceptre fear?
“Shall we resign our glorious hard-earned fame,              210
“And do obeisance to my rival's name?
“No,—by hell's infernal, awful powers, no!
“We will not yield, but give back blow for blow!
“Defiant still we stand, defiant will remain,
“Till we the vict'ry or extinction gain.”                            215
At this the dreadful council filled with rage.
Determined still their rebel war to wage,
Gave signs approving, bellowed out a cheer,
And then prepared again their chief to hear.
“Heroes of hell!” he said,—“unconquered braves!          220
(His voice grew deep and hollow as the grave's,)
“I need not tell you how the Seers of old,
“By vain illusions and conceits made bold,
“Foretold that in the latter times should rise
“A mighty kingdom towering to the skies,—                   225
“That Saintly dreamers held a foolish boast
“That it should break and scatter all our host.
“Know, then, my lords, those vaunted times now loom,
“And we must conquer or receive our doom.
“Those spirits fore-ordained to lead the way,                 230
“And usher in my hated rival's sway,
“In daring bands are setting out for earth,
“And thousands have already had their birth.
“The final struggle has not yet begun,
“Nor do they see the race which they will run;               235
“But this I know—Ere long the dreadful strife
“Will have commenced and started into life:
“Aye, even now the councils of the skies
“(The news I gather from my faithful spies,)
“Are met to meditate some fruitful plan                          240
“To break our spells and rescue fallen man;
“Yet end their consultation how it may,
“We still will battle—still maintain our sway.”
He ceased, and terror fell on all around,
While chains of horror hell's assembly bound:               245
E'en he, their haughty king, whose lofty boast
Was made to stimulate his drooping host,
Gave up his soul to inward anguish dire.
As when a mountain, by volcanic fire
Convulsed and groaning, heaves from side to side,        250
With fierce internal strife, its lava tide,
So inward raged the awful king of hell,
Till with stern pride he broke the painful spell.
And now again the chief essays to speak,
And, by fresh boasts, the settled horror break,              255
When, rushing in, like some damned wretch who flies
From wrathful Justice as his victim dies,
A speedful herald came. The council starts.
He speaks, and thus the weighty news imparts:—
“Monarch of all, and ye our chieftains brave,                  260
“I bear great matter—herald tidings grave!”—
“The news!” the impetuous monarch cried:
The herald, with a trembling haste, replied—
“E'en now the councils of the skies dismiss,
“And strains of joy ring through the realms of bliss:         265
“The Father and the Son the courts of day
“In glory left; to earth they bent their way.
“Just as I entered, through our watchful spies
“Came startling news, in which great import lies.
“A messenger of God on lightning wing                          270
“Petition bears to heaven's eternal king,
“Sent by the youth whose future course we fear—
“Anointed and pre-ordinated Seer!
“Urged by the whisperings of auspicious fate,
“He claims the blessings which for him await.”               275
“Enough! Enough!” the sovereign roared and frowned,—
His mighty voice the herald's feebler drowned.
“Away, my lords! Crush all who brave our sway!
“Flood them—drown them with hate! Away, away!”

As, when the home-bound ship its haven nears,            280
And happy sailors give to joy their fears,
The spiteful gale with madden'd fury roars,
And fain would wreck them on their native shores;
Then dash the billows, roll the mountain waves,
And round the ship appear deep briny graves;              285
The sea-gods now exasperation gain,
And foaming hosts come rushing o'er the main;
So raged that rebel host against the Seer,
When they beheld his mighty mission near;
And, breaking up, they rushed with horrid yell,              290
Which echoed through the vast domain of hell.

E.W. Tullidge, "A Chapter From the Prophet of the Nineteenth Century," The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star no. 1, vol. 20, 2 January 1858, 14-16.

January 31, 2011

Review, Douglas J. Davies, "Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition"

Title: Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision 
Author: Douglas J. Davies
Publisher: Ashgate
Genre: Theology
Year: 2010
Pages: 282, includes bibliography, index, and scriptural reference guide
Binding: Paperback
ISBN13: 9781409406709
Price: 29.95

Douglas J. Davies received the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year for his 1995 book Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes. Although he toned down the titling for his first two books on Mormonism (Introduction to Mormonism and Mormon Culture of Salvation), the professor of Religion at the University of Durham has returned to distinctive titles with his latest work, Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision

As one of the foremost non-Mormon scholars of Mormonism, Davies is known for his penetrating insights and a somewhat disjointed organizational style. He retains the "academic and non-apologetic perspective" of his previous books while interpreting the "key paradigmatic scenes of [Mormonism's] salvation narratives" (1-2). In other words, he believes the Mormon approach to salvation can be better understood through the stories Mormons tell about "the glade, garden and council"—the sites of the First Vision, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the pre-mortal council in heaven.1 These three stories move along the plot of the Mormon "Plan of Salvation" (2). According to Davies, this plan as taught through narratives helps explain Mormonism's appeal and longevity. Shifting Mormon emphases on elements of the plan also demonstrate Mormonism's adaptation to changing circumstances. Finally, Davies hopes that exploring the plan will help readers understand how and why the Mormon view of salvation differs from that of other Christian groups. 

"Narrative," Davies asserts, "is of the essence of humanity." He divides Mormon sources into four "narrative streams" through which he explores Mormon thought: 1) The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and the Bible, 2) The Doctrine & Covenants and "personal testimonies," 3) "thousands of written diaries, histories, and personal journals", and 4) formal LDS history. This unusual division is encompassed within the "grand narrative" of the Plan of Salvation (3-4). The division allows Davies to draw from a huge variety of Mormon sources past and present to demonstrate the Plan's place in Mormon thought. It also allows him to sidestep the sticky question of authoritative or "official doctrine" because he is discussing how different Mormons have engaged their scriptural and prophetic tradition rather than outlining how all should engage it. If Mormon history has tended to overshadow Mormon theology in publications, this book reverses that order, which despite its shortcomings should at least prove useful in helping other writers identify and include more theological subjects in historical works. It stands as an interesting look at theology in its own right, however.   

Davies understands various Mormon thinkers as engaging with "a textual and ritual pool of potential orientations to the world" provided by the "revelations" of Joseph Smith. I employ the scare quotes around "revelations" to underscore Davies's effort to bracket the question of Smith's actual interactions with God. Davies's Joseph Smith is not quite a pious fraud and certainly not a deliberate impostor, nor did he literally speak to God. Rather, Smith "creatively engaged with the cultural resources of his day" and participated in "creative interplay with his closest associates" to solve religious questions. Davies holds that Smith had staying power "not only [because he] addressed contemporary ills, disputes and queries but [because he] also furnished bases for those future concerns that ever beset humanity in the quest to conquer death, gain a meaningful basis for family life, find mutual support and acquire an ethic of survival in a potentially hostile world." Mormonism's vitality can be explained by the fact that Smith and his followers shaped these goals into a "unified focus in a narrative accessible to all," the Plan of Salvation (10-11).

Davies understands the Mormon worldview as consisting of a cosmic battle between good and evil. The Plan of Salvation is the means by which God helps humanity navigate through the evil in order to progress to a higher state of existence. The main confrontation is embodied in the persons of Jesus and Satan at the pre-mortal council in heaven, at Gethsemane, and in the grove of trees where Satan tried to thwart Joseph Smith's attempt at prayer. Davies shows how Mormon views of grace, sin, accountability, freedom, salvation, and other issues are given meaning through the stories Mormons tell, above all, the story of the Plan of Salvation. 

For instance, Davies sees the Mormon focus on personal trial and effort as being exemplified by Jesus in Gethsemane, where Jesus appears to make a deliberate personal choice to suffer for the sins of the world instead of passively receiving pain, as he appears to do on the cross in some of the Gospel accounts. Davies believes Mormon proactivity helps account for, or is at least symbolized by, the apparent emphasis on the atonement in Gethsemane and lack of crucifixion iconography (chapter seven). Davies also includes more incidental examples, such as how the Mormon emphasis on freedom to make choices might manifest itself in peculiar Mormon phraseology such as the term "opportunity," as in, "we thank thee for the opportunity to do such-and-such," a term which my wife and I can't help but use sometimes, despite joking about how frequently we hear it in church meetings (227). In Mormonism life itself is composed of opportunities in which Mormon agency is tested.  

Davies's anthropological background (which may, parenthetically, help account for the somewhat scattered approach) invites a few stunning insights. Consider his discussion about the potential effects of thought and sin upon pain in the human body: "Just as a 'thought' may trigger a blush so, albeit on a different scale, Christ's 'thoughtful' engagement with evil triggered the physiology of 'sweated blood.'" He includes the story of a woman who, while working with many terminally ill patients, experienced a "total physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual agony" which helped her better appreciate the struggle her patients experienced (150-151).  

In some cases Davies traces the historical development of a particular Mormon doctrine (such as the shift in the role of Jesus from an Old Testament Jehovah to a more salvation-oriented Christ)2, but more often he provides snapshots of various Mormon views without chronological consideration. Thus the book reads as variations on themes instead of a systematic explanation of the Plan of Salvation, or of the book's three main characters. If anything, his approach underscores how intertwined history and theology can be and invites further exploration of the development of Mormon theology.   

The book is brimming with insights drawn out by Davies's self-described "theoretical and practical" approach. Elements of architecture, hymnody, liturgy, and art receive attention throughout in the midst of discussion about salvation, priesthood, or the atonement. Davies even contributes a piece of art on the book's cover which doesn't fit well within current mainstream LDS art but which nevertheless might resonate with Latter-day Saints. Jennifer Bell and Stephen McWhirter's "Gethsemane" appears to represent darkness enveloping traces of Christ's blood. At the center of the pattern of blood a bright point of light shines, radiating out like a star, perhaps a powerful symbol of hope and direction in the midst of suffering and darkness.  

Davies's understanding of how Mormons make use of the Plan of Salvation through their scriptural texts and rituals also helps him frame the emergence of certain novel LDS positions. Thus Davies briefly discusses similar issues he has raised in earlier books on Mormonism including blood atonement, Adam-God theories, plural marriage, and the restriction of priesthood from blacks. Since these themes have been covered in his earlier works it is unclear why they require restating here. Their inclusion often seems peripheral or disjointed, which is my main complaint about the book. True, he discusses "Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision" as the subtitle suggests, but he discusses so many other issues with equal prominence that the subtitle may well have been "A nice meandering talk about Mormonism by an insightful English Anglican." Framing LDS thought through the plan of salvation is a great move, but perhaps Davies strays from it too often. I would have liked a little more focus on the Plan of Salvations's development as a missionary tool, for example. And although he includes older Mormon pop culture views of the Plan like Nephi Anderson's Added Upon, he misses more recent iterations like Saturday's Warrior.3 Overall, however, Davies's insights make up for his meandering; I enjoyed the side roads even if I didn't understand how they connected to the overall destination. But with so many reiterated themes from his former work, why this new book? 

First, it allows Davies to revise or reiterate claims which have received responses from reviewers. One reviewer pointed out Davies's apparent overlooking of Old Testament influences in early LDS thought. Chapter two of this book, "Mormon-Israel," focuses specifically on that point.4 Adjustments to his depiction of grace in Mormon thought seem directly influenced by David Paulsen's response, although Davies may yet not satisfy Paulsen.5

A second, related reason for the book concerns Davies's ability to foster continuing dialog between Mormons and other Christians. Whether it be dissecting claims of worshiping a "different Jesus" (222), or describing the place of hierarchy within Christian traditions versus individual piety (223), or correcting the mistaken notion that Protestants don't believe in merit-based salvation (226), Davies finds fresh ways to frame old conundrums. Because Davies is familiar with several contemporary Mormon writers including Blake Ostler, Richard Bushman, and David Paulsen, his book should also foster dialog amongst Mormons themselves, including multiple restoration movements (he occasionally discusses the so-called Stangite and Community of Christ traditions). 

Whether readers agree or disagree with Davies's analysis he raises insightful questions for Mormon theologians. For instance, his description of the ambiguous role of the Holy Ghost in the Godhead (his? nature, identity, place in the overall plan timeline, etc.) proposes a fascinating project for Mormon thinkers (chapter eleven). At the same time, the book isn't without a few glaring problems. One of his bigger gaffes occurs during his description of the Book of Abraham when he cites the thoroughly-discredited Dee Jay Nelson (117).6 Still, this book deserves to be read for the same reason given in glowing reviews of his earlier work: Davies carefully and honestly engages with Mormon thought in a non-polemical way that promotes further dialog and understanding of Mormonism. His outsider's perspective should provoke reflection and new insights for life-long Mormons, and it should also help non-Mormons understand the strength and structure of the Mormon worldview as encompassed by the Plan of Salvation. 

1. Davies appears to have been inspired by an Edward Tullidge poem he calls "Gathering of the Grand Council of Hell" from The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, 20.1 (1858): 14-16, which covers the same three scenes. Davies's scenes reminded me of Bruce R. McConkie's seminal conference address, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane," in which McConkie describes the "three gardens of God," the Gardens of Eden, Gethsemane, and the Empty Tomb, respectively (McConkie, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane", Ensign, May 1985). Davies refers to this address during his discussion of the atonement (143-147). Although Davies does not include the Garden of Eden in his paradigmatic stories, LDS temple rites portray the same sort of struggle between Jesus, Satan, and others which Davies's book explores. Davies generally discusses temple rituals with great care, although one brief passage may seem inappropriate to some Mormons (183).

2. Davies can thus be read as emphasizing a progression from one to the other, or as explaining how different historical emphases have led to a more multi-faceted understand of Jesus in the contemporary LDS Church.

3. Incidentally, in discussing shifting LDS emphases of the Plan of Salvation Davies hypothesizes that the presence of Satan is "already less in evidence," pointing to new Church DVDs which no longer depict Joseph Smith's description of satanic interruption in the Sacred Grove. Saturday's Warrior not only seems to leave out Satan, but it seems to largely leave out God and Jesus as well (235).

4. See Walter E. A. Van Beek, "A Comparative Exercise in Mormon Theology, A review of 'An Introduction to Mormonism' by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review vol.16 no.2, 319-28.

5. See David L. Paulsen and Cory G. Walker, "Work, Worship, and Grace: A review of 'The Mormon Culture of Salvation' by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review vol.18 no.2, 83-177. Davies incorporates several sources from Paulsen's response, not always for reasons expected. An in-depth comparison of his previous works, Paulsen's response, and the current book would be interesting but exceeds the scope of this review.

6. For a brief discussion of Nelson, see John A. Tvedtnes, "Nothing New under the Sun," FARMS Review vol. 10 no.1, 264-70. Minor gaffes include instances of non-uniform name spelling (Hyram and Hyrum Smith, Sydney and Sidney Rigdon, etc.) and some slightly inaccurate quotes ("philosophies of the wise" p. 144 should read "the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise," McConkie, ibid.), etc.

Also see Aaron R.'s insightful review at bycommonconsent.