The 20th Dialogue podcast features Associate Professor of Religious History at Harvard Divinity School David Holland speaking on “Full of Eyes Both Before and Behind: Joseph Smith as American Prophet and Ancient Historian.” From the Miller-Eccles website: “When writing about Joseph Smith, observers almost reflexively invoke the term “incomparable.” The Latter-day Saint prophet can indeed make comparison difficult. And this may be particularly true of his engagement with antiquity. Smith’s forays into the ancient world, from Abrahamic papyri to American Mulekites, often appear so distinctive or peculiar as to resist analogy. But even the inimitable can be profitably compared; sometimes the more radical the differences the more illuminating the comparison. And Smith does have some interesting analogues in his pursuit of the past. The Mormon prophet, after all, was not the only American religious leader of the nineteenth century both to claim modern-day revelation and to recover sacred stories of earlier epochs. This essay looks at three American figures of the era—Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith and Ellen White—and examines their approaches to the past. Incomparable in many ways, their juxtaposition does reveal important implications arising from their respective recoveries of sacred history. Smith’s angle on the ancient world becomes both more distinctive and more meaningful as a result of such comparison.
David Holland is Associate Professor of North American Religious History at Harvard Divinity School. He received his undergraduate degree from BYU and his MA and PhD from Stanford. His work has appeared in the New England Quarterly, Gender and History, and Law and History Review. His first book, Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.”
*Note that there are some technical difficulties around minutes 40-45 only.