Joseph Smith fascinates and bewilders me. I find his writings and his teachings infinitely fascinating, immensely instructive, and theologically rich. I love his life, and especially his own, always-changing interpretation of his own experiences. I am enthralled by the translations and revelations he left us—even the non-canonical works like the (original manuscripts of the) New Translation, etc. I am particularly moved by his expansive “Nauvoo theology,” by its implicit and explicit angelology, doctrine of keys, notion of deification, way of conceiving of the divine council, implications in terms of the unique role of Adam, and so on.
The last lesson in the manual, particularly because it records the words of everyone but Joseph Smith, more or less speaks for itself. It is worth saying, though, that it functions as a kind of compendium of all the major “uses” to which we put Joseph Smith as Latter-day Saints, from “Joseph the foreordained” (section one of the “Testimonies” half of the lesson) through “the Joseph Smith of the First Vision” (section two) and “Joseph Smith the structurally incapable of having done what he did” (section three) and “Joseph the prophetically unique” (section four) to “Joseph Smith as a global figure of importance” (section five). Because I’m not particularly keen on finishing off this whole series of lesson notes (two years!) with a critical reflection on our own reception of Joseph Smith, I’ll end instead with my own testimony, for whatever it’s worth.
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