“What’s with this ‘Joseph’ stuff? Can you imagine Lutherans calling their guy ‘Martin?'”

By June 12, 2008

Many Mormon scholars have a funny quirk. They refer, in formal scholarly work, to the founder of their faith by his first name. When I was a history major at BYU, one of my professors there said that she simply could not bring herself to refer to Joseph Smith as “Smith”–it felt to her like an insult. I disagreed with her on this, but I knew from my own reading in Mormon history that I was in the minority on this issue. When I got to graduate school and working on my dissertation, my adviser (a very senior and well regarded scholar of religion in America) was reading an advance review copy of Rough Stone Rolling and we were chatting about in his office. He really liked the book, but he said it reminded him of puzzling habit that Mormon historians of Mormonism had. “What’s with this ‘Joseph’ stuff?” he asked. “Mormons are the only ones who do this. Can you imagine Lutherans calling their guy ‘Martin.'” This wasn’t the first time I had heard him say this. When I first started the program he had mentioned it, and although I always had been uncomfortable calling Joseph Smith “Joseph” in papers, I had made a concerted effort never to do it in something my adviser would read. These incidents have sensitized me to the nuances involved in choosing how to refer to Joseph/Smith.

Is there anything to this? Can we tell anything about the way scholars feel about Joseph/Smith by which name they choose? Does scholarly consistency oblige me to call everyone in my writing by his or her first name? If not, then on what rational grounds is one justified in bestowing this honor on one person?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Well at least is not Brother Joseph. 😉

    Comment by JonW — June 12, 2008 @ 7:35 pm

  2. Not just Joseph but Brigham as well. But oddly no one else except for the occasional Wilford. Of course J. Golden does well.

    Comment by Clark — June 12, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  3. There is of course nothing wrong with referring to Joseph as “Smith” in scholarly writing. But I am sympathetic to your history teacher, because I have felt the same pull to use “Joseph,” and I freely admit I’m not entirely sure why.

    In my paper “A Tale of Two Restorations,” about Alexander Campbell, I included the following footnote:

    4 In this article I will vary from normal practice by generally using first names to refer to Joseph Smith and Alexander Campbell. In the case of the Prophet Joseph, I do this because I am cognizant of the long history of anti-Mormons seeking to use Joseph’s name as a weapon against him (“Joe Smith” and the like). In the case of Alexander Campbell, I do it partly to parallel the way I reference Joseph and partly to distinguish Alexander more readily from his father, Thomas Campbell.

    http://fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Tale_of_Two_Restorations.html

    Comment by Kevin Barney — June 12, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

  4. My comment got eaten by your spam filter; please check it.

    [Admin: Done]

    Comment by Kevin Barney — June 12, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

  5. Can we tell anything about the way scholars feel about Joseph/Smith by which name they choose?

    Not always. I have been advising a non-Mormon author of a forthcoming book, and we had more than one email exchange about what to call “Joseph” and “Brigham.” He wanted to call them “Joseph” and “Brigham” because an earlier consultant (also a non-Mormon, and one whose published work demonstrates zero understanding of Mormon sensitivities) had told him that Mormons would be insulted if he (my client) used anything but their first names. I told him that Mormons were quite comfortable with the scholarly use of “Smith” and “Young” (you’re telling me I exaggerated that), and that as an outsider, his use of our intimate names could even be seen as unfriendly or mocking.

    I don’t know yet what he finally decided to do.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 12, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  6. Mormons today, of course, have a quite different relationship with Smith than Lutherans today have with Martin.

    As a Presbyterian, I’ll have to start referring to Calvin as John/Jean…

    Comment by John Turner — June 12, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  7. As far as I know — and I admit I have very little experience in writing about Mormon history — Joseph himself preferred the familiar modes of address. What was habit for the people around him– to call him “Joseph” or “Brother Joseph” as he asked– has probably become tradition for those of us further removed. 🙂

    Personally, I like “Joseph.” “Smith” seems so distancing. On the other hand, I know “official” books are supposed to be objective so the distancing thing is probably the point.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — June 12, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

  8. I know “official” books are supposed to be objective so the distancing thing is probably the point.

    Not objective, just more scholarly in tone.

    As Clark points out, this is only reserved for a select few, and those generally from the 19th century. Ironically, referring to the president of the church today as “Thomas” or his predecessor as “Gordon” comes off to most Mormons as, if not more, offensive than referring to JS as “Smith.”

    Comment by Christopher — June 12, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  9. One thing I don’t think we really remember is that during their lifetimes, JS and BY were known personally by virtually all members of the church, at least by those who gathered. They heard them speak, they met them on the streets, they counseled with them concerning personal problems and the things they wanted to know from God. It wasn’t until fairly well on into BY’s term in Utah that the population grew to the point where he couldn’t know everyone personally. The change from “Brigham” to “President” developed along with the population.

    (This idea comes from Jeff Johnson; I think it has merit.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 12, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

  10. It was with a little trepidation that, in giving a talk in my ward the week before General Conference, I referred to the First Presidency as Thomas Monson, Henry Eyring, and Dieter Uchtdorf. No one mentioned it, though.

    Comment by Researcher — June 12, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

  11. I read an unpublished manuscript last year that tried to analyze the nineteenth-century particularity of referring to certain church leaders as “Brother ‘First Name.'” Really if you think about it, there are quite few: Joseph, Brigham and Heber (are there others). I’d bet that those are the only ones that pop up in scholarly writing by their first names as well.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 12, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

  12. It’s de rigueur in most theology departments to refer to Thomas Aquinas as simply ‘Thomas.’

    Comment by matt b — June 12, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

  13. Not to hijack, but . . .

    Has anyone ever done some kind of study comparing the incidence of Mormons–and especially Mormon leaders–using their first initials followed by their middle names (e.g. “J. Golden Kimball; M. Russell Ballard); as opposed to the US population at large?

    Comment by JimD — June 12, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  14. Thanks for all of your thoughts on this everyone. I don’t think there is one correct way to approach this issue, but the fact that it is an issue at all is important.

    The Aquinas example that matt b cites is an interesting one. The use of his first name even extends to the school of thought named after him. It has led my students to endless confusion when I refer to “Thomism” because it seems way too informal to be correct.

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 12, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  15. We toured Nauvoo, Carthage and Independence last summer. Pretty much without fail, the Community of Christ members who discussed the founder of the Mormon movement referred to him as “Joseph Smith, Junior”. Not “The Prophet Joseph Smith” or “Joseph” or “Brother Joseph”. I have never heard an LDS Mormon call him “Joseph Smith, Junior” Interesting.

    Comment by Phouchg — June 12, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

  16. A couple of years ago, Bill MacKinnon was generous enough to read my introduction to Mormon Parallels, which I asked him to do in his capacity as a scholarly, non-Mormon friend of Mormon history. He was perplexed by my use of “Joseph” instead of “Smith,” yet I could not see my way to change to using “Smith” instead; it just did not feel right, no matter how scholarly my text. Even more intriguing, perhaps, is the fact that while my work is not even remotely apologetic, I would, on the other hand, take umbrage at a non-Mormon using “Joseph” if their text were extremely critical in an anti-Mormon spirit. Is that like saying, “I can pick on my brother, but you can’t” ?

    Another question to pose here might be, how much time must pass, and under what conditions, before any comparable small religious entity stops referring to its founder in such familiar terms?

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 12, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

  17. Since Joseph Smith’s family members play such significant roles in many of the texts we write about him, first names are an easy way to avoid ambiguity (as Kevin notes in (3) above). I think Mormon Enigma has a similar note (but I’m traveling this week and can’t verify). Perhaps this necessity bleeds over to other texts where it is less necessary. Also, as the institutional church acquired more structure and momentum, individuals moved to the fore of the narrative and families assumed background roles (in general).

    At any rate, I’ve encountered a similar problem in writing about Chinese history. I have used common names to distinguish multiple people with the same surname. Some who have reviewed my work say it’s an appropriate choice; others say it’s un-Chinese and inappropriate.

    Comment by Edje — June 12, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  18. When we served in a small branch a few months ago, the Branch President called everyone by their first name. I was Brother Ray; my wife was Sister Michelle.

    I loved it.

    Comment by Ray — June 12, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  19. Hey, Brother Ray!

    While teaching high school current events in Vernal, Utah in 1973-74, I had occasion to call in a local police official for the kids to “interview.” They mostly asked if he could legally look in their car trunks for beer, but that’s another story.

    The policeman was a member of my ward, and at one point during the class, he called me “Brother Rick.” We didn’t really do that sort of thing back in Boise, Idaho, and I admit I was embarrassed by it in front of my students. But it did feel nice and friendly at church!

    /ss/ Bro. Rick

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 12, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  20. Utilizing Joseph Smith’s first name because that is the way that he referenced himself and was remembered by others historically seems intellectually justifiable–especially if accompanied by a footnote or explanation of the importance that familiarity played in the man’s life and legacy. Nevertheless, if a historian employs Smith’s first name because of his own perceived feelings of familiarity, he is probably on more shaky scholarly ground. If nothing else, he is expressing some sense of sympathy with the man or possibly a certain level of disdain. The use of surnames has become a marker of professionalism in the historical field–though the practice lives on in popular history.

    Bushman acknowledges many of these issues in his preface

    Mormon children grow up knowing Joseph Smith as well as they know George Washington. He is referred to familiarly as “Joseph,” or, a bit more formally, as “the Prophet,” never as the distancing “Smith.” Even Fawn Brodie, who was on her way out of Mormonism when she wrote her landmark biography No Man Knows My History, reflected her Mormon upbringing by calling him “Joseph.” In this book, “Joseph” occasionally becomes merely “Smith,” but out of respect for Mormon custom, I usually refer to him by his more familiar name. Perhaps this attempt to draw close to Joseph Smith will reveal a little more of the heart that he said no one knew (xxii).

    I think Bushman really wants to be a little subversive toward the professional establishment, and his choice probably bugged some historians.

    By the way, when I visited the Community of Christ sites in Nauvoo, I was also impressed that they not only refered to Smith as Joseph Smith, Jr. but also remember Joseph Smith III as “Young Joseph” or “the boy prophet.”

    Comment by Joel — June 12, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  21. Strange that no one is mentioning the relevant context to the initial practice. JSJ used “Joseph” because he was the seer raised by God as Joseph son of Joseph, patterned after Joseph the Egyptian patriarch. The early Latter-day Saints could no more refer to Joseph by his last name than they could Isaiah, Moses, or Father Israel.

    The fact that this persists reflects the continuation of that prior biblicization of Mormonism’s founder.

    As for etiquette, Daniel Walker Howe uses Joseph and Brigham in his OUP History of US volume recently released. I tend to use “Joseph” when I’m expressing the sentiment of an early LDS and “Smith” when I’m writing from my perspective.

    Comment by smb — June 12, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  22. I thought referring to the Prophet by his first name, rather than by his last name, was more than tradition. My understanding is that this has been a long-standing editorial policy at Deseret Books. Is it also in the Church’s style manual?

    Comment by Sterling — June 13, 2008 @ 12:30 am

  23. If the NYT had its way, the first reference would be Joseph Smith with Mr. Smith thereafter.

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 13, 2008 @ 6:20 am

  24. I think I misspoke. The current practice may represent a reconceptualization of the biblicization of the Mormon founder. It does now appear to communicate familiarity rather than a biblical aura. Smith’s familiar name was “Joe” back then; now it is “Joseph.”

    Comment by smb — June 13, 2008 @ 7:55 am

  25. I wonder how Seventh-day Adventist scholars refer to Ellen White.

    Comment by Tom — June 13, 2008 @ 8:23 am

  26. smb,
    You have an interesting point that raises some questions for me. If the use of “Joseph” is a reconceptualization of his original biblicization, to what extent is this conscious on the part of Mormons? Is there a visible point somewhere in time at which the use was explicitly invoking the relationship between the two Josephs? If so, is it a case of mimesis that has led to the widespread, almost reflexive use of the name today?

    Tom, as I recall Ron Numbers usually refers to her as “Ellen” in his biography. Good call. Shakers call Ann Lee “Mother Ann”-never Ann or Lee, although there are only 3 Shakers left and most scholars working on the subject call her “Lee” (Steve Stein) or “Ann Lee” (Clarke Garrett)–her full name short enough to allow for this.

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 13, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  27. On the Other hand, no one calls Saint Anthony “Vicente de Bulhão”

    Comment by Matt W. — June 13, 2008 @ 8:45 am

  28. Matt W,
    Saints in general fit the pattern you describe. I’m sure part of this has to do with the pre-modern history of surnames (about which I know very little). Jesus and other biblical figures, of course, also fit this pattern–a fact which got me in trouble in family home evening when I was a kid. My parents asked me who Jesus’ parents were and I responded, “Joseph and Mary Christ.” Surely I’m not the only one to have made such an error.

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 13, 2008 @ 8:51 am

  29. Does anyone even know Mother Theresa’s last name?

    Comment by Matt W. — June 13, 2008 @ 9:07 am

  30. I got in trouble for saying “Mary and God Damn” when I was a kid…

    Comment by Matt W. — June 13, 2008 @ 9:08 am

  31. Joseph Smith, is to be venerated as the man God the Almighty called to restore the Gospel, the true Gospel, of Jesus the Christ. He is not to be treated as just any other man; he was not just any man. He is the Prophet of this Dispensation. We are not his equal nor should we, LDS or not, attempt to bring him down to our level. Presuming Brother Joseph to be as we are is like saying Jesus was a regular guy. I think of Jesus as the Head of the Church and Brother Joseph as his First Counselor over this dispensation. In an academic setting, the professor and the students are not equal.

    Comment by ML Brown — June 13, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  32. ML Brown, that flies in the face of everything Mr. Smith taught and wanted.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 13, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  33. Wow, ML Brown. Just, “wow.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  34. Matt W. Response to #29, I didn’t know if you were being serious but here is what wiki says:

    Mother Teresa-

    Agnes Gonxha (Albanian for “rosebud”) Bojaxhiu was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia.[4] She was the youngest of the children of a family from Shkodër, Albania…

    Comment by ML Brown — June 13, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  35. “Can we tell anything about the way scholars feel about Joseph/Smith by which name they choose?”

    I have found that a writer’s use of the name “Joe Smith” is a reliable indicator of hostility towards Joseph Smith and even towards Mormons in general.

    Comment by Clair — June 13, 2008 @ 9:21 am

  36. Muhammed is referred to as Muhammed rather than Ibn Abdulla, even though it is common to refer to other important Islamic figures — e.g. Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Al-Ghazali — by their patronyms or some other name other than their first name. Intersting, the use of first names rather than patronyms or other titles is also extended to the Companions of the Prophet — i.e. the leaders of the Islamic community in the years immediately after the Prophet’s death. Hence, when a Muslim historians refers to Ali or Umar — very common Arabic names — there is no confusion about which Ali or Umar they are referring to.

    Comment by Nate Oman — June 13, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  37. FWIW, when I presented my paper on Mormon courts at the American Society of Legal History I referred to “Smith,” but when I presented the same paper at BYU I found myself unconsciously using “Joseph.”

    Comment by Nate Oman — June 13, 2008 @ 9:43 am

  38. Nate: I’m curious if now that you know you did that, would do so again?

    Comment by ML Brown — June 13, 2008 @ 9:53 am

  39. taysom-i just don’t know the Utah period well enough. for my period, through the early exodus, it’s pretty clear that he was the modern namesake of Joseph of Egypt. It’s in BoM, it’s in Phelps, JSJ is clear about it well into Nauvoo. As for when it became familiar more than biblical, the familiarity coexists early on, but as witnessed by the comment of ML Brown above, the biblical interpretation persists in some pockets to the present day. I suspect martyrdom also plays into this early on, certainly.

    I wonder how much of this has to do with popular historiograpical turns in the twentieth century, but again i don’t know the period well.

    My memory is that Joanna Southcott was Mother Southcott, and Jemimah Wilkinson went by Public Universal Friend.

    Comment by smb — June 13, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  40. ML Brown,

    You should apply for a job at The Onion. Seriously. You do nice work.

    Nate,

    You make a nice point about Muhammad and the Rashidun. Of course, devout Muslims never say the Prophets name without adding the salawat, but scholars tend to use just his given name. It seems to me that there is some divide here between antiquity and modernity.

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 13, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  41. I’m quite sympathetic to the “Bother Joseph” inclination, since it’s quite natural to me. At the advice of one of the more progressive members of the BYU religion department (y’all know who), I changed several “Joseph’s” to “Smith’s” in a paper I wrote as an undergrad before submitting to to JMH. It did feel sort of awkward at first. Now I find it more natural–don’t really think about it too much–and find that I sort of mix it up in my own writing: sometimes the more familiar “Joseph” (which still has a sort of sentimental quality to it) and sometimes “Smith.”

    Comment by stan — June 13, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  42. Stan,

    Now I find it more natural–don’t really think about it too much–and find that I sort of mix it up in my own writing: sometimes the more familiar “Joseph” (which still has a sort of sentimental quality to it) and sometimes “Smith.”

    My experience is the same.

    ML Brown,

    Presuming Brother Joseph to be as we are is like saying Jesus was a regular guy.

    Huh?

    I think of Jesus as the Head of the Church and Brother Joseph as his First Counselor over this dispensation. In an academic setting, the professor and the students are not equal.

    Again, huh?

    Comment by Christopher — June 13, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  43. Don’t Mormons (scholars and otherwise) often refer to JS’s brother simply as “Hyrum”? If so, is this just because of a shared last name with many other early Mormons, or something more along the lines of what Stapley points out in #11–like Brigham and Heber?

    Comment by Christopher — June 13, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  44. I have no problem using “Smith” and “Young” in my blog posts, though I frequently use “Joseph” and “Brigham” as well. I bet if I analyzed all of my blog posts, I’d find that I tend to use the former when I’m (mentally) writing for a non-LDS or more academic audience, whereas I tend to use the latter if I’m writing specifically for a general LDS audience. And I don’t think I’d ever use “Smith” or “Young” in a talk or lesson at Church. 🙂 ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — June 13, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  45. Re: bfwebster’s 44:

    After reading one of Bill MacKinnon’s drafts a few years ago, I commented on how careful he was in that particular paper to use a title or to otherwise avoid the bare “Smith” or “Young” — not that I thought it was necessary or always suitable, but it was right in that case. That paper was aimed for a primarily Mormon audience I knew that “Smith” would be jarring and might even interfere with his audience’s being able to enjoy or accept his presentation. He is free with “Young” and “Kimball” and “Smith” in At Sword’s Point, but that’s as it should be — that is aimed at a scholarly audience, and the Kingdom in the West styleguide requires it anyway. And Bill also lapses into the familiar “Brigham” on rare and informal occasions, in email for instance, although he usually shorthands to “BY.”

    In other words, that someone who did not grow up in the culture picks up generally the same pattern that Bruce describes suggests to me that the pattern is very common among us. But then, Bill is also a bright guy.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — June 13, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  46. Christopher #42:
    Not sure how to respond to “huh,” but if you want to clarify your response, I will try answering you. If not, no worries.

    Comment by ML Brown — June 13, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  47. #18

    Our Bishop similarly calls everyone Brother Jeff, Brother Jim, and so on. It is really obnoxious. I do not understand where it comes from and is unncessarily informal from the pulpit. I would be shocked to hear President Monson introduce Elder Eyring as Henry – either from the pulpit or in a more informal setting.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 14, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

  48. Anonymous: Have you ever read The Unwritten Order of Things by Elder Boyd K. Packer

    BOYD K. PACKER,BYU Devotional Address, October 15, 1996 in the Marriott Center.

    http://www.byub.org/findatalk/findatalk

    I freely admit I can be a bit pedantic, nevertheless, this guidance and counsel from an Apostle of the Lord.

    Comment by ML Brown — June 14, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  49. ML Brown, it is safe to assume that every regular reader of JI is thoroughly familiar with that talk.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2008 @ 10:51 pm

  50. Thoroughly familiar. We here in the G&SB like to keep well informed. Mwahahahaha

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 14, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  51. Down, boy. Wanna go wading in the stream of filthy waters with me, or climb up on the balcony where we can get a better view for our mocking?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

  52. Which talks can I “safely” assume you don’t know?

    I will speak gently as to not offend the all-knowing regulars, please allow me to share something with you regulars.

    You all may know 50+ years more of information than I do, okay. I accept that. I can’t possibly threaten you that badly that you are going to raise your hackles because I’m a lowly newcomer.

    In future postings, maybe even this one, I probably won’t use correct grammar. I will make errors (I promise). I will never call you names or take offense at what you say.

    Now, all of us know this information. Would it be okay if you snap out of your little click and open up.

    I know what I know and you know what you know. I can be very snarky if I have to. I’d rather just see your blogs. As a convert I’m still learning and you will either have to excuse me for not knowing all the things you regulars already know or you can be rude and disrespectful to a fellow student.

    In addition, if all I ever say is never new to you, keep quiet about and endure it. Even Jesus, all knowing as he was, held his peace…let me guess you already knew that? =)

    Comment by ML Brown — June 14, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

  53. ML Brown, I’m attempting to give you a gentle hint about the blogging world, about reading for a while and getting to know the flavor of a blog and its commenters. When someone doesn’t do that, there are quite often bruised feelings on both sides — in this case, we feel preached at by somebody who wrongly believes we’re all apostates, and you feel shut out by a rude and disrespectful clique.

    No need to be snarky. I wasn’t being so — believe me, if I were, your eyebrows would be singed by the heat from my words on your monitor. Just get to know us a little before you preach, correct, chastise, and assume the worst of us.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2008 @ 11:30 pm

  54. Sorry for policing your blog, SC. I’ll be up in that balcony.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

  55. Okay, please give me the same consideration. Don’t assume I think you’re apostates unless I say you are. I really do try to say what I mean. I speak honestly. I have no way to control how you or any other reader will respond. Maybe, don’t be so quick to assume the worst in me.

    Comment by ML Brown — June 14, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  56. What is it with the JI lately? Some of the comments this week have the distinctive smell of the old Banner of Heaven. Makes me wonder.

    Comment by Randy B. — June 15, 2008 @ 12:07 am

  57. Ardis,
    No need to apologize. In this instance, you’re advice is better than any I could give.

    Randy,

    We’re not that creative. This weirdness is 100% organic.

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 15, 2008 @ 7:09 am

  58. SC, I didn’t mean to imply it was the regular bloggers behind it. Quite the contrary.

    Comment by Randy B. — June 15, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  59. Oh, I get it. (Slaps forehead)

    Comment by SC Taysom — June 15, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  60. Sorry I’m coming late to this discussion. Great insight by all. I only have a small bit of information to add to the early practice of some Mormons. At a meeting on 5 December 1834, Oliver Cowdery records a revelation, rebuking those gathered (no hint if this was just for the leadership or for the general church) “for [their] former low, uncultivated, and disrespectful manner of communication, and salutation, with, and unto each other.” The practice formerly was to call “President Smith…Joseph, or brother Joseph; President Rigdon, brother Sidney, or Sidney, &c.” But the revelation encouraged those gathered to give “unto every man the respect due the office, calling, and priesthood, whereunto…the Lord have appointed, and ordained [them].” (1834-1835 History, as found in PJS 1:22-23).

    Of course, this revelation didn’t seem to take in Mormon “salutation”, but it is interesting to see the brief attempt to curtail the practice of a more informal “brother Joseph”.

    Comment by Robin — June 16, 2008 @ 11:39 am

  61. Robin, excellent reference!

    #47,

    This is late, but I had the opportunity to be at a meeting last year where 4 Apostles and the presidents of the Seventy were present and in a Q&A session, one apostle handed the microphone to another and, calling him by his first name told the more junior apostle to field that question. After another question later, that apostle had the microphone and said “good question” then without looking at the apostle to his left or saying a word just handed the microphone over. It was a real treat to see them interact as they did.

    A friend of mine’s father was an area authority and he mentioned that one of the first things that his father was told was that between themselves they called each other by their first names as it was something of a brotherhood. I took it to mean that among the seventy. That impressed my friend as it has been one of the only things he’s ever mentioned about his dad’s service.

    These little things just in reference to the part about being surprised if general authorities called each other by their first names in formal or informal settings.

    Comment by Jared T — June 16, 2008 @ 12:39 pm


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