Bruce Van Orden Q&A

By December 2, 2018

Kurt Manwaring has interviewed Bruce Van Orden about his new biography of W.W. Phelps. Here’s a taste of the interview (a link to the rest is below!):

Phelps wrote many hymns, including “The Spirit of God.” Do we know anything about what influenced his writing of the last verse of which is no longer sung?

There were six original verses to “The Spirit of God.”  Verses four and five (not the last verse) are those no longer included in the hymnbook, although they did appear in the original hymnbook that came out in 1836. 

Here they are:
We’ll wash, and be wash’d, and with oil be anointed                             
Withal not omitting the washing of feet:
For he that receiveth his penny appointed,                             
Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.
We’ll sing and we’ll shout &c.Old Israel that fled from the world for his freedom,                             
Must come with the cloud and the pillar, amain[1]:
A Moses, and Aaron, and Joshua lead him,                             
And feed him on manna from heaven again.We’ll sing and we’ll shout &c. 

The entire of “The Spirit of God” was inspired by the spiritual outpourings that occurred in the Kirtland Temple in January 1836 leading up to the eventual dedication March 27, 1836. The powerful experiences are now referred to as the “Kirtland endowment.” Chapter 18 of the biography deals with all these events connected with the Kirtland endowment and the
dedication. 

What role did Phelps play in the translation of the Book of Abraham?
Read more here!

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. For orientation, we may need to acknowledge that–while Phelps was certainly doing a substantial amount of ghostwriting–this new biography moves well beyond what many of us in the field believe is credible evidence regarding the scope of Phelps’s authorial role. I’m not intending this as an attack or general disparagement, just a caution for those who are new to this corpus that the questions of authorship aren’t anywhere near as settled as this new biography suggests. By way of praise, the biography does extend our knowledge of Phelps before his encounter with the Saints and fleshes out some post-Nauvoo details. Begging lack of time, I’m just flagging this for students and others new to these documents.

    Comment by smb — December 7, 2018 @ 10:47 am


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