Friday, April 2, 2010

Mormons and the Cross--Sunstone West/Claremont Graduate University

During the Sunstone West Symposium at Claremont Graduate University last week, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion (with Newell Bringhurst, Robert Rees, and D. Michael Quinn) featuring my forthcoming book Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo. Pleased that the presentation was well received (the room was so full that we didn't have enough chairs), I was especially relieved that each of the accomplished scholars on my panel spoke positively about my research.

I already knew that Bringhurst and Rees would speak favorably of the book, since I had worked closely with them both for some time, but what Quinn would say was entirely unknown to me. And the fact that I had directly contradicted/challenged Quinn's interpretation of Joseph Smith's cane in my thesis and blog, this gave me all the more reason to be concerned.

But contrary to the nightmares I had the night before, Mike Quinn's remarks turned out to be quite flattering:

I find the evidence and analysis to be persuasive in Michael G. Reed's forthcoming book.... I appreciate something that he didn't include in his brief presentation today. While his book acknowledges that Joseph Smith's serpent-cane "was either inspired by Freemasonry, folk-magic, or both," he discovered a symbol in it that I did not recognize in my book about Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. In what I regarded as simply carved compartments on the cane, Reed perceives an inverted cross. Now I see it, too. Pointing out the previously unperceived is the role of ongoing historical analysis. I am very impressed with his detailed examination of the transition in official and unofficial LDS attitudes toward the Christian Cross.... Michael G. Reed has written a book that deftly examines one aspect of Mormonism's inconsistent overlaps with traditional Christianity and inconsistent departures therefrom.
In the coming week I am off again, this time traveling to Independence Missouri to present at the Restoration Studies Symposium. It would be nice to see some of you there. If you do attend, please introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you.

To those who may be interested, Sunstone now has the MP3 of my 2009 SLC presentation available to purchase for $3. You can order/download it here.