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Latter-day Saint Apocrypha

Christopher Blythe releases book on the holy texts of Latter-day Saint break-off groups.

Before Assistant Professor Chris Blythe (Folklore and Latter-day Saint Literature) joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had no idea his great-grandfather was a member of the Community of Christ, a break-off group. Intrigued by how his ancestors and other members of Latter-day Saint schisms use the Book of Mormon and other religious texts, Blythe recently published the anthology titled Open Canon: Scriptures of the Latter-day Saint Tradition with his wife, Christine Blythe, and college friend Jay Burton. The three started planning the book as undergraduate students at Utah State. “It took us another 12 years or so to see it published, but it was just really fun,” Blythe comments.


Open Canon features the analysis of prominent religious scholars like BYU religion professors Casey Paul Griffiths and Joseph Spencer, along with non-Latter-day Saint scholars like Laurie Maffly-Kipp, a visiting professor at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. “Each chapter of the book talks about these revelations and how they were implemented in other people’s lives,” Blythe says.

The book compiles insights from renowned professors on lesser-known Latter-day Saint break-off texts like the Book of the Law of the Lord and Levitical Writings, among others. Although you can’t read the religious texts themselves in Blythe’s book, each chapter focuses on how different writings shaped various Latter-day Saint break-off churches.

Several religious leaders during Joseph Smith’s time believed they were led by an angel to discover and translate ancient records. Even in the Doctrine and Covenants, we read about Joseph Smith reprimanding Hiram Page in 1830 for a similar situation. One example highlighted in Open Canon is Charles B. Thompson’s translation of the Book of Enoch. After Joseph Smith died, Thompson didn’t know where to turn, so he started his own church called the Congregation of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion and produced new scriptures that included the Book of Enoch. Thompson claimed to have corrected the Book of Enoch through inspiration.

Another group discussed in the book was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Strangites. James Strang, a rival of Brigham Young, founded the group, claiming he held the original brass plates mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Strang often let people touch and interact with the plates. The information on the plates detailed animal sacrifice, the importance of eternal marriage, and rules about baptisms for the dead. Although animal sacrifices are no longer performed by the Strangite sect, the scriptures guided the way the new church was organized.

When researching and compiling the book, Blythe recognized that it was important to be compassionate when studying the past and others’ lives. “These are individuals who are really struggling to understand Heavenly Father and the Restoration. Even though I don’t believe their works are inspired, there are some really beautiful ideas.”

Blythe hopes that even everyday Latter-day Saints who aren’t scholars can read the book and learn more about the sacred texts of Latter-day Saint break-off groups. “I hope we understand the power of genius that Joseph produced scripture from Heavenly Father, and it really inspired people.”

Open Canon: Scriptures of the Latter-day Saint Tradition is available for purchase on Amazon.