When scholars talk about authorship of scripture, sometimes they look at changes in tone, genre, setting, or perspective as evidence of multiple authorship.
Below are three samples of my own writing that inform my thinking about this. The total time span of these samples is roughly 25-30 years. If you didn’t know it was me, is there any way you would guess that these are the same author?
Scholars often describe a big problem in the field of Biblical Studies, a lack of external controls. In other words, they make judgment calls about shifts in genre, tone, perspective, setting, etc. indicating multiple authorship, without looking at known examples of these things in other places. Well, here’s a personal example. We could also do this exercise with restoration scripture, or with artistic materials like poetry and music. For example, U2’s October sounds nothing like Zooropa, but it’s exactly the same band, just 12 years apart. As people evolve, their communications evolve.
The first is from my mission in 1994, and there are a hundred letters I wrote home that read just like this one:
This week has been extremely interesting. Monday night, we preached in a Pentecostal church, and afterwards we chatted a bit with the pastor. This past week I got a ton of letters from a ton of people, and that was great. I got a great letter from ______ , an entertaining one from ______, and several ______ from ______, ______, and ______. I got an awesome letter from Elder ______ in Porto Alegre down South. Sounds like my MTC district is doing beautifully. This past week it has been extremely difficult for me to keep concentrated because some of my best friends in the mission are taking off. They’re all being interviewed today and tomorrow, and then they’re outta here. I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on post-mission life these past few days, and to be honest it scares me to death. Girls, work, school- so much unknown.
… (section about marriage, redacted- too cringe to reprint)…
______, check up on your plans for your anniversary in October and see if it wouldn’t be cheaper to pay a visit to Foz do Iguacu here in the state of Parana. If you can’t, ask ______ if he can. Or better yet, I’ll ask him right now. ______, why don’t you come down to pick me up in October, and we’ll check out Foz do Iguacu? I tried. The past 3 weeks here, I’ve had some big ol’ stomach pains, and the past couple of days they’ve gotten extremely worse, so Monday I called doc way over there in Sao Carlos. He prescribed a little bottle of medicine I was to take every hour, and then I woke up just fine. Miracles never cease. Listen to this- I’ve been working in my suit pants for 2 weeks because my other pants have all ripped except my polyester/wool slacks. There aren’t any dry cleaners around. That’s unfortunate, because my suit pants are turning a slight hue of brown. This is a very dusty climate. Tell ______ to write me again; I could use a laugh now and then. Hey ______, that preacher at BYU should have seen me at the Pentecostal church Monday night. It ROCKED!!! I would tell you to exhort ______ and ______ to diligence in writing, but I think I’ve already given up on them. (Yeah!!!) P.S. Could somebody send me peanut butter?
The second is from about 5 years later when I was doing political science coursework in college:
The third is a collection of things I have written 20 years after college, in my forties:
Blogging and Media:
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Marvin J Ashton and Spencer W. Kimball
Thomas Keating, C. S. Lewis, Russell M. Nelson on Christian Healing
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The Book of Mormon, Cover to Cover again
Before we discuss LGBT and the Church…
You can have exactly what you want, forever.
President Nelson on Gospel Learning
A Love Note to the Universalists
Responding to Jaxon Washburn’s New Critique of RO
Church History and the Present
Is Politics Your New Religion?
Spiritual Experiences, Motivated Reasoning, and Objectivity
3 Nephi and The Revealed Christ
Positively Biased for Conference
We’re all biased. Let’s explore how.
Types of Latter-day Saint Spiritual Experiences
What Does It Mean That the Church is True?
Is Politics Your New Religion? – CWIC
Public Square Magazine:
And Not One Soul Shall Feel Excluded – Public Square Magazine
Anger and the Modern Prophetic Voice – Public Square Magazine
Creating Jesus in Our Image – Public Square Magazine
Trauma in The Family of Abraham – Public Square Magazine
Intersectional Anger on the Left and Right – Public Square Magazine
Thou Shalt Not Whine – Public Square Magazine
Easter is Reality – Public Square Magazine
The Middle Ground is Disappearing – Public Square Magazine
Our Deepening Divide Over Identity – Public Square Magazine
Understanding Demons – Public Square Magazine
Covid Peacemaking for Latter – Day Saint Families
Exploring Conservative and Liberal Religion – Public Square Magazine
Their Imperfect Best: Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective | The Interpreter
Ministering across Fault Lines of Belief and Community | The Interpreter