All of the Priesthood Quorums and Relief Societies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be studying this chapter on this coming Sunday, February 15, 1998. In preparation for that classroom discussion, I have collected as much background information about that chapter as I could.
While doing so, I have also taken the opportunity to offer my own opinions about the material under study. Before proceeding, you the reader are encouraged to read the associated disclaimer regarding those opinions.
(Postscript, added many months later: someone who read this web site asked me if I had any insights to share about Chapter 20 of the same manual. I didn't take time to do a full, thorough review of that chapter -- I merely dashed off some quick thoughts off the top of my head. If you are interested in reading those thoughts, they are here.)
Much of what is published in the Journal of Discourses is unknown to modern Mormons. Science fiction writer and Latter-day Saint Orson Scott Card, with tongue firmly in cheek, nevertheless reflects the point of view of most Mormons pretty accurately when he describes the Journal of Discourses as
A mammoth collection of speeches by General Authorities in the nineteenth century, containing many doctrines that were never taught in the Church. As a safety measure, it was once suppressed by the Church, for several once-bright people had gone mad trying to make all the old-time apostles' statements fit within the same gospel. Today, however, there is no fear of ill effects from publishing the Journal of Discourses, for only Fundamentalists, anti-Mormons, and historians ever read it. (Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary, Signature Books, 1981)
In the course of my research, I have found that the quotations of Brigham Young that appear in Chapter 4 are occasionally more interesting when seen in their original contexts in the Journal of Discourses, and so I have included each of the 18 discourses from which these 25 quotations were taken. I have included hypertext links in those discourses to connect them back to Chapter 4, and I have included hypertext links in the discussions of each quotation to connect each one back to the corresponding discourse.