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January 26 – 27, 2013 — Samuel Brown

Sam BrownThe Miller Eccles Study Group Texas is excited to announce that our January 2013 speaker will be Samuel Morris Brown, author of the recently-published and critically-acclaimed book, In Heaven as It Is On Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012).

STUDY GROUP DATE: January 26, 2013
STUDY GROUP TIMES: 2 pm (Arlington); 7 pm (Plano)

FIRESIDE DATE: January 27, 2013
FIRESIDE LOCATION: Arlington Stake Center, 3809 Curt Drive, Arlington, Texas 76016


“IN HEAVEN AS IT IS ON EARTH, Joseph Smith’s Translation of American Freemasonry”

Joseph Smith spent most of his religious career, indeed most of his conscious life, battling the specter of death. To that end he engaged and revised a variety of philosophies, what he and his followers understood to be fragments of ancient truths. Samuel Brown describes in his book, In Heaven as It Is on Earth, the ways that Joseph Smith and his followers brought those ancient philosophies into dialogue with early American beliefs in the founding of Mormonism.

Amidst the illness and death that haunted the founding of Nauvoo on a malarious bend in the Mississippi River, Joseph Smith brought Freemasonry into service of the conquest of death. Though his engagement of Masonry has led to much controversy, both apologists and critics have missed how profoundly Smith’s encounter with Freemasonry emphasized death and its conquest. In this presentation Dr. Brown will clarify this relationship, demonstrating that Smith “translated” Freemasonry, much as he had the King James Bible or Egyptian funerary papyri, finding in it fragments of ancient religion, eternal truths, and connections to the ancient past. As Smith translated Freemasonry, he made clear just how important relationships—among the living, and between the living and the dead—were to his faith.


“The Work of Faith and the Weight of Glory”

Many of us have come to think of faith as a statement about which of a list of possible beliefs we accept, but faith is much more than that. Faith is fundamentally about relationships, both relationships with God and with other people. In this fireside talk, Dr. Brown explores faith from the perspective of divine and human relationships, opening up new horizons for this very familiar topic. In the process he demonstrates that the old split between “works” and “faith” makes little sense and considers faith on analogy to family relationships.


Samuel Morris Brown graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in Linguistics with a minor in Russian, then received his MD from Harvard Medical School, where he was a National Scholar and Massachusetts Medical Society Scholar. After graduation he completed residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he remained on faculty as an Instructor in General Medicine at Harvard Medical School before moving to the University of Utah. He is now Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Associate in the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Utah, based at the Shock Trauma ICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. He investigates hidden rhythms in heart function during life-threatening infection.

In his “free time,” Sam studies cultural history, with a particular emphasis on how religious ideas assist believers in coming to terms with embodiment, sickness, and death. He has published widely in both fields. His book, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death, fundamentally reinterprets earliest Mormonism in terms of the age-old struggle to conquer death.