Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was an American revivalist preacher, philosopher and Congregationalist theologian. His influence on Joseph Smith is being examined by modern scholars in connection with the revival of interest in Jonathan Edwards and the study of intertextuality between the Book of Mormon and other texts, including the Bible and the work of Christian authors.

Much if not most of the non-biblical language in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price can be found in the works of Jonathan Edwards. For background, see the book Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith's personal writings also exhibit the likely influence of Edwards. For example, see this annotated version of Joseph's Oct. 1829 letter to Oliver Cowdery.

Annotated JS letter to Oliver Cowdery

In addition to intertextuality, the influence of Edwards is apparent in the themes of Edwards' work. For example, Edwards often wrote about the glory of the Church in the latter days.

Sometimes Mr. Smith and I walked there together, to converse of the things of God; and our conversation used much to turn on the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world, and the glorious things that God would accomplish for his church in the latter days.[1]

[1] Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative,” Works of President Edwards, 1808 edition, Vol 1, p. 39 (emphasis added).

Jonathan Edwards was associated with Calvinist ideas, but he explained that "I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in everything just as he taught."

Edwards final words summed up his life's work: "Trust in God, and ye need not fear."

Click here to read Jonathan Edwards' final words to his daughter about his wife, Sarah Edwards, their eternal union, and their Heavenly Father.

One of the best resources to learn about Edwards is the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.