Wilford Woodruff converted to the LDS church in 1833, he joined a millenarian group of a few thousand persecuted believers clustered around Kirtland, Ohio. When he died sixty-five years later in 1898, he was the leader of more than a quarter of a million followers worldwide who were on the verge of entering the mainstream of American culture.
Before attaining that status of senior church apostle at the death of John Taylor in 1886, Woodruff had been one of the fiercest opponents of United States hegemony. He spent years evading territorial marshals on the Mormon “underground,” escaping prosecution for polygamy, unable even to attend his first wife’s funeral. As church president, faced with disfranchisement and federal confiscation of Mormon property, including temples, Woodruff reached his monumental decision in 1890 to accept U.S. law and to petition for Utah statehood.
As church doctrines and practices evolved, Woodruff himself changed. The author examines the secular and religious development of Woodruff’s world view from apocalyptic mystic to pragmatic conciliator. He also reveals the gentle, solitary farmer; the fisherman and horticulturalist; the family man with seven wives; the charismatic preacher of the Mormon Reformation; the astute businessman; the urbane, savvy politician who courted the favor of prominent Republicans in California and Oregon (Leland Stanford and Isaac Trumbo); and the vulnerable romantic who pursued the affections of Lydia Mountford, an international lecturer and Jewish rights advocate. He traces a faithful polygamist who ultimately embraced the Christian Home movement and settled comfortably into a monogamous relationship in an otherwise typically Victorian setting.
“Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed” The first Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies were performed, not in Kirtland, Ohio, but on the second floor of Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois. For nearly four years beginning in 1842, the prophet’s modest mercantile functioned as the de facto temple?the site of the first washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings. In contrast, the grand edifice known as the Nauvoo Temple was in operation for only two months before the Saints left Illinois for the West.
Preparations to initiate the first members of Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, or Holy Order, as it was also known, were made on May 3, 1842. The walls of the second level of the Red Brick Store were painted with garden-themed murals, the rooms fitted with carpets, potted plants, and a veil hung from the ceiling. All the while, the ground level continued to operate as Joseph Smith’s general mercantile.
In this companion volume to The Nauvoo Endowment Companiesand The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, the editors have assembled all available primary references to the Anointed Quorum and its regular gatherings, both in the Red Brick Store and elsewhere (women were initially washed and anointed in Emma Smith’s bedroom and then escorted to the store) prior to the opening of the Nauvoo Temple. The sources include excerpts from the diaries of William Clayton, Joseph Fielding, Zina D. H. Jacobs, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, Joseph Smith, Wilford Woodruff, and Brigham Young; autobiographies and reminiscences by Joseph C. Kingsbury, George Miller, and Mercy Fielding Thompson; letters from Vilate Kimball and Lucius N. Scoville; the Manuscript History of Brigham Young; General Record of the Seventies, Book B; Bathsheba W. Smith’s unedited testimony from the 1892 Temple Lot Case; other manuscripts such as the Historian’s Office Journal and “Meetings of Anointed Quorum”; and published records such as the History of the Church, Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate and Times and Seasons.
from the jacket flap:
Despite the secrecy imposed upon members of the Anointed Quorum, word of the gatherings above Joseph Smith’s store soon spread. In one instance, housekeeper Maria Jane Johnston helped prepare the special ceremonial clothing for John Smith to wear at the group’s meetings. In another, Ebenezer Robinson innocently opened the upstairs door at the mercantile and was startled to see church apostle John Taylor in a long white robe and “turban,” carrying a sword. Only Nauvoo’s elite were invited to participate in these new ceremonies?never more than ninety individuals and even fewer during Joseph Smith’s lifetime?and, as the editors of the current volume write, only those who had been introduced to the prophet’s doctrine of plural marriage.
An unusual aspect of the Quorum of the Anointed, compared to the membership in the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, was that women were initiated as regular members. However, the women effectively disappear after Brigham Young’s assumption of leadership in 1844, following Joseph Smith’s death, and remain virtually absent until the Nauvoo Temple is completed nearly a year and a half later. Readers will also note some of the differences in protocol between what Smith instigated and what Young eventually settled on, for instance that members could be washed and anointed repeatedly but were “endowed” only once. There were not yet proxy ordinances.
Among Latter-day Saints today, temple worship is a sensitive topic; but the editors of this volume do not reveal anything that would be considered invasive or indelicate. In fact, the accounts, which come almost exclusively from the early LDS leadership itself, manifest discretion about what to report.
Never before have these primary, authoritative sources been correlated by date for comparison and fuller understanding of the gradual development of the temple ceremonies. Readers may find an added benefit in discovering some of their own ancestors’ names included in these records; but in fact, anyone interested in LDS temple worship will find this compilation of primary documents to be invaluable.
At a meeting of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve in 1860, one of the church’s senior apostles, Elder Heber C. Kimball, complained that “Brother Orson Pratt has withstood Joseph [Smith] and he has withstood Brother Brigham [Young] many times and he has done it tonight and it made my blood chill. It is not for you to lead [the prophet],” Kimball continued, “but to be led by him. You have not the power to dictate but [only] to be dictated [to].”
Whenever the quorum discussed Elder Pratt’s controversial sermons and writings and his streak of independent thinking, the conversation could become heated. As documented by Gary James Bergera in this surprisingly suspenseful account, Pratt’s encounters with his brethren ultimately affected not only his seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve but also had a lasting impact on LDS doctrine, policy, and organizational structure.
“There is not a man in the church that can preach better than Orson Pratt,” Brigham Young told the twelve apostles on another occasion. “It is music to hear him. But the trouble is, he will … preach false doctrine.”
Pratt responded that he was “not a man to make a confession of what I do not believe. I am not going to crawl to Brigham Young and act the hypocrite. I will be a free man,” he insisted. “It may cost me my fellowship, but I will stick to it. If I die tonight, I would say, O Lord God Almighty, I believe what I say.”
“You have been a mad stubborn mule,” Young replied. “[You] have taken a false position … It is [as] false as hell and you will not hear the last of it soon.”
Not infrequently, these two strong-willed, deeply religious men argued. Part of their difficulty was that they saw the world from opposing perspectives—Pratt’s a rational, independent-minded stance and Young’s a more intuitive and authoritarian position. “We have hitherto acted too much as machines … as to following the Spirit,” Pratt explained in a quorum meeting in 1847. “I will confess to my own shame [that] I have decided contrary to my own [judgment] many times. … I mean hereafter not to demean myself as to let my feelings run contrary to my own judgment.” He issued a warning to the other apostles: “When [President Young] says that the Spirit of the Lord says thus and so, I don’t consider [that] … all we should do is to say let it be so.”
For his part, Young quipped that Pratt exhibited the same “ignorance … as any philosopher,” telling him “it would be a great blessing to him to lay aside his books.” When Pratt appealed to logic, Young would say, “Oh dear, granny, what a long tail our puss has got.”
Ironically, Orson Pratt would have the last word both because Young preceded him in death and because several of Young’s teachings and policies had proven unpopular among the other apostles. One of Young’s counselors said shortly after the president’s death that “some of my brethren … even feel that in the promulgation of doctrine he [Young] took liberties beyond those to which he was legitimately entitled.” Meanwhile, Pratt continued to hold sway with some of his colleagues. His thoughtful—if ultra-literalistic—interpretations of scripture would also influence such later church leaders as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.
Bergera’s nuanced approach avoids caricatures in favor of the many complexities of personalities and circumstances. It becomes clear that the conflict in which these men found themselves enmeshed had no easy, foreseeable resolution.
Escaping imprisonment in Missouri in 1839, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith quickly settled with family and followers on the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Under Smith’s direction, the small village of Commerce soon mushroomed into the boomtown of Nauvoo, home to 12,000 and more members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For Smith, Nauvoo was the new epicenter of the Mormon universe: the gathering place for Latter-day Saints worldwide; the location of a modern-day Zion; the stage upon which his esoteric teachings, including plural marriage and secret temple ceremonies, played out; and the locus of a theocracy whose legal underpinnings would be condemned by outsiders as an attack on American pluralism.
In Nauvoo, Smith created a proto-utopian society built upon continuing revelation; established a civil government that blurred the lines among executive, legislative, and legal branches; introduced doctrines that promised glimpses of heaven on earth; centralized secular and spiritual authority in fiercely loyal groups of men and women; insulated himself against legal harassment through creative interpretations of Nauvoo’s founding charter; embarked upon a daring run at the U.S. presidency; and pursued a vendetta against dissidents that lead eventually to his violent death in 1844.
The common thread running through the final years of Smith’s tumultuous life, according to prize-winning historian and biographer, Martha Bradley-Evans, is his story of prophethood and persecution. Smith’s repeated battles with the forces of evil–past controversies transformed into mythic narratives of triumphant as well as present skirmishes with courts, politicians, and apostates–informed Smith’s construction of self and chronicle of innocent suffering.
“Joseph found religious and apocalyptic significance in every offense and persecution–actual or imagined,” writes Bradley-Evans, “and wove these slights into his prophet-narrative. Insults became badges of honor, confirmation that his life was playing out on a mythic stage of opposition. By the time Joseph led his people to Illinois, he had lived with the adulation of followers and the vilification of enemies for more than a decade. Joseph’s worst challenges often proved to be his greatest triumphs. He forged devotion through disaster, faith through depression. Joseph interpreted each new event as God’s will set against manifestations of evil opposed to the restoration of all things.”
Bradley-Evan’s ground-breaking portrait of Smith goes farther than any previous biography in explaining the Mormon prophet and the mystery of his appeal.
Almost from the beginning, the women’s movement has been divided into two factions–those wanting full equality with men (Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul) and those seeking legal protections for women’s particular needs (Julia Ward Howe, Eleanor Roosevelt). Early Utah leaders such as Relief Society President Emmeline B. Wells walked hand-in-hand with Anthony and other controversial reformers. However, by the 1970s, Mormons had undergone a significant ideological turn to the mainstream, championing women’s unique roles in home and church, and joined other conservatives in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.
Looking back to the nineteenth century, how committed were Latter-day Saints of their day to women’s rights? LDS President Joseph F. Smith was particularly critical of women who “glory in their enthralled condition and who caress and fondle the very chains and manacles which fetter and enslave them!” The masthead of the church’s female Relief Society periodical,
Woman’s Exponent, proudly proclaimed “The Rights of the Women of Zion and the Rights of Women of All Nations!” In leading the LDS sisterhood, Wells said she gleaned inspiration from The Revolution,published by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Fast-forward a century to 1972 and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by the United States Congress. Within a few years, the LDS Church, allied with Phyllis Schlafly, joined a coalition of the Religious Right and embarked on a campaign against ratification. This was a mostly grassroots campaign waged by thousands of men and women who believed they were engaged in a moral war and that the enemy was feminism itself.
Conjuring up images of unisex bathrooms, homosexuality, the dangers of women in the military, and the divine calling of stay-at-home motherhood—none of which were directly related to equal rights—the LDS campaign began in Utah at church headquarters but importantly was fought across the country in states that had not yet ratified the proposed amendment. In contrast to the enthusiastic partnership of Mormon women and suffragists of an earlier era, fourteen thousand women, the majority of them obedient, determined LDS foot soldiers responding to a call from their Relief Society leaders, attended the 1977 Utah International Women’s Year Conference in Salt Lake City. Their intent was to commandeer the proceedings if necessary to defeat the pro-ERA agenda of the National Commission on the International Women’s Year. Ironically, the conference organizers were mostly LDS women, who were nevertheless branded by their sisters as feminists.
In practice, the church risked much by standing up political action committees around the country and waging a seemingly all-or-nothing campaign. Its strategists, beginning with the dean of the church’s law school at BYU, feared the worst—some going so far as to suggest that the ERA might seriously compromise the church’s legal status and sovereignty of its all-male priesthood. In the wake of such horrors, a take-no-prisoners war of rhetoric and leafleteering raged across the country. In the end, the church exerted a significant, perhaps decisive, impact on the ERA’’s unexpected defeat.
A veil of secrecy surrounds Mormon temple worship. While officially intended to preserve the sacredness of the experience, the silence leaves many Latter-day Saints mystified. What are the derivation and development of the holy endowment, and if these were known, would the experience be more meaningful? Modern parishioners lack context to interpret the arcane and syncretistic elements of the symbolism.
For instance, David Buerger traces the evolution of the initiatory rites, including the New Testament-like foot washings, which originated in the Ohio period of Mormon history; the more elaborate Old Testament-like washings and anointings, which began in Illinois and were performed in large bathtubs, with oil poured over the initiate’s head; and the vestigial contemporary sprinkling and dabbing, which were begun in Utah. He shows why the dramatic portions of the ceremony blend anachronistic events—an innovation foreign to the original drama.
Buerger addresses the abandonment of the adoption sealing, which once linked unrelated families, and the near-disappearance of the second anointing, which is the crowning ordinance of the temple. He notes other recent changes as well. Biblical models, Masonic prototypes, folk beliefs, and frontier resourcefulness all went into the creation of this highest form of Mormon Temple worship. Diary entries and other primary sources document its evolution.
After working all day at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, twenty-one-year-old Laurine Ekstrom would return home to find that her parents had rearranged the furniture again to accommodate Rulon Allred, a homeopath, who used their home to assist women in giving birth. Charismatic and unconventional, Allred was also president and prophet of the Mormon fundamentalist Church known as the Apostolic United Brethren. One day when Allred was delayed, Laurine offered what help she could to the expecting mother, and before long the baby was born. Laurine was soon on her way to becoming the most sought-after midwife in Utah despite the fact that it was against the law for a licensed practical nurse to deliver babies.
Another illegal aspect of her life was her marriage to Leon Kingston, son of another Mormon fundamentalist leader, Charles Elden Kingston. Determined to live the principle of polygamy, Leon married Laurine’s sister Rowenna as well. Leon could not have foreseen that his sister wives would one day become activists, sheltering and advising young polygamist women who had been abused by their husbands. This activism made the sisters unpopular with some extended family. Leon, however, stood by his wives.
Laurine was born in rural Idaho in the 1930s. Her family moved to Bountiful, Utah, and then Salt Lake City in the late 1930s and mid-1940s. In this captivating biography, we learn of her struggle as a teenager to obtain a college education and to succeed as a nurse. More importantly, we learn about the methodology and lore of a modern midwife and the personality of a woman whose comforting way and advocacy of natural childbirth has made her a heroine to many. The same gift that allowed her to understand and assist women dealing with troubled marriages made her a successful midwife.
Some Love: Poetry
Alex Caldiero Signature Books, 2015 Library of Congress PS3553.A394935S66 2015 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Indifference rests quietly alone in the universe while love, hate, and hurt rage tightly together elsewhere across safely defined demarcations. Some Love secretly yearns for rest but plunges deeply into the scramble of human emotions:
One Day a hurt hits
with a fact and a sorrow.
It makes me want to
write. It makes me want
to go away, to cry
in the arms of a lover,
past words said and actions
you cant take back not even in
a next life—on that day you
choose the one who comes to you.
From his childhood in Sicily as a Catholic altar boy through his latter days as a Mormon “saint,” Caldiero recalls in verse his emerging passion for performance and for the sensual liturgical marriage of physical space—the church or temple proper—with bodily space. This ritualized confluence of architectural structure, human bodies, images, movements, smells, and sounds affects him as much today as it did in the past. It is this memory of the religious ritual that keeps him striving for a poetic creation and richness that achieves a depth of symbolic meaning.
In Mormonism we are sometimes seemingly casual
about death: it’s a veil or a mission call to the spirit
world. But our actual encounters with the reality of
death inevitably change us in ways that are difficult
In this collection, Mormon writers wrestle with
mortality and its aftermath. A family sings a hesitant
rendition of Happy Birthday to a grief-stricken
mother who buried her toddler just a few hours earlier;
an agnostic son decides he’s Mormon enough to
arrange a funeral for his believing father.
Some essays use death as a means to understand
faith. One author imagines a world where Heavenly
Mother visits her children in the form of their
female ancestors, appearing to her descendants in
times of grief or pain.
Others address practicalities: how do you protect
your children from death while still allowing them
to experience the world; how do you get through
one more nausea-ridden day of cancer treatment?
Still others delve into death’s questions: does the
overwhelming suffering that occurs in the animal
kingdom have a function in the “plan of happiness”?
Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking,
always thought-provoking, these personal essays,
poems, and stories may never be heard at a Mormon
funeral. But they probably should be.
Beginning in the 1830s, at least thirty-three women married Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. These were passionate relationships which also had some longevity, except in cases such as that of two young sisters, one of whom was discovered by Joseph’s first wife, Emma, in a locked bedroom with the prophet. Emma remained a steadfast opponent of polygamy throughout her life.
The majority of Smith’s wives were younger than he, and one-third were between fourteen and twenty years of age. Another third were already married, and some of the husbands served as witnesses at their own wife’s polyandrous wedding. In addition, some of the wives hinted that they bore Smith children—most notably Sylvia Sessions’s daughter Josephine—although the children carried their stepfather’s surname.
For all of Smith’s wives, the experience of being secretly married was socially isolating, emotionally draining, and sexually frustrating. Despite the spiritual and temporal benefits, which they acknowledged, they found their faith tested to the limit of its endurance. After Smith’s death in 1844, their lives became even more “lonely and desolate.” One even joined a convent. The majority were appropriated by Smith’s successors, based on the Old Testament law of the Levirate, and had children by them, though they considered these guardianships unsatisfying. Others stayed in the Midwest and remarried, while one moved to California. But all considered their lives unhappy, except for the joy they found in their children and grandchildren.
Two incidents are particularly dramatic in this volume, thanks to the careful work of clerks who took the minutes, bringing to life some key moments in LDS history. One of the most memorable meetings of the city council occurred on June 10, 1844; the minutes capture the emotions as members debate whether to detroy the opposition newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor. The publisher of the paper, Sylvester Emmons, had been a councilman until his June 8 expulsion for having “lifted his hand against the municipality of God Almighty.” As the hawkish councilmen became increasingly agitated, they began shouting slogans, asking whether the others had the neve to do what was right and crush the newspaper. The answer was a sustained, raucous cheer.
Yes resounded from every quarter of the room,” the clerk, Willard Richards, wrote. “Are we offering … to take away the right[s] of anyone [by] this [action] [to]day?” one of the city councilmen, William Phelps, shouted. “No!!!” was the answer “from every quarter.” Should they also tear down the barn of newspaper editor Robert Foster? Yes! they said. By the time the meeting was over, the Nauvoo police, assisted by 100 soldiers of the Nauvoo Legion, had “tumbled the press and materials into the street and set fire to them, and demolished the machinery with a sledge-hammer.
Another gripping event occurred on September 8, 1844, when the high council gathered outdoors to accommodate large crowds for the trial of Sidney Rigdon of the First Presidency. A behind-the-scenes power struggle became evident as Brigham Young stepped forward to take control of the meeting, culminating in a request for a vote from the audience. Young asked everyone to “place themselves so that [he] could see them, so he would “know who goes for Sidney.” There followed a flurry of denunciations of various Church members who were summarily excommunicated by acclimation rather than by trial in a meeting lasting six hours.
Murder in the bucolic town of Independence, Missouri, is not everyday news. Especially when it occurs in the temple owned by the Reorganized Mormons. Once again, philosophy instructor and amateur sleuth Toom Taggart becomes embroiled in a homicide investigation. In this second novel, Edwards re-acquaints readers with the likeable, curmudgeonly professor who shocks fellow Latter Day Saints by drinking coffee. By coincidence, Taggart is called to oversee the Church’s education department, just as the author himself was some years ago. This gives Taggart even more reason to explore the inner offices at Church headquarters—places and hushed conversations are not meant for outsiders—all of which the author describes with a wink and a nod.
Taggart is annoyed at having to navigate the political structure of the bureaucracy, but he cannot bring himself to leave. He is able to teach, and he likes his proximity to Church archives, local bookstores, and the woman who, according to fate, is still seeing the policeman from The Angel Acronym. All the major characters are back, and Taggart’s romantic rival is given the new murder case, meaning that he has to rely once again on Taggart for his knowledge of the Church’s secrets. This gives both men a reason to keep an eye on the other, making for entertaining situations in a funny, insider send-up of the RLDS community.
Francis (“Frank”) Hammond was not an average Mormon pioneer. After breaking his back working on a whaling ship off the coast of Siberia in 1844, he was set ashore on the island of Maui to heal. While there he set up shop as a shoemaker and learned the local language. Three years later, he converted to Mormonism in San Franciso, and in 1851 he was sent back to Hawaii as a missionary along with his new wife, Mary Jane. In the 1860s he returned to the islands as mission president.
Through all this, he and his wife kept extensive and fascinating journals, documenting their adventures on land and sea, as well as relations (some prickly) with fellow missionaries and non-Mormon caucasians and Hawaiians. Hammond established a Mormon gathering place on the island of Lana’i, and in the 1860s he traveled by stagecoach from Utah to the west coast with a satchel of $5,000 in gold coins to purchase the land that became the site in O’ahu of the LDS temple, church college, and Polynesian Culture Center.
The author asks a big question: Who is responsible? One person in need of this information is Lon, who wonders why his marriage is falling apart. Lon thought his wife would re-initiate intimacy at some point. She doesn’t, and he sets out to find the man he thinks stands between them but only finds an apparition—and he still can’t fix his marriage.
In another story, the LDS prophet is drawn to s simpler time when he could wander out unnoticed and buy a candy bar. Church Security won’t let him outside on his own and Public Relations won’t let him wear anything but a suit and tie. Still, the impulse to be a regular guy for an afternoon is compelling. Can’t he make his own decisions? He can, but what are the consequences?
And then there’s Jerry, who passes three men in suits who are talking and laughing at the loading dock behind an LDS temple. One of them looks up, drops a cigarette and crushes it, then slips into a nearby car. Another man—someone who has made Jerry’s life miserable—taunts him, saying: “Jerry, your goodness is your enemy …and tell all your friends.” Who is responsible? Maybe it’s the author’s reverie that’s to blame, but his stories have a way of getting deep inside the psyche and haunting us.
Any Latter-day Saint who has ever defended his or her beliefs has likely addressed issues first raised by Eber D. Howe in 1834. Howe’s famous exposé was the first of its kind, with information woven together from previous news articles and some thirty affidavits he and others collected. He lived and worked in Painesville, Ohio, where, in 1829, he had published about Joseph Smith’s discovery of a “golden bible.” Smith’s decision to relocate in nearby Kirtland sparked Howe’s attention. Of even more concern was that Howe’s wife and other family members had joined the Mormon faith. Howe immediately began investigating the new Church and formed a coalition of like-minded reporters and detractors. By 1834, Howe had collected a large body of investigative material, including affidavits from Smith’s former neighbors in New York and from Smith’s father-inlaw in Pennsylvania. Howe learned about Smith’s early interest in pirate gold and use of a seer stone in treasure seeking and heard theories from Smith’s friends, followers, and family members about the Book of Mormon’s origin. Indulging in literary criticism, Howe joked that Smith, “evidently a man of learning,” was a student of “barrenness of style and expression.” Despite its critical tone, Howe’s exposé is valued by historians for its primary source material and account of the growth of Mormonism in northeastern Ohio.
Susan Elizabeth Howe Signature Books, 2013 Library of Congress PS3558.O8936S25 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Poets living in the American West often muse about the rolling cheatgrass, gnarled stands of scrub oak, winding horseshoe cliffs, the scent of freshly-cut ponderosa, and even the occasional mountain-hardened rustler shielding himself against a grey winter squall.
Howe’s poems are Western but unmistakably modern, drawn from the astute observation of humanity of both rural and urban settings. Her weekly commute from the heart of Sanpete County to Utah Valley causes her to reflect on her culture and to contemplate recent events as she winds through the long, broad canyons. She sees an occasional deer chased from the road, pinyon jays, and magpies. She thinks about death, marriage, blood, and yes, even the dreamy (and occasionally steamy), country girl’s attraction to men.
In her verse, she journeys into the psyche of several women: Charles Dickens’s wife Catherine; Charlotte Brontë; an Argentine woman who unknowingly carried a fetus for several years; a woman whose pet snake tried to squeeze her to death. She recalls the rhododendrons of Kew Gardens, the house of Shakespeare’s grandmother, the sheep of Ireland, and the dogs of the Sierra Madres, but mostly she writes about the Mountain West and her home there.
It was Sunday and worship service was in progress. One of the settlers who was not attending service eyed four known outlaws passing near town. He raced to church to spread the alarm, and parishioners leaped up, grabbed their guns, and galloped off in pursuit, joined by some neighboring cattlemen. Before it was over, one of the posse was dead.
So it went on the outskirts of Utah Territory. In this case it was the little town of Bluff where the Mormon bishop served for some ten years as de facto sheriff and his congregation as deputies. As elsewhere, law and order developed organically rather than by legislation.
In this anthology several aspects of the process are considered, including one of the worst manifestations of citizen action: vigilantism. Territorial Utah witnessed more lynchings than legal executions. Another citizen trait was an unexpected indifference to vice. In 1908 Salt Lake City had 148 registered prostitutes overseen by a madam who was recruited for the position by the mayor and city council. During Prohibition one of the largest distilleries in the West operated in a Salt Lake warehouse.
What is to be learned from this? The contributors to these fourteen articles leave moral considerations to the reader’s contemplation, while providing surprises along the way in an extremely engaging—dare we say arresting—read.
Before the LDS Church was organized, Joseph Smith received a revelation telling him that twelve men would be called as latter-day apostles. Their assignment would be to warn men and women that the end was near. Although the determination of who would fill these positions was delayed for five years, when it finally happened, God reiterated that these men were to “prune the vineyard for the last time” because the Second Coming was nigh. In fact, “fifty six years would wind up the scene,” they were told.
Of the twelve men selected, nine would eventually be pruned from the vineyard themselves, to varying degrees. Seven were excommunicated, one of whom was reinstated to his position in the Twelve. Of the other six, the subjects of this book, none returned to the apostleship and four never came back to the Church at all. Those who left faded into obscurity except for when they are occasionally still mentioned in sermons as cautionary tales. But two of them made their marks in other areas of society, John Boynton becoming a successful dentist, a popular lecturer, geologist, and inventor with dozens of important patents to his name, while Lyman Johnson became a prominent attorney and business owner. Even though Luke Johnson, Thomas B. Marsh, William McLellin, and William Smith became religious wanderers and tried unsuccessfully to adjust to life outside of the Church, their experiences were interesting and comprise valuable case studies in belief and disaffection.
In the inaugural issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1966, Frances Menlove bravely wrote: “The very nature of the Church demands honesty, which is inherent in its mission to seek truth. What are the motives behind dishonesty? Perhaps it is the desire in everyone to protect that which they love. If one admits to past disasters, misdirection, failings, then it is possible to wonder if the Church is not in some way faltering now. But if we believe that truth and knowledge have limitations, we must welcome diverse opinions, even criticisms. Only by honestly receiving and scrutinizing all positions can we come close to an understanding of the truth.”
These words remain as fresh and bracing today as they were nearly fifty years ago. The sixteen other essays and devotionals in this collection, some published here for the first time, are equally bold, exposing injustice masked as God’s will. They contain an underlying theme of personal integrity and striving for spiritual transformation. They stand perceived wisdom on its head in the same way that scripture so often does. Readers will want to share these essays with family and friends but will also find the concepts again and again occupying their own private thoughts.
It is the year 1972, and Riley Hartley finds that he, his family, community, and his faith are entirely indistinguishable from each other. He is eleven. A young woman named Lucy claims God has revealed to her that she is to live with Riley’s family. Her quirks are strangely disarming, her relentless questioning of their life incendiary and sometimes comical. Her way of taking religious practice to its logical conclusion leaves a strong impact on her hosts and propels Riley outside his observable universe toward a trajectory of self-discovery.
Set in Provo and New York City during the seventies and eighties, the story encapsulates the normal expectations of a Mormon experience and turns them on their head. The style, too, is innovative in how it employs as narrator “Zed,” one of the apocryphal Three Nephites who, with another immortal figure, the Wandering Jew of post-biblical legend, engage regularly in light-hearted banter and running commentary, animating the story and leavening the heartache with humor and tenderness.
Over the past thirty years, an enormous amount of research has been conducted into Mormon origins—Joseph Smith’s early life, the Book of Mormon, the prophet’s visions, and the restoration of priesthood authority. Longtime LDS educator Grant H. Palmer suggests that most Latter-day Saints remain unaware of the significance of these discoveries, and he gives a brief survey for anyone who has ever wanted to know more about these issues.
He finds that much of what we take for granted as literal history has been tailored over the years—slightly modified, added to, one aspect emphasized over another—to the point that the original narratives have been nearly lost. What was experienced as a spiritual or metaphysical event, something from a different dimension, often has been refashioned as if it were a physical, objective occurrence. This is not how the first Saints interpreted these events. Historians who have looked closer at the foundational stories and source documents have restored elements, including a nineteenth-century world view, that have been misunderstood, if not forgotten.
Originally from New Hampshire, Amasa Mason Lyman converted to Mormonism over the objection of his family at age nineteen. Compelled to leave home with a total of eleven dollars in his pocket, he ventured some 700 miles east to Ohio, where Joseph Smith told him to return east and serve a mission despite his unfamiliarity with the church’s doctrines and procedures.
Ten years later Lyman temporarily replaced Orson Pratt in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. This made him a kind of fifth wheel (thirteenth apostle) when Pratt was reinstated. Lyman would nevertheless regain his position in the quorum two years later and serve faithfully until his expulsion in 1867 for denying the divinity of Jesus. He then gravitated toward the anti-Brighamite spiritualist movement in Utah. Tracing the arc of this transformation from firm believer to prominent heretic, Lyman’s diaries are a window into the thinking of pioneer Mormons and the idealogical issues that sometimes divided them. This is the first in an anticipated multi-volume collection of historic diaries that will comprise the Signature Legacy Series.
Levi S. Peterson Signature Books, 2013 Library of Congress PS3566.E7694B3 2012 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Recognized as a Mormon classic twenty years after its release,The Backslider features longstanding Christian conflicts played out in a scenic, sparsely populated area of southern Utah. A young ranch-hand, Frank Windham, conceives of God as an implacable enemy of human appetite. He is a dedicated sinner until family tragedy catapults him into an arcane form of penitence preached among frontier Mormons. He is saved by an epiphany that has proved controversial among readers, either interpreting it as an extreme impiety or celebrating it as a moving and entirely plausible rendering of a biblical theme in a Western setting.
Frank comes into contact with a host of rural and urban characters. Of central importance is his Lutheran girlfriend, Marianne, whom Frank seduces, begrudgingly marries, and eventually loves. Frank’s extended family is just a generation removed from polygamy and still energized by old-time grudges and deprivations. Along the way Frank encounters a closeted secular humanist, a polygamist prophet, a psychiatrist, a Mason, government employees, college professors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs—all drawn with heightened realism reminiscent of Charles Dickens or the grotesque forms of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
The story engages readers as it alternates almost imperceptibly between Frank’s naïve consciousness and the more informed awareness of its narrator. It can be read as a love story, a satiric comedy, or a dark and sobering study of self-mutilation. Shifting from one to another, it builds suspense and elicits
complex emotions, among them a profound sense of compassion. More joyous than cynical, it sympathizes deeply with the plight of all of God’s backsliders.
The story of Paul is one of irony, the New Testament depicting him at the martyrdom of Stephen holding the assassins' cloaks. Then this same Paul is transformed into the biblical archetype for someone suffering for their faith. He becomes so entrenched, it would appear that he had walked with the Christians all his life, that he was the one who defined the faith, eventually being called the “second founder of Christianity.” But much of what we think we "know" about Paul comes from Sunday school stories we heard as children. The stories were didactic tales meant to keep us reverent and obedient.
As adults reading the New Testament, we catch glimpses of a very different kind of disciple—a wild ascetic whom Tertullian dubbed “the second apostle of Marcion and the apostle of the heretics.” What does scholarship tell us about the enigmatic thirteenth apostle who looms larger than life in the New Testament? The epistles give evidence of having been written at the end of the first century or early in the second—too late to have been Paul’s actual writings. So who wrote (and rewrote) them? F. C. Baur, a nineteenth-century theologian, pointed persuasively to Simon Magus as the secret identity of “Paul.” Robert M. Price, in this exciting journey of discovery, gives readers the background for a story we thought we knew.
In this ground-breaking book, D. Michael Quinn masterfully reconstructs an earlier age, finding ample evidence for folk magic in nineteenth-century New England, as he does in Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s upbringing. Quinn discovers that Smith’s world was inhabited by supernatural creatures whose existence could be both symbolic and real. He explains that the Smith family’s treasure digging was not unusual for the times and is vital to understanding how early Mormons interpreted developments in their history in ways that differ from modern perceptions. Quinn’s impressive research provides a much-needed background for the environment that produced Mormonism.
This thoroughly researched examination into occult traditions surrounding Smith, his family, and other founding Mormons cannot be understated. Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans. Ninety-four photographs and illustrations accompany the text.
The Mormon church today is led by an elite group of older men, nearly three-quarters of whom are related to current or past general church authorities. This dynastic hierarchy meets in private; neither its minutes nor the church’s finances are available for public review. Members are reassured by public relations spokesmen that all is well and that harmony prevails among these brethren.
But by interviewing former church aides, examining hundreds of diaries, and drawing from his own past experience as an insider within the Latter-day Saint historical department, D. Michael Quinn presents a fuller view. His extensive research documents how the governing apostles, seventies, and presiding bishops are likely to be at loggerheads, as much as united. These strong-willed, independent men–like directors of a large corporation or supreme court justices–lobby among their colleagues, forge alliances, out-maneuver opponents, and broker compromises.
There is more: clandestine political activities, investigative and punitive actions by church security forces, personal “loans” from church coffers (later written off as bad debts), and other privileged power-vested activities. Quinn considers the changing role and attitude of the leadership toward visionary experiences, the momentous events which have shaped quorum protocol and doctrine, and day-to-day bureaucratic intrigue from the time of Brigham Young to the dawn of the twenty-first century.
The hierarchy seems at root well-intentioned and even at times aggressive in fulfilling its stated responsibility, which is to expedite the Second Coming. Where they have become convinced that God has spoken, they have set aside personal differences, offered unqualified support, and spoken with a unified voice. This potential for change, when coupled with the tempering effect of competing viewpoints, is something Quinn finds encouraging about Mormonism. But one should not assume that these men are infallible or work in anything approaching uninterrupted unanimity.
Converts to Joseph Smith’s 1828 restoration of primitive Christianity were attracted to the non-hierarchical nature of the movement. It was precisely because there were no priests, ordinances, or dogma that people joined in such numbers. Smith intended everyone to be a prophet, and anyone who felt called was invited to minister freely without formal office.
Not until seven years later did Mormons first learn that authority had been restored by angels or of the need for a hierarchy mirroring the Pauline model. That same year (1835) a Quorum of Twelve Apostles was organized, but their jurisdiction was limited to areas outside established stakes (dioceses). Stakes were led by a president, who oversaw spiritual development, and by a bishop, who supervised temporal needs.
At Smith’s martyrdom in 1844, the church had five leading quorums of authority. The most obvious successor to Smith, Illinois stake president William Marks, opposed the secret rites of polygamy, anointing, endowments, and the clandestine political activity that had characterized the church in Illinois. The secret Council of Fifty had recently ordained Smith as King on Earth and sent ambassadors abroad to form alliances against the United States.
The majority of church members knew nothing of these developments, but they followed Brigham Young, head of the Quorum of the Twelve, who spoke forcefully and moved decisively to eliminate contenders for the presidency. He continued to build on Smith’s political and doctrinal innovations and social stratification. Young’s twentieth-century legacy is a well-defined structure without the charismatic spontaneity or egalitarian chaos of the early church.
Historian D. Michael Quinn examines the contradictions and confusion of the first two tumultuous decades of LDS history. He demonstrates how events and doctrines were silently, retroactively inserted into the published form of scriptures and records to smooth out the stormy, haphazard development. The bureaucratization of Mormonism was inevitable, but the manner in which it occurred was unpredictable and will be, for readers, fascinating.
Early in the twentieth century, it was possible for Latter-day Saints to have lifelong associations with businesses managed by their leaders or owned and controlled by the church itself. For example, one could purchase engagement rings from Daynes Jewelry, honeymoon at the Hotel Utah, and venture off on the Union Pacific Railroad, all partially owned and run by church apostles.
Families could buy clothes at Knight Woolen Mills. The husband might work at Big Indian Copper or Bullion-Beck, Gold Chain, or Iron King mining companies. The wife could shop at Utah Cereal Food and buy sugar supplied by Amalgamated or U and I Sugar, beef from Nevada Land and Livestock, and vegetables from the Growers Market. They might take their groceries home in parcels from Utah Bag Co. They probably read the Deseret News at home under a lamp plugged into a Utah Power and Light circuit. They could take out a loan from Zion’s Co-operative and insurance from Utah Home and Fire.
The apostles had a long history of community involvement in financial enterprises to the benefit of the general membership and their own economic advantage. This volume is the result of the author’s years of research into LDS financial dominance from 1830 to 2010.
Mormonism is a community with two faces: progressive and conservative. This is true of nearly all faith traditions, which can be alternately open or defensive, traditional or innovative, accepting or judgmental. In the case of the LDS Church, it continues, a century after having shaken off the stigma of polygamy, three decades after embracing blacks as equals, and in the face of international growth, to wrestle with freeing itself from its past insularity. In doing so, it will find its place within the larger religious world and its accommodation to the challenges of modernism.
This all represents a challenge for individual members, especially for artists, scholars, and independent thinkers. The poet Robert Haas has made a distinction between religion, which is “communal worship centered on shared ideas of the sacred,” and spirituality, which “has to do with the individual soul’s struggle with its own meaning.” In this anthology, sixteen Latter-day Saints explain how they balance the demands of religion and spirituality in the modern Church. It brings to mind the example of LDS educator Lowell Bennion who offered the image of carrying water on both shoulders to explain the binary nature of balancing faith with reason, institutional commitment with individual integrity, obedience with love.
It is encouraging to discover so many Latter-day saints who, the editor writes, “neither stay with their faith blindly nor leave it rebelliously, but rather choose to struggle with challenges and strive for a more mature discipleship.” The contributors to this anthology are Lavina Fielding Anderson, Mary Bradford, William Bradshaw, Claudia L. Bushman, Fred Christensen, Lael Littke, Armand Mauss, Chase Peterson, Grethe Peterson, J. Frederick “Toby” Pingree, Gregory Prince, Robert A. Rees, Tom Rogers, William D. Russell, Cherry Bushman Silver, and Morris Thurston.
This book marks the publication of the first, full translation of the so-called Joseph Smith Egyptian papyri translated into English. These papyri comprise “The Breathing Permit of Hor,” “The Book of the Dead of Ta-Sherit-Min,” “The Book of the Dead Chapter 125 of Nefer-ir-nebu,” “The Book of the Dead of Amenhotep,” and “The Hypocephalus of Sheshonq,” as well as some loose fragments and patches. The papyri were acquired by members of the LDS Church in the 1830s in Kirtland, Ohio, and rediscovered in the mid-1960s in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They served as the basis for Joseph Smith’s “Book of Abraham,” published in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842 and later canonized.
As Robert K. Ritner, Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, explains: “The translation and publication of the Smith papyri must be accessible not merely to Egyptologists but to non-specialists within and outside of the LDS religious community for whom the Book of Abraham was produced.” Dr. Ritner provides not only his own original translations but gives variant translations by other researchers to demonstrate better the “evolving process” of decipherment. He also includes specialized transliterations and his own informed commentary on the accuracy of past readings. “These assessments,” he notes, “are neither equivocal nor muted.” At the same time, they do not have a “partisan basis originating in any religious camp.”
The present volume includes insightful introductory essays by noted scholars Christopher Woods, Associate Professor of Sumerology, University of Chicago (“The Practice of Egyptian Religion at ‘Ur of the Chaldees’”), Marc Coenen, Egyptian Studies Ph. D., University of Leuven, Belgium (“The Ownership and Dating of Certain Joseph Smith Papyri”), and H. Michael Marquardt, author of The Revelations of Joseph Smith: Text and Commentary (“Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Papers: A History”). It contains twenty-eight photographic plates, including color images of the primary papyri (with corrected alignment for Papyrus Joseph Smith 2) and other relevant items.
Available for the first time fifty years after the author’s death, Studies of the Book of Mormon presents this respected church leader’s investigation into Mormonism’s founding scripture. Reflecting his talent for combining history and theology, B. H. Roberts considered the evident parallels between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, a book that predated the Mormon scripture by seven years. If the Book of Mormon is not historical, but rather a reflection of the misconceptions current in Joseph Smith’s day regarding Indian origins, then its theological claims are suspect as well, Roberts asserted.
In this and other research, it was Roberts’s proclivity to go wherever the evidence took him, in this case anticipating and defending against potential future problems. Yet the manuscript was so poorly received by fellow church leaders that it was left to Roberts alone to decide whether he had overlooked some important piece of the puzzle or whether the Mormon scripture’s claims were, in fact, illegitimate. Clearly for most of his colleagues, institutional priorities overshadowed epistemological integrity.
But Roberts’s pathbreaking work has been judged by the editor to be methodologically sound–still relevant today. It shows the work of a keen mind, and illustrates why Roberts was one of the most influential Mormon thinkers of his day. The manuscript is accompanied by a preface and introduction, a history of the documents’ provenances, a biographical essay, correspondence to and from Roberts relating to the manuscript, a bibliography, and an afterword–all of which put the information into perspective.
Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith had both millennial and temporal aspirations for the organization he called the Council of Fifty, named after the number of men who were intended to comprise it. Organized a few months before Smith’s death in June 1844, it continued under Brigham Young as a secret shadow government until 1851. Minutes from the earliest meetings are closed to researchers but contemporary accounts speak of a deliberative body preparing for Christ’s imminent reign. It also helped to sponsor Smith’s U.S. presidential bid and oversaw the exodus to present-day Utah.
One member downplayed the significance of this secret legislative body in 1849 as “nothing but a debating School.” On the contrary, a typical meeting included decisions regarding irrigation, fencing, and adobe housing, after which the group sang a song written by Parley P. Pratt: “Come ye sons of doubt and wonder; Indian, Moslem, Greek or Jew; … Be to all a friend and brother; Peace on Earth, good will to men.” Two weeks later, the council called for “blood to flow” to enforce its laws.
As the nineteenth century waned and the LDS Church moved toward the American mainstream, ending its emphasis on the imminent End of Days, there was no longer a need for a Church-managed municipal group destined to become the millennial world government. The council became irrelevant but survives today as a historical artifact available in fragmented documentary pieces which are presented here for the first time.
In her final poetry collection, Linda Sillitoe transformed
ordinary events into thoughtful, funny, and
sharp commentaries on the human condition. A
mother painstakingly alters a dress for a beloved
daughter, and the “cloth and needle weave her daughter’s
dreams.” Later a daughter mourning her father’s
death remembers how “something vital vanished.”
From warning a friend against growing “spoiled
just a bit for ordinary men” to trying to “fit this
time among our dearest and darkest demons” when
moving back to Utah, Sillitoe reveals a world “where
poems hold such power,” and each stanza carries
Despite, or perhaps in conjunction with, life’s joy
and sorrow, Sillitoe’s verses reveal an unconventional
spirit determined to transcribe life’s experiences
in a manner that is both accessible and extraordinary,
ending with a promise to continue “scribbling
warranties in the sand. / Over time, we lose what we
own / and learn the motions that bring it back— /
like this moon, as caught, as wild, as we.”
The Thieves of Summer
Linda Sillitoe Signature Books, 2014 Library of Congress PS3569.I447T48 2014 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Set in Salt Lake City at the height of the Great Depression, Linda Sillitoe’s last novel opens with three little girls, eleven-year-old triplets, skipping in front of their house at 1300 South, across from Liberty Park. They giggle lightly as they chant:
Prin-cess Al-ice in Liberty Park
Munch-es ba-nan-as ’til way after dark.
Princess Alice is an elephant the children of Utah purchased by donating nickels and dimes to a circus. The girls don’t know this, but her handler takes the mammoth princess out on late-night strolls around the park when the moon is out. What they do know is that the elephant sometimes escapes and goes on a rampage, crashing through front-yard fences and collecting collars of clothesline laundry around her neck, a persistent train of barking dogs following behind. The girls’ father is a police officer who is investigating a boy’s disappearance. As the case unfolds, the perception of the park, with its eighty acres of trees and grass, will change from the epitome of freedom to a place to be avoided, even as Princess Alice moves to a secure confinement at a new zoo at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. The story is loosely based on the exploits of a real live elephant that lived in Liberty Park a decade before Sillitoe’s childhood in the neighborhood.
Drawing from thousands of pages of police reports, court documents, interviews, letters, and diaries, Sillitoe’s and Roberts’s narrative cuts through the complexities of this famous crime investigation to deliver a gripping, Capote-esque tale. They embrace the details but lay them out systematically as seen through the eyes of the detectives, victims, and the perpetrator. The darkest secrets unravel gradually—allowing the reader fleeting glimpses of the infamous white salamander as it ducks in and out of its fabricator’s head.
What was the “salamander letter” and why were so many people determined to possess—and to conceal—it? Why was this one of the most unusual cases in American forensic history?
A skilled con artist by anyone’s assessment, Mark Hofmann eluded exposure by police and document authenticators—the FBI, Library of Congress, the LDS historical department, and polygraph experts—until George Throckmorton discovered the telltale microscopic alligatoring that was characteristic of the forgeries. What ensued was a suspense-ridden cat-and-mouse game between seasoned prosecutors and a clever, homicidal criminal. In the end, this story only verifies that some facts are indeed stranger than fiction.
William Clayton is best remembered today for his hymns, especially “Come, Come Ye Saints.” But as one of the earliest Latter-day Saint scribes, he made intellectual as well as artistic contributions to his church, and his records have been silently incorporated into official Mormon scripture and history. Of equal significance are his personal impressions of day-to-day activities, which describe a social and religious world largely unfamiliar to modern readers.
In ministering to the sick, for instance, Clayton anointed with perfumed oil and rum. He performed baptisms to heal the sick. Church services, held irregularly, were referred to as “going to meeting” and seemed to be elective. He testifies of people speaking in tongues and of others “almost speaking in tongues.” When introduced to plural marriage, he was reluctant but eventually became one of its most enthusiastic proponents, marrying ten women and fathering forty-two children.
Since polygamy was initially secret, Clayton spent much of his time putting out the fires of innuendo and discontent. He caught his first plural wife rendezvousing with her former fiancé; later, when she became pregnant, her mother–his unaware mother-in-law–was so overwrought that she attempted suicide. Joseph Smith reassured him: “Just keep her at home and brook it and if they raise trouble about it and bring you before me I will give you an awful scourging and probably cut you off from the church and then I will set you ahead as good as ever.” Clayton was also the object of Emma Smith’s attentions, allegedly part of a jealous wife’s plan to make a cuckold of her errant husband.
“This is a meticulously researched and skillfully written work on Mormon polygamy. The author does not take sides in this tangled web of theology and practice, but instead has produced what may well be the definitive work on polygamy. I highly recommend it.” —Linda King Newell, co-author, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith
“Nauvoo Polygamy is s a thorough investigation of sexual politics in the City of the Saints, the 1840s Mormon headquarters in the U.S. State of Illinois. Written with precision, clarity, and ease, it is a major contribution to Mormon history, groundbreaking in identifying the other polygamists who followed the lead of their prophet, Joseph Smith, in taking multiple partners.” —Klaus J. Hansen, Professor Emeritus of History, Queen’s University, Ontario
“If for no other reason, the inclusion of chapter 6 makes this book worth its price. The chapter quotes liberally from those like Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Bathsheba Smith who accepted polygamy rather easily, those like Jane Richards who accepted it only reluctantly, and those like Patty Sessions who found plural marriage almost unbearable. A bonus is chapter 9 which provides a concise historical overview of polygamous societies in Reformation Europe, touches on similar societies in America, and offers an extended discussion of Orson Pratt’s 1852 defense of plural marriage.” —Thomas G. Alexander, Professor Emeritus of History, Brigham Young University
“George Smith shows how many of the prophet’s followers embraced plural marriage during a period when the LDS Church was emphatically denying the practice … [and he tells this in] a lucid writing style.” —Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.
“An extremely important contribution to the history of polygamy … that allows us to see how Joseph Smith’s marriages fit into the context of his daily life.” —Todd M. Compton, author of In Sacred loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
In the brief time between when the alarm clock rings and the start of the day, we usually cherish those few extra moments of warmth in the sheets. However, soon enough we’re happy to be up and about, exploring the world around us. Similarly with religious studies, we may cling to the comforts of the past—what we find familiar in our faith—but then curiosity and conscience pull us to new revelations and sources of knowledge.
In these seventeen articles on things Mormon—prominent people, religious experience, memory, media, literature, and investigative theory—there is an obvious respect for the past and simultaneous desire to get to the bottom of things, to test the boundaries of knowledge. For instance, Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright look at the history of ritual healing within Mormonism, including the use of magic handkerchiefs and blessings performed by women. Matthew Bowman’s essay on “A Mormon Bigfoot” looks at the story retold in Sunday school and elsewhere about an early Church apostle who saw the biblical Cain. Brian Stuy examines Church President Wilford Woodruff’s account of the American founding fathers reaching from beyond the grave—a summons the prophet responded favorably to—requesting temple baptisms on their behalf. Unknown to Woodruff, this ordinance had been performed the year before. And Kathleen Flake looks at how the First Vision and other founding narratives were not emphasized in the Church until the twentieth century.
Other contributors include Gary James Bergera, Martha Bradley, Newell Bringhurst, Samuel Brown, Claudia Bushman, Brian Cannon, Douglas Davies, Rebecca de Schweinitz, Lawrence Foster, Reinhold Hill, and Jacob Olmstead.
In this comprehensive survey of Mormon Polygamy, Richard Van Wagoner details, with precision and detachment, the tumultuous reaction among insiders and outsiders to plural marriage. In an honest, methodical way, he traces the origins, the peculiarities common to the midwestern and later Utah periods, and post-1890 new marriages. Drawing heavily on first-hand accounts, he outlines the theological underpinnings and the personal trauma associated with this lifestyle.
What emerges is a portrait that neither discounts nor exaggerates the historical evidence. He presents polygamy in context, neither condemning nor defending, while relevant contemporary accounts are treated sympathetically but interpreted critically. No period of Mormon history is emphasized over another. The result is a systematic view that is unavailable in studies of isolated periods or in the repetitions of folklore that only disguise the reality of what polygamy was.
Scattered throughout the western United States today are an estimated 30,000 fundamentalist Mormons who still live “the principle.” They, too, are a part of Joseph Smith’s legacy and are included in this study.
Joseph Smith survives today as one of nineteenth-century America’s most controversial religious figures. He claimed visions of angels, dictated a lost record of the ancient inhabitants of the New World, announced new revelations from heaven, and restored what he believed was an ancient yet more complete form of Christianity, over which he presided as prophet, seer, and revelator until his death in 1844.
A child of impoverished Yankees, raised in rural New England and New York, Smith grew up in a hardscrabble frontier culture that embraced a spectrum of competing folkways, religious fervor, and intellectual thought. He was both a product of his times and a syncretic innovator of a compelling vision for God’s people. Perhaps more importantly, he was the self-proclaimed herald of Christ’s imminent return, called by the Father to reveal the fullness of the Christian gospel for the last time.
As prize-winning historian Richard S. Van Wagoner narrates the first twenty-five years of Smith’s life, the young seer struggled with his family through a series of roller-coaster hardships, eventually securing work as a scryer of lost treasure and money digger. In the wake of successive failures, including run-ins with the law, Smith’s glass-looking activities gave way to more religiously oriented pursuits, especially after a heavenly messenger showed him the location of buried golden plates containing a pre-Columbian story of the Americas and charged him with the record’s decipherment and publication.
Smith also learned, following another extraordinary vision, that his sins had been remitted, that humanity was in a state of apostasy, and that Jesus would soon return to the earth. After eloping with Emma Hale, much to her skeptical father’s chagrin, the couple settled down to complete work on what would appear for sale in early 1830 as the Book of Mormon. By this time, Smith had begun to shoulder more fully the prophet’s mantle, issuing proclamations in God’s own voice, and on April 6, 1830, organized the Church of Christ, known today as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I treat the early years of the Mormon prophet as I would approach an archaeological dig,” Van Wagoner explains. “The deepest levels, those deposited first and least contaminated by subsequent accumulates, are of primary interest in my pursuit of the historical Joseph. Mindful of the prophet’s controversial reputation, I try to remain sensitive to the impact that some of the more problematic elements of his behavior may have on believers. But truth is often best evidenced in the detail.”
Van Wagoner’s meticulously researched study offers more detail than any previously published biography of Smith, and provides what may be the most culturally nuanced analysis ever attempted of the early years of the American prophet.
My first impression in reading this text was that it was rightly named in its title. Indeed the author intends to lead the reader through an exploration of a book that he describes as an imperfect book, and does so in a way that enables the book to speak for itself. Given the fact that so many approach the Book of Mormon through lenses already adjusted to read the text for apologetic purposes, I found the author’s engagement of the Book of Mormon to be respectfully and critically refreshing. Feeling unable to rely on historians, archeologists, self-designated authorities, or others with sure knowledge of the Book of Mormon, the author turns to the book itself for what it might reveal about itself. Rather than turning to external evidences to vindicate the central claims of the Book of Mormon, the author invites the reader to explore internal evidences to be discovered in the book itself. He does this while engaging a broad range of contemporary scholarship.
The twelve essays in this anthology provide a refreshing array of female perspectives, personalities, and circumstances. Along with an introduction by Jamie Zvirzdin, the essays invite readers to recognize and own their personal struggles, gifts, faults, and desires and to accept where they stand on the spectrum of humanity. Fresh Courage Take demonstrates that the road to heaven is not a conveyor belt powered by a checklist of religious obligations, cooked casseroles, and a collection of children. If anything, it is a complex network of interchanges and decisions … including long, often solitary paths.
The authors span a wide range of views and situations in life: politically conservative to progressive, single to married with many children, highly educated to working-class, stay-at-home moms to the professionally successful, of European or African heritage, religiously orthodox to heterodox. In short, they define, from their diversity, what being a Mormon woman means and what type of path they feel they must take to be true to themselves and their beliefs.
Authors include Carli Anderson, Rachael Decker Bailey, Erika Ball, Rachel Brown, Karen Critchfield, Ashley Mae Hoiland, Sylvia Lankford, Marcee Ludlow, Brooke Stoneman, Camille Strate Fairbanks, Colleen Whitley, and Jamie Zvirzdin.