Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Critical Studies of Major Sources in Early Mormon History (ed. by Robin Jensen, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Sharalyn D. Howcroft)

Oxford University Press, 384pp, hardback, $74.00, Feb

Joseph Smith, founding prophet and martyr of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, personally wrote, dictated, or commissioned thousands of documents. Among these are several highly significant sources that scholars have used over and over again in their attempts to reconstruct the founding era of Mormonism, usually by focusing solely on content, without a deep appreciation for how and why a document was produced. This book offers case studies of the sources most often used by historians of the early Mormon experience. Each chapter takes a particular document as its primary subject, considering the production of a document as an historical event in itself, with its own background, purpose, circumstances, and consequences. By studying the documents not merely as sources of information, but as artifacts that reflect the culture in which they were created, truths about that culture are revealed. This book will help historians working in the founding era of Mormonism gain a more solid grounding in the period’s documentary record by supplying important information on major primary sources.

Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation (William Victor Smith)

Greg Kofford, 300pp, paperback–$26.95/hardback–$59.95, Feb

The July 12, 1843 revelation was the last of Joseph Smith’s formal written revelations, and it was a watershed in Mormonism for many reasons. Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation constitutes a study of the text of that revelation, its genetic profile as an endpoint for a number of trajectories in Mormon thought, liturgy, and priestly cosmology, and a brief exploration of its historical impact and interpretation. 

Conscience and Community: Sterling M. McMurrin, Obert C. Tanner, and Lowell L. Bennion (Robert Alan Goldberg, L. Jackson Newell, Linda King Newell, eds.)

University of Utah Press, 288pp, paperback, $25.00, Mar
Lowell Bennion, Sterling McMurrin, and Obert Tanner were colleagues whose lives often intertwined. All professors at the University of Utah, these three scholars addressed issues and events of their time; each influenced the thought and culture of Mormonism, helping to institute a period of intellectual life and social activism. In Conscience and Community multiple scholars, family members, and others look at the private and public aspects of three lives and examine the roles they played in shaping their communities inside and out of their university and church.

Lowell Bennion was founding director of the LDS Institute of Religion and professor of sociology at the University of Utah. He established multiple community service entities. Sterling McMurrin was distinguished professor of philosophy and history, dean of the graduate school, and former commissioner of education under JFK. He dismissed dogma and doctrine as barriers to a search for moral and spiritual understanding. Obert Tanner, also of the university’s Philosophy Department, excelled in teaching and business and became especially well known for philanthropy. The lives and work of these three men reveal the tensions between faith and reason, conscience and obedience. Their stories speak to us today because their concerns remain our concerns: racial justice, women’s equality, gay rights, and the meaning of integrity and conscience.

Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1999, 3 vols. (Gary James Bergera, ed.)

Signature Books, hardback, 2500pp, $150/set, Apr

Leonard Arrington (1917–99) was born an Idaho chicken rancher whose early interests seemed not to extend much beyond the American west. Throughout his life, he tended to project a folksy persona, although nothing was farther from the truth.

He was, in fact, an intellectually oriented, academically driven young man, determined to explore the historical, economic, cultural, and religious issues of his time. After distinguishing himself at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and serving in the army during World War II in North Africa and Italy, Arrington accepted a professorship at Utah State University. In 1972 he was called as the LDS Church Historian—an office he held for ten years until, following a stormy tenure full of controversy over whether the “New Mormon History” he championed was appropriate for the church, he was quietly released and transferred, along with the entire Church History Division, to Brigham Young University. It was hoped that this would remove the impression in people’s minds that his writings were church-approved.

His personal diaries reveal a man who was firmly committed to his church, as well as to rigorous historical scholarship. His eye for detail made him an important observer of “church headquarters culture.”

William Bickerton: The Untold Story of an American Prophet (Daniel P. Stone)

Signature Books, 500pp, hardback, $35.95, May

William Bickerton is the founding prophet of the third-largest Latter Day Saint denomination, known as the Church of Jesus Christ. Remarkably, his life has largely remained in the shadows. Bickerton immigrated to America in 1831 at the height of the Second Great Awakening. In 1845 Sidney Rigdon, a former counselor to founding prophet Joseph Smith, accepted him into the Church of Christ. Rigdon soon bankrupted his church and abandoned his followers. Unsure where to turn, Bickerton joined with Brigham Young until a moral objection to polygamy left him once again in search of a religious community. Divine inspiration led Bickerton to form his own church based on the original teachings of Joseph Smith. A visionary man, Bickerton expanded his church along the western frontier, even among the Native Americans, and kept his congregation afloat through financial trials. Yet when an allegation of marital infidelity against Bickerton split his church in two, he was disfellowshipped and his legacy obscured. Biographer Daniel P. Stone carefully reconstructs the forgotten details of this American mystic, fulfilling Bickerton’s final wish, as taken from the Book of Job: “Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!”

Decolonizing Mormonism: Approaching a Postcolonial Zion (Gina Colvin, Joanna Brooks, eds.)

University of Utah Press, 360pp, paperback, $24.95, May

This volume seeks nothing less than to shift the focus of Mormon studies from its historic North American, Euro-American “center” to the critical questions being raised by Mormons living at the movement’s cultural and geographic margins.

As a social institution, Mormonism is shaped around cultural notions, systems, and ideas that have currency in the United States but make less sense beyond the land of its genesis. Even as an avowedly international religion some 183 years out from its inception, it makes few allowances for diverse international contexts, with Salt Lake City prescribing programs, policies, curricula, leadership, and edicts for the church’s international regions. While Mormonism’s greatest strength is its organizational coherence, there is also a cost paid, for those at the church’s peripheries.

Decolonizing Mormonism brings together the work of 15 scholars from around the globe who critically reflect on global Mormon experiences and American-Mormon cultural imperialism. Indigenous, minority, and Global South Mormons ask in unison: what is the relationship between Mormonism and imperialism and where must the Mormon movement go in order to achieve its long-cherished dream of equality for all in Zion? Their stories are both heartbreaking and heartening and provide a rich resource for thinking about the future of Mormon missiology and the possibilities inherent in the work of Mormon contextual theology.

The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, vol. 7, September 1839-January 1841  (edited by Matthew C. Godfrey, Spencer W. McBride, Alex D. Smith and Christopher James Blythe)

Church Historian’s Press, 768pp, hardback, $54.95, May

The seventh volume of the Documents series contains personal correspondence, discourses, minutes, a revelation, and a memorial to the United States Congress, among other documents. The volume shows Joseph Smith and the church endeavoring to establish another gathering place for the Saints. Specific topics addressed in these documents include the practical and spiritual building up of Nauvoo, Illinois; the struggle to obtain redress for the property and lives lost in Missouri; the missionary efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in England; and the introduction of new teachings and doctrines, including baptism for the dead. 

Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, 1867-1883 (Devery S. Anderson, ed.)

School-of-the-Prophets-200x300Signature Books, hardback, 600pp, $47.95, Jul

Ministerial training was an early goal of Mormonism. The priesthood-led institution called the School of the Prophets, established in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833, was basically a divinity school for prospective missionaries. However, topics of study included, instead of prophecy and revelation, penmanship, English grammar, arithmetic, philosophy, literature, government, geography, and history. For seven weeks there was even a course in Hebrew, but it was discontinued. Still, it was in this setting that Joseph Smith received his revelation on diet and health and some of the spiritual manifestations associated with the Kirtland temple dedication. Brigham Young re-established the school in the Salt Lake Valley in 1867; his successor, John Taylor, resuscitated it for a while in 1883. Young’s emphasis was theology, first as an appendage to Deseret University, and then as a separate institution. Presented here for the first time are all available minutes for the Utah period.

Disenchanted Lives: Apostasy and Ex-Mormonism among the Latter-day Saints (E. Marshall Brooks)

Rutgers University Press, 254pp, paperback, $34.95, Aug

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons), often heralded as the fastest growing religion in American history, is facing a crisis of apostasy. Rather than strengthening their faith, the study of church history and scriptures by many members pushes them away from Mormonism and into a growing community of secular ex-Mormons. In Disenchanted Lives, E. Marshall Brooks provides an intimate, in-depth ethnography of religious disenchantment among ex-Mormons in Utah. Showing that former church members were once deeply embedded in their religious life, Brooks argues that disenchantment unfolds as a struggle to overcome the spiritual, social, and ideological devotion ex-Mormons had to the religious community and not out of a lack of dedication as prominently portrayed in religious and scholarly writing on apostasy.

Utah Politics and Government: American Democracy among a Unique Electorate (Adam R. Brown)

University of Nebraska Press, 240pp, paperback, $35.00, Aug

As unique as is Utah’s formative history of civil and religious conflict, its political institutions today broadly resemble those found in other American states. While its majority Mormon population translates into an enormous Republican advantage in local and national elections, Utahns have taken a more centrist stance on some issues such as immigration, while Utah itself has become the third fastest-growing state in the country since 2000. The mostly geographically rural state is demographically urban, and Salt Lake County is now a swing county in some elections.

Utah Politics and Government offers an accessible analysis of Utah s political cultures, starting with the state s unique pioneer heritage, its development into a secular American state, and its explosive modern growth. The book covers the state constitution and its place in the federal system, ongoing public lands disputes, and major political institutions.

Several original datasets covering the last thirty years in Utah politics provide contemporary context and analysis. The final chapter offers practical advice to citizens wishing to engage with their elected officials.

The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, vol. 4: The Abraham/Egyptian Papers, facsimile ed. (ed. by Robin Jensen and Brian Hauglid) 

Church Historian’s Press, fall

Martyrs in Mexico: A Mormon Story of Revolution and Redemption (F. LaMond Tullis)

RSC/Deseret Book, $19.99, 2018

“What bravery! They died with their boots on!” remarked one of the Zapatista executioners about the surreal way Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales had stood to receive the fusillade of bullets that pierced their bodies. The terror of facing an execution squad notwithstanding, no cowering, begging, or hysterics marred their calm and stalwart resolution to not renounce their faith. The Zapatista commander had given them that option.

Creating Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects and the Making of Mormonism (edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid)

University of Utah Press, 2018

The Battles of Zion: Mormonism and Violence (Patrick Mason)

Cambridge University Press, 2018

Open Topics in Latter-day Saint Thought (edited by Terryl Givens and Eric Eliason)

Oxford University Press, 2018/19

Oxford Handbook on Mormonism and the Bible


The Los Angeles Temple: Beacon on a Hill (Richard O. Cowan)


The Journey West: The Pioneer Journals of Horace K. Whitney with Insights by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney (Richard E. Bennett, ed.)


Reading Scripture, Reading  Creation: The Ancient Near Eastern Context of Genesis 1 (Ben Spackman)

Maxwell Institute, 2018

“We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout”: The Life and Times and William W. Phelps (Bruce A. Van Orden)

RSC/Deseret, 2018

Preface: The Man, the Church, and Seeking Zion 11
1. Youth in Rural New Jersey and New York 16
2. Young Adult Life and Marriage 26
3. Anti-Masonic Partisan and Newspaper Editor 33
4. Conversion to Mormonism 41
5. Dedicating the Land of Zion 48
6. “Printer unto the Church” 58
7. “Zion Must Increase in Beauty” 68
8. The Evening and the Morning Star 77
9. Challenges Mount in Missouri 88
10. Terror in Jackson County 95
11. Driven from Jackson County 108
12. Importuning the Government 119
13. Attempts to Redeem Zion 129
14. Joseph’s Scribe and Associate in Kirtland 142
15. The Phelps Family 158
16. The Book of Abraham 173
17. Doctrinal Exponent, 1831-1836 188
18. The Kirtland Temple and Endowment of Power 203
19. Return to Missouri 219
20. The Bottom Falls Out 232
21. Hell to Pay in Missouri 250
22. The Returning Prodigal 270
23. Historical Scribe in Nauvoo 288
24. Newspaper Editing and Ghostwriting 299
25. Political Clerk in Nauvoo 316
26. Martyrdom and Succession 338
27. Interpreter of Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo Doctrines 359
28. Aide to the Apostles 378
29. Helping Create Deseret 405
30. Declining Years and Death 424
31. Prolific Hymnist 448
Epilogue 460


Oxford University Press, 2019

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: The place of the PGP in LDS scripture, Mormon studies, and religious studies.
  • Chapter 1: Joseph Smith, and the making of modern scripture. A historical account of the component parts of the PGP (particularly the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham) and the history of its compilation and subsequent canonization. This chapter would chart the progress of the PGP from a missionary pamphlet in 1851 to scripture in 1880.
  • Chapter 2: “Caught up to an exceedingly high mountain.” The Book of Moses. A detailed historical and cultural analysis of the Book of Moses in terms of its production, and place in LDS culture and curriculum from the 1830s to the present.
  • Chapter 3: “Zion was taken up into heaven.” Theological Contributions of the Book of Moses. An argument for the theological primacy of the Book of Moses
  • Chapter 4: The Book of Moses and the Book of Genesis: Textual Considerations and Conundrums. What did Smith mean by a “new translation?”
  • Chapter 5: “Written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” The curious history of the Book of Abraham. From mummies to the Met.
  • Chapter 6: “These two facts do exist” Theological Contributions of the Book of Abraham. Mormonism’s new cosmology.
  • Chapter 7: Failed narratives and Fashioning new ones. The cultural and intellectual setting of Joseph Smith’s Abrahamic “translation.” Can this text be saved?
  • Chapter 8: Emending the scriptures: JS and the translation of the Bible (JS-Matthew) Mormon millennialism then and now.
  • Chapter 9: Historicizing the Origins of Mormonism (JS-History) Introducing Smith’s First Vision to the world (and to the Mormons). The problem of competing First Vision accounts.
  • Chapter: 10: Of Creeds and Articles (The Articles of Faith) Representing Mormonism in an anti-creedal church. From Fraud to Philandery to Football in the public imagination.
  • Chapter 11: The Fading of Millennialism. Mormonism emerged in the midst of a virtual frenzy of millennialism sweeping America during the Second Great Awakening. After the failure of the Saints to establish a Zion in Missouri, the Mormons continued to anticipate their return to reclaim the land from which they had been forcibly evicted in the 1830s. The canonization of Matthew 24 was perhaps the last, desperate gesture to keep alive a hope that even then was fast becoming a tenuous relic of Mormon thought.
  • Chapter 12: Conclusion. A nineteenth century chronicler noted that only three works were regularly studied in Mormon Church curricula: two were works by Parley Pratt. The third was the Pearl of Great Price. How can we account for its demotion in the LDS gaze, and is that trajectory likely to continue? As a related question, What are the prospects for Mormonism’s “open canon”?

Stretching the Heavens: Eugene England, Mormonism, and the Dilemmas of Discipleship (Terryl Givens)

University of North Carolina Press, 2020

 Gene England is one of the most influential and controversial figures of 20th-21st century Mormonism. If, as Greg Prince has argued, David O. McKay was the LDS prophet who gave shape to modern Mormonism, England helped play a parallel role from outside the church hierarchy. He performed this function in four principal ways. First, as the principal founder of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, England launched the first and most influential independent journal in the Mormon tradition.

Second, through his personal essays, he became perhaps the most inspiring lay voice in the later 20th century LDS community. He remains to this day the premier practitioner of the personal essay in the LDS tradition, and several of his essays continue in vibrant circulation with substantial after-life.

Third, as founder of the Association of Mormon Letters, editor of the first published anthologies of Mormon Literature, and in his professorial role creating and teaching Mormon literature, England is arguably the Father of Mormon Studies (in a way parallel to his contemporary Leonard Arrington’s role as Father of Mormon Historical Studies).

Finally, by virtue of his propensity for finding himself in a conflicted public posture, England came to embody in a painful and costly, agonistic way, the limits of faithful independence of thought in the LDS tradition.          

Eugene England’s story is germane to Mormonism’s transition into modernity, because it encapsulates in one emblematic narrative an individual caught in the crossfires of an institution slow to adapt, and an eager constituency ready for liberalizing. England still has his detractors who thought him too much the theatrical provocateur, the egoist who “never had a thought he didn’t write and publish,” as well as his fervent admirers who venerate him as a persecuted saint, and martyr to the cause of intellectual freedom and faithful dissent, crushed by an authoritarian institution. This biography will take an approach between the two extremes. England was no angel, and the Mormon leadership no devils. His story has the hallmarks of a Hegelian tragedy: two opposing forces, each with a viable claim to be representing the Good, caught up in moral fervor, but with each making errors in judgment and foresight.

Democracy’s Discontents: A Story of Politics, Polygamy, and Power in Mormon Nauvoo (Ben Park)

WW Norton/Liveright

This book tells the story of Nauvoo’s rise and fall between 1839 and 1846. It draws from a broad collection of primary sources, most of them overlooked and some of them used for the first time, to narrate a moment of political and cultural crisis on the frontier. In doing so, this manuscript offers a case study of the perils of democracy in antebellum America. How should a nation govern those religions that fall outside the boundaries of acceptability? What happens when a religious group transgresses the line between church and state? How can marginal groups react when the voice of the many infringes upon the rights of the few? These were important questions for a nation still exploring the potential and pitfalls of democratic rule. Even as many celebrated Jacksonian America as a harbinger of peace and stability, the thousands who gathered to the theocratic city-state of Mormon Nauvoo demonstrated cracks in the united façade. Some contemporary observers expected grand things. New York editor James Gordon Bennett believed the Mormons would swallow up the “lukewarm Protestant sects” and incite a “great religious revolution, as radical as Luther’s to take place in the Christian world.” But even after the city’s evacuation, the story’s importance was no less apparent. In today’s age, where the meanings of “religious liberty” and “democracy” are once again under debate, the lessons from this drama that played out during the 1840s are even more relevant.

Joseph Smith for President (Spencer W. McBride)


Book of Remembrance: Mormon Sacred Kinship in America (Fenella Cannell)

My Dear Sister: Letters Between Joseph F. Smith and His Sister Martha Ann (David Whitchurch and Richard Holzapfel)

Deseret Book, oversize hardcover, 544pp, $39.99

This book contains a transcript of all 164 letters written by Joseph F. Smith to his sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris (along with 44 letters from Martha), and includes a large sampling of photographic images of the originals. These letters provide a treasure- trove of personal insights into the lives of Joseph and his sister

  • Seven decades of correspondence between the orphaned children of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith as they share their innermost feelings, joys, heartaches, decisions, and family happenings.
  • Letters dated from 1854, when Joseph was a fifteen-year-old missionary in Hawaii, to 1916, just two years before his death.
  • Joseph F. Smith’s reflections on the death of his parents and his remarks about the visit of the Prophet Joseph’s sons who had traveled from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City.

The Words of Joseph Smith, rev. and enl. ed.(Andrew F. Ehat, ed.)

hardcover (2 vols.?) 

Ezra Taft Benson and Anticommunism: A Documentary History (Matthew Harris)

University of Utah Press

Ezra Taft Benson: Mormon Apostle-President, Outspoken Conservative, and Crusading Cold Warrior (Matthew Harris, ed.)

University of Illinois Press

The Mormon Church and Its Gospel Topics Essays: The Scholarly Community Responds (Matthew Harris & Newell Bringhurst, eds.)

University of Utah Press

“The Long Awaited Day”: The LDS Church, African Americans, and the Lifting of the Priesthood Ban, 1945-2015 (Matthew Harris)

The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts

Greg Kofford Books

Mormonism Among Christian Theologies (Brian Birch and Grant Underwood)


Underground but in the Light: The Plural Community of Centennial Park (Jennifer Huss Basquiat)

Every Word Seasoned with Grace: A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith (William V. Smith)

A Compilation of Historical Selections from the General Handbook of Instructions of the LDS Church: 1899-2006 (Michael Paulos)


The Reed Smoot Hearings: American Politics and American Religion (Michael Paulos/Konden Smith)

University of Utah

Mormonism in America (Phil Barlow and Jan Shipps)

Columbia University Press, hardcover, 320 pp, $45.00 

Convictions: Mormon Polygamy and Criminal Law Enforcement in Nineteenth-Century Utah (Sarah Gordon/Kathryn Daynes)

University of Illinois

biography of Jane Manning James (Quincy D. Newell)

Oxford University Press

biography of Joseph F. Smith (Steve Taysom)

University of Utah Press

biography of Ezra Taft Benson (Patrick Mason)

biography of William H. Chamberlin (James McLachlan)

biography of Margarito Bautista (Elisa Pulido)

intellectual history of James E. Talmage (Spencer Fluhman)

Oxford University Press, 2019

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