Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 13 (August–December 1843) (Christian Heimburger, Jeffrey Mahas, Brent Rogers, Mason K. Allred, J. Chase Kirkham, Matthew S. McBride, eds.)
Church Historian’s Press, hardback, 680pp, $54.95, June
The thirteenth volume in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers features ninety-eight Joseph Smith documents produced from August through December 1843 and includes letters, discourses, financial records, city ordinances, military orders, and a memorial to Congress. These documents provide insight into the growth and prosperity of Nauvoo, Illinois, the development of Latter-day Saint theology and practice, and the expansion of opposition to Joseph Smith and the Church in Illinois and abroad. Many of the documents exemplify important elements in the broader context of antebellum America, including the role of government in protecting civil rights, the effect of foreign immigration on American society, and the development of the western frontier.
The 1900 Bighorn Basin colonization provides an early twentieth-century example of a Mormon syndicate operating at the intersection of religious conformity, polygamy, nepotism, kinship, corporate business ventures, wealth, and high priesthood status. Maxwell offers evidence that although in many ways the Bighorn Basin colonization failed, Owen Woodruff’s prophecy remains unbroken: “No year will ever pass, from now until the coming of the Savior, when children will not be born in plural marriage.”
In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents (ed. Todd Compton)
Signature, paperback, June/hardback, $39.95, October
Plural marriage in the Nauvoo era of LDS Church history has long been a fascinating subject. To understand it fully requires one to look at it from the perspective of the man who introduced it, but just as crucial is a dive into the lives of the women he married, all who have their stories to tell. In his 1997 award-winning study, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton focused on the thirty-three women who he could demonstrate that Smith married, providing life stories of many who were well-known and others who have been largely forgotten. In his new work, In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents, Compton returns to his subject and provides the raw materials that helped him create his original study, writings composed by the women themselves.
This volume includes many autobiographical writings, diaries, and letters, with Compton providing annotations and introductory material that illuminates these crucial primary sources. This allows readers to take their understanding of this unique group of women to a new level and to drive home that fact that their lives go far beyond the Nauvoo experiment that forever links them to Mormonism’s founding prophet.
The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land Hardcover (Sally Denton)
Liveright, 288pp, hardback, $27.95, June
On the morning of November 4, 2019, an unassuming caravan of women and children was ambushed by masked gunmen on a desolate stretch of road in northern Mexico controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel. Firing semi-automatic weapons, the attackers killed nine people and gravely injured five more. The victims were members of the LeBaron and La Mora communities―fundamentalist Mormons whose forebears broke from the LDS Church and settled in Mexico when their religion outlawed polygamy in the late nineteenth century. The massacre produced international headlines for weeks, and prompted President Donald Trump to threaten to send in the US Army.
In The Colony, bestselling investigative journalist Sally Denton picks up where the initial, incomplete reporting on the attacks ended, and delves into the complex story of the LeBaron clan. Their homestead―Colonia LeBaron―is a portal into the past, a place that offers a glimpse of life within a polygamous community on an arid and dangerous frontier in the mid-1800s, though with smartphones and machine guns. Rooting her narrative in written sources as well as interviews with anonymous women from LeBaron itself, Denton unfolds an epic, disturbing tale that spans the first polygamist emigrations to Mexico through the LeBarons’ internal blood feud in the 1970s―started by Ervil LeBaron, known as the “Mormon Manson”―and up to the family’s recent alliance with the NXIVM sex cult, whose now-imprisoned leader, Keith Raniere, may have based his practices on the society he witnessed in Colonia LeBaron.
The LeBarons’ tense but peaceful interactions with Sinaloa deteriorated in the years leading up to the ambush. LeBaron patriarchs believed they were deliberately targeted by the cartel. Others suspected that local farmers had carried out the attacks in response to the LeBarons’ seizure of water rights for their massive pecan orchards. As Denton approaches answers to who committed the murders, and why, The Colony transforms into something more than a crime story. A descendant of polygamist Mormons herself, Denton explores what drove so many women over generations to join or remain in a community based on male supremacy and female servitude. Then and now, these women of Zion found themselves in an isolated desert, navigating the often-mysterious complications of plural marriage―and supported, Denton shows, only by one another.
I Spoke to You with Silence: Essays from Queer Mormons of Marginalized Genders (Kerry Spencer Pray and Jenn Lee Smith, eds.)
University of Utah, paperback, 288pp, $24.95, June
Nobody knows what to do about queer Mormons. The institutional Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prefers to pretend they don’t exist, that they can choose their way out of who they are, leave, or at least stay quiet in a community that has no place for them. Even queer Mormons don’t know what to do about queer Mormons. Their lived experience is shrouded by a doctrine in which heteronormative marriage is non-negotiable and gender is unchangeable. For women, trans Mormons, and Mormons of other marginalized genders, this invisibility is compounded by social norms which elevate (implicitly white) cisgender male voices above those of everyone else.
This collection of essays gives voice to queer Mormons. The authors who share their stories—many speaking for the first time from the closet—do so here in simple narrative prose. They talk about their identities, their experiences, their relationships, their heartbreaks, their beliefs, and the challenges they face. Some stay in the church, some do not, some are in constant battles with themselves and the people around them as they make agonizing decisions about love and faith and community. Their stories bravely convey what it means to be queer, Mormon, and marginalized—what it means to have no voice and yet to speak anyway.
Lighthouse: Jerald & Sandra Tanner, Despised and Beloved Critics of Mormonism (Ronald V. Huggins)
Signature Books, paperback—$24.95/hardback—$39.95, summer
While some may view Jerald and Sandra Tanner only as despised critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is impossible to trace the course of Mormon history over the past sixty years without acknowledging their contribution. Many both inside and outside of Mormonism respect them for their unflinching quest for truth no matter the cost, as when Jerald declared Mark Hofmann’s notorious Salamander Letter a forgery months before some experts declared it authentic. Their Utah Lighthouse Ministry has operated for decades only blocks from church headquarters, where their many works on Mormonism are still printed and sold. Jerald died in 2006 but Sandra continues to oversee the ministry.
The Tanners consistently challenged the church’s position on many historical issues. Utah Lighthouse was long the only source for Mormon scholars to obtain crucial historical reprints, which they still happily or begrudgingly purchase; for others, the Tanners’ writings have been the source of disillusionment with the church. Despised or beloved, the influence of Jerald and Sandra Tanner cannot be underestimated or ignored.
Exceptionally Queer: Mormon Peculiarity and U.S. Nationalism Paperback (K. Mohrman)
University of Minnesota, 376pp, paperback—$30/hardback—$120, July
Are Mormons really so weird? Are they potentially queer? These questions occupy the heart of this powerful rethinking of Mormonism and its place in U.S. history, culture, and politics. K. Mohrman argues that Mormon peculiarity is not inherent to the Latter-day Saint faith tradition, as is often assumed, but rather a potent expression of U.S. exceptionalism.
Exceptionally Queer scrutinizes the history of Mormonism starting with its inception in the early 1830s and continuing to the present. Drawing on a wide range of historical texts and moments—from nineteenth-century battles over Mormon plural marriage; to the LDS Church’s emphases on “individual responsibility” and “family values”; to mainstream media’s coverage of the LDS Church’s racist exclusion of Black priesthood holders, its Native assimilation programs, and vehement opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; and to much more recent legal and cultural battles over same-sex marriage and on-screen Mormon polygamy—Exceptionally Queer evaluates how Mormonism has been used to motivate and rationalize the biased, exclusionary, and colonialist policies and practices of the U.S. nation-state.
Mohrman explains that debates over Mormonism both drew on and shaped racial discourses and, in so doing, delineated the boundaries of whiteness and national belonging, largely through the consolidation of (hetero)normative ideas of sex, marriage, family, and economy. Ultimately, the author shows how discussions of Mormonism in this country have been and continue to be central to ideas of what it means to be American.
Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration (Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski)
Greg Kofford, 531pp, hardback, $44.95, August
While no one thing can entirely explain the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the historical influence of Freemasonry on this religious tradition cannot be refuted. Those who study Mormonism have been aware of the impact that Freemasonry had on the founding prophet Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period, but his involvement in Freemasonry was arguably earlier and broader than many modern historians have admitted. The fact that the most obvious vestiges of Freemasonry are evident only in the more esoteric aspects of the Mormon faith has made it difficult to recognize, let alone fully grasp, the relevant issues. Even those with both Mormon and Masonic experience may not be versed in the nineteenth-century versions of Masonry's rituals, legends, and practices. Without this specialized background, it is easy to miss the Masonic significance of numerous early Mormon ordinances, scripture, and doctrines. Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration offers a fresh perspective on the Masonic thread present in Mormonism from its earliest days. Smith's firsthand knowledge of and experience with both Masonry and anti-Masonic currents contributed to the theology, structure, culture, tradition, history, literature, and ritual of the religion he founded.
Chosen Path: A Memoir (Michael Quinn)
Signature, hardback, $39.95 fall
After D. Michael Quinn’s death in April 2021, his children found his remarkable, unpublished memoir in his home and entrusted Signature Books with its publication. Relying on his journals, primary research, and reminiscences, Quinn shares his life story as few have heard it–from his father’s hiding of his true name and Mexican identity, to his upbringing by his abusive grandmother, to his choice to closet his homosexuality, to his undying commitment to his faith and its history.
From the age of nine, Quinn felt convicted he would one day serve as an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He chose the path he believed would take him there, eventually living as a straight LDS family man in a mixed-orientation marriage. In the 1980s he became a BYU professor and one of Mormonism’s most promising, prolific, and respected historians. But his uncompromising commitment to total honesty about his religion’s history, along with his homosexuality, set him on a collision course with church leaders and the end of his seemingly idyllic Mormon life. Throughout his telling, Quinn unflinchingly opens up about his feelings and experiences that shaped his enigmatic life.
Open Canon: Scriptures of the Latter Day Saint Diaspora (Christine Elyse Blythe, Christopher James Blythe, Jay Burton, eds.)
University of Utah, 384pp, paperback—$39.95/hardback—$95, September
The publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 began a new scriptural tradition. Resisting the long-established closed biblical canon, the Book of Mormon posited that the Bible was incomplete and corrupted. With a commitment to an open canon, a variety of Latter Day Saint denominations have emerged, each offering their own scriptural works to accompany the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other revelations of Joseph Smith. Open Canon breaks new ground as the first volume to examine these writings as a single spiritual heritage.
Chapters cover both well-studied and lesser-studied works, introducing readers to scripture dictated by nineteenth- and twentieth-century revelators such as James Strang, Lucy Mack Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Harry Edgar Baker, and Charles B. Thompson, among others. Contributors detail how various Latter Day Saint denominations responded to scriptures introduced during the ministry of Joseph Smith and how churches have employed the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Lectures of Faith over time. Bringing together studies from across denominational boundaries, this book considers what we can learn about Latter Day Saint resistance to the closed canon and the nature of a new American scriptural tradition.
Slavery in Zion: A Documentary and Genealogical History of Black Lives and Black Servitude in Utah Territory, 1847-1862 (Amy Tanner Thiriot)
University of Utah, 384pp, paperback—$39.95/hardback—$95, September
An Akan proverb says, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This belief underlies historian Amy Tanner Thiriot’s work in Slavery in Zion. The total number of those enslaved during Utah’s past has remained an open question for many years. Due to the nature of nineteenth-century records, particularly those about enslaved peoples, an exact number will never be known, but while writing this book, Thiriot documented around one hundred enslaved or indentured Black men, women, and children in Utah Territory.
Using a combination of genealogical and historical research, the book brings to light events and relationships misunderstood for well over a century. Section One provides an introductory history, chapters on southern and western experiences, and information on life after emancipation. Section Two is a biographical encyclopedia with names, relationships, and experiences. Although this book contains material applicable to legal history and the history of race and Mormonism, its most important goal is to be a treasury of the experiences of Utah’s enslaved Black people so their stories can become an integral part of the history of Utah and the American West, no longer forgotten or written out of history.
Imperial Zions: Religion, Race, and Family in the American West and the Pacific (Amanda Hendrix-Komoto)
University of Nebraska, 276pp, paperback—$30/hardback—$99, October
In the nineteenth century, white Americans contrasted the perceived purity of white, middle-class women with the perceived eroticism of women of color and the working classes. The Latter-day Saint practice of polygamy challenged this separation, encouraging white women to participate in an institution that many people associated with the streets of Calcutta or Turkish palaces. At the same time, Latter-day Saints participated in American settler colonialism. After their expulsion from Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, Latter-day Saints dispossessed Ute and Shoshone communities in an attempt to build their American Zion. Their missionary work abroad also helped to solidify American influence in the Pacific Islands as the church became a participant in American expansion.
Imperial Zions explores the importance of the body in Latter-day Saint theology with the faith’s attempts to spread its gospel as a “civilizing” force in the American West and the Pacific. By highlighting the intertwining of Latter-day Saint theology and American ideas about race, sexuality, and the nature of colonialism, Imperial Zions argues that Latter-day Saints created their understandings of polygamy at the same time they tried to change the domestic practices of Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples. Amanda Hendrix-Komoto tracks the work of missionaries as they moved through different imperial spaces to analyze the experiences of the American Indians and Native Hawaiians who became a part of white Latter-day Saint families. Imperial Zions is a foundational contribution that places Latter-day Saint discourses about race and peoplehood in the context of its ideas about sexuality, gender, and the family.
Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 14 (January–May 1844) (Alex Smith, Adam H. Petty, Spencer W. McBride, Jessica M. Nelson, eds.)
Church Historian’s Press, hardback, $54.95, fall
Eternity in the Ether: A Mormon Media History (Gavin Feller)
University of Illinois, 192pp, paperback—$25/hardback—$110, December
Mass media and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints evolved alongside each other, and communications technology became a fundamental part of the Church’s institutions and communities. Gavin Feller investigates the impact of radio, television, and the internet on Mormonism and what it tells us about new media’s integration into American life. The Church wrestled with the promise of new media to help implement its vision of Zion. But it also had to contend with threat that media posed to the family and other important facets of the Latter-day Saint faith. Inevitably, media technologies forced the leadership and lay alike to reconsider organizational values and ethical commitments. As Feller shows, the conflicts they faced illuminate the fundamental forces of control and compromise that enmesh an emerging medium in American social and cultural life.
Intriguing and original, Eternity in the Ether blends communications history with a religious perspective to examine the crossroads where mass media met Mormonism in the twentieth century.
Mormon Envoy: The Diplomatic Legacy of Dr. John Milton Bernhisel (Bruce W. Worthen)
University of Illinois, 304pp, paperback—$29.95/hardback—$125, January
For more than twenty years, John Milton Bernhisel negotiated with the federal government on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bruce W. Worthen illuminates the life and work of the man whose diplomacy steered the Church’s relationship with Washington, D.C. from its early period of dangerous conflict to a peaceful and pragmatic coexistence.
Having risen from a Pennsylvania backcountry upbringing to become a respected member of the upper class, Bernhisel possessed a personal history that allowed him to reach common ground with politicians and other outsiders. He negotiated for Joseph Smith’s life and, after the Church’s relocation to the Utah Territory, took on the task of rehabilitating the public image of the Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young’s defiance of the government undermined Bernhisel’s work, but their close if sometimes turbulent relationship ultimately allowed Bernhisel to make peace with Washington, secure a presidential pardon for Young, and put Utah and the Latter-day Saints on the road to formally joining the United States.
Reading Scripture, Reading Creation: The Ancient Near Eastern Context of Genesis 1 (Ben Spackman)
Intellectual History of James E. Talmage (Spencer Fluhman)
Oxford University Press
Oxford Handbook on Mormonism and the Bible
Book of Remembrance: Mormon Sacred Kinship In America (Fenella Cannell)
“The Long Awaited Day”: The LDS Church, African Americans, and the Lifting of the Priesthood Ban, 1945-2015 (Matthew Harris)
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)
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 Joseph F. Smith (Steve Taysom)
University of Utah Press