Teaching American Religious History

15 weeks for the history and present of religion in the United States. “American Religious History” or “Religion in America” is a bread-and-butter course for me (and for several of my co-bloggers, and probably for some readers). I’ve taught it perhaps five or six times, in both a history department and a religious studies department. [Read More...]

Grace and Apostasy

Unveiling Grace

As a historian, I am grateful for anti-Mormon exposés. Admittedly, the genre poses obvious problems. Those who leave (and especially those who are expelled from) a religious organization often have an obvious axe to grind. At the same time, they have been inside the organization and know things about which outsiders are not privy. And [Read More...]

Henrietta Mears, Evangelical Optimist

1949 College Briefing Conference

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about the life of Henrietta Mears, the Sunday School superintendent, developer of curricula, and youth evangelist. “Teacher,” as her disciples called her, served at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood for several decades, from 1928 until her death in 1963. Hollywood Presbyterian was a central hub in the booming [Read More...]

Free Food!

Catacomb of Priscilla, ca. 3rd Century

“My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker shortly after his most recent electoral victory, “…Caring for the poor isn’t the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people [Read More...]

Candles, Prayers, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Nicolaikirche_Leipzig

Last weekend, Germany celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the East German government’s blockade of its own citizens. In November 1989, amid considerable political confusion, East German security forces did not prevent crowds from crossing the border and scaling the Berlin Wall. It was not the first moment in which East German soldiers [Read More...]

Rescue the Perishing

Russell Cover

Gerard Russell’s Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is a remarkable book, both for its breadth and vision. Russell, a former British diplomat (who claims on the book’s jacket to speak fluent Arabic and Dari but within the book’s pages speaks a little bit of nearly every Middle Eastern language) surveys seven religions that are not only [Read More...]

The Beginning and End of Mormon Polygamy

Zina D. H. Young

Many observers of Mormonism have offered their thoughts on the recent statements on plural marriage published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They discuss the origins of plural marriage and Joseph Smith’s own practice of polygamy; the living out of polygamy in early Utah; and the church’s abandonment of plural marriage between [Read More...]

America’s Spiritual Founding Father

portrait-of-george-whitefield.jpg!Blog

In time for the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of George Whitefield (pronounced Whit-field), my co-blogger Thomas Kidd has just published a biography of the man he terms America’s Spiritual Founding Father. [Yale University Press identifies October 28 as the book's release date, but it is already shipping]. Kidd’s George Whitefield is an eminently [Read More...]

The Lost Book of Mormon

9780385535694

There are not very many contemporary accounts of Mormonism in which the author is expelled from the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Avi Steinberg was not passing out illicit evangelical tracts to audience members, nor was he smoking pot behind the LDS Visitors Center. Instead, he was rehearsing for the show under an assumed name. “Like a [Read More...]

The Elders of Israel

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds semiannual general conferences, with twenty thousand of the faithful gathering in the church’s conference center across the street from Temple Square and others watching in local meeting houses, stake centers, and over the internet. General Conference always receives some coverage in the media. This year, the [Read More...]


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