Be Nice to Missionaries

Harline Way Below

There are many good reasons to read Craig Harline’s Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. First of all, it offers solid proof that at least some historians have a wicked sense of humor and can employ it in writing. This [Read More...]

The Kirtland Temple

Kirtland Temple, 1934, from the LOC Historic American Buildings Survey collection

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836 by what was then the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The vast majority of those visitors are members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they come in part to see where Joseph Smith and Oliver [Read More...]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Robert J. Breckinridge, ca. 1845

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists. According to Luke Harlow’s recently published Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, those double [Read More...]

Why Mormons Love Margaret Barker

James Tissot, Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, ca. 1886-1894

Several years ago, a Latter-day Saint friend encouraged me to read British Methodist theologian Margaret Barker’s books. Now I understand why. A cautionary note. Barker has a large corpus of books to her credit, including The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God and The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. [Read More...]

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...]


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