How to Market a Book

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The title of this post is as much of a question as a statement. This April, Harvard University Press is releasing The Mormon Jesus: A Biography. Instead of fashioning a “new religion,” I argue, Latter-day Saints have through their experiences, descriptions, and depictions of Jesus Christ created a movement both utterly Christian and distinctly Mormon. [Read More...]

Joseph Smith’s Last Christmas

2 o[clo]ck about 50 couple sat down at my table to dine. while I was eating my scribe called on me to selmnz [solemnize] the Marriage of Doct Levi Richa[r]ds & sarah Griffiths [Griffith] — but. as I could not leave. I referred the subj[e]ct to Presidt B[righam] Young. who married th[e]m. A large party [Read More...]

The King of Beaver Island

Polygamist King

Most people with only a passing acquaintance with the history of Mormonism presume that there was a simple transition to Brigham Young’s leadership after the June 1844 murder of Joseph Smith, Jr. In truth, Smith’s death precipitated several competing claims to leadership. A new “Kindle Single” authored by John J. Miller in The Polygamist King [Read More...]

Muslims, the New Mormons

In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court — in upheld laws intended to disenfranchise Mormon polygamists. The 1882 Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act required voters to swear that they were not polygamists, and the Idaho Territory had passed a statute requiring voters to attest that they were not Mormons. In Idaho, church member Samuel Davis was convicted of [Read More...]

Playing Mormon, Playing Indian

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In 1869, Lucy Stanton Bassett traveled from New York to Utah, possibly riding on the transcontinental railroad completed that May. When she reached Utah, she was reunited with her parents and children, and she met her grandchildren. For tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans, the journey to Zion was a rite of passage, a [Read More...]

Seer Stones and Prophetic Authority

Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national and international news by releasing photographs of a seer stone used by Joseph Smith during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For some contemporary Latter-day Saints and for some outside critics of the church, the fact that Joseph Smith used a [Read More...]

Mormons and New World History

Recently, I have been posting on fringe and mainstream ideas in scholarship, and have identified a number of working principles. Today I am going to illustrate these themes through one particular religious text, namely the Book of Mormon. This story also has lessons for mainstream Christians, who to varying degrees also have to face the [Read More...]

Tom Brady and Joseph Smith, Lies and Liars

“And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar,” informs Lawrence Wright in his best-selling Going Clear. In an epilogue, Wright compares Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the founding prophet of Mormonism. As evidence, Wright points to Smith’s denial of polygamy and his claim that scrolls of Egyptian papyrus contained the writings of the biblical [Read More...]

The Mormon Bonhoeffer

20th-century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey

In the 1970s, Latter-day Saint leaders began to quote C.S. Lewis in the semi-annual General Conference talks. Earlier this month, Mormon Apostle D. Todd Cristofferson made a rather striking reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a discussion of marriage. Cristofferson quoted at length from a May 19, 1943 sermon that Bonhoeffer wrote while [Read More...]

Mormons, Race, and Slavery

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In the middle of 1870, Scipio Africanus Kenner feared losing the girl he loved. For some time, he had been courting Isabel Park with her family’s encouragement. Then, suddenly, Park’s mother cooled on the match and asked Kenner never to visit the home again. Park, however, did not stop seeing Kenner. According to Kenner, Agnes [Read More...]


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