Continuing a tradition from the past three years, here is my overview of what I found to be the most noteworthy books and articles from the last twelve months. I like this format because it not only allows discussion of different media of publication, but it also encourages us to contemplate broader themes that are currently “hot” in Mormon historiography. (Also make sure to check out Stapley’s always-helpful Christmas book list.)
As with previous years, I am posting this in early December and will thus miss those books published later this month. Further, the selection process was purely subjective and represent my own interests; please add your own suggestions in the comments.
As I outlined in my “Best of the Mormon Moment” list, this last year witnessed record-breaking coverage of the Church. This resulted in loads of essays and columns, of which I tried to gather the best in my Mormon moment roundup. However, I will limit this Retrospect to academic work, rather than media.
And like I did last year, I will venture to give my vote for various MHA awards, which you will find at the end of the post. Following the general criteria found on their website, I will name the works I thought deserving of prominent categories. (While I rightly predicted four books/articles that would receive rewards last year, I failed to match a specific text to a specific reward.)
Meet the Mormons
- Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith (New York: Random House, 2012).
- Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (New York: Free Press, 2012).
- Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Salt Lake City: Ensign Peak, 2012).
All these books were in some way connected to the attention brought by the “Mormon Moment,” and all serve as introductions to the faith. Matt’s book is now the best one-volume history of the Church; Joanna’s memoir is a poignant overview of the tensions inherent in being an American Mormon, and Terryl and Fiona’s volume is a sophisticated and brilliant look at Mormonism’s theology. To me, these may be the most long lasting and beneficial results from the “Moment,” because I can’t imagine three better introductions to the Church for anyone curious about our history, our practice, and our belief.
- Spencer J. Fluhman, A Peculiar People: Anti-mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
- John Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012).
A Provocative Roundtable Shows Future of the Field
- Rachel Cope, introduction to “New Ways In: Writing Interdisciplinary Mormon History,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 2 (Spring 2012): 99-100.
- Rachel Cope, “Shifting the Plot: Possibilities in Mormon Women’s History,” 100-107.
- Matthew Bowman, “History Through Liturgy: What Worship Remembers,” 108-113.
- Amy Easton-Flake, “A Shared Historicist Enterprise: Mormon History Through a Literary Lens,” 114-118.
- Ryan G. Tobler, “Mormom History and ‘Lived Religion,’” 119-124.
- Rebecca de Schweinitz, “‘Where Nothing is Long Ago’: Childhood and Youth in Mormon History,” 125-138.
- Kate Holbrook, “Religion in a Recipe,” 139-142.
Re-Thinking Political Theologies
- Patrick Q. Mason, “‘The Wars and the Perplexities of the Nations’: Reflections on Early Mormonism, Violence, and the State,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 72-89.
- Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Zion in America: The Origins of Mormon Constitutionalism,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 90-101.
- Mauro Properzi, “LDS Understandings of Religious Freedom: Responding to the Shifting Cultural Pendulum,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 128-162.
- David Campbell, Russell Arben Fox, Matthew Bowman, and Kristine Haglund, “Mormon Authoritarianism and American Pluralism,” Dialogue 45, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 148-163.
Mormon Print Histories
- Lisa Olsen Tait, “Between Two Economies: The Business Development of the Young Woman’s Journal, 1889-1900,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 4 (Fall 2012): 1-54.
- Lisa Olsen Tait, “The Young Woman’s Journal: Gender and Generations in a Mormon Women’s Magazine,” American Periodicals 22, no. 1 (2012): 51-71.
- Paul C. Gutjahr, The Book of Mormon: A Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).
- Michael Hicks, “Emma Smith’s 1841 Hymnal,” Journal of Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 21, no. 1 (2012): 12-27.
- Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, vol. 3 (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012).
The Philosophy of History and New Methodologies
- Stuart Parker, “The Hermeneutics of Generosity: A Critical Approach to the Scholarship of Richard Bushman,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 12-27.
- Stephen C. Taysom, “Abundant Events or Narrative Abundance: Robert Orsi and the Academic Study of Mormonism,” Dialogue 45, no. 4 (Winter 2012): forthcoming.
New Directions in Intellectual History
- Boyd Jay Peterson, “‘One Soul Shall Not be Lost’: The War in Heaven in Mormon Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 1-50.
- Evan Carton, “American Scholars: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joseph Smith, John Brown, and the Springs of Intellectual Schism,” New England Quarterly 85, no. 1 (2012): 5-37.
- Stephen J. Fleming, “Joseph Smith as the Philosopher King: Neoplatonism in Early Mormon Political Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 102-127.
- Jordan T. Watkins, “Early Mormonism and the Re-Enchantment of Antebellum Historical Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 187-209.
- Benjamin E. Park, “‘Reasonings Sufficient’: Joseph Smith, Thomas Dick, and the Context(s) of Early Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 210-224.
Joseph Smith Papers, Doin’ Work
- Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Joseph Smith Histories, 1832-1844, volume 1 of the Histories Series, Joseph Smith Papers Project (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012).
- Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, eds., Assigned Histories, 1831-1847, volume 2 of the Histories Series, Joseph Smith Papers Project (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012).
- Alex D. Smith, “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 4 (Fall 2012): 131-163.
Fascinating Work from JWHA
- Richard Clothier, “The Hymns of David Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo’s Tragic ‘Sweet Singer,’” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no. 1 (2012): 33-46.
- Scott C. Esplin, “Competing for the City of Joseph: Interpretive Conflicts in Nauvoo’s Restoration,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no. 1 (2012): 47-62.
- Kyle R. Walker, “Looking after the First Family of Mormonism: LDS Church Leaders’ Support of the Smiths after the Murders of Joseph and Hyrum,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no. 1 (2012): 17-32.
- Melvin C. Johnson, “Wightites in Wisconsin: The Formation of a Dissenting Latter-Day Community (1842-1845).” The
John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no. 1 (2012): 63-78.
- John Hamer, “Mapping Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint Movement,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no. 2 (2012): 1-35.
Conversion and Social History
- Christopher C. Jones, “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace: James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39-40,” Brigham Young University Studies Quarterly 51, no. 1 (2012): 67-98.
- Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, “To Forsake Thy Father and Mother: Mary Fielding Smith and the Familial Politics of Conversion,” Dialogue 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 26-37.
- Benjamin E. Park, “The Theology of a Career Convert: Edward Tullidge’s Evolving Identities,” Dialogue 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 38-50.
Fresh Takes in Modern Cultural History
- Patrick Q. Mason, “Mormon Blogs, Mormon Studies, and the Mormon Mind,” Dialogue 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 12-25.
- Rachael Givens, “Lost ‘Wagonloads of Plates’: The Disappearance and Deliteralization of Sealed Records,” Dialogue 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 98-126.
- Saskia M. Tielens, “The Gold Plates in the Contemporary Popular Imagination,” Dialogue 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 127-138.
Problematizing Historical Theology
- Jacob T. Baker, ed., Mormonism at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Theology: Essays in Honor of David L. Paulsen (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).
- Benjamin E. Park, “(Re)Interpreting Early Mormon Thought: Synthesizing Joseph Smith’s Theology and the Process of Religious Formation,” Dialogue 45, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 59-88.
- Scott C. Esplin, “Saving Their School: The 1933 Transfer of Dixie College as an Indicator of Utah’s Changing Church and State Relationships,” Utah Historical Quarterly 80, no. 2 (2012):173-191.
- Thomas W. Simpson, “The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877-1896,” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 22, no. 2 (2012): 163-201.
- Thomas Alexander, Edward Hunter Snow: Pioneer-Educator-Statesman (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark Company, 2012).
- Todd M. Compton, “‘In & Through the Roughefist Country it has Ever Been my Lot to Travel’: Jacob Hamblin’s 1858 Expedition Across the Colorado,” Utah Historical Quarterly 80, no. 1 (2012): 4-21.
- Chad M. Orton, “‘We Will Admit You as a State’: William H. Hooper , Utah and the Secession Crisis,” Utah Historical Quarterly 80, no. 3 (2012): 208-225.
- Justin R. Bray, “The Lord’s Supper during the Progressive Era, 1890-1930,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 4 (Fall 2012): 88-104.
- Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958 (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).
- Michael Reed, Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo (Independence: John Whitmer Books, 2012).
- Hokulani K. Aikau, A Chosen People, a Promised Land: Mormonism and Race in Hawai’i (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).
- Armand L. Mauss, Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press).
Helpful Compilations from the RSC
- Scott C. Esplin, Richard O. Cowan, and Rachel Cope, eds., You Shall Have My Word: Exploring the Text of the Doctrine & Covenants (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012).
- Samuel Alonzo Dodge and Steven C. Harper, eds., Exploring the First Vision (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012).
- Reid L. Neilson and Riley M. Moffat, Tales from the World Tour: The 1895-1897 Travel Writings of Mormon Historian Andrew Jenson (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012).
- Kenneth L. Alford, ed., Civil War Saints (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012).
Roundtable on Faith and History in BYU’s Religious Educator
- Rachel Cope, Introduction to “Uniting Faith and History,” Religious Educator 13, no. 2 (2012).
- Rachel Cope, “By the Power of the Holy Ghost, Ye may Know the Truth of All Things.”
- Brian Q. Cannon, “Building the Kingdom: Pioneering Historians within the Church Educational System.”
- Matthew B. Bowman, “The Supernatural and the Boundaries of the Discipline.”
- Patrick Q. Mason, “Faith and History, Old Testament-Style.”
- Steven C. Harper, “Obtain a Knowledge of History.”
- Matthew J. Grow, “Mormon History and the Rules of the Academic Game.”
- Tona Hangen, “What is So Sacred about History?”
- Paul E. Kerry, “History, Philosophy, and Natural Law.”
And now, my awards (drumroll please….):
Best Book Award: Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet
Best First Book: Fluhman: Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America
Best Biography: Alexander, Edward Hunter Snow: Pioneer-Educator-Statesman
Best Documentary Book: Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, vol. 3
Best International Book: Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958
Best Article Award: Simpson, “The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877-1896”
Awards of Excellence: Smith, “The Book of the Law of the Lord”; Jones, “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace”
Best Article on Mormon Women’s History: Tait, “The Young Women’s Journal: Gender and Generations in Mormon Women’s Magazines”