Journal of Mormon History, Summer 2014

By August 12, 2014

The latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes recently. Here’s a brief rundown of the articles:

  • “The Curious Case of Joseph Howard, Palmyra’s Seventeen-Year-Old Somnium Preacher,” by Noel A. Carmack
    • Carmack compares Joseph Smith’s method of translation through seer stones with two New York “somnium preachers,” Rachel Baker and Joseph Howard, who delivered devotional and theological messages while appearing to be asleep or entranced. Carmack argues that Baker and Howard provided a context within which to place JS’s “subconscious religious exhortations taken down by dictation–one of which occurred only blocks away from the reflective, developing boy prophet.”
  • “The Upper-Room Work: Esotericism in the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite), 1853-1912,” by Christopher James Blythe
    • Blythe continues his ongoing investigation of Cutlerite history with an investigation of the role of esotericism (basically, the practice of “secret” rituals)  in the development and persistence of Culterite identity in the face of competition from RLDS and other Restoration groups.
  • “The Cumorah Baseball Club: Mormon Missionaries and Baseball in South Africa,” by Booker T. Alston
    • Alston examines the role of Mission President Don Mack Dalton in establishing the Cumorahs, a South African baseball team comprised mostly of Mormon missionaries from the 1930s-1950s. Alston argues that Dalton was primarily motivated by a desire to improve the public image of the church and counter negative images of Mormon polygamists stealing South African women.
  • “Mormons and Indians in Central Virginia: J. Golden Kimball and the Mason Family’s Native American Origins,” by Jay Hansford C. Vest
    • Vest explores the little-known story of an indigenous group of Monacans who converted to Mormonism in the 1880s in Virginia. Vest, an established American Indian Studies scholar who evidently grew up in this group, traces the Monacans’ long history in the region and their embrace of Mormonism. Vest compares the Mormon Monacans with the Catawbas, a South Carolina Native group that converted en masse in the 1880s. He speculates that the Monacas found Mormonism appealing in the context of post-Civil War Virginia anti-Indian racism, although he also notes that racism within the church denied priesthood ordination to male members prior to 1951.
  • “Identifying Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives,” by Brian C. Hales
    • Hales provides a brief overview of 19th and 20th century compilers of the names JS’s plural wives and publishes in abbreviated form the results of his own exhaustive writings on the subject. On a production note, the Hales’ chart listing JS’s wives and sources was printed very poorly, almost to the point of making the chart unusable.
  • “A Society of Like-Minded Men: American Localism and the Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County,” by Matthew B. Lund.
    • Lund publishes a distilled version of his recent USU MA thesis, which won the MHA “Best Thesis” award in 2013.  Lund argues that scholars, long accustomed to simplifying the conflict between the Saints and Jackson County residents as a contest between “individualism” and “communalism,” have missed the role of “localism” in explaining the 1833 expulsion. Although Lund’s work is well contextualized in the literature on Jacksonian-era politics, he is strangely unaware of recent scholarship by Mark Ashurst-McGee (his 2008 ASU dissertation) and Spencer Fluhman (“A Peculiar People,” 2012) on Jackson County that would have further illuminated his thesis. Further perplexing is how Mormon history’s “flagship” journal could publish an article in 2014 that cites the History of the Church unproblematically. Although Documents, Volume 2 (the Joseph Smith Papers volume that covers much of the Jackson County era of early Mormon history) likely came out while the article was in production, the problems with the HC have been well-known for decades and the 1831-1833 documents have been available on the JSP website for several years now.
  • “Treasures and a Trash Heap: An Early Reference to the Joseph Smith Family in Palmyra,” by Donald L. Enders.
    • Enders discusses the discovery and preservation of Philander Packard’s Palmyra school notebook, which has references to the Smith family.


Overall, it’s a strong issue. If you haven’s subscribed, do so today.

Article filed under Book and Journal Reviews


  1. Interesting issue. I didn’t read everything (skimmed a few) but really enjoyed the Vest and Enders articles and thought the thesis on the first article was a little weak although the information was intriguing.

    Since I’m a very appreciative online-only subscriber (would rather not have the journals gathering dust on my shelves) I didn’t notice the problem with the tables in the Hales article, but now that I’m looking carefully see what you mean. How would a journal normally deal with that? Fix the formatting problem and reprint in the next issue? Provide the information online?

    Comment by Amy T — August 13, 2014 @ 10:41 am

  2. Thanks for the run-down, David. I quickly skimmed through Alston’s article and look forward to giving it, and some of these others, a closer read soon.

    Comment by Christopher — August 13, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  3. Hales tables will be reprinted in fall’s issue with higher resolution graphic files.

    Comment by BC — August 13, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  4. Thanks, David. I thought it a solid issue, and even enjoyed the book reviews.

    Comment by Ben P — August 13, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

  5. Thanks much for the summary, David. Very useful.

    Comment by WVS — August 19, 2014 @ 2:42 am


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