Currently, a couple of seasoned Mormon scholars are working on a book collection of Mormon documents for Columbia University Press. This got me thinking: what would you say are “essential” documents in the LDS past?
A couple weeks ago, Nate O. proposed an addition to what he called “the Mormon Canon”–what he termed as “a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies.” For examples, he mentions Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology and John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement; Nate then gives his suggestion to add George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynalds v. the United States.
I want to press this issue a little more and see if we can come up with a list. I think Nate’s description of the “canon” is pretty fair, though I don’t want to limit the documents to only pamphlets and books. For example, I think Joseph Smith’s sermon, “Try the Spirits,” is one of the most significant (at least to me) discourses he gave in Nauvoo.
Off the top of my memory (I’m sure I’ll come up with more as soon as i post this), here are just a few (with links when available). If I had more time, I would write which sections of these texts I would include, as well as reasons why I chose them.
- J. Smith’s 1832 history
- O. Cowdery’s 1834-35 letters
- P. Pratt’s Voice of Warning
- J. Smith’s Wentworth Letter
- Lucy Mack Smith’s Biographical Sketches
- O. Pratt’s Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions
- J. Smith’s “Try the Spirits“
- J. Smith’s “King Follett Discourse“
- P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology
- John Taylor’s Mediaton and Atonement
As you can tell, I have a definite theological bias. (As well as a Pratt brother bias–I would have added P. Pratt’s Autobiography, but thought three from him might be too much.)
So, what would be your choices for the Mormon history canon? If this were for a document-based book, you would have to choose only selections from the texts. But, since this is just a list, you can select whole documents. They can be books, pamphlets, sermons, newspaper excerpts, letters, you name it. They can be theologically based (like mine), historically important, or just plain cool–however you justify them as important. The scriptural canon is already understood to be significant, but if you think there are specific sections that stand out (like D&C 76, 132, etc.), list them as well.
Also, I hope people will chime in with post-Nauvoo documents, because that is where I really lack in knowledge.