(I’ve closely followed Mormon history for only six years, but the previous twelve months were, by far, the strongest year in Mormon historical studies that I’ve seen yet. As always, JI is the place to be for looking at past and present scholarship in Mormon history. Besides the following recap of the 2011 year, Jared T’s perennially exhaustive “Recently Released and Forthcoming” list will appear later this week. Also make sure to check out Stapley’s Christmas Book Guide here.)
Continuing a tradition from the last two years, this post will give a quick run down of what I thought were important articles and books in Mormon history from the past 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.
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.
And finally, a bonus: for the first time, I will venture to give my vote for various MHA awards. Following the general criteria found on their website, I will name the works I thought deserving of prominent categories.
Enough with the introduction. On with the list!
All Hail Apostle Pratt!
- Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
- Gregory K. Armstrong, Matthew J. Grow, and Dennis S. Siler, Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2011).
- “Roundtable Discussion: Perspectives on Parley Pratt?s Autobiography,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 151-205.
I’m biased, but I would say that Parley Pratt is finally receiving the scholarly attention he has long deserved. Givens’s and Grow’s biography is, of course, the jewel of Pratt’s renaissance, but the articles found in both the JMH roundtable (not that I’m biased or anything, but it does include JIers Ryan T., David G., Matt B., Jared T., and myself) and the edited collection (including brilliant chapters by our own David G. and Jordan W.) are provocative in their interdisciplinary approaches. Pratt, never one to shy away from praise, is likely smiling at this recent outpouring of scholarship devoted to his life and thought.
Sam Brown Single-handedly Reorients the Study of Early Mormon Thought
- Samuel M. Brown, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (New York: Oxford University Press).
- Samuel Brown, ?The Early Mormon Chain of Belonging,? Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no 1 (Spring 2011): 1-52.
- Samuel Brown, ?Early Mormon Adoption Theology and the Mechanics of Salvation,? Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 3-52.
Mormonism and Broader Issues
- James B. Bennett, ??Until This Curse of Polygamy Is Wiped Out?: Black Methodists, White Mormons, and Constructions of Racial Identity in the Late Nineteenth Century,? Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 21, no. 2 (2011): 167-194.
- David Holland, Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
- Patrick Mason, The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Post Bellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
These volumes exemplify what I believe is the future of Mormon studies: using Mormonism as a case study to examine broader issues. We’ve had reviews of all three works (see here, here, and here), each of which garnered grand praise. The books by Holland and Mason, especially, reached immediate “must-read” status for the rising generation of Mormon scholars.
Insightful Works on Women and Gender
- Catherine A. Brekus, ?Mormon Women and the Problem of Historical Agency,? Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 2 (Spring 2011): 59-87.
- Amy Hoyt and Sara M. Patterson, ?Mormon Masculinity: Changing Gender Expectations in the Era of Transition from Polygamy to Monogamy, 1890-1920,? Gender & History 23, no. 1 (2011): 72-91.
- Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 1-85.
Important Stand-Alone Works
- Reid L. Neilson, Exhibiting Mormonism: The Latter-day Saints and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
- Jeremiah John, ?The Site of Mormon Political Theology,? Perspectives on Political Science 40 (2011): 87-96.
- Patrick Mason, “God and the People: Theodemocracy in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism,” Journal of Church and State 53, no. 4 (Autumn 2011): 349-375.
- Jonathan Stapley, ?Adoptive Sealing Ritual in Mormonism,? Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 53-118.
- Jonathan A. Stapley, ?Last Rites and the Dynamics of Mormon Liturgy,? BYU Studies 50, no. 2 (2011): 96-128.
JIers in Print
- Matthew Bowman, ?Matthew Philip Gill and Joseph Smith: The Dynamics of Mormon Schism,? Nova Religio 14, no. 3 (2011): 42-63.
- Christopher C. Jones, ?The Power and Form of Godliness: Methodist Conversion Narratives and Joseph Smith?s First Vision,? Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 2 (Spring 2011): 88-114.
- Max Mueller, “Changing Portraits of the Elect Lady: Emma Smith in Non-Mormon, RLDS, and LDS Historiography, 1933-2005,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 2 (Spring 2011): 183-214.
- Max Mueller, “Playing Jane: The History of a Pioneer Black Mormon Woman is Alive Today,” Harvard Divinity Bulletin 39, nos. 1&2 (Winter/Spring 2011), found here.
- Stephen C. Taysom, ?Approaching the First Vision Saga,? Sunstone 163 (2011): 12-22.
JIers Invade The New Republic
- Matthew Bowman, “Generation Gap: Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and the Two Very Different Strains of Mormonism they Represent“
- Matthew Bowman, “Mormonism’s Surprisingly Deep Affinity For Progressive Politics“
- Max Mueller, “Has the Mormon Church Truly Left its Race Problem Behind?“
It takes talent to published scholarly articles. It takes even more talent to translate those scholarly insights into public essays that are digestible for a general audience and still sophisticated enough for the respected periodical The New Republic. Kudos to Matt and Max, even if they’re accomplice to a broader liberal plot to destroy the Church.
- Devery S. Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011).
- Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Vol. 2: December 1841-April 1843 (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).
- Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley, and Riley Lorimer, The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2: Published Revelations (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).
- Reid Neilson, ed., In The Whirlpool: The Pre-Manifesto Letters of Wilford Woodruff to the William Atkin Family, 1885-1890 (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2011).
- Nathaniel R. Ricks, ed., ?My Candid Opinion?: The Sandwich Islands Mission Diaries of Joseph F. Smith, 1856-1857 (Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2011).
Documentary histories have always been Mormonism’s forte, and this year is no exception. Anderson’s volume on temple worship provides valuable insights into the progression of LDS theology and practice, especially the routenization of ritual. (I have a review of this volume that should be finished over the break.) Neilson’s work offers an important glimpse into a specific family’s struggles through the tumultuous 1880s, as seen through their correspondence with Wilford Woodruff. Ricks’s edited edition of Joseph F. Smith’s book is similarly fascinating and important. (See Nate’s reflections here.) And finally, the JSP team is hitting their stride with phenomenal volume, each seemingly topping the last in quality. Next year, plan on seeing the first two volumes of their History series—be very excited. They are truly setting a new standard for documentary editing, and are worth all the hype (and wait!) over the years. (And if this post were done a couple weeks later, it would likely include John S. Dinger’s The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes [Signature, 2011], which is due this month.)
Quality Edited Collections
- Newell Brighurst and Craig Foster, The Persistence of Polygamy: Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormon Polygamy, Volume 1 (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2011).
- W. Paul Reeve and Michael Scott Van Wagenen, eds., Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural in Mormon History and Folklore (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2011).
- Stephen C. Taysom, Dimensions of Faith: A Mormon Studies Reader (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011).
Dialogue’s Roundtables and, well, Dialogues
- “Finding the Presence in Mormon History: An Interview with Susanna Morrill, Richard Lyman Bushman,and Robert Orsi,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 174-187.
- Grant Underwood et. al., “A Retrospective on the Scholarship of Richard Bushman,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 1-43.
Contributions from Seasoned Scholars
- B. Carmen Hardy, “The Persistence of Polygamy,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 43-105.
- Armand L. Mauss, “Rethinking Retrenchment: Course Corrections in the Ongoing Campaign for Respectability,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 1-42.
- David Paulsen and Martin Pulido, ??A Mother There?: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,? BYU Studies 50, no. 1 (2011): 70-126.
All of these scholars (save the youthful Pulido) have published many foundational works in Mormon studies and are now retired from their respected departments. It’s commendable that they are still offering quality scholarship.
Contributions from Kofford Books
- Davis Bitton, Knowing Brother Joseph Again: Perceptions and Perspectives (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).
- Brant Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).
- Charles Harrell, This is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).
Building off of a great year where Mark Staker’s Hearken O Ye People won MHA’s best book award, Kofford Books continues to publish provocative works by insightful amateurs. And by the looks of their forthcoming page, they have ambitious plans for 2012.
My picks for a handful of MHA’s awards are as follows. (Drumroll please…)
- Best Book: Sam Brown, In Heaven as it Is on Earth
- Best Biography: Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow, Parley P. Pratt
- Best First Book: Patrick Mason, The Mormon Menace
- Best Article: Stapley and Wright, “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism” (Stapley also gets recognition for “Adoption Sealing Ritual,” which is equally deserving of the award)
- Awards of Excellence (2 Articles): Patrick Mason, “God and the People”; Chris Jones, ?The Power and Form of Godliness”
- Silver Award for Women’s History: Catherine Brekus, ?Mormon Women and the Problem of Historical Agency?
Of course, there is room to quibble on these awards. Any of the three books mentioned above, as well as Neilson’s Exhibiting Mormonism, would be worthy of “Best Book” in most years; indeed, I vacillated with my decision several times over the last two weeks. Further, there are numerous articles worthy of the article awards, so it was very tough to determine winners.
I said it above, but it is worth saying again: this was an extraordinarily strong year for Mormon history. The field is progressing in remarkable ways.