Books that Need New Editions

By December 11, 2012

Among the books in my forthcoming list for next year, there are new and expanded editions of two Mormon history classics: Terryl Givens’s Viper on the Hearth (available for preorder here) and Phil Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible (available in spring). This is great news. Both volumes were early experiments by Oxford University Press with Mormon history, and their success led the press to become the flagship academic publisher in the field. Both also made big dents in the Mormon historical community: Barlow’s nuanced the traditional understanding of how Mormons interacted with the Bible (I rely on his “selective literalism” model in much of his own work), and Givens, among other things, showed how American culture conceptualized Mormons as a distinct ethnic group as a way to avoid dealing with their theology. And finally, both works served as frontrunners and models to the current generation in Mormon studies: using Mormon examples to engage broader tensions and answer larger questions. It will be great to see both books in new, updated, and paperback editions–especially since Viper on the Hearth will finally be affordable! (I still remember shelling out $65 for a copy while an undergrad…)

Publishing new editions of older books serves several functions. First, they remind the field of their importance and introduce a new generation of scholars to essential works. Second, they make the books more accessible (Thomas Alexander’s new edition of Mormonism in Transition, though without much updating, is helpful in making the book more available, for example). Third, the books are re-introduced into major debates within the field (Viper, for instance, can be put in dialogue with the many recent books on anti-Mormonism). And finally, new editions allow the authors to revisit, revise, and expand in ways to reflect recent developments, findings, and ideas. Both of these new books will feature extended commentary that responds to scholarship since their original release, as well as bringing their analysis up to the present. I haven’t read Barlow’s new edition yet, but Givens’s final chapter has an especially provocative section on Mormonism in the media since 1990, including during the Romney campaign, and I was impressed with his sophisticated analysis. Be excited.

But this brings up a fun question: what other books in Mormon history need a new edition? What classics need to be re-introduced, revised, and expanded? These requests don’t have to be realistic–look at it more as a way to think of how classic books and the field have changed over the years. A couple that come to mind:

  1. John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire (suggested by Christopher on the backchannel). While panned at its release, recent analysis indicates we may have overlooked some of its benefits. There are certainly some major methodological flaws that should be revised, but there are also some gems that should be expanded.
  2. Marvin Hill, Quest for Refuge. I recently read through this book for the second time, and I was struck with two things: its dated framing of American pluralism on the one hand, and its impressive research and provocative thesis on the other.

What books do you think, in a perfect world, should come out in new, expanded, and revised editions?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Ehat’s “Words”–for every possible reason. Accessibility is low, sources have been excruciatingly revisited by Curtis Weber, indexing updates…

    Comment by Alex S — December 11, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  2. Pipe dreams:

    Flanders’ Nauvoo and Andrew Smith’s Bennett will never be updated, but either one would warrant it. Neither have been effectively replaced by more recent works.

    Comment by Alex S — December 11, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  3. For that matter, neither has Carthage Conspiracy. Okay, I’ll shut up now.

    Comment by Alex S — December 11, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  4. Fantastic suggestions, Alex, espeically Words. Hasn’t a new edition been like 5-6 months from release for like, well, 5-6 years?

    Comment by Ben P — December 11, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  5. I’ve been working off and on (mostly off lately) for about 7 years with Ehat to prep a new edition of Words and I still can’t tell you when it will be ready. Andrew reproofed all of the entries (I helped a little) while I’ve been working mostly on a new, more comprehensive index.

    Comment by Curtis Weber — December 11, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  6. Shipps, Mormonism: A New Religious Tradition

    Comment by John T. — December 11, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  7. Great to hear, Curtis! Keep us updated!

    Comment by Ben P — December 11, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  8. Great ideas! How about:
    M. Backman, Heavens Resound
    K. Hansen, Quest for Empire
    B. England, Orson Pratt

    Comment by Gary Bergera — December 11, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  9. Maybe I’m the only one who has had troubles with this, but why not re-release the general authority journal series from Signature? They don’t have every entry from the journals, and an expanded/digital release would allow Signature/whoever to include the entire diary. I think that the University of Utah’s model with the BH Roberts papers could be especially useful.

    Comment by J Stuart — December 11, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  10. Mormon Doctrine, Mormonism Unvailed, The Book of Mormon Reference Companion, The Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion, all the Doctrinal Commentary books, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality

    Man, there are so many! I’ll get back to you with a more comprehensive list.

    Comment by Jacob — December 11, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  11. Fun post, Ben.

    While I do think a new edition of Refiner’s Fire would be very useful, I also knew there is zero chance of it actually happening. Oh well, I’m excited about the updated editions of Givens’s and Barlow’s books.

    Comment by Christopher — December 11, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  12. interesting list going on here…
    and um, Jacob, I thought SignatureBooks were working on Mormonism Unvailed, for 2013?

    Comment by FrancisE. — December 11, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

  13. Ok, so as penance for my earlier comment (feel free to moderate that one, anyone) I’ll offer a more serious entry in Jan Shipps’ Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. It seems to me there’s some update and revision potential there after 25 years. Armand Mauss’ Angel and the Beehive as well.

    Comment by Jacob — December 11, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  14. Jacob: Thanks for including my Angel & Beehive on your list. I don’t have the stamina to do a new and revised edition in toto, but I hope readers will see my article in the Winter issue of Dialogue as at least a useful updating of this 1994 book, for the article indicates (with evidence) that the pendulum has begun to swing again toward assimilation and away from retrenchment.

    Comment by Armand Mauss — December 11, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

  15. Armand, I had thought from a while back that you were working on something by way of thinking through your earlier book. Thanks for the update.

    Comment by Jacob — December 11, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  16. Women and Authority.

    Comment by Kaimi — December 11, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  17. We could use a new edition of “Added Upon” with critical essays on Mormon fiction, representations of the plan of salvation in literature, gender roles, etc.

    Comment by BHodges — December 11, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

  18. I understand Eric Jepson is working on a critical edition of Added Upon, with accompanying essays from several contributors.

    Comment by Jacob — December 11, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

  19. Sisters in Spirit, from the next generation of scholars – as good as the original is, it’s been, well, a lifetime since it came out.

    Comment by Tona H — December 11, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

  20. Jacob, he’s doing “Dorian,” also by Nephi Anderson.

    Comment by BHodges — December 11, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

  21. How about Crowther’s “Prophecy – Key To The Future”? (Yes, I’m smiling as I typed that). But I would enjoy reading an update of “World Magic View”, “Great Basin Kingdom”, Steven Shield’s “Divergent Paths of the Restoration”, VanWagoner’s “Sidney Rigdon”, Alexander’s “Wilford Woodruff”, Paul’s book on Mormon Cosmology, Underwood’s “Millenarianism”, and many others. I know most of these either can’t or won’t happen. And I’m still waiting for the truly definitive book on all things Nauvoo.

    Comment by larryco_ — December 12, 2012 @ 6:16 am

  22. Another one that just came to mind is White’s “Mormon Neo-orthodoxy”.

    Comment by larryco_ — December 12, 2012 @ 6:48 am

  23. Signature’s multi-volume set of Wilford Woodruff’s Journals!

    Comment by unknown — December 12, 2012 @ 8:02 am

  24. FYI: Two years ago (2010) I updated my Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights in His Life and Teachings, with a 65 page epilogue, covering:
    The Eugene England letter episode; the George Pace episode (I am told Pace now struggles with dementia, but he is a wonderful man); Mormon Doctrine issues; the 1978 revelation on the priesthood (fullest account in print); dealing with antiMormonism; acquiring spiritual knowledge; some of BRM’s spiritual experiences; and his last days and death.

    Comment by Dennis Horne — December 12, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  25. Thanks for stopping by, Dennis!

    Comment by Ben P — December 12, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  26. May be a difficult undertaking considering the phenomenal insights that have been and are continually being contributed in this area, but I’d love to see a new edition of Bringhurst’s Saints, Slaves, and Blacks. Also, Lanny Britsch’s Unto the Islands of the Sea.

    Comment by Nate R. — December 12, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

  27. Mormon Enigma

    Comment by n8c — December 13, 2012 @ 10:55 pm


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