John Turner, assistant professor of history at the University of South Alabama and contributing editor at the Religion and American History blog, asked me to post the following for him. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
I’m currently designing a course on the American West in the 19th Century. I’m going to divide the course into several units, one of which will be Utah and Mormonism.
I’m struggling to select a book that would provide an engaging introduction to Mormonism for my students. In all likelihood, none of them will be Latter-day Saints, many will simultaneously have negative conceptions of Mormonism and know almost nothing about it, and most cannot handle books that are too analytically complex or obscure.
I would love to assign some of the books on early Mormonism that I like, such as Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith (too long and at times too complex) or Terryl Givens on the Book of Mormon.
I’m hoping that some of you Juvenile Instructor bloggers and readers can provide some suggestions. What is a good introduction to Mormonism for college students? It need not provide a comprehensive history of the church but needs to be accessible and interesting.
I should also mention here that John is currently working on research examining the influence of Methodism on the religiosity of Brigham Young. His initial research (“Nothing But Morals”: Brigham Young, Frontier Methodism, and Early Mormon Conversions) was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History. I’ve read portions of his research thus far, and it promises to be an excellent and important contribution to the literature on Brigham Young. In addition, John’s first book was recently published by the University of North Carolina Press (2008). Entitled Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America, it’s a fascinating journey into the world of 20th-century evangelical parachurch organizations.