Mormon History Journals Roundup, Spring 2013

By April 23, 2013

Though the weather refuses to acknowledge it, at least here in New England, spring has arrived. Among other things, this typically means new issues from academic journals. And since we are your trusted friends and colleagues here at the JI, and we hate to see you get bogged down and fall behind the ever-proceeding deluge of Mormon historical scholarship, we have a roundup of recent articles that deserve your attention.

Dialogue SpringThe Spring issue of Dialogue, available to subscribers here, has two articles of note for historians. The first is by Ken Cannon, who has recently established a reputation for strong archival work and narrative skill, titled, “‘And Now it is the Mormons’: The Magazine Crusade Against the Mormon Church, 1910-1911.” Cannon introduces us to several writers, and their representative ideologies, who were worried of creeping Mormon influence in American political affairs. More than just an important tale in Mormonism’s contested relationship with American culture, this article offers a glimpse into the religious and political thought of various participants in American print culture during the progressive era. The second article, by Samuel Weber, is a historical overview and analysis of one of Mormonism’s most quixotic practices: ritual cursing. Titled “‘Shake Off the Dust of Thy Feet’: The Rise and Fall of Mormon Ritual Cursing,” it is an important contribution to the growing field of Mormon ritual history, and adds details to both the lived experience and mental world of the LDS faithful over a broad swath of time.

There are also two noteworthy book reviews. Our own J Stapley gives a favorable review of the first two “Journals” volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers, saying that their “level of professionalized precision…flirts with the incredible.” Laurie Maffley-Kipp also reviews Sam Brown’s excellent, and award-winning, book on Joseph Smith and early Mormon death culture. “A remarkably deft work of scholarship,” LMK calls it, and though she disagrees with some of Sam’s explanations concerning polygamy and his presentation of JS’s theology as too systematic and coherent, she concludes that it “is surely compulory reading for any student of U.S. religious life in this period.” High praise, indeed!

COVER-Spring2011.5Now, moving on to Journal of Mormon History. Since it is the Spring issue, it includes both the Presidential Address (Richard Jensen, “Mr. Samuelsen Goes to Copenhagen: The First Mormon Member of a National Parliament”) and the Tanner Lecture (David Marshall, “The Latter-day Saints, the Doughnut, and Post-Christian Canada”), both of which are important works. It also features the farewell address of Marlin K. Jensen (“Minding the House of Church History: Reflections of a Church Historian at the End of His Time”), who is probably enjoying much more time on his farm nowadays. Steven Shields, long-time historian of Mormonism’s many branches, gives an intriguing update on how the Community of Christ views the purpose, nature, and importance of “mission” in “Community of Christ’s Evolving Approach to Mission.”

Of special note are two thoughtful and provocative articles from young scholars. From Katherine Sarah Massoth, a PhD student in history at the University of Iowa, we get “Writing an Honorable Rembrance: Nineteenth-Century LDS Women’s Autobiography,” which is a great analysis of how Mormon women born in the early- to mid-19th century used autobiographical writings to situate themselves within the Mormon movement. This is a smart blend of close literary reading and careful cultural context, and provides many important insights for both the history of Mormonism as well as the history of women’s religiosity. Second, Russell Stevenson has a long(, long!) article on “‘A Negro Preacher’: The Worlds of Elijah Ables,” which reconstructs the various contexts in which the increasingly prominent historical figure lived. From my understanding, this article will also be available as a stand-alone self-published book, so keep your eye out for it.

Also in the issue is a positive review of the JSP Histories, Volume 2, by our own Brett Dowdle and JI’s friend Sam Brown, a review of Fluhman’s A Peculiar People: Anti-mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America by yours truly, and a very thoughtful review of Brant Gardner’s The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy.

BYUSQ SpringAnd finally, there is a new issue of BYU Studies Quarterly. Included here is JSP Legal Series Editor Jeffery Walker’s “Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteeth-Century Mormonism: Joseph Smith’s Legal Bulwark for Personal Freedom,” which is exhaustive in research, judicious in analysis, and detailed like a legal brief. JI’s good friend (and increasingly prolific!) Lisa Olsen Tait wrote a very thoughtful and important article, “The 1890s Mormon Culture of Letters and the Post-Manifesto Marriage Crisis: A New Approach to Home Literature,” which is an important reconsideration of a traditional trope and genre in Mormon literary history. And there is also a fascinating article by Scott Partridge, “Two Early Missionaries in Hawaii: Mercy Partrige Whitney and Edward Partridge Jr.,” which looks at relatives who, though of different faiths, serve missions to Hawaii and compete for converts; it is a very interesting look at religious pluralism and competition in a foreign setting.

Historical book reviews include positive appraisals of John Turner’s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet by Tom Alexander, Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Tod Harris, our own Steve Taysom’s Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries by Matthew Grow, and the edited collection Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore by Curtis Ashton. All in all, a solid volume from BYUSQ.

Anything stand out to you, dear readers, in these recent issues? What else did I miss?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks, Ben. I esp. appreciate this right now since I have such limited time for reading Mormon studies stuff right now.

    Comment by Robert C. — April 23, 2013 @ 10:14 am

  2. Great, more stuff to add to my “to read” list! I look forward to diving into a lot of this scholarship.

    Comment by Saskia — April 23, 2013 @ 10:23 am

  3. Thanks for the overview.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — April 23, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

  4. Thanks for the info.
    First we had a piece on dusting the feet in the latest IJMS and now another in Dialogue. Has anyone read both of them and could say something about how their approaches differ?

    Comment by Niklas — April 24, 2013 @ 1:17 am

  5. Thanks for the roundup, Ben. Like others, I haven’t had a chance to read several of these articles yet and very much appreciate the summaries.

    Comment by Christopher — April 25, 2013 @ 9:35 pm


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