JWHA Journal 27 (2007) ? Part II

By January 10, 2008

Part II of the review examining the most recent issue of The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.  Part I is available here.

120.Jeanne Murphey, “Violence and Tragedy: Jeffrey Lundgren’s Legacy”

139.William D. Russell, “Blaming the Victim: The Miscarriage of Justice in the Case of Alice Lundgren”

In 1989, Jeffrey Lundgren, a former RLDS and self-proclaimed “last prophet” of God, convinced his small group of followers in Kirtland, Ohio to murder the Avery family, followers of Lundgren that he insisted had sinned beyond a forgivable state.  Lundgren was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. His wife, Alice, despite not being present at the murders, received a 150-year sentence for co-conspiracy of murder.  Eleven other members of his sect were also arrested.  During her time in prison, Alice Lundgren corresponded with RLS historian Bill Russell.  Drawing upon these letters, Jeanne Murphey examines the cultish characteristics of Jeffrey Lundgren in his transformation from Kirtland Temple Tour Guide and RLDS Sunday School teacher to murderous prophet.  Russell’s article argues that Alice Lundgren was unjustly tried and sentenced.  Instead of a “cold cult matriarch,” he sees her as “a woman with low self-esteem, made ever lower and lower through twenty years of abuse at the hands of her husband” that did “not approve of any murders.”

145.  Steven L. Shields, “Continuing along the Divergent Paths”

Utah Mormon-raised, returned missionary, Reorganite convert, and now Community of Christ full-time minister Steven Shields, author of Divergent Paths of the Restoration (which has gone through four updated editions, with a fifth rumored to be on the way), offers a unique perspective of the Restoration movement in this autobiographical memoir.  Shields concludes that he likes the direction the Community of Christ is headed and the message it preaches, but qualifies that by admitting that he does not recognize it as God’s one true Church.  Rather he sees “the diversity of the Latter Day Saint movement . . . [as] . . . a wonderful testimony to the incredible versatility of the work of Joseph Smith, Jr.,” and calls for ever-increasing harmony and friendly relations between all expressions of that movement (p. 151-52).  I met Shields for the first time at the JWHA Conference in Kirtland last year, and found him to be a kind, generous, and intelligent man with a great sense of humor.  I found this brief memoir a fascinating and enjoyable read with important points for all Latter Day Saints to consider.

153.Ryan Wimmer, “Islamic Taqiyya in Mormonism”

Ryan Wimmer, a fellow MA student in the history program at BYU, compares what Dallin H. Oaks called “lying for the Lord” to the Shi’ite Muslim concept of taqiyya.  In doing so, he examines numerous examples of this “justified deception” in Mormon history, including early Church leaders’ deceptive statements regarding the practice of plural marriage, Boyd K. Packer’s infamous statement to CES instructors that “some things that are true are not very useful”, Gordon B. Hinckley’s hesitancy and vagueness in answering reporters’ questions regarding man’s ability to become God, and modern LDS apologists’ tactics in answering difficult or challenging questions about church history and doctrine.  In examining Islamic teachings regarding similar practices, Wimmer provides an interesting comparison, as well as a potentially useful theoretical framework for modern Mormons to better understand the statements he discusses.

170.Richard K. Behrens, “Dreams, Visions, and Visitations: The Genesis of Mormonism”

Behrens’s article contributes to the ever-growing literature dealing with the cultural origins of Mormonism (or the cultural influences on Mormonism, depending on one’s personal views).  He focuses on Hyrum Smith’s education at Dartmouth College and Joseph Smith, Sr.’s spiritual dreams (which Behrens labels “seeker dreams”), and also briefly examines the Smith’s early association with freemasonry and revivals.  An interesting, if not extremely well-written, article.  Most helpful is the list (timeline) of revivals, dreams, and conversions of JS’s ancestors and family members leading up to the First Vision in 1820, and the family tree/connections chart detailing the relationship of JS with figures such as Oliver Cowdery, Solomon Spaulding, and Ethan Smith. 

184.  Charles Patterson Curry, “The Seesaw Shifts: The 1932 Reversal of Supreme Directional Control”

Curry discusses a significant change in the financial system of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the onset of the Great Depression.  A 1931 decision announced by President Frederick Madison Smith shifted from an expansionist approach to finances to one of “frugal operations and debt reduction” (p. 184).  In addition, the two counselors in the RLDS Presiding Bishopric were both replaced in 1931, and in 1932 one of the new counselors was called and appointed as the new Presiding Bishop.  The new Bishop, L.F.P. Curry, was given more autonomy than previous Bishops enjoyed, causing a shift in the authority of the Church President.  This is an interesting article, both in its discussion of how the RLDS Church reacted to the Great Depression, and also in its analysis of the shift in authority in the presiding hierarchies within the RLDS Church.

196.  Book Reviews

Because of the number of articles in this issue, I do not have time to give a summary of each book review.  Below is a list of the books reviewed, and the reviewers in this issue.

  • Vickie Cleverly Speek, “God Has Made Us a Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons (reviewed by John Quist)
  • Melvin C. Johnson, Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845 to 1858(reviewed by Michael Van Wagenen)
  • Speek, God Has Made Us a Kingdom, and Johnson, Polygamy on the Pedernales (reviewed by Richard E. Bennett)
  • Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (reviewed by Martha Sonntag Bradley; also reviewed by D. Michael Quinn)
  • Brian C. Hales, Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto (reviewed by William D. Russell)
  • John W. Welch, ed. The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress (reviewed by Paul M. Edwards) 
  • Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera,  eds. Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Annointed, 1842-1845: A Documentary History, and The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History (reviewed by Alma R. Blair)
  • Gregory Prince and William Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism(reviewed by Newell G. Bringhurst)
  • Mary Jane Woodger, Heart Pedals: The Personal Correspondence of David Oman McKay to Emma Ray McKay(reviewed by Lola Timmins)
  • Matthew Bolton, Apostle of the Poor: The Life and Work of Missionary and Humanitarian Charles D. Neff (reviewed by Patricia J. Gates)
  • Donald R. Moorman with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons: The Utah War (reviewed by Matthew J. Grow)
  • Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith, eds. Black and Mormon (reviewed by Patrick Q. Mason)
  • Dean L. May and Reid L. Neilson, eds., with Richard Lyman Bushman, Jan Shipps, and Thomas G. Alexander, The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years(reviewed by David J. Howlett)
  • The Collected Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lectures(reviewed by George M. Woloch) 
  • Marlene C. Kettley, Arnold K. Garr, and Craig K. Manscill, Mormon Thoroughfare: A History of the Church in Illinois, 1830-1839 (reviewed by Bill Shepard)
  • William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffrey, Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements (reviewed by Alan D. Eastman)
  • Todd W. Kerstetter, God’s Country, Uncle Sam’s Land: Faith and Conflict in the American West (reviewed by W. Paul Reeve)
  • Robert N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah, with Reply to Certain Statements by O.F. Whitney (reviewed by Gary Topping)
  • Stephen L. Prince, Gathering in Harmony: A Saga of Southern Utah Families, Their Roots and Pioneering Heritage, and the Tale of Antone Prince, Sheriff of Washington County (reviewed by Guy Bishop)
  • Craig Campbell, Images of the New Jerusalem: Latter Day Saint Faction Interpretations of Independence, Missouri (reviewed by Tom Spencer)

 Overall, a fine volume.  I understand that there are plans in the works to increase the visibility and circulation of The JWHA Journal, including an effort to make it available at more universities and libraries. 


  1. Thanks, Chris. This is really quite an expansion from 4-5 articles and an equal number of book reviews that JWHA used to put out. And they’re getting some big names to do their reviews.

    Comment by David Grua — January 10, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  2. Wow, Christopher! Thanks for the excellent, detailed reviews and thankyou for bringing these articles to the attention of your readers.

    My top perk from becoming executive director of JWHA was inheriting a complete set of the Journals. I just sat and read for a couple of months. These things are a treasure trove and it’s a real shame that they are not more widely available. Hopefully we’ll begin to correct that going forward.

    Comment by John Hamer — January 11, 2008 @ 12:36 am

  3. Since there were too many reviews for you to review (is this volume action-packed or what?) I’ll give your readers my summary of Quinn’s review of Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.

    Quinn praises Bushman, saying that RSR admits Joseph’s flaws with “astonishing candor.” Quinn suggests that the relatively unkind things Bushman has to say about Joseph “could be assembled as an anti-Mormon screed” and then he proceeds to string all the unkind things Bushman says about Joseph together.

    Having done so, Quinn admits that “it distorts the biography to lump” all the negative together, but he says that it’s necessary “to demonstrate the power” of Bushman’s work. Quinn says, “Bushman’s brilliant achievement as a faithful Mormon and rigorous scholar is to integrate all the negative perspectives with compasionate, positive, enthusiastic perspectives.”

    Quinn has three major quibbles with Bushman. I think two are quite legitimate and the other is marginal. The marginal quibble is an argument over the First Vision. Mike Marquardt has shown that a Palmyra revival was not likely in 1820 and Dan Vogel has argued that the textual evolution of the First Vision accounts show that the revival story was a later addition, where an unrelated memory was grafted onto the First Vision narrative. They are right. Bushman decides to concede the point more or less in silence. Quinn, however, disagrees; he believes passionately in an 1820 revival and is angry that Bushman caved on this point.

    The other two points are more substantive in my view. Quinn points out that Bushman seems especially keen to paint a picture of Joseph as a bibliophobe, despite all the evidence that shows that Joseph was intellectually curious and an avid reader. Quinn also correctly points out the Bushman’s treatment of polygamy is totally inadequate.

    His conclusion is that RSR will not replace Fawn Brodie, but he gives the biography a thumbs up. I do too.

    Comment by John Hamer — January 11, 2008 @ 1:39 am

  4. Thanks, Chris, for your great review! I had not had time to read many of the articles in the journal yet, and your summary alerted me to some articles that I need to read.

    Comment by David Howlett — January 11, 2008 @ 11:07 am

  5. John, thanks for the summary of Quinn’s review of RSR. With so much fine scholarship and interesting articles packed into one volume, is there any chance that with increased attention and a larger readership that the JWHA Journal might expand into a bi-annual publication?

    David Howlett, I’m glad the review was helpful.

    Comment by Christopher — January 11, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  6. Christopher: I don’t want to go the MHA route of adding extra issues because it makes membership in the society itself too expensive. We especially do not want to price students out.

    That said, we are bursting at the seems with scholarship ? and I think much of it is extremely exciting and new. We should point out that we did effectively have 2 journals last year, because in addition to the JWHA Journal itself, we published Scattering of the Saints. That volume included 16 all-original essays that could have been published in the JWHA Journal, if the Journal had needed them.

    Taking the two together, JWHA published 28 articles and 22 book reviews last year. In its 3 numbers of the Journal of Mormon History, MHA published 16 articles and 30 book reviews last year. (I.e., in sheer quantity a comparable number.)

    Going forward, it looks like we will be publishing a 2nd annual journal, but this one will be called Restoration Studies and it will be focussed on Restoration theology, religious and cultural studies. (RS was founded almost simultaneously to the JWHA Journal and had been publshed by the now defunct Temple School of the Community of Christ. Our plan is to adopt and revive it, while simultaneously expanding the focus from narrowly looking at RLDS studies to studies of the broader movement.)

    Comment by John Hamer — January 11, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  7. Chris, thank you very much for the summaries.

    Comment by Jared — January 11, 2008 @ 9:50 pm


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