In the spring of 1914, at a bi-annual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Levi Edgar Young, a relative of Brigham Young, stood at the pulpit of the Mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake City and declared that “if Dr. William James, of Harvard College, had come to Utah before he died, he would have found a society that, above all other human societies, illustrates better the theory of pragmatism, brought about by that great psychologist[,] than any other society on earth today.”  James almost had the chance to do just that-to visit Utah-having been invited by Brigham Young Academy president Benjamin Cluff to come to Provo, Utah, to lecture-an invitation James unfortunately had to decline due to his poor health.  But even though James never had the chance to see pragmatism in action in the Mormon West, he was no stranger to the faith. He had had several Mormon students at Harvard, including Levi Edgar Young, and had on one occasion dined with Benjamin Cluff during Cluff’s visit to Cambridge in 1892.
In his diary, Cluff described the conversation that took place during his dinner engagement with the renowned professor. “During the conversation,” writes Cluff,
[James] asked me to give in brief an account of the vision of Joseph Smith. After I had done so, a student-post-graduate-asked the Doctor how he would explain the vision scientifically. James replied, “On the theory of hallucination.” “Joseph Smith had a hallucination.” He then went on to say that if others had seen the angel or the plates it would have been different.” I corrected him by informing him that others, three witnesses had seen the angel and the plates and eight had seen the plates. “That changes it then”
At the end of their dinner visit, James expressed interest in obtaining a set of LDS books so that he could “read up on the subject.” “I wrote the presidency [of the LDS Church],” Cluff writes, “and they kindly sent him a full set of works.”
Since that exchange and the resulting shipment of books, Mormons have wondered if James “read up on subject” of Mormonism-and if so, how much? In 2000, BYU Studies asked Jed Woodworth, then a student at Harvard, to see if he could locate any of these Mormon books in the William James collection. Though he was unable to locate any such books in the James collection at Harvard, Jed was able to locate a couple Mormon books in the Houghton Library that had James’s name written, “in presumably his own hand,” in the inside front cover of the book. There was unfortunately, however, no underlining and no marginalia. Time restraints prevented Jed from tracking down every Mormon book at Houghton that might have James’s signature in the front; it is thus yet to be determined what use, if any, James got out of the Mormon books that were sent to him.
That James had access to Mormon books and that he had met Latter-day Saints are not the only reasons some Latter-day Saint scholars suspect James may have done some “reading up” on Mormonism. Nor is it simply because he discussed Joseph Smith and Mormonism in a few paragraphs in his Varieties of Religious Experience, though that is certainly a good reason to suspect that he may have done so. A deeper and more substantial, albeit speculative, reason, however, lies in the great resonance between James’s conception of God and the universe, as described in or implied by his writings, and that laid out by the prophet Joseph Smith. Brigham Young University Philosophy professor and Mormon theologian David Paulsen recognized as much and laid out what he saw as James’s conception of a finitistic God in his article “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and (William) James,” which asserts that James’s conception of God aligns much more closely the God of the Bible than does the absolutistic God of classical theology. Though Paulsen does not mention Joseph Smith or Mormonism in the article, to anyone familiar with Mormon theology, and especially with Paulsen’s previous writings on Mormon theology, the parallel was not difficult to divine. It was not lost on Mormon historian Richard Bushman, who referred to the piece as “stealth theology”-a strategy, Paulsen explains, that, until recently, Mormon philosophers and theologians had to resort to in order to get their works published in reputable academic journals outside of Mormon circles. Nor was it lost on Evangelical apologist Carl Mosser, who warned readers to not be deceived by the title-that the article was really outlining the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph Smith. Paulsen of course did not deny that it did; to him, the two are one and the same.
(continued in Part II)
 Levi Edgar Young, in Conference Report, April 1914, 118.
 William James to Benjamin Cluff, Cambridge, Mass., March 4, 1902; Benjamin Cluff Presidential Papers, Box 8, fd. 4, item 4, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (hereafter BYU Special Collections).
 Benjamin Cluff, Jr., Diaries, 1881-1909, box 1, fd. 2, vol. 2, 1886-1903, pp. 139-40; BYU Special Collections. The entry is dated 1894; Cluff indicates that he had not written for the past few years and was reviewing important events that had taken place. He attended dinner at James’s invitation with Latter-day Saint student Richard Shipp. A list of the books sent to James was apparently indicated in the letter exchange between Cluff and the First Presidency. A note in his diary indicates that Cluff had or had intended to attach the letter in his journal, but it in not longer there and is apparently housed in another collection. Jed Woodworth recalls see the letter. I thank Jed and David Paulsen for making me aware of this entry.
 Jed Woodworth to Stanley Thayne, personal email sent November 5, 2007. Jed indicated that the James collection was not all kept intact; beside those kept together in the collection, some of his books were sold, some given to friends, and some were placed on the shelves in the Harvard libraries. The Mormon books apparently fall into this category. Jed also poses the thesis-correctly so, I believe-that this conversation with Cluff becomes the basis for James’s explanation of Joseph Smith’s vision in Varieties of Religious Experience.
 Class lectures from Paulsen’s course on William James, Brigham Young University, Fall 2007.
 See David L. Paulsen, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph Smith: Defending the Faith,” FAIR