Previewing 2017: Looking Ahead to Forthcoming Books in Mormon History

By January 5, 2017

Continuing JI’s annual tradition, this book highlights some of the forthcoming books in the next calendar year. (If you missed my recap of 2016, you can read it here.) This list is not comprehensive?it?s nigh impossible to keep track of everything in the Mormon publishing world?but I hope it captures a taste of what we have in store over the next twelve months.

Please share in the comments those book I have failed to mention. Quotations come from the book’s promotional pages.


ulrichFew books have earned as much anticipation as Ulrich’s. Ulrich is one of the leading historians of early America, and is particularly known for her examination of gender, material culture, and microbiography. I previewed the book over at my personal blog, and my longer review is forthcoming in Dialogue. (You should also look forward to a roundtable review on the book in this year’s Mormon Studies Review volume.) Here is the publisher’s overview: “A stunning and sure-to-be controversial book that pieces together, through more than two dozen nineteenth-century diaries, letters, albums, minute-books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, the never-before-told story of the earliest days of the women of Mormon “plural marriage,” whose right to vote in the state of Utah was given to them by a Mormon-dominated legislature as an outgrowth of polygamy in 1870, fifty years ahead of the vote nationally ratified by Congress, and who became political actors in spite of, or because of, their marital arrangements. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, writing of this small group of Mormon women who’ve previously been seen as mere names and dates, has brilliantly reconstructed these textured, complex lives to give us a fulsome portrait of who these women were and of their “sex radicalism”–the idea that a woman should choose when and with whom to bear children.”

quinnFew historians have had a larger impact on the field of Mormon history than D. Michael Quinn. This is the third volume of his Mormon Hierarchy series, though it comes two decades after its predecessor. I’m sure it will draw attention. The promo: “Early in the twentieth century, it was possible for Latter-day Saints to have lifelong associations with businesses managed by their leaders or owned and controlled by the church itself. For example, one could purchase engagement rings from Daynes Jewelry, honeymoon at the Hotel Utah, and venture off on the Union Pacific Railroad, all partially owned and run by church apostles. Families could buy clothes at Knight Woolen Mills. The husband might work at Big Indian Copper or Bullion-Beck, Gold Chain, or Iron King mining companies. The wife could shop at Utah Cereal Food and buy sugar supplied by Amalgamated or U and I Sugar, beef from Nevada Land and Livestock, and vegetables from the Growers Market. They might take their groceries home in parcels from Utah Bag Co. They probably read the Deseret News at home under a lamp plugged into a Utah Power and Light circuit. They could take out a loan from Zion?s Co-operative and insurance from Utah Home and Fire. The apostles had a long history of community involvement in financial enterprises to the benefit of the general membership and their own economic advantage. This volume is the result of the author?s years of research into LDS financial dominance from 1830 to 2010.”

rogersPoliticians in the 1850s struggled over how to manage the American West, where questions of sovereignty, indigenous populations, immigrants, and slavery pushed the American union to its brink. This much-needed book adds Utah to that potent story. From the press: “In Unpopular Sovereignty, Brent M. Rogers invokes the case of popular sovereignty in Utah as an important contrast to the better-known slavery question in Kansas. Rogers examines the complex relationship between sovereignty and territory along three main lines of inquiry: the implementation of a republican form of government, the administration of Indian policy and Native American affairs, and gender and familial relations?all of which played an important role in the national perception of the Mormons? ability to self-govern. Utah?s status as a federal territory drew it into larger conversations about popular sovereignty and the expansion of federal power in the West. Ultimately, Rogers argues, managing sovereignty in Utah proved to have explosive and far-reaching consequences for the nation as a whole as it teetered on the brink of disunion and civil war.”

arringtonThe father of New Mormon History, Leonard Arrington has received a lot of attention—and deservedly so. Last year we received a biography, and this year we’ll receive Arrington’s own diaries. Through it all, we’ll learn that Arrington was not only an expert historian, but also an important case study in modern Mormonism. “Leonard Arrington (1917?99) was born an Idaho chicken rancher whose early interests seemed not to extend much beyond the American west. Throughout his life, he tended to project a folksy persona, although nothing was farther from the truth. He was, in fact, an intellectually oriented, academically driven young man, determined to explore the historical, economic, cultural, and religious issues of his time. After distinguishing himself at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and serving in the army during World War II in North Africa and Italy, Arrington accepted a professorship at Utah State University. In 1972 he was called as the LDS Church Historian?an office he held for ten years until, following a stormy tenure full of controversy over whether the ?New Mormon History? he championed was appropriate for the church, he was quietly released and transferred, along with the entire Church History Division, to Brigham Young University. It was hoped that this would remove the impression in people?s minds that his writings were church-approved. His personal diaries reveal a man who was firmly committed to his church, as well as to rigorous historical scholarship. His eye for detail made him an important observer of ?church headquarters culture.?

reederLast year the CHL produced one of the important document collections in Mormon women’s history with their Relief Society volume, and this is a worthy follow-up. And this time it features the hand of our own Jenny Reeder! Let’s hope the CHL continues this great tradition of reproducing crucial documents in Mormon women’s history. “At the Pulpit showcases the tradition of Latter-day Saint women’s preaching and instruction by presenting 54 speeches given from 1831 to 2016, with selections from every decade since the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The discourses, given by women both well known and obscure, represent just some of the many contributions of women to Latter-day Saint thought. In addition to being a scholarly history, At the Pulpit is intended as a resource for contemporary Latter-day Saints as they study, speak, teach, and lead. These discourses allow readers to hear the historical and contemporary voices of Latter-day Saint women–voices that resound with experience, wisdom, and authority.”

givensThis is the sequel to Given’s Wrestling the Angel, and together they comprise his two-volume history of Mormon thought. (I reviewed Volume 1 here.) “Feeding the Flock, the second volume of Terryl L. Givens’s landmark study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, traces the essential contours of Mormon practice as it developed from Joseph Smith to the present. Despite the stigmatizing fascination with its social innovations (polygamy, communalism), its stark supernaturalism (angels, gold plates, and seer stones), and its most esoteric aspects (a New World Garden of Eden, sacred undergarments), as well as its long-standing outlier status among American Protestants, Givens reminds us that Mormonism remains the most enduring–and thriving–product of the nineteenth-century’s religious upheavals and innovations. Because Mormonism is founded on a radically unconventional cosmology, based on unusual doctrines of human nature, deity, and soteriology, a history of its development cannot use conventional theological categories. Givens has structured these volumes in a way that recognizes the implicit logic of Mormon thought. The first book, Wrestling the Angel, centered on the theoretical foundations of Mormon thought and doctrine regarding God, humans, and salvation. Feeding the Flock considers Mormon practice, the authority of the institution of the church and its priesthood, forms of worship, and the function and nature of spiritual gifts in the church’s history, revealing that Mormonism is still a tradition very much in the process of formation. At once original and provocative, engaging and learned, Givens offers the most sustained account of Mormon thought and practice yet written.

  • Max Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People (Unviersity of North Carolina Press, Fall).

People should be very excited for this volume–I promise you it’s good, and brings a fresh perspective to an important topic. Plus, Max is an alumnus of JI, so his scholarship is assured quality.

masonSince Mormonism has become a popular focus in undergraduate classrooms, it makes sense that we should have more student-friendly introductions. Routledge is apparently trying to corner the the market by publishing two, each of them by respected scholars. (The Howlett/Duffy volume just appeared a couple months ago, but I’m still including it here.) Here’s the overview of the Mason volume: “What is Mormonism? A Student?s Introduction is an easy-to-read and informative overview of the religion founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. This short and lively book covers Mormonism?s history, core beliefs, rituals and devotional practices, as well as the impact on the daily lives of its followers. The book focuses on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Salt Lake City-based church that is the largest and best-known expression of Mormonism, whilst also exploring lesser known churches and sects that claim descent from Smith?s original revelations. Designed in particular for undergraduate religious studies and history students, What is Mormonism provides a reliable and easily digestible introduction to a steadily growing religion that continues to befuddle even learned observers of American religion and culture.”

howlettAnd here’s the volume for Howlett/Duffy: “Although often regarded as marginal or obscure, Mormonism is a significant American religious minority, numerically and politically. The successes and struggles of this U.S. born religion reveal much about how religion operates in U.S. society. Mormonism: The Basics introduces the teachings, practices, evolution, and internal diversity of this movement, whose cultural icons range from Mitt Romney to the Twilight saga, from young male missionaries in white shirts and ties to polygamous women in pastel prairie dresses. This is the first introductory text on Mormonism that tracks not only the mainstream LDS but also two other streams within the movement?the liberalized RLDS and the polygamous Fundamentalists?thus showing how Mormons have pursued different approaches to defining their identity and their place in society. The book addresses these questions: Are Mormons Christian, and why does it matter? How have Mormons worked out their relationship to the state? How have Mormons diverged in their thinking about gender and sexuality? How do rituals and regulations shape Mormon lives? What types of sacred spaces have Mormons created? What strategies have Mormons pursued to establish a global presence? Mormonism: The Basics is an ideal introduction for anyone wanting to understand this religion within its primarily American but increasingly globalized contexts.

johnsonWho could have enough Mountain Meadows? This two-volume edition of the legal papers related to the infamous nineteenth-century tragedy should spark new discussions. “On September 11, 1857, a group of Mormons aided by Paiute Indians brutally murdered some 120 men, women, and children traveling through a remote region of southwestern Utah. Within weeks, news of the atrocity spread across the United States. But it took until 1874?seventeen years later?before a grand jury finally issued indictments against nine of the perpetrators. Mountain Meadows Massacre chronicles the prolonged legal battle to gain justice for the victims. The editors of this two-volume collection combed public and private manuscript collections across the United States to reconstruct the complex legal proceedings that occurred in the massacre?s aftermath. The documents they unearthed, transcribed and presented here, cover a nearly forty-year history of investigation and prosecution?from the first reports of the massacre in 1857 to the dismissal of the last indictment against a perpetrator in 1896. Volume 1 tells the first half of the story: the records of the investigations into the massacre and transcriptions of all nine indictments, eight of which never resulted in a trial conviction. Volume 2 details the legal proceedings against the one man indicted to go to trial, John D. Lee. The editors have made the extensive transcripts of Lee?s trials available at their accompanying website, Lee?s trials led to his confession and conviction, and ultimately to his execution on the massacre site in 1877, all documented here in Volume 2. Historians have long debated the circumstances surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre, one of the most disturbing and controversial events in American history, and painful questions linger to this day. This invaluable, exhaustively researched collection allows readers the opportunity to form their own conclusions about the forces behind this dark moment in western U.S. history.

neilson“The Mormons had just arrived in Utah after their 1,300-mile exodus across the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains. Food was scarce, the climate shocking in its extremes, and local Indian bands uneasy. Despite the challenges, Brigham Young and his counselors in the First Presidency sent church members out to establish footholds throughout the Great Basin. But the church leaders felt they had a commission to do more than simply establish Zion in the wilderness; they had to invite the nations to come up to “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” In these critical early years, when survival in Utah was precarious, missionaries were sent to every inhabited continent. The 14 general epistles, sent out from the First Presidency from 1849 to 1856, provide invaluable perspectives on the events of Mormon history as they unfolded during this complex transitional time. Woven into each epistle are missionary calls and reports from the field, giving the Mormons a glimpse of the wider world far beyond their isolated home. At times, the epistles are a surprising mixture of soaring doctrinal expositions and mundane lists of items needed in Salt Lake City, such as shoe leather and nails. Settling the Valley, Proclaiming the Gospel collects the 14 general epistles, with introductions that provide historical, religious, and environmental contexts for the letters, including how they fit into the Christian epistolary tradition by which they were inspired.”

anderson“Ministerial training was an early goal of Mormonism. The priesthood-led institution called the School of the Prophets, established in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833, was basically a divinity school for prospective missionaries. However, topics of study included, instead of prophecy and revelation, penmanship, English grammar, arithmetic, philosophy, literature, government, geography, and history. For seven weeks there was even a course in Hebrew, but it was discontinued. Still, it was in this setting that Joseph Smith received his revelation on diet and health and some of the spiritual manifestations associated with the Kirtland temple dedication. Brigham Young re-established the school in the Salt Lake Valley in 1867; his successor, John Taylor, resuscitated it for a while in 1883. Young?s emphasis was theology, first as an appendage to Deseret University, and then as a separate institution. Presented here for the first time are all available minutes for the Utah period.”

  • Rogers, Brent M., Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Christian K. Heimburger, Max H Parkin, Alexander L. Baugh, and Steven C. Harper, eds. Documents, Volume 5: October 1835?January 1838. Vol. 5 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian?s Press, 2017. [Expected on-shelf date: May 15, 2017]
  • Ashurst-McGee, Mark, David W. Grua, Elizabeth Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink, eds. Documents, Volume 6: February 1838?August 1839. Vol. 6 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian?s Press, 2017. [Expected on-shelf date: September 25, 2017]

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the JSP producing more quality volumes.

  • Mattew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst, eds., The Mormon Church and its Gospel Topics Essays: The Scholarly Community Responds (University of Utah Press).
  • Matthew L. Harris, ed., Ezra Taft Benson: Mormon Apostle-President, Outspoken Conservative, and Crusading Cold Warrior (Urbana: University of Illinois Press).
  • Matthew L. Harris, ed., Ezra Taft Benson and Anticommunism: A Documentary History (University of Utah Press).
  • Matthew L. Harris, ?The Long Awaited Day?: Mormons, Blacks, and the LDS Priesthood and Temple Ban, 1945-2015 (Publisher TBA).

Until proven otherwise, I think it’s safe to assume Matt Harris is a robot. Whatever the excuse, he assures me that all this projects should be completed in the next few months and be in press by the end of the year.


Additionally, I’ve been in touch with a few presses to get a run-down of their forthcoming volumes.

Thomas Wayment sent along the following preview for books to be published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center:

  • James A. Toronto, Eric R Dursteler, and Michael W. Homer, Mormons in the Piazza: History of the Latter-day Saints in Italy. This book is already in print, but not yet in stores. We?ve been working on it for a couple of years now and the book is the best LDS history of Italy, and its scope is prodigious. I think it will represent the landmark study for Italy and Latter-day Saints for years to come.
  • Douglas D. Alder, Dixie Saints: Laborers in the Field. This book represents an excellent collection of oral histories housed at Southern Utah University and now edited for the first time by Doug Alder. I think the book has much to offer regarding the growth of the Church in southern Utah as well as highlighting the struggles of Latter-day Saints in the region. 
  • RoseAnn Benson, Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith: Two Nineteenth-Century Restorationists. This book is nearing completion and represents nearly a decade of research and collaboration on the topic. RoseAnn has spent the last years collaborating with Restoration scholars and fine tuning this book that she began compiling under the tutelage of Richard Bennett.
  • Carol Wilkinson and Cynthia Doxey Green, The Field Is White: Harvest in the Three Counties of England. This book highlights the work of the 1840 apostolic mission in England focusing on parts of the story that have been overlooked in previous publications. It digs deeply into the story and brings into the discussion journal entries and new photos.
  • Matthew Grow, ed., Council of Fifty Minutes. This book will appear in print in late 2017 and represents a collection of studies on the Council of Fifty minutes by leading LDS scholars. It is aimed at the general public to help them make sense and use of the new JSPP publication on the same topic. We anticipate that this book will be the one that most Latter-day Saints interact with when drawing upon information about the Council of Fifty. 

Loyd Ericson at Kofford Books tells me to be on the lookout for the following:


So, yeah. Should be a great year in Mormon history scholarship. If you are aware of other works that should be highlighted, please share them in the comments.

Article filed under Historiography


  1. I enjoyed your review, Ben. As always, nicely done!


    PS: I’m only part robot.

    Comment by Matt Harris — January 5, 2017 @ 7:09 am

  2. Thanks for the review Ben!

    Comment by Hannah — January 5, 2017 @ 8:45 am

  3. Aloha Pumehana!

    I just came across your article this morning on Hannah Makanoe Kaaepa. I am the great, great grandson of Hana (hawaiian) Kaaepa and live in Las Vegas today. I have records and the original Iosepa book (we call it) of our family history. Hana’s mother maiden name was Makanoe Kaluhila’au Trousseau. Makanoe was well known to the kamaaina’s of Honolulu, and one of the closest friends to the late Queen Liliuokalani whose temple work Makanoe did in the SLC temple, long before it was duplicated by well meaning LDS members. I would love to correspond and share what I have. Much aloha for researching Hana’s trip to Washington DC. I have a couple of articles on Hana’s visit, not much, but still researching.
    Note: Makanoe is buried in Iosepa, Utah. Hana is buried in Hilo cemetery, Big Island. She did have a brother and sister who lived and died in the leper colony on Molokai.

    Comment by Samuel Kaina Lowe — January 5, 2017 @ 9:59 am

  4. More likely in 2018 than in 2017 will be a collection of essays on Mormon environmental history, edited by myself and Jed Rogers and published by University of Utah Press. Contributors include Tom Alexander, Brian Cannon, Jeff Nichols, Sara Dant, Richard Francaviglia, and several up and coming scholars in the field.

    Comment by Matt Godfrey — January 6, 2017 @ 10:25 am

  5. I’ve been reading At the Pulpit in snippets for a while. It’s marvelous. People should pre-order it now for all their friends and family.[1] And I’m currently loving LTU’s book as my bedtime reading. She’s excellent. Thanks for the quick roundup.

    [1] disclosure for strangers: I’m married to one of the editors, but we get no royalties.

    Comment by smb — January 6, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

  6. Thanks for this list! My book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America, will be out next fall from Harvard University Press (exact date tbd). It’s not about Mormons exclusively, but Mormon chaplains and folks like J.W. Marriott appear throughout and play crucial roles in the argument about how the boundaries of American religion evolved through negotiation with the state over the 20th century.

    Comment by Ronit Stahl — January 9, 2017 @ 11:01 am

  7. Thanks for stopping by and plugging your book, Ronit! Very much looking forward to it.

    Comment by Ben P — January 9, 2017 @ 11:18 am

  8. Thanks, Ben. This is always a fun post that I look forward to. Have you heard much about Adam Jortner’s new book, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic (UVA press)? Jortner did a roundtable at the CHL and it looked like he had a fair amount of Mormon material in the book.

    Comment by David G. — January 9, 2017 @ 11:50 am

  9. David: I read portions of it in manuscript form, and it’s fantastic. Not too much on Mormonism, but those portions that deal with it are excellent.

    Comment by Ben P — January 9, 2017 @ 5:56 pm


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