Previewing 2019: Looking Ahead to Forthcoming Books in Mormon History/Studies

By December 10, 2018

Every year I look forward to seeing which books will be published (you can read my recap of the best books and articles of 2018 HERE). The list isn’t comprehensive—many books don’t have listings on press websites quite yet. Nevertheless, I hope that I’ve highlighted many of the books Mormon historians are anxiously waiting to have their hands on in the next twelve months. All quotations are from the Press’s website (when available) and all links are to the publisher’s website (where available).

University of North Carolina Press

  • David Walker, Railroading Religion: Mormons, Tourists, and the Corporate Spirit of the West [Fall 2019]

Oxford University Press

  • Quincy Newell, Your Sister in the Gospel: The Life of JaneManning James, a Nineteenth-Century Black Mormon [April 2019]
    • “Dear Brother,” Jane Manning James wrote to Joseph F. Smith in 1903, “I take this opportunity of writing to ask you if I can get my endowments and also finish the work I have begun for my dead…. Your sister in the Gospel, Jane E. James.” A faithful Latter-day Saint since her conversion sixty years earlier, James had made this request several times before, to no avail, and this time she would be just as unsuccessful, even though most Latter-day Saints were allowed to participate in the endowment ritual in the temple as a matter of course. James,unlike most Mormons, was black. For that reason, she was barred from performing the temple rituals that Latter-day Saints believe are necessary to reach the highest degrees of glory after death.
      A free black woman from Connecticut, James positioned herself at the center of LDS history with uncanny precision. After her conversion, she traveled with her family and other converts from the region to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the LDS church was then based. There, she took a job as a servant in the home of Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of the LDS church. When Smith was killed in 1844, Jane found employment as a servant in Brigham Young’s home. These positions placed Jane in proximity to Mormonism’s most powerful figures, but did not protect her from the church’s racially discriminatory policies. Nevertheless, she remained a faithful member until her death in 1908.
      Your Sister in the Gospel is the first scholarly biography of Jane Manning James or, for that matter, any black Mormon. Quincy D. Newell chronicles the life of this remarkable yet largely unknown figure and reveals why James’s story changes our understanding of American history.
  • Jana Riess, The Next Mormons: How Millennials are Changing the LDS Church     [March 2019]
    • American Millennials–the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s–have been leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. For a long time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an exception: nearly three-quarters of people who grew up Mormon stayed that way into adulthood. In The Next Mormons, Jana Riess demonstrates that things are starting to change.
      Drawing on a large-scale national study of four generations of current and former Mormons as well as dozens of in-depth personal interviews, Riess explores the religious beliefs and behaviors of young adult Mormons, finding that while their levels of belief remain strong,their institutional loyalties are less certain than their parents’ and grandparents’. For a growing number of Millennials, the tensions between the Church’s conservative ideals and their generation’s commitment to individualism and pluralism prove too high, causing them to leave the faith-often experiencing deep personal anguish in the process. Those who remain within the fold are attempting to carefully balance the Church’s strong emphasis on the traditional family with their generation’s more inclusive definition that celebrates same-sex couples and women’s equality. Mormon families are changing too. More Mormons are remaining single, parents are having fewer children, and more women are working outside the home than a generation ago.
      The Next Mormons offers a portrait of a generation navigating between traditional religion and a rapidly changing culture.
  • Larry E. Morris, A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon
    • The story of the creation of the Book of Mormon has been told many times, and often ridiculed. A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon presents and examines the primary sources surrounding the origin of the foundational text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the most successful new religion of modern times.
      The scores of documents transcribed and annotated in this book include family histories, journal entries, letters,affidavits, reminiscences, interviews, newspaper articles, and book extracts,as well as revelations dictated in the name of God. From these texts emerges the captivating story of what happened (and what was believed or rumored to have happened) between September 1823-when the seventeen-year-old farm boy Joseph Smith announced that an angel of God had directed him to an ancient book inscribed on gold plates-and March 1830, when the Book of Mormon was first published. By compiling for the first time a substantial collection of both first- and secondhand accounts relevant to the inception of the divine revelation-or clever fraud-that launched a new world religion, A Documentary History makes a significant contribution to the rapidly growing field of Mormon Studies.
  • Terryl L. Givens with Brian Hauglid, The Pearl of Greatest Price:Mormonism’s Beleaguered Scripture

Signature Books

  • Harvard S. Heath, ed., Confidence amid Change: The Presidential Diaries of David O. McKay, 1951-1970 [January 2019]
    • Charismatic and a polished public speaker, LDS President David O. McKay instilled devotion in church members around the globe.An avowed optimist, he maintained a lifelong “faith in mankind; they are God’s children.” His desire to share the Mormon gospel coincided with a deep need to protect the church from outside social pressures, leading him to adopt a nuanced yet politically conservative public image. Though his genial personality aided him in unifying church leadership, McKay’s dislike of interpersonal conflict allowed strong-willed colleagues to sometimes overshadow him. His personally disagreed with apostle Ezra Taft Benson’s advocacy for the right-wing John Birch society, while allowing Benson and others to promote an extremely conservative political agenda in religious settings. Similar hesitancy existed in McKay’s failure to life the priesthood and temple ban against black Mormons. Governing during the height of the Civil Rights movement, he never fully reconciled his belief in human spiritual equality with the racial tensions of his era. The voice of his dedicated secretary Clare Middlemiss often guides the diary’s narratives, revealing not only the personal musings of the church prophet but tracking the birth and development of the modern LDS Church as a social, political, and economic entity.
  • Rod Decker, Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room [March 2019]
    • From the tempestuous fight for statehood to the evolution of Utah voters from Democrats to Republicans, Rod Decker analyzes the intersection of politics and faith in the complex political culture of modern Utah. Beginning with the state’s roots as a communal theocracy, Utah Politics deftly examines how Mormon morality influenced and continues to shape conflicts on both the local and federal levels. Whether determining the role nuclear fallout played in causing cancer epidemics throughout the state or the influence of Mormon lobbyists, Decker demonstrates how the rose that blossomed in the desert was sometimes fertilized by conspiracy, debate, and political machination. Some themes reoccur: governors become popular by fighting federal oversight—signaling a lingering distrust that Washington could alter the Mormon way of life—and liberals use the court system to circumvent conservative legislatures who see public morality as a defining feature of government. Through this lens, issues both deceptively innocuous and deeply complex underscore Utah’s dance with religious freedom and civil liberty.
  • Edward Leo Lyman, Finally Statehood! Utah’s Struggles, 1849-1896 [May 2019]
    • Utah’s quest for statehood lasted longer, involved more political intrigue, and garnered more national attention than any other US territory. While Utahns—especially the Mormon population—hoped statehood would grant them increased political autonomy, the several decades of refusal by church leadership to denounce polygamy stalled even the most carefully executed political schemes. Even without the albatross of polygamy, the territory presented a unique set of challenges. Lingering distrust toward the federal government blurred the lines separating church and state. LDS leaders considered themselves anointed by God to lead the government. Officials sent from Washington to dilute Mormon control found themselves in hostile, dangerous terrain. Aware of the complexity of this fifty-year struggle, historian Edward Leo Lyman carefully traces the key figures, events, and cultural shifts leading to Utah’s admission to the Union. Utilizing an abundance of careful research, Finally Statehood! is a unique attempt to understand the state’s history on both a local and national level, with each political roadblock, religious conflict, and earnest attempt at compromise meticulously examined under the vantage of time.
  • Leonard J. Arrington, Faith & Intellect: The Lives and Contributions of Latter-day Saint Thinkers [Summer 2019]
    • Leonard J. Arrington was the foremost LDS historian of the twentieth century. He authored hundreds of articles and books,including the path-breaking Great Basin Kingdom and Brigham Young: American Moses. During the 1970s, he served as the first academically trained official historian of the LDS Church and is widely recognized as the father of the New Mormon History. At the time of his death in 1999, he had completed his final work, a celebration of faith and intellect in the lives of Latter-day Saints, here published for the first time.
  • Christian Larsen, ed., The Ancient Order of Things: Essays on the Mormon Temple  [Fall 2019]
    • From the first meetings of the Anointed Quorum in Nauvoo, Illinois, to the dedication of the LDS Salt Lake temple, to modern-day Kirtland, Ohio, The Ancient Order of Things: Essays on Mormon Temples explores the historical, cultural, and sacred significance of the latter-day temple. 
  • George D. Smith, Brigham Young, Colonizer of the American West: Diaries and Office Journals, 1832-1871[September 2019]
    • Examining Brigham Young’s legacy requires an understanding of his raw ambition and religious zeal. A formidable leader in both his church and country, Young’s abilities coincided with the colonizing zeitgeist of nineteenth-century America. Thus, by 1877, some 400 Mormon settlements spanned the Western frontier from Salt Lake City to outposts in Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, and California. As prophet of the LDS Church and governor of the proposed State of Deseret, Young led several campaigns for Utah Statehood while defending polygamy and local sovereignty. His skillful and authoritarian leadership led historian Bernard de Voto to classify him as an“American genius” responsible for turning Joseph Smith’s visions “into the seed of life.” Young’s diaries and journals reveal a man dedicated to his church,defensive of his spiritual and temporal claims to authority, and determined to create a modern Zion within the Utah desert. Editor George D. Smith’s careful organization and annotation of Young’s personal writings provide insights into the mind or Mormonism’s dynamic church leader and frontier statesman.

University of Utah Press

  • Gregory A. Prince, Gay Rights and the Mormon Church: Intended Actions, Unintended Consequences [Spring 2019]
    • The Mormon Church entered the public square on LGBT issues by joining forces with traditional-marriage proponents in Hawaii in 1993. Since then, the church has been a significant player in the ongoing saga of LGBT rights within the United States and at times has carried decisive political clout. Gregory Prince draws from over 50,000 pages of public records, private documents, and interview transcripts to capture the past half-century of the Mormon Church’s attitudes on homosexuality. Initially that principally involved only its own members, but with its entry into the Hawaiian political arena, the church signaled an intent to shape the outcome of the marriage equality battle. That involvement reached a peak in 2008 during California’s fight over Proposition 8, which many came to call the “Mormon Proposition.” In 2015, when the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, the Mormon Church turned its attention inward, declaring same-sex couples “apostates” and denying their children access to key Mormon rites of passage, including the blessing(christening) of infants and the baptism of children.
  • P. Jane Hafen and Brenden W. Rensink, Essays on American Indian and Mormon History [Spring 2019]
  • Craig S. Smith, ed., The Selected Letters of Juanita Brooks [Spring 2019]
  • Konden Smith Hansen, Frontier Religion: Mormons and America, 1857-1907 [Spring 2019]

Greg Kofford Books

University of Oklahoma Press

Cambridge University Press

  • Patrick Q. Mason, The Battles of Zion: Mormonism and Violence (Cambridge Elements Series on Religion and Violence)

University of Illinois Press

  • Matthew L. Harris, ed., Thunder From the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics [March 2019]
    • Ezra Taft Benson’s ultra-conservative vision made him one of the most polarizing leaders in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His willingness to mix religion with extreme right-wing politics troubled many. Yet his fierce defense of the traditional family, unabashed love of country, and deep knowledge of the faith endeared him to millions.In Thunder from the Right, a group of veteran Mormon scholars probes aspects of Benson’s extraordinary life. Topics include how Benson’s views influenced his actions as Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower administration; his dedication to the conservative movement, from alliances with Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society to his condemnation of the civil rights movement as a communist front; how his concept of the principle of free agency became central to Mormon theology; his advocacy of traditional gender roles as a counterbalance to liberalism; and the events and implications of Benson’s term as Church president.
      • Contributors: Gary James Bergera, Matthew Bowman, Newell G. Bringhurst, Brian Q. Cannon,Robert A. Goldberg, Matthew L. Harris, J. B. Haws, and Andrea G. Radke-Moss
  • Jake Johnson, Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America [July 2019]
    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted the vocal and theatrical traditions of American musical theater as important theological tenets. As Church membership grew, leaders saw how the genre could help define the faith and wove musical theater into many aspects of Mormon life. Jake Johnson merges the study of belonging in America with scholarship on voice and popular music to explore the surprising yet profound link between two quintessentially American institutions. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Mormons gravitated toward musicals as a common platform for transmitting political and theological ideas. Johnson sees Mormons using musical theater as a medium for theology of voice—a religious practice that suggests how vicariously voicing another person can bring one closer to godliness. This sounding,Johnson suggests, created new opportunities for living. Voice and the musical theater tradition provided a site for Mormons to negotiate their way into middle-class respectability. At the same time, musical theater became a unique expressive tool of Mormon culture.

Cornell University Press

  • Spencer W. McBride, Brent M. Rogers, and Keith A. Erekson, Latter-day Saints in American Political Culture: An Anthology [Tentatively Fall 2019]

Joseph Smith Papers Project

  •  Brent M. Rogers, Mason K. Allred, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Brett D. Dowdle, Documents,Volume 8 (February-November 1841)
  • Alex D. Smith, Christian Heimburger, and Christopher James Blythe, Documents,Volume 9 (December 1841-April 1842)

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. I look forward to this post each year. Thanks for another great preview.

    Do you know if the JST-focused volume via University of Utah Press edited by Thomas Wayment, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Michael Hubbard has been pushed out beyond the original early 2019 publication estimate?

    Comment by Kurt M. — December 10, 2018 @ 10:37 am

  2. Hello, Kurt. Our acquisitions editor says yes. It is currently out for review. Let me know if you have any more questions.


    Comment by Hannah New — December 10, 2018 @ 11:04 am

  3. If the new Givens volume is coming out next month, why can’t I find it anywhere available for pre-order? Believe me, I check on almost a daily basis for when that book will be available!

    Comment by Curtis C — December 10, 2018 @ 1:50 pm

  4. Curtis C–that was my mistake, there isn’t currently a date for the book’s release. I’ll update this post if/when Oxford has a date.

    Comment by J Stuart — December 10, 2018 @ 3:49 pm

  5. Thanks for this. I feel this way every year, but aren’t we fortunate to be students and scholars of Mormon History at a time like this?

    Comment by John Turner — December 10, 2018 @ 7:39 pm

  6. Great summary, J. Thanks for pulling all this information together.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — December 11, 2018 @ 8:07 am

  7. Thanks for doing this Joey! I’m excited for the new year!

    Comment by Hannah Jung — December 11, 2018 @ 3:21 pm

  8. Is this Lyman book on statehood a reprint of his earlier work from University of Illinois? Perhaps its updated with the George Q. Cannon journal comments among others.

    Comment by TerryH — December 13, 2018 @ 5:16 pm

  9. Nice list–thanks for putting it together. The anthology of essays on Mormon environmental history edited by Jed Rogers and myself (The Earth Will Appear as the Garden of Eden: Essays on Mormon Environmental History, University of Utah Press) will apparently be out in January (pushed back from its November 2018 release date).

    Comment by Matt Godfrey — December 27, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

  10. Thanks, Matt! We will have a review of it out this year!

    Comment by J Stuart — December 28, 2018 @ 11:16 am


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