The Journal of Mormon History 35:3 (Summer 2009), Part 2

By September 5, 2009

Continued from Part 1.

JMH Summer 2009 Cover

The next article by Koden R. Smith is entitled, ?The Reed Smoot Hearings and the Theology of Politics: Perceiving an ?American? Identity.? There is a lot of interesting stuff here, but in short, Smith?s article uses the Smoot hearings to demonstrate a shift in ?the changing role of religion in American public life, particularly in the waning of denominational influence in that life?the Smoot case demonstrates not only a ?coming of age? for the Mormon Church, but simultaneously, one for the American republic.?

Next, William Hartley?s ?Letters and Mail Between Kirtland and Independence: A Mormon Postal History, 1831-33? discusses the nature of the US Postal service in the period and region under examination.  It examines mail delivery time, letter covers, addresses, seals, postage cost, pens and ink, packages, newspaper mailing and hand delivery in letters between Kirtland and Independence. Harley uses these points to illustrate the challenges of communication between the Church?s leadership in Kirtland and local leaders in Independence during the Jackson County crisis.  With lag times of three to four weeks, fresh information and much needed answers to pressing questions during the Jackson County difficulties were in short supply. Often answers and new questions (which rendered the en-route answers outdated) passed each other in the mail. Sometimes apparently lost letters led leaders in Independence to wonder if leaders in Kirtland were keeping back crucial information. Overall an interesting piece that adds depth to our understanding of the Jackson County expulsion.

Next is a wonderful roundtable, ?What We Will Do Now That New Mormon History is Old: A Roundtable,? coordinated by Keith Erekson. After a 2007 discussion of a Jan ShippsRichard Bushman exchange, Erekson invited 9 young scholars (including our own Matt Bowman) to share their thoughts. ?The responses that follow address strengths of the field, glaring omissions, pet peeves, hopes, lines of research, and personal connections. Some common themes arise?such as the need for context and theoretical framing?but the individual authors nevertheless recommend different approaches and solutions to the problems at hand.?  Those participating are Keith Erekson, Rachel Cope, David Howlett, Megan Sanborn Jones, Matt Bowman, J. Spencer Fluhman, Lisa Olsen Tait, W. Paul Reeve, Amy Harris, and Patrick Polk. ?In publishing the discussion here, we invite the conversation to continue on blogs, at conferences, and in scholarly publications by all who, like us, find the future of Mormon history to be an exciting, relevant, and significant topic.? For space and time, I will not offer a summary of each contribution, but encourage all to read this excellent group of ruminations. In the near future, there will be more on this roundtable here at the JI.

Finally, William Shepard?s ?Wingfield Watson: A Midwest Visit, 1908.? Shepard provides an interesting narrative of the life of Wingfield Watson, a convert to Utah Mormonism who coincidentally met up with a Strangite elder before he could move to Utah. He converted to Strangism and after the death of Strang, ?Wingfield emerged as the glue that held the Strangite remnant together? as others gravitated to the emerging Reorganization. Shepard provides an edit of an interesting letter Watson wrote regarding a 1908 trip to Nauvoo and Missouri sites to visit scattered Strangites. He also describes, among other things, the Danielsen Plow Company, ?which had been organized in the mid-1880s in Logan, Utah? which served to bring some LDS (Brighamite) families to Independence (Shepard calls it a ?quiet return?).

Book Reviews

First is my review of S. Michael Tracy?s Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again. A lengthier version of that review first appeared here at the JI.  In brief, I feel the book, though possessing some redeeming qualities, largely fails to achieve what it sets out to.

Next comes Joe Geisner?s review of William P. MacKinnon?s At Sword?s Point, Part 1. Joe calls it a ?page-turning documentary history? and reports that the book clarifies some myths associated with the Utah War and presents many important and often previously unpublished documents that shed light on the origins and conduct of the Utah War.

Next, Dawn Hall Anderson and Dlora Hall Dalton review Alissa York?s fictional Effigy, which ?is an eerie and unsettling tale of a polygamous household in 1867 in Utah?s Tooele Valley.?  Inspired by contemporary stories of modern polygamists, York demonstrates some familiarity with Mormon history, but Anderson and Dalton ultimately conclude that ?Such ax-grinding fiction makes unpleasant reading.?

Next, George D. Smith reviews Val D. Rust?s Radical Origins. According to Smith, Rust ?discovered that the colonial ancestors of a substantial number of early Mormon converts belonged to communities of Anabaptists and other radical Christians.? Rust, though agreeing with John Brooke that ?Mormon cosmology?had deep roots in the American colonial experience,? states that instead of hermeticism, these roots involved radical Christianity.

Finally, Keith Erekson reviews new JMH editor Martha Taysom?s 1998 ?Glory is a-Comin? Soon?: A History of Mormonism in Indiana. Erekson has a lot of positive comments for the book saying, ?Grounded in New Mormon History, this book?and its reception?just might provide a glimpse into the future of our craft. Whereas New Mormon History focused excessively on the nineteenth century, Taysom?s work finds its strength in the twentieth; while the former produced studies of territorial Utah communities, Taysom has identified a distinctive community in the Midwest.? Employing the ?center?/?periphery? model, Taysom explores ?the culture of Mormonism in Indiana.?

Book Notice

The notice is for Christopher Bigelow?s The Timechart History of Mormonism: From Premortality to the Present, which is a behemoth yards long timechart with other pages of interesting facts about everything from Temples to Mormon Periodicals.

From the revamped cover to a number of solid pieces, this latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History has a lot to offer.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Jared, thanks. What can you tell us about Koden R. Smith? What’s his background/academic training? Does he provide much beyond what Flake does in her book?

    Comment by David G. — September 5, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  2. That should be Konden Smith, who is a PhD candidate at ASU in Religious Studies. He had another article in JMH in the last year or so on Mormonism at the Columbia World Exposition of 1893.

    Comment by Christopher — September 5, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  3. And thanks, Jared, for the thorough review. My copy finally arrived in the mail this week, and I read through Zachary Jones’s article and also the roundtable, and really thought both were excellent. It was also fun to see your review of Tracy in print.

    Comment by Christopher — September 5, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  4. Thanks, Chris.

    Comment by David G. — September 5, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  5. What’s up with JMH reviewing old books?

    Comment by Steve Fleming — September 5, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  6. Thanks Chris and David.

    On difference between Flake and Smith, it seems that Smith is using the Smoot episode to talk about the waning of Evangelical influence in the Progressive era. Revisiting Flake’s Epilogue, she is focused more on how Mormons had to give up polygamy to enter the Christian world and how the Christian world had to carve out some space for the Mormons, but doesn’t touch much on the general decline of the Christian sphere Mormons were trying to get into.

    That’s what most immediately sticks out, but there is overlap talking about Mormons becoming “American” and what it meant to be “American”.

    Steve, though it’s not explicitly stated, it’s likely this one was due to the fact that the author is now the JMH editor. “Though Martha will be the editor when this review appears in print, I undertook this review at the invitation fo Lavina and outgoing review editor Tom Kimball, who overrode Martha’s initial demurrer.”

    Comment by Jared T — September 5, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  7. Jared, any insight into why they reviewed Rust’s Radical Origins, though? It’s 5 years old now.

    Comment by Christopher — September 5, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  8. Ah,yes, that’s right. No, but my guess is that George signed up for it and was just busy getting his own book written to do the review until probably last year…so, published 2004, sign up for it in 2005, get it submitted late 2008, published mid 2009. That’s my guess, but who knows.

    Comment by Jared T — September 5, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  9. Thanks, Jared. That makes sense.

    Comment by David G. — September 5, 2009 @ 3:05 pm


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