A thoughtful young person approached me at church the other day, curious about the Journal of Discourses, and through them the rest of nineteenth-century Mormonism. I had recently shared with him an historical essay I wrote on Smithian Mormonism, and he was curious to read more. He asked for advice about how to orient himself to the world of nineteenth-century Mormonism, and I realized that it’s been two decades since I immersed myself in the literature surrounding the world of early Mormonism and that I have probably lost the capacity to understand that first transition into broader awareness of historical contexts. When a non-Mormon asks, I tend to nod toward Remini’s Penguin Lives of JSJ and Bloom’s American Religion. When a Mormon asks, I have tended to recommend Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling and Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon. I have specifically in mind not graduate students or undergrads eyeing a possible academic career, but good, thoughtful, faithful LDS curious about their spiritual ancestors but not satisfied with the mid-twentieth-century view expounded in many church manuals of that era (which continues in some respects to the present day). What do people think are the key articles or books for that specific group? Those of you BCConsentists who are not as nerdy as our dear friends at JuvInst, what books or articles have been important to you?
And with respect and affection for friends, peers, and coreligionists who have disaffiliated or are in the process of disaffiliation from the LDS Church, I wish you Godspeed in your life and faith walks, but today I am interested in materials that will meet the needs of those who wish to remain believing, practicing LDS over the long term.