The Latest BYU Studies

BYU Studies 45/3 (2006) just arrived in the mail yesterday. It has a lot of interesting stuff in it and is well worth a look. I note in particular the following:

1. There is an article reexamining the story about the three 18-year old boys who carried emigrants across the Sweetwater River. Most of us, myself included, have had a simplistic view of this event, based on the account of Solomon Kimball as published in the Improvement Era in 1914. But there are other sources available, and the events of that day were somewhat different than what most of us have assumed. The findings of this article are suggested by the following passage:

The evidence indicates that more than three rescuers braved the icy water that day. Of those positively identified as being involved in the Sweetwater crossing, none were exactly eighteen. Although these rescuers helped a great many of the handcart pioneers across the river, they carried only a portion of the company across. While some of these rescuers complained of health problems that resulted from the experience, most lived long and active lives that teriminated in deaths that cannot be definitively attributed to their exposure in the icy water that day.

The basic point of the article is that the Sweetwater passage was a story of the Martin Company rescue, not the story; but since we know more about this event than many of the other heroic sacrifices that are lost to history, it is fitting to use this event as a symbol for the larger rescue effort.

My favorite passage from these accounts is one telling of how George Grant, instead of accompanying the pioneers the half-mile to the cove, made the longer journey back to Devil’s Gate, where his father had remained, walking the two and a half miles in his “suit of ice.” Talk about vivid imagery!

2. There is a translation of an 1860 document written originally in Italian by Cardinal Reisach, entitled “Il Mormonismo nelle sue attinenze col moderno Protestantesimo” [“Mormonism in Connection with Modern Protestantism”], which first appeared in La Civilta Cattolica. Near the end of the document appears this passage:

Because it is the work of man, Mormonism will fail: if not because of American influence, then by internal schisms. It will be dissolved by its own iniquity and the monstrosity of its doctrines.

Who would have ever expected to read words like that in the pages of BYU Studies? I love the lack of defensiveness and confidence the journal shows in publishing a document like this.

3. “Copyright Laws and the 1830 Book of Mormon” looks at the legal details of the original BoM copyright. This article grew from research the author, Nathanial Wadsworth, originally undertook as a research assistant for Jack Welch.

4. “Day Seven” is an evocative poem by my old friend Michael Hicks, a professor of music at BYU. This poem won the 2006 BYU Studies poetry contest.

5. “The Family History Artworks of Valerie Atkisson” is of special interest to me because Valerie’s brother and his wife live in my stake.

6. “Transforming Swampland into Nauvoo, the City Beautiful: A Civil Engineering Perspective” talks about how they drained the swamp that was Commerce to create Nauvoo. I haven’t read this yet, but as a boy I recall the tour guides talking about the Saints “draining” the swamps, and I always wondered what that meant and how they went about actually doing that. So now I will be able to find out.

7. David Whittaker publishes a review essay on Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.

Kudos to BYU Studies for assembling such an interesting collection of studies in their latest issue of the journal.


  1. Kevin,

    The Italian document was interesting, but I think that there may be an apologetic angle to publishing it. While it shows that some people did not think Mormonism was worth much, it also stands as evidence that this interpretation was wrong. I’m not sure that it shows the kind of lack of defensiveness that you see in it.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    That may be; I haven’t actually read the document yet, just the introduction. I looked ahead near the end and saw that language and got a kick out of it.

  3. BYUS is doing some good work. I’m proud of them. Thanks for providing the eTOC service for those of us with stacks of journals drowning out pleasure reading.

  4. Tanya Spackman says:

    Due to an injury I missed church today, so I’ve been reading this issue of BYU Studies (among other things). The Sweetwater article was interesting. Pretty much all I knew was the that paragraph about the three 18-yr-olds that most people knew, so it was enlightening to get more info. I’m in the middle of the Italian article now, and am finding it quite interesting. The Mormon part is good (it might get better; I’ve just reached that part), but the ideas about America and Protestantism are quite fascinating.

  5. John Shaw says:

    The Sweetwater article should be very interesting. In my own family we have a relative who was 17 or 18 at the time, and traveled with a group of single men about the same age from England escaping the Crimean war. Accounts and records show that he left with he Willie company, and accounts tell of him with the Willie company as they ascended Rocky Ridge. The mystery for us is that the accounts of him coming into the SL Valley are with the Martin Company. We think he may have joined with the rescuers to go back and help the Martin group. I believe the more we look the more we will find many heroes from that event. Maybe some that weren’t part of the rescue party.

  6. S. P. Bailey says:

    Don’t forget the poems on pages 75 and 76. Not great, but I know the author (winks).

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