While there is much to discuss in Helen Whitney’s currently airing documentary, I thought a reasonable background discussion would be some attempt to situate the voices that were included. I knew most, some I had never heard of. I’ll start with the ones I know, but I’m interested to hear from others what they know about the rest. Let’s not be ad hominem here, though it’s appropriate to discuss in polite terms people’s credentials as independent sources of insight. I’m assuming people know our internal heroes and leaders so won’t discuss them specifically.
Harold Bloom: immensely prominent literary critic (cut his teeth with potent and well-respected analyses of various poets) who has of late turned to cultural and religious criticism, including a 1990s treatment of American Religion that claimed that Smith was best understood as a mystic in the vein of Yahwist cults and, incidentally, suggested that if Monson were to become president, we would stop reading the Book of Mormon.
Jon Butler: Famous historian of early America who made his name with work in the late 80s and early 90s redefining the problematics of American religious history as the replacement of established European churches with more free-form Protestant denominations, always in conversation with occult/magical currents. His work (extending Keith Thomas’s work on early modern England and Leventhal’s work) paved the way for Quinn’s public fascination with occult themes in Smith’s life.
Michael Coe: mesoamerican archaeologist who has known Mormons over the years and remains flummoxed that thoughtful people could possibly ever believe in the Book of Mormon. Beyond a paper in Dialogue some years back where he stated this thesis (without much religious sophistication, just the skepticism of the professional archaeologist about the incompetence of the amateur or believing hobbyist), I’m not aware that he has any expertise in Mormonism (if he did, we’d all be announcing that the Book of Mormon is true, since he’s strictly an archaeologist).
Sarah Barringer Gordon: UPenn legal historian whose major work is a treatment of the legal and constitutional debates over polygamy in the late nineteenth-century. A sympathetic but rigorous outsider whose main focus is legal history.
Judith Freeman: descendant of early Mormons who left the church some decades ago but remains fascinated by the cultural narratives. She recently wrote a multi-perspective novel about John D. Lee, MMM, and his demise. Her background is in historical fiction, though she has done reasonably reliable research in that setting.
Will Bagley: I believe is a reporter turned independent researcher and ethnic Mormon who has been writing on MMM and feels strongly that BY ordered the trigger pull. For a time he was editing the Arthur Clark series on the Mormon Kingdom in the West.
Glen Leonard: devout LDS, worked with Leonard Arrington during Camelot (1970-1980) at LDS Archives, recently stepped down from the Museum of Church History and Art, author of the Nauvoo history, coauthor of the Story of the Latter-day Saints, and coauthor of the MMM treatment coming out this year from OUP.
Updates of relevance
Ken Clark: former CES from Idaho who apparently has been actively involved in formon websites but does not appear to have any academic credentials to speak of.
William Morain: an ethnic RLDS retired academic plastic surgeon who wrote a psychoanalytic treatment of Joseph Smith and boyhood trauma. Continues to be involved in MHA/JWHA, but as I recall was working primarily on editing plastic surgery journal recently.
Robin Lane Fox:?
Alex Baugh: BYU Church History professor.
Daniel Peterson: BYU Arabic scholar and prominent participant in FARMS and FAIR activity.
Ed Firmage Jr.: son of Ed Firmage, grandson of Hugh B. Brown, the Univ Utah law professor well known for his public positions on priesthood for women. I think Ed is an acclaimed visual artist but will confess I’m not sure.
Jana Richman: Ethnic Mormon who wrote a memoir about driving her motorcycle on the Mormon trail that received some press.
Carmon Hardy: History professor in California primarily known in Mormon circles for his work on old Mormon polygamy. He has just edited a documentary anthology of Mormon polygamy.
Richard Mouw: Head of Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical Presbyterian scholar who has been openly involved in ecumenical dialogues with Mormons.
Simon Worrall: British journalist and playwright who produced a treatment of the Hofmann forgeries/murder.
Phil Bolinger: Head of the MMM foundation, representing descendants/relatives of the victims.
Alex Caldiero: Former Catholic performance poet who converted to Mormonism.