BYU Studies 46/1 (2007)

The latest BYU Studies is out. I thought I’d try to describe the contents for those of you who may be interested:

1. This issue begis with George S. Tate, “‘The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead’: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138.” [Take note, smb!] Tate is a medievalist at BYU, but he has long had a deep, personal interest in WWI. In preparing a course for London Study Abroad, he happened to turn to D&C 138, and he noticed the date: October 3, 1918. So he reread it in the context of the events regarding death at that time: JFS’s own personal experience with death, including the death of his beloved son Hyrum, the Great War [on the first day of the battle of Somme, on a 14-mile segment of the front, the British suffered over 60,000 casualties–more than one per second of daylight–which remains the deadliest day in British military history], and the influenza pandemic, which actually took more lives than the war had. I had never thought about reading the vision of the redemption of the dead in the context of such profound preoccupation with death; it really does make the revelation come alive.

[I never had Tate for a class, but I took a course once with John Hall that he treated like a graduate seminar, and we had to write papers and then orally defend them before Professors Hall, Tate and Thomas Mackay. I recall Todd Compton was in that class with me. It was very intimidating, of course, but it was also a very good and educational experience.]

2. Next is G. Wesley Johnson and Marian Ashby Johnson, “On the Trail of the Twentieth-Century Mormon Outmigration.” This is a description of the Mormon Outmigration Leadership History Project, sponsored by the Marriott School of Management. This is an ongoing study of the outmigration of Mormons from the Mormon corridor in the 20th century, and includes a database of detailed personal interviews (over 500 so far), focused on 20 key cities in the US (from Seattle in the west to Boston in the east). The article goes over some of the preliminary findings of the study and concludes with three sample biographies taken from the database.

[I read this article with great interest, as I am personally a result of such outmigration. My parents were both from southern Idaho, but they moved to northern Illinois when my dad became a professor at NIU. We went back to Utah every year to visit relatives, and there was a certain longing for the west, but my dad would have had to take a massive pay cut to go teach at BYU, so he never went back west. Although my mom moved back to Utah after my dad died, I consider Illinois to be my home now.]

3. Fred E. Woods, “‘I Long to Breathe the Mountain Air of Zion’s Peaceful Home’: Agnes O’Neal’s Letter to Brigham Young from War-Torn Virginia.” This is a documentary reproduction of a truly heart-wrending letter a woman wrote to BY on February 4, 1863. Agnes was from Scotland and, with her husband and three sons, tried to join the Saints at Nauvoo, crossing the Atlantic in the fall of 1845. They never made it to the Saints and were delayed for years in St. Louis. After her husband died, Agnes remarried a non-LDS man and moved east to Virginia. There, from the midst of the war, she wrote a letter to BY pleading for fellowship with the desert Saints. It is really quite touching. She would never make it to Utah, and we have no record that BY ever responded to her letter (if indeed he even received it).

4. Jordan Watkins and Steven C. Harper, “‘It Seems That All Nature Mourns”: Sally Randall’s Response to the Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.” This is an important letter written by a woman from Nauvoo on July 1, 1844, just days after the martyrdom (and thus not a later reminiscence as so many accounts are). She reflects remarkably detailed knowledge of the events that led up to the murders and the murders themselves. The letter was obtained in an interesting way. In 1962, a missionary named James Nowa was serving in the Northern States Mission, headquartered in Chicago. While tracting in the western suburbs [I live in a northwestern suburb], they tracted out a sister member. She said she had just received an Improvement Era that had been misdirected to her and should have gone a block or so away, so the elders agreed to deliver it to its rightful owner. They were invited in to the other house. The subscription belonged to the father of the occupant, who used to live in Utah and was friendly with the Mormons, but was not a member himself. To keep abreast of the doings there he subscribed to the Era. This man was a doctor and used to buy old trunks of books at estate sales, and one of the trunks he purchased had Sally’s original letter in it, and that is how this particular letter came to light.

5. Roger Terry, “God Works in Mysterious Ways.” An interesting reminscence of a missionary experience from Germany. It has a twist of an ending, so I don’t want to spoil it for you by saying too much about it.

6. Material on the poetry of Dixie Partridge.

7. Daryl R. Hague, “Pandemonium.” This is a review essay on Doublas J. Robinson, Who Translates? Translator Subjectivities beyond Reason, and applying the ideas to the BoM.

8. Richard Y. Duerden reviews David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. The first two-thirds of the book are positive; the last portion is too derivative of secondary literature.

9. Gary P. Gillum reviews Jaroslav Pelikan, Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures through the Ages. Positive review.

10. Kent P. Jackson reviews Simcha Jacobovi i and Charles Pellegrino, The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History. Very negative review.

11. Jordan Vajda reviews Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Positive review. [Jordan is the former Dominican who converted to the Church. His (preconversion) master’s thesis on theopoeisis was published by FARMS. He now works for a hospital in Seattle.]

12. Andrea G. Radke-Moss [she must have gotten married since the last time I saw her, when she went by Radke] reviews Martha Sonntag Bradley, Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Woman, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights. Positive review. This book is all about the fight over the ERA, and in particular the battles between LDS feminists and LDS traditionalists. I remember that time, so this book sounds really interesting to me. And although I don’t know her personally, I really like Marti.

13. Armand L. Mauss reviews Claudia L. Bushman, Contemporary Mormonism: Latter-day Saints in Modern America. Positive review.


  1. Wow. A very solid issue. I’ve been meaning to do one of these for the last issue of JMH

  2. Thanks, Kevin. I will definitely look at the cultural contextualization of dc 138. the others sound great as well.

  3. One of my favorite texts in college was “Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture” by Jaroslav Pelikan. If “Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures through the Ages” (#9 on the list) is even half as good, it is an excellent book.

  4. I’m with Stapley — this looks like an excellent issue.

  5. Tanya Spackman says:

    I read part of this issue yesterday, and enjoyed all I read. For some reason, Roger Terry’s “God Works in Mysterious Ways” particularly touched me. I would recommend that essay to all.