Journal of Mormon History 33 (Fall, 2007)

And so it is that 2007 is past away and with it, the triannual publication of the JMH. Starting in 2008, JMH will be offered quarterly, much to the delight of history wonks. Further this last issue has offerings from some bloggernacle regulars. Elder Ballard would be proud.

1. Jacob W. Olmstead, “The Mormon Hierarchy and the MX.”
Some of us are not old enough to remember the Red Scare or the US’s policy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). For some time at the end of the Carter Administration and early Reagan era, there was a plan to install thousands of miles of roads in the Utah-Nevada desert and a bounty of next-generation weapons. Drawing on his BYU master’s thesis, Olmstead recounts the Church Hierarchy’s reaction and ultimate disapprobation of the plan. The author gets far deeper than any previous treatment and had what appears to be significant insider access. He repeatedly cites certain confidential informants when describing the inner workings of the Mormon Hierarchy. Good stuff.

Jan_2008_09-147-331. Matthew O. Richardson, “What E’er Thou Art, Act Well They Part: John Allen’s Albany Crecent Stone.”
We are all familiar with President McKay’s oft repeated mantra. Perhaps, some have even seen the famous and odd stone marker that catalyzed his missionary transformation away from frustration. Richardson gives the history of the marker, both as an architectural accoutrement and as a Mormon relic. The coolest part by far: the marker is a magic square. Each picture represents a number. How cool is that?! Mormonism needs more mathematic symbolism.

62. Matthew Bowman, “A Mormon Bigfoot: David Patten’s Cain and the Concept of Evil in LDS Folklore.”
Matt B., Bigfoot, Cain, Folklore. Awesome. This is a great look into the evolution of Mormon folklore and what it tells us about ourselves and our religion.

83. Elizabeth Ann Anderson, “Howard and Martha Coray: Chroniclers of the Words and Life of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Martha Coray worked on transcribing Lucy Smith’s history and Howard worked on Joseph’s. They also kept notes of some of Joseph Smith’s sermons. Anderson gives us the history of these folks and their interaction with Mormonism. It is a solid paper, but is fairly weak in the sections that outline the Corays’ accounts of various sermons of Joseph. Anderson mostly reprints and defers to Ehat and Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith, but some of her doctrinal commentary appears naïve. Further, reproduced in the Appendix is the text of Joseph Smith’s July 19, 1840 discourse as recorded by the Corays. A more complete transcript of the holograph was included in Words and Anderson did not note the qualification given in the 2nd revised edition, 1st computer edition (1996), note 1:

Not in History of the Church nor Teachings, first published by Dean C. Jessee in “Joseph Smith’s 19 July 1840 Discourse,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Spring 1979):390-94. In the first edition of Words we included this sermon in Appendix B, but for the second editon we have, despite some reservations, decided to include this sermon in the main body.

We have some cautions about the precise wording of this sermon because this record of the discourse cannot be dated earlier than 1854. Specifically, this handwritten recopying of earlier notes (notes no longer available) wraps around a tithing entry of the Coray’s that bears the date 5 September 1854. This probably accounts for the incongruity of the note that appears at the end of the record of this discourse: a note that indicates that this sermon was given on the “day the Stake of Macedonia over which Father John Smith presided was publicly appointed.” Superficially, this comment suggests a 1843 not 1840 date for the sermon: the Macedonia Stake was not organized until the fall of 1843 at the time John Smith was called as its stake president. In fact, the community’s name was only changed to Macedonia earlier in 1843: it was previously known as Ramus. On the other hand, the fact that on 14 July 1840, the First Presidency authorized the creation of the Ramus Stake (see Letter of the First Presidency in Times and Seasons, 2:222), it seems appropriate that the Prophet would have spoken on the following Sunday regarding the creation of that stake. Believing, moreover, the rule that one should not, without overwhelming evidence, dismiss a date provided in a transcript, we have chosen to ignore the ambiguous reference that previously was at the heart of our suspicions about the accuracy of the dating of this sermon. Definitely, the note about Macedonia and John Smith is a later interpolation. Similarly, language, such as the unprecedented editiorial comment which this record contains also made us question the contemporaneousness of the report: the phrase “Stretching his hand towards the place and in a melancholly tone that made all hearts tremble,” may also be a recollection by the Coray’s after they arrived in Utah and may not have been in the original notes taken down as the sermon was delivered.

To be sure, none of the records in this book are actually original notes: each author generally took notes at the time of a sermon and then transcribed them into their record afterward. Aside from the minor concerns pointed out above, the record of this sermon is not otherwise in serious dispute. Corroboration of these teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith given about this same time can be found in a letter of Orson Pratt to fellow apostle, George A. Smith. Orson was passing along information he received from his brother Parley, who may have reported items from this very sermon.

114. Stanley James Thayne, “In Harmony? Perceptions of Mormonism in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania.”
Stan is one of the wunderkinds over at the JI. This is a fascinating paper on many levels. Stan was a missionary in the Susquehanna area back in the late 1990’s and was able to tie his observations into the narrative of this historical region. He traces the region’s history from the naissance of Joseph through to the contemporary church. A lot of good stuff, including oral histories, economic history, the impact of Mormon pilgrimages, regional folklore (including a geographic curse and its symbolic effacement) and more. Makes me wish I wasn’t so clueless a missionary.

152. Susan L. Fales, “The Spirit of the Place”: The Clifford Family and the Joseph Smith Memorial Farm.”
Susan Fales is responsible for the digital archives over at BYU and because of her efforts is in the pantheon of Mormon Studies greatness. This paper is a great compliment to Stan’s in that it follows the history of one of Mormonism’s now sacred spaces. Fales is a descendant of the family that for years worked the Smith home and this is a great example of the proximity of our family history to the scholarly history of Mormonism.

There are really too many books reviewed in this issue to treat in a blog review, so I note several that will likely be of interest to our readers:

Mike Quinn reviews Edward Kimball’s Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. Very Positive Review

Gary Bergera reviews Richard Bushman’s On the Road with Joseph Smith. This is a lengthy review of a short book. Likely interesting for those that would be interested in the book.

Daniel Dwyer (Catholic Priest) reviews John Welch with Erick Carlson, eds., Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844. Positive review and some interesting commentary and comparisons from a gentile.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    They’re already going to make the switch to quarterly publication? Excellent. (I’m working on an article right now that I want to submit there.)

  2. J.: Thanks for the review. This looks like a solid issue, with articles from three excellent young scholars in Jake, Matt, and Stan.

  3. Thanks for the review. This non-subscriber would appreciate a summary of the David Patten article sometime.

  4. Agreed Kev., quarterly JMH is a great development. I’m interested in what you have brewing. Jared*, perhaps we can get Matt B. to review his article here seeing as his blog seems to be out of commission for a bit.

    I agree David, this is a nice showing for the young guns.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    J., remember when I blogged on Hebrew Translations of the BoM? And I opined that, gee, someone really ought to do a JMH article on the subject? Well, that’s what I’m working on. It has been tremendous fun and I’ve learned a lot about the subject. I will certainly submit it some time in 2008.

  6. Rock on, Kev.

  7. SC Taysom says:

    Olmstead is the man.

  8. Mark Brown says:

    In Olmstead’s article about the MX, I was really surprised to read how much access Ed Firmage had to the First Presidency and Quorum of the twelve.

  9. J —
    I love this service ByCommonConsent provides, reviewing the Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue for your readers. It would be great if I could get you to start reviewing the Journal of the John Whitmer Historical Association.

    I think the most recent issue (Vol. 27) has some new information that your readers would find fascinating. Newell Bringhurst illustrates that Joseph Smith’s legacy on race and gender was ambiguous and shows how various schismatic Mormon churches took both in radically different ways. Ryan Wimmer analyzes the Shi’ite concept of taqiyya and compares it to phenomenon in Mormonism that is sometimes called “lying for the Lord”. Richard Behrens makes some interesting connections between Dartmouth where Hyrum Smith was schoolmates with Solomon Spaulding’s nephew and Ethan Smith’s son.

    On the Community of Christ material, retired prophet Grant McMurray’s reflections on where the RLDS have been and where they need to go and Apostle Susan Skoor’s essay on women in the priesthood should still be of interest.

    There’s also moving tributes to the late Val Avery, including one by Jan Shipps. And the volume has Mike Quinn’s review of the Bushman book along with Marty Bradley’s.

    The JWHA Journal: It’s not just for Prairie Saints.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for letting us know what’s in the latest JWHA Journal. These sorts of notices are always appropriate and appreciated.

  11. John, alas, I only have so much time to review journals (I also lack a subscription to the JWHA). I would love someone to review it though and I appreciate your brief notice.

  12. I’ll see if we can someone at the JI to review it.

  13. That would be great David.

  14. I’ve posted Part I of a two part review of The JWHA Journal over at Juvenile Instructor that can be found here. Thanks for the review of JMH, J. As mentioned by others, I’m encouraged by the contributions of the three young scholars (Olmstead, Bowman, and that other fella).

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