2018 Christmas Gift Book Guide

2019 may be the start of a golden age of home learning for Latter-day Saints. Or in a couple of decades we will look back on three hour church with reverent fondness for all that structured pedagogy. Regardless of whether you will read them or simply adorn your shelves with them, here are this year’s recommendations for Christmas gift books.

Sister Saints: Mormon Women since the End of Polygamy (Oxford UP, 2018), $20.04
The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology (Oxford UP, 2018), $22.44
Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation (Kofford, 2018) $20.58 (paperback)

I recently reviewed Colleen’s Sister Saints. It is a nice survey of Mormon women’s history. My book landed this year as well, and I have found the reviews so far extremely gratifying. If you are interested in ritual, priesthood, authority, and/or gender you’ll find something to justify the effort. Check out Rosalynde’s T&S review essay, or one of the other ten-or-so write-ups. Thanks friends. WVS is also local and his history of D&C 132, AKA the plural marriage revelation is like everything else WVS does: smart, complicated, and enlightening. Check these reviews.

Harper Collins Study Bible (HarperOne), $24.38
The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints (RSC, 2018), $29.99
The New Testament: A Translation (Yale UP), $28.16

An alternate translation study bible is a perennial recommendation here at BCC, and with home study now a requirement, all the more necessary. The Harper Collins NSRV is a favorite and a solid first stop. Thom Wayment has done something interesting, however, and has offered us his own translation of the most reliable Greek texts along with what is billed as the most complete cross references to Restoration scripture that use biblical language. Thom is a pro, so I’m interested in checking it out. I picked up Hart’s Yale translation earlier this year, and like all single-author translations it is a bit idiosyncratic. In this case, that has been a very good thing. If you are interested in smart New Testament related works, check out the catalogues of N.T. Wright, Raymond Brown, and Amy-Jill Levine.

An Early Resurrection: life in Christ Before You Die (BYU/MI/Deseret Book, 2018) $11.99
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved (Random House, 2018), $13.47

On the devotional front, we have Adam Miller’s latest, and I’m a fan. This is a productive use of the Book of Mormon, no question about it. You can see him talk about it here. Kate Bowler’s volume has gotten a lot of press, and even though she isn’t Mormon, there is a lot that resonates for us. Check out Meg’s review.

God and the IRS: Accommodating Religious Practice in United States Tax Law (Cambridge UP, 2018), $31.96 (paperback)
Christian: The Politics of a Word in America (Harvard UP, 2018), $19.98

Both Sam and Matt are regulars here, and these books both deal with the church a bit. I’ve been meaning to get a review of God and the IRS up for some time, and will in the near-term. It is a tremendously informative study of the intersection of religion and taxation. Its particularly worth reading if you have any impulse to talk about, you know, Religious Freedom(TM) and money. And Matt is one of the rare humans who is both stunningly brilliant and prolific. You can read the DNews review here.

How the Light Gets In: A Memoir (BCC Press, 2018), $7.00
Educated: A Memoir (Random House, 2018), $16.80

We have a couple of memoirs, a popular genre. The first is the story of a woman who grew up on the side of Provo most of us couldn’t even imagine existed. Check out these posts. Tara Westover’s memoir has gotten quite a bit of traction, and also taps into some Mormon culture that was foreign to me: Idaho survivalists. See the DNews interview with the author.

Salt Lake School of the Prophets, 1867-1883 (Signature, 2018), $37.79
Foundational Texts of Mormonism (Oxford UP, 2018), $60.07
Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 3 vols. (Signature, 2018) $110

This is the nerdcore section. For a long time, the SLC School of the Prophets minutes have been locked down in the church archives. They are now open to researchers and Devery provides us with a transcription, and they are wildly useful. You can read an interview with him here. Foundational Texts is a compilation of chapters on key documents from the early Mormon era. This is required reading for folks that are using these sources. My Q&A with the editors was fun. Then we have Arrington’s diaries, which really are a key document for the late twentieth-century church. You have my review and WVS’s. You also have the perennial (and similarly spendy) offerings from the Joseph Smith Papers, namely the Egyptian documents and the Book of Abraham in R4 and the latest documents volume, D7.

American Fork (Roundfire Books, 2018), $15.15
Vampires in the Temple (BCC Press, 2018), $13.49
Tales from Pleasant Grove (CreateSpace, 2018), $11.16

Now for the Mormon fiction section. We are most familiar with George from his theology work, so to have some fiction is a cool surprise. Check out Blair’s review. Then for the Mormon speculative fiction with have Mette Harrison’s, which as the name suggests is about vampires in the Great basin. Mellisa Fox’s review here at BCC will give you a sense of what is going on. Lastly we have Steve Peck’s latest collection of short stories. If you haven’t read A Short Stay in Hell go get that, and it will introduce you to the mind of our preeminent biologist-author.


On December 31–too late for Christmas–the Maxwell Institute is releasing a Study Edition of the Book of Mormon. I’ve been a fan of Grant’s UIP edition and this looks like a significant upgrade. Except no hardcover? Boo!


  1. Well dang, J. I haven’t finished reading last year’s Christmas books yet.

  2. J, your book is on this list for a good reason. It’s a meticulously researched volume about how things in the church many think never change, have changed, and why. Lots of other good things here that I hope to get to this year. Thanks for the recommendations.

  3. It’s always lovely to have a one-stop-shop for my mom for Christmas!

  4. Thanks, Kevin.

    I should have included it as an addendum, but the new Maxwell Institute Study Book of Mormon is being release on Dec 31. Too late for Christmas, but this will be extremely important. In fact I think I’ll add it to the post.

  5. Eric Facer says:

    If I may, I’d like to suggest one more for consideration: “Living with the Gods: On Beliefs and Peoples,” by Neil MacGregor. This lavishly—and I do mean lavishly—illustrated book explores how different people worship, pray, and sing; incorporate elements of water and fire into their religious rituals; live with their dead, employ images in their faith, grapple with polytheism vs. monotheism, and much, much more. I am about half way through it and I have yet to encounter a disappointing chapter.

    Professor McGregor until recently was Director of the British Museum, and he draws upon that institution’s extraordinary collections, as well as the resources of other galleries, to enhance our understanding of numerous religions and make us see how so much of our worship experience today, regardless of your faith tradition, has its origins in the varied practices of others. Well worth the investment.

    (By the way, this is the same Neil McGregor who authored “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” a conceit so successful that it has been mimicked by numerous other authors. It, too, is a keeper.)

  6. I’ll put in a plug for “The Unvarnished Gospels” by Andy Gaus and “The Jewish Annotated New Testament” as alternative N.T. translations. Gaus’ translation purposefully removes words that acquired religious connotations well after their original writing. For example, spirit is generally translated as “breath” and baptism as “immersed” or “washed”. The JANT includes thoughtful commentary by Jewish scholars that includes comprehensive cross-comparison with the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and frank discussion of verses used to justify anti-Semitism (e.g. much of Matthew). Most valuable for LDS folks is the well-sourced commentary on first-century Jewish custom and ritual – a potent antidote to many of the stories that permeate our culture (and occasionally our curriculum).

  7. I grew up with an American Fork address, but that particular spot has since been incorporated into Pleasant Grove, guess that gives two obvious choices for me 🙂

  8. Thanks, J. It’s a good list, in the sense that the books I already know belong on the list, giving confidence about the rest.

  9. Thanks, J.
    In case of interest, there’s sale on the Plural Marriage Revelation book. 30% off on December 1 or December 6. Just those two days. Here’s the link:

  10. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    There is also a holiday sale for Foundational Texts of Mormonism (discount code AAFLYG6 for 30% off).

  11. Power of Godliness is 30% off at Oxford as well.

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