Re: Bushman v. Brodie

December 7, 2003 | 7 comments

I was afraid that Greg’s challenge was getting lost in all the posting. Here it is again:

“I want to know, what are the five essential texts in Mormon studies?”

Commenters weighed in with numerous suggestions. Check them out and add your own.


7 Responses to Re: Bushman v. Brodie

  1. Ben on December 8, 2003 at 12:14 am

    Are these the five best texts FOR Mormons or five best ABOUT Mormons? I’d make a different list for each group I think…

  2. Greg on December 8, 2003 at 12:25 am

    “Mormon studies” has not been well defined, but of your choices I would pick “about Mormons.” The original criteria was “the most influential scholarly works in Mormon history, sociology, theology, or any other area of interest to Mormons” and “the texts [that form the] background for the current conversations among Mormon thinkers.” So neither devotional nor polemic.

    Just to recap a bit, here are the three books that, so far, have been mentioned by more than two posters as belonging on the top five list:

    Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism
    Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View
    Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion

  3. Ben on December 8, 2003 at 12:39 am

    Ok, about Mormons…

    1) Mormons and the Bible- Phillip Barlow, Oxford.

    2) JS and the Beginnings of Mormonism- Bushman.

    3) How Wide the Divide. Robinson/Blomberg (I’d also recommend its fallout in BYU Studies, and FARMS Review.) I think this deserves to be named because it shows the viability of LDS doctrine and scholarship in the religious marketplace of ideas.

    4)By the Hand of Mormon- Givens, Oxford. Can’t beat it for breadth. I think I read it thinking it was some kind of commentary on the text…

    5)This is a tough pick, so I’ll leave it blank. Several Nibley volumes come to mind, or perhaps some church history… Actually, I’d narrow it down to “Approaching Zion” simply because you can’t look at (North American) Mormons nowadays without recognizing the effect Nibley had.

  4. dp on December 8, 2003 at 2:58 am

    I was just about to add my comment to the original post, but after Ben’s clarifying distinction above, felt it more appropriate here. As an LDS seeking for greater light and knowledge on Mormon doctrines, and generally disinterested with texts *about* Mormons, my all time top 5 Mormon [doctrine] Texts are:

    McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine (possibly shared placement with the Encyclopedia of Mormonism)
    Lectures on Faith
    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
    Discourses of Brigham Young
    Almost any of the Collected works of Hugh Nibley

    I was going to mention the BoM, D&C, NT, PoGP and OT, but in an amazing coincidence someone else (Gordon) happened to choose the 5 exact same books!

    It’s quite obvious that my bookshelf contains many FARMS/DeseretBook titles, and not a single Signature title, so that might give you some idea of where I’m coming from.

  5. Nate on December 8, 2003 at 12:08 pm

    Why is Nibley’s “Approaching Zion” on the list? I own a copy of the book, and I find some of the essays fun and interesting. On the otherhand, I think of lot of the stuff is off the cuff, poorly thought out, etc. Some of the “essays” in the book were letters to the editor of the Provo Daily Herald! Furthermore, I don’t see that it has had much of an impact on the way that most Mormons think, although I realize this is a difficult claim to verify. Is it included because we feel obligated to have some Mormon social criticism and feel like Nibley is the best out there? Maybe this is true. On the other hand, I am not sure why we are falling over ourselves to praise this book. Large portions of it are an exercise in economic and political criticism by a man who, as near as I can tell, had no real interest in the modern study of politics or economics. Some of the scriptural exegesis and theology, I will allow, is powerful. On the other hand, for a person intereted in seriously thinking about political or economic problems, I think that Approaching Zion provides less substance than its most ardent supporters seem to think…

  6. clark on December 8, 2003 at 2:48 pm

    I think Approaching Zion is so important because it deals with the practical issues of our views on charity and equality. Something far too often lost by lay members in the modern church. His other excellent book on the same topic is Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints. I think that Nibley himself is a bit too extreme and is definitely more sympathetic to the socialist position that I’m comfortable with. Further, in his personal life I think he shows both the good aspects of his view (paying the church welfare for members in his ward who strongly disliked him) and the bad (perhaps not providing enough practical “luxuries” for his familiy and having some rather naive economic views)

  7. Ethesis on March 27, 2004 at 5:34 pm

    I was reading along and hit this comment about Nibley:

    “Large portions of it are an exercise in economic and political criticism by a man who, as near as I can tell, had no real interest in the modern study of politics or economics.” (BTW, it would be nice if I could use HTML to create italics or something).

    Nibley’s life has several themes. One of those is the conflict between his mother/grandmother and his father/grandfather over logging off the old growth forest of the West Coast. The ladies felt it was wrong, the men thought that it was the gift of God for them to consume a thousand years or more of stored value, by hook or crook.

    That conflict of concepts of stewardship and purpose really affected him, as did a visit with his grandfather when the latter was a general authority. The grandfather told him that if an angel were to walk in the door of the room of the Hotel Utah where they were talking the grandfather would throw himself out the window, so heavily did his wrongs against nature weigh on his soul.

    That had a powerful effect as did Nibley’s travels around war and post war Europe and his discovery that many elements of the gospel could be found in older Christian writing.

    Put those three elements together and you have Nibley’s formative moments in a nutshell, not to mention the later observation that anti-mormon writing is generally shoddy scholarship and lies and his final belief that he needs to preach one last sermon against sellng out to mammon and his life work will close.

    In that context to say that Nibley had “no real interest” in the modern study of economics is to miss a good part of the heart of the man and what drove him through most of his productive academic life.

    Side note, I think I’m going to change over to posting as “Ethesis” rather than Stephen or Stephen M. Ethesis is how I posted for years before the blogosphere and Stephen seems to be in use by others.



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