Mormon Studies on a Budget?

June 23, 2009 | 38 comments
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A few years ago, Armand Mauss advised our readers that an essential texts list for Mormon studies probably included a dozen books (including Shipps, Bushman, Arrington, and Givens) as well as regular reading of four major periodicals. That remains a very good recommendation; however, for many Mormon studies newbies, that level of depth may not be an option. This post addresses the question, how should someone on a limited budget begin to explore Mormon studies?

Let’s start with our hypothetical person. She is intelligent and motivated, has very little background in Mormon studies, and wants to begin. She has access to libraries and the internet, and has some (but not unlimited) time to find sources. She has a total budget of $100 for the year. (She may be able to find an additional $100 next year; or maybe not. Don’t depend on it.) She has no Mormon studies books or other materials at present.

How can she get the most bang for her buck? Should she subscribe to Sunstone and Dialogue right away? How about BYU Studies? Should she drop by Sam Weller’s or Benchmark and spend it all on inexpensive used books — and if so, which ones exactly? Are there any immediate must-haves? (RSR? Shipps? Quinn? Angel and the Beehive? Mormonism in Transition? Prince?)

Which of these resources, if any, can she find for free online? Should she look at CD-Rom resources? Are there any that are easy (or not easy) to find through libraries? Should she go to symposia? (Which?)

Overall, how do you advise our Mormon studies newbie to spend her first (and perhaps only) $100? Please reply in one or two paragraphs. Your reply, along with others that I receive, will be posted on blog (with attribution).

I asked severl well-versed people for their thoughts, and received some very helpful responses. This is what they told me:

Ardis Parshall, independent Mormon historian and researcher extraordinaire; proprietress, Keepapitchinin:

My answer assumes that she really does want to explore Mormon Studies and not merely assemble an impressive shelf collection.

Since she has access to libraries, she should subscribe to none of the journals; she should read the journals at the library. Journals will help her keep current with ongoing discussions and very rare new discoveries — but no one year’s worth of any one journal, or all the journals together, will give her any useful depth or background in Mormon Studies. Nor should she be in any rush to buy books, as long as she does have access to a good library (presumably with good interlibrary loan access). She should start reading the books Mauss recommends, and back issues of journals, and the other materials that such a reading list leads her to depending on how her interests begin to form. When she discovers by repeated returns to the same book, or by the frustration of having to wait until Monday when the library reopens in order to check that half-remembered idea, then she’ll know where to invest her limited funds.

Rather, she should hang onto her $100, and dispense it a dollar or two at a time in photocopies and printouts of articles and chapters that she responds to in her initial reading, and that she knows she will want to return to again and again, or that seem so challenging or so essential that she can’t do without them. This way she’ll build a file of materials that are really valuable, skipping the puff and the background that fill up most books and all journals. She should also buy a good notebook and pen, and keep a reading log with complete bibliographic citations and brief notes on every Mormon studies item she reads. *That* will be more helpful and more impressive than any collection of books.

Mary Ellen Robertson, symposium coordinator, Sunstone

My forays into Mormon Studies began when I discovered a gently used copy of Claudia Bushman’s anthology, Mormon Sisters, at a used bookstore in Logan, UT. I’ve spent a lot more than $100 on my library in the years since! And I was enough of a dweeb to ask for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism for Christmas one year.

My recommendations would be:

Get a feel for which topics in Mormon Studies are of the most interest. Theology? Scriptural studies? Women’s studies? Sociology of Religion? Church history? Biography? It will help to narrow the scope of the search.
Before spending any money, browse at libraries, used bookstores, and online to see where foundational sources are available. [If you're in the Intermountain West, moving sales, garage sales, and Deseret Industries can be great sources for books].
Search the Sunstone archives at www.sunstonemagazine.com. Most of the content is free. Issues 1-147 of Sunstone magazine have been digitized and scanned into our online database, as well as thousands of audio files from past symposiums. Audio content older than 4 years is free to download. It’s a wealth of information about Mormon Studies that you can load into an iPod, mp3 player, or computer and take with you anywhere.

I’ll let the other contributors weigh in on what to purchase for one’s budding Mormon Studies library. Anthologies give a lot of bang for the buck–Mormon Sisters, Sister Saints, Contemporary Mormonism, and Women and Authority come to mind.

J. Stapley, awesome blog-ninja of By Common Consent and Splendid Sun:

Fortunately, the back issues of JMH, Dialogue and BYU Studies are available for free online.  I would do a selected reading of the must read back catalogue, and target the $100 elsewhere.  A list of must read articles would be a fun excercise.  A while back I posted a list of four books (http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/06/17/four-books-about-mormonism-redux/).  Those only add up to $80 (depending on how much you pay for Alexander’s volume), so I would add RSR for a total of five:

The Democratization of American Christianity
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints
Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930
Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball

As I mentioned in that post, I think this list has a lot of weaknesses. Reading a diary of an early Mormon has a great impact on our perceptions of these people and their lived religion – perhaps the diaries of Patty SessionsHelen Mar Kimball Whitney or Charles Ora Card would be a good place to start. It can be slow going, but it is definitely worth it. Two things that get somewhat short-shrifted are Women and Mormon cosmology. Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society, really is a great starting place for the Relief Society.

Armand Mauss, Sociologist and author of All Abraham’s Children

You don’t say whether or not your hypothetical newbie has a college education or LDS upbringing. Assuming that she has both, here would be my recommendation for spending $100 :

1) Get a copy of the latest (1992) edition of Allen & Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints(maybe still $10, but at least it should be available in a decent library). Read that first — twice.

2) Get personal copies of the DVDs for the back-issues of Dialogue and the Journal of Mormon History. Read first the book reviews from all the back-issues starting with perhaps 1980. Make a list of the books that seem the most comprehensive in their coverage of (a) the period from 1880 on and (b) the seemingly most important issues in LDS history and culture (polygamy, women’s roles, race relations, historicity of LDS scriptures, doctrinal development, etc.). Use that list to build a personal bibliography.

3) Get a library card (or college library privileges) at a large institutional library and start reading the books on one’s personal bibliography in whatever order most keeps the appetite whetted. During the reading of any book, check the indexes on the two DVDs to see what articles have been written on related subjects, and read those. Also, select the Search function on the current Sunstone website to look for other articles related to the book currently being read.

All of that can be done for $100 or less, assuming one has a decent computer. Spend at least 20 hours a week in this enterprise, and in a year you will be more knowledgeable about LDS history and culture than 90% of the Saints and their leaders. After that, go back to LDS apologetic literature, including selected works produced under the auspices of the Maxwell Institute, plus BYU Studies. At that point, our hypothetical newbie will be in a better position to recognize which apologetic works will stand scrutiny and which ones won’t.

Anyway, that’s what I would suggest, given the limitations you placed on our hypothetical situation and newbie.

David King Landrith, President, Fawn Brodie Appreciation Society (New England Chapter), founder, Mormon Mentality:

Let me know if this is what you have in mind.
Free: The Signature Books Library, out of print books by Signature Books.  Especially:

Saints without Halos, by Leonard Arrington & Davis Bitton

Neither Black nor White, by Lester Bush and Armand Mauss

Dialogues with Myself, by Eugene England

Faithful History, ed. George Smith

Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, by Dan Vogel

Free: a la carte articles online from BYU Studies. especially:

The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844” by D. Michael Quinn

The King Follet Sermon: A Newly Amalgamated Text” by Stan Larson

Free: Dialogue issues up until last Winter. Too many must-reads here to list.
Free: Sunstone issue and articles up until October 2007. Too many must-reads here to list.
I wish that Courage or the Journal of Mormon History or the JWHA Journal were available online like this. (I offered to do Courage for Bill Russell for free back when I had the connections to get it done, but the idea never gained traction. I got the JWHA journal scanned & ocr’d for Hamer the same way that I got Sunstone scanned & ocr’d for Dehlin, but I don’t know exactly what Hamer has in mind).
If you want to own few classics, you have several cheap options.
$12.89 No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie — Brodie delivers a courageous, ingenious, and energetic Joseph who’s leaps and bounds ahead of Bushman’s craven flunky. If you want a short bio, Bushman’s 1984 treatment of Joseph through Kirtland is much better.
$16.47 Early Mormonism and the Magic Word View, by Michale Quinn

$13.57 The Mountain Meadows Massacre, by Juanita Brooks

or
$19.77 Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Walker, Turley, and Leanard.
I think I’d recommend Brooks over WT&L, though WT&L are amazingly thorough and readable and up-to-date — their’s is quite obviously the new definitive treatment, but it’s longer and Brooks is just too groundbreaking to ignore. Mormon History has a history, too, right?
$17.95 By the Hand of Mormon, by Terryl Givens
You should be able to get Brodie, Brooks, & Shipps at any local library, though it’s better to buy them so that you don’t have to finish it on a schedule.
And go through the bibliographies of everything you read and look up the ones from Dialogue,Sunstone, or BYU Studies, so that you can read them for free.
Now, given the options that I’ve outlined, here’s what I’d recommend: I think that you’re better off spending $16 on Brodie. Read her and a bunch of free articles, and then spend the remaining $84 to go to the nearest Mormon studies conference you can find. If you can find one locally, you may be able to go for just the student admission price, but travel makes this unworkable (I spend a grand or more to go to a conference).

Morris Thurston, Orange County Miller-Eccles Study Group

The person you describe needs to read some general histories to get started.  To understand Mormonism you have to try to understand its founding prophet and the place to start is Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.  This is one to be purchased and highlighted as you read—the current Amazon price is only $12.89.  Next you need to get a general understanding of the pioneer Utah period, and here it is more difficult to find the perfect book.  My favorite remains Leonard Arrington’s Great Basin Kingdom.  Even though it is dated and focuses on economic history, it still will give you a good understanding of the pioneer era.

Where to go from there depends on the interest of the student, and many of the good reads can be borrowed from a library.  I tend to favor history.  Mike Quinn’s Orgins of Power and Extensions of Power are fascinating reads and cover huge swaths of ground.  Prince and Wright’s David O. McKay is a page-turning look at the functioning of the Church during the mid-20th Century; one that is unlikely to be duplicated for other recent periods because of a lack of primary source data.

Having read some of these general books, you might then want to turn to more focused books and articles.  For example, If polygamy interests you, there’s George Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamyand Richard Van Wagoner’s Mormon Polygamy.  If you want to understand Emma Smith (which surprisingly most LDS do not) you need to read Newell and Avery’s Mormon Enigma.  If the Mormon conflicts with Native Americans interests you, there’s Peterson’s Utah’s Black Hawk War.  I would pick something that interests you and get into it in more depth.

There are lots of good anthologies of articles out there.  I enjoy reading about some of those folks who we often dismiss as having “falling along the wayside.”  Two good anthologies are Sillito and Staker’s Mormon Mavericks and Launius and Thatcher’s Differing Visions.  An interesting anthology on Joseph Smith is Waterman’s The Prophet Puzzle.

I like to browse past articles from The Journal of Mormon HistoryDialogue and BYU Studies.  The first two have CDs containing the articles – if budget is really a constraint I imagine they are available in some libraries.  I’d browse the table of contents and download ten or so articles of interest from each of them to your computer hard drive to be read at leisure.

I also like to download presentations made at Sunstone and Mormon History Association conferences to my MP3 player.  I can then listen to them while I’m working out or in the car.  It is amazing how many of these you can get through if you just make a habit of doing it on a daily basis.  It’s much cheaper than attending the conferences, particularly if you don’t live where the conferences are held.  Be sure to get an MP3 player that has a bookmark function.  The iPods didn’t have it when I got mine, so I have a Creative Zen.

It is fun to attend conferences because it allows you to see the scholars who are writing about Mormonism and rub shoulders with other students of similar interests.  I love the MHA conferences, but they are too expensive for the person with the budget you describe.  Utah Valley University has an excellent annual conference on Mormon Studies that is absolutely free.  Some areas may have study groups that you can join.  In Southern California we have the Miller Eccles Study Group that meets once a month in Orange County and LA County on successive nights.  We bring in speakers from all over, most of whom have recently published cutting edge books.  It is a good way to meet and hear from the authors.  The cost is a voluntary $10, but the amount is flexible if you can’t afford it.  Also, Southern California now has the Claremont Mormon Studies Program and they provide regular free conferences on various aspects of Mormonism.

When I started really studying Mormonism in college there were few “objective” resources available – not much beyond the first issues of Dialogue.  Now there are so many resources that it is difficult to know where to begin.  A good dilemma.

Robin Jensen, Mormon historian:

Mormon studies encompasses a vast array of fields, expertise, and scholarly works. I don’t know of anyone who claims proficiency in all facets of Mormon studies. I only claim a bit of experience in manuscript sources created during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Thus the question of how to start is a good one. Unfortunately I can only address the historical bent of Mormon studies. In order to answer the question, I could give a list of 10 books or so, but instead I would recommend steering this individual toward resources that could help her find works herself. With easy access to libraries, I would advise our hypothetical person check out two books from her closest library: Mormon History by Ronald W. Walker, David J. Whittaker, and James B. Allen <<http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/87rwf5kk9780252026195.html>> and Excavating Mormon Pasts: “The New Historiography of the Last Half Century” by Newell G. Bringhurst and Lavina Fielding Anderson <<http://www.koffordbooks.com/mormon_pasts.shtml>>. Not billed as the most riveting works produced by scholars of Mormon studies, these resources provide the critical Mormon studies historiography. With this background, our hypothetical “newbie” can make her own book decisions based on her interests, aptitude, or monetary ability (checking Abebooks, ebay, half.com, amazon, etc.). I should also mention the Studies in Mormon History resource that lists books and articles according to subject and author available here. <<http://mormonhistory.byu.edu/>> This tool has the added benefit of searching by author, subject, etc. Too often people recommend Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling to an individual interested in early Mormon history, when that person would have actually appreciated Emma Smith’s viewpoint of the early history, necessitating a recommendation of Newell and Avery’s Mormon Enigma.

There is an online growth of interested individuals in Mormon Studies. The Bloggernacle brings together many individuals interested in Mormon history. I don’t know that I would recommend immediately subscribing to scholarly journals; the financial commitment might be too much on the limited budget (I’m cheap that way). Any of the major research libraries in Utah should have the journals on their shelves, and many of the larger university libraries throughout the country carry subscriptions to these journals. A good place to start is with back issues of historical journals available online. The Journal of Mormon Studies is available at the University of Utah’s website <<http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=/jmh>>, BYU Studies is available at the BYU library website <<http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fbyustudies>>, Sunstone is available at their website <<https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/magazine/index.php>>, and Dialogue is available at University of Utah website <<http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue>> (and all back issues are available for sale on a dvd for 40 dollars from Dialogue’s website). Several important publishing houses dealing with Mormon studies are available online. Books published by the University of Illinois Press are searchable (with limited view) from Google Books <<http://books.google.com>> Signature Books offers a wonderful subset of their books online <<http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/>> Mike Hunter at BYU has done wonderful work in compiling a database of Mormon related websites << http://lib.byu.edu/sites/mormonstudies/>>. And one of the best places to network and let the enthusiasm spread for Mormon studies is at conferences. If our hypothetical individual is lucky she will find herself close to a university that sponsors conferences with no fee. The larger conferences, such as MHA<<http://mhahome.org/>>, Sunstone<<https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/symposium.html>>, FAIR <<http://fairlds.org>> (which has a tremendous online presence), and JWHA<<http://jwha.info/>>, require a fee for registration and travel funds to get to the conference (MHA and JWHA normally choose a city of significant Mormon history connection for their annual conferences). These larger conferences—while akin to Christmas morning for a six-year old—are difficult to attend due to the financial limitations. More and more conferences are posting audio recordings of their sessions online (such as Sunstone). I can only assume that more conferences will do this.

Despite the length of the above paragraphs, I have only scratched the surface. It’s an exciting time in Mormon studies. Online resources are growing exponentially and an enthusiastic individual can glean much from the internet. A caution must be stated, however. While many things are a google-click away, it should not be assumed that all resources are available online (or the obvious statement that not all things on the internet are reliable or accurate). Archivists are doing the best they can to scan original documents to post online, but a minuscule amount of documents are actually available in this format. Nothing can compare or compete to primary research in a repository. Too often “interested” individuals are scared to do primary research thinking that is the role of scholars. I would highly recommend anyone interested in Mormon history to visit the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City if possible or any other major repository of Mormon documents (they’re more common than you think. See this book for a launching point: <<http://www.amazon.com/Mormon-Americana-Sources-Collections-Monographs/dp/0842523154/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245715386&sr=8-3>>). Having done primary research provides a depth and level of understanding achieved by few. Knowing the difficulties of research makes for the reading of research’s results that much more enjoyable.

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38 Responses to Mormon Studies on a Budget?

  1. Saint Leonard, parton saint of Mormon history buffs on June 23, 2009 at 5:51 am

    David King Landrith, your petition has been heard. You can read J Mormon History on-line at:
    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fjmh

  2. gomez on June 23, 2009 at 5:57 am

    A couple seem to have mentioned there are too many Sunstone/Dialogue articles to list. Can you try? If you could only recommend just 10 Sunstone/Dialogue articles what would they be?

  3. Wm Morris on June 23, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Thanks for putting this together, Kaimi. I was considering doing a post on the cost of Mormon Studies. Maybe I’ll still do a literary edition.

    I have to say, though, that while it sure is nice that Dialogue and Sunstone provide their archives for free online, I’m sure they’d be happier if people kick a few dollars their way. At the very least maybe a $5-15 donation to each could fit into the budget.

  4. danithew on June 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

    It’s interesting to read DKL’s take on Joseph Smith biographies (Brodie vs. Bushman).

    I’d like to know more about the ‘craven flunky’ perspective.

    I just read Rough Stone Rolling for the second time. This time I read it slowly, a few pages or half a chapter a day. I felt it was a very worthwhile read.

    Last time I read Fawn Brodie’s book was a long time ago. Maybe I should revisit that text …

  5. Jones on June 23, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thank you! This is absolutely awesome. I love love love all this information.

  6. Steve Evans on June 23, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I see no references in here to anything the Bloggernacle has produced. Perhaps we are not engaging in Mormon Studies.

  7. Kent (MC) on June 23, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Does theology have a home with the historians? I know we think of Mormon Studies as a historian’s craft first, but I find lots of very important work going on with the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology and others like Blake Ostler. It is groups like SMPT that will provide the framework for understanding our past and our present. Just look at who sits on the board of SMPT.

    Gomez, one of the 10 must reads is:

    Ostler, Blake T. “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source.” Dialogue 20, no. 1 (Spring 1987): 66-123.

  8. Zat on June 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The Book of Lemuel is a must read for all Latter-Day Saints.

  9. Kevin Barney on June 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I like the suggestions to use libraries and online archives. Even my local public library here in northern Illinois has a decent shelf and a half of books that would be a good start for an interested student, even before having to delve into interlibrary loan.

    I’m a big believer in perusing, and reading as interested, the entire run of the major Mormon journals. That’s what Nibley used to do with (non-LDS) scholarly journals, and the same principle applies to Mormon studies. You need to develop at least a sense for what is already out there and what has been done before. Doing this will give you confidence in your sense of what’s out there and what isn’t (yet).

    I think the blogs can be useful for a newbie. There are basic blog posts on almost every topic imaginable that could serve as an orientation to more formal work.

  10. Ben on June 23, 2009 at 11:04 am

    What a great idea, Kaimi! And thanks to all for participating.

  11. Kent Larsen on June 23, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I’m wondering why the recommendations don’t include literature. It will be interesting to see what William comes up with in this vein. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest Cracroft & Lambert’s A Believing People as a good overview (less than $12 on Alibris). Of the many works of Mormon literature published to date, historically Nephi Anderson’s Added upon probably had the biggest impact, at least until the 1970s or 1980s. More recently, Terryl Givens’ People of Paradox is a historical overview of Mormon culture.

  12. Ardis Parshall on June 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

    The recommendations don’t include philosophy or literature, Kent, because Kaimi asked a bunch (gang, plague, snobbery, whatever the correct collective term is) of historians.

  13. Christopher on June 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

    This is great. Thanks for putting it together, Kaimi, and all participants for the helpful feedback. I’ll just add that another helpful resource is the International Journal of Mormon Studies, which has full PDFs of its 2 issues online for free.

  14. Kaimi Wenger on June 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    A plague of historians — that was the one between locusts and frogs, right? :)

    Kent,

    I didn’t ask only historians, but the historians were best about getting back to me (grin).

    But really, the list isn’t all historians. Ardis and Rob are historians. Armand is a sociologist, Morris an attorney, Mary Ellen a writer, DKL a computer programmer, and J Stapley a chemist. Armand has done academic study of Mormons and Mary Ellen is helping run Sunstone; Morris, DKL and J engage at the level of informed non-professionals.

    So it’s not just the plague-of-historians effect; there’s something bigger going on. Mormon studies is dominated by Mormon history, and has been for decades.

    There are likely several reasons for this. For instance, Mormon belief is uniquely tied to history, making us a historical people. In addition, history may be uniquely poised to mediate between belief and academic rigor in the way that has come to define Mormon studies. Also, the field has been shaped to at least some extent by the personalities involved, and we have had a number of historians with dominant personalities.

    There’s probably more as well — I’ll examine that question in a later blog post.

  15. Wm Morris on June 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Kent:

    Instead of posting about getting up to speed, I was intending to post on what it would cost to stay current. I guess we could do both.

    ——

    I’m so regretting that I didn’t do more Mormon Studies reading when I had patron privileges to an academic library that was less than a 100 yards from my office and was connected to a sharing system that included Cal Berkeley, the Univ. of Nevada, Reno, and the Claremont Colleges (all of which had pretty good Mormon Studies collections).

  16. J. Stapley on June 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I think Ardis’ advice is brilliant. Robin offers some excellent advice as well.

  17. Terry Foraker on June 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I purchased the Dialogue DVD a couple of years ago, with pdf’s of every issue up through 2006–the best $50.00 I ever spent. (Now if only BYU Studies put their back issues on DVD…)

  18. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 23, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I don’t think anyone mentioned that the Maxwell Institute has placed online the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and the FARMS Review, as well as many of the books published by FARMS, including the Nibley books.

  19. DKL on June 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Steve Evans I see no references in here to anything the Bloggernacle has produced. Perhaps we are not engaging in Mormon Studies.

    The problem is that the bloggernacle is too diffuse. It’s a lively place to engage in Mormon Studies discussions, but it’s a difficult place to site for specific Mormon Studies content.

    danithew: I’d like to know more about the ‘craven flunky’ perspective of Joseph Smith biographies.

    Many faithful Mormons (apparently Bushman included) need Joseph to be a craven flunky, because they believe that if we eliminate all possible naturalistic explanations for miracles, we strengthen the faith. Or if we absolve Joseph of any political or legal misdeeds, we make it easier to believe that he’s a prophet.

    Emma Smith is a perfect example. She needed to run down her husband in order to emphasize that what he did was supernatural. Mormons often site her famous statement to the effect that Joseph couldn’t write a complete sentence, but produced the Book of Mormon. Never mind that Joseph dictated the book of Mormon, and did not write it. If you look at Joseph’s writings and correspondence, Emma’s statement is obviously false. The earliest account of the 1st Vision, for example, is certainly not indicative of illiteracy. Bushman’s account spills a good deal of ink discussing how the Book of Mormon is anomalous given Joseph’s background, and relies heavily on Joseph’s stupidity. I think that Vogel’s account, which spills a lot of ink showing how the Book of Mormon is not anomalous given Joseph’s background, gives us a Joseph who is much more intelligent and clever.

    Another easy example of Bushman transforming Joseph into a craven flunky is his account of the Danites. Bushman has Joseph manipulated by Samson Avard into forming the society in an effort to resolve his torturous misgivings. Brodie has Joseph step up to the plate, meeting frontier justice with frontier justice, and taking matters into his own hands when the law and its officers prove inadequate to the task of protecting his followers. Bushman’s account is attractive to the many Mormons who want to absolve Joseph of any hint of illegality, but they seem to miss the fact that if Joseph is innocent of Danite exploits, he’s also an easily manipulated, indecisive coward — at least according to the way Bushman (and FAIR) tell the story. Brodie’s Joseph may not have followed every letter of the law, but neither did his opponents, and this is the frontier anyway.

  20. DKL on June 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Saint Leonard, parton saint of Mormon history buffs: David King Landrith, your petition has been heard. You can read J Mormon History on-line at:
    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fjmh

    That’s really awesome. Thanks for the link.

  21. BHodges on June 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I second J. Stape’s comment, Ardis and Robin have both struck on something I find rather important: Trying to understand the process of historical inquiry itself. Reading a lot of sources is useful, but learning about the process that went into putting those sources together, in addition to doing some of your own research, is where I think the best time is spent.

    Also, seconded on the unfortunate lack of references to theology, philosophy, etc. The links to SMPT, etc. are warmly recommended.

  22. BHodges on June 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    BTW, awesome idea for a blog post.

  23. gst on June 23, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Hodges, “awesome” is a disfavored word here, I think.

  24. Stephen Carter on June 23, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    gomez:

    Some of Sunstone’s most pivotal articles:

    Thomas Alexander: The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine

    William A. Wilson: On Being Human: The Folklore of Mormon Missionaries

    Eugene England: Why the Church is as True as the Gospel

    Arthur R. Bassett: Knowing, Doing, and Being: Vital Dimensions in the Mormon Religious Experience

    Stan Roberts: Pastoring the Far Side: Making a Place for Believing Homosexuals

    J. Bonner Ritchie: The Institutional Church and the Individual

    All these can be found in pdf format at sunstonemagazine.com

  25. Stephen Carter on June 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Just remember, all, that Mormon studies do not create themselves ex nihilo. Feel free to donate and subscribe to your favorite Mormon publications at any time. :)

  26. w on June 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    This is a very useful post. Thanks. I don’t live anywhere near a library or physical store that would have most of these books, and it’s rare that I encounter anyone else who reads them. I generally end up buying all of my books online after a little research.

    I’d also be interested in a sort of “greatest hits” list from past issues of Dialogue. I’ve been a subscriber for a few years now, but I haven’t touched the back catalog, not knowing where to start.

  27. Ben Pratt on June 23, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Kaimi, this post fills a need I’ve had lately but never expressed. Thank you, and thanks to those who have responded.

    Awesome comment, GST.

    I wasn’t aware of several of the organizations suggested above. I particularly enjoyed learning of SMPT.

    Question: what is the role of family organizations in Mormon studies? Though sometimes lacking a scholarly polish, some wonderful essays and articles have been published in books with titles like “Descendants of ____________.” I recall a marvelous essay suggesting (among other things) links between the major themes of certain romantic compositions and landmark events in LDS history (e.g. Mendelssohn’s Elijah oratorio, composed in 1846 and Borodin’s Prince Igor opera, first performed in 1890). This was found in a book on (IIRC) descendants of Jonathan Crosby.

  28. Peter LLC on June 24, 2009 at 5:35 am

    As usual, DKL is the first to note that the emperor has no clothes on.

  29. Allison on June 24, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I am a budding historian and no expert. I truly appreciate the links given to content as I live in the East and lack access to all the libraries in the West. I’m sure I could find some of the books mentioned in mine or on interlibrary loan.

    But being one that likes to keep books, I have resorted to E-bay and saw no mention of it in the article or comments. If you research the retail prices on Amazon, then you know if it’s a good deal on the auctions. I have also picked up great bargains on DeseretBook.com’s auctions. Just this week I picked up the history of my Mormon colony hometown of Star Valley, entitled “A Garden in Wyoming” on DB auctions for $15! This out of print is very rare and hard to find and often goes for 3 to 5 times that price with the regular online booksellers.

    I wondered also why CD-roms weren’t mentioned. Gospelink and LDS Library have some great history in them and that might be $50 well spent. Again, I got my LDS Library brand-new, unopened for 10% less on an online auction.

    I have not purchased the “Daddy of ‘em all” CD-rom, “New Mormon Studies” with many original sources on it because of its high price (lowest ever seen $125 and more like over $150.) What say you historians about this one?

  30. gomez on June 24, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Thanks Stephen. On a somewhat related point I had heard that a new edition of Words of Joseph Smith by Andrew Ehat was due out soon. Does anyone have any more info?

  31. J. Stapley on June 24, 2009 at 11:07 am

    The New Mormon CD-ROM is excellent for research. I don’t like to read entire books on the screen though, so typically if there is something that I want to read all the way through, I either buy it or get it from the library. Gospelink.com is useful but their search interface is miserable (Gospelink 2001 is great if you still have Windows XP). I used to have LDS Library as well, but it didn’t work with vista and then they went out of business. I understand that they are back in business with a new product, but I haven’t seen it.

    The new edition of Words is definitely forthcoming. There will be some tremendous breakthroughs with it, as well. It is not sure when it will be published as the editors are still waiting on a few things. Could be as early as the end of this year; could just as easily be another year.

  32. J. Stapley on June 24, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Also, the old edition of Words is available digitally on the BYU digital archives as a pdf. Gospelink and LDS Library have the updated 1996 digital second edition.

  33. Jared T. on June 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

    The New Mormon CD-Rom doesn’t work on my new computer that has Vista. Have you had that problem, J? At any rate, I talked with Tom Kimball and he said they’ve contracted to update the CD-Rom, so at some point, we’ll see that reissued.

  34. J. Stapley on June 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Jared, I haven’t had that problem. But I copied the NFO file from the CD-ROM to my hard drive (along with the rest I have purchased (Utah history sweet, Some of the old Ancestry ones, etc.)) and then I use the same install of Folio Bound VIEWS 3.11.2 to access them all. Not sure which one that version of VIEWS came with, though. If you can’t get it to work, let me know and I’ll do some digging.

    That is good news on the update. Last I had heard, they lost so much money on it that they weren’t going to update it. But having a lot of their new primary source titles text searchable would be tremendous.

  35. Kaimi Wenger on June 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Ebay can be a good resource for finding some of these sources. So can Deseret Books’ auctions.

    In addition, there are a number of online used bookstores or used book aggregator services. For instance, I just ran a search for Arrington & Bitton and found dozens of copies, starting at $1 + $4 shipping ($5 total):

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=arrington&tn=the+mormon+experience&x=0&y=0

    You can sometimes find better deals at DI, but there’s a needle/haystack element to that.

  36. Clair Barrus on June 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for this post Kaimi . Quite a while back, Seagull Book had a dozens of back issues of Dialogue for $2 each. I bought a copy of each and proceeded to read two or three articles each day on my lunch hour. I made myself read each article, even if it didn’t sound interesting, footnotes included.

    I believe this exercise did more to broaden and enhance my post-college education than any other.

    I don’t believe I saw anyone recommend the full set of Signature Book’s series “Essays on Mormonism.” Each contain a series of excellent topical articles — for those who are not sure which Dialogue/ Sunstone/ JoMH/ BYU Studies / … articles to peruse.

    - Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine
    - The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past
    - The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith
    - American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon
    - Tending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature
    - Mormon Mavericks: Essays on Dissenters
    - Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family

    see http://www.signaturebooks.com/booksins.htm

  37. LRC on June 26, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Re: w at #26: “I don’t live anywhere near a library or physical store that would have most of these books, and it’s rare that I encounter anyone else who reads them.”

    There’s always the inter-library loan program, worth checking out. You can ask your local librarian how they participate and you can look up books at places like http://www.worldcat.org and http://www.accessmylibrary.com.

    Plus online books like the ones at Signature: http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/

  38. DKL on June 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Clair, you’re right. Those books are essential, and it was a gross oversight. I still think that the original New Approaches to the Book of Mormon stands among the finest books written about the Book of Mormon by anyone, and it is an exceptional example of Mormon studies.

WELCOME

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