Apostle Biographies or “Holes in our History?”

February 23, 2012 | 35 comments
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Often I find that I am annoyed with the focus of much of Mormon History studies today. The articles and books published seem to mostly cover the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young eras, along with a bit of the later Utah period, up to the turn of the century. At least, that is my perception.

My perception also sees an emphasis on LDS leaders and on the events at or near LDS Church headquarters (wherever that is in each period of time). Events in Utah are a frequent subject, but those in the mission field not so much. There are also potential problems along gender and racial lines.

What could be called bias in the popularity of historical events, people and periods is nothing new. The War of 1812 and Mexican War get short shrift in comparison with the Civil War and the American Revolution. History of women and of minorities also are somewhat problematic. The history of some countries is better researched than that of others—often simply for economic reasons; like everyone, historians write what will keep them employed and (when publishing books) what their publishers think will sell.

Of course, calling the results of these things “bias” may not quite be accurate in all cases; believe it or not some events are simply more important than others and some individuals have a greater impact on history than others. What appears as bias may then simply reflect the biases of human societies in the past.

With all this in mind, I looked at book-length biographies written about the nearly 100 members of the Quorum of the Twelve (Neil L. Anderson was the 97th added to the quorum), expecting to have my perception of a focus on early Mormon history confirmed. But I’m not quite sure that this data supports my contention. In fact, the biographies written cover the 97 men who have been named to the Quorum of the Twelve fairly evenly, as far as I can tell:

Biographies of LDS Apostles

[May not include all biographies. Only includes book-length (over 63 pages) biographies published as books. Includes only apostles who were added to the LDS Quorum of the Twelve.]

  1. Thomas B. Marsh
    • Lichfield, W. C. (1956). Thomas B. Marsh: Physician to the church. Provo: Brigham Young University.  [Master’s Thesis]
  2. David W. Patten
    • Wilson, L. A. (1900). Life of David W. Patten: The first apostolic martyr. Salt Lake City: Deseret News.
    • Whiting, L. S. (2003). David W. Patten: Apostle and martyr. Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort.
  3. Brigham Young
    • Anderson, E. H. (1893). The life of Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: G.Q. Cannon & Sons.
    • Arrington, L. J. (1985). Brigham Young: American Moses. New York: Knopf.
    • Bringhurst, N. G., & Handlin, O. (1986). Brigham Young and the expanding American frontier. Boston: Little, Brown.
    • Cannon, F. J., & Knapp, G. L. (1913). Brigham Young and his Mormon empire. New York: Fleming H. Revell company.
    • Carter, C. W. (1898). The life and history of the late Pres. Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: s.n.
    • Crockwell, J. H. (1887). Pictures and biographies of Brigham Young and his wives: Being a true and correct statement of the birth, life and death of President Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and brief biographies of his twenty-six wives, and names and number of children born to them. Salt Lake City.
    • England, E. (1980). Brother Brigham. s.l.: Bookcraft.
    • Gates, S. Y., & Widtsoe, L. E. D. (1930). The life story of Brigham Young. New York: The Macmillan Company.
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1981). Brigham Young, modern Moses, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Hirshson, S. P. (1969). The lion of the Lord: A biography of Brigham Young. New York: Knopf.
    • Holzapfel, R. N., & Shupe, R. Q. (2000). Brigham Young: Images of a Mormon prophet. Salt Lake City, Utah: Eagle Gate.
    • Hunter, M. R. (1937). Brigham Young, colonizer. Berkeley, Calif.?: s.n. [Ph.D. Dissertation]
    • Hunter, M. R. (1973). Brigham Young the colonizer. Santa Barbara, Calif: Peregrine Smith. [revised version of Ph.D. Dissertation]
    • Nibley, P. (1936). Brigham Young: The man and his work. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret news press.
    • Tullidge, E. W. (1876). Life of Brigham Young: Or, Utah and her founders. New York.
    • West, R. B. (1957). Kingdom of the saints: The story of Brigham Young and the Mormons. New York: Viking Press.
    • Widtsoe, L. D. (1947). Brigham Young: The man of the hour. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
    • Young, S. D. (1964). Here is Brigham: Brigham Young, the years ot 1844. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
    • [Many]
  4. Heber C. Kimball
    • Kimball, H. C., & Kimball, S. B. (1987). On the potter’s wheel: The diaries of Heber C. Kimball. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates.
    • Kimball, S. B. (1981). Heber C. Kimball: Mormon patriarch and pioneer. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
    • Whitney, O. F. (1888). Life of Heber C. Kimball: An apostle, the father and founder of the British mission. Salt Lake City: Kimball family.
  5. Orson Hyde
    • Barron, H. H. (1977). Orson Hyde: Missionary, apostle, colonizer. Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers.
    • Hill, M. S. (1955). An historical study of the life of Orson Hyde: Early Mormon missionary and apostle from1805-1852. Provo: Brigham Young University. [Master’s Thesis]
    • Hyde, J. S. (1933). Orson Hyde: One of the first Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jerusalem, Nauvoo, Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City?.
    • Hyde, M. S. (2000). Orson Hyde: The olive branch of Israel. Salt Lake City: Agreka Books.
  6. William E. M’Lellin
    • [None]
  7. Parley P. Pratt
    • Givens, T., & Grow, M. J. (2011). Parley P. Pratt: The St. Paul of Mormonism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Pratt, P. P. (1874). The autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt: One of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, embracing his life, ministry and travels : with extracts … from his miscellaneous writings. New York: Published for the editor and proprietor by Russell Bros.
    • Stanley, R. (1937). A biography of Parley P. Pratt: The archer of paradise. Caldwell, Id: Caxton printers.
  8. Luke S. Johnson
    • [None]
  9. William Smith
    • Rudd, C. R. (1973). William Smith, brother of the prophet Joseph Smith. Provo: Brigham Young University. [Master’s Thesis]
  10. Orson Pratt
    • England, B. (1985). The life and thought of Orson Pratt. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.
    • Lyon, T. E. (1932). Orson Pratt: Early Mormon leader. [Master’s Thesis, U of Chicago]
    • Pratt, O., & Watson, E. J. (1975). The Orson Pratt journals. Salt Lake City: E.J. Watson.
  11. John F. Boynton
    • [None]
  12. Lyman E. Johnson
    • [None]
  13. John E. Page
    • [None]
  14. John Taylor
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1985). John Taylor, Mormon philosopher, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
    • Roberts, B. H., & Taylor, J. (1892). The life of John Taylor: Third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City: G. Q. Cannon.
    • Stout, W. D. (1977). The mighty John Taylor. Salt Lake City: Stout.
    • Taylor, S. W. (1976). The Kingdom or nothing: The life of John Taylor, militant Mormon. New York: Macmillan.
  15. George A. Smith
    • [None]
  16. Wilford Woodruff
    • Alexander, T. G. (1991). Things in heaven and earth: The life and times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon prophet. Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1988). Wilford Woodruff, wondrous worker, Prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Woodruff, W. (1909). Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of L.D.S: History of his life and labors as recorded in his daily journals. Salt Lake City: The Deseret News.
  17. Willard Richards
    • Noall, C. A. W. (1957). Intimate disciple: A portrait of Willard Richards, apostle to Joseph Smith, cousin of Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.[Fictionalized per Studies in Mormon History, 1830-1997]
  18. Lyman Wight
    • Wight, J. B. (1996). The wild ram of the mountain: The story of Lyman Wight. Bedford, WY: J.B. Wight.
    • Wightman, P. C. (1970). The life and contributions of Lyman Wight. [Master’s Thesis]
  19. Amasa Lyman
    • Hefner, L. L. (1977). The apostasy of Amasa Mason Lyman. Salt Lake City: Hefner. [Master’s Thesis]
    • Lyman, A. R. (1957). Amasa Mason Lyman, trailblazer and pioneer from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Delta, Utah.
    • Lyman, E. L. (2009). Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon apostle and apostate: A study in dedication. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
  20. Ezra T. Benson
    • Evans, J. H., & Anderson, M. E. (1947). Ezra T. Benson: Pioneer, statesman, saint. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press.
  21. Charles C. Rich
    • Arrington, L. J. (1979). Charles C. Rich: Mormon general and Western frontiersman. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.
    • Evans, J. H. (1936). Charles Coulson Rich: Pioneer builder of the West. New York: The Macmillan company.
    • Reese, N. W. (1988). Charles Coulson Rich: The man and his family. Orem, Utah: Nedra Watkins Reese.
  22. Franklin D. Richards
    • West, F. L. R. (1924). Life of Franklin D. Richards: President of the Council of the twelve apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret news press.
  23. Erastus Snow
    • Hill, T. S. (1996). Life and times of Erastus Snow: A historical novel. St. George, Utah: CFP Books.[Fiction]
    • Larson, A. K. (1971). Erastus Snow; the life of a missionary and pioneer for the early Mormon Church. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
    • Olsen, J. W. (1935). Life of Erastus Snow. Provo: Brigham Young University. [Master’s Thesis]
  24. Lorenzo Snow
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1982). Lorenzo Snow: Spiritual giant, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Romney, T. C. (1955). The life of Lorenzo Snow: Fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Sons of Utah Pioneers Memorial Foundation.
    • Snow, E. R. (1884). Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow: One of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake, Utah: Deseret News Co., printers.
  25. George Q. Cannon
    • Bitton, D. (1999). George Q. Cannon: A biography. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co.
    • Cannon, G. Q., Cannon, A. W., Turley, R. E., & Landon, M. (1999). The journals of George Q. Cannon. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  26. Joseph F. Smith
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1984). Joseph F. Smith, patriarch and preacher, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
    • Smith, J. F. (1938). Life of Joseph F. Smith: Sixth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City: The Deseret News Press.
  27. Brigham Young, Jr.
    • [None]
  28. Albert Carrington
    • [None]
  29. Moses Thatcher
    • [None]
  30. Francis M. Lyman
    • Lyman, A. R. (1958). Biography [of] Francis Marion Lyman, 1840-1916: Apostle, 1880-1916. Delta, Utah.
  31. John Henry Smith
    • Smith, J. H., & White, J. B. (1990). Church, state, and politics: The diaries of John Henry Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates.
  32. Heber J. Grant
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1979). Heber J. Grant, man of steel, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Hinckley, B. S. (1951). Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the life of great leader. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
  33. George Teasdale
    • [None]
  34. John W. Taylor
    • [None]
  35. Abraham H. Cannon
    • Cannon, A. H., & Horne, D. B. (2004). An apostle’s record: The journals of Abraham H. Cannon. Clearfield, Utah: Gnolaum Books.
    • Cannon, A. H., & Lyman, E. L. (2010). Candid insights of a Mormon apostle: The diaries of Abraham H. Cannon, 1889-1895. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with the Smith-Pettit Foundation.
  36. Anthon H. Lund
    • Lund, A. H., & Hatch, J. P. (2006). Danish apostle: The diaries of Anthon H. Lund, 1890-1921. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with the Smith-Pettit Foundation.
  37. Marriner W. Merrill
    • Merrill, M. W., & Merrill, M. C. (1937). Utah pioneer and apostle Marriner Wood Merrill and his family.
  38. Matthias F. Cowley
    • [None]
  39. Abraham O. Woodruff
    • [None]
  40. Rudger Clawson
    • Clawson, R., & Larson, S. (1992). A ministry of meetings: The apostolic diaries of Rudger Clawson, 1898-1904. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates.
    • Clawson, R., & Larson, S. (1993). Prisoner for polygamy: The memoirs and letters of Rudger Clawson at the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, 1884-87. Urbana: University of Illinois.
    • Hoopes, D. S., & Hoopes, R. H. (1900). The Making of a Mormon apostle: A biography of Rudger Clawson. Lanham, MD: Madison Books.
  41. Reed Smoot
    • Heath, H. S. (1991). Reed Smoot: The first modern Mormon. [Ph. D. Thesis]
    • Merrill, M. R. (1950). Reed Smoot, apostle in politics. [Ph.D. Dissertation]
    • Merrill, M. R. (1990). Reed Smoot: Apostle in politics. Logan: Utah State University Press.
    • Smith, M. E. (1934). Reed Smoot, Senator from Utah. [Master’s Essay]
    • Smoot, R., & Heath, H. S. (1997). In the world: The diaries of Reed Smoot. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates.
  42. Hyrum M. Smith
    • [None]
  43. George Albert Smith
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1990). George Albert Smith: Kind and caring Christian, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Stubbs, G. R. (1974). A biography of George Albert Smith 1870 to 1951. Provo: Brigham Young University.
    • Woodger, M. J. (2011). Against the odds: The life of George Albert Smith. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc.
  44. Charles W. Penrose
    • Godfrey, K. W. (1990). Charles W. Penrose: His life and thought.
  45. David O. McKay
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1986). David O. McKay: Apostle to the world, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • McKay, D. L., & Anderson, L. F. (1989). My father, David O. McKay. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.
    • Prince, G. A., & Wright, W. R. (2005). David O. McKay and the rise of modern Mormonism. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.
    • Stewart, J. J. (1970). Remembering the McKays: A biographical sketch with pictures of David O. and Emma Ray McKay. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
    • Terry, K. C., & Washburn, L. L. (1980). David O. McKay: Prophet of love. Santa Barbara, Cal: Butterfly Pub.
    • Woodger, M. J. (2004). David O. McKay: Beloved prophet. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications.
  46. George F. Richards
    • Mouritsen, D. C. (1982). A symbol of new directions: George Franklin Richards and the Mormon Church, 1861-1950. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University. [Ph. D. Thesis]
    • Robinson, M. R. T. (1965). Life of George F. Richards, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Provo, Utah: Printed by J.G. Stevenson.
  47. Orson F. Whitney
    • Thomson, W. C. (1949). Orson F. Whitney: Mormon writer. Salt Lake City: University of Utah. [Master’s Thesis]
    • Whitney, O. F. (1930). Through memory’s halls: The life story of Orson F. Whitney. Independence, MO: Zions Printing and Pub. Co.
  48. Anthony W. Ivins
    • [None]
  49. Joseph Fielding Smith
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1992). Joseph Fielding Smith: Gospel scholar, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Heslop, J. M., & Van, O. D. R. (1971). Joseph Fielding Smith; a prophet among the people. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
    • McConkie, J. F. (1971). True and faithful: The life story of Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
    • Smith, J. F., & Stewart, J. J. (1972). The life of Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
  50. James E. Talmage
    • Talmage, J. R. (1972). The Talmage story: Life of James E. Talmage – educator, scientist, apostle. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
    • Wilson, G. L. (1958). The life and educational contributions of James Edward Talmage. Salt Lake City.
  51. Stephen L Richards
    • Halverson, W. D. (1994). Stephen L. Richards, 1879-1959. Utah: Heritage Press.
  52. Richard R. Lyman
    • [None]
  53. Melvin J. Ballard
    • Ballard, M. J. (1966). Melvin J. Ballard, crusader for righteousness. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
  54. John A. Widtsoe
    • LeCheminant, D. C. (1977). John A. Widtsoe: Rational apologist. Salt Lake City, Utah: Dept. of Educational Administration, University of Utah. [Ph.D. Thesis]
    • Parkinson, R. B. (1955). The life and educational contributions of John Andreas Widtsoe.
    • Parrish, A. K. (2003). John A. Widtsoe: A biography. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
    • Widtsoe, J. A. (1952). In a sunlit land: The autobiography of John A. Widtsoe. Salt Lake City: Milton R. Hunter [and] G. Homer Durhan.
  55. Joseph F. Merrill
    • [None]
  56. Charles A. Callis
    • Larsen, K. C. (1974). A biography of Charles Albert Callis and Grace Elizabeth Pack Callis. Utah: s.n..
  57. J. Reuben Clark
    • Fox, F. W. (1980). J. Reuben Clark, Jr., the public years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.
    • Quinn, D. M. (2002). Elder statesman: A biography of J. Reuben Clark. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books.
    • Quinn, D. M. (1983). J. Reuben Clark: The church years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.
    • Yarn, D. H. (1973). Young Reuben: The early life of J. Reuben Clark, Jr. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.
  58. Alonzo A. Hinckley
    • [None]
  59. Albert E. Bowen
    • [None]
  60. Sylvester Q. Cannon
    • Cannon, W. Q. (1998). Sylvester Quayle Cannon: Tall in character and stature. Provo, Utah: Winfield Cannon and Wanda Cannon Trust.
  61. Harold B. Lee
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1993). Harold B. Lee: Man of vision, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Goates, L. B. (1985). Harold B. Lee: Prophet & seer. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
    • Yorgason, B. M. (2001). Humble servant, spiritual giant: The story of Harold B. Lee. Ogden, Utah: Living Scriptures.
  62. Spencer W. Kimball
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1995). Spencer W. Kimball: Resolute disciple, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Kimball, E. L., & Kimball, A. E. (1977). Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
    • Kimball, E. L., & Kimball, A. E. (2006). Spencer W. Kimball: The early and apostolic years. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. [new edition of 1977 book]
    • Kimball, E. L., & Kimball, A. E. (1985). The story of Spencer W. Kimball: A short man, a long stride. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
    • Kimball, E. L., & Kimball, S. W. (2005). Lengthen your stride: The presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  63. Ezra Taft Benson
    • Benson, E. T. (1962). Cross fire: The eight years with Eisenhower. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday.
    • Cannon, E. (1989). Boy of the land, man of the Lord. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
    • Dew, S. L. (1987). Ezra Taft Benson: A biography. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Gibbons, F. M. (1996). Ezra Taft Benson: Statesman, patriot, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • Schapsmeier, E. L., & Schapsmeier, F. H. (1975). Ezra Taft Benson and the politics of agriculture: The Eisenhower years, 1953-1961. Danville, Ill: Interstate Printers & Publishers.
  64. Mark E. Petersen
    • Barton, P. P. (1985). Mark E. Petersen: A biography. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
  65. Matthew Cowley
    • Smith, H. A. (1954). Matthew Cowley: Man of faith. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
  66. Henry D. Moyle
    • Poll, R. D. (1983). Henry D. Moyle, man of action. S.l: s.n..
    • Poll, R. D., & Larson, S. (1999). Working the divine miracle: The life of apostle Henry D. Moyle. Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
  67. Delbert L. Stapley
    • [None]
  68. Marion G. Romney
    • Howard, F. B. (1988). Marion G. Romney: His life and faith. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
  69. LeGrand Richards
    • Tate, L. C. (1982). LeGrand Richards, beloved Apostle. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
  70. Adam S. Bennion
    • Bell, K. G. (1969). Adam Samuel Bennion, superintendent of L.D.S. education – 1919-1928. [Master’s Thesis]
    • Braithwaite, J. A. (1965). Adam Samuel Bennion, educator, businessman and apostle. [Master’s Thesis]
  71. Richard L. Evans
    • Evans, D. W. (1984). My brother Richard L. United States: Beatrice Cannon Evans.
    • Evans, R. L., & Evans, R. L. (1973). Richard L. Evans–the man and the message. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
  72. George Q. Morris
    • [None]
  73. Hugh B. Brown
    • Brown, H. B., & Firmage, E. B. (1988). An abundant life: The memoirs of Hugh B. Brown. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books.
    • Campbell, E. E., & Poll, R. D. (1975). Hugh B. Brown, his life and thought. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
  74. Howard W. Hunter
    • Gibbons, F. M. (2011). Howard W. Hunter: Man of thought and independence, prophet of God. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
    • Knowles, E. (1994). Howard W. Hunter. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
  75. Gordon B. Hinckley
    • Dew, S. L. (1996). Go forward with faith: The biography of Gordon B. Hinckley. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
    • McCune, G. M. (1996). Gordon B. Hinckley: Shoulder for the Lord. Salt Lake City, UT: Hawkes Pub.
  76. Nathan Eldon Tanner
    • Durham, G. H. (1982). N. Eldon Tanner, his life and service. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
  77. Thomas Spencer Monson
    • Monson, T. S. (1985). On the Lord’s errand: Memoirs of Thomas S. Monson. S.l: s.n.,.
    • Swinton, H. S. (2010). To the rescue: The biography of Thomas S. Monson. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  78. Marvin J. Ashton
    • [None]
  79. Boyd K. Packer
    • Tate, L. C. (1995). Boyd K. Packer: A watchman on the tower. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
  80. Bruce R. McConkie
    • Horne, D. B., & McConkie, B. R. (2000). Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights from his life and teachings. Roy, Utah: Eborn Books.
    • Horne, D. B., & McConkie, B. R. (2010). Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights from his life and teachings. Roy, Utah: Eborn Books. [Second & Enlarged edition (2010) contains epilogue with 60 additonal pages.]
    • McConkie, J. F. (2003). The Bruce R. McConkie story: Reflections of a son. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  81. David B. Haight
    • Tate, L. C. (1987). David B. Haight: The life story of a disciple. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft.
  82. L. Tom Perry
    • Perry, L. T. (1996). Living with enthusiasm. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.
  83. James E. Faust
    • Bell, J. (1999). In the strength of the Lord: The life and teachings of James E. Faust. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Bk. Co.
    • Faust, J. E. (2001). Stories from my life. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  84. Neal A. Maxwell
    • Hafen, B. C. (2002). A disciple’s life: The biography of Neal A. Maxwell. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  85. Russell M. Nelson
    • Condie, S. J. (2003). Russell M. Nelson: Father, surgeon, apostle. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
    • Nelson, R. M. (1979). From heart to heart: An autobiography. Salt Lake City: Nelson.
  86. Dallin H. Oaks
    • Oaks, D. H. (2011). Life’s lessons learned: Personal reflections. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
  87. M. Russell Ballard
    • [None]
  88. Joseph B. Wirthlin
    • [None]
  89. Richard G. Scott
    • [None]
  90. Robert D. Hales
    • [None]
  91. Jeffrey R. Holland
    • [None]
  92. Henry B. Eyring
    • [None]
  93. Dieter F. Uchtdorf
    • [None]
  94. David A. Bednar
    • [None]
  95. Quentin L. Cook
    • [None]
  96. D. Todd Christofferson
    • [None]
  97. Neil L. Andersen
    • [None]

While I still think there probably is more work done in the areas I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was fascinated to see so many biographies of so many of the apostles, up to, but generally not including, those who are currently alive. Simply put, there doesn’t seem to be a clear emphasis on any one period.

Since many biographies listed above were written either by family or for a popular audience (both of which could, in theory at least, affect a biography’s value to academics), I also tried looking at only those biographies written by academics (from what I know of the authors) and those published by academic or university presses. But despite narrowing the biographies to that list, I still didn’t see any particular pattern or emphasis on any particular period.

If anything, the academic biographies seem to focus on (but not exclusively) those who had the most impact compared to others: the apostles who were later LDS Church Presidents, Orson Pratt, Reed Smoot, J. Reuben Clark, etc. But even that assertion doesn’t quite explain the list.

Worse, I have no idea why some apostles have never had anything written about them at all. Why no biographies of Brigham Young, Jr.? Of George A. Smith? Of Moses Thatcher? Richard R. Lyman? And several others as well? Nor does it make sense that some have only weak, popular biographies, biographies written by adoring family members or, in perhaps the worst case, only a “fictionalized” portrait (in the case of Willard Richards)? And in my mind it is still a mystery that Parley P. Pratt wasn’t the subject of a solid academic biography until last year!

Lest any misunderstand, I do think that an honest biography written by an untrained family member or for a popular audience is clearly better than nothing. So perhaps I’ll try to put some effort into my own neglected ancestor on this list, Brigham Young, Jr.

And if nothing else, perhaps the above list will help some enterprising young academic to find a neglected topic for his research.

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35 Responses to Apostle Biographies or “Holes in our History?”

  1. Ben P on February 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Mormon history has long been fascinated with biographies–too much so, probably, because it leads to the neglect of broader issues and lesser saints. I think it is an important step for the Mormon history field to move away from so many biographies; there will always be some, but it should not dominate the historiography.

    On reason for a general lack of academic work done on 20th century figures is that biographies are based on primary sources, and the sources for recent apostles are not available. Thus, you see the few works on twentieth century figures done by either family members (who possess the personal papers) or academics who gain access through the family (like Greg Prince did with McKay, Edward Kimball with his father, or Quinn did with the Clark papers at BYU).

    There have been some great articles done on those apostles who haven’t gained enough attention, including Richard Lyman, Moses Thatcher, and a lot of the early apostles. There are also some biographies currently in the work that should be great works, including on James Talmage and Willard Richards.

  2. Ben P on February 23, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Oh, and I forgot the BY bio coming out later this year, written by John Turner, that will be one of the best works in Mormon history for quite some time.

  3. Julie M. Smith on February 23, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for putting this list together.

  4. Cameron N on February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Kent, I don’t think the paradigm is by accident. While at BYU I was taught that the most important parts of contemporary church history are the beginning and the near past. I don’t remember which apostle/prophet was cited as saying so. I think it was in a church history class that studied 1845-1900 or 1900-Present…

  5. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Ben P (2), I assume the biography later this year is of Brigham Young, Sr, not Jr., right? While it has been a while since American Moses, and I’m sure there is more information than there was, I’d be much more interested to see later history.

    I do admit that the lack of available information is a big part of the problem. But I also believe that, as might be surmised from Cameron N’s comment, other periods are simply not “sexy.”

    Cameron N (4), I hope you aren’t surprised when I suggest that the fact that this idea was taught at BYU is a good reason to be very suspicious of it [GRIN]. Seriously, I think it completely wrong headed. I think it leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy — saying that a period isn’t important, leads to it not being studied, which means little is available about the period, which leads to the conclusion that nothing important happened then.

    I assume that the teacher of that class didn’t think that the rise of correlation was important? Or the expansion of the Church into Latin America? Did this teacher even mention the so-called “Third Convention?” I’m sure if I thought much more about this concept I could come up with additional significant events from the 1st half of the 20th century that members should know about and that even have an impact today.

  6. Dave on February 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I heard that one of the authors of Massacre at Mountain Meadows was going to do a biography of Brigham Young — sort of a spin-off from the MMM research and writing. Just a rumor?

  7. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Dave, I don’t know if that is true or not, but it kind of seems backwards — you’d think that a “spin-off” would be smaller and less complicated than your main project. So perhaps this is more a new project that started when he did the MMM book?

  8. Ben P on February 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Kent: the BY bio is indeed on Brigham Young the prophet, and is important enough to warrant the study. It will be a great upgrade from American Moses, and a seminal work in both Mormon and American religious history.

    Dave: Ron Walker is working on a bio of BY, though I wouldn’t in any way call it a spin-off of MMM. It will likely be a ways off, however, as Ron plans to work through several other BY-related projects while working up to the biography (like the Utah War, the Gold Rush, etc). If anything, I would term MMM as a spin-off from his BY bio, with the broader research team added in.

  9. Craig M. on February 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Can anyone comment on the Orson Pratt (England), Rudger Clawson (Hoopes), Erastus Snow (Larson), or Widtsoe (Parrish) biographies?

  10. John Mansfield on February 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    If you’re looking for additions to the list, there was a biography of John W. Taylor, Family Kingdom, written by his son, Samuel W. Taylor. The son was a professional writer.

  11. Marie on February 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Why no one in our family has written a book-length biography of Moses Thatcher puzzles me–it’s true that there is shame in some quarters of the family for his rebelliousness and opium habit, but in others quarters there is a good deal of pride in his independent spirit and splendid mustache. He certainly is an exciting enough subject to sell lots of books.

    I had a chance to talk to Ron Walker a couple years before MMM was published and he said that he had wanted to finish his BY biography for some time, but the MMM project sidetracked him for longer than expected. I hope it will appear soon.

  12. Frank Pellett on February 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Interesting. I recall a conference talk of Hinckley where he reminiced about the men he worked with in the 12, and lamented that so many are now unheard of. It is sad to see so many he revered left out of biographies.

  13. Jared T. on February 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Here’s another list that my friend Bret put together a while ago:

    http://ldsbooklovers.com/collections.asp?pid=9

    He keeps it pretty well up to date. There are some McClellan and other books he has that could be included here. Check the other lists also.

  14. Raymond Takashi Swenson on February 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    What this list suggests to me is a compilation of biographical information about all of the LDS apostles, perhaps with a timeline that allows a reader to determine what the composition was of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in any given year. It sounds like an ideal online resource. Perhaps permission could be obtained to upload all of the bios, and someone like yourself could act as the project editor, selecting interesting excerpts from the published bios and finding biographical information in other Church history sources about the neglected apostles, so there would be at least a page about each one, and more for those who served as Church president. It would also be informative to see how each one was connected to other apostles and leaders, such as those who personally knew Joseph Smith, those who personally knew Brigham Young, and the family relationships among the apostles, not just those who are descendants of Hyrum Smith and his cousin George.

    When I was just back from my mission in Japan in 1971, I was asked to help out as a backup interpreter for a group of Japanese governors who were spending three days in Utah as part of a tour across the US. As part of it, I got to tag along to a reception and lunch held with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. We went down the line and shook the hands of all 15 men. I tell my grandkids that Since I shook the hand of Joseph Fielding Smith, the grandnephew of Joseph Smith, when I shake their hand they are only 4 steps removed from the Prophet Joseph. Even as large as the Church has grown since then, from 3 million to 14 million on the rolls, I still have a sense that the personal distance of any individual member to a person who played a significant role in Church history is only a few degrees of separation. An apostolic biographical resource would help to personalize these connections.

  15. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    John (10), I should have remembered “Family Kingdom” — I’m not sure why it didn’t show up in my searches.

    Jared T (13), looks to me like most of what he included there is here, except he also includes books that cover multiple people or that are not full biographies — things I excluded.

    Raymond (14), What you describe sounds like what was available on Grandpa Bill’s G.A. Pages (see description at http://www.mormonwiki.com/Grandpa_bill%27s_general_authority_page). That resource seems to have disappeared, however. I wish I had known it was going to go off line.

  16. larryco_ on February 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    “Can anyone comment on the Orson Pratt (England), Rudger Clawson (Hoopes), Erastus Snow (Larson), or Widtsoe (Parrish) biographies?”

    The England book is very good.

    “Why no biographies of Brigham Young, Jr.? Of George A. Smith? Of Moses Thatcher? Richard R. Lyman? And several others as well?”

    Others that jump out at me are William McLellin, John E. Page, John W. Taylor (in addition to Family Kingdom), Matthias Cowley, Anthony Ivins, Delbert L. Stapley, Marvin J. Ashton, and Henry B. Eyring.

  17. Amy T on February 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Grandpa Bill’s has disappeared? Wow. How sad! That’s been a good, quick place to look people up. Hopefully “Grandpa Bill” is doing okay.

    I do appreciate good biographies, and certainly all these men need to be remembered, but how about their wives? Brigham Young has been dead for 135 years. Why, in all that time, has no one written a book containing the histories of all of Brigham Young’s wives?

  18. Gary Bergera on February 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    John Turner’s forthcoming biography of Brigham Young is a brilliant piece of work. Other forthcoming biographical studies include Elizabeth Anderson’s edition of the diaries of Anthony W. Ivins, Harvard Heath’s abridgement of the presidential diaries of David O. McKay, Devery S. Anderson’s biography of Willard Richards, and Jim Harris’s works on James E. Talmage. (And although he’s not an apostle, B. H. Roberts will be receiving new treatment from John Sillito.) Finally, there are rumors of contemplated biographies of Ezra Taft Benson and possibly Joseph F. Smith.

  19. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Gary, how many of those biographies will you be publishing?

  20. kevinf on February 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Gary, good to hear about a new biography of Joseph F. Smith. While the Gibbons biography is one of Gibbons better ones, it is still primarily devotional in nature. I’ve learned through some of my own research how much more complex he was as an individual, and how much he evolved over his lifetime. He’s a primary target for a new biography.

    Who is doing it? I might have some information to share that I have found.

  21. Gary Bergera on February 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Kent and Kevan, Signature’s involved with the Ivins and McKay diaries projects. I think the Ivins volume with appear 2012-13, the McKay volume in 2013-14. The Willard Richards and B. H. Roberts biographies are Smith-Pettit projects; they should be finished by the end of 2012, maybe early 2013. Jim Harris’s books are TBA. And the Benson and Smith biographies are still only rumors, though if they pan out, they should be great. Finally, there’s still the three-volume biography of Joseph Smith that Smith-Pettit’s been involved with; the first volume, by the late Richard Van Wagoner, is completed; the third volume, by Marti Bradley-Evans, is also completed; and the second volume, by Scott Kenney, is nearing completion.

  22. Gary Bergera on February 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Kevin, Sorry about the spelling of your name. I work with a Kevan who spells his name with an “a,” and I think I slipped into familiar habits.

  23. Roland Richey on February 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    The most enlightening book on LDS history that I’ve read in 2012 so far was the biography of Orrin Porter Rockwell. For better or for worse he had his finger in most every major event from 1830 to his death in 1868.

    Lately I’ve also been learning a lot while updating wikipedia and familypedia articles for family history info on the early LDS leaders.

  24. Roland Richey on February 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    You can find a lot more free books to read online or in your Kindle over at Google Books. Just type in the name of any early Apostle (or any prominent LDS Pioneer) and see their wealth of listings.

    Quite a few faithful LDS women have diaries and autobiographies about being a polygamous wife in the 19th century.

  25. J. Stapley on February 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    It is difficult to categorize such things. E.g., the Life of David Patten was, if I am not mistaken, produced by the Church historians in the 1850s as part of the effort to write histories for all the Q12 members. Are diaries or papers biographical publications? Is George Q. Cannon’s JS bio in the same category as RSR?

  26. Kent Larsen on February 24, 2012 at 9:06 am

    J. Stapley (25), you are right. It is difficult to categorize. Some of the biographies on the list above are simply not very good, while others are very good. Some are more academic and others are very devotional. Some of what I called “academic” are masters’ thesis that are either limited in scope or are devotional in nature.

    I would never suggest that just because a particular apostle already has a biography written no further biographies are worthwhile. To the contrary, multiple looks at the same person are generally very useful.

    And, many of the biographies above are simply not very useful.

  27. Kent Larsen on February 24, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Reminder:

    While we don’t publish the email addresses you give when you comment, we do require that they be valid — they are only used if we need to contact you about your comment. I had to remove one comment here already because it didn’t use a valid email address.

  28. whizzbang on February 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I agree that there is a dearth od great bios on the leaders of the Church. Some I wish they were republished or made more available. Also members of the Seventy is an unexplored territory with only a handful of their bios written, granted there are so many of them but I would love to read about them as well!

  29. Kent Larsen on February 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    whizzbang (28), I too. Actually, I’m not very tied to reading biographies of Church leaders as opposed to other members. I simply chose to look at apostles because it facilitating comparing periods.

    There are some inherent biases in looking at Church leaders. Especially today they aren’t very representative of the membership of the Church and they are almost never women (and there are probably other biases also).

  30. Antonio on February 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    On Lyman Wight, there is also this great book called “Polygamy on the Pedernales – Lyman Wight’s Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845 to 1858″ by Utah State University Press, 2006.

  31. Kent Larsen on February 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Yes, Antonio, but I thought it was too specific to a particular period of his life and as much about the settlements as about Lyman himself. Since the above list was for full biographies, I excluded it.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a bad book or that it doesn’t have a lot of useful information about Wight. And since I’m mostly going on titles, it is even possible that Polygamy on the Pedernales has MORE information than those above — but it seems like it covers a limited period.

  32. Mark Ellsworth on February 26, 2012 at 2:35 am

    I’ve always enjoyed Merlo J. Pusey’s Builders of the Kingdom, the Smith family biography in one volume of George A, John Henry and George Albert Smith.

  33. Cameron N. on February 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

    @ Kent (6)

    No, the teacher covered all those events. Actually the theme of the class was getting a perspective on the gradual perfection of such things as individuals contribute their own talents and seek inspiration.

    I think the idea of focusing on the beginning and end of latter-day history is more of a practical matter for non-history buffs. So, a comprehensive approach is rarely focused on. In most contexts, it’s simpler and more practical to use brief references to recent/well-known history like missionaries did in the Bible/BoM. (eg Adam did this, our forefathers abraham, etc. did too, now it’s our generation). Concise and effective. Those seeking greater depth and perspective can get it depending on their level of interest. That’s why there are courses at BYU for them. I believe they are broken up as follows:

    Prelude to Restoration – 1844
    1844 – 1900
    1900 – Present

    I took the first and last classes and found them both very insightful. In particular, learning about the early 20th century developments was very fun and educational.

  34. Kent Larsen on February 27, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Cameron N. (33), thanks for the clarification. It sounds like that suggestion wasn’t what the classes you took covered, but rather the philosophy for narrowing the subject matter for things like Gospel Doctrine, Seminary and Institute classes.

    While I don’t agree with that approach, it does explain the manuals I’ve seen.

  35. Stan Way on February 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    This is an excellent list. Thank you for sharing Kent!

    And I’m thankful for the good folks like Gary and those that work with him. The journal publications, to me at least, are more insightful and touching than most biographies.

    Of course our most detailed biographies come from outside the realm of Deseret Book. Sure, I like the uplifting SS stories of President Monson’s youth as much as the next guy. But what really excites me is the interpersonal relations between the brethren we find in books like “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism”. – I like reading that President McKay drank Coke and struggled with how to deal with J. Rueben Clark. It makes him more real to me. No less a prophet, and yes a man, but a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator who had to deal with the same issues we all deal with.

    I like Raymond Swenson’s idea (#14) of an online resource to access biographies of all of the Apostles. What are the odds of something like that happening in the next few years though?…