Church History

Pioneers and Indians in Utah Valley

August 11, 2008 | 9 comments

Just last week I heard a familiar comment at church: Brigham Young’s policy was to feed the Indians rather than fight them. The actual record of relations between Pioneers and Indians was a bit more complicated, especially in Utah Valley, the watery jewel of early Utah. Read more »


August 8, 2008 | 15 comments

Did you know that BYU had a combined-gender missionary club in the early 1920’s named the Y.D.D.? It took me a month to discover the secret of the initials: “Young Doctors of Divinity.” Read more »

Socialism and United Order

August 5, 2008 | 21 comments

I stumbled across a few LDS socialist stories when I was writing my MA thesis. Read more »

Political Remembering

August 4, 2008 | 12 comments

Fascinating Utah history factoid: Read more »

Christianity by Continent

August 3, 2008 | 8 comments

I recently read Martin Marty’s The Christian World: A Global History (2007). The subtitle is slightly misleading, as Marty recounts Christian history on a continent-by-continent basis. The last two chapters, covering the modern return of Christianity to Africa and Asia, raise issues of particular interest to the LDS experience: correlation and assimilation. Read more »

Death and Doctrine, II

August 1, 2008 | 41 comments

Can you help me a bit more with this topic? . . . Since LDS funeral sermons were given exclusively by men before 1900, they make an interesting comparison with LDS women’s death poetry of the same time period. Read more »

Death and Doctrine

July 29, 2008 | 39 comments

I have an uneasy relationship with death. Read more »

Carl and Mathilda

July 23, 2008 | 22 comments

Let us praise pioneers. Of all sorts, but today especially the traditional sort. I myself am thinking of Carl and Mathilda, whom I came to know through one of those wholly unexpected spine-tingling unbelievable fantastic experiences. Read more »

Massacre is Just Around the Corner

July 22, 2008 | 51 comments

The Deseret News just ran a lengthy article giving some details on the long-awaited but soon-to-be-released book Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by three LDS historians. Read more »

Cycling Through Mormon History

July 18, 2008 | 3 comments

For you, summer might be a succession of beaches, barbeques, and baseball games, but for one young man this summer is an extended bicycle tour of American religious sites. He has posted excellent photos of his visits to the Smith family farm and the Hill Cumorah Pageant that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. If he makes it to SLC, someone should throw him a party or something. Read more »

Foundation and Apostasy

July 12, 2008 | 31 comments

What if the historical evidence for the foundation of the early Christian church is indistinguishable from evidence for its apostasy? What if the early church and its scriptures only arose through processes of decay? Read more »

LDS Historical Sites

August 22, 2007 | 72 comments

A couple of months ago I heard a presentation on the general topic of historical sites that the Church owns and manages. I came with a pocketful of snarky questions but left with some appreciation for how tough the task is and (on the whole) how well the sites are set up and managed. I’ll give a couple of paragraphs summarizing the talk, then a couple of paragraphs commenting on historical sites I have visited. Read more »

Summer Seminar update

August 8, 2007 | no comments

For those interested in the BYU summer seminar, I’ve revised the post, adding the titles of and abstracts for the papers. Read more »

BYU Summer Seminar

August 6, 2007 | 11 comments

The annual summer symposium, this year “Joseph Smith and His Times,” will be held on Thursday, August 9, 2007. The symposium will feature papers by twelve summer seminar fellows on the theme “Mormon Thinkers, 1890-1930,” covering topics ranging from the influence of Herbert Spencer on Mormon thought to Mormonism and Modernity. Read more »

Missing Essentials

July 11, 2007 | 75 comments

Once upon a time, there was a book called Essentials in Church History. It was first published in 1922 and authored by Joseph Fielding Smith, who was made Assistant Church Historian in 1906 and an Apostle in 1910 (then President of the LDS Church from 1970 to 1972). For many years, this book (in one of its many successive editions) was part of every ward library and was found in most LDS homes. It was sort of expected that Mormons would read the book and know their history. It may have been faith-promoting history, but at least it spent... Read more »

A Mormon Narrative for the 21st Century

June 23, 2007 | 98 comments

Historians don’t just catalog events, they assemble events into stories or “historical narratives.” But to really be relevant or worth reading, a given historical narrative has to tap into a bigger theme or “grand narrative” (using the term rather loosely). I’m going to flesh out that concept a bit, then float some observations on the emerging grand narrative that might frame Mormon history in the 21st century. Read more »

Biographies of a New World Man

June 21, 2007 | 31 comments

Joseph Smith, it’s fair to say, was a rebel and a runner and a restless young man. That, plus his many religious accomplishments, makes him an attractive subject for biographers both in and out of the Church, who have responded by writing dozens of Joseph Smith biographies. In fact, I think that when it comes to history, Mormons are spoiled without generally knowing it. Pull down a denominational history or the biography of any other 19th-century religious figure from the shelf of your local library and you’re likely to get a snoozer. By comparison, early LDS history and the... Read more »

“New Pioneers … On the March!”

June 2, 2007 | 7 comments
“New Pioneers … On the March!”

What does today’s Deseret Morning News editorial have in common with my 1941 copper medal bearing the legend “Our Standard Bearer” over the likeness of President Heber J. Grant? Read more »

Tooth Bugs

January 26, 2007 | 73 comments

Recently my husband and I came across a set of rather old LDS song books. As my ward’s primary chorister my favorite was The Primary Song Book: Including Marches and Voluntaries. The edition is missing the title page and so I’m not sure when it was published (and am at a loss as to how I would find out). Let’s just say that it’s really old. Among the very few songs that have survived from this edition to the current one are, “Give said the little Stream”, “I Thank Thee Dear Father”, “Can a Little Child Like Me”, and... Read more »

Venus Robinson Rossiter: Learning to Serve

October 31, 2006 | 15 comments

Venus Rossiter, serving in Tahiti with her husband, Mission President Ernest C. Rossiter, wrote to the Relief Society General Board early in 1919 with her report for 1918. Read more »

Murder in the Metropolis: Part the Fourth (Conclusion)

October 28, 2006 | 6 comments

Hooper Young was arrested in Connecticut three days after the discovery of Mrs. Pulitzer’s body. Read more »

Murder in the Metropolis: Part the Second

October 26, 2006 | 15 comments

William Hooper Young, known as Hooper, was born in 1871 in Philadelphia, where his mother, Libbie Canfield, was visiting, while his father, John W. Young, was in Utah. Read more »

Murder in the Metropolis: Part the First

October 25, 2006 | 5 comments

As the ebbing tide of September 18, 1902, lowered the level of the barge canals near Jersey City, New Jersey, a passing trolley engineer spotted the nude and mutilated body of a woman lying in the mud. Read more »

Our Crown Jewels: The Church Archives

October 17, 2006 | 33 comments

In the fall of 1983, Dialogue published Davis Bitton’s personal memoir of Leonard Arrington’s tenure as Church Historian, “Ten Years in Camelot.â€? That essay conveyed the excitement of discovering, writing, and publishing Mormon history on a scale never before known. The essay also records disappointment with changes then underway, betraying the uncertainty, even fearfulness, that comes with change. Read more »