The Year in Church History


Since last year’s survey of publications in Church history (Ensign, Dec. 1976, p. 65), many books and articles have appeared. Readers who like to “keep up” have had many hours of profitable reading and considerable variety.

Just a word about quality, though. The mere fact that a book or article is published does not mean that it is accurate or complete or right in its interpretation. Historians interpret evidence in different ways, and new evidence continues to be uncovered every year. Thus all the answers are never in. It is an open-ended enterprise. Although truth is eternal, its discovery is a continuous, ongoing process.

It has been a good year for biographies. Leonard J. Arrington, From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley (Deseret Book, 1976) not only made known an attractive leader, but managed to convey much history besides. A fascinating Utah artist is examined in Rell G. Francis, Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done (Springville, Utah: Springville Museum of Art, 1976).

Two new recountings of the life of Joseph Smith also appeared this last year. Francis Gibbons, Joseph Smith, Martyr-Prophet of God (Deseret Book, 1976) is a clear retelling of the Prophet’s life in an inspirational way. Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (New York: Doubleday, 1976) is the result of several years of research. Sympathetic to her subject, Donna Hill offers the reader an extensive study of the Prophet.

There have been several works with collective authorship. Even when one is not interested in the entire book, one or more chapters often repay reading. Helen Z. Papanikolas (ed.), The Peoples of Utah (Salt Lake: Utah State Historical Society, 1976) includes chapters on various ethnic minorities; the term ethnic was defined loosely enough to include Scandinavians, other continental Europeans, Britishers, and Canadians—thus including a heavy representation of Latter-day Saint immigrants. Douglas Alder (ed.), Cache Valley: Essays on Her Past and People (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1976) is a potpourri with chapters about the Church, Indians, dairying, and medicine in Cache Valley. There is an article giving short biographical sketches of Cache Valley people and another on the outlaw Black Jack Nelson.

For many, the most exciting work of collective authorship was Claudia L. Bushman (ed.), Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah (Cambridge, Mass.: 1976). Articles on religious activities of women; midwives; schoolteachers; feminists; and Mormon women as portrayed in fiction are combined with views of polygamy from within and without, biographical sketches, and the development of the Relief Society. This book, put together by a group of Latter-day Saint women in the Boston area (aided by some of their friends), is a remarkable enterprise.

Books on specific topics include Monte B. McLaws, Spokesman for the Kingdom: Early Mormon Journalism and the Deseret News, 1830–1898 (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976), a work rich in social history. Kenneth J. Davies, Deseret’s Sons of Toil: A History of the Worker Movements of Territorial Utah, 1852–1896 (Salt Lake: Olympus, 1977) treats the neglected subject of labor history in early Utah and helps to explain the anti-union prejudice that became so strong in the state. Fred R. Gowans and Eugene E. Campbell, Fort Supply: Brigham Young’s Green River Experiment (Provo: BYU Publications, 1976) adds a companion volume to the same authors’ work on Fort Bridger.

One book that achieved national publicity was William Wise, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Legend and a Monumental Crime (Crowell, 1976). Unfortunately it is anti-Mormonism reminiscent of the past century and rests on the most superficial research. In a review of this book, Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington wrote, “It cannot be recommended as a model of careful scholarship, but it might well serve as a model of what careful scholarship is not.” For a more balanced appraisal of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, one is well advised to rely on the thorough treatment by Juanita Brooks. (Mountain Meadows Massacre, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962.)

Articles are becoming more and more numerous each year. They vary in quality but often are excellent. Those who do not have time to read a whole book often find that reading a few selected articles is their favorite way to study history. We shall group them not by subject but by the name of the journal or magazine in which they appeared.

BYU Studies, besides articles on a variety of other subjects, published several on Church history, including Joseph H. Groberg, “The Mormon Disfranchisements of 1882 to 1892” (Spring 1976); William G. Hartley, “Ordained and Acting Teachers in the Lesser Priesthood, 1851–1883” (Spring 1976); Noel B. Reynolds, “The Doctrine of an Inspired Constitution” (Spring 1976); Leonard J. Arrington, “Seven Steps to Greatness” (Summer 1976), on the history of Brigham Young University; Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, “Mormon Women with Faces” (Summer 1976); Richard L. Bushman, “The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution” (Autumn 1976); Larry C. Coates, “George Catlin, Brigham Young, and the Plains Indians” (Autumn 1976); A. Glen Humphreys, “Missionaries to the Saints” (Autumn 1976); Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History” (Autumn 1976); David A. Palmer, “A Survey of Pre–1830 Historical Sources Relating to the Book of Mormon” (Autumn 1976); Ronald G. Watt, “A Dialogue between Wilford Woodruff and Lyman Wight” (Autumn 1976); and William A. Wilson, “The Paradox of Mormon Folklore” (Autumn 1976).

The Utah Historical Quarterly brought out Marvin S. Hill, “Mormon Religion in Nauvoo: Some Reflections” (Spring 1976); G. M. Howard, “Men, Motives, and Misunderstandings: A New Look at the Moorisite War of 1862” (Spring 1976); Stanley B. Kimball, “The Utah Gospel Mission, 1900–1905” (Spring 1976); John S. McCormick, “An Anarchist Defends the Mormons: The Case of Dyer D. Lum” (Spring 1976); Francis J. Weber, “Catholicism among the Mormons, 1875–79,” (Spring 1976); Sherilyn Cox Bennion, “The Women’s Exponent: Forty-Two Years of Speaking for Women” (Summer 1976); Joan Ray Harrow, “Joseph L. Rawlins, Father of Utah Statehood” (Winter 1976); Glen M. Leonard, “Truman Leonard: Pioneer Mormon Farmer” (Summer 1976); Jill C. Mulvay, “The Liberal Shall Be Blessed: Sarah M. Kimball” (Summer 1976); and Mary Lee Spence, “The Fremonts and Utah” (Summer 1976).

A special folklore issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly contained Linda W. Harris, “The Legend of Jessie Evans Smith” (Fall 1976); Clifton Holt Jolley, “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith: An Archetypal Study” (Fall 1976); Susan Peterson, “The Great and Dreadful Day: Mormon Folklore of the Apocalypse” (Fall 1976); Richard C. Poulsen, “Some Botanical Cures in Mormon Folk Medicine” (Fall 1976); William A. Wilson, “A Bibliography of Studies in Mormon Folklore,” and “The Study of Mormon Folklore” (Fall 1976).

The same magazine continued its contribution to Mormon history with William P. MacKinnon, “The Gap in the Buchanan Revival: The Utah Expedition of 1857–58” (Winter 1977); Dean L. May, “The Making of Saints: The Mormon Town as a Setting for the Study of Cultural Change” (Winter 1977); Kristen Smart Rogers, “William Henry Smart: Uinta Basin Pioneer Leader” (Winter 1977); Gene A. Sessions and Stephen W. Stathis, “The Mormon Invasion of Russian America: Dynamics of a Potent Myth” (Winter 1977); and Wayne L. Wahlquist, “A Review of Mormon Settlement Literature” (Winter 1977).

The Journal of Mormon History, which is sent annually to members of the Mormon History Association, in the 1976 issue brought out T. L. Brink, “Joseph Smith: The Verdict of Depth Psychology,” which showed, among other things, that psychology is not capable of either proving or disproving the existence of the supernatural; Dean C. Jessee, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History”; Dean L. May, “Sources of Marriner S. Eccles’s Economic Thought”; Charles S. Peterson, “A Mormon Village: One Man’s West”; Levi S. Peterson, “Juanita Brooks: Historian as Tragedian”; and Ronald W. Walker, “Edward Tullidge: Historian of the Mormon Commonwealth.”

In addition to these periodicals, each with several articles on Mormon history, others published a single article on the subject. These included Jan Harold Brunvand, “The Architecture of Zion,” American West (March/April 1976); Robert Thomas Divett, “New Mexico and the Mormons,” Southwest Heritage (1976); Richard H. Jackson and Robert L. Layton, “The Mormon Village: Analysis of a Settlement Type,” The Professional Geographer (May 1976); and Dean L. May, “People on the Mormon Frontier: Kanab’s Families of 1874,” Journal of Family History (Winter 1976).

Other periodicals with a single article on Mormon history were Dallin H. Oaks and Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and the Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo,BYU Law Review (1976); Gene A. Sessions, “Myth, Mormonism, and Murder in the South,” South Atlantic Quarterly (Spring 1976); Allen L. Shepherd, “Gentile in Zion: Algernon Sidney Paddock and the Utah Commission, 1882–1886,” Nebraska History (Fall 1976); and E. Leo Lyman, “A Mormon Transition in Idaho Politics,” Idaho Yesterdays (Winter 1977).

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston

Davis Bitton, an assistant Church historian, is the assistant clerk in the Salt Lake Emigration Stake. He resides in the Arlington Hills Ward.