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mpschmitt

Your Favorite Church History Books

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I've been really digging in to Church history over the past several years and have a few books that I think are real gems. I'd like recommendations from others if you have them. Here's my list, please share yours:

Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman

Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Linda King Newell

Joseph Smith, The First Mormon, Donna Hill

Brigham Young, American Moses, Leonard Arrington

The Mormon Experience, A History of The Latter Day Saints, Leonard Arrington

Mormonism, The Story of a new Religious Tradition, Jan Shipps

Carthage Conspiracy, The Trial of the Accused Assasins of Joseph Smith, Marvin Hill, Dallin H. Oaks

In Sacred Loneliness, The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton

40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young, Chad M. Orton, William Slaughter

Joseph Smith, Martyr Prophet of God, Francis M. Gibbon

David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Prince and Wright

Massacre at Mountain Meadows Walker, Turley, Leonard

On Sacred Ground (DVD series) Truman Madsen (and his books)

The History of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, Lucy Mack Smith

Believing History, Bushman

Go Forward With Faith, Dew

And one honorable mention:

No Man Knows My History, Fawn M. Brodie, which despite her manipulation of evidence to serve her agenda and assuming a novelists omniscience at times to the same end, has a lot of fine data (if you can sift through her attitude) and is well written ("Always interesting" as Bushman says)

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Not necessarily a "favorite", but I just finished Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwellm by a great grandson (as I recall).

I am reading another biography on him, but so far, it's not among the best I've seen. The first several chapters are more about Joseph Smith than about Porter. But I'd like to see more about his early life.

Lehi

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By far, it least for me and by 31 lengths (sorry just saw the movie Secretariat) it has been the Book of Mormon.

OT, NT D&C

then in no particular order;

Jesus the Christ by Talmadge

The Apostasy by Tuttle (I think)

Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon by Sorenson

Offenders for a Word by our own DC Peterson

BofM commentary -Skousen

Out of the dust?

basically anything on the BofM

Non religious reading

anything on Mesoamerica specifically the Mayans

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Dean Jessee's The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith was a watershed experience for me on my mission.

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I recently read the "working draft" edition of Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball and enjoyed it.

Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage by B. Carmon Hardy is good.

LDS Conference Report Extracts 1852-1886 ed. by Steven M. Murphy is a good one-volume condensation of Journal of Discourses material.

Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch by Irene M. Bates and E. Gary Smith is good.

Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth by Dennis B. Horne has a lot of interesting historical material in it, although it is not a history itself.

The John Taylor Papers, Vol.1: The Apostle and The John Taylor Papers, Vol.2: The President, by Samuel and Raymond Taylor are good.

Mormonism in Transition by Thomas G. Alexander is good.

The "Americanization" of Utah for Statehood by Gustive O. Larson is good.

The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David J. Buerger is useful.

Waiting for World's End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff ed. by Susan Staker is good.

The Essential Brigham Young, foreword by Eugene E. Campbell is good.

Unpublished Revelations Vol. 1, ed. by Fred Collier is good.

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Without a doubt, "The World and the Prophets" by Nibley. This has had a great deal of influence on my thinking about how the historic church had replaced the prophets with scholars and theologians.

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Speaking of Fawn Brodie's bio, I have been reading Reconsidering No Man Knows My History. I wonder if she would have changed her views about the Spalding theory if she were around now, esepcially with the publication of the Jocker's paper. She was attacked over her bio of Jefferson and yet was vindicated by the DNA evidence supporting her view about a relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

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Speaking of Fawn Brodie's bio, I have been reading Reconsidering No Man Knows My History I wonder if she would have changed her views about the Spalding theory if she were around now, after the Jocker's paper. She was attacked over her bio of Jefferson and yet was vindicated by the DNA evidence supporting her view about a relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

Since Brodie believed that Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon by his lonesome, accepting the Spalding theory would require a complete overhaul of her book. And even more mind reading and speculation. When I read it, I thought her chapters on the Book of Mormon were particularly weak.

Resconsidering does make interesting reading though. I quite liked Lavina's essay.

Regarding Brodie and the DNA stuff:

From footnote 75.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=13&num=1&id=377

The debate over the paternity of Sally Hemings's children has intensified since the publication of Annette Gordon-Reed's book and the subsequent report on DNA testing on the Jefferson line. Eugene Foster's DNA study, contrary to the lurid publicity, limited the possible fathers for Eston Hemings, Sally's last child, to over two dozen male Jeffersons. And the latest careful review of the evidence, with one judicious dissent, concluded that the most likely father of Eston was Randolph Jefferson, the younger brother of Thomas, or one of Randolph's sons. See the thirty-five page preliminary "Report: Scholars Com mission on the Jefferson-Hemings Matter," issued on 12 April 2001.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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The Church History books that most opened my eyes? Offhand, at the moment,

The Book of Mormon

The Bible

Madsen, Eternal Man

Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (thanks for reminding me just how cool the beginnings of Mormonism are.)

Eliade, Cosmos and History: The Myth of Eternal Return

Raglan, The Origins of Religion

Von Dechund and de Santillana, Hamlet's Mill

Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon

Nibley, Apostles and Bishops

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Ninan Smart, Worldviews

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion

Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God

Givens, People of Paradox

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Kevin, you should read Annette Gordon-Reed's book The Heminggses of Monticello.One commentator says "Annette Gordon-Reed convincingly argues in this momumental and original book.. [that Thomas Jefferson] cohabitated for more than 30 years with an African American woman with whom he conceived seven children" The historians in their tweed jackets might not like that their President had feet of clay.

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The jury's still out on the Jefferson-Hemmings matter. It probably always will be. Most of the things I've run across lately -- I haven't looked systematically -- point to Thomas's brother rather than to Thomas himself.

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Kevin, you should read Annette Gordon-Reed's book The Heminggses of Monticello.One commentator says "Annette Gordon-Reed convincingly argues in this momumental and original book.. [that Thomas Jefferson] cohabitated for more than 30 years with an African American woman with whom he conceived seven children" The historians in their tweed jackets might not like that their President had feet of clay.

As a Jeffersoniphile, if there is such a rubric, I raise this in his defense, making the assumption that he was "guilty" of having "cohabitated" with Sally:

  1. He was desperately in love with his wife, Martha, who died when he was very young.
  2. Sally came to Monticello as part of the heritage Martha received on her father's death (along with a huge debt, which was the beginning of Jefferson's financial worries, worried which probably stopped his freeing his slaves, including the Hemmings).
  3. Sally and Martha were probably half-sisters. The Randolph (Martha's paternal ancestors) men were not known for their faithfulness, and the father-in-law was known to have taken le droit de seigneur literally.
  4. Sally was reported to have resembled Martha, and her own mother was likely an aunt (see above, in re: the Randolphs). Thus Sally and Martha were (probably) very much more closely related than would Martha and her full sisters.
  5. The laws of Virginia (and elsewhere in the XVIII & XIX) did not allow him to free slaves (he proposed a law to make it easier, but it was rejected).
  6. The law of Virginia and elsewhere did not permit his marrying Sally: any relationship they may have had would have been illegal irrespective of their desires.
  7. Jefferson, seeing in his slave one very much like his dead wife a near replica of the one he loved, was more than possibly "twitter-pated".

Jefferson did what he could, in my view, to "regularize" his connection with Sally, still assuming there was one, he freed some of his slaves on his death (and refused to chase down others who "escaped"), nearly all of these being Hemmings.

That being said, Jefferson was not a god, and I recognize his weaknesses (one of which was that he felt government should operate schools: what a devastating revelation that was, even though they would not be compulsory). But he made the best of a very bad set of circumstances.

It is important for us to accept that, in the milieu in which he lived, things we would like to have seen him do were simply not possible.

Lehi

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Why did her son talk about his mother becoming his concubine? Was he a liar?

Why was Jefferson accused of having a relationship with her during his second run for the Presidency

Why did he have her taught French lessons in Paris?

Why did she not get her freedom in France which she could have?

Why did she always fall pregnant while Jefferson was on the farm at Montecello and not any other time? Some have questioned this by saying there is no proof she was there at the same time. Where does a slave go? Was she rented out?

Why have some conservative historians like Ellis have admited the relationship?

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Why did her son talk about his mother becoming his concubine? Was he a liar?

Who knows?

Why was Jefferson accused of having a relationship with her during his second run for the Presidency

By whom? Yes, I know, but let's be honest about the charge.

Why did he have her taught French lessons in Paris?

So she could buy du pain?

Why did she not get her freedom in France which she could have

With her children and family in USmerica, with no reasonable basis for earning a living (even with a rudimentary knowledge of French)? I wonder what a black woman would do in XVIII France. They were hardly an open society with freedom for former slaves (which were part of France's history, too, doncha know?).

Why did she always fall pregnant while Jefferson was on the farm at Montecello and not any other time? Some have questioned this by saying there is no proof she was there at the same time. Where does a slave go? Was she rented out?

Yes, slaves were often rented out. It was a source of income for the slave owner.

Otherwise, this is all interesting, but circumstantial.

Why have some conservative historians like Ellis have admited the relationship?

Ask them, for I surely do not know. And how, prithee, does anyone not a party to the act "admit" it?

Lehi

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Just a few off of the top of my head,

1.) Bushman's "A Rough Stone Rolling".

2.) Nibley's "Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites"

3.) Farms "Rediscovering The Book of Mormon" (I carried this book with me into the MTC, yes I'm a youngin)

4.) Jerry Ainstworths, "The Life and Travels of Mormon and Moroni" (this changed the way I read and look at the Book of Mormon).

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EbedItCameToPass.png

For my money, the best history book for basic LDS apologetics is the LDS Seminary's "The Restored Church" by William Edwin Berrett. My copy is the 14th edition, published in 1969. I cannot recall a single instance where an anti has stated that we are hiding our history or an apostate has said that they were not taught such and such and lo-and-behold this book contained the refutation.

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Do we select books that bolster our faith or on the quality of research. Do we read both Inventing Mormonism and Joseph Smiths First Vision (Backman); An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon & New Approaches to the Book of Mormon.

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Just a few off the top of my head:

Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard L. Anderson

On Sacred Ground DVD Series by Truman Madsen

The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt

The History of Joseph Smith, The Prophet by Lucy Mack Smith

If the topic included my favorite church books, that would be another thing altogether.

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