Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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State-of-the-Art-Mormon-History: The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints
REVIEWS State-of-the-Art Mormon History The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. By Leonard J. Arring-ton and Davis Bitton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, xiv, 404 pp., illus., maps, appendix, bibliographical essay, notes, index. $15.00. Reviewed by Richard D. Poll, professor of history at Western Illinois University. For years Latter-day Saints yearned for a one-volume history of the Church which could be recommended to members and non-members alike as factually sound and not so fervently partisan as to "turn off" the critical reader. Now there are two such works. James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard's The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976) has already passed the acid test: it has been praised and criticized by both LDS and Gentile reviewers. The Mormon Experience will almost certainly provoke similar responses. The virtues of both books commend them to every serious student of Mormonism and every library interested in history, religion or Americana. Leonard Arrington, who needs no introduction to Dialogue readers, first agreed in 1967 to write what became The Mormon Experience. Not long afterward he was appointed Church Historian. The demands of that administrative calling—through which he has been responsible for a veritable revolution in Mormon historiography;—required him to seek help with the Knopf project. Assistant Church Historian Davis Bitton, whose scholarly credentials are also impressive, is listed as joint author. It is apparent that the research assistants and other Historical Department personnel named in the preface have also contributed to the marshaling of the material in the book. The Mormon Experience is divided into three parts: "The Early Church," "The Kingdom in the West" and "The Modern Church." The sixteen chapters include standard historical narratives, interpretive historical essays, and sociological, theological and economic analyses. Their content reflects the "state of the art" in Mormon history and social studies as of early 1978, when the book went to press. The four-chapter treatment of the background, appeal, and persecution of Joseph Smith and his followers is as sophisticated as has appeared from Mormon authors. Analogies to Luther and Swedenborg are used, and representations of sinless saints and diabolical villains are not. Among diverse explanations of difficult historical problems, it is not surprising that one compatible with the canons of "faithful history" is always included and often endorsed. For example: "If the latter version [of the first vision] was different, this was not a result of inventing an experience out of whole cloth, as an unscrupulous person might readily have done, but rather of reexamining an earlier experience and seeing it in a different light" (p. 8). So preoccupied are these chapters with interpretation that they provide less narrative history than some uninitiated readers may need. Beginning with Carthage events the book moves into a more conventional historical mode, which is maintained through chapters on the exodus from Nauvoo, the colonization in the West, nineteenth century immi-