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.
Dialogue Foundation, 202 West 300 North, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103
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Peterson, F. Ross ; Peterson, Mary Kay
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The "New Mormon History" Reassessed in Light of Recent Book on Joseph Smith and Mormon Origins
The "New Mormon History" Reassessed in Light of Recent Books on Joseph Smith and Mormon Origins Marvin Hill In 1959, while a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I wrote a review of the historiography of Mormonism for Church History which incorporated the major books and articles from 1832 to 1959 in only eight pages. Now I am hard pressed to review as concisely the major books on just one topic. Despite a flood of studies on Mormonism since 1959, I do not believe that there actually exists an entirely "new Mormon history" in terms of the issues argued or the points of view expressed, and certainly not in the negative sense that some would describe it. In 1959 I found a group defending the Church on the right, writing faith-promoting history which affirmed the truth of Mormon historical claims. In the center was a group of professionals, some Mormon, some not, who focused on questions other than "Is Mormonism true?" And on the left was a group who insisted that Mormonism was historically untrue, a religious corruption, and a fraud. These general categories still tend to hold up, as we shall see, except that more Mormon scholars now fit into the center. Moses Rischin, who apparently originated the term "new Mormon history," correctly noted in 1969 that the last decade had seen scholars of every religious persuasion writing about Mormonism, providing a degree of intensive study "unparalleled for any religious group except the Puritans." Rischin said that the new history constituted a "Mormon declaration of cultural independence," evidenced by the appearance of Dialogue and the organization of the Mormon History Asociation. Rischin said these Mormons agree that Mormonism is fair game for examination and that "Mormon history and culture can be studied in human or naturalistic terms — indeed must be so studied." But Rischin added significantly that Mormon historians believed this could be done "without thus rejecting the divinity of the Church's origin and work" (p. 49). While Rischin's appellation has stuck, much of his insightful characterization of the faithful aspects of the history has been forgotten. MARVIN HILL is a professor of American history at Brigham Young University.