Review of Alex Beam. American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church. PublicAffairs, 2014. 352 pp.
Abstract: On April 22, 2014, PublicAffairs, an imprint of a national publisher Persues Books Group, released American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church, authored by Alex Beam. Beam, who openly declared he entered the project without personal biases against Joseph Smith or the Latter-day Saints, spent a couple of years researching his work, which he declares to be “popular non-fiction” and therefore historically accurate. This article challenges both of these assertions, showing that Beam was highly prejudiced against the Church prior to investigating and writing about events leading up to the martyrdom. In addition, Beam’s lack of training as an historian is clearly manifested in gross lapses in methodology, documentation, and synthesis of his interpretation. Several key sections of his book are so poorly constructed from an evidentiary standpoint that the book cannot be considered useful except, perhaps, as well-composed historical fiction. Continue reading
Abstract: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s uncomfortable relationship with its polygamous history is somewhat like an awkward marriage separation. This is, in part, because of the fitful, painful cessation of plural marriage and the ever present reminders of its complicated past. This essay looks at examples of members’ expression of discomfort over a polygamous heritage and concludes with suggestions of possible pathways to a more comfortable reconciliation. Continue reading
Abstract: The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield has been touted as a solid, impartial look at Mormon history and doctrine. Unfortunately, on closer examination, the book is seriously lacking both in substance and impartiality. This article discusses the book’s numerous problems.
Review of Stephen Mansfield. The Mormonizing of America: How the Mormon Religion Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture. Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2012. 264 pp. $22.99. Continue reading
Since the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the British Press has had an interest in Mormonism. Over the years there have been newspaper and magazine articles and exposés discussing just about every aspect of Mormonism from polygamy and the anti-polygamy crusades in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century to the building of the London Temple in the 1950s and Mitt Romney’s quest for the presidency of the United States.1 There have also been radio and television pieces showing the Tabernacle Choir, Mormon families worshipping at church and The Book of Mormon Musical which is now playing in London. Overall, in spite of many positive stories that have appeared about the LDS Church, the British press has, overall, had a fascination bordering on infatuation with the perceived sensational and bizarre aspects of the religion. Continue reading
Review of John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), viii, 500, map, photos, notes, index.
Brigham Young has repeatedly been described as larger than life and most people, critics and supporters, would agree. Brigham Young (1801–1877), second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led the Saints like a modern-day Moses from the turmoil of Nauvoo to the Great Basin. He then oversaw the settlement of over three hundred communities in the intermountain west. He directed the growth and development of the LDS Church and left an indelible mark on both Mormonism and the western United States. Brigham Young was, indeed, larger than life. Continue reading