Category: Church History

“Placentero nos es trabajar”

“Placentero nos es trabajar” or “Despedida” is one of the more popular hymns that is included in Latter-day Saint hymn books, written by a Latter-day Saint, but not in the English hymnal at this time. Hence, I’ve been consistent in pointing it out as a likely candidate for inclusion in the forthcoming hymnal. While I’ve talked about this hymn in the past, this post will serve two purposes—first, it is going to be where I pick up the Mexican Mission Hymns series. Second, it’s also a co-post for a recent interview with John A Gonzalez—the grandson of Andrés Carlos González, the author of the hymn—at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk.

The Curious Role of the Book of Mormon Witnesses in Evangelical Debates about the Resurrection

While we Latter-day Saints have our apologists and reason-based arguments for faith and defenses against attacks on the faith, those are, by our own admission, to help create a place for faith or respond to criticisms that attack that faith, we are careful to formally base our religious epistemology in the numinous, personal spiritual experience.  In contrast, there is a line of thinking in some Christian circles that the resurrection’s eyewitness accounts are compelling enough to force any reasonable person to accept the reality of the resurrection based on sound historical evidence alone. I’ve heard these arguments a number of times from a number of sources, and while I (rather conventionally and boringly) ultimately don’t find them compelling from a historiographical point of view, they are interesting.  Where Mormonism comes into these debates is that a common skeptical rejoinder has become “well, if we are forced into believing in the resurrection because of these eyewitness accounts, what about the Book of Mormon witnesses?” And then the response often tends to devolve into distorting what the witnesses were or did, because ultimately the point is a good one. (One of the Protestants making this argument is renowned apologist William Lane Craig, and Stephen Smoot has already done a more thorough analysis of Craig’s views on the Church.) Protestants aren’t the only ones whose truth claims have eyewitnesses, and once you step outside of their theological world there are other examples of…

Pioneer Utah and Gender Inequality in Education

Back in the day, the census would record the literacy of respondents (in any language), so I used the IPUMS data (that I have used in several posts before) to access the complete censuses of pioneer Utah and look at literacy across time by gender. The complete US census data across all the years literacy was asked was big enough that it would have taken hours for my computer to crunch the numbers, so I selected Texas and Vermont (the two states on either side of Utah in terms of FIPS codes).The jump in illiteracy in 1870 is an artifact of the fact that that was the year when they began asking the question to anybody 10+ instead of 20+. As seen, Utah actually had relatively high literacy, higher than Vermont during the same time. Additionally, the gender gap in literacy was negligible, while in Vermont men were more literate, while in Texas women were more literate. Code is here.

On Martha Hughes Cannon

Martha Hughes Cannon was a notable, if complicated, woman in Utah history. Although somewhat forgotten (partly due to her son burning all her journals, at her request), she has become more widely remembered in recent years. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, From the Desk, biographer Constance L. Lieber shared some of her thoughts on this fascinating individual. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Brigham Young’s Early Journals

While the Joseph Smith Papers project is, in many respects, wrapping up, other presidents of the Church—including Brigham Young— have begun to receive more attention and papers projects of their own. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Ronald K. Esplin discussed some of his observations about the first volume of the Brigham Young journals to be published by what could be called the Brigham Young Papers Project.

2024 Church History Symposium

2024 Church History Symposium “Shall the Youth of Zion Falter?” The Young Women?and Young Men Organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Stay Thou Nearby: A Review

The 1852–1978 priesthood and temple ban on Blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those affected most directly by it. I have been grateful, however, for efforts in the Church to address the issue more openly in recent years, including several publications from Deseret Book relating to the subject. These include both My Lord, He Calls Me and Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood, with the most recent contribution to the subject from Deseret Book being Stay Thou Nearby: Reflections on the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood. 

George Q. Cannon was far too Helpful and Talented

It is not an uncommon experience in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve other than the president of the Church to functionally run the Church or to have a huge impact on the Church. In the twentieth century, for example, J. Reuben Clark, Harold B. Lee, and Gordon B. Hinckley played that role when the older members of the First Presidency were in poor health. In the nineteenth century, the most prominent example is George Q. Cannon. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Kenneth L. Cannon spoke about his George Q. Cannon biography and why George is so important. What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator, a Review

I have to say that I’m a fan of the trend towards short, accessible biographies of notable figures in Latter-day Saint history. Between University of Illinois Press’s “Introductions to Mormon Thought” series and Signature Books’s “Brief Biography,” there is a lot of excellent work being published. One of the most recent, Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator by George B. Handley (University of Illinois Press, 2023), is a stellar addition to the library of any Latter-day Saint.

Diné dóó Gáamalii: Navajo Latter-day Saint Experiences in the Twentieth Century: A Review

Alicia Harris—an Assistant Professor of Native American Art History at the University of Oklahoma—wrote that “If the LDS Church really can work for all peoples, we need to more attentively listen, hear, and be represented by a much greater variety of voices. We must more actively prepare a place for dual identities to be touched and nurtured in the culture of the gospel.” Farina King’s Diné dóó Gáamalii: Navajo Latter-day Saint Experiences in the Twentieth Century (University Press of Kansas, 2023) provides a great opportunity to do just that by listening to the experiences of the Diné dóó Gáamalii (Navajo Latter-day Saints).

The First Vision in Two Churches

The recently-published Restorations: Scholars in Dialogue from Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a fantastic glimpse into the similarities and differences between the two largest churches that emerged from the legacy of Joseph Smith, Jr. One of the highlights was a discussion between Keith J. Wilson and Lachlan E. Mackay about the First Vision. An interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk with Keith J. Wilson highlighted some of what they had to say on the topic. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Pure Language and Egyptian Language Documents

One of the articles to have recently been published in the Journal of Mormon Studies that has generated a lot of buzz is about a Pure Language Project and the Grammar and Alphabet documents produced by Joseph Smith and his associates in Kirtland, Ohio. And while the article by Michael MacKay and Daniel Belnap is, as the authors put it, “limited to the ivory tower of university journal access,” they did do a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Waiting for Saints, Volume 4

Saints, Volume 3 came out on April 22, 2022. Given the estimated biannual cadence of releases for the series, we are likely to see Saints, Volume 4: Sounded in Every Ear come out sometime next year. Now, I hope by now that it’s clear that I am a fan of the series and when we were approaching the release of Saints, Volume 3, I published a post discussing what we could likely look forward to from the history. I would like to do the same for Volume 4. The intention here is not to publish a wish list of what I want in the book, but to have some fun taking educated guesses at what is likely to be discussed in the history.

The Miracle of Forgiveness: Experiences from President Kimball’s Journal

Journal text selected by Dennis B. Horne.   Some liberal dissidents of that day and this take issue with Elder Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness, thinking Elder Kimball to have been too hard and harsh on those who indulge in sin and won’t repent. For this reason I have included many diary entries documenting his writing the book and the highly influential results of its publication—including what certain of his Apostolic associates thought of it. Also what President Dallin H. Oaks thought of it.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 21: Maya

As the Church became strongly established in Mexico, it spread from the historic epicenters in Mexico City and the northern colonies to reach across the full country—including among the Maya peoples of southern Mexico.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 20: Stakes and Temples

The Third Convention was reunited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part due to the observation that stakes with local leadership and local temples would come only as the schism healed and the Church continued to become stronger in Mexico. It took some time, but stakes and temples did come.

The Many Lives of the King Follett Sermon

I have to admit that I have had an ongoing fascination with the King Follett Sermon. I had been acquainted with bits and pieces of it here and there, but only really became familiar with the full text early on in my mission. But it has shaped a lot of my theology and views in the years since then. Apparently, I’m not alone – William V. Smith just published an entire book about the sermon (The King Follett Sermon: A Biography [BCC Press, 2023]) and talked about his research in a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Review

Richard Lyman Bushman’s Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 2023) is an important contribution to Book of Mormon studies. As a cultural history of the gold plates, the book traces the story of the plates and the translation of the Book of Mormon, reactions to the story and the development of folklore about the gold plates over the subsequent two centuries. It also discusses how the plates have been portrayed in artwork and literature, used in teaching programs in the Church, and some of the debates about the plates.  Even while visiting the story of the plates—as he has before in Rough Stone Rolling and Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism—Bushman provides fresh perspectives on the story. For example, he focuses on the idea that Joseph Smith may not have understood the purpose of the plates as a record that needed to be translated initially, rather than being a treasure. At first, Joseph Smith may have approached the plates with his treasure hunting in mind rather than a religious perspective. After all, the idea of a book-length record on gold plates wasn’t really something that was a common idea. It was only gradually, as he became acquainted with the interpreters and what was on the plates that he realized it needed to be translated. It was a perspective that I’ve not seen emphasized before (at least within my memory). As you read, you can tell…

Memories: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context. This is part 4 of an ongoing series of excerpts from Spencer W. Kimball’s journals.

Lowell Bennion

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saw a group of highly-impactful university professors during the 20th century who helped to shape Latter-day Saint thought. For many, Hugh Nibley, Truman Madsen, Eugene England are a well-known part of their experience with the Church. Another figure that deserves to be remembered in that group is Lowell Bennion. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, biographer George Handley discussed Lowell Bennion and his contributions to the Church. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Meeting Church Leaders: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context.   This is the third of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.

Neal A. Maxwell: Disciple Scholar

A favorite speaker at general conference when I was growing up was Neal A. Maxwell. Eloquent and deeply thought out talks were something of a hallmark for him, with plenty of alliteration thrown in for good measure. His life and discipleship was discussed in a recent interview with Bruce C. Hafen at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview. 

Presidents of the Church: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship. Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context. This is the second of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.