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Jan Shipps and the Mainstreaming of Mormon Studies

  • Philip Barlow (a1)



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2. Vol. 89 (June 2002): 323. Shipps also has critics within Mormon ranks. BYU political scientist Louis Midgley finds her Mormonism: the Story of a New Religious Tradition “not a book of rigorous scholarship or deep learning.” “The Shipps Odyssey in Retrospect,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7:2 (1995): 252.

3. Ruthven, Malise, “The Mormons' Progress,” Wilson Quarterly 15 (spring 1991): 2250.

4. The most comprehensive analytic treatment of the historiography is by four important contributors to the field: Walker, Ronald, Whittaker, David, and Allen, James (with a contribution by Armand Mauss), Mormon History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001). In a briefer excellent history, two key figures in the advent of “the new Mormon history,” Bitton, Davis and Arrington, Leonard, featured Shipps, Bushman, Richard, and Peterson, Charles as contrasting models of approaches to writing about the Saints: Mormons and their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988).

5. Allen, James B., Walker, Ronald W., and Whittaker, David J., eds., Studies in Mormon History, 1830–1997: an Indexed Bibliography, with “A Topical Guide to Published Social Science Literature on the Mormons,” by Mauss, Armand L. and Reynolds, Dynette Ivie (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000).

6. The first book about the Saints set the precedent for antagonism: Howe's, Eber D. 1843 Mormonism Unvailed; or, A Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and Delusion (Paines-ville, Ohio: By the author, 1843), 74.

7. See, for example, Robinson's, PhilSinners and Saints: A Tour across the States, and Round Them with Three Months among the Mormons (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883).

8. San Francisco: Harper, 2000.

9. For links between the profound change and concepts of “space” and “place,” see Barlow, Philip, “Shifting Ground and the Third Transformation of Mormonism,” in Perspectives on American Religion and Culture, ed. Peter, Williams (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1999), 140–53.

10. See especially Brodie, , No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945; 2nd rev. and enl., 1977); Morgan, , Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History, ed., Walker, John Phillip (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1986); Brooks, , The Mountain Meadows Massacre (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1950; 2nd ed., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962).

11. Shipps's imprint on Mormon history overlays that of the unsurpassed Arrington, whose ongoing, dominating influence derives not only from his specific historical insights, but also from his pioneering topics and approach, unrivaled prolificacy (which extends far beyond Mormon history), entrepreneurial energy and generosity to younger scholars, and decade-long position as the first professionally competent historian of the LDS church. See especially his Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958, and later reprints); Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); The Mormon Experience (with Bitton, Davis) (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979; 2nd ed., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992); and his autobiographical Adventures of a Church Historian (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998). For O'Dea, , see especially The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957). Flanders, , Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965).

12. See Walker, Whittaker, and Allen, Mormon History, for a fuller listing. Beyond those mentioned elsewhere in the text and notes of this essay, examples of such figures include Thomas Alexander, Marvin Hill, Michael Quinn, and several of the historians who have comprised what is now the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Latter-day Saint History at BYU. Researchers in the Department of Religious Education at BYU and the Church Education System have tended toward inbreeding and isolation by publishing in nonrefereed forums, but scholars such as Richard Anderson, Milton Backman, Larry Porter, and Kenneth Godfrey nonetheless added to knowledge of the movement, as has George Smith and several scholars under his sponsorship.

13. “The Prophet Puzzle: Suggestions Leading toward a More Comprehensive Interpretation of Joseph Smith,” Journal of Mormon History 1 (1973): 320.

14. RLDS scholars who helped reconfigure the movement and its history include Richard Howard, Alma Blair, Paul Edwards, William Russell, and F. Mark McKiernan. A younger and later scholar, Roger Launius, long the head historian at NASA, now of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., became the most prolific of all.

15. “The New Mormon History,” American West 6 (March 1969): 49.

16. The authors are Bushman, Richard, Vogel, Dan, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2004), and a three-volume work by Kenney, Scott, Bradley, Martha, and Wagoner, Richard Van. Written for the Penguin Life Series, Robert Remini's recent Joseph Smith (New York: Viking, 2002) is disappointing, the work of an eminent authority on Jacksonian America who wrote politely, superficially, and derivatively about the Mormon prophet.

17. An excellent, thoroughly comparative appraisal of important titles published in the 1990s is Ouellette, Richard, Religious Studies Review 25:2 (04 1999): 161–69.

18. A prominent example is Launius, Roger, “Mormon Memory, Mormon Myth, and Mormon History,” Journal of Mormon History 21 (spring 1995): 2324.

19. For example, Flake's, Kathleen remarkable Mr. Smoot Goes to Washington (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press), and Forsberg's, ClydeEqual Rites?: Mormonism, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture (New York: Columbia University Press). The dark episode of the Mountain Meadows Massacre continues, beyond Juanita Brooks, to attract attention. Examples include the Denton's, Sally dispensable American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 (New York: Knopf, 2003), as well as two more substantial efforts: Bagley's, WillBlood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002); and Oxford's forthcoming treatment of the Mountain Meadow Massacre by Glen Leonard, Richard Turley, and Ronald Walker.

20. Church authorities' urging of partisan, testimonial history is sharply drawn in Packer's, Elder Boyd K.The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” BYU Studies 21:3 (summer 1981): 259–78. A convenient introduction to the philosophical exchange is George, Smith, ed., Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1992). On Hofmann, see Sillitoe, Linda and Roberts, Allen, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988), and Turley, Richard, Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992).

21. Barlow, Philip, Mormons and the Bible: the Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), vii.

22. For example, Winn, Kenneth, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830–1846 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), and Leone, Mark, The Roots of Modern Mormonism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), a pejorative yet underappreciated work. Interesting, brilliant, and problematic are Bloom's, Harold poetically insightful but historically tenuous The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), and Brooke's, JohnThe Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), justly praised for pathbreaking research into trans-Atlantic hermeticism, justly criticized for speculative leaps and for not knowing Mormonism or the Bible very well. Shipps's illuminating assessment is in Sojourner: “Thoughts about the Academic Community's Response to John Brooke's Refiner's Fire.” Distorting and sensationalized works reminiscent of nineteenth-century exposé, such as Krakauer's, JonUnder the Banner of Heaven (New York: Doubleday, 2003), periodically appear and draw the attention of popular audiences and even scholars ungrounded in Mormon scholarship.

23. See especially De Pillis's, The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism,” Dialogue 1 (spring 1966): 6888; “The Social Sources of Mormonism,” Church History 37 (March 1968): 5079; “The Emergence of Mormon Power since 1945,” Journal of Mormon History 22 (spring 1996): 132; and Foster's, Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); reprinted as Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984).

24. Shipps herself has given a good historiographical account of the impulse in “Mormonism: An Independent Interpretation,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 937–41.

25. See the stunning analysis in chapter 3 of Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, as well as the book's conclusion.

26. Shipps does have broader interests. She is editor of the Mountainwest volume in the important forthcoming series on public religion: Religion in the Regions (Alta Mira Press). She is also at work on the provisionally titled See You in Church?: Religion and Culture in Urban America, a study of religious practice in five American cities, of which Salt Lake City is but one.

27. December 28, 1945, in Wallace, Stegner, ed., The Letters of Bernard DeVoto (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 282.

28. Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), xvxvi.

29. In an American context, see especially Thomas, Tweed, ed., Retelling U.S. Religious History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), and the forum in Church History 71:2 (June 2002): “Is There a Center to American Religious History?” with contributions by Amanda Porterfield, Stephen Stein, William Vance Trollinger, Jr., and Peter Williams.

30. David, Whittaker, ed., Mormon Americana: A Guide to Sources and Collections in the United States (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1995). One remarkable development making some such resources readily available to scholars anywhere in the world is the release of Richard, Turley, ed. and prod., Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2 vols., 74 DVDs (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2002). The invaluable collection consists of high-quality photographic images of more than 400,000 manuscript pages of mostly nineteenth-century materials. Another example is Vogel, Dan, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 19962003).

31. Gaustad, Edwin and Barlow, Philip, New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 303, Figure 3.22.

32. Ahlstrom, Sydney, A Religious History of the American People (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1975), 1:614.

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