The Mormon Moment in Scholarship

Paul Harvey

Everyone is discussing the "Mormon moment" thanks to Romney and national politics, and Max Mueller's piece for Religion Dispatches discusses why non-expert pontificators feel free to pontificate on Mormonism's "weirdness" where they would do no such thing about other religious traditions. Don't miss his article.

But it may actually be more the Mormon moment in the scholarly world than anywhere else. Our own John Turner's biography of Brigham Young will be out in a little over a year or so (and scroll down for John's recent post on Joseph Smith's Journals), with Harvard University Press, and the big biography of Parley Pratt by Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow will be reviewed here at the blog in just a little while. And don't forget Patrick Mason's The Mormon Menace, reviewed here at the blog a while back. The world awaits J. Spencer Fluhman's forthcoming study of nineteenth-century anti-Mormon rhetoric, coming out next fall with the University of North Carolina Press; the parts I've seen represent scholarship at its best.

The efflorescence of scholarship in the field is pretty astonishing, keeping up with it impossible. For a little assistance in the latter, I recommend Ben Park's "2011 in Retrospect: A Look at Important Books and Articles in Mormon History," over at Juvenile Instructor. Here are Ben's personal award winners for the year, but go over to his post for a much fuller and more extensive discussion of the variety of recent scholarship in the field.

My picks for a handful of MHA’s awards are as follows. (Drumroll please…)

  • Best Book: Sam Brown, In Heaven as it Is on Earth
  • Best Biography: Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow, Parley P. Pratt
  • Best First Book: Patrick Mason, The Mormon Menace
  • Best Article: Stapley and Wright, “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism” (Stapley also gets recognition for “Adoption Sealing Ritual,” which is equally deserving of the award)
  • Awards of Excellence (2 Articles): Patrick Mason, “God and the People”; Chris Jones, “The Power and Form of Godliness”
  • Silver Award for Women’s History: Catherine Brekus, “Mormon Women and the Problem of Historical Agency”


Unknown said…
Another piece worth reading alongside Mueller's is Nathan Oman's response to a Chronicle of Higher Education piece about voting for a Mormon. Great roundup, Paul
-Seth Dowland
Elesha said…
Paul, or anyone who knows, where does a "moment" like this come from? More selfish follow-up question, what would it take to generate a mainline moment in scholarship?
Curtis J. Evans said…
great question about where this comes from. I too am waiting for a response to that kind question. As to your second question, perhaps we are moving in that direction again in light of David Hollinger's presidential address at the Organization of American Historians (and now in the Journal of American History) on what he calls "ecumenical Protestantism." He takes up in a way some of the issues that the late Bill Hutchison wrote about in his work on the Protestant Establishment, which seems to fit more generally with the kind of work you are doing on Christian Century and mainline Protestants. Of course, I have a vested interest in such work as I am working on the Federal Council of Churches and Race Relations from the 1920s to the 1950s. When you have a better answer about what it would take (and how this would actually look) to generate a "mainline moment" in scholarship, do let me know.
HFF said…

Readers of your blog who want a better understanding Mormon history might be interested in a historical novel called Odysseys of the Saints which is available at Amazon or direct from the Publishers.

The Mormons are a singularly American religion. They are optimistic, expansive and generous with an outlook that has attracted millions of believers. But the distinct Mormon beliefs have also created controversy again and again. Odysseys of the Saints tells "how and why" from the viewpoint of both fiction and fact.

This book was extensively researched, with sources noted, not only on Mormon history, but on matters of ritual and theology. Neither of the authors is Mormon or ex-Mormon, so there is no religious agenda, either positively or negatively. It was written by my sister and father.

More information is available on the book website www.