The Mormon Moment Hits the New Yorker

Paul Harvey

The Book of Mormon was a sacred object meant to be venerated; the fact that it existed mattered as much as what it said.Here's something you don't see every day: a sympathetic look at the history of Mormonism, drawing heavily from recent scholarship by contributors and friends of the blog, in the New Yorker. There's a bit of a weak connection with Mitt Romney's campaign at the end, and other issues that could be raised with this or that passage in the article, but I'm less interested in picking nits than highlighting Adam Gopnik's praise of and reliance on Matt Bowman's The Mormon People, John Turner's Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, Joanna Brooks's Book of Mormon Girl, and J. Spencer Fluhman's A Peculiar People. Did I mention we have covered each of these works extensively on the blog previously? (He also mentions Paul Gutjahr's The Book of Mormon: A Biography, which we've mentioned briefly here before).

Gopnik writes:

Matthew Bowman’s “The Mormon People” (Random House) offers a comprehensive, neatly written synopsis of the whole history of the Latter-day Saints movement; Paul C. Gutjahr’s “The Book of Mormon: A Biography” (Princeton) traces the origins and afterlife of Latter-day Saints scripture; J. Spencer Fluhman’s “A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth Century America” (North Carolina) shows how much Mormon-hating helped shape standard American Protestantism; and John G. Turner’s “Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet” (Harvard) is a definitive biography of Mormonism’s greatest activist and apostle.

The rest of the article is an interesting read; glad to see these authors get appropriately prominent play in an unexpected place.


Edward J. Blum said…
good to see Mormonism prominently and so well discussed back in its New York roots!!!
FOBs (friends of blog) going big time and mainstream! What's next? A huge tele-documentary about Aimee Semple McPherson?
Christopher said…
I wish I could convince Mormon friends on facebook that this is, in fact, a sympathetic look at Mormonism. Sigh.

I'm thrilled to see so many close friends and mentors' work being featured and discussed so positively, though. Thanks for the notice, Paul.
Edward J. Blum said…
it's not like the author called the Mormon use of the Christus an icon of white supremacy or anything like that
Edward J. Blum said…
And Kevin, that sounds unthinkable to me, if not downright crazy
Anonymous said…
There is nothing in that article that a Mormon would find to be sympathetic. Inaccuracies and misstatements abound. Principle among them is the notion that the book of Mormon is a sacred object to be venerated. The author claims that the presence of the scripture is at least as important as its content. Converts to Mormonism as well as faithful members will tell you that it is the teachings contained in the book that draw them to the church, Not the mere fact that it exists.
John G. Turner said…

I can understand why faithful Mormons would find that comment about the BOM offputting (putting it mildly), but the idea comes straight from faithful Mormons scholars like Terryl Givens. There's been a much stronger emphasis on reading and studying the BOM since the early 1980s, so the comment is not as applicable anymore.

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