The Collected Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lectures
Utah State University Press , 2005. Hardcover:
Suggested retail price: $29.95 (US)
Mention the name Leonard Arrington and, if you are a reader of Mormonhistory, you will likely smile. What a wonderful scholar he was. Hisresearch, writing and passion have inspired so many of his friends andreaders. He was truly a giant in the field of Mormon scholarship.
When Arrington bequeathed his personal library and papers to Utah StateUniversity, he requested that they inaugurate an annual lecture seriesfocusing on Mormon life and history. This request became a reality when,in 1995, the first lecture was given in the Leonard J. Arrington MormonHistory Lecture Series.
This volume collects the addresses given in the first ten years of theseries. Individually, the lectures provide a fascinating view into someaspect of Mormonism; collectively, they reflect not just fine scholarshipand evident passion, but a real affection on the part of the writers forthe man whose legacy provided the framework for this series.
The first lecture is given by Arrington himself. Titled "Faith andIntellect as Partners in Mormon History," Arrington ponders therelationship between faith and reason, and the role each plays in thedevelopment of religious thought. He focuses on five leaders who hebelieves personified these ideas: Joseph Smith, Jr., Eliza R. Snow,Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, and Emmaline B. Wells. The essays arebrightly written and nicely reflective of the impact each had in theintellectual development of Mormonism.
Next is Richard Lyman Bushman's "Making Space for the Mormons." As istypical of Bushman's writing (in my opinion, of course), the prose tendstoward the dry and clinical. It is, however, a helpful study of theMormon concepts of space and place. He reviews the logical and economicalway in which Mormon towns were laid out, focusing on the atypical methodused -- eschewing the then-accepted centrality of commerce for the greaterimportance of spiritual growth. The presence of so many "temples" in theplans signified this emphasis.
Richard E. Bennett contributes "'My Idea is to Go Right Through Right SideUp with Care':The Exodus as Reformation." His thesis is nicely summed upthusly:
...I maintain that in their [the immigrants'] eyes the *sine qua non* of their ultimate success was neither brawn nor brain but covenant and obedience. In the simplest of terms, they came to believe -- and it was a gradual process of belief -- that they would find their place if they would follow their God. (p. 57)
Focusing on the perceived parallels between Zion's Camp and Zion's March,Bennett makes the case that the march to the Salt Lake basin coveredspiritual terrain as much as it did the earthly plane. It is a fascinatingstudy, one of the best in the volume.
Howard R. Lamarr follows with "The Theater in Mormon Life and Culture."Lamarr surveys the role the theater played in early Salt Lake City, both asentertainment and as relief from the burdens of the trek and the buildingof the city.
Claudia L. Bushman's "Mormon Domestic Life in the 1870s: Pandemonium orArcadia?" opens a window into the story of the relationship between ThomasL. Kane and the Mormon pioneers. His wife Elizabeth was less thanenthusiastic about visiting Salt Lake City. Her view, in particular, ofpolygamous marriage, was informed by the eastern press, and thusunfavorable. But after spending time with them, her opinions graduallyshifted and softened her toward the Mormons.
Kenneth W. Godfrey's excellent "The Importance of the Temple inUnderstanding the Latter-day Saint Nauvoo Experience: Now and Then"explores the role of temple building and planning in the larger developmentof Mormon polity. He sees the origin of wards, and the emphasis ontithing, as temple-based. It's an interesting and informative read.
Jan Shipps offers "Signifying Sainthood, 1830-2001." The distinguishednon-Mormon historian describes how Mormon life and belief are lived out inhow the Saints eat, drink, dress and live. It's a wonderful journey acrossthe historical landscape of Mormon life and practices.
Next is "Encountering Mormon Country: John Wesley Powell, John Muir, andthe Nature of Utah" by Donald Worster. The author chronicles the travelsof Powell and Muir, their general disaffection with the Mormonecclesiastical system, and their favorable impression of Mormon views ofconservation and ecology.
"Rachel's Death: How Memory Challenges History" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrichis a highly personal and deeply affecting memoir of stories told by hergrandfather, stories of family and heritage. And as the author discoversdocuments dealing with that period, the past comes alive. It's a wonderfulread.
The volume concludes with F. Ross Peterson's "'I Didn't Want to Leave theHouse, but He Compelled Me To' -- A Personal Examination of a MormonFamily." Another personal memoir, Peterson explores his own polygamousancestors and their place not just in their society but in his ownreligious memory.
This collection is a valuable addition to the extant literature concerningMormon history and life. Its essays are concise and well-written, afitting tribute to the man for whom the series is named, Leonard J.Arrington.
I gladly recommend the book, and commend Utah State University for makingthese lectures available to the rest of us.
Jeff Needle January 3, 2005
© 2005 Jeff Needle