New Publications from Staff Members

Members of our staff have kept busy in their academic pursuits during 2017. In the last few months, several staff members have published books, and others have had articles featured in various academic journals.

In September, BYU’s Religious Studies Center released The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History. The book, edited by general editor Matthew J. Grow and editorial manager R. Eric Smith, contains short chapters from fifteen historians that examine how the minutes of the Council of Fifty enrich and alter our understanding of a variety of key issues in Mormon history. Several historians from The Joseph Smith Papers contributed articles:

  • Spencer W. McBride, “The Council of Fifty and Joseph Smith’s Presidential Ambitions”

  • R. Eric Smith, “Insights into Mormon Record-Keeping Practices from the Council of Fifty Minutes”

  • Matthew J. Grow and Marilyn Bradford, “‘To Carry out Joseph’s Measures is Sweeter to Me Than Honey’: Brigham Young and the Council of Fifty”

  • Jeffrey D. Mahas, “American Indians and the Nauvoo-Era Council of Fifty”

  • Matthew C. Godfrey, “A Monument of the Saints’ Industry: The Nauvoo House and the Council of Fifty”

  • Christopher James Blythe, “‘With Full Authority to Build Up the Kingdom of God on Earth’: Lyman Wight on the Council of Fifty”

In March, Reid L. Neilson and Nathan N. Waite published Settling the Valley, Proclaiming the Gospel: The General Epistles of the Mormon First Presidency, an in-depth look into the epistles of the First Presidency during the settling of the Salt Lake Valley. The book invites readers to look at the intersection between the settlement of Utah and the sending forth of missionaries to every inhabited continent in the world. In an analysis of fourteen general epistles, Reid and Nathan paint the picture of what it was like to be a settler, a missionary, and a Mormon from 1849 to 1856.

In January, Mason K. Allred published his dissertation as part of the Routledge Focus on Film Studies Series. Weimar Cinema, Embodiment, and Historicity: Cultural Memory and the Historical Films of Ernst Lubitsch focuses on the early cinema of German director Ernst Lubitsch. In his analysis of Lubitsch’s historical films, Mason uses film as a lens to examine our experience with and understanding of history.

Mason also published an article in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. In “Circulating Specters: Mormon Reading Networks, Vision, and Optical Media,” Mason examines how nineteenth-century trends such as optical deceptions, phantasmagoria, and tales of spectral appearances intersect with Joseph Smith’s use of print media to circulate news of his own visions.

Matthew C. Godfrey recently had two articles published, one in Mormon Historical Studies and one in the Journal of Mormon History. In “A Season of Blessings: The Function of Blessings in Kirtland, Ohio, 1834–1835,” Matt explores the different types of blessings that were given to members of the church during 1834 and 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio, and examines the ways these blessing functioned. In “Wise Men and Wise Women: The Role of Church Members in Financing Church Operations, 1834–1835,” Matt discusses how church members donated desperately needed funds during this period, examining little-known records to reveal the financial difficulties Joseph Smith and the church faced and the role that everyday Saints played in resolving those concerns.

Christopher James Blythe had an article featured in BYU Studies. In “Ann Booth’s Vision and Early Conceptions of Redeeming the Dead among Latter-day Saints,” Chris focuses on an 1840 vision that recent convert Ann Booth had of the spirit world, which became known in Nauvoo and which Joseph Smith talked about later that year. The article contextualizes this vision in the larger conversation about Christian and early Mormon beliefs about the salvation of the dead.