Ben Bridgstock. The Joseph Smith Family. Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2005. 362 pp., with bibliography and index. $24.95.
This book provides a convenient summary of the lives of the remarkable family of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, parents of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It includes biographical information on Joseph Smith and all his siblings. Separate chapters provide sketches of the lives of Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, Alvin Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sophronia Smith, Joseph Smith Jr., Emma Hale Smith (the Prophet’s wife), Samuel Harrison Smith, Katherine Smith, William Smith, Don Carlos Smith, and Lucy Smith. Final chapters provide a narrative of the final days of Joseph and Hyrum, concluding observations by the author, and a compilation of comments on Joseph Smith by several prominent persons.
William J. Hamblin. Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History. London: Routledge, 2006. xxiv + 517 pp., with bibliography and index. $29.95.
Dr. Hamblin, a professor of history at Brigham Young University and a frequent FARMS contributor (for example, with Stephen D. Ricks, coeditor of the important 1990 FARMS volume Warfare in the Book of Mormon), has produced a hefty tome that ranges from its opening chapter on “The Neolithic Age and the Origin of Warfare (to c. 3000)” to an eighteenth chapter treating “Early Second Intermediate Period Egypt (1786-1667).” In between, he discusses warfare and siegecraft in Mesopotamia under the Akkadians and Neo-Sumerians and through the Middle Bronze Age (which furnishes the volume’s terminal date); covers Mari, Syria, Lebanon, Canaan, and Anatolia; and closes with several chapters on warfare in Egypt commencing from the Pre-Dynastic, Early Dynastic, and Old Kingdom periods. Among many other topics, the book treats questions of recruitment and training, logistics, weaponry, the role of “magic,” naval conflict, fortifications, and combat narratives. Hamblin pays particular attention to the ideology of the “holy war” in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, arguing that subsequent Near Eastern concepts of “holy war” (including today’s) should be understood against this older background. In a jacket endorsement, Professor Robert Drews of Vanderbilt University pronounces the book “a goldmine of information—both textual and archaeological.”
Carol Hansen. Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is It Christian? Independence, MO: Refiner’s Fire Ministries, 1999 [revised and reprinted 2000, 2003]. viii + 291 pp., with appendix and bibliography. $12.00.
What is noteworthy in the radical changes made (beginning in the 1960s) in what is now the Community of Christ is the ease with which some have been able to shed the last vestiges of the heritage of Joseph Smith. When the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s prophetic charisms were challenged within the Reorganization, these changes either led to the formation of a movement waiting for something to happen to restore the old order or to the formation of a series of tiny sects. But some—it is not at all clear how many—former RLDS simply shifted allegiance to some form of conservative Protestantism. Carol Hansen’s disillusionment led her directly into the countercult version of evangelicalism. Her book manifests little understanding of the Restoration and little sympathy for those who have invested much of their energies in the Restoration movement.
John P. Hatch, ed. Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund, 1890–1921. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2006. lxxiv + 822 pp, with introduction, chronology, listing of prominent characters, and index. Limited edition. $100.00.
This book provides a substantial collection from the diaries of Anthon H. Lund (1844–1921), especially from the period of his most prominent contribution to church leadership. In his youth, Lund was a convert to Mormonism in Denmark. He came to Utah in 1862 and served the church in many capacities. Among his callings and responsibilities, he served as a missionary several times, as a mission president in Scandinavia and Europe, as president of the Manti and Salt Lake Temples, and as church historian. He was ordained an apostle in 1889, later serving as a counselor to President Joseph F. Smith and President Heber J. Grant in the First Presidency. His journals touch on many significant events in church history, including the practice and cessation of plural marriage, tensions between Moses Thatcher and the other apostles, the refusal by the U.S. House of Representatives to seat B. H. Roberts as a congressman from Utah, hearings over the seating of Reed Smoot in the Senate, publication of the History of the Church, and the review of doctrinal matters and important publications. In his editor’s introduction, John P. Hatch provides a well-documented sketch of Lund’s life and work. A selection of interesting photographs is also included.
Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment, eds. The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, Volume 2: From the Transfiguration through the Triumphal Entry. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006. viii + 456 pp., with scripture and subject indexes. $25.95.
This volume on Christ’s mortal ministry completes the ambitious series beginning with the birth of the Savior (volume 1) and culminating with the period of his arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and atonement (volume 3, already published). Powerful portrayals of Christ, his teachings, and his interactions are presented by twelve faithful Latter-day Saint scholars. Richard Holzapfel and Thomas Wayment, the editors of the series, introduce the challenges and advantages of having four separate Gospel accounts and suggest ways to use both those individual accounts and harmonies of the Gospels. The articles present insights on the relationship of Jesus with his family and friends, the effect on the Savior of the death of John the Baptist, the events on the Mount of Transfiguration, the opposition of the Jewish rulers, and the meaning of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Paul Trask. Part Way to Utah: The Forgotten Mormons; A Look at the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with a foreword by R. Philip Roberts, 2nd ed. Independence, MO: Refiner’s Fire Ministries, 2005. ix + 193 pp., with four appendixes and bibliography. $12.00.
Paul Trask, the author of Part Way to Utah, is a former member of what is currently known as the Community of Christ. Trask depicts himself as one of the many casualties among conservative members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints generated by a gradual takeover, beginning in the late 1960s, by those indoctrinated in liberal Protestant seminaries. An escalating and ever increasingly radical series of changes were forced upon those previously situated in the Reorganization. Many conservative RLDS ended up joining one of the splinter groups that have broken away from the Reorganized Church. Unlike these, Trash gravitated into a form of fundamentalist Baptist religiosity. This explains the glowing endorsement of Trask’s essay by Phil Roberts, currently the president of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Roberts was the person primarily responsible for the anti-Mormon propaganda circulated before and during the 9–11 June 1998 annual convention in Salt Lake City of the Southern Baptist Convention. Trask has become a rather typical countercult anti-Mormon. The primary difference between this book and the usual countercult literature on Mormon things is that Part Way to Utah attempts to direct the attack against the Community of Christ.
One useful feature of this volume is the collection of statements by those now disaffected from the Reorganization whose transition into Protestantism was clearly facilitated by their already having imbibed much of the style and some of the content found in nineteenth-century Protestant fundamentalism. They have now shifted fully in that direction.