Craig L. Foster. Penny Tracts and Polemics: A Critical Analysis of Anti-Mormon Pamphleteering in Great Britain (1837-1860). Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2002. 260 pp., with index. $39.95.
This work contains the contents of the author’s 1989 Brigham Young University master’s thesis, now appearing in an attractive edition. In this book Foster provides historians and others with the essential overview of British anti-Mormon literature of the period (1837-60). It also includes many helpful biographical sketches of obscure anti-Mormon writers, providing insight into their backgrounds and motivation, as well as supplying an important bibliography of the primary and secondary literature. Vignettes of selected pamphlets illustrate the book.
Christian Gellinek and Hans-Wilhelm Kelling. Avenues toward Christianity: Mormonism in Comparative Church History. Binghamton, N.Y.: Global, SUNY-Binghamton, 2001. xvi + 196 pp. $25.00 paperback.
This study by Gellinek, a noted German scholar, attempts to place the history of the Latter-day Saints as “part of mainstream Calvinist church history” (back cover). Likewise, it sees Mormonism as a development of Christianity through revelation. The present work is based on Gellinek’s Christus in America? which was published in German (Münster, 1999). Gellinek continued his research during a stay at Brigham Young University in 1999. It has been enlarged and revised, based on additional study and his lectures given at the Mormon History Association meeting in Denmark in 2000. He was assisted by Professor Hans-Wilhelm Kelling of Brigham Young University, who helped in a review and translation of the work.
While some errors of fact may be noted, these tend to be minor. Readers may well find this review and discussion of Latter-day Saint history, doctrine, and leadership—written from a German perspective—affords fresh insights and suggests interesting areas for further inquiry. Gellinek’s approach to the Latter-day Saints is friendly and appreciative, and Latter-day Saints will welcome his description of his study as “a representation of the phenomenon and the significance, i.e., the developmental process, of a Christian church” (p. 3). Gellinek finds that “Mormonism as a total phenomenon is somewhat different, but not fundamentally so, from Christianity nor is it opposed to science. On the contrary, although Mormonism at first glance appears a bit foreboding to the outsider, on closer scrutiny it soon emerges as a powerful pacesetter for Christianity on the way to spiritual enlightenment and as a preliminary step toward additional inspiration. The enlightenment continues to shine from America in all directions world-wide” (p. 150).
W. F. Walker Johanson. What Is Mormonism All About? Answers to the 150 Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002. xiv + 226 pp., with index. $12.95.
Walker Johanson, a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organizes his book in a simple question-and-answer format. In his foreword to the book, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch says, “In its seventeen chapters, which are organized by categories of commonly asked questions, readers will find humor, insights into the Church’s doctrine, and Walker’s personal explanations for some of the unique characteristics of ‘Mormon’ lifestyle, culture, and interest in family history” (p. xii). Writing partially with the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics in mind, Johanson explains that “this book was written to help those of you who are curious about Mormons and their beliefs—and who may have many misconceptions and misinformation about Mormonism—by answering those questions that you have mulling around in your head . . . that you’ve been reluctant to voice, out of fear of being ‘pounced on’ by the nearest pair of Mormon missionaries” (p. xiv).
Dennis L. Largey, gen. ed. Book of Mormon Reference Companion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003. xxiii + 850 pp., with appendixes and index. $49.95.
With the publication of the Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Latter-day Saints now have an encyclopedic dictionary devoted solely to the Book of Mormon. More than 100 authors have contributed more than 900 entries that address 1,500 Book of Mormon topics—including people, places, words, doctrines, themes, historical background, Isaiah chapter reviews, and general topics of interest. Additionally, the book features chronologies, charts, maps, photos, paintings, study guides, and much more.
This heavy volume (weighty because it has been printed on high-quality paper) is organized in alphabetical fashion and features a split-column reference style and an internal reference system to guide the reader to related articles. Appendixes include a study guide to the Book of Mormon, statements about the Book of Mormon by church leaders, and relevant definitions from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. This book will serve as an invaluable study aid for new members as well as seasoned scholars.
Mark L. McConkie, ed. Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003. xi + 529 pp. + CD-ROM. $32.95.
This is a substantial collection of anecdotes and recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith from people who knew him personally. It draws on more than 800 sources, including previously unpublished nineteenth-century journals, to create a picture not only of Joseph’s physical appearance, but of his temperament, manner of daily life, and character. The book is organized into six chapters, covering topics such as “The Character and Personality of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” “The Gifts of the Spirit” (including accounts of little-known prophecies, miraculous healings, and spiritual discernment), “Joseph Smith and the Scriptures,” “The Ordinances of the Church,” “Historical Items,” and, in an introductory chapter, a judicious discussion of “The Problems and Promise of Historical Memories.” A treasure trove of interesting materials, particularly appropriate as we approach the bicentennial of the Prophet’s birth, Remembering Joseph can profitably be read straight through, browsed, or used as a reference work. The printed book is accompanied by a CD-ROM containing thousands of additional stories and quotations.