Reviews

   

Praise for Exhibiting Mormonism: Latter-day Saints and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair

"Neilson's account of the Utah/Mormon presence at the 1893 World's Fair shows the enormous appeal of Mormonism's secular dimensions. It also reveals how very unwelcome its religious aspects were. These are important additions to LDS history. But this work's greatest contribution is the author's observation about what LDS leaders learned in Chicago. Ever since, much more of the church's time and energy has featured 'those Amazing Mormons' rather than their distinctive system of belief."

--Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

 

"A captivating account of a massive public relations effort by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... an important part of Mormon scholarship. It is a worthwhile read for those seeking to understand Mormon public relations."

--Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News

 

"In Exhibiting Mormonism, Reid Neilson offers a fascinating glimpse into both the efforts by Mormons beginning in the 1890s to represent their faith to a skeptical public, as well as to the reactions by Protestants and others to the newly public face of a growing religious movement. This vivid account expands our knowledge of the popular transformation of Mormons from heretics to patriots in the twentieth century."

--Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"The 1893 Columbian Exposition was Mormonism's coming out party. It launched the now massive public relations effort to make friends for the Church as well as converts. After suffering from isolation and ignominy for half a century, Mormons at last had a place in the sun. Reid Neilson tells in fascinating detail how much the Exposition meant to Mormons and the impact their participation had on visitors. This is a critical part of Mormonism's transition to American citizenship."

--Richard Bushman, Columbia University

"Lucidly written and engaging, Neilson's work addresses multiple scholarly fields from American religious history to gender and women's studies...Neilson will surely produce many more insightful studies."

--Journal of Illinois History

"Overall, Neilson adds an interesting piece to a growing body of scholarship on Mormonism and makes his case for a change in the Church's public relations program after the 1893 Chicago Fair. Along the way, he provides an intriguing account of little-known episodes of Mormon participation at the fair."

--Marian Wardle, BYU Studies

 

"Exhibiting Mormonism, is a detailed description of how Latter-day Saints used the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair as a showcase to reengage with American culture after years of geographic, theological, and cultural isolation. Coinciding with the recent public relations campaign, Neilson’s book is very timely. So too was the church’s decision to capitalize on this opportunity in 1893."

--Matt McCook, H-Net Reviews

 

"Neilson’s book is a success, both at showing the showing for the first time a pivotal change in how Mormons presented themselves in the early twentieth century, and in integrating together the other historical developments associated with Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. In this volume, as in others he has written, Neilson continues to open up new horizons in Mormon history and, with other historians, to take the Mormon past to some of history’s best presses."

--Ryan Tobler, Juvenile Instructor

 


Praise for Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901-1924

"In the midst of increasing interest in missionary history, the early growth of the Mormon Church, and the internationalization of American religious traditions, this engaging study provides insight into the first attempts to spread LDS beliefs to Japan in the early twentieth century. An important and rich contribution to our understanding of Christian missionary history."

--Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

"Neilson has written an excellent study that fills a gap in American religious and missionary historiography, while making an important contribution to Mormon history. The book deserves to be widely read by historians and interested general readers, including LDS missionaries who have been called to, or who have labored in Japan."

--Aaron Skabelund, Mormon Historical Studies

 

"A significant contribution to scholarship and the mission history of this era. The work will be important to those interested in comparative mission history, early modern East Asia, and the rise of the international LDS church."

--Greg Gubler, Brigham Young University, Hawai

 

"Neilson's book is important. The reader gets the opportunity to interact with a fine mind as the writer wrestles with causal factors. . . . It is a delight to watch him weigh the evidence. It is also impressive that he is so thorough in seeking out documentation. He read scores of journals and letters from the missionaries and consulted 250 academic studies."

--Douglas D. Alder, Utah Historical Quarterly

 

"Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901-1924 is a crucial contribution to Mormon Studies, broadening the scope from the typically-discussed western United States to the wider world of Mormonism. Broader missiology scholars will welcome its bringing Mormon missionary work into the fold. Former LDS missionaries, especially those who served in different cultures and learned new languages, will be interested in the inner-workings of an early twentieth-century mission. Reid discusses literature and translation, tracting and street meetings, convert baptism and retention problems, jingoism and nationalism, polygamy, magic lantern shows, sporting activities, finances, and many other aspects of missionary life. It is a well-documented and well-argued comparison of LDS missionary efforts to the broader Christian desire to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19)."

--Blair Dee Hodges, Association for Mormon Letters
 


Praise for Joseph Smith Jr.: Reappraisals after Two Centuries

"The net effect of this excellent book, a valuable collection of essays, is to dramatically widen the circle of readers now familiar with the deeper currents of modern Mormon studies, especially as these relate to its founder."

--Edwin S. Gaustad, University of California, Riverside

 

"This volume has enormous potential to dramatically increase our respect for Joseph Smith. We may already see him as chosen and prophetic, but the fact that he influenced American history, not just American religious history, makes him a figure worthy of study as a great man, as a harbinger of huge social and cultural shifts, even as a genius-without apology and by non-Mormons with no religious agendas. This view may be news to many Latter-day Saints, but it is news that we should all hear. The professional experience and disciplinary diversity of the scholars who contributed to this collection are dazzling, as is the range of theoretical methodological approaches they bring to their reappraisals of our Prophet. As a scholar and a believer, I am deeply grateful for their efforts."

--Kirsten M. Christensen, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought

 

"As with Mormonism in total, academics have generally used historians’ tools to grapple with Smith’s life. And, as editors Neilson and Givens argue . . . too often this strategy has led to a conceptual dead end. . . . The solution Neilson and Givens propose is to multiply the number of tools in the scholar’s chest. This is wise, and useful. The volume should, one hopes, introduce many historians of Mormonism to a wide variety of other disciplines that will not only enrich their everyday work, but may also indicate new frameworks to approach the seemingly eternal conundrum of Joseph Smith. Included in this collection are essays by literary critics like Richard Dilworth Rust, Givens, and Richard R. Brodhead; students of religious studies like Catherine Albanese, Douglas Davies, Neilson, and Maffly-Kipp; specialists in the Hebrew Bible like Margaret Barker and Kevin Christensen, and Richard Mouw, an evangelical theologian; in addition to historians James Allen, David Whittaker, Richard Bushman, and Klaus Hansen."

--Matthew Bowman, Mormon Historical Studies


Praise for Proclamation to the Pacific: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier

"Although this is a book about nineteenth-century Mormonism and its expansion into the Pacific Basin frontier, it also makes important contributions to the study of American religion and the history of Christianity in its many forms in this period. . . . The strengths of this collection lie in the rich comparative work most of them undertake. For those who are interested in understanding the history of the expansion of Christianity in all its forms and related movements, the collection here provides essential insight into the ways the introduction of Christianity shaped Pacific cultures, but also the ways in which Pacific cultures adapted and shaped Christian movements and practices in their territories. Mormonism provides a useful lens for understanding these developments because it is on the one hand a branch of Christianity, and on the other a completely different approach to the older traditions."

--Randi Jones Walker, Church History
 

"Readers who are interested in the Pacific Basin or worldwide Church history will find much to enjoy in this volume. Proclamation to the People makes a unique contribution in the sense that, until now, most religious studies of this region have examined Catholic and Protestant influences."

--Kimberly Webb Reid, Brigham Young University Studies 

 

"This book provides an enlightening approach to the understanding of nineteenth-century Mormonism and some countries in and around the Pacific Rim. While my own visualization of the spread and influence of Mormonism has generally been outward bound, professors Maffly-Kipp and Neilson urge us also to see the interchange from another vantage point. They ask, What influences have the multiple encounters between Mormons and various nations and cultures had upon the heart and core of Mormonism? The rather vast purpose of the editors constructs a pleasing intellectual adventure as the reader encounters the variety of articles that are amassed here."

--R. Lanier Britsch, Brigham Young University, Provo

 

"Maffly-Kipp and Neilson introduce the concept of Mormonism on the Pacific Basin Frontier as well as Mormonism's place in the religious perspective of American religion. . . . The stamp of approval by Lanier Britsch, the most prolific historian of three of the four areas covered, should itself encourage readers to investigate what lies between the covers."

--Kenneth W. Baldridge, Journal of Mormon History

 

"The volume as a whole is well thought out and is a good selection of the important articles on Mormons in the Pacific."

--Greg Gubler, Brigham Young University, Hawaii

 


Praise for Reflections of a Mormon Historian: Leonard J. Arrington on the New Mormon History

"The editors do a very nice job of beginning with essays about Arrington's life, then seamlessly move on to include his reflections on writings about Mormon history, and finally the actual craft of Mormon historiographical writing. . . . Reflections of a Mormon Historian is a gentle, yet invigorating trip, taking its readers through the many peaks and valleys that accompany a career in Mormon history."

--David Earl Johnson, Journal of Mormon History

 

"Students of Mormon history will find here a convenient window into the life and thought of Arrington, whom Ron Walker, in his introductory essay, calls 'The Happy Warrior.' This book also sheds light on other important events of the latter part of the twentieth century, including the reorganization of the Church Historian's Office, the founding of the Mormon History Association, and the era of the New Mormon History. It will be of interest to those who worked during the Arrington years and those wanting to better understand him and the New Mormon History that he has come to symbolize."

--Sarah Prete, BYU Studies

 

"Offering a middle-of-the-road perspective rather than a polarized view of Church history either attacking or defending claims of the faith, Reflections of a Mormon Historian includes the essays 'The Search for Truth and Meaning in Mormon History,' 'Clothe These Bones: The Reconciliation of Faith and History,' 'The Intellectual Tradition of the Latter-day Saints,' and much more. . . . Highly recommended for religious history shelves"

--James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

 

"Nearly a decade after his death comes another book of Leonard Arrington essays. Offered fondly and optimistically by editors Reid Neilson and Ronald Walker Reflections of a Mormon Historian is composed mainly of Arrington articles; two previously unpublished, and twelve that have done earlier service. An extraordinary collection of photos is offered along with a “chronology” of Arrington’s life borrowed from the Arrington Papers Register at Utah State University Library. Joining the editors in the prefatory material are Susan Arrington Madsen whose “foreword” is brief but intimate, and David Whittaker. The latter’s “Arrington Bibliography” runs to thirty-five pages, and lists approximately fifty-eight books, monographs and pamphlets, three hundred forty-three articles and chapters in books, as well as forty-nine reviews, and eighty addresses and duplicated papers."

--Charles S. Peterson, Utah Historical Quarterly

 

"Arrington was one of the founders of the New Mormon History movement in the late 20th century, and he was named Church Historian of the Latter-day Saints Church in 1972, the first professional historian to hold that post. Reprinted here are fourteen of his published essays reflecting on his own efforts to reconcile his religious beliefs and his professional standards."

--Reference and Research Book News

  


Praise for The Mormon History Association's Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years

 

"Although the association's work and membership has tended to be rather insular, this volume of 21 collected Tanner Lectures represents some of the best of what its activities have contributed to the field of Mormon studies. Highly recommended."

--Choice

 

"The study of Mormonism has been largely an insider's activity. This collection showcases the successful effort of the Tanner Lectures to counter that trend and showcase the value of comparative studies in Mormonism. Characterized by imaginative observations about an imaginative tradition, this collection is a must read for any student of Mormonism and a good read for any student of American religion."

--Kathleen Flake, New Mexico Historical Review

 

"This is one of the most important interpretive works ever published about early Mormonism and its largest modern denomination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . . These very readable essays provide intriguing insights and provocative commentary for both specialists and non-specialists, Mormons and non-Mormons. Despite the post-1900 emphasis of Bowden, Marty, and Stark, the book gives multifaceted support to Hatch’s observation that 'early Mormonism may soon rival the Puritans as the most studied of American religious phenomena.' This collection deserves wide readership."

--D. Michael Quinn, Pacific Historical Review

 

"Each lecture brings a different perspective, a different lens to the Mormon past. Reading the essays in order, Shipps points out, reveals not only the findings of the studies but also something of 'the history of the doing of Mormon history across twenty years.'"

--BYU Studies

 

"This book compiles essays from the first twenty years of Tanner lectures, with brief explanatory introductions to the entire collection and to specific sections. The three sections are 'Beginnings,' 'Establishing Zion,' and 'Mormonism Considered from Different Perspectives.' These essays make for an enlightening and educational read."

--Utah Historical Quarterly

 

"This is a good volume for any person interested in Mormon history. Many of us have never had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Mormon History Association, but we’re well aware of the many contributions it has made to the study of the Restoration tradition. I am glad to recommend this book to anyone interested in studying these ideas.”

--Jeff Needle, Association for Mormon Letters

 

"Scholars outside the field of Mormon studies may learn from the gems offered in this volume. Just as many American church-goers leave potlucks well-fed and spiritually nourished, serious readers of The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures will not go hungry."

--David J. Howlett, John Whitmer Historical Journal

 


Praise for Taking the Gospel to the Japanese, 1901-2001

 

Winner of the 2006 Geraldine McBride Woodward Prize for the best publication on the international history of Mormonism.

--Mormon History Association

 

"These nineteen chapters by American and Japanese historians celebrate the first 100 years of the Church in Japan and examine the formidable religious, cultural, and language challenges encountered in taking the gosepl to the Japanese. This book was named the Best International Mormon History publication of 2006."

--Richard H. Cracroft, BYU Magazine


Praise for The Rise of Mormonism

 

"Rodney Stark's Mormon essays will surprise and instruct Latter-day Saints and provoke debate in everyone else. No one takes revelation more seriously than he does. He is that rare sociologist of religion who believes the world's great revelators, including Joseph Smith, were not frauds or crazy. Serious students of Mormonism must know this work."

--Richard Lyman Bushman, Columbia University

 

"Rodney Stark's notorious predictions of Mormonism as an emergent world religion have overshadowed an extensive and much more significant engagement with the LDS religion. Reid L. Neilson's assemblage of these penetrating essays establishes both Stark as a preeminent scholar of Mormonism and the value of Mormon studies as a potent paradigm for the history and sociology of religion and our understanding of successful religious movements."

--Terryl L. Givens, University of Richmond

 

"In the 1980s, Rodney Stark began creating a comprehensive theory of how religions grow. In The Churching of America the theory was applied to Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics, then to The Rise of Christianity. Now comes The Rise of Mormonism, again illustrating the fertility of his theory in this wonderfully written book. All readers will learn from it."

--Phillip E. Hammond, University of California, Santa Barbara 

 

"This is a thought-provoking book, . . . For religious studies students, Stark's work provides a rich source for questioning the nature and evolution of religious communities, especially those founded on the idea of revelation, in a historically self-conscious world. Collecting his essays on this subject in a single volume makes accessible an important voice in the sociological study of religion."

--Kathleen Flake, Journal of Religion

 

"The book's open-minded style of theory and method in the study of religion challenges modern methodologies in its rigor and neutrality. This is a great read for sociologists of religion, and for those interested in theory and method, Mormonism, world religions, and North American religion.'"

--Stephen C. Finley, Religious Studies Review

 

"With an extended introduction authored by Reid Neilson, this edited volume brings together a revised and updated collection of Stark's seminal writings on Mormonsim over the last 25 years. Anyone seeking a single compilation that highlights Stark's social scientific work on the topics of Mormonism, the rise of religious movements, social capital, networks, church growth, and secularization will find this to be a valuable resource. . . . The Rise of Mormonism is a joy to read. It is a well-written, thought-provoking compilation covering nearly three decades of scholarship that will continue to stimulate further discussion, debate, and research in this sphere."

--Henri Gooren, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

 

"The Rise of Mormonism is a thoughtful and insightful look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not so much as a movement born of revelation and restoration, but rather as a unique religious institution bearing the optimal characteristics for maximum growth and sustenance. Stark's analysis will not sit well with some who see the success of the Church as a divine reward rather than the result of various sociological factors. But Stark's conclusions merit examination and evaluation, and will surely provoke discussion in many quarters. I am glad to highly recommend this book to thoughtful readers desiring an understanding of the Church from a different perspective."

--Jeffrey Needle, Irreantum

"Rodney Stark is one of America's pre-eminent sociologists."

Gerald M. Mcdermott, Books and Culture


Praise for Believing History: Latter-day Saint Essays


"Believing History is an unparalleled compilation of essays capping three decades of Mormon scholarship by one of the country's top American historians. Richard Bushman exemplifies the historian's goal of understanding a subject matter on its own terms, without compromising his own Mormon faith. The result is an impressive achievement of interest to both Mormon and non-Mormon readers seeking a further understanding of America's greatest religious success story."

--Harry S. Stout, Yale University

"Classic Bushman throughout: erudite, elegant, witty, and unassuming. Others have illumined the complexities of American religious history, and still others have defended the credibility of Christian faith in the modern (andpostmodern) world. But few have equaled, and none has surpassed, Bushman's ability to do both at once, cogently, and with the excitement of a conversation very much in process. Non-Mormon academics sometimes have said that the LDS tradition is still young enough to feel a need to justify itself historically. These essays suggest that the opposite may be true. In Bushman's hands LDS scholarship displays the wisdom of a traditiongracefully come of age: intelligently at ease with itself in a strangely non-believing culture."

--Grant Wacker, Duke University

"Reflecting a long career, these addresses and critical studies showcase Bushman's skill as a historian. As 'Mormon essays' they also highlight tensions a distinguished practitioner experiences studying his own faith. Rich and rewarding for scholars and lay folk alike."

--John F. Wilson, Princeton University

"Over against the diffidence of evangelical historians, who may sometimes say too little in what they write, Bushman's essays are refreshingly bold."

--Elesha Coffman, Christian Review

"This volume represents a significant contribution. . . . The depth and quality of these essays affirm Bushman's status as the most articulate scholar defending the traditional interpretation of early Mormon origins."

--Newell G. Bringhurst, Jourmal of Mormon History

"Probably the greatest scholar who happens to be a Latter-day Saint, Richard L. Bushman is a historian of exceptional accomplishment. . . . A careful scholar, he has always balanced the academic with the religious."

--Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret Morning News


Praise for The Japanese Missionary Journals of Elder Alma O. Taylor, 1901-1910


"Alma O. Taylor kept a very interesting record as he served first as a missionary and then as mission president in Japan. The result is a trove of information on the activities, hopes, disappointments, and rare successes of the handful of men who, at the turn of the twentieth century, began preaching the gospel in Japan. Scholars and other persons interested in Mormonism's beginnings in Japan cannot afford to disregard the thoughtful, thorough record that Taylor kept. Neilson's helpful introduction provides the historical context and background for the opening of missionary work in JapanTaylor's life after he returned to the United States. Carefully captioned photographs, credited to BYU Studies editor John W. Welch, enhance the book. A biographical register contains background on almost four hundred individuals named in the diary. Neilson's notes assist those unfamiliar with the Japanese language, geography, or personalities from Mormon history."

--Kenneth Godfrey, Journal of Mormon History