The Uncorrelated Essentials?

So, my wife left the Deseret Book catalogue sitting out, and I felt like maybe I ought to pick it up and take a look. I saw most of what I usually see: yet another J.F. McConkie / Robert Millet collaboration (yawn), new cover designs for old classics (the new Miracle of Forgiveness is spiffy!), and plenty of artwork (none of which is of my stripe). It’s no SBL catalogue, but it seems like a pretty good one for its intended audience.

Now, on page 41, something caught my eye. It’s called “Essential Gospel Library.” Here they featured 3 books and refer the reader to the website (click here) for more. So I went there to see what the essentials were, according to the DB marketing machine (and Correlation?). I was pleasantly surprised and also mystified. Surprises: Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, vols. I & II. I didn’t even know these existed. Very cool. I won’t tell you what books left me mystified, but the list got me thinking. I’m sure there are other posts similar to this in the ‘nacle, so let’s start a new one — nice ‘n fresh!

What are your favorite UNcorrelated essentials for Mormon studies?

3 Rules:

1. You can name as many as you like, but let’s keep the reasons why we like them brief (but not non-existent) but informative. No more than a couple of sentences for each recommendation.

2. Explain why you like such-and-such uncorrelated material in an informative, intelligent way. Saying “this is good” doesn’t help other readers much.

3. No rule here. I just wanted the rules to have the magic number of three (“Trilogy! Trilogy!”). 😉

Let’s have fun.

10 Replies to “The Uncorrelated Essentials?”

  1. Here is my initial list, in alphabetical order, by author:

    Barlow, Phillip. Mormons and the Bible. A diachronic analysis of how the Mormons have received, read, and utilized the Bible.

    Brodie, Fawn. No Man Knows My History. This book, to me, was surprisingly not as mean or critical as I had heard it was, and found it to be a joy to read. Smart woman, smart book.

    Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven. Perhaps Brother Brown’s life work, and it shows. Thoroughly researched and fun to read, if just for the footnotes!

    Brown, Matthew B. and Paul T. Smith. Symbols in Stone. A lot like Gate of Heaven, only concentrating on the exterior of Mormon temples.

    Buerger, David J. Mysteries of Godliness. Perhaps a bit too assertive for some, it does, in the end, give one the low-down on the higher ceremonies and rituals. Most beneficial for its section on the fullness of the priesthood.

    Bushman, Richard. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. I finished mine about 1 week ago and adored it. I read it with the footnotes. Without them, it could come across slightly unbalanced.

    Ehat, Andrew F. Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Priesthood Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question. Points out that the highest order of the priesthood went with the apostles to Utah (contra RLDS claims) through the revelation and conferral of the highest ceremonies of the temple.

    Jackson, Kent. Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible. The coolness of this book is in its thematic presentation of Joseph’s teachings according to their order in the (Christian) Bible. For example, all of Joseph’s teachings regarding Elijah would be found in the Malachi section. If one knows one’s Bible, this is inestimable. Possibly not uncorrelated, but I’m not sure.

    Givens, Terryl. By the Hand of Mormon. My favorite book on the BofM. It’s pretty well-balanced and thoroughly researched.

    Prince, Greg. Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood. This little book is packed with a lot of information and research, showing most interestingly (to me), that the dichotomy of priesthood into “lesser” and “greater” (and even tripartite priesthood per JS on 27-Aug-1844!) may have been a later development. To fully enjoy the book, a Harold House re-print of the original Book of Commandments, D&C, and Book of Mormon would be needed and read in conjunction.

    …and many others (this took longer than I thought it would!).

  2. I’m a biography person, and I’d recommend the following:

    Rough Stone Rolling
    American Moses
    David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
    Lengthen Your Stride: Pres. of SWK

    So, OK, there’s a little chronological gap in there–but I hear a good bio of Heber J. Grant is coming out this year . . .

  3. Let me quickly second David J. on the following (for much the same reasons):

    Barlow, Phillip. Mormons and the Bible. Brodie, Fawn. No Man Knows My History. Buerger, David J. Mysteries of Godliness. Ehat, Andrew F. Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Priesthood Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question. Prince, Greg. Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood.

    I’d also add:

    Flake, Kathleen. The Politics of American Religious Identity : The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. A fabulous overview of the transitions in doctrine and politics as the church abandoned polygamy in the 1900s.

    Thomas, Mark D. Digging in Cumorah: Reclaiming Book of Mormon Narrative. A sensitive, even lyrical close reading of several key Book of Mormon texts. This book is filled with insights and ideas that could be profitably smuggled into Sacrament talks or Gospel Doctrine lessons.

    Quinn, D. Michael. The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power and The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Much is made over a set of alleged errors of citation in the first chapter of the Extensions of Power volume, but such debates notwithstanding, these books will introduce a substantial part of the New Mormon History more quickly than any other reading I could recommend.

    Mauss, Armand L. The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle With Assimilation and All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage. Tired of people who make sweeping claims about Mormon beliefs and behaviors with no empirical backing? Meet Dr. Mauss, who actually uses survey data to discuss differences among groups of Mormons, across time and space, and also between Mormons and non-Mormons of various religious groups. Mauss also writes well.

    Arrington, J. Leonard and Davis Bitton. Saints Without Halos:
    The Human Side of Mormon History
    . This is a collection of short, highly readable biographies of non-general authorities within the Mormon church over time. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read about Mormonism.

    I could go on, but I won’t test people’s patience any more…

  4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ethics.
    Writing in a concentration camp, Bonhoefer explores how Christians may live the Sermon of the Mount every day. He argues that Christians cannot rely on a set of categorical principles. Rather principles need to be applied contextually. For example, if truth benefits the ultimate evil then Christians have the duty to lie. Wonderful book by a contemporary martyr.

    Karl Popper. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. I and II
    In this (polemical) tour de force through western philosophy, Popper shows that unreasonable knowledge claims are the foundation of tyrannical power claims. While other Christians emphasize their faith, we Mormons like to refer to our religious convictions as knowledge. We might become better neighbors if we were a little less certain about religion. Popper helps us to see the virtue of doubt.

  5. I’m mostly interested in the few theology books.

    McMurrin – The Theological Foundations of the Mormons Religion

    Ostler – Exploring Mormon Thought Volume 1 and Volume 3 (which just came off the presses this week)

    Widtsoe – Rational Theology

    Pratt – I only have The Essential Orson Pratt but it is excellent.

    I need to get some BH Roberts too. Plus neo-orthodox stuff from McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith is a must have (even if I don’t agree with much of it). Talmage’s articles of faith is a must have but might not fit the “uncorrelated” label.

  6. I’ve got to second or third Mormons and the Bible, Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Priesthood Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question, Gate of Heaven, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, By the Hand of Mormon,.

    I’d add

    Words of Joseph Smith. Joseph said a lot of “uncorrelated” stuff. Some of his teachings have been garbled in transmission, and the commentary by Ehat and Cook is invaluable. Example here

    Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930– This more than anything else is a good book to help people that the Church of today is not identical to the Church of JS or BY. Most of the transitions in doctrine and practice took place during the time period covered herein.

    I haven’t read or finished several of the things other people have listed, but I’ll get to them eventually.

  7. I think I would have to categorize it.


    Mormonism in Transition
    Power from on High
    Origins of Power

    In Sacred Lonliness
    McKay’s recent
    Rough Stone Rolling

    On the Potter’s Wheel
    William McLellin’s
    Ministry of Meetings

  8. We might become better neighbors if we were a little less certain about religion. Popper helps us to see the virtue of doubt.

    Helmut, I like this! I feel sometimes that we sound so smug, rude, and cultish when we say “I know such-and-such,” as if to imply that our listener doesn’t know those things. Tell me more!

    Stapley — totally cool. Thanks for the list!

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