Juvenile Instructor

Barney v. Bagley: Historians Debate John V. Long Papers by David Grua
November 13, 2007, 11:07 am
Filed under: David Grua, Rare Documents

Courtesy KUEROk, it probably won’t be a debate. But today at 11 am (MST) Ron Barney, of the Church Archives, and Will Bagley of Blood of the Prophets fame will be discussing the John V. Long Papers on KUER’s Radio West, with Doug Fabrizio. Rare documents dealer Ken Sanders will also weigh in on the discussion. Here’s the description:

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (2007-11-12) Tuesday on RadioWest – a real life murder mystery from the old West. John V Long was a confidant and scribe of Mormon leader Brigham Young, but he fell from grace, was excommunicated from the LDS Church, and finally found dead in a drainage ditch in 1869. Doug is joined by historian Will Bagley, rare book dealer Ken Sanders and church historian Ron Barney to explore what Long’s newly discovered papers tell us about life in the early days of the Utah territory.

I know Ron Barney personally and he’s a fine historian. He’s working on the Joseph Smith Papers. I don’t know Will Bagley personally, although I did see him at a SL Chinese restaurant a few weeks ago. Anyway, we’ll try to get a writeup of the discussion posted on the site a little later on. And we promise, Will, that we’ll be nice. Bagley-bashing won’t be a sport here, even if we don’t agree with everything in your book.

Update:  Here’s a writeup. Others that listened, please correct me or add pertinent information.

Provenance: The Long family approached Ken Sanders about a year ago about selling the collection. Sanders mentioned that he is intent on keeping the collection intact, but he also mentioned that he could make a lot more money by selling pieces of the collection separately.

Contents: Pitman shorthand specialist LaJean Carruth and Church Archives documents expert Christy Best evaluated the collection’s contents yesterday and found that there are journals, letters, and sermon transcriptions. There are also hundreds of pages of Long family genealogical materials. The collection does not have Long’s 1857-1858 diary, which would have covered the Utah War and Mountain Meadows period. Long mentions that there were 115 pitman diaries from the period, but only 11 remain, suggesting that many were destroyed for unknown reasons. There are in the collection transcriptions of a few Brigham Young sermons, including one where Young spoke about his boyhood. There are records describing Long’s High Council court, where he is charged with associating with the Young Men’s Social Club and other conduct unbecoming of a Latter-day Saint. He is also charged with associating with Gentiles that would seek to shed Mormon blood. There is also a document describing Long’s activities with sprititualism. There are two Eliza R. Snow poems that Sanders describes as being previously unknown and unpublished.

Long bio: Long was one of Brigham Young’s scribes and was very prominent in Utah territory. His wife Sarah was an important figure in the Utah arts scene, and painted “Brigham Young and His Friends,” which portrays her husband as being close to Young. After Long’s 1866 excommunication, she and her husband fell out of favor in social circles.

Intrigue surrounding death: Long’s daughter later said that her father was seen with one of Brigham’s B’Hoys, Bill Hickman, the night before his [Long’s] death. The accusation is that Hickman drowned Long for knowing too much. There was quite a bit of discussion concerning the different theories surrounding the death-was it a murder or was it an accidental death? Bagley hopes to publish an article with the Utah Historical Quarterly soon describing the different theories. One theory is that Long became too involved with Gentile mining interests, which challenged Young’s authority. Another theory is Long told Young that Orson Pratt was a better speaker than Young. Another theory is that Long wrote Young’s alibi letter in the aftermath of Mountain Meadows.

Barney’s Response: Barney contested the idea that Long was a close confidant of Young’s. Long was one of fifteen scribes, and was not even the most trusted scribe, which was probably George D. Watt. Watt and other scribes also fell out of favor with Young, but they were not murdered. There is evidence to suggest that Long was actually coming back into favor in the months preceding his death: 1) he was reappointed as a regent in the University of Deseret 2) prominent Mormons such as Samuel W. Richards and Edwin Wooley spoke at Long’s death. Barney also mentioned that Hickman did not mention Long in his [Hickman’s] memoirs, which were written in 1871, just two years after Long’s death. Barney characterized Bagley’s claims as “creative advertisement,” “tabloid history,” and said that “Bagley lives a much more exciting life than I do.” Bagley responded that he never claimed that the Long collection contained accusations of murder, but that other sources do. Also that his [Bagley’s] article does not contain any speculation, to which Barney said that despite asking for a copy, Bagley has not yet sent one to him.

 Notes on Eliza R. Snow poems: I’ve been informed by a reliable source that the two new poems are not “unknown,” but are simply new manuscript iterations of poems that are known from other sources. They have not, however, been published previously.


“As Does the Bible”: Official Statement Forthcoming…Maybe by David Grua
November 12, 2007, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Book of Mormon, David Grua


There has been considerable question concerning how we should interpret the omission of the phrase “as does the Bible” from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. The phrase first appeared thus in the 1981 edition: “It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americans and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” However, in the 1992 Spanish-language edition, the phrase “as does the Bible” was removed. The change was reflected in subsequent foreign-language (re)printings, and first appeared in English in the 2004 Doubleday edition.

Carrie Moore in her Deseret News article mentioned the “as does the Bible” change, but stated that the church had declined to comment. In a response to an email from the Juvenile Instructor, Church spokesman Mark Tuttle stated the following:

Support and reference materials for the scriptures are only changed for major new editions (the last English edition was in 1981), and not with individual (re) printings.  How this is done and its timing (considering all of the individual language translations), is a complex problem that we hope to address in detail in the near future.  Until that time we are not able to provide additional comments.

This response gives me hope that the Church’s media representatives will soon address the issue of how the “as does the Bible” change occurred. Although Tuttle confirmed that a statement is forthcoming, he was unable to state that it would address this specific issue.


Two Eliza R. Snow Poems Discovered in Long Documents by David Grua
November 10, 2007, 10:43 pm
Filed under: 19th-century Mormonism, David Grua, documentary editing

A friend of mine mentioned to me last week that he hoped that the John V. Long documents would be sold for a million dollars…and then prove to contain nothing of worth, just to prove the conspiracy theorists wrong. The discovery of two original and unpublished Eliza R. Snow poems in the collection may not shed light on Long’s mysterious death, but they do begin to confirm the tangible historical value of the collection. ABC4.com reports that the two poems were found in the scrapbook of Sarah Long, wife of John V. Long. 

Like many of Snow’s poems, these treat spiritual topics. It will be interesting to see how these new poems compare with the rest of Snow’s nearly 500 poems, which are being edited for publication by Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lynn Davidson. I have been informed by a reliable source that Derr will be stepping down from her position in the Family and Church History Department, in part to continue work on the Snow papers. She will be replaced by Max Evans, formerly of the National Archives. Davidson continues her work as an editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, History Series.

From the Archives: The Times and Seasons on Suffering, Donations, and Salvation by David Grua
November 9, 2007, 9:50 am
Filed under: Archives, David Grua

Early Latter-day Saints saw the world through martyrological lenses. To suffer persecution was the ultimate sign of chosenness and the Saints themselves used the memory their persecutions to draw distinct boundaries between themselves and their neighbors that had not suffered. Given this persecution discourse, many Nauvoo Saints that had not been in Missouri in 1838 yearned to be persecuted as had been their brethren.[1] The following excerpt from a letter written by Bishop Alanson Ripley, who had been in Missouri, shows how the Saints negotiated these boundaries to include those that had not actually suffered persecution.

The appeal of the church to the American people, clearly and understandingly sets forth the outrages practised upon the saints by the mob in the State of Missouri, a parallel of which cannot be produced in the annals of history since the days of our saviour; for we were stoned, we were whipped, we were robbed, we were imprisoned, and plundered, of all we possessed, and many of the saints sealed their testimony with their blood. But thanks be to our God, we take the spoiling of our goods[,] and the wasting of substance joyfully, knowing  that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens, and being expelled as we were from our homes, and plundered of all our property, renders us almost destitute of means to carry on the works which the Lord our God has commanded us to do…

[W]e firmly believe that the brethren who have funds will notice this appeal and come to our aid, and give us influence, so that they may be heirs with those who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this obtain a knowledge that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God.—See book of covenants, lecture 6, 9th paragraph.

It is vain for persons to fancy themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith with God and favor with him, so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain a knowledge that they are accepted of him.[2]

[1] Historian Stephen J. Fleming argues that “Mormonism gave the particularly romantic the potential opportunity to suffer for conscience sake. [Edward] Hunter felt that he had missed out on something by joining Mormonism after the Missouri expulsion. Shortly before his death, Joseph Smith asked Hunter to go talk to the governor of Illinois, explaining, “‘You have always wished to have been with us from the commencement. If you go to Springfield and do this business for me now in this time of danger, it shall be as though you had been in Missouri and had always been with us.'” [HC 6:492]  In this way, Mormonism allowed these converts to live out their romanticized heritage” (Stephen J. Fleming, “‘Congenial to Almost Every Shade of Radicalism’: The Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism,” Religion and American Culture 17, no. 2 [Summer 2007]: 149). [2] Times and Seasons, July 1840, 137.

Mormons in the West: Life in the Donut Hole by David Grua
November 7, 2007, 9:57 am
Filed under: David Grua, historiography, Western History

Scholars typically seek to locate Mormon history within two wide frameworks: that of American religious history and that of the history of the American West. Jan Shipps, in her review of literature on Mormonism in the West, describes the situation as a donut hole. In her essay, “Gentiles, Mormons, and the History of American West,” Shipps argues that historians of the West have skipped Utah, “circling all around the Great Basin, taking into account and telling nearly every western story except the Mormon one.”[1] The task Shipps sets for herself in the essay is to understand why that would be and to offer suggestions to western historians for ways to integrate Mormons more fully into their accounts of the region.

As for the first objective, Shipps presents several ideas for why Mormonism has been ignored in the West’s wider story. First, she argues that it is Mormon “otherness” that leads historians to shy away from trying to incorporate the Latter-day Saints. This otherness reflects the divide that we Mormons have created ourselves by dividing the world into “Saints” and “Gentiles.” This leaves Mormons to write their own history.[2] A second reason put forward by Shipps is the secularism that she perceives among historians. Since these historians do not see the divine in their own lives, they have a difficult time seeing it in the stories of the people that they study.[3] A third reason is that with “[t]he transformation of Mormonism from regional faith to worldwide church makes it so difficult to get here from there, from the familiar Mormonism of western history to contemporary Mormon Christianity, that what has been occurring in the past few decades may be the principle reason why today’s historians of the American West so often neglect the region’s geographical center.”[4] This last reason is perhaps the most intriguing of the three.

Shipps also offers suggestions for how western historians can begin to fill in the hole at the center of the donut. First, she sees Mormon history as a good counter-example to Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis. Turner’s provocative 1893 essay argued that the frontier was what made Americans unique, with Europeans entering the frontier in the East, struggling with nature and savages, and finally emerging in the West as Americans, fully democratic and individualistic. Shipps concludes that Mormons passed through the same process, but with very different results. “The trail was where Saints were made…they emerged in the Great Basin not as individualists committed to capitalistic ethos but as communally oriented Latter-day Saints ready to give what was necessary to give what was necessary to build up Zion.” This transformation led to the creation of an ethnic group that can be studies as are other ethnic groups in the West.[5] In addition to seeing process in the development of Mormon ethnicity, Shipps also contends that historians should peek past their secular lenses and seek to understand the Mormon worldview from the inside.[6]

The “donut theory” may not win the prize for Shipps’ most eloquent representation of the Mormon past, but it does get the point across. This review has necessarily focused on Shipps’ specific thoughts on how Mormons fit into the western narrative, but there are some wonderful autobiographical gems that she shares about her developing sense of identity as a Gentile/non-Mormon/nonmember studying the Saints. But what of her ideas for situating the Mormons in the West? I am troubled by Shipps’ acceptance of Turner’s emphasis on process rather than the New Western history’s reliance on place. Although some respected historians continue to see a process at play in western migration, most historians have followed Patricia Nelson Limerick’s lead in seeing the West as a region first and a process a distant second. In my view, historians need to cease seeing Mormons as an isolated group in the West, and recognize that although Utah never was California in terms of diversity, Latter-day Saints in their Zion constantly converged and came into contact with “others,” whether it be Gold Rushers, federal officials, protestants, Gentile merchants, and general travelers. These contacts shaped Mormonism, as well as these “others.” Focusing our analyses on these points of contact and convergence will go a long way toward filling in that donut hole.[7]

[1] Jan Shipps, “Gentiles, Mormons, and the History of the American West,” in Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 21.[2] Shipps, Sojourner, 25.

[3] Shipps, Sojourner, 35. Both D. Michael Quinn and Thomas G. Alexander have argued for secularism among historians for the neglect of religion in histories of the West (D. Michael Quinn, “Religion in the American West,” in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, eds. William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin [New York: W. W. Norton, 1992], 165; Thomas G. Alexander, “Establishing Zion,” The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lecutures: The First Twenty Years , eds. Dean L. May and Reid L. Neilson [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006], 117-18).

[4] Shipps, Sojourner, 41.

[5] Shipps, Sojourner, 34-35.

[6] Shipps, Sojourner, 36.

[7] Convergence, along with conquest, complexity, and continuity comprise Limerick’s four C’s for understanding the New Western history paradigm (Patricia Nelson Limerick, Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West [New York: W. W. Norton, 2000], 13-28).

From the Archives: A Presbyterian Minister on the Mormon Belief in Pre-Existence, 1840 by David Grua
November 3, 2007, 11:12 am
Filed under: Archives, David Grua

Mormon forays into the Delaware Valley in the late 1830s yielded scores of converts, prompting Protestant ministers, in particular Presbyterian Henry Perkins, to respond against the growing Mormon presence. In the following excerpt from a May 1840 speech, Perkins denounces the Mormon belief in pre-existence. As Charles R. Harrell has shown, seminal references to pre-existence first appeared in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and Mormon periodicals began printing references to pre-existence as early as 1835.[1] This statement by Perkins is the first known public anti-Mormon denunciation of the doctrine.

We will now proceed to examine some of the doctrines of the “Mormons,” or as they call themselves, “Latter day Saints.”  Whether they are saints or not, remains to be seen.

Let me here premise, that to avoid the uncertainty of hear-say evidence, I took the pains to visit one of their accredited preachers lately in this neighborhood, Mr. Sidney Rigdon, who gave me the articles of the Mormon faith, as preached among you by himself and others.  We shall have time only to consider some of the more striking of these articles….

3d.  Another article of their belief is this, viz:  “That the spirits of all men had a pre-existence, and lived in a state of intelligence in some part of God’s dominions, before their bodies were born, and before the foundation of the world.”

“This article (Mr. Rigdon says,) was revealed to him immediately from God.”  We will bring the word of God to bear upon it.

But first let me say, that if the article be true, we have all been most egregiously deceived as to our ages.  Instead of our age being “an hand breadth,” according to the Bible, we are according to the Mormons, older than the world which we inhabit.  Moses must have been wide of the mark in his account of the lives of the patriarchs.  He puts the age of Methuselah at nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and that of Noah at nine hundred and fifty, but the Mormons make them older by some thousands.  What appears also remarkable is, that we lived all this while in “a state of intelligence,” we should have no knowledge or remembrance of what we were doing, or others were doing around us, but be as entirely ignorant of one another, and of our pursuits, and of the creation of the world, as if we had not been alive.  But what says the word of God?  We are told, . . . dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”  This looks very much to me as if Adam were created, body and soul, at one and the same time.  Again, we are told that “God created man in his own image.” Now as God is a Spirit, it must have been Adam’s spirit, and not his body merely, that was created in the image of God.  Hence, it appears again that he was created body and spirit, at the same time.  In Zech. xii. 1, are these words:  “Saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”  If God, “formeth the spirit of man within him,” it is manifest that he did not form his spirit without him.  Man’s body is the tabernacle in which his soul or spirit dwells during this life.  Paul is speaking of his soul or spirit, when he says, “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you.”  We see then that the flesh or body is that part of man, within which the spirit abides, and within with also, according to Zechariah, God formeth it.  Therefore a plainer contradiction of Scripture cannot be conceived of than the assertion, that the spirit of man was formed without, or before his body….[2]  

Mormon missionary Benjamin Winchester responded to Perkins in An Examination of a Lecture Delivered by the Rev. Henry Perkins, which is too long to excerpt here, but will perhaps be included in a later installment of From the Archives.[3]

[1] Charles R. Harrell, “The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence, 1830-1844,” BYU Studies 28 (Spring 1988): 75-96.[2] “The Mormons,” The State Gazette(Trenton) 22 July 1840. Portions not immediately relevant have been deleted. This newspaper was found and transcribed by historian Stephen J. Fleming, in the Elmer Tindall Hutchison Collection, Special Collections, Alexander Library, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Religion and American Culture recently published an article summarizing Flemming’s research on the Delaware Valley.[3]Copy in LDS Church Archives.

From Embrace to Embarrassment: Remembering Joseph Smith’s Polygamy by David Grua
November 2, 2007, 10:59 am
Filed under: David Grua, Memory, polygamy

Latter-day Saints (including me) in the 21st century have, to say the least, a complex relationship with their past. A friend once told me that Mormon history offers everything a historian could ask for—polygamy, visions, ancient books, violence, prophets, etc. While these things fascinate historians and buffs alike, for many contemporary Mormons that are missionary minded, they present uncomfortable difficulties when brought up with friends of other faiths. I think that part of this discomfort stems from the fact that we no longer see ourselves in parts of our past. When we share stories about ourselves with others, we choose aspects of our past that we feel define us. In like manner, we hide or diminish those things that embarrass us. One of these things is Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

For much of the 19th century and even during the first decades of the 20th century, this was not the case. As SC Taysom has shown, once the Saints publicly announced that plural marriage was a religious tenet in 1852, telling the world that Joseph Smith was a polygamist was an integral part of Mormon self-representations. [1] These self-representations were soon contested however by the counter-memory put forward by members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—a counter-narrative that portrayed Smith as a monogamist. Debates with the RLDS became a struggle over who would have the power to define Smith’s image in the wider culture and, by extension, the power to claim the mantle of Joseph Smith’s Mormonism. Embracing the memory of Smith as a polygamist was therefore an integral part of Brighamite identity during the 19th century.

The complete abandonment of polygamy in the first decades of the 20th century, coupled with changing relations with the RLDS, has moved Smith’s polygamy from the center of our public self-representations to the margins. At times, it seems that his polygamy is only in the picture when we’re called upon to defend him. Smith’s polygamy is now an embarrassment to modern Mormons, and remembering his polygamy is usually avoided (or diminished) in public representations of our past. Perhaps most ironically and tragically, I’ve observed that many disaffected Mormons claim that learning about Joseph Smith’s polygamy—primarily polyandry and marrying 14-year-old girls—contributed to their becoming disillusioned. What was once a bulwark of Mormon identity now serves in some cases to contest and even disintegrate it.

Note: To be clear, since there seems to be some confusion, I am not saying that most Mormons in their private lives or in their discussions among themselves, are embarrassed by Smith’s polygamy. Rather, I am pointing to embarrassment in their self-representations to others outside of the faith.


[1] Stephen C. Taysom, “A Uniform and Common Recollection: Joseph Smith’s Legacy, Polygamy, and the Creation of Mormon Public Memory, 1852-2002,” Dialogue 35, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 114-44.