Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #42: George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton

Editor's note: This is the last of a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            George Smith, owner of Signature Books, is an atheist and critic of the Mormon Church who interests himself in issues and episodes of LDS history that he dislikes—polygamy being one of them. His publishing company’s ultimate purpose seems to be to reinterpret Mormon history so that the divine element is missing. On occasion he self-publishes his own works; hence his version of the journals of William Clayton. While most students of LDS history are grateful for those publications that make available new sources and documents, they do have an expectation, often disappointed, that what they buy will meet established scholarly standards. In this case, they are again disappointed.

            James B. Allen, former assistant church historian and BYU history professor, reviewed An Intimate Chronicle for BYU Studies with the eye of one who had already spent considerable time himself with the journals for his own scholarly works. He discovered that G. D. Smith was using purloined notes of the journals instead of the originals for his transcriptions, and that he was purposely omitting parts of the journals to make them seem more sensational. For example:        “Though editors have the right to determine what to eliminate, it is unfortunate in this case that some seemingly significant entries were excluded while some relatively insignificant passages were retained. Sunday, March 8, 1840, for example, was a very eventful Sabbath day for Clayton. In the morning, he prayed with a Sister Burgess, who had a serious infection on her breast. He also recorded where he had breakfast, who spoke at Church meetings during the day and evening; the ordination of certain men to the priesthood; some baptisms and confirmations; visits he made to members of the Church; gifts he received of oranges and money (he often recorded such thing as a reflection of his gratitude for people who supplied him with food and other needs while he was working without purse or scrip); and, finally, a cryptic comment about using ‘liberty’ toward Alice Hardman. In his abridgement, however, Smith kept only about one-sixth of the total entry: ‘Sister Burgess came. Her breast is very bad. I prayed with her…. Supper at Hardman’s. Used great liberty toward Alice Hardman’ (33). By including only the somewhat titillating material and leaving out the much more important information about Clayton and what he was doing as a missionary, this ‘abridgement’ does little but distort the day’s activity” (BYU Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2 [1995], 166).

            Because this distorted version of Clayton’s journals was published in paperback, it was more widely distributed than many other Signature publications—how many unsuspecting readers will be fooled, or at least misled, by this manipulated mess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #41: David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship

Editor's note: This is # 41 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The mysteries of Godliness attempts the first historical treatment of the development of the endowment and other temple rites. The preface acknowledges the sensitivity of this theme and promises ‘to treat the ceremony with respect’ in order to ‘enhance understanding of the temple for both Latter-day Saints and others by providing a history of the endowment’ (vii, ix). Yet, ‘given exaggerated claims about the temple and its origin by some enthusiastic apologists’ [just who these persons are and what constitutes their exaggerated claims the author does not tell us], he argues that ‘a degree of specificity in detail is unavoidable” (viii). Using many unpublished primary sources and published exposes written by anti-Mormons, Buerger traces endowment history from its beginnings in 1831 to the present day. His narrative is specific enough to offend the sensitivities of most devout Mormons, despite his disclaimers.

            “All sacred texts and sacred ceremonies, when they become the object of historical analysis, should be treated with delicacy and care…. Buerger, attempting to speak through his sources, some of which are openly antagonistic to Joseph Smith and the ceremonies revealed through him, fails to pass the sensitivity test. Nevertheless, basing his history on a plethora of documents (many of which are restricted by the Church because of their sacred content and thus cannot be studied by general researchers to determine their meaning, veracity, or historical setting), he does create an interesting narrative. …

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #40: Bryant S. Hinckley, Daniel Hammer Wells and Events of His Time

Editor's note: This is # 40 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            In his autobiography, the main author wrote:

“At that period [1939-42] I did considerable correspondence for the President [Heber J. Grant], and wrote a small book for the Beneficial Life Insurance Company, the title of which was, “Heber J. Grant, a Businessman.”

            “Then he had me write the life of Daniel Hammer Wells, explaining that Annie Cannon Wells, an experienced writer and author, would assist me. His brother-in-law, Genton Wells, had worked for a year in the Library gathering information for that book. All of this was turned over to me, and it took me about a year to write the book, working at it whenever time permitted. Mrs. Cannon died before doing much on it.

            “President Grant paid me $100.00 per month additional while working on it. My wife, May, was a great help in putting it together. She worked very hard at it. That first book was a big job. There was an edition of 3,000 copies which cost the President about $3,000.00. He died soon after it came off the press or he would have gotten all his money back and then some.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, The Autobiography of Bryant S. Hinckley, [unpublished], 44.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #39: George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet

Editor's note: This is # 39 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The authorship of The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet has been the object of some debate. While the book bears only the name of George Q. Cannon, historical sources inform us that it was actually a collaborative effort within the Cannon family. The reason for dispute is that some historians have named Frank J. Cannon, a son of President Cannon, as the principal or “real” author. This is provocative because silvery tongued Frank Cannon often did not live the standards of the Church, bringing public shame to his highly prominent father, and after his (George’s) death, became a bitterly apostate anti-Mormon who travelled the United States giving lectures seeking to harm the Church as much as possible.

The journals of Cannon family members reveal that Frank wrote a rough first draft, but that it was extensively added to and revised by President Cannon and his sons Abraham H. and John Q. For example, one entry from President Cannon’s journal reads; “Friday, September 1, 1888. I worked very hard at the message of my ‘Life of Joseph.’” Other journal entries from President Cannon speak of his work on various chapters. A journal entry from Abraham Cannon reads: “I got his [G. Q. Cannon’s] consent to get John Q. to revise the ms. of ‘Joseph the Prophet’ which Frank prepared, after which Father and Joseph F. Smith will review it and we can then print the same.” President George Q. Cannon had final approval of the finished product. Each of these Cannon family members were literary men, often earning their living as editors and publishers of newspapers and books. A parallel might be drawn with today’s college professor, who produces a book with his own name as sole author, when in reality one or more assistants have substantially contributed to the research and writing. Obviously, as a practical matter, President Cannon’s name would help the book sell better than his less prominent children. President Cannon’s biographer, Davis Bitton, wrote, “Of course George Q. Cannon had the final right of approval and was responsible for the final product” (Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography, 296 and 511 n.140.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #38: John A. Widtsoe

Editor's note: This is # 38 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

John A. & Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom:

            From Elder Widtsoe’s autobiography:

While on my long European mission assignment in 1927-33 it became very evident that there was too much illness among the people and that poor nutritional practice was partly responsible for much of it. …

            As the years increased we tried to find some competent and willing person to show how the general principles of the Word of Wisdom corresponded with those of the modern experimentally established science of nutrition. Several doctors (M.D.) desired to help, but found no time. Finally, an assignment to do some work at the University of Southern California gave me the opportunity. My wife joined in. I took the negative teachings of the Word of Wisdom, she took the positive aspects. The book was written as our crowded lives permitted. Then, unknown to us, before publication, the manuscript was recommended, after presentation to the First Presidency, (Heber J. Grant, President) and accepted by the Presidency and Twelve, as a year’s text for study by the priesthood quorums of the Church in 1939. This gave wide publicity to the cause of the word of Wisdom and gave its modern interpretation acceptance by the Authorities of the Church. This not only helped to establish the positive parts of the Word of Wisdom in the minds of people, but also furnished a guide in answer to the many food cults unsupported by scientific evidence. It is just as important to understand and practice the truths taught in the positive as well as the negative aspects of this law.

            When the book was being used in the priesthood quorums, an elderly man, a stalwart in the Church, a high priest, stopped me on the street to announce that woman’s work was not fit for priesthood study. After he was exhausted, I asked if he had read the revelation on the Word of Wisdom recently. ‘O, yes.’ Had he noticed that it was first given ‘to a council of high priests’? The conversation ended abruptly.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #37: Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment & One Eternal Round

Editor's note: This is # 37 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

This seems to be an ideal opportunity to mention a recently published correction to a quotation from Hugh Nibley found in his intellectually staggering work, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment, first edition. The Prophet Joseph Smith is here (incorrectly) credited with “furnish[ing] a clear and specific description.… ‘The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is (1) beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and (2) a small part red, ink or paint, (3) in perfect preservation.’” It has since been found that Oliver Cowdery provided that description, not Joseph Smith. For a discussion of this correction, see Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment, second edition, edited by John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes (Salt Lake City & Provo, Utah: Deseret Book & FARMS, 2005), xxi-xxii, 2n.5.
Furthermore, of great importance is this statement: according to the editors of the second edition, “There is no reason to assume that the papyrus Joseph Smith I + X is the source of the Book of Abraham.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had no official position on the issue, and most members do not believe that it is. The Egyptologists are adamant that it is not, and so everyone seems to be in agreement on that issue.” I mention this because I have noticed some anti-Mormons ignorantly stating otherwise—even publishing translations of the papyri that do still exist—all in an effort to discredit Joseph Smith. The Church today simply does not possess the original papyri text of the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith used to make his translation now found in the Pearl of Great Price. Those papyri went up in ashes in the great Chicago fire and no amount of clamor and false charges by enemies of the Church can change that fact.

Hugh Nibley:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #36: Merlo J. Pusey, Builders of the Kingdom: George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, George Albert Smith

Editor's note: This is # 36 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            “In 1958 Mr. Pusey was considering requests that he write the biographies of several distinguished jurists when the children of George Albert Smith asked him to write this story. He responded to the request because he had warm memories of George Albert Smith from his days as a Deseret News reporter when he covered the LDS Church Office Building in the early 1920s. He found the journals of George Albert Smith and those of his father and grandfather to be both informative and delightful—full of trials and difficulties as well as joys and triumphs.” (Foreword, Leonard Arrington)

            “I began working on the story in the late 1950s at the request of George Albert Smith’s two daughters, Emily Smith Stewart and Edith Smith Elliott, and his only son, George Albert Smith, Jr., then a professor at the Harvard University School of Business Administration. They made available to me the journals of all three of their distinguished progenitors and a vast array of letters, memoranda, and other data in George Albert’s personal papers. To supplement this information, I read widely in church history and interviewed an enormous number of church and civic leaders, friends of the family, and others who had had an impact on George Albert’s career. By this means I was able to obtain extensive information in the early 1960s that would not be available today [ca.1980]. Most of the original manuscript was written in those years, but publication was delayed in deference to objections from one member of the family to my treatment of some episodes with what I deemed to be proper objectivity. I have tried to tell the story as I found it, with lights and shadows, problems as well as achievements, and with candid reporting of controversy where it has existed. Recently the manuscript has been extensively revised in the light of historical research that was not available in the early sixties.” (Preface, Merlo J. Pusey)