Robert S. Wicks and Fred R. Foister
"Junius and Joseph examines Joseph Smith's nearly forgotten  presidential bid, the events leading up to his assassination on June 27, 1844, and the tangled aftermath of the tragic incident. It... establishes that Joseph Smith's murder, rather than being the deadly outcome of a spontaneous mob uprising, was in fact a carefully planned military-style execution. It is now possible to identify many of the key individuals engaged in planning his assassination as well as those who took part in the assault on Carthage jail. And furthermore, this study presents incontrovertible evidence that the effort to remove the Mormon leader from power and influence extended well beyond Hancock County [Illinois] (and included prominent Whig politicians as well as the Democratic governor of the state), thereby transforming his death from an impulsive act by local vigilantes into a political assassination sanctioned by some of the most powerful men in Illinois. The circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith's death also serve to highlight the often unrecognized truth that a full understanding of early Mormon history can be gained only when considered in the context of events taking place in American society as a whole." Beginning with this provocative thesis from the introduction, Wicks and Foister engage in a thorough reexamination of Joseph Smith's 1844 presidential candidacy, its political context and implications, and its probable connection to his murder. While their work asserts controversial conclusions about what and who were behind that murder, its import extends further since it provides unprecedented, detailed portraits of political Mormonism, politics in 1844 Illinois and the Midwest, the web of connections and personalities that linked the two, and the events of June 27. ---Book Review can be found in: The Western Historical Quarterly Winter 2006, by: Stephen C. Taysom.
William B. Smart
By the early twentieth century, the era of organized Mormon colonization of the West from a base in Salt Lake City was all but over. One significant region of Utah had not been colonized because it remained in Native American hands--the Uinta Basin, site of a reservation for the Northern Utes. When the federal government decided to open the reservation to white settlement, William H. Smart--a nineteenth-century Mormon traditionalist living in the twentieth century, a polygamist in an era when it was banned, a fervently moral stake president who as a youth had struggled mightily with his own sense of sinfulness, and an entrepreneurial businessman with theocratic, communal instincts--set out to ensure that the Uinta Basin also would be part of the Mormon kingdom. Included with the biography is a searchable CD containing William H. Smart's extensive journals, a monumental personal record of Mormondom and its transitional period from nineteenth-century cultural isolation into twentieth-century national integration.
Ronald O. Barney
"What an astonishing life and what a remarkable biography. Lewis Barney's sojourn on the hard edge of the American frontier is a forgotten epic. Not only does this book tell of an amazing personal odyssey from his birth in upstate New York in 1808 to his death in Mancos, Colorado, in 1894, but Barney's tale represents a living evocation of some of the most significant themes in American history. Frederick Jackson Turner theorized that the frontier shaped our national character, but Lewis Barney's life stands as a testament to the real impact of the westering experience on a man and his family. Ron Barney's detailed biography of Lewis Barney provides a participant's view of Mormonism's first six decades of controversy, hardship, and triumph, viewed from the bottom of the social heap. Despite his wide-ranging experience and endless sacrifices, Lewis Barney was a worker in the Mormon vineyard, not one of the princes of the Kingdom of God whose lives have been so exhaustively celebrated. Barney's lack of status in this complex hierarchy adds tremendously to the value of this study, since so much nineteenth-century LDS biography has ignored the lives of ordinary people to celebrate a surprisingly small elite whose experiences were far different from those of the general Mormon population." —Will Bagley, editor of the series Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier and editor of The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846-1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock.
Melvin C. Johnson
In the wake of Joseph Smith Jr.'s murder in 1844, his following splintered. Most of the membership ultimately followed Brigham Young to Utah, but smaller groups coalesced around other Mormon leaders. A number of these later combined to form the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now the Community of Christ. Among those were most of the remaining followers of a maverick Mormon apostle, Lyman Wight. Sometimes called the "Wild Ram of Texas," Wight took his splinter group to frontier Texas, a destination to which Smith, before his murder, had considered moving his followers, who were increasingly unwelcome in the Midwest. He had instructed Wight to take a small band of church members from Wisconsin to establish a Texas colony that would prepare the ground for a mass migration of the membership. Having received these orders directly from Smith, Wight did not believe the former's death changed their significance. If anything, he felt all the more responsible for fulfilling what he believed was a prophet's intention. Antagonism with Brigham Young and the other LDS apostles grew, and Wight refused to join with them or move to their new gathering place in Utah. He and his small congregation pursued their own destiny, becoming an interesting component of the Texas frontier, where they had a significant economic role as early millers and cowboys and a political one as a buffer with the Comanches. Their social and religious practices shared many of the idiosyncracies of the larger Mormon sect, including polygamous marriages, temple rites, and economic cooperatives. Wight was a charismatic but authoritarian and increasingly odd figure, in part because of chemical addictions. His death in 1858 while leading his shrinking number of followers on yet one more migration brought an effective end to his independent church.
Religion, Politics, and Sugar: The Mormon Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907 to 1921
Matthew C. Godfrey
One famous target of Progressive Era attempts to rein in monopolistic big business was the eastern Sugar Trust. Less known is how federal regulators also tried to break monopoly control over beet sugar in the West by going after the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, a business supported and controlled by the Latter-day Saints church and run by Mormon authorities. As sugar beet agriculture boomed, the Mormon church's involvement led directly to monopolistic practices by Utah-Idaho Sugar and to federal investigations. Church leaders encouraged members, a majority population in much of the intermountain West, to patronize the company exclusively, as suppliers and consumers. As early as 1890, Mormon church president Wilford Woodruff had called missionaries to raise money for the fledgling company and asserted divine inspiration for church support. Utah-Idaho bridged the cooperative, theocratic, self-sufficient economic model of nineteenth-century Mormonism and the integration of the Mormon West into the national market economy. Religion, Politics, and Sugar shows, through the example of an important western business, how national commercial, political, and legal forces in the early twentieth century came west and, more specifically, how they affected the important role the Mormon church played in economic affairs in the region.
Ronald G. Watt
Nineteenth century Mormonism was a frontier religion with roots so entangled with the American experience as to be seen by some scholars as the most American of religions and by others as a direct critique of that experience. Yet it was also a missionary religion that through proselytizing quickly gained an international, if initially mostly Northern European, makeup. This mix brought it a roster of interesting characters: frontiersmen and hardscrabble farmers; preachers and theologians; dreamers and idealists; craftsmen and social engineers. Although the Mormon elite soon took on, as elites do, a rather fixed, dynastic character, the social origins of its first-generation members were quite diverse. The Mormon Church at its beginning provided a good study in upward mobility. George D. Watt was a self-educated English convert with both unusual, for the time and place of frontier Utah, clerical skills and ambitions to improve his status. A man with intellectual pretensions, he had little formal training but a strong will, avid curiosity, and appetite for knowledge. Those traits made up for what he lacked in schooling and drew him into what served as intellectual circles among the Mormon elite and, later, to the church's disenchanted fringe. They also made him, for a time, essential to Brigham Young as a clerk and reporter but sent him into religious and social exile, due to a contest of wills with his employer that Watt had no chance of winning. Reputed to have been the first of the many English converts to the LDS church, Watt's repeatedly demonstrated ability to learn quickly made him an early master of Pitman shorthand, just then coming into use. Employing this skill, he made two important contributions to Mormon literature: First, based on that shorthand, he, more than anyone, created the "Deseret Alphabet," which now is a curiosity but then was an innovation that, intended to create a unique Mormon orthography and pedagogy, stands well for the broad attempt to build in Utah the wholly self-sufficient culture of the Kingdom of God. Second, his efficient note taking allowed him to take down the sermons of Young and other church leaders and publish them in the Journal of Discourses, an indispensable historical record. In addition, Watt learned, thought, and wrote about a variety of subjects, from horticulture to spiritualism, which helped define him as a resident Utah intellectual. He eventually left the Mormon Church, but the records of his domestic life before and after that decision provide a rich portrait of the working of polygamous households, particularly complicated ones in his case. Despite his accomplishments, because of his potential, George Watt's story is at heart a tragedy. His breach with Brigham Young resulted in social isolation, poverty, and rejection by friends and associates. He never, though, lost his sense of independence or his avid mind. Whether facing an economic affront or pressing, in writing, his own conclusions about life and God, he engaged the challenge where he found it.