With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

New generation of historians presenting a better view of Mormonism to the world, speaker says

Thirty years after Mark Hofmann rocked the Mormon history world with his forgeries and subsequent murders, a current generation of historians is presenting to the outside world a more appealing view of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to a scholar J. B. Haws, who spoke Saturday at the 50th annual conference of the Mormon History Association convening at the Utah Valley Convention Center.

Predictably, the association this year is fondly remembering founder Leonard J. Arrington, whose 10-year stint (1972-82) as LDS Church historian is wistfully remembered by some as “Camelot” because they view it as a time of openness and idealism not equaled before or since in the study of Mormon history.

“However, my sense of it is that this current era — this current moment — is something rather different than that Camelot era,” said Haws, a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. “It feels less experimental and more mainstream, even as it is as bold and daring — in terms of historical output and publishing — as anything that came out of the 1970s.”

At the tail end of the Arrington period, journalists and other outside observers had noticed a tension “between professional historians and some in the church’s hierarchy over how much humanness should come through in the biographies of prophets,” Haws explained.

“But it was an external controversy more than this internal, philosophical tension that really brought the complex interplay of faith and history in Mormonism into national consciousness,” he said. ...

Read entire article at Deseret News