Books

The following is a non-inclusive list of some of the best books on various mormon-related topics:

Joseph Smith

  1. No Man Knows My History – by Faun Brodie. One of the first biographies written about Joseph Smith, this book is still a classic for those interested in early Mormon History.  It was the most accurate biography for more than 50 years.  Some of the theories regarding offspring of Joseph’s polygamist marriages have since been disproven, but on the balance this is an accurate introduction into the life of Joseph Smith.  The church originally gave the book positive reviews, but then considered it “anti-mormon” literature for a number of years.  In spite of that, it was used in advanced religion classes at BYU in the late 1960s.  Brodie was the niece of president David O. McKay.
  2. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Quinn): Discusses in some detail aspects of 19th century culture and mysticism that shaped Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early church leaders.  Quinn was likely excommunicated for writing this book, even though the facts presented were later acknowledged by the church at least in part in the Gospel Topics essays around 2013-2015.
  3. Rough Stone Rolling – by Richard Bushmann. Arguably the best biography of Joseph Smith written by an active church member who was not excommunicated for their writings.  Bushman discusses essentially the same material as Brodie, but leaves more room for faith in the narrative.  Some members reportedly find the book disturbing, though others claim that it strengthens their faith.
  4. Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (A Biography) – Dan Vogel

Polygamy and sexuality

  1. In Sacred Loneliness – Tod Compton.  Written by a believing Mormon, this work documents the lives and struggles of the early polygamist wives of Joseph Smith.
  2. A House Full of Females:  Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  3. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men – by Carol Lynn  Pearson.  Discusses the history of polygamy, how it still impacts the lives of believers, and how the church can move beyond its past.
  4. Same-sex dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon example – D. Michael Quinn
  5. Women in New Religions (Women in Religions) – Laura Vance.  One chapter (approximately 1/4 of the book) deals with women and gender in mormonism.

History of Mormonism

  1. Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History – Greg Prince
  2. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism – Greg Prince
  3. An insider’s view of early mormism – Grant Palmer: This book provides an overview into a number of topics on early church history.  Arguably not as well written and factual as books written by Quinn and Vogel, it nonetheless provides an overview of a number of topics of interest to those studying early church history.
  4. The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power – D. Michael Quinn
  5. The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power – D. Michael Quinn
  6. The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power – D. Michael Quinn

1970s Arrington History Project Books

Originally intended to be a 16 volume official church history published by Deseret press, the project was later canceled around the time that Arrington was dismissed as the church historian in the early 1980s.  Nine of the volumes eventually made it to press with various publishers and all are well written.

  1. Mormonism in Transition, A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 – Thomas Alexander, Illinois University Press, 1986
  2. The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-Day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838 – Milton V. Backman Jr, Deseret press 1983
  3. Unto the islands of the sea: A history of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific – Lanier Britsch, Deseret press 1986
  4. Mormonism in Hawii – Lanier Britsch, Deseret Book, 1990
  5. Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism – Richard Bushman, Illinois University Press, 1984.
  6. Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West – Eugene Campbell, 1847-1869, Signature Books, 1988
  7. The Church in the Twentieth Century – Richard O. Cowan,  Deseret Book, 1985.
  8. Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise – (T. Edgar Lyon, finished by) Glen M. Leonard, Deseret press 2002.
  9. Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture – F. Lamond Tullis, Utah State Univ Press, 1987

Priesthood

  1. Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood – Greg Prince, Signature Books.  Seminal book regarding the priesthood and how various concepts, developed over time.  Difficult to find, but available online.

Race related topics

  1. Black and Mormon, Edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith.  This book gives the reader a good overview of the events surrounding the history of Blacks receiving the Priesthood.
  2. Making Lamanites: Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000 – by Matthew Garrett
  3. Religion of a Different Color Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness – by W. Paul Reeve (the primary author of the Gospel Topics essay Blacks and the Priesthood on LDS.org)

Other

  1.  Holy Fable: The Old Testament Undistorted by Faith (Volume 1) by Robert M. Price.  This is the first part of a 3 part series which discusses the origin of various stories and persons found in the Bible.  It explores topics like the great flood, the creation story, and other stories.
  2. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt explores  human psychology and the various values which cause both the left and the right to consider their causes just and the other side as lacking morality.

  3. The True Believer:  Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer explores the nature of mass movements including communism, the national socialist movement in Germany, and other mass movements including religious movements.  He outlines various traits of the movements and those who follow them.  This is a classic in the field of sociology of religion and was required reading of Hillary Clinton’s staff during the 2016 campaign.