Category Archives: Book Commentary

Posts that discuss specific books, whether or not they’re new releases.

New Release: George Q. Cannon’s Joseph Smith biography “for young people”

The Latter-Day Prophet: History of Joseph Smith Written for Young People is now up as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. Cannon is of course the famous publisher, member of the First Presidency, author, and missionary (his book on his first mission is also available and it’s awesome). And this work is just what it sounds like, a history of Joseph Smith written with Sunday School children in mind. Have a look.

New Release: “Mormon Doctrine, Plain and Simple” by Penrose

This 1888 book by (then-future) member of the First Presidency Charles W. Penrose is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. It’s a relatively quick read consisting of twelve articles, “Leaves from the Tree of Life,” that provide an outline of the gospel that Penrose viewed as appropriate for either investigators or the youth of the Church. Check it out.

New Release: Spanish Flu “Saturday Night Thoughts” by Orson F. Whitney

Now on Project Gutenberg! Notable writer Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Twelve explained this book in its foreword as follows:

Most of the contents of this volume appeared originally as a series of articles in Saturday issues of the Deseret Evening News, beginning October 26, 1918, and ending May 31, 1919. As stated by the News, these articles “were designed to fill in some degree a spiritual void and meet a special need of those who were in the habit of attending Sunday services, but were denied that privilege by the prevalence of the influenza epidemic.” That epidemic caused a suspension of public gatherings for several months, and even made necessary the postponement of one General Conference of the Church.

It was during this period of suspension that these contributions to the Church organ began. They were given place on the editorial page, and subsequently the News said of them: “These ‘Thoughts’ have subserved a far more than temporary and passing purpose—they have stimulated study and deep reflection, and they have been greatly enjoyed and prized by the thoughtful reader everywhere.”

Among those who uttered similar sentiments was President George H. Brimhall, of the Brigham Young University, who, in a letter to the author, expressed the hope that provision would be made for publication of the essays in book form, “thus adding one more choice volume to Latter-day Saint literature, especially suited to the needs of students at home and missionaries abroad.” Like expressions came from President Heber J. Grant, Senator Reed Smoot, President John A. Widtsoe, of the University of Utah, and many other prominent people.

In response to this cordial, widespread sentiment of appreciation, and under the sanction of the General Authorities of the Church, the “Saturday Night Thoughts” were compiled for republication, and the result is here presented.

May, 1921

THE AUTHOR.

 

New Release: “Mr. Durant” by Ben E. Rich

Mr. Durant of Salt Lake City, “That Mormon” is an 1893 novel by Ben E. Rich, publisher, missionary, and later on President of the Southern States Mission. (We’ve talked about Rich elsewhere.) Set in Tennessee, it tells the story of a missionary (Durant) who has a series of gospel discussions with people in a given town. The novel is more like a frame story for the discussions than a drama in its own right, but Durant does almost get mobbed. Interesting as an indication of how the gospel was being presented and received in the South during this time frame.

New Release: “The Lectures on Faith”

They’re finally out! McConkie wrote concerning the Lectures: “They were not themselves classed as revelations, but in them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character, perfections, and attributes of God; on faith, miracles, and sacrifice. They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars.” They were prepared by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon as lesson material for the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, and were included in editions of the Doctrine & Covenants from 1835 through 1921. A good overview of their significance is available in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (also the source of the quote). The Lectures are well worth a read, and quite short.

Get the e-book free on PG. You can also scans of the 1835 edition at the Joseph Smith Papers site.

New Release: “Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet” by Edward Stevenson

This 1893 book is notable as a source about Joseph Smith–the author was a teenager in Kirtland, and published this in his later years. Elder Stevenson is also significant as a many-time missionary and one of the Presidents of the Seventy. Check it out on Project Gutenberg.

New release: Churchill and the “Mormon Question” in England

The title of this pamphlet says it all: “Being a Summary Statement of the Investigation made by the British Government of the ‘Mormon’ Question in England.” Notable as it bears on British attitudes to the Church at the time (circa 1911-1914) and quotes Winston Churchill, who as Home Secretary was responsible for government inquiries regarding the Church. (Spoiler: he discovered no “ground for legislative action.”) Get it free now on Project Gutenberg.