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That said, this is a fine compilation, a smorgasborg that allows someone the opportunity to sample some of the "non-traditional" LDS studies that are available to the open-minded, yet faithful Mormon student. As Quinn defines them, the "new Mormon Historians" are a breed of scholar/student/writer who examine difficult, complex, and often controversial subjects in the church with an eye toward objectivity. The result is material that is neither condemning nor ridiculously apologetic, but rather intelligent and reasonable, with the intent to understand the faith system which they continue to maintain. Quinn respectfully tributes Juanita Brooks for paving this path for careful, objective and yet still faithful Mormon scholarship.
Topics covered in this collection include Mormon authority, evolving interpretatins and use of the First Vision and the Joseph Smith story, charismatic and priesthood gifts and useage among early Mormon women, the legend of the crickets and gulls, polygamy issues, and more. Each essay could send an interested reader down a long path of further study by reviewing the lists of reference material available in each author's footnotes.
A book like this might be a fine place for someone just starting the adventure of understanding Church History. As mentioned below, however, serious students of Church History will be very familiar with about everything found between these two covers.
The directions of history are twords a more internal, keeping the sick myths alive, and blatently ingnoring the feet of clay of the church leaders. Michael Quinn has experinece in this area of clay feet, as his footnotes prove.
A footnoted lie is still a lie. "nuff said.
Quinn has a peiercing eye that sees thing that otehrs don't see, and that is the mark of a great man in my book. Ingenutity an the nove are the watchwords of our day.
Everyone should read this book, and everyone should belive this book.
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"Elder Statesman" is the biography of a famous LDS church leader, J. Reuben Clark. Clark had a fascinating career. He began life in small town in Utah in the nineteenth century. His intellectual talents carried him to the University of Utah, Columbia University Law School, the United States Department of State and finally to a position as United States Ambassador to Mexico. Clark obviously had immense intellectual and mental gifts to get where he did in life.
At this point, Clark was called to serve as Second Counselor to LDS Church President Heber J. Grant. During the next 29 years, Grant served as both second and first counselor in the administrations of Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, and finally, David O. McKay. He brought to these positions tremendous administrative talents. This era was an extremely important time for the church. The groundwork was laid for the tremendous expansion of the Church that occurred and is still occurring.
Quinn points out failings in Clark as a person. By present day standards he was extremely racist, even demanding that Utah hospitals segregate the blood of African Americans from others. Clark was also hostile to Jews and opposed the entry of the USA into the Second World War. In fact, he even went so far as to comment favorably upon the Nazi Regime' in Germany, after the war had begun. Clark found himself at odds with most Mormons when opposed the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. More than sixty-two percent of all Utahns voted to re-elect Roosevelt in the 1936 election. These sections are a bit difficult, and I admit that after reading them, I lost considerable respect for a person, who in all other ways, was a bright and gifted man.
There are some things I don't like about the way Quinn has written this book. First, he chronologically reviews Clark's life in the first 179 pages of the book. At this point, Clark passes away. Quinn than spends another 245 pages jumping back and looking at different "target areas" of his subject's life. I found that to be a bit disjointed. I would have preferred using all the pages to the tell Clark's life story and working the other material into the places in between. Second, this is not the most interesting book in the world. It is about too narrow a subject to be of interest to many people outside of Utah and the Mormon faith. Even those within it may struggle a bit to get through some of the sections which deal with mundane issues such as beer ads on KSL television, or support for Sunday closing laws in the legislature.
On the balance, this is an honest and informative book about a brilliant administrator and leader, barely known outside Utah.
Because other people will no doubt mention it, Clark, like most men of his generation and background, was a racist and anti-semite. Quinn does not leave it at that though--we learn to understand where such attitudes arose from and admire the moral and intellectual stature of a man who could begin to overcome such deeply-ensconced prejudices.
If you are a serious student of Mormon history, you MUST read this book. If not, read it anyways.
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Oh, what a kind and non-judgemental world it would be if people would love each other unconditionally, and actually put into practice, not just in word but in deed, their religious beliefs concerning tolerance, love and understanding of each other. Until that time, we all need to accept each other for who we are and bridge the gulf of misunderstanding that often leads to intolerance and hate.
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The term "power" seems a little missleading. What the book is really about is the origin of Mormon "authority." Specifically, this refers to the concept of Mormon "Priesthood," or the "authority" of Mormon leaders to act in the name of God.
The book addresses how Joseph Smith received this authority, what he did with it, and how it helped to shape early Mormon society and theology.
Joseph's traditional account on how he received this authority from God is addressed, as well as the historical problems and evolution of that account over time.
It also explains how this authority became paramount in his theology. How his belief in this authority gave birth to, "theocratic ethics" (i.e. If God says something is right, it doesn't matter what man says), and to Joseph's being ordained King by his secret council of 50.
The book is well written, heavily annotated (typical of Quinn), and important in pointing out revisions to Mormon scripture as Joseph's traditional account became canonized.
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First, Quinn give numerous explanations of how he has arrived to certain conclusions. He gives the reader a crash course in how to be a historian and history should be written according to him. Unfortunately, this is a bit didactic and manipulative as Quinn gives things his own little logical twist to lead the reader to share his conclusion. He also tries and prove some of his points by using probabilities. This is of course a problem because just because something is highly probable doesn't mean it actually occured.
Second, this book is an attack on LDS apologists and historians. His excuse that he is merely responding to their polemic arguments is both pathetic and ridiculous. The fact is that he continually attcks their works throughout. This would be fine if he did so in a scholarly and logically manner. Instead, he has reduced himself to petty namecalling repeatedly calling them polemic and telling them they would understand better if they would simply read his book! Ironically, while he is correct about many of the methods that some Mormons historians use, he himself is guilty of these same methods. For example, he accuses apologists of dismissing evidence as mere coincidence when it doesn't not support their arguments. However, when discussing the marriages of Joseph Smith and how many were preformed on astrologically significant dates the ones that are not he dismisses as unfitting to the pattern(after hearing his discussion of every Thursday being significant, every first and last day of a zodiac sign, every new moon and every multiple of seven days folowing the new moon,etc one wonders if there are any days that are not significant). He also hurts his argument with a few (though not many) direct attacks on Mormons. For instance, He accuses Mormons of always trying to explain why certain blessings promised in patriartichal and priesthood blessings do not come true. This is unfair because every Mormon knows that these things are promised on the condition that the person remain righteous similar to many blessings in the Bible.]
Finally, the third thing that Quinn discusses is the relationship of magic and Mormonism. This is by far the most interesting and why people are reading this book. There are many similarities and they are quite thouroughly discussed. The subjects range from astrology to magic circles. He also discusses many of the Smith family heirlooms and their magical significance which I found fascinating.
While the book is an excellent source on Mormonism and magic the many other aspects take away from the work as a whole. If you can manage to wade through the dogmatic parts of the work then this is a good book to read. If you get bogged down by such arguments or are easily manipulated or hoodwinked then skip this one.
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Extensions of Power is actually several books. It is topically arranged to consider more or less controversial aspects of the church leadership-violence, involvement in politics, etc. It also includes, as the earlier companion volume did, hundreds of pages of notes and a detailed chronology of church activities from 1848 to 1996. We are afforded a glimpse into the complex personalities, power factions, and challenges of maintaining, growing and adapting a religious movement to a constantly changing and evolving U. S. and world culture. I was by turns frustrated with church leadership and empathetic with them in their struggle to understand and accommodate 'the world' without losing their unique identity. I was also able to see how present problems have their roots in the past, and the futile efforts of those leaders--such as Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer--who would like to bury the past.
Mormonism is a religion which was established and grew during historical, literate times, and leaders and members must come to terms with the difficulties of their history. Despite Correlation committees, Strengthening the Members Committees and million dollar public relations and marketing campaigns, and particularly since the advent of the internet, historical problems will not go away. For the questioning believer or the student of religions and U. S. history, Dr. Quinn's book is a very useful tool in understanding how the present Mormon church came to be.
Another reviewer said that Dr. Quinn's extensive use of quotes was somehow not a good thing, that it was distracting (?). I found his use of quotes to be extremely useful. Above all, it showed that his research was well founded in the Church's own records.
This is a tremenduous work and I'd highly recommend it to anyone seeking to understand how the Mormon Church really works.
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