Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record

It had to come! Two well-known sleuths of early Mormon history have written what might be called their final testament—the end result of two-and-one-half decades’ tedious research into Mormon origins. Presbyterian pastor Wesley Walters had been researching early Mormon history since the late 1960s. Lapsed-Mormon Michael Marquardt’s interest in Mormon beginnings and Joseph Smith stretches back at least half that long. When Walters died in 1990, Marquardt finished the book and dedicated it to him.

Regardless of what agenda motivated this volume, it merits a careful reading by students of Latter-day Saint history. The text is comparatively brief but highly detailed (almost tediously so in places). The accompanying notes and appendixes are useful, and the bibliographical essay is especially helpful. It is apparent the authors have paid their research dues, having painstakingly combed through sundry archives, searching for obscure tax and assessment records and censuses to supplement the often familiar statements by contemporaries who remembered the Joseph Smith family. Much of the authors’ information and many of their arguments are familiar, some dating as far back as the late 1960s. But in this culminating study, they have added some new wrinkles, tightened their prose, and, in their minds, further buttressed their basic arguments.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 35:4
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