Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois

In this handsomely designed collection, editors John Hallwas and Roger Launius offer ninety documents to represent the disparate viewpoints of participants in what the non-Mormon citizens of Illinois came to know as the Mormon War. Fully half of the entries are drawn from period newspapers or other early published sources. Fifteen documents are reproduced from original manuscripts, most of them found in Midwestern repositories. Probably one-third of the entries will not be familiar to Nauvoo history specialists. Most of these are from regional newspapers of the 1840s, only a half dozen from manuscripts.

Notwithstanding its usefulness to Nauvoo researchers, this documentary examination of the cultural tensions of Hancock County in the 1840s is not intended as a scholarly edition of the texts. The editors present major extracts and delete extraneous data from their offerings. They dismiss explanatory footnotes and choose instead to explain the documents in headnotes. Those introductory comments serve a broader interpretive purpose as well. The book’s ultimate objective is to pose a challenge for modern students of Old Nauvoo. In particular, Hallwas and Launius question the religious historiographical perspective of members and historians of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In short, while Cultures in Conflict reveals the differences among people in the past, it also reminds us that Nauvoo’s history continues to call forth differing visions of historical understanding.

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