What do the Virgin Mary, King Arthur, and Joseph Smith have in common? This is one of the questions that Vern Swanson attempts to answer in Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline. Swanson, who has been director of the Springville Art Museum in Utah since 1980 and who has published extensively in art historical topics, applies his skills to a different body of material in this impressive, large-format volume of over five hundred pages.
The author refers to his own work as a “scattershot miscellany of random thoughts” (411). While some may find in this statement a self-effacing motif, most readers will acknowledge that the phrase provides a fair assessment of this unusual project. This book falls outside the parameters of traditional academic inquiry. It can be categorized neither as fictional narrative nor religious treatise. It is not history, theology, or science. It borrows from each of these disciplines as well as from a significant body of folklore to derive and to propagate myth. I use the term “myth” in its original sense of something that a group holds to be true, although I am not certain who constitutes the believers in this case. To be sure, Swanson’s arguments will be most intelligible to an educated LDS audience, but the degree of speculation required to accept them as fact will dissuade most from buying into the theories. The author does plainly state (at least four times in the front-matter sections) that his conclusions do not represent official LDS doctrine, although the tone throughout the book is matter-of-fact.