Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C.

Book Notice

Kenneth L. Alford, Lloyd D. ­Newell, and Alexander L. Baugh, editors.
Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C.
Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020.

Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C., is edited by Brigham Young University professors of Church history and doctrine Kenneth L. Alford, Lloyd D. Newell, and Alexander L. Baugh. This volume collects essays written by the faculty of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU after they traveled to D.C., attending a symposium in the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center. The essays are organized into three sections—“History,” “People,” and “Places”—aiming to educate readers about the intriguing, complicated relationship between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United States federal government.

In “History,” Byran B. Korth, Jordan T. Watkins, and Gerrit Dirkmaat write, respectively, on the D.C. locations, religious revelations, and federal pressures that surrounded the Saints’ expulsion from the United States. Fred E. Woods recounts Apostle Orson Pratt’s defense of plural marriage in Washington, D.C. Alexander L. Baugh narrates the journey of the Nauvoo Temple sunstone now on display in the Smithsonian. Lloyd D. Newell lends a personal perspective to the history of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. W. Justin Dyer and Michael A. Goodman clarify the secular context and prophetic nature of the family proclamation, and J. B. Haws examines Latter-day Saint representation in the Washington Post.

In “People,” Casey Paul Griffiths and Carter Charles provide separate takes on the trial and political career of Senator Reed Smoot. Other biographical essays laud WWII Senator Elbert D. Thomas’s advocation for peace, Ezra Taft Benson’s influence as secretary of agriculture, the rise of the Marriott family business, T. H. Bell’s contribution to the federal educational system, and Beverly Campbell’s efforts as Church public and international affairs director. Finally, Ralph W. Hardy Jr. canvasses the lives and achievements of eight Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C.

In “Places,” Anthony R. Sweat traces the providence and artistry of the National Portrait Gallery’s rendition of Joseph Smith Jr. Alonzo L. Gaskill and Seth G. Soha explain the temple-like status of the Washington Chapel, while Maclane E. Heward focuses on the Washington D.C. Temple itself. Kenneth L. Alford explores Arlington National Cemetery and some of the Saints buried there. Scott C. Esplin navigates the hot-and-cold relationship between the Church and the National Park Service. Richard B. Crookston and R. Devan Jensen provide a photo essay of historic sites in Washington, D.C.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had surprising influence in Washington, D.C. Casual students of Church history will discover rich biographical detail and intriguing political shifts, while academics and historians will benefit from the tight focus that allows each of the various essays to dive deeply into its chosen topic. Taken together, these essays tell of a church that began in obscurity but has since emerged onto the national and international stage.

Related Articles