History in General | BYU Studies

History in General

Masada and the World of the New Testament

Editor John W. Welch, Editor John F. Hall,
The artifacts excavated from the ruins of Masada yield fascinating insights into the world of the New Testament and the times when King Herod, Pilate, Jesus, Peter, and Paul lived. This book invites you to visit Herod's palaces, walk the robber-infested road taken by the good Samaritan, and see lamps that may have been like those carried by the ten virgins and sandals that made footprints on the... Read more

Sister–Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage 1870–1896

Author Lola Van Wagenen,
Beginning in 1870, Utah women from both polygamist and monogamist marriages attempted to establish their primacy as the standard bearer of women's rights in the territory. Some sought support from leaders within the territory while others looked to those in the national arena. Ultimately, the activities of Mormon women helped to secure woman suffrage for Utah in 1870. Although it was the New... Read more

Special Citation to BYU Studies

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New Directions in the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947 the first manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the cliffs of the Jordan Rift. In 1962 the latest discovery of documents from the Rift came to light, the Samaria legal papyri of the fourth century B.C.E. In the interval, manuscripts and papyri were found in addition caves and ruins. Most recently of all, manuscripts have been dug up from the ruins of the diamond-shaped... Read more

The "Renaissance" in Recent Thought: Fifteen Years of Interpretation

"There was a time once—or at least I think there was—" mused scholar John L. Lievsay recently at a gathering of historians and literary critics in Washington, D.C., "when a man might innocently use the term 'the Renaissance' to refer to a reasonably well-defined single phase, however involute its composition, in the history of Western-world culture. And no one would have argued, seriously, that... Read more

Thoughts on the 150th Anniversary of the Church in the British Isles

Marion D. Hanks writes: "I have had a serious and ill-disguised affection for Britain for many years. Whether that comes because my ancestors were born in Hartley Bridge, Gloucester, England, and Hills Head, Lanarkshire and Fifeshire, Scotland, or from the wonderful blessing of having lived personally in the land for a time, I cannot say. I do not know whether it is heredity or environment. My... Read more

Perspectives on the Constitution—Origin, Development, Philosophy, and Contemporary Applications

As a group, Latter-day Saints are part of a perhaps increasingly small minority that continues to see the hand of divinity in the founding of this nation and the coming forth of the Constitution. This fact not only suggests that the Constitution's bicentennial should be observed at Brigham Young University, but that it ought to be observed in a way that takes the document seriously, not merely as... Read more

The Ezekiel Mural at Dura Europos: A Witness of Ancient Jewish Mysteries?

One of the most stunning archaeological finds of the last century was the accidental discovery in 1920 of the ruins of Dura Europos, "a frontier town of very mixed population and traditions" located on a cliff ninety meters above the Euphrates River in what is now Syria. This Helenistic city had been abandoned following a Sassanian siege in AD 256–57 and was eventually buried by the shifting... Read more

The "Perfect Pattern": The Book of Mormon as a Model for the Writing of Sacred History

In his article "How Should Our Story Be Told?" Robert L. Millet argued that Latter-day Saint history as a 'sacred saga" should be presented in a manner that expressly bears witness of God' s hand and does not dilute that witness by emphasizing mortal weaknesses. While Millet's principal support for this proposition consisted of various quotes from modern Church leaders, he did cite the Book of... Read more

A Chronology of Mozart and His Times

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The Constitution as Covenant

The Constitution of the United States is the legacy of "a peculiar moment in history when all knowledge coincided, when classical antiquity, Christian theology, English empiricism, and European rationalism could all be linked." And covenant was the linking concept. The religious idea of covenant was particularly and profoundly important in the evolution and inspiration of the American... Read more

Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand

One of the strangest phenomena in human history is the struggle of the Jewish people for their spiritual independence, always the few against the many. And one of the most amazing, heroic, alas tragic episodes in this struggle is no doubt the story of Masada. In A.D. 73, three years after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem by Titus, when arches of triumph were erected in Rome to... Read more

Naturalistic Assumptions and the Book of Mormon

Gary Novak explains the problems caused by looking at religious history through naturalistic assumptions. He uses the naturalistic writings of Dale Morgan and Fawn Brodie to show that such assumptions exclude God from the writing of history, transforming the meaning of faith and eroding collective religious memory. He looks at biases created when Marvin Hill and Leonard Arrington adopt... Read more

Public Virtue and the Roots of American Government

As the leaders of the new American states considered the viability of a republic, the fundamental question they asked was whether Americans had sufficient virtue to make self-government work: to soften the sharpest edges of self-interests, to temper the most disruptive personal and social passions, and to ensure sentiments of support and patriotism for the polity. Given the nature of man as they... Read more

King Herod

Herod visited Masada, a Hasmonean mountain stronghold situated near the Dead Sea, on at least two occasions before he began his remarkable career as king of the Jews. Popularly known today as Herod the Great, Herod eventually became connected with this site when he indelibly placed his architectural mark on its isolated rocky plateau. Standing at an elevation of about thirteen hundred feet above... Read more

On the Trail of the Twentieth-Century Mormon Outmigration

Beginning around 1900, the Church changed its practice of encouraging all Saints to come to the Intermountain West. And a shortage of jobs and educational opportunities led many young Latter–day Saints to move. These outmigrants put down roots and helped establish the Church in their communities. Over time, the number of Saints leaving the West increased due to the Great Depression and job... Read more

"The Little Head Stones Became Monuments": Death in the Early Samoan Mission and the Creation of the Fagali'i Cemetery

During the first two decades of the Samoan Mission (established in 1888), at least twelve Latter-day Saints passed away in the mission, which forced the mission leaders and other missionaries to determine how best to bury and honor their dead. This article first reviews the history of LDS cemeteries as sacred spaces and then looks specifically at memorials created for deceased missionaries and... Read more

Early Mormon Perceptions of Contemporary America: 1830–1846

Since scholarly study of Mormon history parted company with polemics several decades ago, historians have become increasingly interested in locating Mormonism within the social, intellectual, and religious geography of Jacksonian America. Over the years much has been learned about how antebellum Americans perceived their "curious" counterparts, but far less has been documented about the reverse... Read more

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Mormon Perspective

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Allied Strategy in World War II: The Churchill Era, 1942-1943

In this article, Jensen discusses the difficulties that the United States, Britain, and Russia had in coordinating their military strategies during World War II. The British were more interested in a "back door" assault, while the Americans wanted to take a more direct approach. There was bickering among the three about which areas should even be attacked: the British wanted to protect their... Read more

What Happened to My Bell-Bottoms? How Things That Were Never Going to Change Have Sometimes Changed Anyway, and How Studying History Can Help Us Make Sense of It All

Craig Harline explains perhaps the most valuable and fundamental benefit of studying history is the insight it can offer into change, including change that people once thought would never occur. What can be learned from such changes by people of the present, as they argue about potential changes in their own world? Harline offers historical examples of change in Western Christianity regarding... Read more

Elvis Has Left the Library: Identifying Forged Annotations in a Book of Mormon

In 1989, a copy of the Book of Mormon was donated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints containing, purportedly, marginal annotations made by Elvis Presley. Over the next several years, various speakers, newspaper columnists, and even a documentary film producer made claims that Elvis really had made these markings. The author of this article, who is director of the Church History... Read more

The Best Constitution in Existence: The Influence of the British Example on the Framers of Our Fundamental Law

Because it is the current fashion to read history backwards, tracing the records of actions and attitudes back from our time through 1763 instead of forward from the Norman Conquest, it is predictable that this generation should persist in construing the United States Constitution in a vacuum, that they should forget how most of our American forefathers cherished the English constitution and did... Read more

The Brodie Connection: Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith

Those outside the Church often think they have the objective explanation for Joseph Smith in Fawn McKay Brodie's No Man Knows My History. Mormons' complaints about her treatment of the Joseph Smith story are either unknown or brushed aside as biased special pleading. But recently something has happened that has called into question - Ms. Brodie's previously towering reputation as a scholar: she... Read more

The Summer of 1787: Getting a Constitution

It is not at all certain that complex historical events really have beginnings, but it is absolutely certain that all essays must. And so we begin with my favorite living Frenchman, Jean-Francois Revel, commenting on the revolution in eighteenth-century America: "That revolution was, in any case, the only revolution ever to keep more promises than it broke." What made that possible in America was... Read more

Hevelius and the Meaning of History

This article tells the story of a remarkable scientist, born in an age of conflict between science and religion. However, throughout his life, Johanes Hevelius never lost interest in astronomy. It was his observation of the eclipse of the sun on 1 June 1639 that rekindled in him the desire to devote his life to it. He began in earnest, with the help of the newly developed telescope, to make... Read more

The Second American Revolution: Era of Preparation

The origins of Mormonism can be better understood by looking at its historical context. The period between 1820 and 1845 was a time of political, social, economic, and religious revolution in America and has been termed "The Second Revolution." The author examines the general, religious, and socio-economic preparations the Second Revolution made for the spread of early Mormonism. Read more

Herod's Wealth

Herod's construction of Masada and many other massive building projects leave no doubt that Herod the Great had access to large amounts of gold and silver. But where his wealth came from and how much he had is not entirely clear. Several clues, however, concerning the sources and relative amounts of Herod's immense wealth and his use of this money to achieve political ends can be found in the... Read more

God's Base of Operations: Mormon Variations on the American Sense of Mission

Whatever his nationality, a student of Mormonism soon becomes aware of the significant and central position of America in both the history and the theology of the Mormon church. The importance of America goes far beyond what might naturally arise from the simple historical fact that the Church's founder and first members were Americans. Mormons everywhere look to America, and particularly to the... Read more

Herod the Great's Building Program

Herod the Great, although remembered principally in Christian circles for his slaughter of the infants as stated in Matthew's gospel, also left his mark on the world's memory as an ambitious builder. Herod finally consolidated power in 37 B.C. and immediately began an extensive building program—one perhaps unequaled in the history of ancient Israel. Ehud Netzer declares that "Herod the Great's... Read more

The Rise and Fall of Portugal's Maritime Empire, a Cautionary Tale?

The pioneering role that Portugal played during the European Age of Discovery is little known in American, and Mormon, education. Portugal was a world leader in (1) maritime technology; (2) map making; (3) commercial trade and political treaties; and (4) the introduction of Christianity on five continents. These religious, economic, agricultural, linguistic, and cultural exchanges were recorded... Read more

Muslim Perspectives on the Military Orders during the Crusades

On July 4, 1187, the armies of Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, surrounded thousands of Crusaders surmounting the Horns of Hattin (fig. 1) near Tiberias in Galilee. Exhausted by heat, thirst, and days of marching and fighting, the Crusaders were forced to surrender. Thousands of the resulting prisoners were sold into slavery, but not all. While King Guy and the Frankish aristocrats who had led... Read more

Alexander the Great Comes to Jerusalem: The Jewish Response to Hellenism

By the first century A.D., much of Palestine, the area known to the Israelites as the "land of promise," was divided under the Romans into five areas of provincial or semiprovincial status: Galilee, Idumea, Judea, Perea, and Samaria. Only Judea was overwhelmingly Jewish, while the other provinces, although mostly Jewish, also supported mixed populations of Jews, Greeks, and Syrians. This ethnic... Read more

The Family History Artworks of Valerie Atkisson

Valerie Atkisson, an artist who lives in the Bronx, New York, exemplifies a generation of Mormon artists who are at home navigating the world of Contemporary art while maintaining their personal and spiritual identity. Family history, transgenerational inquiry, and relatedness have been the majority subjects of Atkisson's work thus far. "What began as an interest in my ancestors has turned into... Read more

The Past Has Made the Present Tense: The Influence of Russian History on the Contemporary Soviet Union

In a recent book of essays entitled Knowing One's Enemies, a noted political scientist recounts an apocryphal story ascribed to a retired British Foreign Office professional. Through more than half of the twentieth century, year in and year out, so the reminiscence goes, this diplomat assured Foreign Secretaries that there would be no major European war. In all that time, he boasted, he had been... Read more

Initiates of Isis Now, Come, Enter into the Temple!: Masonic and Enlightenment Thought in The Magic Flute

Habakkuk exclaimed that in the presence of Lord the "sun and moon stood still in their habitation." The Empryean (Canto XXXII) of Dante's Paradiso concludes with the splendid phrase "l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle" (the Love which moves the sun and the other stars). And in 1945 when Harry S Truman realized the weight of the office he would inherit upon the death of President Franklin D... Read more

Ann Booth's Vision and Early Conceptions of Redeeming the Dead among Latter-day Saints

In March 1840, Ann Booth, a new Latter-day Saint convert in Manchester, England, had a vision of the spirit world in which she saw an LDS apostle teach and baptize John Wesley. She also saw in vision some of her family be baptized, and she later learned that the apostle she had seen was David W. Patten. Brigham Young, in Manchester, wrote a copy of the vision in a letter to his wife, in Nauvoo,... Read more

Joseph Smith III and the Kirtland Temple Suit

On 23 February 1880, Judge L. S. Sherman of the Court of Common Pleas, Lake County, Ohio, announced the decision awarding ownership of the historic Kirtland Temple, the Mormon religious edifice completed in 1836, to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the plaintiff in the case. Members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints might argue that the... Read more

A Historical Sketch of Galilee

By the first century A.D., much of Palestine, the area known to the Israelites as the "land of promise," was divided under the Romans into five areas of provincial or semiprovincial status: Galilee, Idumea, Judea, Perea, and Samaria. Only Judea was overwhelmingly Jewish, while the other provinces, although mostly Jewish, also supported mixed populations of Jews, Greeks, and Syrians. This ethnic... Read more

The Strategy of Conflict: Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung

This article examines the fundamental place of conflict in Communist theory, both in Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China, highlighting the implications for those in democratic, capitalist nations. Read more