The historiography of Mormonism's first hundred years consisted of a loud but fairly simple debate between two voices: faithful Mormonism and anti-Mormonism. The advent of the New Mormon History after World War II-- launched by such works as Leonard Arrington's Great Basin Kingdom, Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History, Robert Flanders' Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, and Juanita Brooks' Mountain Meadows Massacre--created a more complex, polyvocal discussion. This nuanced dialogue is, after fifty years, only swelling in number of participants, methodological sophistication, respect for primary sources, and consideration of the full range of participants in the many Mormon stories.
Excavating Mormon Pasts assembles sixteen knowledgeable scholars from both the Latter-day Saint and the Community of Christ traditions who have long participated skillfully in this dialogue. It presents their insightful and sometimes incisive surveys of where the New Mormon History has come from and which fields remain unexplored. They include Klaus J. Hansen, David L. Paulsen, Roger D. Launius, Stephen C. LeSueur, Glen M. Leonard, Craig L. Foster, M. Guy Bishop, Jessie L. Embry, Kahlile Mehr (heading a team of other international specialists, including Mark L. Grover, Reid L. Neilson, Donald Q. Cannon, and Grant Underwood), Danny L. Jorgensen, Mark A. Scherer, Todd Compton, Martha Sonntag Bradley, Newell G. Bringhurst, Davis Bitton, and Lavina Fielding Anderson.
Taking a topical approach, these essays delve into the controversial views of Mormonism's beginnings, the work produced on Mormonism's development during Joseph Smith's lifetime with the divergent paths followed since then, Community of Christ contributions to the explorations--particularly of the shared pre-Martyrdom past, and what may be considered Mormonism's cultural and international flowering.
The internal dialogue in this book is vigorous--over exact definitions of the New Mormon History, over which works deserve landmark status and which are peripheral, and over the many questions yet to be answered. Both a vital reference work and a stimulating picture of the New Mormon History in the early twenty-first century, it is also a beguiling invitation for others to join in producing and commenting on Mormon historiography during the next fifty years. [via]