In the brief time between when the alarm clock rings and the start of the day, we usually cherish those few extra moments of warmth in the sheets. However, soon enough we’re happy to be up and about, exploring the world around us. Similarly with religious studies, we may cling to the comforts of the past—what we find familiar in our faith—but then curiosity and conscience pull us to new revelations and sources of knowledge.
In these seventeen articles on things Mormon—prominent people, religious experience, memory, media, literature, and investigative theory—there is an obvious respect for the past and simultaneous desire to get to the bottom of things, to test the boundaries of knowledge. For instance, Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright look at the history of ritual healing within Mormonism, including the use of magic handkerchiefs and blessings performed by women. Matthew Bowman’s essay on “A Mormon Bigfoot” looks at the story retold in Sunday school and elsewhere about an early Church apostle who saw the biblical Cain. Brian Stuy examines Church President Wilford Woodruff’s account of the American founding fathers reaching from beyond the grave—a summons the prophet responded favorably to—requesting temple baptisms on their behalf. Unknown to Woodruff, this ordinance had been performed the year before. And Kathleen Flake looks at how the First Vision and other founding narratives were not emphasized in the Church until the twentieth century.
Other contributors include Gary James Bergera, Martha Bradley, Newell Bringhurst, Samuel Brown, Claudia Bushman, Brian Cannon, Douglas Davies, Rebecca de Schweinitz, Lawrence Foster, Reinhold Hill, and Jacob Olmstead.
Stephen C. Taysom is a professor of religious studies at Cleveland State University. He is the author of Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries and a contributor to Telling the Story of Mormon History. He has published in BYU Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Mormon Historical Studies, and the Western Historical Quarterly. He and his family live in Shaker Heights, Ohio.