Category Archives: LDS History

Articles of Faith 3: Craig L. Foster on Polygamy and its relationship to the LDS Church

Posted on by

Craig L. FosterPrior to graduating from BYU, Craig L. Foster served as a missionary in Belguim and France. Craig L. Foster earned a Bachelors degree in history and MLIS (or Masters of Library and Information Science) at BYU. He is also an accredited genealogist and works as a research consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He has published books and articles on various aspects of Mormon History. Some of his writings on Mormon History discuss the history and theology of plural marriage within the context of Mormonism. Craig is also on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. Craig is the author of the article: Separated but not Divorced: The LDS Church’s Uncomfortable Relationship with its Polygamous Past found in the Interpreter: Journal of Mormon Scripture


Faith and Reason 3: A Prophet’s Birth from Noble Heritage

Posted on by


From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

In this episode, Michael Ash discusses: A Prophet’s Birth from Noble Heritage. Both Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith came from a line of worthy ancestors. Some of their progenitors were patriots, pioneers, and ministers. Seven were pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower, and three of the seven signed the Mayflower Compact.

One of Lucy’s ancestors was John Lathrop, a former minister of the Church of England who allied himself with an independent religious body when he no longer approved of the church government. For eight years Lathrop and his congregation met secretly in London until they were arrested. During his imprisonment, Lathrop’s wife became fatally ill and he was allowed to visit her in her dying moments before returning to jail. He was finally released after pleading with the bishop for the sake of his motherless children. Lathrop and his children then sailed to America, where he became a leader in church affairs.

Joseph Sr. and Lucy wed in 1796. The following year they delivered their first child, an unnamed daughter who died shortly after birth. Alvin, Hyrum, and Sophronia followed. The Smiths moved several times as they struggled to support their growing family. They finally settled in Sharon, Vermont after purchasing a farm from Lucy’s father, Solomon Mack. Joseph Sr. cultivated the farm and taught school during the winter. Gradually, their financial circumstances became more comfortable.

Joseph Smith Jr. was born on December 23, 1805. He was the fifth child of an eventual eleven to be born to the Smiths. Twenty-nine years had passed since America had declared her independence from England, and only twenty-two years had lapsed since the Revolutionary War had formally ended. The Bill of Rights had been in force for only fourteen years, and George Washington had died just six years earlier. Thomas Jefferson was serving as president of the United States –which consisted of only seventeen of our current fifty states.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

New Gospel Topics Essay: “Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints”

Posted on by
A 19th century depiction of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, printed in T. B. H. Stenhouse's book The Rocky Mountain Saints (1873).

A 19th century depiction of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, printed in T. B. H. Stenhouse’s book The Rocky Mountain Saints (1873).

A new essay on the Gospel Topics website went up this morning. It is titled “Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints” and covers, among other things, 19th century vigilantism and violence among Latter-day Saints.

The article begins by emphasizing that the Church strives to emulate Jesus’ call to peace.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The virtues of peace, love, and forgiveness are at the center of Church doctrine and practice. Latter-day Saints believe the Savior’s declaration, found in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, that “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” In Latter-day Saint scripture, the Lord has commanded His followers to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” Latter-day Saints strive to follow the counsel of the Book of Mormon prophet-king Benjamin, who taught that those who are converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ “will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably.”

But, given the religious persecution perpetuated against the Saints in the 1830s and 40s, and given the historical context of vigilantism in 19th century America, the article goes on to discuss lamentable moments of violence and retaliation that the Saints committed. During the 1838 Missouri War, for example, “some [Mormon] leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites, whose objective was to defend the community against dissident and excommunicated Latter-day Saints as well as other Missourians.” While the Danites may initially have had noble intentions, as the war escalated their actions quickly turned violent and aggressive.

Danites intimidated Church dissenters and other Missourians; for instance, they warned some dissenters to leave Caldwell County. During the fall of 1838, as tensions escalated during what is now known as the Mormon Missouri War, the Danites were apparently absorbed into militias largely composed of Latter-day Saints. These militias clashed with their Missouri opponents, leading to a few fatalities on both sides. In addition, Mormon vigilantes, including many Danites, raided two towns believed to be centers of anti-Mormon activity, burning homes and stealing goods.

But violence among 19th century Mormons did not end in Missouri. As the Saints settled the Rocky Mountains, vigilantism and violence cropped up in some instances of conflict with Native Americans. As relationships between some Mormons and Native Americans strained, “A series of battles in February 1850 resulted in the deaths of dozens of Utes and one Mormon. In these instances and others, some Latter-day Saints committed excessive violence against native peoples.”

During this time was also the so-called “Mormon Reformation” of the mid-1850s.

In the mid-1850s, a “reformation” within the Church and tensions between the Latter-day Saints in Utah and the U.S. federal government contributed to a siege mentality and a renewed sense of persecution that led to several episodes of violence committed by Church members. Concerned about spiritual complacency, Brigham Young and other Church leaders delivered a series of sermons in which they called the Saints to repent and renew their spiritual commitments. Many testified that they became better people because of this reformation.

One aspect of this “reformation” was the proliferation of violent rhetoric or imagery in the sermons of some Church leaders, such as Brigham Young and Jedediah M. Grant.

Nineteenth-century Americans were accustomed to violent language, both religious and otherwise. Throughout the century, revivalists had used violent imagery to encourage the unconverted to repent and to urge backsliders to reform. At times during the reformation, President Young, his counselor Jedediah M. Grant, and other leaders preached with fiery rhetoric, warning against the evils of those who dissented from or opposed the Church. Drawing on biblical passages, particularly from the Old Testament, leaders taught that some sins were so serious that the perpetrator’s blood would have to be shed in order to receive forgiveness. Such preaching led to increased strain between the Latter-day Saints and the relatively few non-Mormons in Utah, including federally appointed officials.

Commonly termed “blood atonement,” this rhetoric, while mostly just that, also appears to have led to violence in some instances.

While many of the exaggerated claims that appeared in the popular press and anti-Mormon literature [about blood atonement] are easily disproven, it is likely that in at least one instance, a few Latter-day Saints acted on this rhetoric. Nevertheless, most Latter-day Saints seem to have recognized that the blood atonement sermons were, in the words of historian Paul Peterson, “hyperbole or incendiary talk” that were “likely designed to frighten church members into conforming with Latter-day Saint principles. To Saints with good intentions, they were calculated to cause alarm, introspection, and ultimately repentance. For those who refused to comply with Mormon standards, it was hoped such ominous threats would hasten their departure from the Territory.”

Violence committed by 19th century Mormons reached its bloody apogee in 1857 with the terrible massacre of a group of emigrants from Arkansas at the site of Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. The history of this event, besides being summarized by the new essay, has been discussed in an article published in the Ensign and in the 2008 volume Massacre at Mountain Meadows. As explained by the essay, “while intemperate preaching about outsiders by Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and other leaders contributed to a climate of hostility, President Young did not order the massacre. Rather, verbal confrontations between individuals in the wagon train and southern Utah settlers created great alarm, particularly within the context of the Utah War and other adversarial events.” So then who was ultimately responsible for this crime? “A series of tragic decisions by local Church leaders—who also held key civic and militia leadership roles in southern Utah—led to the massacre.”

The essay concludes by acknowledging violence committed by 19th century Mormons but also emphasizing a need for caution in outright condemning the early Saints as a violent people.

Many people in the 19th century unjustly characterized the Latter-day Saints as a violent people. Yet the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, in the 19th century as today, lived in peace with their neighbors and families, and sought peace in their communities. Travelers in the 19th century often noted the peace and order that prevailed in Mormon communities in Utah and elsewhere. Nevertheless, the actions of relatively few Latter-day Saints caused death and injury, frayed community relationships, and damaged the perception of Mormons as a peaceful people.

The violent actions committed by early Mormons should not be excused or justified, but should be understood in proper historical context. Thankfully, the tumultuous early years of the Church, which saw violence being committed both against and by Mormons, are behind us. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes of the past while also tempering rash judgement with sound historical understanding.

For more on the topics discussed in the new essay, be sure to check FairMormon’s articles on the Mormon Reformationcrime and violence in early Utah, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and blood atonement. Also, as you’re browsing the new Gospel Topics essay, be sure to click on the links on the right of the page, such as on the link to the new Doctrine and Covenants and Church History seminary manual, for further reading.

*Cross-posted from Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.

Articles of Faith 2: Royal Skousen on Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates

Posted on by

Royal SkousenRoyal Skousen is a professor of linguistics and English at Brigham Young University. He is considered to be a leading expert on the textual history of the Book of Mormon.

Royal Skousen talks about his 25+ year effort on the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, his findings about the language of the Book of Mormon and his assertion that the text is from the language of the 1600’s, not the language of Joseph Smith’s day–concluding that Joseph was revealed an English text, not taking broad theories and applying them to the language of his day.

Royal is also the author of an article from the Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture entitled Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates. This article articulates the discovery of an additional account of Mary Whitmer’s being shown the Gold Plates from the Angel Moroni. This account articulates a motivation for Moroni’s showing her the plates.

For other texts from Royal Skousen, click here.


Brian C. Hales Interview – Articles of Faith Show

Posted on by

Brian C Hales – Dissenters: Portraying the Church As Wrong So They Can Be Right Without It

Brian C. Hales is a board-certified anesthesiologist in Layton, Utah. He graduated from Utah State University with a B.S. in biology and from the University of Utah, College of Medicine.

He authored Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism (2008) and The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy: An LDS Perspective (1992). Hales has published articles in Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and the Journal of Mormon History. Brian Hales is also webmaster of and

Brian has also served as president of the Utah Medical Association and as president of the Medical Staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. He is the father of four adult children and author of the 3 volume set, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.


Fair Issues 50: Book of Mormon DNA issue one of science, not theology

Posted on by

Ash (newer) PictureLDS critics with training in genetics acknowledge that if a small group of Israelites came to the New World and intermixed with a larger Native American population, their DNA could have disappeared as well…the DNA issue is one of science.  The question as to who lived in the Americas in addition to Book of Mormon peoples is not one of doctrine or revelation, but is one of personal opinion based on research and evidence, including textual evidence from the Book of Mormon

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The view and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.


4th Watch 14: True Doctrine

Posted on by

4thWatch SmallBrother Ned Scarisbrick and Nick Galieti discuss some of the core doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how we understand them from a general member perspective.

Future podcasts in this series will be geared toward the practical application of gospel principles based on truth and transparency of past and present Church teachings and leaders. Critics of the Church and those who have concerns about their faith may find this approach appealing from previous generations who may have had difficulty dealing with what some consider conflicting viewpoints of official Church doctrine.

The view and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

4th Watch 13: Doctrine, Folklore and Superstition

Posted on by

4thWatch SmallThe subject of doctrine within the LDS Church has been discussed on many occasions with the written word and scholarly  commentary to the spoken word in local Sunday services and general conference talks by the presiding leaders of the Church.  In this podcast a brief introduction to the subject of what is considered official doctrine in the Church is discussed by Ned Scarisbrick and Nick Galieti.  Nick is the host of his own podcast called the “Good word podcast.”  He is also the production talent behind the “Mormon History Guy” podcast.

The articles of faith are the center point in this podcast and other issues relating to what may be considered faith promoting rumors are mentioned to help us avoid the error of making our own personal views the gospel of Jesus Christ official doctrine.

Future podcasts in this series will be geared toward the practical application of gospel principles based on truth and transparency of past and present Church teachings and leaders. Critics of the Church and those who have concerns about their faith may find this approach appealing from previous generations who may have had difficulty dealing with what some consider conflicting viewpoints of official Church doctrine.

Mormon Fair-Cast 203: Odds are you are Going to be Exalted

Posted on by

Odds_Are___Exalted_detailAlonzo GaskillMany Latter-day Saints worry whether they’re capable of reaching the celestial kingdom. Are these anxieties born of a sense of unworthiness, or is it that we just don’t think we can “do it all?” Author Alonzo L. Gaskill believes that such pessimism results from misunderstanding God’s great plan of happiness and what it is that the Lord actually requires of us. In this hope-filled book, he reviews the teachings of the scriptures and modern prophets to instill in readers a greater sense of God’s unfailing love and mercy and of His power and desire to exalt His children. Exaltation may be not only possible but probable!

Dr. Alonzo L. Gaskill was reared near Indepence, Missouri, and joined the Church in the fall of 1984. One year later, he served a mission to England. He has attended several schools and universities, earning a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in biblical studies.

He has taught graduate and undergraduate religious education courses at the University of California (at both Berkeley and Santa Cruz) and Idaho State University. He was the director of the LDS institute of religion adjacent to Stanford University, and is an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He is a frequent presenter at BYU’s Campus Education Week and Know Your Religion seminars.

Dr. Gaskill and his wife, Lori, are the parents of four children and reside in Payson, Utah.

This book is available through the FairMormon Bookstore here.

You may also be interested in his blog here.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

Mormon Fair-Cast 202: Barry R. Bickmore, “Restoring the Ancient Church”

Posted on by

Barry R. Bickmore Restoring the Ancient Church 2nd EditionBarry R. BickmoreMills Chrenshaw who is the host of the program “Drive Time Live” on K-Talk AM 630 radio in Salt Lake City Utah interviews Barry Robert Bickmore about his book “Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity.”  In this interview brother Bickmore relates how the teachings of the early Church are reflected in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This book meticulously examines the earliest teachings of Christianity and how some of those teachings were modified, abandoned, or forgotten in the centuries following the death of the Apostles. By exploring the writings of early Christian leaders, Dr. Bickmore is able to recover those early teachings while illustrating the significance they played in the theology and Christology of the pristine Christian Church. Most importantly for Latter-day Saints, Dr. Bickmore demonstrates that many of forgotten early Christian teachings were restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.

This 2nd edition is enlarged and revised.  This book is available through the FairMormon bookstore here .

A written review of Barry R. Bickmore’s first edition from a non-LDS perspective is also available at FairMormon here.

This interview was used by permission of Mills Crenshaw and K-TALK radio. The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FairMormon.