The Canon of Mormon Literature

In most artistic fields a sort of canon has developed, a list of works widely considered as the important works in the field. Mormon Literature is no different.

We all know something about these lists. When we reach High School and College, we are expected to read the important works of American Literature: Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer, The Last of the Mohicans, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and a host of other works are familiar to us, if not because we have read them, then because they are important reference points in our culture. Similar Canons exist in other fields ““ music (Bach, Beetoven, Brahms and the Beetles), art (Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, and Warhol), etc.

Despite the fact that Mormon Literature isn’t widely known, it does have such a canon. A few works (e.g., the Book of Mormon) are widely known. Others (e.g., Added Upon) have had a profound and lasting impact, despite the fact that they are now unknown and include speculative or erroneous doctrine.

Fortunately, we do have some guide’s to the most important works of Mormon Literature. Just one of these has been published: Richard H. Cracroft and Neal E. Lambert, eds. A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1974. Unfortunately, it has long been out-of-print. Fortunately, used copies are fairly easy to come by, and much of the book is available online.

There are sources that effectively list important Mormon lists, including Eugene England’s Mormon Literature: Prospects and Progress and an online anthology put together by BYU English Professor Gideon Burton, the Mormon Literature Online Anthology.

In part in response to some of the discussion here and elsewhere, I’ve compiled the following list from the above sources. Undoubtedly there are errors and omissions in this list, and, like any canon, the canon in Mormon Literature is open, so new works might be added at any time. I am, of course, open to hearing of any other works that should be included.

I should also be clear that many of these works are not necessarily the best of Mormon literature — they are included because of their historical position and influence. And I’ve put many works in a Recent Works category, simply because it seems early to me to call them part of the canon.
Please note that many of the items below are out-of-print. I have not yet tried to put together a list of where these can be found, nor have I looked for other works by the same authors that should be included. I hope to add those in the future (and with the agreement of my co-bloggers, I’ll make this list a page here at A Motley Vision).

With all its imperfections, however, I hope this list will give us all an idea of what is out there to read.

Arrington, Leonard J. The First Year in the Valley
Brodie, Fawn. No Man Knows My History.
Brooks, Juanita. The Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Hill, Donna. Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 1977.
Kane, Thomas L. The Mormons
Roberts, B. H. The Missouri Persecutions
Smith, Lucy Mack. Young Joseph’s Illness
Smith, Joseph, Jr. Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story
Smith, Joseph, Jr. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 1904.
Talmage, James E. The Death and Burial of Jesus Christ

Biography and Autobiography
Bailey, Florence A. Merriam. Grandma
Brooks, Juanita. Home Reminiscences of Uncle Will Brooks
Brooks, Juanita. Quicksand and Cactus: A Memoir of the Southern Mormon Frontier, 1982.
Jones, Daniel W. Some Early Mormon “Fast Days”
Kenner, S. A. Indian Episode of Early Days
Kimball, Edward L., and Andrew E. Kimball Jr. Spencer W. Kimball, 1977.
Maeser, Karl G. How I Became a “Mormon”
Pratt, Parley P., The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 1874
Roberts, B. H., Joseph Smith the Prophet-Teacher, 1908
Sorensen, Virginia. Where Nothing is Long Ago: Memories of a Mormon Childhood, 1963
Taylor, John. The Martyrdom

Clawson, Ellen Spencer. To Ellen Pratt McGary
Hascall, Ursulia B. and Irene Hascall Pomeroy. The Hascall-Pomeroy Correspondence
Smith, Joseph, Jr. To Emma Smith
Smith, Joseph, Jr. To W. W. Phelps
Young, Brigham. To the Brethren Returning from Missions
Young, Brigham. Brigham Young’s Last Will and Testament

Journals and Diaries
Black, Joseph Smith. Cohabitation: The Day of the U.S. Marshal
Clayton, William. Arriving in Zion
Meeks, Priddy. Historical Chips
Pay, Mary Goble. Death Strikes the Hand Cart Company
Stout, Hosea. Crossing the Plains
Woodruff, Wilford. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898.

Hinckley, Gordon B. The True Strength of the Church
Kimball, J. Golden. What is a “Good Man”?
Kimball, Spencer W. “Second Century Address.” BYU Studies 16 (Summer 1976): 445-57.
Pratt, Orson. Discourse on the Plan of Salvation
Roberts, B. H. Protest Against the Science-thought of “A Dying Universe”
Roberts, B. H. No Immortality for Man: The Mission of the Church of the New Dispensation
Roberts, B. H. The Truth, the Way, and the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, 1994
Smith, Joseph, Jr. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. by Joseph Fielding Smith, 1970.
Smith, Joseph, Jr., The King Follett Discourse.
Young, Brigham. Conference Remarks on Science and Religion
Young, Brigham. The Discourses of Brigham Young, edited by John A. Widtsoe, 1971
Young, Brigham. The Essential Brigham Young, 1992.

The Essay
Bennion, Lowell L. The Things that Matter Most, 1978
Bradford, Mary Lythgoe. Leaving Home: Personal Essays, 1987
Bradford, Mary Lythgoe. Mormon Women Speak: A Collection of Essays, 1982
Bradford, Mary Lythgoe. Personal Voices: A Celebration of Dialogue, 1987
Burgess-Olson, Vicky, ed., Sister Saints, 1978
Bushman, Claudia L.. Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah, 1976
Christensen, Parley A. All in a Teacher’s Day, 1948
Christensen, Parley A. Of a Number of Things, 1962
Christensen, Parley A. Mormonism: An Eternal Quest
England, Eugene. Why the Church is as True as the Gospel
England, Eugene. Dialogues with Myself
Geary, Edward. Goodbye to Poplarhaven: Recollections of a Utah Boyhood, 1985.
Geary, Edward. The Proper Edge of the Sky: The High Plateau Country of Utah, 1992.
Hansen, Carole C. “The Death of a Son,” Dialogue 2 [Autumn 1967]: 91
Hawkinson, Sharon. Only Strangers Travel, 1984
Holland, Jeffrey R. and Patricia. On Earth as It Is in Heaven, 1989.
Madsen, Truman G. Human Anguish and Divine Love.
Mulder, William. Mormonism and Literature.
Nibley, Hugh. Approaching Zion, 1989.
Nibley, Hugh. Educating the Saints–A Brigham Young Mosaic.
Rasmussen, Dennis. The Lord’s Question: A Call to Come unto Him, 1985.
Thomas, Robert K. A Literary Critic Looks at the Book of Mormon
Whitney, Orson F. Home Literature, 1888.

Nineteenth-century Poetry
Anonymous folksongs. Once I Lived in Cottonwood
Anonymous folksongs. The Handcart Song
Anonymous folksongs. Marriage Proposal
Clayton, William. Come, Come, Ye Saints
Coolbrith, Ina. Millennium
Crocheron, Augusta Joyce. Thoughts Within
Crocheron, Augusta Joyce. Parting
Crocheron, Augusta Joyce. Estranged
Jaques, John. Oh Say, What is Truth?
Johnson, Joel H. High on a Mountain Top
Lyon, John. The Apostate: A Fragment
Lyon, John. Family Prayer
Penrose, Charles W. Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion
Phelps, William W. Gently Raise the Sacred Strain
Phelps, William W. Now Let Us Rejoice
Phelps, William W. Hosanna Anthem (“The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning”)
Phelps, William W. Praise to the Man
Phelps, William W. Vade Mecum: From W. W. Phelps to Joseph Smith the Prophet
Pratt, Parley P. Father in Heaven, We Do Believe.
Pratt, Parley P. Come, O Thou King of Kings
Pratt, Parley P. The Morning Breaks; the Shadows Flee
Pratt, Parley P. An Angel From on High
Pratt, Parley P. Evening Prayer
Smith, Joseph, Jr. The Vision: From Joseph Smith to W.W. Phelps, Esq.
Smyth, Richard. Israel, Israel, God Is Calling
Snow, Eliza R. Be Not Discouraged
Snow, Eliza R., Eliza R. Snow: An Immortal, Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow, 1957
Snow, Eliza R. How Great the Wisdom and the Love
Snow, Eliza R. Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother
Snow, Eliza R. My First View of a Western Prairie
Snow, Eliza R. Mental Gas
Snow, Eliza R., O My Father
Snow, Eliza R., Poems, Religious, Historical, and Political, 1856
Spencer, Josephine. The Long Steel Road
Townsend, Joseph L. To Nephi, Seer of Olden Time
Townsend, Joseph L. Hope of Israel
Wheelock, Cyrus H. Ye Elders of Israel
Whitney, Orson F. The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close
Whitney, Orson F. Ararat
Whitney, Orson F. Elias, an Epic of the Ages, 1904

Twentienth-century Poetry
Anonymous. Give, Said the Little Stream
Asplund, Thomas. The Heart of My Father
Christmas, R. A. At Mountain Meadows: for Juanita Brooks
Clark, Dennis Marden. Statement before the World Expands
Clark, Dennis Marden. Meadow
Clark, Dennis Marden. A Name and a Blessing
Clark, Marden J. Lines on a Line
Clark, Marden J. Moods: Of Late, 1979.
Coles, Christie Lund. Modern Christmas
Cracroft, R. Paul. The Martyrdom
Crawford, Vesta Pierce. The Fable of the Rose
Davis, Harrison. From the Land of Song
Doty, Ann. Sterling and Jenny
Drake, Dennis. To Jacob Hamblin (1819-1886)
England, Eugene, and Dennis Clark, eds. Harvest Contemporary Mormon Poems, 1989.
Golightly, Max. Widow Spring
Hardy, Nolyn. Today’s Dignitary
Harris, John B. Barbed Wire, 1974
Harris, John Sterling. The Assassination of Emma Gray
Harris, John Sterling. Hay Derrick
Hart, Edward L. To Utah, 1979
Hart, Edward L. The Gentle Way: (To President David O. McKay)
Hill, Lael W. The Pagans
Jolley, Clifton Holt. Heritage
Jones, Helen Walker. Cornerstone (Tracting in New Mexico)
King, Arthur Henry. On This Gray and Silver Day
King, Arthur Henry. Hot Weather in Tucson
Larsen, Clinton F. A Letter from Israel Whiton, 1851
Larsen, Clinton F. Advent
Larsen, Clinton F. The Witness
Larson, Clinton F. The Lord of Experience, 1967
Lyon, John. The Harp of Zion: A Collection of Poems, Etc., 1853
Miller, Marilyn McMeen. News Express
Nielsen, Veneta L. My Father Tamed Wild Horses
Pearson, Carol Lynn. To the Mormon Now Blessed With Roses Instead of Tar and Feathers
Pearson, Carol Lynn. Guilt
Pearson, Carol Lynn. Ritual
Pearson, Carol Lynn. To an Atheist
Pearson. Carol Lynn. Beginnings, 1967.
Pearson. Carol Lynn. The Search, 1970.
Randall, Naomi W. I Am a Child of God
Sillitoe, Linda. Trip Toward Prayer
Southwell, Charis. Complete Poems online, including “Reformation”, “Waking”
Swenson, May The Centaur
Swenson, May Any Object
Thayne, Emma Lou. Pruning the Sage
Thayne, Emma Lou. Heretic
Thayne, Emma Lou. First Loss
Thayne, Emma Lou. Sunday School Picture
Thayne, Emma Lou. Spaces in the Sage, 1971.
Thayne, Emma Lou. Things Happen: Poems of Survival, 1991.
Wright, David L. A Gathering of Saints
Young, S. Dilworth. The Brothers: June 24, 1844

Anderson, Nephi. Lester Amsden’s Love
Chandler, Neal. Benediction, 1989.
Kump, Eileen G. The Willows
Marshall, Donald R. The Rummage Sale: Collections and Recollections, 1972
Peterson, Levi S. The Canyons of Grace: Stories.
Peterson, Levi S. Night Soil: New Stories
Pratt, Parley P., A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil, 1844
Sorensen, Virginia. The Darling Lady
Spencer, Josephine. A Trial of Hearts
Spencer, Josephine. The Senator from Utah and Other Tales of the Wasatch, 1895
Thayer, Douglas. Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone and Other Stories, 1989.
Thayer, Douglas. Under the Cottonwoods and other Mormon Stories, 1977.

The Novel
Anderson, Nephi. Added Upon, 1898.
Anderson, Nephi. Marcus King, Mormon.
Brown, Marilyn. The Earthkeepers, 1979.
Card, Orson Scott. Saints, 1984.
Card, Orson Scott. Seventh Song, 1987.
Card, Orson Scott. Red Prophet, 1988.
Card, Orson Scott. Prentice Alvin, 1989.
Fisher, Vardis. Children of God: An American Epic, 1939.
Gates, Susa Young. John Stevens’ Courtship, 1909.
Lund, Gerald N. Pillar of Light, 1990.
Marhsall, Donald R. Frost in the Orchard, 1977.
Peterson, Levi S. The Backslider, 1986.
Peterson, Levi S. Aspen Mulrooney.
Roberts, B. H., Corianton: A Nephite Story, 1902.
Sorensen, Virginia. The Evening and the Morning, 1949
Sorensen, Virginia. A Little Lower Than the Angels, 1942
Taylor, Samuel W. Heaven Knows Why.
Taylor, Samuel W. Family Kingdom, 1951.
Taylor, Samuel W. Nightfall at Nauvoo, 1971.
Thayer, Douglas. Summer Fire, 1983
Whipple, Maurine. The Giant Joshua, 1941

Elliott, Robert. Fires of the Mind.
Gates, Crawford. Promised Valley, 1947
Kelly, Martin L. And They Shall Be Gathered
Larson, Clinton F. The Mantle of the Prophet.
Pearson, Carol Lynn. The Order Is Love.
Pearson, Carol Lynn. Mother Wove the Morning.
Pearson, Carol Lynn. My Turn on Earth, 1977.
Rogers, Thomas. God’s Fools: Plays of Mitigated Conscience, 1983.
Rogers, Thomas. Huebener and Other Plays, 1992.
Stewart, Doug. Saturday’s Warrior, 1974.

Recent Works (not yet classic)
Arrington, James. Here’s Brother Brigham
Arrington, James. Farley Family Reunion
Arrington, James. J. Golden
Arrington, James and Tim Slover. Wilford Woodruff: God’s Fisherman.
Barber, Phyllis. Legs: The Story of a Giraffe, 1991
Barber, Phyllis. How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir, 1992
Barber, Phyllis. The School of Love, 1990
Barber, Phyllis. And the Desert Shall Blossom: A Novel, 1991
Bennion, John. Breeding Leah and Other Stories, 1990.
Bickmore, Lisa Orme. Haste, 1994.
Bell, Elouise. Only When I Laugh, 1990.
Cannon, Ann Edwards. Amazing Gracie, 1991
Cheney, Thomas Edward. Voices from the Bottom of the Bowl: A Folk History of Teton Valley, Idaho, 1823�2, 1991.
Evans, Kathy. Imagination Comes to Breakfast, 1992.
Evenson, Brian. Altman’s Tongue, 1994.
Fillerup, Michael. Visions and Other Stories, 1990.
Freeman, Judith. Set For Life, 1991.
Freeman, Judith. The Chinchilla Farm, 1989
Hepworth, Catherine. Antics! An Alphabetical Anthology, 1992
Horne, Lewis. What Do Ducks Do in Winter?, 1993.
Howe, Susan E. The Burdens of Earth, 1987
Howe, Susan E. A Dream for Katy, 1992
Hughes, Dean. Jenny Haller, 1983
Hughes, Dean. Go to the Hoop!, 1993.
Kalpakian, Laura. Those Later Days, 1985
Kidd, Kathryn H. Paradise Vue, 1989
Kirn, Walter. My Hard Bargain, 1990.
Labute, Neil. In the Company of Men
Labute, Neil. Sanguinarians
Larsen, Lance. Erasable Walls, 1998.
Marshall, Donald R. Enchantress of Crumbledown, 1990
Maxwell, Neal A. That Ye May Believe, 1992.
Okazaki, Chieko N. Lighten Up!, 1992
Okazaki, Chieko N. Cat’s Cradle, 1993.
Perry, Anne. Tathea, 1999.
Mortensen, Pauline. Back Before the World Turned Nasty, 1989.
Morris, Carroll Hofeling. The Broken Covenant, 1985.
Plummer, Louise. My Name Is Sus5an Smith. The 5 Is Silent, 1991
Samuelsen, Eric. Accommodations
Slover, Tim. Dreambuilder
Slover, Tim. Scales.
Sillitoe, Linda. Crazy for Living, 1993
Sillitoe, Linda. Sideways to the Sun, 1987.
Sillitoe, Linda. Windows on the Sea and Other Stories, 1989.
Spencer, Darrell. Woman Packing a Pistol, 1987
Spencer, Darrell. Our Secret’s Out, 1993
Tunnell, Michael O. Chinook!, 1993
Tunnell, Michael O. The Joke’s on George, 1993
Tunnell, Michael O. Beauty and the Beastly Children, 1993
Ulrich, Laurel. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785�2, 1990.
Williams, Terry Tempest. “The Clan of One-Breasted Women,”
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, 1991.
Wunderli, Steve. Marty’s World, illustrated by Brent Watts, 1986
Young, Margaret Blair. House without Walls, 1990.
Young, Margaret Blair. Salvador, 1992.
Young, Margaret Blair. Elegies and Love Songs, 1992.
Young, Margaret Blair. I Am Jane.
Young, Margaret Blair. One More River to Cross, 2000, Standing on the Promises series.

29 thoughts on “The Canon of Mormon Literature”

  1. I think your sermon / theological / history sections need to be radically expanded to balance the detail you have in poetry, for example.

    A few suggestions:

    Pratt, Parley P., Key to the Science of Theology
    Young, Brigham et al, Journal of Discourses
    Talmage, John, Articles of Faith
    Talmage, John, Jesus the Christ
    Smith, Joseph F., Gospel Doctrine
    Smith, Joseph Fielding, Doctrines of Salvation
    Widstoe, John A., Rational Theology
    Roberts, B.H., The Mormon Doctrine of Deity
    McConkie, Bruce, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith
    Packer, Boyd K., Teaching: No Greater Call
    Hinckley, Gordon, Gospel Principles
    Clark, J. Reuben, “When Are Church Leader’s Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”
    Turner, Rodney, “The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology”

    Also in History:

    Arrington, Leonard: The Great Basin Kingdom
    Arrington, Leonard, et al: Building the City of God, Community and Cooperation among the Mormons
    (there are a dozen other similar books that should go here too)

    And in recent works, I suggest adding:

    Ostler, Blake: Exploring Mormon Thought (vols 1 and 2)

  2. Thanks Mark.

    I’m not quite sure about your additions, however, and this is probably one of the most difficult areas to judge.

    I agree that the works you list are important as historical works. The question here is: are they important as literature?

    The only reason I included the works that I did in these areas was that they were mentioned in the England and Cracroft/Lamber works I cited.

    So, do you think the works you list are important works of literature? or just important historically?

    Conversely, are there works listed in the original list that shouldn’t be included because they aren’t important literature?

  3. This is fantastic, Kent. By all means, let’s make it an AMV page. Eventually, it might be valuable to make it a Wiki — that could increase it’s functionality as well as lead to some interesting debate.

    And, yes, the question is — which works are important as Mormon literature?

    To the recent works category, I would add the following novels:

    Mitchell, Alan Rex, Angel of the Danube
    Bennion, John, Falling Toward Heaven

    In the fiction category, I would add:

    Petsco, Bela, Nothing very important and other stories

    It’s canonical and, sadly, out of print.

    One section we might want to add is criticism/reviews. Well…

    Actually I think that’s a different project. Influential and important works of criticism and review.

  4. Why do you seperate “Novels” and “Fiction?” Novels are fiction by definition. I know it doesn’t follow that fiction is the same as novels but wouldn’t “Short Stories” or somesuch more clearly defined category be better?

    (I notice you’re missing most of the “Alvin Maker” books. Is that because you’re not familiar with them or because you consider some of them more appropriate for this list than others?)

  5. Proud Daughter of Eve:

    Fiction should really be Short Fiction (i.e., anything shorter than a novel). The items under fiction are all either short stories or collections of short stories.

  6. General reminder:

    Please don’t make me defend why one work is included and another is not. I don’t know. Most of this is just what I pulled from these sources, NOT any careful study that I compiled. I put a minimal amount of work into this!!

    I believe your suggestions are ALL good, and when we put this into another form, I’ll be happy to add them.

  7. no Wayne Booth? It seems to me that at a minimum you need The Rhetoric of Fiction and The Company We Keep. I understand that Booth is at one end of the spectrum of what counts as mormon lit, but still…

  8. Those are both incredibly important works, anon. The question is how Mormon are they?

    Should a Mormon canon be the work of authors who are Mormon (and Booth was even if he didn’t actively practice Mormonism) or do the works themselves have to deal specifically with Mormonism?

    I’d probably vote for the widest set of parameters possible. But that’s just me.

  9. Kent, I suppose it depends on how you define literature. Personally, I can’t see how anyone can properly appreciate more artistic and creative works without an appreciation of the theological literature – we could leave everything out except the sermons and general conference talks from 1830 till now and get a very good sense of where Mormon culture was going.

    In particular I am more and more impressed that culture ends up being an expression of theology and often the counter reaction to various types of theology, that to leave theology out of the mix makes culture incomprehensible – of course I speak of theology in a very broad sense.

    For example, if one wants to understand American culture, the Westminster Confession is almost as critical a document as the Constitution, because American religion starts from a Calvinist foundation, and the religious revivals in the eighteenth and nineteenth century may best be seen as counter-reactions to that vision of God and humanity. I see the same in Mormonism, down to the present day.

  10. It might be a good idea to make a category for pamphlets / articles / tracts. Parley P. Pratt defined the Mormon genre with A Voice of Warning. Orson Pratt’s Absurdities of Immaterialism is worth mentioning, and of course the Wentworth letter.

    That is definitely a genuine literature where rhetorical skill ranks very highly. The talks in the Journal of Discourses are not all of equal quality, but many of them are rhetorical classics as well. Some of our best literature is in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants as well. e.g. Alma’s speech on pride, King Benjamin’s address, Nephi’s prayer, Abinadi’s discourse, etc.

  11. All I can add Mark, is that I’ll try to incorporate your suggestions as much as possible. I’m first going to figure out where is the best place to put a list of the canon of Mormon literature, where the input from many people can be added. When I’ve got that figured out, I’ll certainly post here where it is and try to get many people to help keep it an up-to-date and useful list. Part of this issue is where this idea fits in relationship to BYU’s Mormon Literature Database — am I duplicating their work? I don’t think so, but I’d like to define the difference better.

    Of course, as your lasst comment indicates, a large part of the problem is how to define what should be part of the canon. I think its clear that most current popular Mormon literature is probably not part of the canon, but I’d probably argue in favor of Jack Weyland’s Charley, for example, simply because of the impact it has had. [I don’t think that even Jack Weyland would argue that it is ‘great literature’ — whatever that means.

    Nevertheless, this is, I believe, a worthy project. Please continue to include your suggestions. I think they are very, very useful.

  12. I was just about to make a similar comment.

    I recognize that part of the point here is to portray Mormon literature as serious art, but if you’re at all interested in talking about cultural influence in your canon as opposed to exclusively highbrow literary influence, then I think it’s disingenuous to exclude Jack Weyland…

  13. In the autobiography section, don’t forget Mormon Mother by Annie Clark Tanner.

    I’d also suggest Prisoner for Polygamy, a memoir by Rudger Clawson, edited by Stan Larson. U of Illinois Press.

  14. A nice start. A couple of comments:

    * I disagree with the comment about adding Wayne Booth. His work is certainly good, and influential in criticism, but not (in my view) something that operates particularly within a Mormon cultural matrix. The notion of “canon,” as I see it, represents an intersection between cultural influence and generally accepted evaluations of quality–Booth has the latter, but not the former.

    * I think we already need to add Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling to the list. It’s not only going to set the new standard for Joseph Smith biographies, but I already see signs of it influencing people’s views of what it means to be Mormon–including among those who write literature.

  15. I just love this kind of list! Book lists are so fun, trying to decide what to put on the list and what to leave out. The discussion alone of what criteria to use in making such decisions is one of the most fascinating discussions imaginable. I have had a list of Zion’s Best Twenty-five LDS Books on my website for years, but I would never call it “literature” whatever that means. Most of it is sermons and theological works, especially the compiled sermons of each of the latter-day prophets from the beginning of the Restoration. I notice that many more of the books mentioned by Mark Butler are on my list than on the list you compiled, Kent. That is probably because I don’t really know what literature is as opposed to books that have had a profound effect upon the development of our beliefs as Latter-day Saints. For instance, MORMON DOCTRINE by Bruce R. McConkie is on my list not because it is literature any more than the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORMONISM is, but because it has had such an impact upon the thinking of the saints from the period in Church history in which it was very heavily quoted, and used by those preparing talks and lessons. I would never call it “literature,” but like I said, I’m not sure what literature is.

    If I were going to pick one book from all that has ever been written to add to the “canon” of our scripture, it would be THE MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS by Spencer W. Kimball, but I’m sure that there are a lot of people who would deny that it is literature at all, much less deserving of being part of a canon. It certainly has had an enormous effect upon the way several generations of Mormons have practiced their religion, or not practiced it depending on their reaction to that book. The Church seems to be divided between those who hate and make fun of it, and those who adore it and try to put its principles into effect in their lives.

    I’d include a URL to my own popular list, meaning that it has been far more popular than any of my other webpages, but I have to do a lot of work on the page before I do. When I originally put the list up, each one was linked to the title at Deseret Book Store. A couple of days ago I checked it for the first time in a long time and was horrified to learn that most of them are bad links. Apparently the books have either been allowed to go out of print, or Deseret Book has decided to move them so that the links are no longer any good. I need to do a lot of work on the list. In the meanwhile, I intend to take the list down to keep it from ruining my website. I’m pretty embarrassed that I had not noticed that the links had gone bad.

  16. What about conferences addresses? Given that, outside of the scriptures themselves, conference talks are probably the most read items by Mormons as a whole, some of them would begin to take on a more prominent, even canonical status. A few that come to mind,

    Benson’s “Beware of Pride”
    McConkie’s “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”
    Holland’s “Personal Purity” (Or the more famous but nearly identical BYU Devotional “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”)

  17. _The Worth of a Soul_ by Stephen A. Cramer (pseud.). Valuable first-person insight into the path taken by an excommunicant. To me, it’s the non-fiction analogue to Carroll Hofeling Morris’ _The Broken Covenant_ (which I’m glad to see is already on the list).

  18. This is a good list. I took a class from Gene England where we tried to come up with a list like this.

    Here are a few more suggestions:


    Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (already a classic and the definitive bio of Joseph Smith)

    Brigham Young: American Moses

    Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

    Also, why not add the major anthologies: Cracroft’s A Believing People, England’s Tending the Garden and Harvest. (Maybe there are others. These are just the ones I know).

    Another possibility:

    Maybe come up with a list of all of the major Mormon writers.

  19. I hadn’t peeked in on AMV for a while until this evening. This is wonderful.

    Of course, I would recommend “A Thoughful Faith,” edited by Philip Barlow, for the Essays list.

    I don’t know enough about the topic to be able to say yeah or nay to much that’s on the list…but many items on the list are also on my bookshelf, and I’ve not read them yet. So I’m going to be busy.

  20. I agree with whoever suggested the short story anthologies by Drs. England and Cracroft. Also in that category, may I suggest In Our Lovely Deseret? The Salt Lake Tribune called it the “finest collection of Mormon fiction ever assembled.” I rest my case, and am in no way made impartial by having edited that collection. 🙂

    Also, what about Rob Van Wagoner’s Dancing Naked? Or Brady Udall’s Letting Loose the Hounds or Edgar Mint? They’re no less “Mormon” than some of the other works you included (Kirn or Evenson or Labute, for example).

  21. Editor’s Note: I have no objection to the works listed on this comment being brought up in this discussion; however, the link was to an “erotic” blog and so has been removed — no other editing to the comment has been made, though. Discussion of the works below and whether they deserve to be canonical or not is fine  — as long as the emphasis is on literary value. Dissent is more of a political-sociological determination. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be part of the equation, but for the purposes of AMV —- boring. Works written as works of dissent often are.

    My two cents: I’m not a fan of Toscano’s work; however, one could probably make the case for works by D. Michael Quinn, although I’m not sure the works listed below are his best. But that’s from reading reviews and commentary. I haven’t read anything by Quinn yet.

    All in all — although I think that history and personal essay have a place in Mormon literature, I’m much more interested in people’s thoughts on what fiction and poetry is required reading for those interested in Mormon literature. 



    The list seems to have a predominantly devout stance, although of course Fawn Brodie shows up. The dissenting and dissonant voices of the culture are necessary for a more well rounded view of the literary canon as a whole — otherwise it is lopsided and lacking.

    A couple of suggestions for the list:

    Paul Toscano’s essay collection, “The Sanctity of Dissent.”

    Juanita Brooks biography of John D. Lee.

    Maxine Hanks edited anthology: “Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism”

    Michael D. Quinn’s Two Volume “The Mormon Heirarchy”

    And Ed Firmage’s 1989 McDougall Lecture at the Cathederal of the Madeleine, entitled “Reconciliation”

  22. Hi William — You may have guessed that I’ve been linking to Kent’s canon, and it would appear that I’ve sent some “cultural Mormons” your way. I hope you’re not annoyed by this…

    As I explained in the comments of my latest post about Mormon literature, I’m in the early stages of my study of the subject, so naturally I’ve been keeping this post as a reference.

    By the way, I really appreciate the fact that you guys were willing to include my novel site in your sideblog!!! 😀

  23. C.L.

    Ah, so it’s your fault. I should have known. 😉


    Anyone is welcome to comment here who is willing to engage in the topic and tone of AMV. Visitors are encouraged to read our comments policy.

  24. Please excuse the previous comment, I now notice it was included. My error – sorry.

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