Week in Review for December 9–13

In the News

The LDS church released an unsigned article titled “Race and the Priesthood” that lit the online Mormon world ablaze, before spilling into the mainstream media. The article takes a decidedly historical tone by givingNews Update a broad overview of the ban on African Americans from participating in the priesthood or temple ordinances. It acknowledges that the ban did not originate with Joseph Smith, but with Brigham Young, and that there appears to be no divine mandate for the ban. The article further repudiates past statements and racist theories for the ban, including that African Americans were less valiant in the war in heaven, or that they are cursed descendants of Cain or Ham.
While some have quibbled with details or suggested the article does not go far enough by apologizing, (there are even reports of some who suggest it goes too far), most online commenters rejoiced, and were even stunned at the depth of the statement. A few wondered if they would ever see those words, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a pre-mortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin.”

Mitt Romney is back in the news as the subject of a book and a forthcoming documentary. Double Down, the pseudo-sequel to the popular book, Game Change by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, covers the 2012 election campaign and Mitt’s central role as the Republican nominee. Romney’s candidacy is widely seen as giving rise to the so-called “Mormon moment,” when Latter-day Saints were the focus of a more nuanced media scrutiny. Romney is portrayed sympathetically as a family man who is head-over-heels in love with his wife, Ann, but also as an awkward Presidential candidate, struggling to find authenticity. The book includes a list of Mitt’s substitute swear words, and even a hint that he enjoys the company of those unencumbered by Mormon values, allowing Mitt to live vicariously through their fun.

 In Books

Historian Ben Park posted his list of “highlights of forthcoming scholarship” set to appear in 2014. On the Juvenile Instructor blog, Park lists a variety of narrative and documentary history books from a variety of publishers, including two from Signature, Cowboy Apostle: The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins and The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History.

J Stuart, also writing for the Juvenile Instructor blog, detailed the launch event for another volume of the Joseph Smith Papers. Documents volume 2 covers July 1831 – Jan 1833 and offers numerous revelation documents as well as other papers covering the history of the LDS church in Kirtland, Ohio.

News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor