Mormon Book Awards Bestowed on Authors

It might be expected that at the Mormon History Association meetings last week in San Antonio, a book on an LDS apostle could win an award, as it did. However, the life of Apostle Anthony W. Ivins, 1852-1934, was controversial enough that publication of his diaries by Elizabeth O. Anderson and Signature Books of Salt Lake City constitutes a milestone in LDS historical publishing. Ivins was sent to Mexico in 1895 to perform secret marriages for men and women whose polygamous sealings were approved by the LDS First Presidency despite the fact that it was five years after the Manifesto that ostensibly ended the aberrant marriage practice.

Anderson’s book, Cowboy Apostle: The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins, 1875-1932 , received the Best First Book prize at the banquet held Friday, June 6, at the Wyndham Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. Those in attendance were serenaded by a mariachi band while they ate. Some 500 historians were in attendance at the conference. Anderson was one of five authors whose books were honored for their scholarship.

The other winners were J. B. Haws for The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception by Oxford University Press (Best Book), Todd M. Compton for A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary by University of Utah Press (Best Biography), six LDS Church historians (Michael MacKay, Gerrit Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert Woodford, William Hartley, Matthew Godfrey, Mark Ashurst-McGee) for The Joseph Smith Papers—Documents, volumes 1-2, by the Church Historian’s Press (Best Documentary Book), Craig Livingston for From Above and Below: The Mormon Embrace of Revolution, 1840-1940 by Greg Kofford Books (Best International Book), and Matthew Kester for Remembering Josepa: History, Place, and Religion in the American West by Oxford University Press (Best Community History).

In her introduction to Cowboy Apostle, Anderson gives an overview of Ivins’s life, who was born in New Jersey and traveled west at age nine, with his family, to St. George, Utah, where he became an influential civic and ecclesiastical leader. He married Elizabeth Snow, daughter of another Mormon apostle, Erastus F. Snow. Ivins was also a cousin to Heber J. Grant, who would become church president and choose Ivins as one of his counselors. Ivins oversaw the Mormon colonies in Mexico as president of the Juarez Stake, and for a time presided over the mission in Mexico City.

“Given the responsibility of performing plural marriages, Ivins apparently never embraced the principle himself,” writes Anderson. “He may have been chosen precisely because his monogamy gave him cover to operate without suspicion.” Anderson was surprised, as she transcribed the diaries and annotated them, to find “how close I came to feel to” Ivins, saying she learned to “admire and respect him” and to “hope that some of the excitement” she felt would be “shared by readers of this volume.”

Anderson is a graduate of Brigham Young University. She has published in the Journal of Mormon History and John Whitmer Historical Journal and served on the editorial board of the JMH. She has also worked as a docent and research assistant at the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City and as a copy editor for Utah State University/University Press of Colorado, while otherwise raising seven children with her husband. She is now collaborating on a volume of correspondence between a turn-of-the-century apostle and his wife.

One of the most notable moments at the MHA conference was a discussion by LDS Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr. and other members of the LDS Historical Department regarding their plans to publish, in 2016, the minutes to the once-secretive Council of Fifty. The council was set up by church founder Joseph Smith a few months before his death in 1844 with the intent to oversee Mormon settlements outside of the United States in Oregon and Texas. The council was not entirely abandoned until the 1880s. The church will publish the rarely seen early minutes of the council recorded by William Clayton between 1844 and 1845, records that have been sought after by scholars and are still unavailable for perusal by researchers who are not employed by the church.

As a complement to that publication, Utah State Historian Jedediah S. Rogers has prepared an annotated version of never-before-published Council of Fifty minutes for the post-1845 Utah years, which will be released later this year by Signature Books. Rogers is the official state historian with the Utah Division of State History and co-editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly. His publication, The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, will include minutes, diary entries from council members, church records, newspaper reports, letters, and reminiscences.