Reviews: Thirteenth Apostle

We were lucky to work with some excellent reviewers for our newest release Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman. Two of our reviewers— David D. Busath and Edward Leo Lyman— are noted Lyman experts as well as Amasa’s descendants. Meanwhile. historian Jessie L. Embry’s review helps situate Lyman’s legacy within Utah’s equally complex relationship with Mormonism. Lastly, Benjamin Park introduces Amasa to newcomers in a thoughtful blog post analyzing Lyman’s “outsider” status within the Mormon tradition. Amasa’s relationship to Mormonism shifts throughout his life, yet his beliefs remain the same. What does this mean for modern saints navigating a now correlated faith?


“These journals, as they came from Amasa Lyman’s own pen, provide an irresistible window into the LDS Church in its first few decades through Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, the many obstacles in settling the West, and prosecution for the embrace of polygamy. Lyman records his daily activities as a ranking church leader, then as a disaffected former member, and Scott Partridge has done a masterful job in providing context and clarification for these events through his informative footnotes. This is an essential resource for historians, family members, and anyone interested in a first-hand account by someone so closely aligned with the leading elders of the church. Here we have the good, the bad, and everything in between.”

David D. Busath, Professor, Brigham Young University; descendant of Amasa Lyman and Maria Louisa Tanner; president of the Amasa Mason Lyman Educational and Historical Society

“In these engrossing diaries, we see Amasa Mason Lyman solving problems among the church’s untrained leadership and their congregants. He served as Joseph Smith’s counselor in the Quorum of the Anointed, as co-founder of San Bernardino, and as president of the British Mission, among other far-flung assignments. In the 1860s he choose to associate with dissidents who emphasized Smith’s axiom to ‘teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves’ over Brigham Young’s authoritarian rule. All of this is detailed in Lyman’s engaging trademark style.”

Edward Leo Lyman, retired Professor of History, California Polytechnic University and California State University-San Bernardino; author of Amasa Mason Lyman: Mormon Apostle and Apostate and Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood.

“The diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, edited by his great-grandson, provide invaluable insights into the missionary efforts of early Latter-day Saints, the LDS settlements in California and southern Utah, and the development of the Godbeite New Movement. The editor’s introduction provides essential details about Lyman’s life and what he included in his diaries, as well as, equally important, what he left out. The later entries remind me of Wilford Woodruff’s journal, often cited as essential for LDS history although Woodruff sometimes only gave farm and weather reports. Having such a reliable transcript of Lyman’s diary, the significant and the banal, combined with excellent explanatory notes, simplifies research for other scholars probing all aspects of nineteenth-century Mormon history.”

Jessie L. Embry, retired associate director, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies; editor, Journal of Mormon History; author of ten books and many articles dealing with Utah history.

“Amasa Lyman is a difficult person to situate within the Mormon tradition. On the one hand, he was a fervent believer, a devoted follower of Joseph Smith, a dogged defender of the gospel, a diligent pioneer, and a committed diary keeper. Yet his life was also full of quixotic divergences from the mainstream as well as substantial complications. The very title of this new volume of Lyman’s diaries hints at his liminal status: The Thirteenth Apostle. Lyman was called as an apostle when Orson Pratt was temporarily dropped from the quorum, but when Pratt was restored Lyman was stuck as a thirteenth wheel. He was then called to the First Presidency when Joseph Smith wanted to drop Sidney Rigdon, but when the latter didn’t happen the former was left in limbo. Lyman’s very ecclesiastical position highlighted an inability to fit in. With the publication of his diaries, Scott Partridge and the staff at Signature Books have provided us an important entrypoint not only into Lyman’s odd life, but also the community whose boundaries he frequently tested…

But perhaps the most exciting tale woven within Lyman’s diaries, at least to me, is that it provides material with which we can reconstruct a dissenting and liberal culture that flourished in Salt Lake City just down the street from Brigham Young’s headquarters. Territorial Utah, even when Young was in charge, was far from the tyrannical environment typically depicted. On the very same blocks where general church meetings were held there were also seances, dissenting rallies, and apostate lectures. Utah’s capital was a much more diverse and pluralistic space than Mormon leaders wanted people to believe.”

Benjamin Park, Assistant Professor of History, Sam Houston State University; full review of Thirteenth Apostle available via his blog, Professor Park’s Blog