The best books on Mormon history

The Books I Picked & Why

No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

By Fawn M. Brodie

No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

Why this book?

“Brodie saw the fraud at the heart of Mormonism,” according to Larry McMurtry, and she described it with style and panache – at considerable personal cost. Her uncle, a future Church president, denounced her and participated in her ex-communication.


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Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

By Linda King Newell, Valerie Tippetts Avery

Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

Why this book?

This is an honest book about Joseph Smith’s first, and only “real” wife, Emma, who virulently opposed polygamy and, after Joseph’s death, convinced herself that it never existed. Emma is one of the three titans of Mormon history: she, her husband, and the subject of my next pick.


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Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet

By John G. Turner

Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet

Why this book?

You hear a lot about John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, but square mile for square mile, Brigham Young is the man who built the American West. He dispatched Latter-day Saints to settle the following states, either wholly or in part: Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, and Oregon.


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Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith

By Dallin H. Oaks, Marvin S. Hill

Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith

Why this book?

Not only is this book fascinating, but it is also utterly honest, and honesty is in short supply in Mormon history-telling. Oaks is a politically conservative and culturally controversial member of the Mormon church’s ruling triumvirate, which in no way detracts from this masterpiece.


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In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

By Todd Compton

In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

Why this book?

These heart-wrenching biographies of 33 of Joseph Smith’s wives were the first, in-depth exploration of the social and emotional costs of Mormon polygamy. Loneliness appeared in 1997. The church waited until November 2014, six months after the publication of American Crucifixion, to officially acknowledge that Joseph had up to 40 wives.


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