A Book of MormonsA Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker

on the flap
Carefully researched and succinctly written, A Book of Mormons highlights seventy-eight historic figures. Photographs, little-known facts, and anecdotes vividly portray the public and private lives of prominent Mormon personalities. Included are all the presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith to Harold B. Lee, apostles and apostates, businessmen and educators, pioneers and politicians.

The struggles and contributions of Mormon women are reflected in the lives of Lucy and Emma Smith, women’s rights advocate Martha Hughes Cannon, and Church and civic leaders such as Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, and Amy Brown Lyman.

The authors’ even-handed approach gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate the checkered careers of early leaders such as Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and John C. Bennett, authors Fanny Stenhouse, Frank J. Cannon, and Fawn Brodie, and renegades Bill Hickman and Orrin Porter Rockwell.

Through a hundred and fifty years of Mormonism, the interaction of such strong and diverse personalities with one another and with their church makes A Book of Mormons a fascinating social history.

“An extraordinarily well-researched survey of the diverse lights and shadows of Mormon biography.” —D. Michael Quinn

about the authors:  Richard S. Van Wagoner, a clinical audiologist in Salt Lake City, is an elders quorum instructor in Lehi, Utah, where he lives with his wife, Mary, and their five daughters. Steven C. Walker, an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University, serves on a stake Sunday School board in Provo, Utah, where he lives with his wife, Ardith, and their three children.

title page
A Book of Mormons
Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
Signature Books

copyright page
© Copyright 1982 by Signature Books
Salt Lake City, Utah
All Rights Reserved
ISBN 0-941214-06-0
Printed in the United States of America

Dedicated to the men and women who made Mormon history

Introduction [see below]

A:   Elijah Abel
B:   Almon W. Babbitt;  John C. Bennett;  John M. Bernhisel;  Sam Brannan; George H. Brimhall; Fawn M. Brodie; Hugh B. Brown
C:  Abraham H. Cannon; Frank J. Cannon;  George Q. Cannon; Martha Hughes Cannon; Butch Cassidy;  J. Reuben Clark; Oliver Cowdery; Matthew Cowley
E-F:  Richard L. Evans; Green Flake;
G:  Susa Young Gates; William S. Godbe; Heber J. Grant; Jedediah M. Grant
H-I:  Jacob Hamblin;  Martin Harris; Bill Hickman; Orson Hyde;  Anthony W. Ivins
K:  Heber C. Kimball;  J. Golden Kimball;  Jesse Knight
L:  Harold B. Lee; John D. Lee; Amasa Lyman; Amy Brown Lyman; Francis M. Lyman
M:  Karl G. Maeser; Thomas B. Marsh; David O. McKay
P:  Edward Partridge; David W. Patten; Romania Pratt Penrose; W. W. Phelps; Orson Pratt; Parely P. Pratt
R:  Alice Louise Reynolds; Willard Richards; Sidney Rigdon; B. H. Roberts; Porter Rockwell; Aurelia Rogers
S:  Ellis Shipp; Emma Smith; George A. Smith; George Albert Smith; Hyrum Smith; Joseph Smith;  Joseph F. Smith; Joseph Fielding Smith; Lucy Mack Smith; Reed Smoot; Eliza R. Snow; Erastus Snow; Lorenzo Snow; Fanny Stenhouse
T:  James E. Talmage;  Annie Clark Tanner; John Taylor; John W. Taylor; Moses Thatcher
W:  Chief Walker; Daniel H. Wells; Emmeline B. Wells; David Whitmer; John A. Widtsoe; Wilford Woodruff
Y:  Brigham Young; Brigham Young Jr.; Zina D. H. Young

Bibliography [see below each name]
Photographic Sources [see below each name]
Index [not included here]


[p.ix] “The past,” wrote William Faulkner, “is not dead; it is not even past.” But much of it is buried. Five years of digging into archives has convinced us that details in the lives of many men and women who made Mormon history—people whose tastes conceived our architecture and set the shape of our cities, whose voices echo in our speech patterns, whose passion for improvement invites us into their footsteps whether we walk in Salt Lake City or Tokyo or Sao Paulo—are difficult to find. Orson Pratt, well-known figure though he was, accurately prophesied: “Should my history ever be written, it will be the result of a laborious task.”

Apostle Pratt was the least of our problems. Our search for the other seventy-seven pivotal personalities in A Book of Mormons—prophets, pioneers, politicians, physicians, professors, apostles, authors, outlaws, even an Indian chief—led us through thousands of letters, hundreds of books and periodicals, dozens of personal interviews, through documents and rumors and legend and surmise.

We found in that labyrinth of 150 years of Mormon history vivid moments: Stroke-stricken Thomas B. Marsh, once president of the Quorum of the Twelve, limping his way back into the Church in 1856; “Prophetess, Presidentess, Priestess” Eliza R. Snow healing the sick by the laying on of hands; black Elijah Abel, ordained an elder and seventy as early as 1836; Parley P. Pratt bleeding to death in Arkansas dust from knife and bullet wounds at the hand of a jealous husband; aging Hugh B. Brown lamenting, “My bifocals are wonderful, / My hearing aid’s a find, / My dentures come in handy, / But how I miss my mind!”

A Book of Mormons attempts to make accessible those elusive moments, those highlights in the lives of the people we met most and liked best in Mormon history. Having come to those essential facts at such cost, we were determined to put them at the fingertips of the readers of this volume. Alphabetical arrangement, marginal dates, and frequent subtitles are designed to make information easy to locate. Brevity—we cut the text to half its original length—further focuses salient facts; our”highlights of life” format is intended to allow concentration through illustrative fact rather than interpretive summary. Over a hundred photographs inform immediately.

[p.x] —And, we think, accurately. Our other major passion in writing the book has been historical reliability. Seeing so much of folklore in what passes for Mormon history, and so much more of unabashed slanting, we have been anxious to stick steadfastly to primary documents and original witnesses. We allow historical figures to speak for themselves whenever possible; we quote our sources frequently, preserving even original spelling. Where there is controversy or conflicting fact, we’ve included spokespersons from both sides—when Brigham Young and Emma Smith quarreled, for example, we thought it fair (and far more interesting) to hear from both the Lion of the Lord and the Elect Lady.

But concern for objectivity is not the only reason we’ve invited our Mormons to speak for themselves. We like the way they talk. Listen, for instance, to Orson Hyde and Parley P. Pratt: “When dancing was first introduced in Nauvoo among the Saints, I observed Brother Parley standing in the figure and he was making no motion particularly, only up and down. Says I, ‘Brother Parley, why don’t you move forward?’ Says he, ‘When I think which way I am going, I forget the step and when I think of the step I forget which way to go.'”

We’ve left the warts on our portraits, presenting these individuals as the historical documents made them appear to us, without minimizing or ignoring incidents in their lives which some may consider embarrassing or controversial. We have written A Book of Mormons out of our conviction that people are best loved, and best learned from, when they are most truly known.

We are grateful not only to the authors we’ve cited in notes, but to many who have shared with us unpublished expertise or inside information about historical figures, notably Maureen Gates on Bill Hickman, Hampton Godbe on William S. Godbe, Steven K. Madsen on Green Flake, Linda King Newell on Emma Smith, Barbara McKay Smith on Fawn Brodie, and Scott Kenney on Joseph F. Smith. We are deeply appreciative of the patience of Mary Van Wagoner and Ardith Walker.

Richard S. Van Wagoner
Steven C. Walker