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Our favorite Mormon books
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Salt Lake Tribune invited a handful of LDS writers to share with our readers their five favorite Mormon books across the spectrum — history, theology, essays and fiction (excluding scripture). Their choices range from historic to modern, analysis to devotional, and lots in between.

Samuel M. Brown

Salt Lake City physician-researcher in intensive care and medical ethics and author of In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death

• More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910, Kathryn Daynes

An honest, thoughtful, scholarly treatment of Mormon polygamy as it was lived in Manti, an exemplary Utah community.

• On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians and the American Landscape, Jared Farmer

A powerful, fascinating consideration of the ways human cultures shape the places that they live, told as the story of Utah Lake and Mount Timpanogos.

• Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment, Leigh Eric Schmidt

One of the top religious historians in America uses the science of sound and debunkers of ancient Greek oracles to make clear how the Enlightenment spread in America. Crucial to understanding the cultural context in which Mormonism arose.

• Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, Brady Udall

Best Mormon novel to date. Engaging writing, big ideas. This novel gives a sense for life in the American Southwest, where Mormons have played a significant role.

• All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne

A marvelous, transformative collection of essays and poems by two of the LDS Church's most talented writers.

Emma Lou Thayne

Utah poet, writer, essayist, leader

• Christ's Ideals for Living, Obert C. Tanner

One of the best teaching tools. Covers every Mormon topic for discussion. Great reading. Resources from scripture, literature, philosophy, history, social studies. Brimming with new ideas and surprising conclusions.

• The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, Terryl and Fiona Givens

A new publication bringing insight and fresh looks at everything from the Atonement to dealing with faith. Letting us know that God does not cause our troubles but is there to help us through them. Resources also from scripture, literature, philosophy. A thinker's treasure.

• Glimpses Into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, edited by Virginia H. Pearce

Dozens of family members and friends share experiences and feelings that demonstrate the character of a quietly remarkable woman.

• Poems by Eliza Roxcy Snow, a first edition, published in Liverpool and London, 1856

A rare treat to read all of her early poems (religious, historical, political), especially "Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother," which later became the hymn "O My Father."

• The Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology, Sterling M. McMurrin

An opening into the world of thought about Mormonism and its uniqueness. Starting simply like the Godhead defined as three independent real persons, in contrast to the common Christian notion of the Trinity. Or "the mystery of existence attaches to the individual. Taken in itself … and not in its function in a system or in its expressiveness of a larger whole." Or "in the Mormon position there is a genuine continuity in the nature of reality that denies the traditional decisive break between the two orders."

• The Book of Mormon: A Guide to Christian Living, Lowell L. Bennion. Things That Matter Most: A Pyramid of Values, also by Bennion.

This first volume, read as a companion to the Book of Mormon, makes clear the meaning through his own stories that enhance the sometimes abundance of "and it came to passes" and wars and rumors of wars between vivid narratives of actual lives. He makes it all real in his usual easy but profound interpretations, and gives reason to believing.

Matthew Bowman

Religious historian, editor, author of The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

• Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, Richard Bushman

Though Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling is far more exhaustive and is a groundbreaking exploration of the unifying ideas behind Joseph Smith's work, this earlier partial biography vividly captures the urgency, fervency and sheer beguiling weirdness of the Mormon founder's early visionary career.

• The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, Wallace Stegner

Beautiful, heartbreaking evocation of the Mormon trail in all its idealism, catastrophes, heroism and bumbling. The disease and pain, the creaking wagons, the rough voice of Brigham Young uttering prayers all come to life here. And mud. Lots of mud.

• A Mormon Mother, Annie Clark Tanner

Written in an astonishingly frank, often jaded and yet ultimately hopeful voice, this autobiography describes the suffering, turmoil and faith behind the practice of polygamy better than any historian could.

• Adventures of a Church Historian, Leonard J. Arrington

Whatever else it might be, Mormonism in practice often looks like an unending string of meetings and uncomfortable clothes, occasionally punctuated with moments of breathtaking grace, miracle and insight. Arrington's gift is to show how the frustrations of the first might sometimes blossom into the second.

Darron Smith

Commentator, author and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis

• Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage

A great and informative read about the life and ministry of Christ. I believe Talmage was in tune with the spirit while writing this book.

• Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, Gordon B. Hinckley

A simple and inspiring read about our responsibility to one another as sons and daughters of God to treat each other with respect and dignity.

• Do Your Prayers Bounce Off The Ceiling? Grant A. Worth

One of my personal favorites about the importance and power of prayer as more than a one-sided conversation.

• David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Greg Prince and Wm. Robert Wright

I came away from this autobiography knowing more about President McKay's position on blacks than I had previously.

• Standing on the Promises, Darius Gray and Margaret Young

This book was important for me as I imagined the difficult circumstances that early black pioneers faced on basis of skin color and how the Lord sustained these brothers and sisters during the awful history of discrimination.

Ken Kuykendall

Lives in Cary, N.C., where he is working on the sequel to his novel Silverheels.

• Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley

The book and his deconstruction of all the ways one might try to live a more consecrated life were hugely influential to me. I have, since finishing the last page 25-plus years ago, tried to think of creative ways to live some semblance of the Law of Consecration.

• The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths and the Construction of Heresy, Terryl Givens

Givens can do no wrong in my eyes. All his books are superb, but this was my introduction to him. It confirmed a growing sense I had (way back before the latest "Mormon moment," which seemed to last a good decade) that until the church engages with the mainstream culture in more proactive ways, we're not going to make the headway we need to and want to.

• Ender's Game; Speaker for the Dead; Seventh Son; Red Prophet; Prentice Alvin; all by Orson Scott Card

Card blew my mind with the way he wove LDS doctrine and Book of Mormon stories into such gripping and imaginative novels.

• Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling; On the Road With Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary, both by Richard Bushman

These books, with their warts-and-all vignettes about the prophet (and his biographer), made me appreciate Mormon history much more deeply than I had before.

• Believing History: Latter-day Saint Essays, Richard Bushman

The professor's poignant retelling of the intellectual disdain he faced decades ago in the Ivy League (and probably still faces today), and his peaceful acceptance of the second-class (if that) place believing members of the church will always occupy in contemporary life, introduces a series of memorable meditations about what it means to have faith in The Age of Error.

Fiona Givens

Co-wrote The God Who Weeps with her husband, Terryl Givens

• A Little Lower Than the Angels,VirginiaSorensen

Stylistically beautiful, it conveys the agony and pathos of polygamy without exploitation or sensationalism.

• Eugene England's essays

Mormonism's greatest essayist, who pushed us to penetrate the fog of LDS culture and find the beauty and the rigor at the gospel's core.

• Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young, Ronald Walker

The greatest prose writer of Mormon history richly narrates a remarkable episode from the Mormon past.

• When Souls Had Wings: Premortal Existence in Western Thought, Terryl Givens

That a tradition as rich and broad-based as this one could have been virtually effaced from Western religion is unimaginable. Terryl reconstructs the monumental story of an idea and its dogged persistence.

• The Lord's Question: A Call to Come Unto Him, Dennis Rasmussen

A rare Mormon example of devotional literature that we need not be embarrassed to put alongside the work of William Law, George MacDonald or Thomas Traherne.

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