History 12 Reading Guide

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

  • Brian Berry, "Mormonism," in Berry, America's Utopian Experiments, Ch. 6, pp.64-82.  (e-reserve)
  • Dean L. May, "One Heart and Mind:  Communal Life and Values among the Mormons," in Pitzer, America's Communal Utopias, 135-158.

Furthur reading:

  • William M. Kephart, "The Mormons," in Extraordinary Groups:  The Sociology of Unconventional Life-Styles, 2nd ed. (1982), 233-253. 


  • Use Berry's chapter to establish the mainlines of the history (doctrines, practices, and migrations) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
  • What does May achieve by focusing on the communal values of the Mormons?
  • Why didn't Nordhoff include the Mormons in his examination of communistic societies?
  • As a religious community, full communal sharing was never required as a condition of membership in the CJC-LDS.  What values and doctrines make this community similar to other religious "utopian" or "intentional" communities?
  • Compare Joseph Smith to the charismatic, prophetic founders of other religious "alternative" communities.
  • How can we account for the strong appeal of Joseph Smith's doctrines among the Mormons? What factors ensured that appeal?
  • Why was there such hostility to the CJC-LDS from the outside even before the 1843 Revelation on Plural Marriage (which was not revealed to the outside world until 1852)?