History 12 Reading Guide

Mormons: Doctrine and Experience


Instructions for writing the short essays.

Further reading:

  • Horace Greeley, "Two Hours with Brigham Young," from An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859 (1860), in The Annals of America, vol. 9, 132-135 [on reserve with Ann Eliza Young].


  • When Joseph Smith wrote his "History" in 1838, did he address a particular or, if not a particular, then a primary audience? Who did he envision as his most important audience? What message did he want to impart to that audience, and for what purpose? Did he have a different message for a secondary audience?
  • How did his message and his goals shape his rendition of the events and occurrences which led to his position of leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?
  • How did Joseph Smith describe the context in which his religious development took place? How did his visions and revelations respond to that context? What path, faith, promise did he offer to his church and community?
  • Why did he emphasize the persecution he experienced? How might this be a message of comfort to his followers?
  • Why did his account reiterate the prophecies of the Angel Moroni four times? What instructions and warnings did the Angel give Smith? Why did Smith detail these instructions in his "History"? To what extent was he responding to the questions and objections of inquirers and skeptics?
  • Why did Smith rely on the corroborating accounts of Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery when he recounted the process by which the golden tablets, containing the text that became the Book of Mormon, were translated and the process by which the translation was certified and sanctioned?
  • What did the promise of baptism into the "holy priesthood" offer the male membership of the Church?
  • What were the primary messages that God, through Joseph Smith, conveyed in the "Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, Including Plurality of Wives? Why did God speak directly to Smith's wife, Emma?
  • In this document, which was the basis for the Mormon practice of polygamy, is it clear what Smith (or God) envisioned as the purpose of intimate relations between a husband and his wife/wives?
  • Ann Eliza Young wrote an apostate account of her parents' marriage which described how (some) wives experienced the practices of the Mormon priesthood, and, in particular, the practice of polygamy. (Later in her book, she also described her experience as Brigham Young's nineteenth wife.)
  • What did she emphasize and reiterate in her account? What challenges to Mormon faith, practices, and leadership did she pose?