Hi, my name is Bruce and I am a Mormon history geek. [Hi Bruce] I got excited when I heard the Joseph Smith Papers were going to be published. My favorite Christmas present was a copy of Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants by Steven C. Harper. I have willingly spent many lunch hours at the Tennessee State Archives in front of a microfilm reader looking at newspapers printed over a hundred years ago, in the hope of finding a previously unknown reference to Mormons. The last daytrip I took my family on was to the site of the Cane Creek Massacre where four Mormons were killed while attending church in 1884. If you think I should get a life, my wife would heartily agree. [OK, that’s not really true. My wife is very supportive. But let’s not allow the truth to get in the way of a good story.]
Mormons love their history. Maybe it has something to do with identifying our ancestors for temple work. Maybe it’s because historical events define us as being different from other churches. The apostasy and the restoration are historical event s. The truth of the Book of Mormon rests on its being a genuine (if incomplete) history. And it doesn’t stop there. We believe in the literal resurrection of Christ. That Adam, Noah and Abraham were real people. Our religion is joined at the hip to the real world. Everything is spiritual, even our history.
But I’m not a real historian. I’m more like the football fan that plays in the Elders’ Quorum Thanksgiving morning mudbowl game. I’m an amateur. To make up for what I don’t know I troll Mormon History Blogs. My personal favorite is Keepapitchinin. It is well written but not over-my-head academic like [an unspecified blog I try to read and understand]. Plus it doesn’t have the drama going on at [a different unspecified blog I read only sometimes anymore]. I’d be embarrassed if someone tried to compare me to Juanita Brooks or Leonard Arrington. In fact, I have two secret fears when it comes to Mormon history.
My first fear is that the next time I ask for some rarely used manuscript kept locked up in the climate controlled vault the archivist is going to look me in the eye and “know” that I’m not a real historian. In that moment I will be judged “not worthy” to gaze upon the secret knowledge and I’ll hear the words “no book for you” just like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Of course it has never happened. But it might.
My second fear is that people will find out I don’t really know that much about church history. Oh sure, I know a few things. Mostly stuff I found out when someone tried to shake my testimony by revealing some deep dark secret from church history. I could almost feel their disappointment as I would say “Really? That’s so cool!” Of course, the details I would dig up would never match the story I was just told. Well, almost never matched. Presentation is everything. If you’ve heard that I tell my kids about an elf named “Claws” that sneaks into our house at night once a year to hide black rocks in the clothes of my naughty children, you might not want to visit my home next Christmas.
So what is your fascination with Mormon History? Does it consume your life? Do you lose sleep at night worrying that Marlin K. Jensen will be released as Church Historian and we will go back to the days of ”some things that are true are not very useful”? Do you fret over having missed the in-person crossfire between Will Bagley, Forrest Cuch, and Richard Turley about the Mountain Meadows Massacre? [They were actually very polite] You know who you are. Stand up, tell us you first name, and say “I am a Mormon History Geek.”
[Bruce has been playing at historian since before high school. He prefers the word “amateur” to geek.]
4 weeks ago