After attending a Relief Society meeting in 1857, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that “the house was full of females.” As someone who practiced plural marriage instituted by the Prophet Joseph Smith, the comment could have applied to Woodruff’s home life. In this interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discusses how early Latter-day Saint sources shed light on female authority and plural marriage.
Susa Young Gates was one of the first members of the church to learn about the vision of the redemption of the dead. Joseph F. Smith told her about his revelatory experience before it was publicly known. In this interview, historian Lisa Olsen Tait tralks about the relationship between Susa Young Gates and the prophet—and what happened the night she learned about the vision.
Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) is known as America’s first department store. Founded by Brigham Young in 1869, the store played a central role in the early Utah economy. Nineteenth pioneers saw ZCMI as a tool to eliminate poverty—and it was a requirement for Latter-day Saints to shop there. In this interview, Jeffrey Paul Thompson explains the fascinating history of the ZCMI department store in Salt Lake City.
In a startling moment in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the First Presidency suggested that tithing should be suspended. This was in response to a decision that the Church’s tithing was a taxable income, resulting in an initial assessment of $59,338.51 that President Brigham Young was expected to pay. In this interview, Samuel Brunson discusses how the predicament came about, how Church leaders responded, and the surprising ending to the whole episode.
Zion’s Camp—also known as the Camp of Israel—was a formative experience in the life of 28-year-old Joseph Smith. However, like the Law of Consecration, it’s a pioneer experience rife with misunderstanding. In this interview, historian Matt Godfrey separates fact from fiction and discusses the purpose of Zion’s Camp.
One of many little-known facts about Brigham Young is that he established a pioneer mail system. It was called the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company, and included a “swift pony express” that predated the legendary Pony Express by several years. In this interview, Devan Jensen explains that the company was a contributing factor to the Utah War—and that it could have transformed the American West if not stopped by the federal government.
The Prophet Joseph Smith revealed a form of ritual cursing similar to the New Testament practice of shaking off the dust of one’s feet. It was primarily practiced by missionaries in the wake of rejection and persecution. The ritual was rarely reported to have resulted in immediate effect, and it was commonly seen as a designation of destruction at the Second Coming. In this interview, author Samuel Weber says that the practice was basically extinct by the early 1900s.
The Journal of Discourses is a 26-volume series of sermons by Latter-day Saint pioneers like Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Orson Pratt. However, the accuracy of the published transcriptions is questionable. Bruce R. McConkie even attempted to publish a shorter 10-volume edition that removed what he viewed as false doctrines. In this interview, LaJean Purcell Carruth says that most of the discourses contain significant unauthorized changes—and rarely represent what was actually said.
The Church History Department and Relief Society General Presidency recently published Relief Society general board minutes covering the years 1842–2007. The minutes include notes from the first meeting of the Nauvoo Relief Society, preparations for World War II, and the impact of global events. Anne Berryhill explains that the Relief Society minutes also contain accounts of prominent Latter-day Saints such as Emma Smith, Eliza Snow, and Zina D. H. Young.
Joseph Smith is known for telling his family very little about the First Vision. The Prophet’s history in the Pearl of Great Price records that he simply told his mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” Historian Kyle Walker discusses newly discovered sources from the Smith family, lending weight to Steven C. Harper’s assertion that no one knows how many First Vision accounts Joseph Smith gave.