Mormonism in Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought

By Grua, David W. | Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Mormonism in Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought


Grua, David W., Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought


Mormonism in Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought Daniel Walker Howe. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. In THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES series. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2007. 928 pp. Cloth: $35; ISBN 13: 978-0-19-507894-7

Reviewed by David W. Grua

Recently, six major American historians reviewed Daniel Walker Howe's Pulitzer Prize-winning What Hath GodWrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 on the H-Net discussion group for historians of the Early Republic, each examining the book from his or her respective specialties, including economics, politics, communications, women and gender, Indians, slavery and race, and religion and reform. Although some of the reviewers criticized Howe for his interpretations, all agreed that Howe had succeeded in crafting a narrative that is inclusive, pays attention to detail, and ref lects a solid understanding of the questions historians are asking in their subfields.

Mormon historians would likely agree that Howe's treatment of Mormonism fit these criteria as well.1 Unlike previous synthetic works, Howe not only features Mormonism prominently within his narrative, but he also gets the details correct and generally relies on the best of recent scholarship. Mormonism appears prominently in Chapter 8 ("Pursuing the Millennium") with other millenarian groups in the Early Republic and in Chapter 18 ("Westward the Star of Empire"), which includes Nauvoo and the trek west within the wider contexts of Manifest Destiny, California, Oregon, and the Mexican-American War. There are also a handful of other scattered references throughout the text.

Chapter 8's section on Mormonism covers the 1820s through the 1838-39 Missouri expulsion and ref lects Howe's broader assumptions concerning the place of religion within American society. Howe's previous work on American cultural, intellectual, and religious history leads him to see religion, not as the cynical product of market forces and class, but rather as a vibrant element of culture that shapes how people see the world. While Charles Sellers in The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) posited that Mormonism was a prime example of the farming and working classes' opposition to market changes in contrast to the merchant classes' embrace of evangelicalism, Howe sees the millenarianism of American religion as primary. He sets Mormonism alongside William Miller's movement, utopian experiments, Catholicism, and Nat Turner's slave uprising as exemplifying the driving urge toward improvement in American culture during the period. On this reading, millennial strains within these disparate groups are a salient and unifying feature of Chapter 8, as each group sought improved social, economic, and cultural landscapes in America.

In his bibliographical essay, Howe distinguishes between believing and non-believing historians of Mormonism, a contrast he explores further in Chapter 8. For example, Howe refers readers to the "Mormon accounts" found in Terryl Givens's By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) and Richard L. Bushman's Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), likely an implied contrast with John L. Brooke's Bancroft Prize-winning The Refiner's Fire: The Making of a Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994) "non-Mormon" account (314 note 72). Howe likewise notes that "to the Latter-day Saint, this [the Book of Mormon] is scripture, a supplement to the Old and New Testaments. To the unbeliever, it is a fantastic tale invented by the imaginative Joseph Smith" (314).

Howe's treatment of the Book of Mormon narrative reveals Bushman's impact on mainstream historical discourse on Mormonism, especially Bushman's argument that the Book of Mormon is an intricate work of American literature.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mormonism in Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.