Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Scott Jensen and Sharalyn D. Howcroft (Oxford University Press, 2018) reviewed by Clair Barrus.
In determining the scope of their book, the editors of this collection of essays defined "foundational" in two senses, the foundational period of Mormonism through the life of Joseph Smith, and the major sources that inform historians when studying this period. The goal of the editors of Foundational Texts was "to provide a deeper level of understanding of these sources so historians and other scholars can use them more critically." (p.2) I believe the editors succeeded in their objective.
The book follows the approach established in Mormon studies by historian Dean Jesse, who critically examined important source documents. The authors looked at the texts from the angle of the archivist, the descriptive bibliographer, and the documentary editor. To them, the creation or production of a foundational document is considered itself an historic event. Through this unique approach, new light is shed that otherwise might go unnoticed.
A sampling of the essays includes:
Those considering diving into Mormon historical studies would be well served by this book, while seasoned readers of Mormon history would enjoy new perceptions gleaned from the insightful essays. In all, Foundational Texts of Mormonism stands as an excellent collection of essays, providing a new lens, or approach through which to view the rise of Mormonism by giving serious consideration to the foundational source material of early Mormon history.