I just finished reading Mormon Lives: A Year in the Elkton Ward and–wow–what an amazing book. It reminds me of Saints Well Seasoned: Musings on How Food Nourishes Us–Body Heart, and Soul. Not only were both books quirky little takes on Mormonism, but neither seems to be very well known. What LDS titles do you think deserve more attention than they are getting?
My favorite Mormon history book, and one that you don’t hear all that much about, is one written of my professors when I did my MA at BYU. It’s called Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day SAints, 1890-1930, by Thomas G. Alexander. Also Leonard Arrington’s memoir, Adventures of a Church Historian is brilliant.
Costanza, I agree with you about Arrington’s book. The Alexander book is in my ‘to read’ pile, but I’ve been a little hesitant to pick it up because his Woodruff bio was a little dull, so your vote for it encourages me.
Julie, I will warn you that, as you noticed in the Woodruff book, TGA’s style is quite dry. I like the book because it contains lots and lots of interesting quotes from primary sources that are no longer available, but were when he did his research in the 1970s (the book was supposed to be part of the ill fated Arrington-directed 16 volume history of the church).
I think Jessie Embry’s Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle (Univ of Utah, 1987) is a very interesting book. It relies on Kimball Young’s interviews, conducted in the 1920s, of people who had once lived in the principle. Some of the quotations take on a wistful, nostalgic cast, as though life in a polygamous home was easier than it actually was, but they are interesting nonetheless. I think this got book got obscured by Van Wagoner’s book on polygamy which came out around the same time. It is minor gem.
Hey, I have that book! I bought three copies last year and gave two away. I loved it, too.
I grew up in the Elkton Ward. My family moved there the year before the record year took place upon which this book is based. Richard Bushman was the Bishop when we moved here and for that year. My mother was called to be the ward historian for that project. I must have been 10 or 11 at the time. I’m actually still in the ward, although now it is the Newark Delaware ward. We’ve seen it grow and split several times since. Moving to Elkton was quite the shock from leaving Orem, Utah and the church there. It was a different experience growing up here.
So does that mean you are Ann Taber’s daughter? In any case, can you tell us a little more about the record year and what that was like?
Oops, I meant Susan Taber. My favorite part of the book is where she decides not to let anyone else know how good she is at making fondant.
No, I am not Susan Taber’s daughter. I’m not sure if my mom is mentioned by name in the book or not–she is Elena Larsen.
Moving to Elkton was like moving to a different world. We met in a tiny chapel with purple tinted windows. It used to belong to a different denomination and there had been crosses and an altar up front. Those had been removed, but it was obvious where they had been. There was also a little house next to the church which had been where the pastor had lived. We held Sunday School and Young Womenâ€™s in that little house.
We had to drive far to go to everything. Our Ward covered a huge geographical distance. My family lived in the corner of Pennsylvania, the ward boundaries went into Maryland and a ways into Delaware. Visit Teaching for my mother would be an all day affair with all of the traveling. Our Stake covered the entire state of Delaware, and still does. Stake meetings would mean an entire Saturday with travel to Dover Delaware (an hour away). My mom hated that part.
Egg Day was one of the most fun things that I can remember from that year. Our ward did that to raise money for our budget before things were standardized. Each family made lots of flavored fondant. Then we would have a Saturday where we all got together to make the easter eggs and put them in boxes to sell. I remember selling them to neighbors and friends at school.
Road Show was another highlight and a lot of fun.
As Historian, my mother documented everything that happened that year. Every meeting, activity, event, etc. She took pictures of all of the families and helped interview many of the ward members.
At the time, our ward was very small. I think there were 3 other girls in my class, most of which lived in areas further out so I didnâ€™t have any friends close by. I was the only member in my school my entire time here.
Later, when I was a freshman in High School, Richard Bushman was my early morning seminary teacher in his home. At that time, he was no longer our Bishop but Susan Taberâ€™s husband, Doug Taber, was our Bishop.
This area has changed a lot since then. It was hard growing up here where the church was small. The other kids in our ward were fairly rebellious and most have fallen away.
A year or so after the Record Year, my mother was called as Relief Society President for several years. The nice thing about the ward was that we did grow really close with the other members. We were all far from family and we needed each other. Through Visiting Teaching, my mother made a really close group of friends. My parents have since moved back to Utah and that group is slowly moving away, but they have remained in touch and shared much of their lives together.