Sep 012012


DATES: October 19 (Villa Park) and October 20 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to announce that our October 2012 Miller Eccles speaker will be Dr. John G. Turner, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University. Dr. Turner is the author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, scheduled to be released in September by Harvard University Press. This is the first new biography to be published in many years about one of the most fascinating characters in all of Mormon history.


What more is there to know about Brigham Young? There is no shortage of literature on the Church’s prophet and Utah’s founder. In studies ranging from the parochial to the polemical, Young’s spiritual fire, practical knowledge, pioneering leadership, and ham-handed treatment of his associates have all been noted.

In this month’s presentation, John Turner will introduce his recently published biography of Brigham Young. “Brother Brigham,” as he was sometimes known, was the avuncular, practical pioneer who could fix a wagon, set a broken leg, and lead a united company across a continent. He was also the hard-driving, iron-fisted prophet who stamped out dissent, condoned violence, and threatened the lives of U.S. soldiers and officials. As it turns out, there is a great deal more to know about Brigham Young, especially when it comes to integrating these different and apparently contradictory aspects of his leadership.

Professor Turner will discuss Young’s collegial and careful oversight of the church’s mission to England in the early 1840s, and then contrast that episode with Young’s much harsher approach during his early years in the Salt Lake Valley. One key to understanding Young is to recognize how the church’s Nauvoo years seared his personality and altered his approach to leadership. He headed west with a steely determination to do everything in his power to protect the Church and himself from a repetition of Nauvoo’s trials and tragedies.


John G. Turner is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. His Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, published in September 2012 by Harvard University Press, has been praised in advance review as “unsentimental, cogent, critical, and fair” (Philip Barlow), “provocative and compelling” (Ken Verdoia), and “elegantly written” (Richard Bushman).

Turner is also the author of Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America, winner of Christianity Today’s 2009 award for best book in History / Biography. Turner is a Presbyterian who grew up somewhere between mainline and evangelical Protestantism. After writing about what was in many respects his own faith tradition, he wanted to practice history as an outsider and switched his attention to the history of the Latter-day Saints in nineteenth-century America. He is very grateful for that decision.

Dr. Turner earned his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. He taught for six years at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. He now lives with his wife Elissa and their daughter Evelyn in Burke, Virginia.

Posted by Morris Thurston



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