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History Scholar to Deliver Lecture about Brigham Young

Thursday, Sep. 06, 2012

John G. Turner is a guest speaker for USU's Religious Studies program

John G. Turner, assistant professor of religious studies at George Mason University, will discuss his new book Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet September 11 at Utah State University.

book cover,

The cover of Turner's new book "Brigham Young Pioneer Prophet."

John G. Turner, assistant professor of religious studies at George Mason University, will discuss his controversial new book on Brigham Young Sept. 11 at Utah State University.

The USU Religious Studies Program invited Turner to lecture about the complex character of Utah’s first governor and one of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ early prophets.

Turner’s book Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet will be published in September by Harvard University Press. The biography traces the life of the church leader from his early religious experiences to the effect of church founder Joseph Smith’s murder on his leadership and his longstanding battle with the United States government for control of the Utah Territory. Turner wrote the biography to show all facets of the man — good and bad — known for leading Mormons to the American West.

“I had considered writing a study of Mormonism and conservative politics since 1945, but as I began examining Mormon history, I found myself pulled toward the earlier time period,” he wrote on his website.

Turner was drawn to the Mormon church’s early history while researching American culture and politics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His biography of Brigham Young explores the prophet’s leadership and ability to sustain and advance the Mormon church in adverse times, as well as his defense of plural marriage, battle with U.S. Army in 1857 and obstruction of federal efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

“Leonard Arrington casts a big shadow in Mormon Studies and here at Utah State,” said Philip Barlow, the Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture and director of USU’s Religious Studies Program. “[Turner’s] biography will both complement and in some respects challenge the important biography written by Leonard Arrington, which until now has been the standard account.”

Among the reasons it’s especially significant is that Turner is not himself a Mormon, but has produced a major biography of this towering figure of Mormon and western history, Barlow said.

Turner studies connections between religion and American national identity, as well as the experiences of religious and racial minorities. His first book, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America (University of North Carolina Press, March 2008), investigates American evangelicalism since 1945. It won Christianity Today’s 2009 award for best book in history.

The free USU lecture will be held in Old Main, room 225 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Members of the public are invited to attend.

Contact: Philip Barlow, (435) 797-3406,

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