The Religious Studies Program at Utah State University hosts Gregory Prince, a leading scholar in Mormon studies, as a guest lecturer Thursday, March 25. The lecture is free and open to all.
Prince’s lecture, “Confronting the Other: David O. McKay and Reaching Out,” begins at 4 p.m. in Old Main, Room 115.
Prince is the author of two important volumes in Mormon studies and is working on a third. His debut book, Power from on High: the Development of Mormon Priesthood (Signature, 1995) was the first scholarly attempt to document the unfolding and sharply distinctive concepts of ecclesiastical and ritual authority in early Mormonism, according to Philip Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture in USU’s Religious Studies Program. That book remains the leading academic study on the subject, Barlow said.
David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (University of Utah Press, 2005), Prince’s most recent book, is a monumental biography based on unprecedented access to President McKay’s candid diaries. It offers readers the best view currently available, not only of the popular church president, but also of the inner workings of 20th century Mormonism, Barlow said. The volume has received high acclaim from critics: it was named the “Best Biography of the Year” by both the Mormon Historical Association and the John Whitmer Historical Association, it received the Evans Handcart Award for Western American history from Utah State University’s Mountain West Center and it was cited as the “Best Utah History Book” for 2005 by the Utah State Historical Society.
Drawing on one of the most important collections available in the study of Mormonism — the diaries and papers of Leonard Arrington housed in Special Collections and Archives at Utah State’s Merrill-Cazier Library — Prince is currently at work on a biography of Arrington.
The subject of Thursday’s lecture at USU derives from Prince’s research into the administration of President McKay. It addresses one of the most pressing issues facing Mormonism or any religion: how to deal with alienation and diversity within the movement and how to deal with the outside world.
McKay’s efforts on both fronts were both pioneering and revealing, Barlow said. They also demonstrated a range of attitudes within the highest echelon of LDS leaders.
McKay’s efforts to build bridges has been an ongoing interest for Prince, who has published articles on McKay’s interaction with African American members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an era of cultural turmoil, his confrontation with Communism and Mormon-Catholic relations during his administration.
The lecture promises to shed further light on this beloved but understudied Latter-day Saint leader, who brought a regional church into contact with the globe, Barlow said.
Barlow said the lecture will shed light on an important time in the history of the LDS church.
“As a new religious tradition, Mormonism’s survival, growth and evolution during the 20th century is important to scholars and observers of religion as well as to its participants,” he said. “No one during the modern era was more central to the direction of the church than David O. McKay, who served in its highest councils for three-quarters of a century.”
Barlow said Prince had unprecedented access to documents when he researched and wrote the McKay biography.
“Unlike most leaders, McKay’s extensive diaries, compiled and preserved by his meticulous secretary, Claire Middlemiss, were available without restriction to a scholar,” Barlow said. “Greg Prince, the world’s leading authority on President McKay, will focus on one of the pressing issues facing the LDS church today and in McKay’s lifetime: the church’s relations to diversity within its own ranks, and the challenge of relating to the outside world.”
Source: USU Religious Studies Program
Contact: Philip Barlow, 435-797-3406, firstname.lastname@example.org