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Wilford Woodruff's Witness


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A meticulous history of the early days of Mormonism.
Joseph Smith and Brigham Young tend to be the stars of stories about Mormonism’s founding, but Mackley’s debut focuses instead on one of their lesser-known contemporaries: Wilford Woodruff, an early and influential leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Drawing heavily from Woodruff’s journals as well as an extensive selection of other archival materials, Mackley paints a detailed picture of the first several decades of Mormonism. In particular, she focuses on the construction and uses of Mormon temples, describing the practices instituted there and how they changed over time. Some aspects of the story are of general interest; especially rich are Woodruff’s accounts of the Saints’ frequent clashes with the federal government over polygamy and their settling in Salt Lake City. History buffs will also appreciate the wealth of primary sources, including archival black-and-white photographs and documents often interspersed with the text as well as more than 100 pages of citations and appendices in the backmatter. Much of the book, however, requires some previous knowledge of—and preferably deep interest in—Mormonism, as the author herself cautions at the outset. In painstaking detail, Mackley relates the evolution of rites such as baptism and sealing ceremonies, and while interested parties may relish pondering the nuances, readers who aren’t familiar with the context will likely find the narrative impenetrable. What’s more, the accounts of Woodruff and his contemporaries refer to divine revelation as a simple fact of life, and Mackley makes no attempt to convert those readers who might raise an eyebrow at God’s communication. Of Joseph Smith, Mackley writes: “His understanding of God’s plan made clear that together with their descendants and ancestors, the Saints could be exalted and blessed with eternal increase, and eternal lives.” Such proclamations are common throughout the book, a perspective that could alienate nonbelievers. Still, as a feat of sheer research and historical synthesis, Mackley’s work is remarkable, providing deep insight into an obscure corner of the past.

Too specialized for the mainstream but with much to offer a niche readership.

Pub Date: May 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615835327

Page Count: 454

Publisher: High Desert Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2014

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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