Wilford Woodruff's Witness


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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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