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The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  264 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A Mormon historian traces the evolution of the Latter-day Saints' organizational structure from the original, egalitarian "priesthood of believers" to an elaborately hierarchical institution. Quinn also documents the alterations in the historical record which obscured these developments and analyzes the five presiding quorums of the LDS hierarchy.
Hardcover, 686 pages
Published December 15th 1994 by Signature Books (first published December 1994)
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Jeffrey Howard
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Smith, Mormonism's King, once stated "No man knows my history. I cannot tell it; I shall never undertake it." Many powerhouse historians like D. Michael Quinn are doing the work instead, and we are beginning to really see a far more complete and unobscured picture of "America's Religion." Quinn demystifies the theocratic movement's true dynamics.

It's deliciously fascinating to read the history. As a reader who knows 21st century Mormonism's Official History, learning how thoroughly it
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's more a 4.5 than a full 5, given that I think Quinn occasionally reads more into a given fact than is actually present. But this fearsomely-researched text -- well over half of it is footnotes and appendices -- shines a bright light on the development of the hierarchical structure of the LDS church. Using primary sources from people with a dizzying variety of views on and involvement with Mormonism, Quinn shows that the development of the LDS hierarchy was a far cry from the orderly, ...more
Austin Archibald
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormonism
Again, don't agree with all his conclusions, but this was such a fascinating look at the early church and its development. So many fascinating and little-known accounts with eye-opening nuggets of info, all packed in a relatively concise book. Not afraid to share controversial accounts, no matter the implications, though his interpretation/conclusion may sometimes jump the gun.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: LDS scholars
Disturbing reading to the faithful, but certainly details the conflicts and shows a fuller picture than you will ever get in Sunday School or Seminary. Many feel like his footnotes are not accurate and that he has tainted the history to reflect his own personal views.
I love history. I especially love LDS history because it is so full of surprises. I mean most most Mormons (myself included) grew up believing that between the primary song memorization and seminary graduation, we had the full of back story of our church. Consequently, even scratching the mere surface of church-approved history will cause the average member a huge startle reaction.....which of course is what makes me want to share this book with all sorts of relatives and friends who rather ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mormon-history
This books offers a detailed look at the evolution of the early Mormon hierarchical structures. I found it to be very interesting, especially the part about the succession crisis. While sometimes it seemed like Quinn was a little too confident in his historical conclusions, overall I found it to be extremely well researched (the end notes make up more than half of the book). I'm not sure if I would recommend this book to someone just getting into Church history because of the necessity of a ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've had this book of my shelf for years now, and have used it as reference (as it is often cited by other LDS historical articles and books) but never got around to actually reading the core chapters until now. Luckily, this phonebook-sized tome is more than 50% index, footnotes, and appendix, so reading the actually chapters straight through is actually shorter than the average non-fiction book.

Quinn shines at research. His thoroughness and ability to access obscure or off-limit documents is
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, 2017
Quinn, in his usual style, explores the development and evolution of the LDS hierarchy with painstaking breadth and depth. Includes an account of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Roughly half the pages are devoted to exhaustive endnotes and detailed appendices–the latter include thorough details on the proceedings of the minutes of the Council of Fifty as well as its members, known Danites, and the activities of internal and external security forces. Appendices such as an LDS ...more
Bob Draben
Quinn, a believing Mormon is a rather thorough researcher and writer of Mormon history. Until a little over ten years ago he enjoyed the privilege of access to the LDS (Mormon) Church's archives. He has also searched other archives, libraries and private sources. He backs his facts that he records with countless footnotes. Almost a third of this book consists of footnotes. His detractors complain that these are just intended to distract the reader and make it appear that these are "true" facts.

Nancy Rector
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Non fiction book written by a very prestiged historian and professor who among other things add full access to church history records at BYU. Those who work there have access to diaries, letters, and a variety of first hand information that is not made public. They are forbidden to give out any of this information. What he found was of such a nature that he felt the need to publish his findings. Written in a very factual way with references to all his findings.

I am very much against any books
Dave Winter
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most revealing history of the beginnings of the Mormon church. Quinn's research is thorough - nearly 1/3 the book is endnotes. There are so many gems in this book I can't list them all here. This book would be helpful for the believer due to its depth and its introduction to the other side of the story, as well as the recovering Mormon who wishes to understand the "why" and "how" of the church's constantly changing self-written history. This book is very academic in its ...more
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the second book by Quinn that I have read and, once again, I give him props for his extensive referencing of the book. This book covers a time period from the organization of The Church in 1830 through the succession crisis in 1844 and focuses on the evolution of the Priesthood and leadership. Once again, I would differ from the author on his interpretation of facts and the leaps he makes at times in the absence of documented information, however, I think that this is an excellent read.
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh my, I never thought I would get through this 700 page title. Almost half of it is notes and bibliography, plus some additional material. It doesn't pull any punches about history, including the Mountain Meadows massacre, and the fight over Prop 8. It was published in 1996, and I wish he would update it to cover current controversies. A lot of warts show up here, but it is the truth. I lived through some of it, and wondered what in the world was going on. I lived in Salt Lake City, and really ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While I do not agree with all of Quinn's conclusions, this book is a phenomenon of documentation. Not for the faint of heart, this is, however, a fascinating read. If I had my way, I'd adapt most of this book into a church manual and make it required reading. Thank heavens for Leonard Arrington, for were it not for his open-minded approach to the position of church historian, Quinn's research would not have been possible.
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in mormon history
Shelves: nonfiction, mormon
this is an intense look at the history of mormonism. this book explores many topics often considered taboo within mormonism.. the author was also a mormon historian at one point in his life as well.. having been raised in this religion and often having the history glossed over and spoon fed to me.. i found this book to be a good way to balance out the history of the church as it had been presented to me.
Rich Mccue
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very interesting look into the development organizational structure of the church... especially interesting after the death of Joseph Smith when the question of who would lead the church was truly up in the air. The highlighting of council meeting notes that describe the politics behind some decisions was fascinating for someone who once thought that decisions by the church leadership were always harmonious and unanimous.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at early mormon hierarchy, yes ... But more Important, where the hierarchy was left after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. No one talks about the possible/probable murder of Samuel Smith within days of his succession claim in Sunday school. And of course no one talks about the loose canon that was William Smith. I'd be more excited about going to church if we could talk about 'Whistlers and Whittlers'. Totally awesome.
Dan Gorman
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
So dense that it reads more like a technical manual at times (and even flirts with being UNreadable at times), this book is still fascinating and surely one of the most thorough looks at early Mormonism ever written. A great source of information and cultural history, despite the clunky prose and distracting parenthetical citations.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: religiosity
Loads of footnotes which is a Quinn trademark. Although much of what is in the book is really interesting, Quinn's negative and almost gossipy tone (the "behind the story" stuff) and his obvious beefs with Church authorities really wore me down as a reader. I could go on. But I won't. I'm glad I own these books but I'm not going to recommend them.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormon
The most complete book I've found on the origins and rise of the Mormon Church. Exhaustively referenced by former BYU history professor D. Michael Quinn. Quinn had unprecedented access to church archives when preparing this book which takes you from Joseph's childhood all the way through the martydom and the power struggle that followed. An excellent and informative book.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lds-study
An amazing read. I learned many new things that I didn't previously know about
early origins. Quinn is painstakingly thorough with his citations and notes. Half
the book is notes and citations. Quinn is masterful at drawing on journal entries,
affidavits, newspapers articles, etc to relate events.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Quinn's research presented in this volume is groundbreaking, and an absolute must-read for anyone with a serious interest in Mormon history and scholarship. A great add to any growing Mormon home library.
Apr 07, 2008 marked it as to-read
I've read the first few chapters... but then it was put back on the shelf and is now packed somewhere. Well documented history of the changes in early LDS church governance. Not sure yet what to make of it from a theological point of view.
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
This book provides a detailed look into the origins and evolution of the Mormon Church’s leadership structure. I vaguely recall that I found it compelling but too complex and detailed for me to get more than a superficial grasp of.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ridiculously well researched and interesting. Quinn does seem to take inferential license at some points, but always thought provoking nonetheless.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Has some interesting historical information about early Church preisthood and authority. Definitely comes from an anti-Mormon perspective, but not overwhelmingly so.
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A bit repetitive, with overwhelming footnotes, but an invaluable, indispensable contribution to early Mormon history.
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very thorough research leading to his views, awesome stuff!
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
New Mormon history at it's finest. Honest scholarship brings fascinating insights to the discussion of early church history.
David Harris
Jan 16, 2013 is currently reading it
Shelves: stopped-reading
Too much info for me to digest at the moment, although I plan to take another stab at this later.
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