Chronologies – “timelines,” or lists of significant dates with brief annotations – are a useful method for organizing data and presenting a brief picture of a person’s life or the history of an entire organization, nation, or even civilization.
You’ve probably made a chronology of your own life at some time or other, to outline your church service or work history or whatever. Paul Reeve and I included one in our Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia; there’s one at lds.org, Keepa’ninny Clair publishes Today in Church History, a variation on a chronology which lists events that happened on a given day in history regardless of the year.
Keepa’ninny Michelle Glauser sent in a link to a chronology of Mormon history at Religion Facts, a site which endeavors to present material on all religions in as neutral and open a manner as possible. Their chronology, reproduced in full below (with slight formatting changes due to the limitations of blogging software) is one of the more, um, anemic attempts to outline Mormon history that I have ever seen:
Dec. 23, 1805
Birth of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Vermont
God and Jesus appear to 14-year-old Joseph Smith in the “First Vision”
Joseph Smith discovers golden plates
Joseph Smith marries Emma Hale Smith
April 6, 1830
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded by Joseph Smith
Massacre at Haun’s Mill
Joseph Smith runs for President of the United States
A special revelation introduces polygamy, which is called the “Law of Abraham,” “Patriarchal Order of Marriage,” or “Celestial Plural Marriage.” Along with the “Law of Abraham” went the “Law of Sarah,” in which women were admonished to accept polygamy. Joseph Smith assigns some women to some men.
Joseph Smith killed by a mob
Brigham Young establishes the First Presidency
James Strang crowned as “king”
James Strang is shot and killed
Mountain Meadows Massacre
Joseph Smith III claims to receive a revelation as Prophet/President of a “New Organization” of the Latter Day Saint church. Eventually this group gathered together many of the remnants of the various Midwestern Latter Day Saint groups into the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called the “Community of Christ.”
Edmunds Act outlaws polygamy
A special revelation discontinues racism
“Reform Mormonism” founded
We have a site here, not operated by any LDS member, that is willing to post something about Mormonism. They’re going to publish it – they have published it, for years – regardless of its sad content. Why don’t we – all participants at Keepapitchinin – pitch in and construct a chronology that will actually represent Mormon history in a more accurate, more useful way and then donate it for posting at Religion Facts to replace the existing timeline?
Some ground rules: Such a chronology should be as accurate as format limitations allow. It should be brief enough – say, roughly 100 entries – that casual visitors will be attracted to glancing through it and not be turned off by its detail and complexity. It should contain items of interest to a broad audience, not only a Mormon one. While it will naturally lean heavily toward the “firsts” of the 19th century, it should have entries from throughout our history up to the present to indicate that Mormonism is a continuing, growing, living religion.
Those criteria mean that while we might decide to include Joseph Smith’s birth date, the births of other persons, no matter how significant, are probably only clutter, of potential interest to Mormons but not to a general audience. The dates of all sections in the Doctrine and Covenants would be overkill, but perhaps the date of, say, the Word of Wisdom would be included; even if we include the date of that revelation, though, we wouldn’t include the date when Word of Wisdom adherence became mandatory for temple recommends – that’s too complex a discussion for the format.
So – what entries would you suggest for such a chronology?
Please comment with your suggestions. Include a brief label or description of the event, along with the date (if you know it; if you aren’t certain, we’ll figure it out together). An indication of why you think an item is worthy of entry in the chronology would make a great discussion, too.
I’ll keep updating this post with a chronology built from your suggestions (minus any that are obviously joke-y). As we approach the 100-entry mark, we can have some friendly discussion about why this suggestion should replace that suggestion, until we’ve worked out a useful timeline to submit to Religion Facts.
Thanks! Let’s have fun with this.
I’ve started by reworking the few entries from the existing chronology that I think can be salvaged:
Keepapitchinin’s Mormon Chronology
1805 Dec 5
Birth of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Windsor Co., Vermont
Joseph Smith’s “First Vision,” of God the Father and Jesus Christ
Publication of the Book of Mormon at Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York
1830 Apr 6
Formal organization of the church at Fayette, Seneca Co., New York
1838 Oct 30
17 Mormon men and boys killed by a militia attack at Shoal Creek, Caldwell Co., Missouri in an event remembered as the Haun’s Mill Massacre
1844 Jun 27
Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, held in jail at Carthage, Hancock Co., Illinois, killed by a mob
Armed standoff between the Mormon residents of Utah Territory and almost one-third of the U.S. army, led by Albert Sidney Johnston. This confrontation, known as the Utah War, was the background for the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 7-11 Sep 1857, in which approximately 120 unarmed American immigrants were killed by Mormon militiamen in southern Utah
1978 Jun 9
Public announcement of the extension of the priesthood to all worthy male church members, including African American men who had previously been barred from the priesthood