What I Learned From Editing Gentry

While editing and updating Leland Gentry’s uperb 1965 PhD dissertation on the Mormon War in Missouri, I kept Gentry’s text largely intact but included addenda at the end of each chapter. In these, I considered: the background of the phrase “nits make lice” in indian massacres, showing demonization of minorities in Jacksonian america; whether Joseph Smith had been formally initiated as a Danite; whether Smith was a moving force or curiously passive in Missouri; politics as a cause of the war; and how leading Mormons almost rejected American law in 1838, an attitude leading to further theocratic actions in Nauvoo and Utah.

Todd Compton