Review: Disparate assortment of LDS facts in 'Mormon History 101'

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 8 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

"MORMON HISTORY 101: Unique Stories and Facts from LDS History," by Dan Barker, Cedar Fort, $13.99, 192 pages (nf)

Name the LDS farmer with a 22-million-pound potato crop; the date of the first Thanksgiving in the Salt Lake Valley and the total weight of gold leaf needed to cover a seven-foot angel Moroni statue. Stumped?

The answers to these and other esoteric questions can be found in the oddly named paperback by Dan Barker. With the title “Mormon History 101," readers would expect an enjoyable summary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' rise from a persecuted few to the major global force we know today.

Instead, Barker has written a companion to his previous work, “Unique Stories and Facts from LDS History,” that is repeated as the subtitle to this mildly interesting curiosity.

Divided into alphabetical sections, the book covers such diverse subjects as church artifacts, education, meetings and pioneer life, with one chapter titled “Catch All.” More than 200 multiple-choice or true-false questions are contained within the 17 headings followed by answers with details and a single published source citation.

There are testimony-strengthening accounts, such as prayers answered to supply lumber during the Laie Hawaii Temple construction, a priesthood blessing that healed a child of scarlet fever and an unattended yoke of oxen appearing to help dislodge a covered wagon stuck in mud.

But some of the unique facts stir curiosity with only barebones explanations.

While I’ve long known that Mark Twain called the Book of Mormon “chloroform in print,” it was amusing to read the colorful author’s full passage from his travel narrative, “Roughing It,” included in the book.

The author of “Mormon History 101” would be a good candidate to devise an LDS version of Trivial Pursuit, but that board game has long faded away as a popular pastime.

As a footnote, the answers to the questions above are John Horner; Aug. 10, 1848; and 1.5 ounces.

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