VIDEO—Janiece Johnson, “Becoming a People of the Books”

10.25.2018 | The Maxwell Institute

Janiece Johnson’s Maxwell Institute Scholar Lecture is now available to watch online: “Becoming a People of the Books: Early Converts and the Book of Mormon.”


As Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon neared completion, he assured close associates that “a great call for our books” had already commenced. Fresh leather-bound copies of the first edition were published and sold beginning March 26, 1830, before the translator had become prophet, before a new church had been founded. How did its initial readers respond to this “Golden Bible”? Was it counterfeit or divine? Was it the “greatest piece of superstition” or a “revelation from God”? What would it be to them, personally? How did early Latter-day Saints develop a relationship with this new scriptural text?

About Janiece Johnson

Janiece Johnson is a Willes Center Research Associate. She specializes in American religious history—specifically Mormon history, gender, and the prosecution for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Dr. Johnson has graduate degrees in American History and Theology from Brigham Young University, Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, and the University of Leicester in England. Her work has included the religious experience of early female Mormon converts, the prosecution for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and its interdependent relationship to the popular narrative told about the massacre. She is co-author of The Witness of Women: First-hand Experiences and Testimonies of the Restoration (Deseret Book, 2016) and general editor of the recently published Mountain Meadows Massacre: Collected Legal Papers (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017). Dr. Johnson’s current research centers on the Book of Mormon in practice and the relationship of early Mormon converts to their new American scripture.