At the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association in June, The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology won the Best Book of the Year Award. Published by Oxford University Press, it is a key work to understand Mormon conceptions of priesthood, authority, and gender. With in-depth research, and never previously used documents, specific chapters explore ordination, temple “sealings,” baby blessings, healing, and cunning folk traditions.
A church’s liturgy is its ritualized system of worship, the services and patterns in which believers regularly participate. While the term often refers to a specific formal ritual like the Roman Catholic Mass, events surrounding major life events–birth, coming of age, marriage, death–are often celebrated through church liturgies. By documenting and analyzing Mormon liturgical history, Jonathan Stapley is able to explore the nuances of Mormon belief and practice. More important, he can demonstrate that the Mormon ordering of heaven and earth is not a mere philosophical or theological exercise. Liturgy informs and reinforces believers’ behavior, he shows, and we find a complete religious world, incorporating women, men and children, all participating in the construction of the Mormon universe. This volume casts analytically difficult and historically incongruous concepts such as priesthood, authority, and gender in new and coherent ways. Stapley uses previously untapped documentary and archival sources to elucidate new narratives in each chapter, tracing concepts from the beginning of the Latter-day Saint movement to the present. The Power of Godliness is the first work to establish histories for the liturgies treated and to provide interpretive frameworks for them.