SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

Mormon Envoy: The Diplomatic Legacy of Dr. John Milton Bernhisel

Univ. of Illinois Jan. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780252086892. pap. $29.95. BIOG
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Independent historian Worthen focuses this book on John Milton Bernhisel, an envoy, diplomat, and much more. The book explores how Bernhisel (1799–1881) functioned as a link between the Mormons and state and federal governments. Raised by prosperous, Protestant parents, he became an early convert of Mormonism. Bernhisel became a well-trained physician at the University of Pennsylvania and was among Joseph Smith’s most trusted advisors. His relationship with Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, was more tumultuous. His major contributions come in the 1850s and ’60s in his work with the federal government to create conditions favorable to the Mormons; they wanted to have their own state as part of the union. Failing that, he hoped to prevent federal military occupation of the Mormon territory, and he worked to find a safe escape route for the Latter-day Saints, when the persecutions in Missouri and Illinois became violent. Bernhisel strove to be a peacemaker during that time.
VERDICT Worthen’s biography of Bernhisel is also an elegantly written history lesson. Recommended.
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