The Diary of James J. Strang

The Diary of James J. Strang
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The Diary of James J. Strang
Author Mark A. Strang
East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1961

The Diary of James J. Strang

Reviewer Klaus J. Hansen

Over a hundred years ago, in July of 1856, James Jesse Strang, self-styled Mormon prophet and king of Beaver Island, died at the hands of assassins. But one of the curious if minor phenomena of American history is that his ghost, like that of Banquo, will not rest. Again and again it has returned to haunt historians—to ask them who he was and what motivated him to establish his version of the kingdom of God on earth. Many of the questions about Strang's enigmatic but fascinating life have been answered. And yet, admits one of his biographers, "in seeking for the deepest truth of Strang's character I may have erred." This "deepest truth" we will perhaps never know, for much of what was buried in Strang's mind is now forever buried in his grave. But thanks to the indefatigable and painstaking efforts of Mark A. Strang, a grandson of King James, historians are now permitted additional glimpses into the mind of a man who was the founder of the first schismatic group in Mormon history.

An earlier version of this diary was published by Milo M. Quaife in The Kingdom of Saint James, A Narrative of the Mormons (New Haven, 1930). But Quaife, who made a number of serious mistakes in his transcription, failed to crack the private cipher which Strang had used to guard his most intimate thoughts and actions from the eyes of possible future readers. Mr. Mark Strang has succeeded in deciphering the code and is now, for the first time, publishing the diary fully transcribed and corrected. It is to be regretted, however, that Strang only recorded the events of his life from 1831 to 1836.