Thomas G. Alexander

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Thomas Glen Alexander[1] (born August 8, 1935)[2] is an American historian and academic who is professor emeritus[3] from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, where he was also Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr. Professor of Western History and director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.


Alexander was born in Logan, Utah to Glen M. and Violet B. Alexander.[2] He was raised in a working-class section of Ogden, Utah and from 1956 to 1958 he served a proselytizing mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in the West German Mission. In 1959, he married Marilyn Johns, with whom he would have five children.[2]

Alexander earned his A.A. in 1955 at Weber State University, and his B.S. in 1960 and M.A. in 1961 from Utah State University.[2] While in Logan, Alexander first met Leonard Arrington, who was in the university Stake Presidency.[4] In 1965, Alexander received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

Alexander joined the BYU history faculty in 1964, where he has taught Utah history and American environmental history, and is currently the Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr. Professor of Western American History, Emeritus. In the past, he has also taught at Utah State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Southern Illinois University, and the University of Utah. He has received BYU's highest faculty award, the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award. In 2001, he received the Emeriti Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award from Weber State University.[2] Alexander retired from full-time teaching at BYU in 2004.

Alexander has served in various historical and academic organizations. He was president of the Mormon History Association from 1974–1975.[5] He has also been president of the Pacific Branch of the American Historical Association; president and fellow of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters; president of the Association of Utah Historians; chair of the Utah Board of State History; chair of the Utah Humanities Council; national president of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society; fellow of the Utah State Historical Society; and chair of BYU's Faculty Advisory Council.[2]

Alexander has remained a believing Latter-day Saint[4] and has served in various church positions, including as a Bishop and stake high councilor.[2] In 2004, after his retirement, he served an LDS Church Educational System[2] mission in Berlin, Germany with his wife.

Historical perspective[edit]

Alexander is considered one of the historians who practiced what has been called the "New Mormon History." New Mormon Historians are a group of faithful members of the LDS Church and sympathetic non-Mormons who reject both positivism and objectivism (the belief that you can use the methodology of classical physical and biological sciences on the one hand). They also reject the tendency to ignore unpleasant aspects of Mormon history (such as the role of Mormon settlers in the Mountain Meadows massacre. (On Alexander's views see: "Historiography and the New Mormon History: A Historian's Perspective,"Dialogue 19 (Fall 1986): 25-49; and "Relativism and Interest in the New Mormon History," Weber Studies 13 (Winter 1996): 133-141.

Alexander is well known for Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a carefully crafted biography of Wilford Woodruff, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' fourth president, which provides insight into the development of Mormonism and the American West. Alexander asserts that Woodruff was "...arguably the third most important figure in all of LDS Church history after Joseph Smith ... and Brigham Young" (p. 331). While other LDS and western historians may disagree with the ranking, his work provides a careful study of a very important leader in the emerging Mormon faith. Woodruff was a central leader of nineteenth century Mormonism, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles between 1835 and 1889, and president of the church from 1889 until his death in 1898 at age 91.


  • 1968 Best Bibliography Award (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1976 Best Article by a Senior Author (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1980 Best Article by a Senior Author (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1986 Best Book Award (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1989 Grace Fort Arrington Award for Historical Excellence (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1991 Best Book Award (Mormon History Association)[6]
  • 1991 Evans Biography Award (Mountain West Center for Regional Studies)[7]
  • 1999 T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence (Mormon History Association)[6]


Alexander has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited 25 books and over 150 scholarly articles. He has won numerous awards for his work, including Mormonism in Transition and Things in Heaven and Earth. The Utah state government commissioned Alexander to write Utah: The Right Place as the state's official centennial history.[2]

  • A Conflict of Interests, Interior Department and Mountain West, 1863-1896
  • The Rise of Multiple-Use Management in the Intermountain West: A History of Region 4 of the Forest Service
  • Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930
  • Mormons and Gentiles: A History of Salt Lake City with James B. Allen
  • Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet. Signature Books, Incorporated. Salt Lake City, Utah, reprint 1993. ISBN 1-56085-045-0
  • Utah: The Right Place
  • Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine
  • Grace and Grandeur: A History of Salt Lake City
  • The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past

As Editor[edit]


  1. ^ Introcaso, David M. (December 1986). "Water Development on the Gila River: The Construction of Coolidge Dam" (PDF). Master's Thesis. Arizona State University. p. 133. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Biographical History". Register of the Thomas G. Alexander Papers, 1954-2004. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. July 2004. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  3. ^ Forsyth, Justin (February 19, 2009). "Teaching Our History Spotlight: Early Mormon Legal History". News and Events. J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  4. ^ a b Alexander, Thomas G. (Winter 2008). "Faithful Historian Responds". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 41 (4): v–viii. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  5. ^ "Past MHA Presidents". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "MHA Awards" (PDF). Mormon History Association. 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  7. ^ "Previous Winners - Evans Biography Award" (PDF). Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 

External links[edit]