By May 4, 2016
When the Juvenile Instructor was originally conceived in Fall 2007, it was by five BYU students who had at least two things in common. First: we loved Mormon history. And second: we were all significantly influenced by Spencer Fluhman, then an assistant professor of Church History at BYU. (A third point of similarity was we all loved to waste time on the bloggernacle.) Besides being a charismatic and gregarious professor, Dr. Fluhman represented the witty and integrative field of Mormon studies to which he contributed. Since that time, Juvenile Instructor flowered into what it is today, and Fluhman emerged as a leading figure in not on Mormon studies but American religious history. He moved over to the history department, published his award-winning “A Peculiar People”: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (UNC Press, 2012) which Jon Butler declared “the quintessential history book” (see our Q&A with Fluhman about the book here), and then was announced editor of the newly re-launched Mormon Studies Review (which I wrote about here). Three volumes of MSR have appeared since then, each containing reviews and essays from leading scholars in Mormon and American religious history, and the journal is now the premier arbiter for books in the field. (Note: I’m biased.)
Today, BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship announced Spencer Fluhman as the new director. You can read the official announcement here.
By May 3, 2016
A few years ago at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association, I asked a question about how Mormons viewed Native American polygamy and sexuality. The answer from the panel was that very little work had been done on that area. I meant to answer that question in my dissertation but ended up shelving it. This semester, as I was revising my dissertation into a book manuscript, I decided to spend a significant amount of time reading nineteenth-century Utah newspapers in order to determine whether or not the practice of Mormon polygamy changed how Mormons viewed Native American sexuality.
I’m not done with that bit of research yet, but as I was working on it, I came upon this fascinating piece of evidence.
On May 9, 1884, The Salt Lake City Herald published an article called Beaver Kittens, which spent a great deal of time discussing the lives and habits of baby beavers. Contained with the article was the following paragraph, which accuses Native American women of breastfeeding beavers:
By May 2, 2016
Brian Birch, Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University, will be teaching a course on the intellectual life of Mormonism this coming fall at the University of Utah. He has kindly made his syllabus and course readings available online, which many readers will want to read at their leisure.
By April 28, 2016
I attend a LDS Homemaking Meeting and bring a book that I am reading with me. It is an older volume on the teachings of Joseph Smith. I share a quote that has left me perplexed:
Respecting the female laying on hands, he further remark’d, there could be no devil in it if God gave his sanction by healing— that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water— that it is no sin for anybody to do it that has faith, or if the sick has faith to be heal’d by the administration
Nobody has ever heard of this before. None of us know how to make sense of it. I leave unsatisfied, with more questions than answers.
By April 21, 2016
This last year, as part of my position as a fellow with the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy here at the University of Missouri, I ran a seminar aimed for members of the Columbia, MO, community on Mormonism’s relationship with American politics. We just held our final meeting last week, and the entire seminar was an absolute blast. (But I may be biased.) I thought others might be interested to see what we read and discussed, and this post might serve as a resource for other scholars and onlookers.
By April 19, 2016
Helen Z. Papanikolas Award for
Best Student Paper on Utah Women’s History
Utah State History sponsors the Papanikolas Award to encourage new scholarly research in the area of Utah women’s history at colleges and universities. The award is named for Helen Z. Papanikolas (1917-2004), a former member of the Utah State Board of History who was most noted for her research and writing on Utah and ethnic history, but also wrote fiction, as well as women’s history.
Helen Z. Papanikolas
- Papers must address some historical aspect of women’s lives in Utah.
- The author must be enrolled at a college or university.
- Papers need not be published.
- Papers should include original research that includes primary sources. The paper must be footnoted.
- Papers should not be more than 50 pages long.
- Papers must be received by May 15, 2016.
- Please call or E-mail us on May 16, 2016 if you have not heard directly from us that we received your paper.
The winner receives a monetary award as well as being honored at Utah State History’s annual meeting held September 30, 2016 in Salt Lake City.
Submit papers to:
By April 15, 2016
Call for Papers for the Annual Conference of The Communal Studies Association
October 6–8, 2016
Salt Lake City, Utah
Anticipating the End Times:
Millennialism, Apocalypticism, and Utopianism in Intentional Communities
By April 14, 2016
It would be hard to overstate the importance of George Q. Cannon to nineteenth-century Mormonism–if you haven’t done so yet, you must read David Bitton’s exhaustive biography of the man–and there are few documentary records more important that Cannon’s diaries. Over a decade ago, the first of what was to be a long series of published editions of Cannon’s journals appeared, covering his California mission. Two years ago, the second volume of the series, covering his Hawaiian mission, finally arrived. If they continued at that rate, we might finally make it to the last volume by the end of the century.
Yet that patient publication rate ended today with the official online release of the LDS Church Historian’s Press digital edition of Cannon’s journals, which provides content for nearly all of the voluminous journals’ content.
By April 13, 2016
We’re pleased to host this research query from Amber Taylor, a PhD student at Brandeis University. Please feel free to suggest readings in the comments below. Amber can also be reached at ambercecile3 AT gmail DOT com.
I am working on the history of the LDS Church in Palestine and Israel. One of the larger historical arcs that I am working with is the Church and globalization – how that has affected the Church’s position regarding the people and politics of Israel-Palestine. As of yet, I have found very little material on the Church and globalization itself – I recognize that this is a rather recent topic, and Mormon studies as such is a rather emerging field. I have read various articles by Arnold Green that address various aspects of Mormon views on Jews/Judaism and Muslims/Islam. I am also familiar with works by Steven Epperson and Grant Underwood on similar topics. Likewise, I have the book Out of Obscurity: The LDS Church in the Twentieth Century from the Sperry Symposium, and have been perusing Reid Neilson’s work, as well as Marie Cornwall’s and Tim Heaton’s Contemporary Mormonism. I am wondering if anyone can point me to other scholars – including articles and books – that have looked at the way that the 20th century globalization of the Church has affected the way that leaders have talked of peoplehood and chosenness, and other such good things related to that.
Also, I have been considering the notion of “Zion” as a major aspect of my research. I am attempting to set my dissertation in a comparative framework, looking at the Church in its American setting, and examining the ways that American views of the Holy Land, Jews, and Muslims related to the Mormon views – and how both the broader American cultural setting and Mormon particularity affected one another. Specific to the concept of Zion, American culture (especially Protestant culture) has, from its very origins, been prone to talk of America and American Christianity in terms of “Zion,” or had themes of Zion weaved throughout it in myriad ways. Likewise, the concept of American exceptionalism is, of course, bound up with this. But the Mormons went a step further – they established an actual Zion, a physical space with teleological meaning. Their peoplehood as Israelites, and their actual American Zion, makes the question of the Mormon presence in Jerusalem and Palestine-Israel rather intriguing. America has always had a fascination with the Holy Land and its import in latter-day fulfillment of prophecy, yet the Mormon ethos is unique. What were/are the Mormons actually doing in the Old Zion, if they had their Zion, the New Jerusalem, on the American continent? What purpose does the BYU Jerusalem Center actually serve in all of this? Can anyone recommend any literature on this, specifically relating to the two Zions and what LDS leaders have said about them, what they mean in terms of physicality, sacred territory, and gathering?
Thank you for your help.
By April 3, 2016
While watching the LDS General Conference this weekend I consulted Instagram for inspiration regarding breakfast choices. While I searched the #ldconf hashtag, my mind turned to the ways that historians and cultural analyze Mormonism, both now and in the future. All photos are in the public domain from Instagram.com. If anyone would like their photo removed, please contact me immediately.
Much of Mormon ritual is found in their Sunday services and temple liturgy, including the Sacrament and the performance of temple ordinances. However, Sunday morning sessions of General Conference are affectionately known in some quarters as “Pajama Church.” Because there is no need to dress up, families celebrate by staying in their pajamas. Photos documenting this trend on Instagram often show entire families on the couch together in their pjs, spending time together. This informal ritual speaks volumes about Mormon families and the ways that Mormons envision worship experiences.
By March 31, 2016
This is the third and final post in a series about Orrin Hatch’s role in the National Women’s History Week/Month in the context of the backdrop of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Last time when I left off, I intended to explore the process under which both Senator Orrin Hatch
Barbara Mikulski on Meet the Press, 1983
and then Representative Barbara Mikulski came to co-sponsor National Women’s History Week. This partnership is very curious given many of their seemingly diametrically opposed views. Mikulski was an advocate for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In 2012, as a senator, she cosponsored a bill with others to reintroduce the amendment for ratification. Most of the news coverage I found that included both Orrin Hatch and Barbara Mikulski focused on the heated debate over the Equal Rights Amendment.
My working argument throughout this series has been that the co-sponsorship of National Women’s History Week was an effort to demonstrate bipartisanship during the otherwise contentious time concerning women’s rights during this period. I do not diminish Women’s History Week as a “token” effort to show cooperation during this time, as it was a much-needed recognition during a time when other weeks and months were being set aside to celebrate the historical achievements of non-white men in power.
By March 30, 2016
If you are in Utah this June after MHA, friends and colleagues of Richard Bushman are meeting to honor him and his work on Mormonism within the Academy. Dr. Bushman has been a friend, mentor, adviser, and role model to all those that study Mormonism in its religious and historic contexts. The schedule for the Colloquium can be found below.
You can see the schedule and original press release at the Maxwell Institute’s Website.
Mormonism in the Academy: Teaching, Scholarship, & Faith
A Scholars’ Colloquium in Honor of Richard L. Bushman
Brigham Young University
June 17–18, 2016
Dr. Richard Bushman
By March 23, 2016
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Senate Historical Office
Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks at one of his first Senate hearings. From SL Tribune
This is part 2 in a 3 part series about Women’s History Week/Month and Orrin Hatch.
The late 1970s and early 1980s was a time of transformative change for the women’s movement and American women’s political activism in general. From well-known feminists like Betty Friedan, who fought for the passage of the amendment, to Phyllis Schlafly, whose STOPERA campaign innervated once politically apathetic women to political action, the campaign for and against the Equal Rights Amendment demonstrated the power of women’s political mobilization to sway the American public opinion.
By March 17, 2016
At the recent history symposium focusing on women in Mormon History, the director of the LDS Church History Library announced a new research aid entitled “Women in Church History.” Among the various highlighted documents was a link to CR 11 175, Relief Society record, 1880-1892. This caught my eye because it has been restricted in the past and closed to research, though some researchers have been granted access. I’m always grateful for wider access to historical documents such as these, and this one in particular is important. Thanks to the dedicated staff and administrators at the CHL for their ongoing work.
As it is the anniversary of the founding of Relief Society, I thought it would be fun to reproduce from this document the ordinations of the first General Presidency. May it ever increase. [Note that this is a first pass transcription, you can verify it yourself if you would like]
By March 15, 2016
Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s 2013 book, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels unpacks the popularity of Amish romance novels among evangelical women. Although often dismissed as escapist fiction, women’s fiction, fluff lit, or all of the above, Weaver-Zercher argues that evangelical women turn to Amish romance novels for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the hypermodern and hypersexual world in which readers live.
This post isn’t about that, however. Rather, my interest was piqued by a footnote, in which the author catalogues writers who are writing similar stories, but in different settings. You have your Amish romance novels, but also your Mennonite, and Shaker, and Quaker romance novels. And to my surprise, apparently also Mormon romance novels.
By March 10, 2016
This month is National Women’s History Month in the United States. The founding of women’s history week, which was later made a full month, can be read here. Integral to this celebration and recognition of women’s history was a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week cosponsored by Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch in 1981. The unlikely partnership of Hatch, a conservative of Mormon Utah, and Representative Mikulski, a democrat from Maryland, made many take notice. A 1982 article described the reaction including that of Gerda Lerner, the historian responsible for the first graduate programs in women’s history and author of seminal women’s history texts:
A resolution was pushed through Congress by two most unlikely allies, conservative Orrin Hatch and liberal Barbara Mikulski. A proclamation was then signed by President Reagan who commented: “The many contributions of American women have at times been overlooked in the annals of American history.
This brought wry smiles from Gerda Lerner, the first female president of the Organization of American Historians. “I can’t think what was in the minds of the people in Congress who sponsored it,” she said. “I suppose it shows that supporting women’s efforts legitimize their own past something that is a nonpartisan endeavor if ever there was one.”
By March 7, 2016
Perhaps you have heard or read that I gave a talk called “Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women’s History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838” at the Beyond Biography: Sources in Context for Mormon Women’s History conference at Brigham Young University. My paper sought to address the history of how women experienced the violence in Missouri, particularly as victims of sexual violence. As part of that research, I examined the case study of Eliza R. Snow as a possible victim of a gang rape that might have left her unable to have children. I looked at a few of the rapes and attempted rapes in Missouri, recalled by various witnesses, legal testimonials, and personal accounts, with a discussion of why women are not specifically named in most sources. The scarcity and limitation of sources has presented historians with the difficulty of uncovering a history of sexual violence in Missouri, and of identifying actual victims. So I concluded with an examination of a primary source that amazingly came to me only three weeks prior to the conference, via a colleague who received it from a member of the family where the source is held. That source gives a description of Eliza’s rape, and its larger meaning in Snow’s life and possible motivations for her polygamous marriage to Joseph Smith.
By February 27, 2016
BYU and the LDS Church History Library are hosting a conference this Thursday and Friday entitled, “Beyond Biography: Sources in Context for Mormon Women’s History.” The conference looks to be a major step forward for Mormon history by engaging Mormon Women’s history through a number of methodologies. There is no registration fee–if you’re in Utah you will want to be at the BYU or LDS Conference Center!
R. Marie Griffith and Julie B. Beck will deliver the plenary addresses.
JI-er presentations can be found below. You can view the rest of the schedule here.
By February 26, 2016
Matt Grow is Director of Publications in the Church History Department and co-editor (with Jill Derr, Carol Madsen, and Kate Holbrook) of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (The Church Historian’s Press, 2016). He is also a general editor for the Joseph Smith Papers and he has authored or co-authored multiple award-winning books. He received his Ph.D in American history from Notre Dame in 2006.
While the initial reason for creating the Church Historian’s Press in 2006 was to provide a publisher for The Joseph Smith Papers (hereafter JSP), the proposal contemplated that the “imprint could also be utilized in the future for the publishing of other approved Church history works of highest quality.” With the publication of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History, that day has arrived. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society is the first volume published by the Church Historian’s Press outside of the JSP, signaling the commitment of the Church to Mormon women’s history.
By February 25, 2016
This is the third and final post in a series chronicling the experiences of the The Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent support group in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. Part one and part two can be read here and here.
Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent, August 2011.
Another purpose of the Friends meetings is to provide instruction. Most black members in the Durham Stake tend to be converts to the Church, many of them having converted fairly recently. Every month a theme is chosen and one person appointed to direct the conversation or to provide a lesson. Themes include “outreach,” “fellowship,” “true v. false doctrine,” or “being a black Mormon today.” In September 2011 Brother Isaiah Cummings taught a lesson titled “Blacks in the Bible.” Brother Cummings has apparently written a book on this subject but has been unable to find a publisher. I was not present at this meeting but Christina shared with me a copy of his lesson outline and it is also posted at the group’s Facebook page. In that lesson he taught that “When you begin to look at ‘Biblical History,’ it is important to realize that the world had two (2) beginnings… The World “before” the Flood and the World ‘after’ the Flood. Hence, the Black Race had two sets of Parents: 1) Cain and his wife and 2) Ham and his wife Egyptus.” The lineage Brother Cummings constructs to illustrate the history of Blacks in the Bible is supported by scriptural references to the Bible and the Book of Abraham in the Mormon book of scripture, the Pearl of Great Price.