Call for Applications – 2018 Mormon Theology Seminar

By October 12, 2017


The Fifth Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology
“Are We Not All Beggars? Reading Mosiah 4”
Cittadella Ospitalità, Assisi, Italy
June 17–June 30, 2018

Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar
in partnership with
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies,
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship,
and the Wheatley Institution

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Review: The Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832-1877

By October 11, 2017


Scott H. Partridge, ed., The Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832-1877 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2016).

Thirteenth Apostle is the first of Signature Books’ Legacy Series, which replaces their award-winning and incredibly valuable Significant Mormon Diaries Series.[i] They chose an excellent set of diaries to begin the Legacy Series. Not only was Lyman an apostle, his sons and grandsons became apostles, and more recently, his great-great grandson James E. Faust served in the LDS First Presidency. The Lyman family have shaped, and continue to shape, the religious and intellectual life of Latter-day Saints.

I first became acquainted with Amasa Lyman while reading Ron Walker’s Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young. Lyman is a major character in Walker’s work, an apostle, apostate, and seemingly, a man that never quite fit in either religious or philosophical circles. Lyman’s association with the Godbeites led to his excommunication from the LDS Church in 1870.[ii] Still, most readers will come to the diaries looking for information on the paths that led to his excommunication and later affiliation with the Godbeites and Spiritualists. On the first two accounts, readers will be disappointed. Regrettably, the diaries from Lyman’s time with the Godbeites are not available or do not exist.

Lyman’s life is much more interesting even than his affiliation with the Godbeites. He served multiple missions, joined the first group of Latter-day Saints that received the sealing ritual, was sealed to one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, helped to settle San Bernardino, and labored as an apostle. His rich life is only hinted at in the diaries themselves; however, historians are sure to be able to use Lyman’s diaries to illuminate the broader world of nineteenth-century Mormonism.

Readers are able to see the ways that Lyman was comparable to other Latter-day Saint men at the time—he served missions, he spent a lot of his time in travel, and pontificated on theology (including a controversial sermon that denied the necessity of Christ’s atonement). He participated in the Spiritualist Movement, and claimed to have spoken to his daughter about “the cancer with which he [was] afflicted” among other topics.[iii] I found Lyman a fascinating figure and immediately wished that Lyman had been able to Tweet during his lifetime. Heck, I would have even settle for following him on Facebook.

Lyman’s life, as much as any other apostle, reveals the ways that Mormonism participated in both the American culture and operated on its religious fringes. Lyman spent time on the frontier, moved west, served his community, and tried to serve his religious and secular communities. He participated in popular religious movements like spiritualism and worked on his writing and grammar. However, he was also an apostle in a religious group that wasn’t recognized as authentically religious as much as organized hearsay in the nineteenth century. He had eight wives and fathered dozens of children. I would love to see Lyman incorporated into studies that use those at the edges of Mormonism (intellectually, theologically, racially, sexually, etc.) to reveal more about the average experience of nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints.[iv]

Interestingly, and frustratingly, Lyman’s diaries do not reveal the inner workings of his mind to the degree that the journals of leaders like Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, or Ernest Wilkinson do. Partridge’s footnotes and introduction will be valuable for readers, although there are a few things that caused me some frustration. First, I would have liked to have seen events in the diaries in conversation with works in the history of the American West and American religious history. I believe Mormon history is best when it can speak to broader topics—pointing readers to works outside of Mormon history would be immensely helpful for non-experts. Second, I would have liked to have seen more works of Mormon history referenced in the text (especially newer works).

These issues aside, Partridge and the Signature Team have much to be proud of. I wholeheartedly recommend Thirteenth Apostle to all those that work in nineteenth-century Mormonism, spiritualism, and the history of the American West.

 

 

[i] Many of these volumes, along with other books and primary sources, are available at Signature Books’ Internet Archive site.
[ii] The excommunication was overturned (his baptismal and priesthood blessings were restored) in 1909.
[iii] A study could be done on what he reports seeing and hearing during séances. Emily Suzanne Clark’s recent book “Luminous Brotherhood” makes great use of spiritualist records left behind by black Catholic men in nineteenth-century New Orleans.
[iv] For a rationale behind such projects, see Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, “The Clock and the Compass: Mormon Culture in Motion,” Journal of Mormon History 32, no. 2 (April 2017): 1-19.


Thoughts on PBS’S Wolf Hall

By October 5, 2017


Yes, I’m very late to the party, but I recently saw a few episodes of PBS’s Wolf Hall about Thomas Cromwell and wanted to comment. Though I did a reading exam on the English Reformation, my focus was more societal than on individuals, so my knowledge of the main characters in the story are somewhat impressionistic. I did see a few problems though.

First, I’ll say that the production is very good, and Cromwell’s character is very likeable as a salt-of-the-earth, humble servant, caught up in difficult times. Clearly the intent is to overturn Man for All Seasons (1966) that makes Thomas More the hero of the story.

More’s character in Wolf Hall is an interesting one, and while many say he’s the villain, Wolf Hall’s More is much more three-dimensional than Man for All Seasons’ Cromwell. Things seem to go off the rails, however, in the lead up to More’s trial and execution, as the dialogue becomes all about justifying More’s execution, and Cromwell seems to shoot down all the great lines from Man for All Seasons. Ultimately, More’s prosecution, torture, and burning of Protestants justify Cromwell’s prosecution of More for his refusal to sign the oath of allegiance. 

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“The Heathen World and America’s Humanitarian Impulse”

By October 4, 2017


I have recently become the director of the Rocky Mountain American Religion Seminar (RMARS) at the University of Utah. As director, one of my jobs is to invite scholars to deliver public lectures at the University of Utah. Our first lecture will be delivered by Professor Kathryn Gin Lum of Stanford University. Her lecture will be held on Monday, October 16 at 2 PM in CTIHB 101 (University of Utah).

She will speak on the confluence of race, religion, and the “heathen” in American history. You can RSVP (and help spread the word) on Facebook.

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“Science vs. Dogma: Biology Challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Greg Prince, Author & Historian

By September 27, 2017


The Obert C. & Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center presents The 2017 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion & Culture

“Science vs. Dogma: Biology Challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Greg Prince, Author & Historian

Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 PM

Salt Lake City Public Library – Nancy Tessman Auditorium

210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City

Open to the public, no tickets required

Facebook event: https://goo.gl/4jXtP8

LIVE STREAM: http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/h1ynw

 

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah presents the 2017 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion & Culture, “Science versus Dogma: Biology challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Gregory A. Prince, author and historian, at Salt Lake City Public Library, September 27 at 7:00 p.m.

 

Until the late 1960s, when the Stonewall Riots in New York City brought LGBT issues into the public square, the consensus among clinicians, scientists, legislators, and religious leaders was that homosexuality was either an unfortunate choice that could be unchosen, or a disease that could—and must—be cured. As the field of molecular biology matured, there was a spirited hunt for a genetic explanation for homosexuality—the “gay gene.”

 

In the short term, failure to find such a gene reinforced the “choice paradigm” of homosexuality.  However, recent research has shown that a combination of genetic and (mostly) epigenetic factors act during fetal development to imprint sexual preference and gender identity indelibly within the brain. Prince argues that the “biology paradigm” calls for a reassessment of Latter-day Saint doctrines, policies, and attitudes towards homosexuality, all of which were built on a foundation of the “choice paradigm.”

 

“Greg Prince’s unique perspective,” says Tanner Center director Bob Goldberg, “combines scientific knowledge with humanistic sensibilities.  This insures that his insights will offer new ways of understanding matters that touch us all.”

 

Prince’s lecture will be followed by a book signing hosted by the King’s English Bookshop.

 

About Gregory A. Prince

Scientific researcher and historian Gregory A. Prince earned his graduate degrees in dentistry (DDS) and pathology (PhD) at UCLA. He then pursued a four-decade career in pediatric infectious disease research. His love of history led him to write three books, including the award-winning David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Most recently, he has published Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History.

 

Very Special Thanks

 

B.W. Bastian Foundation

 

Community Partners

 

The Salt Lake City Public Library

Q Salt Lake Magazine

The King’s English Bookshop


Lecture Announcement from The Joseph Smith Papers

By September 26, 2017


Join Us for a Special Lecture

 

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to invite you to a special presentation in conjunction with the publication of Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839. David W. Grua, coeditor of the volume, will present “‘All these things shall give thee experience’: Joseph Smith’s Liberty Jail Letters” on September 28 in Salt Lake City.


Event: “‘All these things shall give thee experience’: Joseph Smith’s Liberty Jail Letters” presented by David W. Grua
Date: Thursday, September 28, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Assembly Hall (50 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150)

Liberty Jail is at the symbolic center of Documents, Volume 6. During the winter of 1838–1839, Joseph Smith was confined to the jail’s dungeon and separated from Latter-day Saints who were finding refuge outside of Missouri. In this time of crisis, he used letters to maintain family ties and to sustain the church. Come learn more about how the letters illuminate Joseph’s own struggle to comprehend the Saints’ afflictions and the revelations he received in the jail.

 


Q&A with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

By September 25, 2017


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, whose book we have been reading together for nearly six months, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from JI bloggers and readers. If you found the book club useful and/or interesting, we hope you will follow JI on Facebook, Twitter, and share our articles. 

JI: What has the reception been among academic, popular, and Mormon audiences?  

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Scholarly Inquiry: A Conversation with Stephen C. Taysom, II

By September 19, 2017


Eighteen months ago, Taysom was deep into work on a biography of Joseph F. Smith, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1901 to 1918. We interviewed him then about the project. Taysom recently finished work on the manuscript, and we decided to follow up to see how the project evolved over that period and what Taysom’s reflections in retrospect are.

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Review: The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History

By September 18, 2017


This review was written by Courtney Jensen Peacock, a PhD student in American Studies at Heidelberg University.

Book Review: Grow, Matthew and R. Eric Smith, eds. The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History. Religious Studies Center, BYU, Provo, UT: 2017.

The release of the Council of Fifty minutes by The Joseph Smith Papers project last year (Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846) is a fantastic example of the exciting new developments currently occurring in Mormon studies, as more sources are becoming available for the first time to both scholars and the public. The release of new primary sources is always cause for celebration, but the fact that the Council of Fifty minutes cover the late Nauvoo period make them especially valuable. Scholars working on the Nauvoo period have always struggled with a shortage of available contemporary sources, which has hindered a full understanding of this crucial time in the development of Mormonism’s distinct theology and culture. The publishing of the Council of Fifty minutes, along with other sources recently released by The Joseph Smith Papers or published elsewhere, has and will contribute to important and innovative analyses of the Nauvoo period and nineteenth-century Mormonism.[i]

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females Chapter 15

By September 17, 2017


This is the fifteenth entry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook!

What did it mean for Mormon women to work “behind the throne” (372) but not as “pawns of the patriarchy”? (385) What did it mean for Mormon women to “speak for themselves,” (387) but in defense of polygamy? In what sense, in other words, were Mormon women free? Were they free?

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CFP: 2018 Regional AAR at BYU

By September 13, 2017


AAR/SBL Rocky Mountain-Great Plains Region

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: March 16–17, 2018

Call for Papers

The Regional Program Committee invites proposals for papers and panels to be presented at the 2018 Regional Meeting in Provo, Utah. The deadline for submissions is Friday October 27 at 5:00 pm MST.

Proposals dealing with any aspect of the fields of religious studies, biblical studies, and Near Eastern studies are welcome. We seek proposals on all topics, religious traditions, historical periods, and biblical (including pseudepigraphical and deutero-canonical) texts and traditions. We welcome proposals for single papers, panels with multiple papers, or other types of sessions, such as roundtables involving structured discussions of pre-circulated questions. Proposals addressing issues such as pedagogy, instructional technology, philology, ritual, the body, religion and media, religion and politics, and current trends in the profession are also encouraged.

Proposal Requirements

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Q&A with Patrick Mason on the Global Mormon Studies Center at CGU

By September 5, 2017


We are pleased that Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has responded to questions asked by JI bloggers about his plans for the Global Mormon Studies Center. You can find more about the Global Mormon Studies Center here.

  1. The Global Mormon Studies Center is the first research organization directly connected to Mormon Studies. Do you see the Center as a part of the program’s draw for students, or as a separate research center attached to CGU?

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females Chapter 14

By September 4, 2017


This is the fourteenth entry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook

Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward album quilt. Image taken from https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/part-2/2-3

 

Ulrich frames chapter fourteen through her close analysis of a quilt made by different women from the Fourteenth Ward’s Relief society in Salt Lake City. Quilts such as this were commonly made in the mid nineteenth century. Nevertheless, Ulrich shows that the quilt’s intricately sewed flowers and aphorisms become significant when understood in light of the contemporary writings of the women who made it and the tumultuous social backdrop of 1857 when it was produced. Life on the frontier was arduous and uncertain for these women; two immigrant pioneer companies barely survived their passage to Utah and the settlers already there struggled with implementing plural marriage and surviving near famine. Additionally, outside pressures continued to bear down on the saints: Mormon leader Parley P. Pratt died after being shot by a former husband of one of his plural wives, and now a threatening federal army was heading to Utah. Part of what makes the quilt striking is the gentility it projects despite the challenges that faced the women that made it.

The visual language of the quilt becomes increasingly interesting as Ulrich explores the process and context through which it was made. Ulrich examines several of the individually crafted squares and draws out interesting themes such as the women’s commitment to flowers despite the fact that they worked against drought conditions to cultivate their crops. She also focuses on the women’s assertion of defiant patriotism – displayed in Aura Annette Cumming’s folk adaption of the Great Seal of the United States and the eagle in English-born Keziah Pratt’s square – despite the looming conflict with the federal army. In sum, Ulrich highlights the importance of performing respectability for the Fourteenth Ward Relief Society despite the widely held American judgment that these women’s religious and marital practices were considered anything but respectable.

In this chapter Ulrich shows off a skill she uses throughout the book and more generally in her work as a scholar; she takes texts, often ones that have been overlooked by others, and shows us the complex world of women behind the names on a page or signatures on a quilt. In the previous chapter, Ulrich used Caroline Crosby’s diary to reveal a remarkably intimate view of the domestic life of San Bernardino. The steady flow of names in Crosby’s diary, as Andrea R-M discussed in her post yesterday, shows us how San Bernardino became a key part of the migratory route for Mormons and non-Mormons alike. It is this same analytical skill that has earned Ulrich acclaim with A Midwives Tale when she used the diary of Martha Ballard to discuss the economy of women’s labor in medicine and textiles in colonial New England. In the case of Chapter 14, one of the things we see is that despite the diverse backgrounds of its makers, the unified textile emphasizes their new collective identity as refined women of Zion. Ulrich takes women’s names, mentioned in a diary or on the margin of a quilt, and uses them to illustrate women’s social landscapes.

The title of Chapter 14, “The house was full of females” reflects the title of the book itself. The phrase comes from Wilford’s diary where he was describing his attendance of the Fourteenth Ward Relief Society. Ulrich argues Wilford’s interesting phrasing had less to do with the number of women at the meeting. Instead, “This was apparently the first time he had participated in a meeting where women not only filled the benches but presided.” (336) This observation helps give the reader insight not only to the origin of the title but also to what she means by her subtitle “Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism.” Women’s religious authority in the early history of the Latter-day Saints led to their ability to quickly mobilize and establish themselves politically. One early reviewer has negatively reviewed Ulrich’s book based on the assumption that a book that advertises itself as being about women’s rights should feature less “well-behaved” women. Instead, he wished that Ulrich would become a “badly behaved historian calling out fraudulent iniquities faced by female Saints.” Yet Alex Beam’s critique completely ignores the complex ways in which Ulrich shows Mormon women empowering themselves both through negotiating the every day life of the frontier and of their religion. Ulrich’s book shows readers a pre-history of women’s rights that paralleled the traditional narrative of women’s rights in the northeastern United States in the development of women’s charitable organizations and even the bloomer costume. But in other ways, Mormon women gained their empowerment through developing systems of women’s social and religious organizations unique to Mormonism. Ulrich shows how Mormon women developed their own unique brand of women’s rights through their varied experiences of plural marriage, ecstatic religion, and building Zion in their everyday lives.


JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females Chapter 13

By September 3, 2017


This is the thirteenthentry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook.

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Student and Early-Career Scholar Workshop: A Report

By August 28, 2017


In early June, Kris and I organized a “publication workshop” for graduate students and early-career scholars working on projects related to Mormon History and American Religious History. Thanks to the generosity of the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics at Washington University at St. Louis, we were able to meet in a central location before the meetings of the Mormon History Association (lots of capital letters!). I thought that it would be useful to share what I learned at the event and also share what I view as the primary benefits of organizing writing workshops.

STATE OF THE FIELD

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females Chapter 12

By August 20, 2017


This is the twelfth entry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook.

Chapter 12, “we now must look after the poor,” examines the intersectionality of the reemergence of the Relief Society in the 1850s. The chapter raises intriguing questions regarding gender, class, race, and settler colonialism in the Great Basin. How did gendered assumptions regarding medicine and health care shape female organization in the early 1850s? How did gendered assumptions shape how Latter-day Saints provided for the poor? How did female initiative interplay with male priesthood authority? How did racial and gendered views of Native peoples shape the formation of at first independent, and then church-sponsored, relief societies? What role did (white) women play in the development of Mormon settler colonialism, and how did clothing function as a marker between “civilization” and “savagery”? Ulrich answers all of these questions with her trademark engaging prose, rooting what other scholars might have treated in highly theoretical and abstract terms in the highly personal experiences and writings of Patty Sessions, Amanda Barnes Smith, Eliza R. Snow, as well as missionaries such as Thomas Brown.

Ulrich begins with the Council of Health, a mixed-gender organization of doctors and midwives that began meeting in 1849. Concerned that the presence of male doctors was discouraging many women from attending the meetings, women such as Phoebe Angel and Patty Sessions created the Female Council, which as the name implies was for women only. Using Sessions’s diary, Ulrich explores the “system of cooperative care” that focused “on female responsibility for women’s and children’s bodies. Recognizing that poverty or lack of help in the home sometimes made recovery from illness impossible, the Female Council began to act more and more in the spirit of the Nauvoo Relief Society, collecting funds for the poor, and carrying medicines and food to those they knew were in need” (295). Meetings of the Female Council also served as sites for female spiritual expression, with healing blessings and glossolalia. Ulrich profitably combines sympathetic sources with the more critical account by non-Mormon Elizabeth Ferris, a source highlighted by the JI’s J. Stapley a few years ago.

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females Chapter 11

By August 13, 2017


This is the eleventh entry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook.

 

 

The central idea of Chapter 11 (“Synopsis of My Labors”) is what can be learned about Wilford Woodruff’s home life from what he does and does not include in his synopses of his labors. These end-of-year tallies are part of what makes Wilford’s journal such a pleasure to read. He writes, for example, that in 1853 he traveled 100 miles, attended 650 meetings at the tabernacle, wrote 38 letters, and so on. Despite this impressively detailed list, Ulrich points out three main events that he did not include: his wife Phebe’s birth, his marriages to Sarah Brown and Emma Smith, and his divorce from Mary Jackson. The chapter is divided into four parts, each dealing with something on Laurel’s list of omitted family events. The Woodruffs (Wilford and the numerous types of marital relationships he had) act as a case study for what marriage, fertility, sex, and divorce meant in early Utah.

Ulrich starts with a discussion of Phebe’s reproductive pattern over her sixteen years of marriage with Wilford. It is no coincidence that Ulrich conducts a deep analysis of fertility and marriage in this chapter: its title advertises a discussion of labor. Ulrich writes, “Phebe’s labors were more difficult to summarize on their own.” (273) Ulrich’s discussion, whether through economics or fertility, forces the reader to consider women’s labor alongside Wilford’s more easily recognized (and countable) tasks.

Ulrich then discusses Wilford’s marriages to Emma Smith (age fifteen) and Sarah Brown (age nineteen). Emma bore her first child nearly four years after her marriage (at age nineteen). Both Sarah and Emma represent a different type of class of wives than Phebe Woodruff, who monogamously married her husband at age thirty. Instead of being Wilford’s peers, these new young wives were integrated into an already functioning household economy as dependents.

Ulrich’s discussion of Mary Ann Jackson’s divorce from Wilford approaches dependency in marriage from a different angle. Ulrich notes how divorce in Utah, as opposed to in other states, was relatively easy to obtain. In fact, she informs us that Brigham Young authorized a shocking 1,645 divorces in Utah. (280) Despite the existence of no-fault divorces, Ulrich shows that the needs of their young son James made Mary Ann and Wilford’s separation messy. The archived letters Wilford sent to Mary Ann gives us a (one-sided) view of the conflict they continued to have even after their marriage formally ended. Their relationship was fraught as they negotiated their economic obligations to their son and one another.

The last segment discusses Wilford’s earlier marriage with Mary Webster in 1852, a woman who was still technically married to her first husband. Her marriage with Wilford only lasted a few months because Mary died in October of 1852. Mary Webster’s story fits into a larger theme throughout the book of women who prioritize their new adopted religious family over their existing marital and family ties. Ulrich compares the letters written by Webster’s husband with the letters the Henry Jacobs writes to Zina years after their separation. Both sets of letters reveal an uncomfortable aspect of Mormonism as they show the raw feelings of the men left behind by these Mormon women. The section also brilliantly shows the fickle nature of the dynamic religious world of Mormon families; some informal divorces were accepted, while other remarriages were considered unlawful and worthy of church discipline. The discussion in this section is expanded in Ulrich’s fascinating article “Runaway Wives 1830-1860.”

Throughout the chapter Ulrich’s writing has an authoritative academic voice, yet she consistently prioritizes her narrative over a systematic analysis of her claims. For example, in the beginning of the chapter Ulrich contrasts Phebe’s birth rate (about one child every 1.7 years) with Parley P. Pratt’s six childbearing wives, who averaged a child every three years per wife. She uses this comparison to suggest that “polygamy increases the number of children per father, it decreases the number of children per mother.” (271) This interesting claim is easy to miss in Ulrich’s unrelenting narrative and deserves more discussion. How does this claim work, for example, with less economically affluent families or religious leaders lower in religious hierarchy than the Woodruffs and the Pratts? Did men who were often away on church missions have fewer offspring than men that stayed local? Was there a potential divide between urban and agricultural polygamists? Even within her qualitative framework there is much more to say. She could have, for example, added information about some of the other families that the readers follow throughout the book, such as the households of Peregrine Sessions, George Smith, Heber Kimball, or the George Taylor.

Using the Woodruff household as a case study, Laurel gives us a macro view of the complexity of the Mormon polygamous household. Throughout the book Ulrich points to gaps in Wilford’s journal pertaining to his children and recently contracted plural marriages. This chapter, then, represents a full-length discussion of what those gaps in his journal could say.


What I Wish I had Known About Coursework

By August 8, 2017


I spent too much of coursework worrying about coursework. Of course, that’s easy to say now that I’m studying for comprehensive exams. Reading several hundred books has a way of putting things into perspective. You realize that there is a LOT of great work out there and that it is very difficult to publish a book. Nary has an acknowledgments section gone by without mentioning that the author reached a point where they nearly gave up or had to rely on their “people” for encouragement. However, something else struck me—very few of the books I’ve read mention anything about the project growing out of a paper written during coursework.

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Publishing a book: Finding artwork and permission to publish

By August 7, 2017


I’m working my way through the production process for my first book, The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, and I thought it would be helpful to review some of the practical aspects of getting the book together. In this post, I address selecting artwork and acquiring permission to publish from the various repositories.

First is the issue of copyright

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females, Chapter 10

By August 6, 2017


This is the tenth entry in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook.

Saskia pointed out that in chapter 9, Brigham Young had re-framed gendered duty: “building the Kingdom of God required men who were willing to leave their wives for missions and settlements, and women who were willing to be left behind and make do as best they could.” Chapter 10 follows the divergent experiences suffered by the households of three families separated by mens’ mission calls from three to seven years long.

It opens in August 1852. Joseph Smith’s 1843 revelation on plural marriage (now Doctrine and Covenants Section 132) was read and preached on publicly for the first time, and one hundred Mormon men were called on foreign missions. Eighty-four men departed for Britain or its colonies, seven to continental Europe, and nine to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). While today the majority of Mormon missionaries are young and single, these were “mature men” whose absence for three to seven years fractured households, interrupted marriages, and removed fathers from their children’s lives. The chapter follows three diarists as they traveled to their assignments and began the daunting task of converting people to a faith that had just openly jettisoned monogamy as a pillar of Christianity and civilization. Starting in 1852, Mormonism entered an era of open acknowledgement and defense of plural marriage and expanded its practice, opening its people to mounting opposition on religious, moral, political and legal grounds.

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