Guest Post: Introducing Foundational Texts of Mormonism (OUP, 2018)

By December 12, 2017


The following is a guest post from friend-of-the-JI Mark Ashurst-McGee, the Senior Research and Review Historian at the Joseph Smith Papers and co-editor of several volumes in the series. He holds degrees in American History from Arizona State University, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University. Ashurst-McGee has authored award-winning graduate theses on Joseph Smith’s Zion project and the Mormon prophet’s use of seer stones and he is the author of several articles. He is the co-editor, along with Robin Scott Jensen and Sharalyn D. Howcroft, of Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources, forthcoming in February 2018 from Oxford University Press.

Early next year, Oxford University Press will publish a major new book on Joseph Smith and early Mormonism. If you are a scholar or an avid reader of early Mormon history, you will want to own and read this compilation.

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Highlights from Mormon Studies Review, Volume 5

By December 11, 2017


The Mormon Studies Review is the best annual over view of the Mormon Studies (sub)field available anywhere. Produced by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, the journal is produced by a remarkable editorial team. You can subscribe for $10 (and you get the Maxwell Institute’s other publications, too!). I’ll highlight each contribution, and pull a sentence or two from each article to give a taste of the writing and rigor involved in each contribution. As much as the summaries, I hope that you’ll appreciate with me the myriad of approaches that could be used in Mormon History or Mormon Studies. The field, as they say, is white and ready to harvest.

First, a review panel comprised of Ann Little (a renowned women’s history specialist and microhistorian), Paul Reeve (the Simmons Professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Utah), and Sarah Carter (a historian of plural marriage outside of Mormonism) examines Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females.[i]  An excerpt from Little’s response sums up the book well:

Ulrich’s instinct to hew to the daily realities of mid-nineteenth-century missionary life and westward imperial expansion serves her well. The Mormons she portrays lead complicated lives—emotionally and sexually messy as well as frequently (literally) clogged with mud, dirt, and dysentery from their various removes and migrations. She focuses on the details of early Mormon life as they were revealed in diaries rather than retrospective memoirs, which brings the immediacy of their experimentation to life.

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Mormon Immigrants and Fugitive Slaves on the (Underground) Railroad

By December 7, 2017


The July 19, 1856 issue of the Provincial Freeman and Weekly Advertiser, an abolitionist newspaper published in Chatham, Canada West (modern-day Ontario) carried the following notice from Albany, New York:

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REVIEW: The Field is White: Harvest in the Three Counties of England

By December 6, 2017


Carol Wilkinson and Cynthia Doxey Green, The Field is White: Harvest in Three Counties of England (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017).

 

As a child, we had a record that narrated the story of Wilford Woodruff as a missionary at Benbow farm. (Vinyl played on our old blue Fischer Price record player. I only remember Woodruff and the headless horseman though I’m sure there were more options). The dramatic narration detailed a miraculous mass conversion of a whole sect by LDS apostle Woodruff in 1840 England.  Though fascinating that any American child might know of a pond on an obscure farm in the middle of the English countryside, the fame of Benbow Farm is well known among many Mormons. Lds.org lists scores of articles and talks focused on the same narrative. There Wilford Woodruff baptized a whole congregation of United Brethren—six hundred strong. The story has been retold and retold; Woodruff is legendary. As the story goes the United Brethren were just waiting for the Mormon missionaries to show up. John Benbow said they were “searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were continually calling upon the Lord to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge that they might know the true way to be saved.” Woodruff brought them the “light and truth” for which they searched and they converted in droves in Benbow’s pond. 

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2017 in Retrospect: An Overview of Recent Books and Articles in Mormon History

By December 4, 2017


Once again, this is my attempt to recap the historiography of Mormonism from the past twelve months. This is the eighth such post, and previous installments are found hereherehereherehereherehere, and here. I do not list every single book and article from 2016, but I do highlight those I found most interesting and relevant. Therefore, a strong bias is obviously involved, so I hope you’ll add more in the comments.

The Instant Classic

Readers of this blog should already be familiar with Ulrich’s new book. (And hopefully everyone has already read our summer book club devoted to the masterpiece.) If you’re interested in my take, my review is found in Dialogue. In short: it’s perhaps the most significant book in Mormon studies since Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, and perhaps surpasses even that. Make sure to read the roundtable devoted to Ulrich in the most recent issue of Mormon Studies Review; and while you’re there, make sure to subscribe to the field’s best review journal.

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New(!) Mormon Studies Website at the University of Virginia

By December 1, 2017


This post comes from Meredith Nelson, the webmaster of the University of Virginia’s Mormon Studies website. We hope that you will find it useful!

Kathleen Flake and the Mormon Studies Program at the University of Virginia have recently launched a new website that highlights programming, events, faculty, courses in American religious history, Professor Flake’s research, and potential research topics.

In Doing Mormon Studies, we feature a large collection of video interviews conducted by Prof. Kathleen Flake with prominent scholars in 2016. James Faulconer, Terryl Givens, Matthew Grow, Kate Holbrook, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Ann Taves, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Grant Wacker comment on potential research topics waiting to be picked up, on their favorite personal discoveries, on Joseph Smith, on their own academic paths, and on what aspiring scholars should keep in mind.

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Review: Östman on Allen, Danish, But Not Lutheran

By November 30, 2017


We are pleased to post this book review by friend of the JI Kim Östman, who has researched and written extensively on Mormonism in the northern-European country of Finland. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative religion from Åbo Akademi University (2011) and a D.Sc. in microelectronics from Helsinki University of Technology (2014), and works as a Senior R&D Engineer with Nordic Semiconductor.

Dr. Östman’s research on nineteenth-century Mormonism in Finland was published as a doctoral dissertation by Åbo Akademi University Press. It discusses how Mormonism was viewed in Finnish print media, by local civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and what kind of results the LDS church’s Swedish-led missionary efforts in perilous legal conditions led to. A co-founder of the European Mormon Studies Association (EMSA), he is continuing his Mormon history research into early twentieth-century Finland and Sweden on his free time, as a post-doctoral scholar affiliated with Åbo Akademi University.

Julie K. Allen: Danish but Not Lutheran: The Impact of Mormonism on Danish Cultural Identity, 1850–1920. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2017, 288pp.

Scandinavians are overwhelmingly Lutheran to this day, although religiosity has tended to give way to “believing in belonging” during the past centuries. Their national churches are still seen as custodians of culturally significant rites of passage, bringing people together at life’s critical junctures. As Prof. Julie Allen explains in her study of Mormonism’s impact on Danish culture and identity, Denmark was the first Nordic nation to officially decouple citizenship from Lutheranism. Being a Dane had meant being Lutheran, but the new 1849 constitution separated the two identities by legalizing the activity of new religious movements while retaining the privileged position of the state church. This leap in religious freedom was preceded by for example Baptist activity in the kingdom.

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Review: Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People (University of North Carolina, 2017)

By November 27, 2017


On the surface, Max Perry Mueller’s book is, like several other recent works, a study of the shifting racialist ideas in nineteenth century Mormonism. Like those books, Mueller argues that early Mormonism is a particularly useful illustration of the fluidity of race, particularly in the early decades of the United States. When, as Mueller argues, white Americans began in the nineteenth century to understand “race as (secular) biology,” (12) they began arguing that those characteristics they used to classify and label “races” were organic, functions of one’s biological makeup, and though these characteristics extended from the merely physical (like skin color) to issues of intellect and temperament, most people determined them to be inborn and hence immutable.

 

The Mormons, Mueller argues, were different, in two ways.

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A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 3 of 3

By November 22, 2017


See Part I here and Part II here.

By Craig Foster, Newel Bringhurst, and Brian Hales

During the tour on October 28, 2017, we had the opportunity for an in-depth visit to the FLDS Temple. Of all the structures on the Yearning for Zion ranch, none was more striking than the temple.

Like the Salt Lake LDS temple, the clasping hands motif is engraved on the exterior above the primary entrance.

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A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 2 of 3

By November 21, 2017


See Part I of this series on the YZR by Craig Foster, Newel Bringhurst, and Brian Hales HERE

A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 2 of 3

Our next stop brought us to the homes of Warren Jeffs, one he had lived in and one built for him after his incarceration.

The office and entrance of Jeffs’ older home were unimpressive. The house was filled with bedrooms and two kitchens. Around forty-five of Jeffs’ estimated eighty-plus wives lived in the house.[1]

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A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 1 of 3

By November 20, 2017


We are pleased to host three guest posts from Craig L. Foster, Newel G. Bringhurst, and Brian Hales.

A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 1 of 3

After providing historical background at a polygamy trial in Cranbook, Canada in April 2017, Brian Hales met a Texas Ranger who had been involved in the 2008 raid of the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch. The ranch, belonging to the FLDS Church, is located about four miles outside of El Dorado in west central Texas. The Ranger had offered to give Brian a tour, so, taking the Ranger up on his invitation, Brian Hales, Craig Foster, and Newell Bringhurst visited YFZ on October 28, 2017.

We arrived in Eldorado, Texas, the closest town to the ranch, and met up with our Ranger guide who then drove us to the outer gate of the ranch. Yearning for Zion Ranch, with boundaries approximately one mile by two miles, was acquired by Davis S. Allred in 2003. At the time of purchase, Allred represented the YFZ Land LLC and claimed he would be building a business retreat. Within a short time, the outside world realized Allred had been the front man to an FLDS purchase and that there were going to be more than business executives and wealthy game hunters residing at the ranch.[1]

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Mormon History and Mormon Studies at AAR 2017

By November 17, 2017


Here are the Mormon History and Mormon Studies Panels/Receptions at AAR 2017. If you’re interested in writing a post sharing your experience at AAR, please email joseph dot stuart at utah dot edu.

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Mormon History Association Call for Papers [DUE NOVEMBER 15]

By November 10, 2017


Mormon History Association

Call for Papers – 2018 Annual Conference

“Homelands and Bordered Lands”

The fifty-third conference of the Mormon History Association will be held June 7 – 10, 2018, at the Boise Centre Convention Center and nearby Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho. The 2018 conference theme “Homelands and Bordered Lands” raises questions about how borders both disrupt and generate ideas about individuals’ and communities’ “homes,” broadly construed. The theme highlights the ways in which the dynamic interactions between peoples, places, and identities have always been central to Mormon histories.

The conference theme “Homelands and Bordered Lands” connects the history of the Latter-day Saints to Idaho’s diverse past. Idaho is first and foremost a Native homeland. The first Mormon settlement in the Idaho was created near present-day Salmon, Idaho, at Fort Lemhi in 1855. Immigration by Mormons and other Euro-Americans caused conflict with Native communities and led to the depletion of natural resources as well as outbreaks of violence. On the other hand, there have also been many instances of cooperation and mutual respect between the various communities.

Idaho has also always been a place where the boundaries of Mormon identity have been negotiated. The state has been a refuge and highway for those seeking to practice plural marriage. Polygamy contributed to a pronounced strain of anti-Mormonism in Idaho politics and law in the late nineteenth century. Idaho also has a healthy tradition of Mormon education, intellectualism, and dissent. Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, has been foundational in LDS higher education. Furthermore, Leonard Arrington was born in Twin Falls and graduated from the University of Idaho, Sonia Johnson was born in Malad, Maxine Hanks attended Ricks, and the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives was founded in Boise.

While Idaho provides a rich tableau for the study of Mormonism in the context of the state’s history as a multiracial, multi-ethic, and multireligious place, we also seek papers and panels that address the theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” from any vantage point in the Mormon past. In addition to papers and panels that address the conference theme, the program committee also welcomes proposals on any topic in Mormon history.

Since its founding in 1965, the Mormon History Association has been dedicated to the promotion of intellectually rigorous, diverse scholarship on the history of the Mormon tradition. To help us create a welcoming space that embraces work from a wide variety of methodological and religious viewpoints, we encourage individuals to organize panels for the 2018 Conference in Boise, Idaho, that include presenters from a variety of institutional, social, and religious backgrounds. The program committee will give preference to panels that reflect the diversity of the historical profession by featuring women and underrepresented minorities. [Bold added]

The Mormon History Association intentionally embraces both academic and amateur historians. The conference organizers encourage submissions that think outside of the traditional format for conference sessions. We encourage people to organize roundtables, “cafés” in which participants are arranged in small groups to discuss a topic, pre-circulated papers, and so forth. Additional ideas for alternative session formats can be found at: http://solveforinteresting.com/category/good-conference/event-sessions/

Please send 1) a 300-word abstract for each paper or presentation and 2) a brief 1-2 page CV for each presenter, including email contact information. Session proposals should also include the session title and a 300-word session abstract, along with a confirmed chair and/or commentator, if applicable.

Previously published papers are not eligible for presentation at MHA. An individual may only submit one proposal as a session presenter, although it is acceptable for a presenter in one session to be a chair or commentator in another. Limited financial assistance is available to some student presenters and presenters from less economically-developed nations. Those who wish to apply for funding should include estimated travel expenses with their proposals.

The deadline for proposals is November 15, 2017. Proposals should be sent to the program co-chairs at mhaboise2018@gmail.com. Notification of acceptance or rejection will be made by December 15, 2017.

Please mark if you are attending the 2018 MHA Conference on Facebook HERE.


Mormon History Books for Comprehensive Exams?

By November 1, 2017


Welcome to a new series at Juvenile Instructor entitled “The Gathering.” In this series of posts, several JI-ers will respond to a single question posed by another JI blogger. If you have a question you’d like to submit, please post it as a comment at the bottom of this post. 

If you could assign two books on Mormonism to be read for a US History comprehensive exam, what would they be?

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MHA Paper Proposal Networking Thread

By October 30, 2017


The deadline for the Mormon History Association’s annual conference in Boise, ID is coming up in about two weeks on Wednesday November 15th. The deadline is significantly later than usual so I trust that most of you are prepared and have already submitted. If not, no worries! There is still time.

The call for papers says:

While Idaho provides a rich tableau for the study of Mormonism in the context of the state’s history as a multiracial, multi-ethic, and multireligious place, we also seek papers and panels that address the theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” from any vantage point in the Mormon past. In addition to papers and panels that address the conference theme, the program committee also welcomes proposals on any topic in Mormon history.

In other words, Idaho is a fascinating place to explore the evocative theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” BUT the conference organizers will also welcome proposals on any area in Mormon history.

At MHA, as with other conferences, proposals for panels (consisting of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator) are much likelier to be accepted than individual papers. The first reason for this is that the program committee is made up of volunteers and shuffling all the papers to fit into cohesive panels would takes a lot of work. Secondly, unified panels enable both the audience and commentator to draw thematic threads throughout the presentations. Individual papers will still be considered but organizing a panel will significantly improve your chances.

I also want to draw your attention to the following part of the call for papers: “We encourage people to organize roundtables, “cafés” in which participants are arranged in small groups to discuss a topic, pre-circulated papers, and so forth.” In other words, a good panel proposal does not have to consist of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator. You could propose a roundtable on professional development issue or under-explored methodology that is relevant to Mormon History. For other ideas look here.

What does a compelling abstract look like? A few years ago JI contributor Ben wrote a post where he summarized what conference organizers look for in a proposal. Y’all should read the whole post, but let me liberally quote some of the most important points.

  • When providing a description of your proposed paper, be as specific as you can about your topic, your approach, and your potential findings. It is not reasonable for you to have your entire paper written at this time—heaven knows we all submit paper proposals as a way to jump-start future research—but it is pretty obvious when a proposal is written without much thought. As a program committee, we want to know that you have given the topic serious thought, that you are familiar with the sources you will consult, and that this is something that will turn out to be a fine finished product. Put simply, your paper proposal should not be something you write on a whim an hour before you submit it, perhaps with a bit of academic jargon thrown in, but should rather be a reflection of your engagement with, knowledge of, and excitement for your topic.
  • …Both the paper and panel proposal should cover what makes your submission relevant. What will be new in these presentations? What stories are you telling that have previously been ignored? How are they filling a space in the field previously overlooked? We sometimes like to cover the same stories, arguments, and theories again and again, so it is crucial to show what is going to be novel and important in these new presentations.
  • In putting together your panels, try your best to be as diverse as possible. This diversity includes not only demographic background, though that is always important, but also institutional or occupational backgrounds. For example, a panel on a particular person or event could include papers from an academic professor, a public history employee, as well as an interested observer. And it is always to crucial to ask if your panel could benefit from a different gender or racial perspective, a sensitivity that MHA has recently tried to address more frequently.

In an effort to help you through the difficult task of organizing a panel we want you to use the comment section of this post to network and find fellow panelists. Please summarize your idea for your paper. If others have similar ideas they can get in touch via the JI moderators.

Happy writing everyone!


THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPERS RELEASE DOCUMENTS 6: FEBRUARY 1838-AUGUST 1839

By October 26, 2017


Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, David W. Grua, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink.

 

The ink was barely dry on the sixth volume of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers when I was able to meet with three of the very capable editors of the volume—Mark Ashurst-McGee, David Grua, and Elizabeth Kuehn. That week I also heard JI’s own, David Grua, lecture on the Liberty Jail letters. It was all a lot to take in. In the time that has passed, I’ve been able to understand the depth and breadth of this volume a little better. The Missouri experience looms large in the Mormon memory and the contribution of this volume is essential to our understanding of this critical period—though it will take a very long time to take it all in.

This tome is the largest volume thus far in the Papers project. Its 776 meticulous pages cover just 19 months in four sections. Add the front matter and you’re over 800 pages. (Let’s hope the binding can hold up.)

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REVIEW: Alford, Utah and the American Civil War

By October 25, 2017


Kenneth L. Alford, ed., Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2017).

There are several books on Utah’s place in the Civil War, but until recently, there was never book that held all of the documents related to the war in Utah Territory. Kenneth Alford, Professor of Church History and Doctrine and Brigham Young University, has created a documentary volume that places all of the documents from the Official Records of the Civil War (OR) from Utah Territory and letters, reports, and other texts in a single volume.

Utah and the Civil War has five chapters, each of which are useful to history buffs and to academics. In the first chapter, Alford provides a summary of Utah Territory’s place in the American Civil War, including the service of the Lot Smith Company. Alford’s clear and lively narration helps readers to see that multiple parties competing for power and influence in the Territory, as well as Utah’s position as a political hot potato in the rest of the country. The second chapter gives a brief overview of the creation of the 128-volume Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Chapter Three explains the background of the Civil War Records created in Utah Territory.

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Which aspect of Mormon history needs to be studied through the framework of “lived religion?”

By October 24, 2017


Welcome to a new series at Juvenile Instructor entitled “The Gathering.” In this series of posts, several JI-ers will respond to a single question posed by another JI blogger. If you have a question you’d like to submit, please post it as a comment at the bottom of this post. 

Which aspect of Mormon history needs to be studied through the framework of “lived religon?”

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BREAKING NEWS: LDS Church to Publish the William Clayton Diaries

By October 20, 2017


At a conference sponsored by the Joseph Smith Papers Project (JSPP), LDS Church History Department (CHD) Director of Publications Matt Grow announced the publication of the William Clayton diaries. They will transcribe and annotate the volume, just like the Joseph Smith Papers volumes.

THIS IS ENORMOUS NEWS!

Some may wonder why this announcement is such a big deal. Long story short, the Clayton Diaries hold key information about plural marriage and Joseph Smith’s religious workings. While excerpts have been available for some time in publications, notably Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new book on plural marriage, they have not been available to the public, or even to most researchers. This will allow future projects to better understand the last years of Joseph Smith’s life. This is one of the best sources to understanding Joseph Smith’s personal life, thoughts, and activities in Nauvoo.

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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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