The fifty-second annual conference of the Mormon History Association will be held June 1-4, 2017, at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Louis, Missouri metro area. The 2017 conference theme, “Crossing and Dwelling in Mormon History,” borrows concepts from religious studies scholar Thomas A. Tweed, who argues that religion is simultaneously in motion and in place. The theme seeks to capture both St. Louis’s general history and Latter-day Saint connections to the city’s past.
J. Stapley brings us the next installment of the Summer Book Club. Click here for part one, two, and three.
Ben mentioned last week that Mormon Enigma was one of the best treatments of Nauvoo polygamy available. The topic is a morass, and to be honest I have started more than one book on the topic, only to set it down never to pick it back up after a chapter or two. I’ve read a lot of the primary documents, and some of the prominent secondary literature. And it is true, that the chapters in Mormon Enigma are some of the most readable and insightful, even while laboring under the constraints of time.
49th Annual Conference at the Town & Country Resort
April 27-29, 2017
Call for Papers
The Western Association of Women Historians (WAWH) invites proposals for panels, roundtables, posters, workshops, and individual papers in ALL fields, regions, and periods of history. The program committee especially invites proposals with gender, generational, geographic, racial, and institutional diversity in regard to panel content and/or panel composition. This year we are particularly interested in panels that focus on women and public life, including women’s engagement in politics, reform movements, and other efforts to spur social change, as well as women’s ever-evolving place in the workforce. We also welcome panels on public history, academic publishing, and alternative career paths for historians, as well as panels on issues relevant to women and adjuncts in academia today. Finally, we would especially like to encourage Canadian and Mexican historians to apply, as we hope in coming years to become more representative of Western North America as a whole. Priority will be given to proposals for complete sessions, but individual papers, or two papers submitted with a suggested theme, will be incorporated where possible.
[We are pleased to post this book review from Hannah Jung. Hannah lives and works in Boston and will be starting her PhD in History in the fall.]
Eds. Kate Holbrook and Matthew Bowman, Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.
During my undergrad there was a mature student who seemed to be in all of my classes about women and religion. This woman had a particular word for whenever we studied examples of women who seemed to be furthering patriarchy. She called them brainwashed. At the time, it was hard for me to articulate why I did not like the label “brainwashed” for women who did not appear to be living life worthy of feminist praise. This task would be taken on by historians much more clever and experienced than I. Indeed, in 2011 Catherine Brekus rocked the Mormon Studies world with her Tanner Lecture “Mormon Women and the Problem of Historical Agency”, which she delivered at the Mormon History Association. Brekus observed that,
Although historians of male leaders had never felt compelled to argue that men’s agency was politically subversive or liberating … historians of overlooked groups – including women, Native Americans, African Americans, and Latina/os – were searching for a ‘usable past’ and so they looked for evidence of individual or collective resistance to a white male hegemony. (p.23)
Today I’d like to offer some thoughts on last week’s Colloquium held in honor of Richard Bushman, particularly the place of Mormonism in the Academy and the history of Mormon apologetics. While I speak of apologists and apologetics, I do not wish to cast aspersions on apologists, apologetic efforts, or the historical work that is put to apologetic ends in Mormonism. I aim only to call attention to trends in LDS apologetics.
In her review of Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling in the Journal of American History, Jan Shipps laid out the origins of the academic study of Mormon history. Fascinatingly, she took care to note Rough Stone Rolling’s diverse reception among both academics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a particular set of paragraphs in the review’s close, Shipps stated:
Perhaps more than anything else, this diverse reaction confirms the status of the work as the crowning achievement of the “old” new Mormon history, an intellectual movement that with Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling seems to be rapidly passing into history. That is not to say that Mormon history is going away or even that the bifurcation of the Mormon past is headed for resolution. Quite the contrary…Believing historians will work in the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (then hosted by the Maxwell Institute]) mode, marshaling facts from other sources to prove the LDS scripture’s ancient bona fides. In addition, what appears to be hordes of graduate students—some Latter-day Saints and some not—are discovering that as record keepers par excellence, Mormons have left a historical legacy that will keep historians busy for many generations to come.
Shipps believed that those graduate students would “probably leave the provinciality that made so much old Mormon history inward looking.” This astute observation predicted the proliferation of the study of Mormonism within the Academy, using Mormonism and Mormons as a case study for broader themes rather than a singular drive to discover the history of religions that flowed from the theological fountain of Joseph Smith’s 1830 Church of Christ.
[This is the third installment of the Summer Book Club, this year focusing on Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery’s Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. You can read the first two installments here and here. This part focuses on chapters 7-9, which cover the introduction of polygamy, formation of the Relief Society, and Emma’s quest to help her husband during extradition attempts. Buckle up.]
A few years ago I attended a sunstone conference where Linda King Newell, co-author of the book under discussion, spoke on her experience writing, publishing, and defending Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. She gave lots of good details, and reinforced how tense the whole ordeal was: the fight to get access to archival sources, the attempted censorship on the part of the Church, and the many people who helped them along the way. But the anecdote that stood out to me the most concerned the writing process—and the process of writing about polygamy, to be exact. (Following words are paraphrased from memory.) “I remember Val [Avery] calling me one day,” Newell explained, “and she said she was working on the polygamy chapter and had to lie down.” Valeen paused for a bit, then added, “one of the wives was fourteen. Fourteen. I have a daughter that age.”
Today’s post on livetweeting a conference comes from Eliza N. She is an editor who lives and works in Salt Lake City. She grew up in the Midwest and misses the cornfields. When she’s not working, reading, or watching Netflix, she enjoys running, playing volleyball, and hanging out with her dog. Eliza tries her best to follow these Twitter tips @EtotheNev.
You can see the archived tweets from #MHA2016 at the links provided at the bottom of the page! If you have tweets we missed please post them in the comments. If your tweets or session appear in the links below, please share on Twitter and Facebook (and tag either @MormonHistoryJI or our Facebook page).
Etiquette for Tweeting a Conference, or Seven Tips for Making Your Live-Tweet Game Sizzle
As younger generations and technology invade academia, audiences for conferences like this past weekend’s Mormon History Association’s grapple with what the heck certain platforms are and how to use them. Perhaps the most popular for MHA, Twitter is a useful and fun tool that might baffle newcomers. It takes time to learn its tricks, cadence, and inside jokes, but we can help you catch up on some of the particulars for live-tweeting a conference like MHA.
In my first post on Jane Lead, I noted an 1858 article that the editor of the Millennial Star, Samuel Richards, wrote about Jane Lead. He’d found an 1807 German translation of her works and posted two passages, translated back into English. Of those quotes, Richards declared, “We have seldom read anything more pointed or expressive of the Latter-day Work than the foregoing. It is another evidence that those who are spiritually minded, according to the light and advantages they have, can seek after God and learn of His ways—that He giveth liberally to all who ask wisdom of Him, and upbraideth not.” When I did that first post, I was unable to track down the quotes, but now that I’ve found them, I’m posting what Richards cited along with the English originals.
This post resurrects an old and unfortunately infrequent JI series, “Reassessing the Classics,” where we look at important books from days of Mormon history past. And the post’s title is partly a lie–it’s actually been 51 years since the book’s publication, but 50 is a much nicer number.
I recently commenced a book project on Nauvoo that has provided the opportunity to return to one of our field’s earliest and most important works, Robert Bruce Flanders’s Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). One of the first books on Mormon history to be published by a university press–it was preceded by, among others, Leonard Arrington’s Great Basin Kingdom–it was a very early academic treatment that inaugurated the New Mormon History movement. It also still reads remarkably well. But of course it wears the marks of its age. In this post I want to highlight not only the strengths and weaknesses of this work deservedly called a “classic,” but also highlight some historiographic developments in the past half-century.
Welcome to week 2 of this Summer’s Book Club. We’re reading Mormon Enigma, and this week’s post focuses on four chapters: “Gathering in Ohio, 1830-1834,” “‘Seas of Tribulation,’ 1834-1838,” “Strife in Missouri, 1838-1839,” and “Sanctuary in a Swamp, 1839-1841.” For the first two chapters, see Robin’s helpful post for week 1.
The next four chapters of Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippett Avery’s Mormon Enigma focus on Emma Smith’s experience throughout the 1830s. Emma’s life during this time period was marked by transition: she trekked over one thousand miles, lived in at least seven different households (that’s after I started counting), birthed six children (and adopted three more), hosted countless “boarders” who passed through her homes, and earned money from home economics, to trade, to real estate. And she was faithfully married to a religious prophet who polarized nearly everyone he came into contact with. In spite of Emma Smith’s many accomplishments and fortitude, her inner life is hard to get to. Sources are simply scarce, and seeing Emma Smith the individual becomes murky through the refracted and power-laden narratives that constitute Joseph Smith’s history. I read these chapters with these thoughts in mind, and this post will survey and suggest some ways into Emma Smith’s life.
This is the inaugural post of a new series we are calling Digitizania! In this series, we will be highlighting new digital collections from a variety of repositories throughout the world related to Mormon Studies. We hope this will provide a useful service to new and seasoned researchers alike. Today, we take a look at recent digitization activities at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections within the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. The following collections have been released digitally in the previous two months.
On the cusp of the annual Mormon History Association conference, which is centered on the theme of “practice” this year and begins later this week at Snowbird, UT, it seems like a good time to highlight some of the resources and the work done here at the JI on the theme of “practice” during March 2014. During that month (which hardly seems like two plus years ago), we carried the theme of practice through a series of posts from guests and regular contributors. See, for instance, guest Megan Sanborn Jones’s analysis of Mormon pageants and religious performance, J. Stapley’s discussion of his favorite books on liturgy/ritual, or Kris Wright’s thoughts on “Vernacular Architecture and Religious Practice.” We also had a (somewhat delayed) multiplepart “Scholarly Inquiry” interview with Dan Belnap on his edited volume By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in History, Scripture, and Practice. And we put some effort toward assembling a (theoretically) comprehensive bibliography dealing with matters of practice in Mormon history. If you’re looking to grease the skids for a memorable and productive conference this weekend, you could do worse than to start here!
Please join Juvenile Instructor’s Andrea R-M and tour co-director Janelle Higbee for the second round of fantastic Mormon women’s history on a bus, Thursday, June 9, leaving from Snowbird at 8:30 a.m. and returning after 5:00 p.m.. Tour spots are still available, and even those not registered for the conference may register for the tour.
Utah Jazz player Ron Boone meets with LDS Church President Spencer Kimball, 1980.
There’s a joke common among sports fans concerning the Utah Jazz and the team’s nickname. It’s so obvious that it hardly needs to be told. Utah Jazz is a contradiction in terms because nothing could be so absurd as jazz music in Salt Lake City. It received a brief mention in the opening scene of Baseketball, a 1998 comedy starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys behind South Park and The Book of Mormon musical:
Soon it was commonplace for entire teams to change in search of greater profits.
The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles, where there are no lakes.
The Oilers moved to Tennessee, where there’s no oil.
The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City, where they don’t allow music.
For this Summer’s Book Club, we will be reading Mormon Enigma by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery. This week’s post focuses on the first two chapters, “Emma and Joseph, 1825-1827” and “The “Elect Lady” 1827-1830.”
Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery published Mormon Enigma, the biography of Emma Smith, in 1984 at the height of the Hofmann era (any guesses how many Hofmann sources are quoted in the first two chapters of the first edition?). Their work went a long way in bringing Emma Smith out of the antagonistic rhetoric so often used by members of the LDS Church. Today, the work still serves as a corrective to a surprising amount of Mormon scholarship, despite the fact that it does show signs of its age.
Spencer W. McBride, “When Joseph Smith Met Martin Van Buren: Mormonism and the Politics of Religious Liberty in Nineteenth-Century America,” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 85, no. 1 (March 2016): 150-158.
As much as we love the Journal of Mormon History, it’s always encouraging to see work on Mormonism appear in mainstream historical or religious studies journals. So it was a pleasant discovery to find Spencer McBride’s short article in a recent issue of Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, a venerable academic journal that has been publishing on the history of Christianity since 1932. Church History is the organ of the American Society of Church History, a group that has recently fallen on hard times. Or, perhaps more accurately, it has run into a perplexing situation. Recent shifts in scholarship have taken the study of American religion away from the traditional themes of “church history,” with its focus on denominations, institutions, and traditional social dynamics. Christopher wrote a few years ago in response to Laurie Maffly-Kipp’s important presidential address to the ASCH, “The Burden of Church History,” which proposed some revitalizing steps to be taken. One of these was further engagement with Catholicism and Mormonism, a suggestion that mirrors other scholars’ encouragement to move from a study of “American Christianity” to one that acknowledges “American Christianities.” 
Kyle R. Walker, William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford, 2015. xiv, 639 pp. Photographs, two appendices, notes, sources, index; ISBN 978-58958-505-1.
Kyle Walker has further solidified his position as the leading expert on the Smith family with this extensive biography of Joseph Smith’s troubled younger brother, William. In meticulous detail, Walker describes William’s life as one full of conflict: with his brother Joseph and other church leaders during Joseph’s lifetime, with other claimants to leadership after Joseph death, with William’s own followers when William made his own claim, and with William’s numerous wives almost all of whom left him. As one-time follower Edmund Briggs declared, “Everybody that knew William Smith, and worked with him, rejected him” (409).
Walker begins the book with a description of uncle Jesse Smith, the cantankerous family member that threatened to get an ax if anyone said anything about the Book of Mormon. Walker wonders if there was an inherited family trait that would explain William short temper, his refusal to compromise or let things go, and his perpetual self-focus.
On November 29, 1838, Major General John B. Clark wrote his final report to Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs reviewing the state militia’s recent operations against the Latter-day Saints. “The whole number of Mormons killed through the whole difficulty as far as I can ascertain are about forty and several wounded,” while one non-Mormon had been killed. Verifying Clark’s figure presents a challenge. Although Clark, as the commanding officer overseeing the campaign, was interested in total casualties, neither he nor anyone else in the state government had an incentive to record the names of Mormons who died. It was therefore left to the Saints themselves to document their losses of human life.
This past semester, I taught the history major senior capstone research seminar on “Religion in America” [Aside: WHEN will I ever learn to choose appropriately NARROW topics for senior seminar??]. Students’ paper topics ranged from the Branch Davidians at Waco, to the religious geography of the early British colonies, to recovering Jefferson’s personal theology, to protections for religious observance in the 21st-century military, to anti-Semitism in immigration policy of the 1920s and 1930s — 16 papers with the rather dizzying variety you might expect from so open-ended a course. Most of the students, though advanced in the major, had little prior experience tackling religious subjects in history classes, so that added a dimension of danger complexity to the whole enterprise.
David G. on CfP: Mormon History Association,: “Good question, Jeff. We are definitely looking at inviting Tweed to participate in some capacity, but it is still very much in the preliminary stages.…”
Jeff T on CfP: Mormon History Association,: “Looks great! Any idea if Thomas Tweed will be giving the Smith-Pettit address (or be present in another capacity)?”
J. Stapley on Summer Book Club Week: “Jeff, I'm going to take your question to ask about the religious world of polygamy. Seems that a lot of folks are grappling with this…”
Jeff T on Summer Book Club Week: “Thanks, J! Is there another work, in particUlar, that you'd couple with Mormon Enigma to understand Nauvoo polygamy?”
Juvenile Instructor » Summer Book Club Week 4: Mormon Enigma, Chapters 10-12 on Summer Book Club Week: “[…] Stapley brings us the next installment of the Summer Book Club. Click here for part one, two, and […]”