By June 27, 2017
Among my very favorite parts of archival research is the small and unexpected glimpses into the lives of historical figures that have nothing directly to do with the research at hand.
I was reminded of this last week while going through some of Leonard Arrington’s correspondence to his family at the Arrington Papers at Utah State University. Stashed in between Arrington’s near-weekly typewritten letters to his children was a copy of his diary entry for June 24, 1978 describing a retreat “up the slopes of Ensign Peak” with “all of the persons in the History Division of the Historical Department,” minus the secretaries “and Glen Leonard, who was ill.” As part of the retreat, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher passed out a questionnaire, inviting those assembled “to participate in some self discovery” and “respond to fifteen questions.”
By June 26, 2017
This is the fourth 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 introduction of polygamy during Nauvoo has received plenty of attention. Starting with Fawn Brodie’s exploration of Joseph Smith’s dozens of wives, scholars ranging from Todd Compton, Richard Bushman, George Smith, Brian Hales, Martha Bradley-Evans, Lawrence Foster, and Merina Smith have offered interpretations of the complex topic. The paucity of solid contemporary documents and proliferation of problematic reminiscences–not to mention the presence of teenage brides and polyandrous unions–make it a briar patch for writers. However, a common theme has dominated much of the general narrative: Joseph Smith, either divinely appointed of personally driven, sought to extend his sacerdotal connections through plural marriages. Fellow male leaders, eager to please their prophet and capitalize on his teachings, entered their own polygamous marriages. This secretive practice drew outside ire whenever rumors leaked, but internally it caused solidarity and strengthened loyalty. In this traditional framework, Nauvoo polygamy revolved around power and confidence.
Laurel Ulrich’s treatment of polygamy in her new book, A House Full of Females, bucks this trend.
By June 18, 2017
Having set the stage of the nature of early Mormon sociality in the first two chapters, in chapter three Ulrich first broaches the topic of plural marriage. But as the title of the chapter suggests, “I now turn the key to you,” the focus of the chapter is the founding of the Relief Society.
With her imposed stricture of not to “merge” reminiscences with diaries, (xx) Ulrich sets up a number of challenges, most notably the fact that very few contemporary early Mormon journals mention it. The focus of the chapter, Eliza R. Snow, said nothing about it in her Nauvoo journal and Ulrich turns to Snow’s much later affidavit to determine that Snow married Smith on June 29, 1842. Ulrich states this fact on page 61, the book’s first mention of plural marriage after the introduction. On that date, Snow wrote, “This is a day of peculiar interest to my feelings” (71).
By June 13, 2017
Charlotte Cannon Johnston, Living the Principle: My Progenitors and Polygamy (Self-published, 2016)
Charlotte Cannon Johnston’s Living the Principle: My Progenitors and Polygamy takes seriously the idea that polygamy is fundamentally connected to the history both of Mormonism as a whole and of families ancestrally tied to plural marriage. She writes that “our past is our present” and argues for the need for Mormons to re-evaluate their relationship to their ancestors’ polygamous past. Many of the stories of early Mormon women, especially in the Church curriculum, are either sanitized or erased because of discomfort around Mormon polygamy. Johnston seeks to discover the history of polygamy through the ways that plural marriage was practiced in her own family. The idea for the book emerged when she wanted to record her own story. She soon realized that before she could make sense of her own story, “I first needed to tell the stories of my ancestors” who are “inextricably linked to the history of Mormon polygamy.” (xi) The reader, therefore, is consistently aware of the relationship between Johnston and her historical subjects. Her subjectivity as author, researcher, and descendant is never too far from the surface of her writing.
Throughout the book, Johnston revisits A Mormon Mother, a memoir in which Annie Clark Tanner discusses her painful and lonely polygamous marriage to and separation from Joseph Marion Tanner, a prominent Mormon educator. Johnston reviewed this book for the famous Pink Issue of Dialogue in 1971 and at that time called the book a representation of an “articulate minority report of a difficult era.” (Appendix A, 225) As Johnston continued to research the experiences of her own family, however, she increasingly recognized the nuance in the written records on polygamy. The book therefore represents a conversation between the viewpoint in Annie Clark Tanner’s memoir and Johnston’s own relatives’ history.
The reader follows Johnston as she takes them on a tour of her polygamous history. The first two chapters are about the lives and personal records of Leonora Cannon Taylor and Elizabeth Hoagland Cannon respectively. Subsequent chapters discuss Johnston’s later polygamous ancestors. As she switches from ancestors whom she knows only through archival records to people she knows from family stories and personal relationships, the tenor of her writing also changes; later in the book, it is harder for readers to keep up with all of the family names and she references. Additionally, it is difficult for readers to disentangle the increasingly complicated family relationships that included marriages “for time,” marriages “for eternity,” and Levirate marriages. Some of this might have been dealt with more clearly, but Johnston’s narrative also points to the basic challenge of representing complicated family relationships. What happens when plural marriage warps family into shapes that no longer resemble trees? How can we visually represent the different kinds of marriages and parental relationships that emerged in polygamy?
Much of the value of this book is the way that Johnston lays bare her assumptions and the process through which her research unfolded. It has more introductory material and appendices than I have ever seen. The book will no doubt be a resource to her family as well as to those interested in the process of making and documenting family history. Johnston is scrupulous, almost to a fault, about conveying her process and how she makes sense of her history. Finally, not only does the book map out familial relationships of the dead, but it also shows the ways in which Johnston’s living family helped her scan and research archival materials as well as edit and format her manuscript. In content and form, the book fulfills the Mormon call to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6)
By June 12, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
By June 11, 2017
Emma Smith, The Elect Lady by Theodore S. Gorka
“Women’s voices trouble the old stories.”
The line lingered with me for weeks.
Then at the Mormon History Association’s annual conference LDS Church historian and recorder Elder Steven E. Snow emphasized the need for the troubling saying, “For too long Mormon women’s voices have been ignored. We, as a people, have suffered because of it.”
Chapter two of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females is a gorgeous example of how incorporating women’s accounts provides a more complete view of all of the colors and textures and corners of the tapestry of early LDS history, but also frays the neatly finished edges in troublesome ways. After the Missouri expulsion, dual male narratives act in concert–miraculous healing and distinct but likewise miraculous missionary work. Joseph Smith offered physical salvation through healing. Healing enabled male apostles to work to offer spiritual salvation to others. In a tidy reciprocal narrative structure, Latter-day Saints are provided with examples of both “what God can do for us and what we can do for God.” In both narratives, men endowed with priesthood power accomplished much.
By June 9, 2017
Research Assistant (Contract Worker) (Church History Department)
UNITED STATES | UT-Salt Lake City
ID 186050, Type: Full-Time – Temporary
Posting Dates: 06/08/2017 – 06/22/2017
Job Family: Administrative
Department: Church History Department
This Research Assistant position will support the work of several web content projects, with oversight from the Manager and other senior writers, as well, assist in some writing projects being overseen and led by the Division’s Director.
By June 8, 2017
“Following the death of Joseph Smith the policy of the church was to exclude blacks from ordination to the priesthood and from Latter-day Saint temples. Although some black members of the church were given patriarchal blessings, declarations of lineage were omitted as a matter of policy. But guidelines were not consistent, and the question remained the subject of debate. In 1934 Patriarch James H. Wallis wrote in his journal, “I have always known that one of negro blood cannot receive the Priesthood nor the blessings of the Temple, and are also disqualified from receiving a patriarchal blessing . . . But I am sure there is no objection to giving them a blessing of encouragement and comfort, leaving out all reference to lineage and sealing.” Apostle John A. Widtsoe relayed President Heber J. Grant’s reply to Wallis’s request for a ruling. It stated, “It will be alright for Brother Wallis to bless them, but as to their status in the future, that their status in the future, that is . . . in the hands of the Lord.”[i]
In a previous post, I explored the ways in which racism has been espoused by LDS leaders and average Latter-day Saints alike, and how the vestiges of some of those teachings remain in modern Latter-day Saint doctrine. In today’s post, I’d like to explore the ways in which patriarchal blessings continue to identify Latter-day Saints by racial heritage, and, in some instances, place people of African descent as separate and inferior to “white” Mormons, through the LDS Church’s counsel not to declare an Israelite lineage to African-descended Mormons.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a “patriarchal blessing” is a blessing bestowed by an ordained patriarch (in the vein of Old Testament patriarchs like Abraham), which dispenses direction and advice to the receiver. The blessing also declares the blood lineage of the receiver in relation to his or her connection to the House of Israel.[ii] Smith’s own theology was generally universalist, meaning that he did not preclude any person from obtaining salvation, regardless of racial background. In the New Testament, John the Baptist preached to the Pharisees and Sadducees that their Abrahamic lineage did not elevate their relationship or access to God. Indeed, John the Baptist informed the Jews, “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”[iii] Joseph Smith similarly believed that Abrahamic lineage did not matter in relation to salvation or divine favor. God could raise up anyone, including Africans, as “children of Abraham,” so far as they converted to Mormonism and accepted its principles and ordinances.
By June 5, 2017
Occasionally it becomes prudent for scholars within a field to assess the state of that field and to define its pasts and futures. The Mormon History Association annual meeting provided such an opportunity for Mormon Studies. The panel, “Permanent Settlement or Pending Migration? Exploring the Frontier of Mormon Studies,” featured presentations from Gerrit van Dyk, Trevan C. Hatch, and J.B. Haws.
Each presentation assessed the field in a different way. Van Dyk and Hatch both conducted interviews with prominent professors and asked about definitions, methodology, publishing venues, and the nature and audience of scholarship. Both emphasized the issues of insularity, the roles of “academic”/apologetic/popular scholarship, and ties to institutions and journals of publication. One insight that van Dyk noted was that Mormon Studies has grown in graduate programs before undergraduate programs—in contrast to Catholic Studies and Jewish Studies programs. Hatch offered Jewish Studies as both an example and cautionary tale for Mormon Studies in its strict academic scholarship. Haws’ presentation highlighted the change in institutional attention and broader acceptance of Mormon Studies since the early 1990s. The panel, as a whole, was a pretty fair introduction to Mormon Studies as a field.
By June 2, 2017
We would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2017 MHA awards! Please find them below:
Leonard Arrington Award:
Jill Mulvay Derr
Simpson, Thomas W. American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940. University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
Prince, Stephen L. Hosea Stout: Lawman, Legislator, Mormon Defender. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2016.
Best Book International Mormonism:
Takagi, Shinji. The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968. Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2016.
Best Memoir / Personal History:
Bate, Kerry William. The Women: A Family Story. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.
Hendrix-Komoto, Amanda. “Mahana, You Naked! Modesty, Sexuality, and Race in the Mormon Pacific.” In Out of Obscurity: Mormonism Since 1945, edited by Patrick Q. Mason and John G. Turner, 173?97. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Article of Excellence:
Turley Jr. Richard E. and Jeffrey G. Cannon. “A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints.” BYU Studies Quarterly 55, no. 1 (2016): 9-38.
Best International Article:
Rutherford, Taunalyn. “The Internationalization of Mormonism: Indications from India.” In Out of Obscurity: Mormonism since 1945, edited by Patrick Q. Mason and John G. Turner, 37?62. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Best Women’s History Article
Newell, Quincy. “What Jane James Saw.” In Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Patrick Q. Mason, 135?51. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.
Graduate Student Awards:
Best unpublished graduate student paper
Kitterman, Katherine. “‘No Ordinary Feelings’: Mormon Women’s Petitions, 1870-1886.”
Brumbaugh Jr., John Howard. “‘We are Entitled to, and We Must Have, Medical Care’: San Juan County’s Farm Security Administration Medical Plan, 1938-1946”
Smith, Christopher C. “Mormon Conquest: Whites and Natives in the Intermountain West, 1847-1851”
By May 30, 2017
Later this week bloggers associated with the Juvenile Instructor will assemble at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri (just outside of St. Louis), a yearly highlight for us. Many of us will be participating in the program as presenters, commentators, and chairs. This post summarizes our contributions.
By May 29, 2017
Seth Perry, “The Many Bibles of Joseph Smith: Textual, Prophetic, and Scholarly Authority in Early-National Bible Culture,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84, no. 3 (September 2016): 750–75.
One of the things I appreciate about our Article Review series, episodic as it may be, is that it enables bite-size engagement with some of the most important new scholarship as it comes into being. So much work is produced these days that we may not pay enough attention toward the notable arguments that do appear and a deserve a critical appraisal. And while books may be the gold standard, the genre of the article allows for us to engage at a more granular level, giving us a chance to sample and respond to important monographs in the making. My case in point here is Seth Perry’s JAAR article from September of last year: “The Many Bibles of Joseph Smith: Textual, Prophetic, and Scholarly Authority in Early-National Bible Culture.” This important article gives us a bite of Perry’s forthcoming book on the dynamics of early-national Bible culture. We also get a taste of how his arguments bear on the history of Mormonism and Mormon scripture.
By May 23, 2017
The countdown to MHA has begun. 9 days and counting…. (If you still need to register go here.)
Help support and promote Mormon women’s history with the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Bazaar. Plan now to attend MWHIT’s second annual fundraiser bazaar and silent auction, June 2-4, 2017, at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. Donate handmade clothing, textiles, crafts, or professional skills (editing, writing, consulting, etc.). Donations are welcome even if you can’t attend in person. Contact any member of the MWHIT team with questions. All proceeds from the bazaar will help fund MWHIT programs and writing awards.
By May 19, 2017
This summer, Juvenile Instructor is hosting a series on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new and long-awaited book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism. (The first two posts of the series can be found here and here.)
Many of you will have already learned the devastating news that the Ulrichs’ son Nathan, died in a plane crash in the Bahamas earlier this week, along with his girlfriend and her two sons. Out of respect for this immense loss, we will be pausing our discussion of Laurel’s book, to be resumed at a later date. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information on this hiatus.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, their friends, and loved ones at this time.
By May 14, 2017
Though it’s not in this chapter, If I were to pull a sentence from Ulrich’s book that I feel summarizes her project, it’s this: “Well before plural marriage became a recognized practice in the Church, these women had learned to value bonds of faith over biological or regional connections.” (xv)
When Phebe Carter Woodruff sent her husband Wilford off to serve a mission in the British Isles, she secured a small poem in his luggage. “While onward he his footsteps bend / May he find Mothers, and kind friends,” the lines ran. (38)
By May 12, 2017
The Immigration and Ethnic History Society has generously agreed to cross-post this content on their blog. The posts are slightly different, and I try to introduce Mormon readers here to scholarship in Immigration History, and IEHS readers there to scholarship in Mormon History. I’m hoping to facilitate conversation across audiences. Here’s the link:
In 1897, “Pres. G.Q. Cannon stated that the Presidents of Missions had been instructed not to encourage people to emigrate to Utah until they had become well grounded in the faith and not then until times in Utah became better, unless they have friends or means to provide a home on their arrival.” This discouragement became public the next year in 1898, when Mormon Apostle George Q. Cannon stated in the semiannual church-wide gathering, general conference, “There is one course that has been taken which I think will be attended with good efforts, that is, counselling the Saints in the various lands where they embrace the Gospel to remain quiet for a while; to not be anxious to break up their homes to gather to Zion.” This was the first of many announcements that called for the end of the gathering. Why did Cannon renege Mormonism’s long history with open immigration? How did the end of the gathering come about, and what did it mean for Mormonism?
By May 9, 2017
Last year, we shared what we planned/hoped to read over the summer. Here are our lists for this summer–be sure to add your own reading lists in the comments!
This summer I’ll be studying for my comprehensive exams full time. Rather than list the 300 books still on my list, here are three books from each of my three major fields.
- The Basics: Despite recently starting my PhD in American history, I feel like I still have a lot left to learn of just the basics of the field. In order to do some catching up, I have a few basic American history textbooks, including Give Me Liberty! An American History by Eric Foner. Much of my year thus far has been about thinking about entangled histories and the nuance in historical movements. While I mostly support the movement to complicate ideas about the past, I also have been craving learning some of the foundations. One of my goals this semester is to play with new formats to process and think about historical information and therefore, I want to create a large scale timeline, using some of the basic info that I find in Foner’s book, that will enable me to better visualize American history.
- Theory: A recent research project has got me thinking a lot about governmentality and surveillance as a means of knowing and controlling populations. Additionally, I have continually seen Foucault’s ideas (as well as Marx) in my readings throughout this semester as authors reference ideas that are indebted to Foucault without actually explaining them. I want to read The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception in order understand the ways that Foucault talks about the epistemic change in medicine. Secondly, I want to read The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction where Foucault discusses investigates the genealogy of how sexuality has been constructed over time. In both these books, I am looking forward to learning more about the ways Foucault grounds the body in discussions about power, sexuality, and governance.
- Journals: Another goal I have for the summer is to read more Mormon journals. In the fall, I started reading A widow’s tale: the 1884-1896 diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Helen’s journal especially has frequent vivid and intimate entries that made me deeply embedded in her life and I look forward to reading more. Additionally, I recently got the Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies by Davis Bitton from the library and look forward to using his descriptions of Mormon diaries as a jumping off place for where to look next in my readings.
- Theme: “Race, Gender, and Sex, oh my!” As I finished revisions on my book manuscript, I was ashamed with how little I engaged with this broad and significant field. It’s time to remedy that ill. I’m really excited to dig into Tera W. Hunter’s Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard UP), Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press), and Marisa Fuentes’s Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archives (UPenn Press).
- Theme: “The Basics of the Revolutionary Age.” I’m teaching a graduate course on the American Revolution for the first time this summer, so I’m digging into a number of the newest books to track current trends. Randomly, three of them are from the same publisher. These include Mike Rapport’s, The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution (Basic Books), Carol Berkin’s A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books), John Boles’s Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty (Basic Books), and Holger Hoock’s Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (Crown), and Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre (Harvard UP).
- Theme: “Jackson’s America.” Since my Nauvoo project is rooted in antebellum America, I’m excited to see some other histories that similarly aim to uproot traditional narratives of the period. These include J. M. Opal’s Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation (Oxford University Press) and Christina Snyder’s Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press).
- And two books that don’t fit a broader theme but I’m also excited to read are Douglas L. Winiarski’s Darkness Falls Upon the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (UNC/Omohundro) and David Garrow’s The Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (William Marrow). Winiarski’s articles that led to this book were so excellent that I’ve been counting down the days for its release. And though I’ve been worried by early reviews of Garrow’s book in which his narrative of 44 seems overly dramatic, it will still be a nice form of escapism to imaging we aren’t living under the rule of 45.
- Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. I’m admittedly skeptical of anything but that claims to be “the definitive history” of anything, but Kendi’s book, winner of the National Book Award, comes pretty close to living up to its subtitle’s billing. I’ve been slowly making my way through whenever I have a minute here or there. This is beautifully-written and incredibly important.
- Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. I’m indexing the book, so I’ve already read through it once, but it’s been a pleasure to see Max’s detailed research over the last several years comes to fruition. Standing alongside several other recent books exploring the subject of Mormonism’s complicated history of race, Max’s stands out for its focus on the experience of Mormons of color and its close and provocative reading of the Book of Mormon.
- Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic. I’ll have a review up at some point at JI, so I’ll keep my comments brief. Jortner manages to offer a fresh perspective on a well-covered subject: Mormonism, anti-Mormonism, and miracles.
- James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa; Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers; Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. I am busily at work writing a new chapter for my book manuscript that examines the parallel rise and earliest connections between black Methodist churches in the United States, Canada, and West Africa, and revisiting some early works that touch on those topics or speak to the broader context in which they occurred. I’m starting with these three.
- William Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Transitioning from my research to my teaching, I’m considering adopting this one for the US survey in the fall, but want to give it a closer read to make sure that it meets all of my qualifications.
- One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen Prothero. As I move deeper into American religious life, both personally and professionally, my reading list amasses more titles that try to elucidate what it is, exactly, that makes American Christianity well, so American.
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir by Michael Hicks. I have listened to countless hours of MoTab music on Pandora in the process of writing my dissertation. As the inauguration controversy in January showed, the choir is still a powerful symbol of Mormonism in America, so it’s high time I read this book.
- The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History by Robert Tracy McKenzie. It popped up recently on the Religion in American History blog, and it reminded me I own it, but haven’t yet read it. I’m interested in McKenzie’s historiographical and confessional approach, and figured you can never start amassing talking points for Thanksgiving dinner early enough, right?
By May 7, 2017
This is the first in a series of sixteen posts 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. Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook
“Light snow obscured the view of the mountains on January 13, 1870 as masses of Mormon women crowded in to the old peaked-roof Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The pine benches were hard, the potbellied stoves inadequate against the cold. No matter. They would warm themselves with indignation.”
So begins Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s latest book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, in which she analyzes the twin growth of the institution of polygamy within the LDS Church and the place of Mormon women in the broader struggle for women’s rights.[i] Many readers, like the newspaper writers that wrote about Mormonism, may be skeptical that plural marriage created and fostered women-centric organizations and social networks. Ulrich acknowledges their skepticism and asks, “How could women simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights while defending marital practices that to most people seemed relentlessly patriarchal?”
By May 5, 2017
June 1-4, 2017, Historic St Charles, St Louis area Missouri.
Mormon History Association’s 52nd Annual Conference is coming quickly–the first weekend in June in St. Louis. Registration prices will increase after May 6th. Go here to register. (You must have already joined MHA to get member pricing. Go here if you still need to join for the year.) Check out conference information here and a copy of the preliminary program here. We want to see you there.
By May 2, 2017
Seven years ago when I was starting this project, I came across the three-tiered system of the Neoplatonist Hierocles, who called the first step the telestic, or purifying mystery rites. Thinking that was a remarkable similarity among many other similarities between Neoplatonism and Mormonism, I wrote this post giving an overview of those similarities and proposing Hierocles’s system as the possible source of that unusual word.
Many expressed understandable skepticism, and as I was brainstorming, I said the following in comment 17: