By July 26, 2016
Last week, Nathan Johnson, an African-American convert to Mormonism who currently serves as second counselor in the Kirtland Ohio Stake Presidency, offered the invocation on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Johnson’s prayer attracted a fair amount of attention, both because of Mormons’ widespread distaste for Donald Trump and his campaign and because of the prayer’s content. But Johnson was not the first Latter-day Saint to pray at the Republican National Convention. In fact, four out of the last five have featured invocations by Mormons: Steve Young (2000), Sheri Dew (2004), Ken Hutchins (2012), and Nathan Johnson (2016). Only the 2008 convention lacked a Latter-day Saint prayer.
I thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare their respective prayers, to note any commonalities between them (beyond use of thee, thou, and thine), and to consider the contexts in which they were given. What follows below is a transcription of each invocation, followed by my preliminary attempt to briefly historicize each.
By July 25, 2016
This is the eighth 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 installments one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven here.. This part focuses on chapters 21 through 23 (Epilogue), which follow Emma at the end of her life through her passing in April of 1879 and continuing her legacy.
Chapter 21, “Josephites and Brighamites: 1870-1877” continues with Joseph III’s leadership of the new Reorganized Church, and his attempts to proselytize for membership in Utah and California, first through assigned missionaries and later by sending his own brothers to Utah. These meetings in the 1860s and 1870s were awkward and politely cautious at best, and volcanic at worst. Mormons in Utah seemed fascinated by these visits from the offspring of their beloved dead prophet, even holding out hope that they might reconvert to the “true church.” Cousins met cousins on politely civil ground, but the visiting “Josephites” from Illinois and the established “Brighamites” in Utah could only dance in cold, tense circles around each other, until some visits escalated into blow-ups, sometimes over succession, but always over polygamy. Of course, Brigham Young consistently placed blame for all of this squarely on Emma. This chapter highlights how the visits of the sons only heightened Brigham’s pent-up anger toward Emma. At one meeting with Church leaders, someone tried to remind Brigham that “We love these boys for their father’s sake,” but still he blew up, insisting that Emma was “the damnedest liar that lives,” (285) and that she had tried to kill Joseph twice through poisoning. Honestly, I was struck by the very sexist way these grown men on both sides used this aging woman as a pawn in their tit-for-tat over plural marriage. Just as Brigham was absolutely obsessed with proving the divinity of plural marriage and it connections to Joseph, so did Joseph III have a “recurring preoccupation with separating his church and family from the taint of plural marriage.” (291) The two could never be reconciled.
By July 22, 2016
It is that time of year again, when members all over the world are asked to give talks honoring July 24, 1847– the official date when a company of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley via Emigration Canyon. For Mormons, this is a significant date of historical and spiritual meaning: it marks the moment of relief after years of persecutions in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; it represents finding formal safety in their exile, freedom from religious persecution, distance from the oppressors, and arrival and rebirth in a land of spiritual and physical possibility. In Utah, Idaho, and other western states where members might be more likely to trace some ancestry back to the original pioneers, the third Sunday in July is usually set aside to honor the pioneer experience in a religious setting.
By July 20, 2016
A few weeks ago, Tom Cutterham at The Junto shared what he was reading this summer. I thought it would be fun to post about what I and other JIers are reading this summer–both to find new books to read and because I’m interested in what folks choose to read for pleasure. Please share what you’re reading in the comments!
By July 18, 2016
Click here for part one, two, three, four, five, and six of this year’s summer book club.
This week’s chapters address Emma’s experiences in Nauvoo after the population of Nauvoo became thoroughly non-Mormon (Ch 19: “Change in Nauvoo,” 1850-1860) and as her sons (and Joseph Smith, the prophet’s sons) became established as adults and potentially key figures within Mormonism (Ch 20: “Emma’s Sons, Lewis’s Son,” 1860-1870).
By July 14, 2016
Philip Lockley, ed., Protestant Communalism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1650-1850 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
A little more than five years ago, I posted some thoughts on Scott Rohrer’s chapter on Mormonism in his Wandering Souls: Protestant Migrations in America, 1630-1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). I was particularly intrigued by his inclusion of Mormonism in a volume on Protestant migrations, and a lively conversation and debate over whether Mormonism is, was, or ever has been Protestant ensued in the comments.
By July 11, 2016
Click here for part one, two, three, four, and five of this year’s summer book club.
This week’s chapters address the transitions in Emma Smith’s life from Winter 1845-1846 through the removal of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo in 1846 to the Elect Lady’s marriage to Lewis Bidamon and his travels throughout 1849. Brilliantly, the authors open these chapters with a letter forged by James Bennet and/or associates of his, published in the New York Sun. In the fraudulent letter, someone impersonating Emma claims that the current governing leaders of the Mormon Church were “tyrants” and that she planned to raise her children in another faith. Furthermore, the letter-writer claimed to have never believed her husband’s revelations or his religious innovations.
By July 8, 2016
Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016), and
David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005), with William Robert Wright.
Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History is perhaps most usefully read in tandem with Prince’s earlier book published with the University of Utah Press, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (with William Robert Wright; 2005). The covers of the two books resemble each other; their size, in both height and width as well as thickness, are all designed to present them as visual twins. I think we might be able to read them as an intellectual pair as well.
By July 7, 2016
Mormonism and Media Studies, at least from a historical perspective, has been a relatively neglected topic. Recently, however, two major academic journals have published articles that engage Mormon history from the perspective of German media theorist Friedrich A. Kittler. The first article is by John Durham Peters, the A. Craig Baird Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. It is entitled “Recording beyond the Grave: Joseph Smith’s Celestial Bookkeeping” and it appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Critical Inquiry. The article is unfortunately only available to subscribers, but here is an excerpt:
By July 4, 2016
Click here for part one, two, three, and four of this year’s summer book club.
I have a magnet of Emma Smith on my fridge. It’s the lone souvenir of the church history trip I took in the summer of 2014, from Palmyra all the way down to Nauvoo, and I bought it at the Community of Christ-operated shop in Nauvoo. Emma’s portrait stares at me, amongst the magnets commemorating visits to national parks and museums, pictures of my family, postcards my friends send me from far-away places, and the coupons I can never remember to use before they expire. I deliberately did not buy the portrait of Joseph Smith. As a non-Mormon, Joseph is mostly irrelevant to my life, except in the ways he matters to those that matter to me. But Emma, Emma I feel for. And thus she has a place in my kitchen, and I was excited to start this year’s book club selection.
By June 29, 2016
From the Program Committee:
Mormon History Association 52nd Annual Conference
Call for Papers
2017 St. Louis, Missouri
“Crossing and Dwelling in Mormon History”
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.
By June 27, 2016
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.
By June 23, 2016
Western Association of Women Historians
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.
By June 22, 2016
[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)
By June 21, 2016
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.
By June 20, 2016
[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.”
By June 16, 2016
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.
By June 15, 2016
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.
By June 14, 2016
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.
By June 13, 2016
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.