By May 26, 2016
[We are pleased to share another Scholarly Inquiry, this time with Thomas Simpson, an instructor at Philips Exeter Academy. We have highlighted his scholarship here at JI twice before. His long awaited book, American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940, is forthcoming from University of North Carolina Press. Make sure to pre-order his book from this site and use discount code 01DAH40 to get 40% off.]
1) How did you become interested in this topic?
Partly through deep and close family connections to Latter-day Saints, including many who have gone to BYU and earned graduate degrees from universities outside the Intermountain West. But I didn’t get seriously interested in the academic study of Mormonism until I was in graduate school at the University of Virginia. I was preparing for doctoral examinations, and intending to write a dissertation on the Social Gospel, when I became consumed by the question of Mormonism’s evolution from a small, persecuted sect into a vibrant, global faith. Shortly after I passed my exams (hallelujah!) my adviser, Heather Warren, gave me the green light to develop a proposal for a dissertation in Mormon history. I started searching through Davis Bitton’s Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies – initially looking for evidence of Mormon reactions to the Woodruff Manifesto – and I noticed something peculiar: a pattern of Mormons migrating to elite universities, as early as the 1870s. It didn’t make any sense to me, and I wanted to know more.
By May 25, 2016
Taysom is presently working on a biography of Joseph F. Smith, to be published with the University of Utah Press. He’s graciously agreed to an interview.
Your previous book was a theoretical study of boundary maintenance among nineteenth century Mormons and Shakers. What led you to next write a biography of Joseph F. Smith?
By May 23, 2016
Last year, we at the Juvenile Instructor started a Summer Book Club on Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. The posts garnered thousands of views, many helpful comments, and publicity from the Salt Lake Tribune and the Religion News Service. I received notes from friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers who benefited from reading along with us. It was extremely gratifying to hear from folks that found a reason to tackle such an important biography.
In the spirit of introducing non-specialists and non-academics to Mormon history, we have decided to read Linda King Newell’s and Valeen Tippetts Avery’s Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. We landed on Mormon Enigma for several reasons. First, we wanted to address the history of women in Mormon history. There are very few books on women in Mormonism—far fewer, at any rate, than books on men’s actions, thoughts, lives, and decisions. For instance, there are several biographies on Joseph Smith but only Newell and Avery have written a biography of Emma Smith.
By May 20, 2016
Paul Peterson’s thesis was for a long time the go-to resource for the cultural context of the Joseph Smith (JS) revelation known as the Word of Wisdom (WoW). He focuses mostly on booze, the temperance movement, and health reformers (e.g., Sylvester Graham of cracker fame). The more scholarly of the commentaries typically used by Mormons have generally stuck with that [n1].
By May 19, 2016
In September 1853, John C. Frémont embarked on his fifth and final overland expedition of the American West. Accompanying the noted explorer on his final journey was Solomon Nunes Carvalho, a South Carolina-born Sephardic Jew of Spanish and Portuguese descent. Carvalho was an accomplished painter and photographer, and in spite of having a wife and three children at home, eagerly “accepted [Frémont’s] invitation to accompany him as artist of an Exploring Expedition across the Rocky Mountains.”
Over the course of the next year, Solomon Nunes Carvalho traveled with the Frémont expedition “across the Great American Desert,” including an extended stay in Utah, where he spent three months recovering from sickness. Unfortunately, almost all of the sketches, paintings, and daguerrotypes from Carvalho’s journey (including several from his time among the Mormons) are no longer extant, evidently destroyed in a fire. But an account of his journey was published in 1856 as Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West, a volume that proved popular enough to go through several additional printings on both sides of the Atlantic.
By May 18, 2016
After discovering claims that Indian women breastfed beavers, I become interested in whether or not other stories existed about women breastfeeding animals. I first continued my search for Indian women breastfeeding and discovered several stories in which Indian women had suckled deer, bears, and other animals. As I was searching, however, I came across a number of instances where white doctors recommended that their patients breastfeed animals in order to reduce engorgement or to toughen the nipple. In 1687, for example, a Dutch physician named Paul Babette suggested that engorged breasts could be “cured in one days space with [a] compound Ointment of Marshmallows” if “the wary matter” was “suck[ed] out by a Woman or Whelp.” In 1734, Richard Wiseman reiterated the suggestion that women whose breasts were too full with milk find a “neighboring woman,” some “young Whelps,” or an “instrument” she could use herself to empty them. In 1847, William Dewees went further than recommending that women use puppies if their breasts were engorged and suggested that women could improve their breastfeeding experience
By May 17, 2016
You may have heard about Google Books Ngram Viewer or perhaps even dabbled with it at some point in the recent past, but I will dive a bit deeper into using the tool for the purpose of historical textual analysis.
An Overview of Ngrams
In the field of computational linguistics, an n-gram is an adjoining chain of n items in a sequence of speech or text. N-grams are extracted from a corpus of speech or text and are ordered as sets. An n-gram of size 1 is a unigram (“binders”), size 2 is a bigram (“many binders”), size 3 is a trigram (“binders of women”), and greater sizes are referred to as four-grams (“binders full of women”), five-grams (“many binders full of women”), and so on.
The corpora accessible via the Google’s Ngram Viewer includes American English, British English, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, and Italian processed between 2009-2012. The text within this corpora is derived from Google’s massive Google Books digitization endeavor, which is still ongoing. They note on their website that they have only included those books with sufficiently high optical character recognition (OCR) percentages and serials were also excluded from this corpora.1 If you are at all curious, you can download the dataset here.
The Google Books Ngram Viewer is optimized for quick inquiries into the usage of small sets of phrases (or n-grams as described above). The following embedded queries are to help us get more familiar with what is possible using this tool.
By May 15, 2016
This year, Kris W. and I are running a workshop on Mormonism in Religious Studies (which embraces the methodologies of history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, etc.). We will meet at the University of Utah on Tuesday, June 7, from 9 AM to 5 PM. We will congregate in Room 351 of the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Center. There is parking close by ($) but the building is also accessible by Trax or UTA bus routes.
As a participant, you will be responsible for “presenting” a colleague’s paper to the rest of the group. You will be responsible for introducing the paper to the group and assessing the paper’s strengths and weaknesses (5 minutes or less). You will then lead a discussion on the paper for 20-30 minutes.
Participants should submit a paper to their readers by May 27th, 2016 by 11:59 PM. The papers can be up to 10,000 words, including footnotes. Your submission could be anything from a blog post to a book or dissertation chapter. It is expected that each participant will read each other participant’s paper and make comments for the benefit of the author, either in track changes or by hand.
We will also discuss trends in “Mormon Studies,” or as I prefer to think of it, the study of Mormonism within an academic framework, often using the tools of religious studies. As a part of that discussion, we will read:
Dr. Richard Bushman
Dr. Jan Shipps
Dr. Stephen Taysom
Many participants will have read these articles before, but Kris and I feel that they will allow us to have an informative and engaging conversation.
Please let Kris or I know if you would like to attend by e-mail, joseph dot stuart at utah dot edu. We hope to make the workshop an annual tradition–please send a note if you’d like to be included in the future.
By May 12, 2016
John G. Turner, The Mormon Jesus: A Biography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016.
John Turner’s new book about Mormons resembles his previous in some ways. There, as here, he tilts a familiar subject like a prism, slightly on an angle, and in so doing casts light on areas of Mormonism previously neglected. Turner’s book about Brigham Young probed deeply into the private life of the figure normally described as Mormonism’s great organizer and administrator, and so we came to know more about the slow formalization of polygamy, and the hectic landscapes of early Mormon religiosity, and the traumatic, rough and violent nineteenth century American frontier.
Here, in The Mormon Jesus, Turner delves into a topic as similarly contentious and argued over (though mostly among practitioners rather than students of American religion) as Brigham Young: Mormonism’s ideas about Jesus.
By May 11, 2016
Ronald W. Walker left an indelible impression on many Juvenile Instructor bloggers (and friends of the JI). For some, it was primarily through reading his work or hearing his conference presentations. Others of us got to know him on a more personal level, and we have contributed brief tributes below, reflecting on Ron as a historian, mentor, and friend.
Brett D. Dowdle, Joseph Smith Papers
I was saddened to learn of Ron’s death. The first time I read one of Ron’s articles was in 2006, when I read “Crisis in Zion: Heber J. Grant and the Panic of 1893.” I was instantly captivated. Ron had a way with words and a command of research that few historians ever approach. In June 2008, I was privileged to meet him for the first time, beginning a long friendship as he kindly took me on as a research assistant for his biography of Brigham Young. At the time he hired me, I was an inexperienced graduate student and historian, but he kindly worked with me to teach me how to become a proficient researcher. While working with Ron, my understanding of and appreciation for the early Utah period grew exponentially as we discussed the topic in his office. Up to the very end, Ron was dedicated to research and writing, and was pushing forward with his work on Brigham Young.
By May 10, 2016
Yesterday, the Joseph Smith Papers Project released their latest volume: Documents 4 (April 1834–September 1835). I am looking forward to diving into the volume in the coming days, but for now here are my notes from the release event:
By May 9, 2016
Word is beginning to spread that Ronald Walker, long time practitioner of Mormon history, passed away early this morning after a long struggle with cancer. Walker was immensely influential not only within the historical community, but also with many of us here at Juvenile Instructor on a personal level. We will have a post with individual tributes soon, where it will be clear that his personal relationships far outweighed even his academic work, but right now I want to give a brief overview of his scholarly accomplishments.
Originally from Montana and California, Walker received degrees from BYU, Stanford, and the University of Utah. At first part of the CES as an institute teacher and curriculum writer, Walker joined Leonard Arrington’s “camelot” in 1976. (Walker later helped fashion Arrington’s legacy through projects like co-editing his reflections.) When the history division was dissolved and moved to BYU in 1980, he became a professor of history and part of the newly-founded Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, and later became involved with the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies as well. He was exceptionally prolific during this period with articles, edited collections, and frequent involvement with BYU Studies. Walker retired from BYU in 2006 to be a full-time independent historian with a laundry list of projects to complete.
By May 5, 2016
As early-bird registration for #MHA2016 wraps up this Saturday, May 7, I thought it would be useful to highlight what our authors will speak about at this year’s conference.
In alphabetical order:
By May 4, 2016
When the Juvenile Instructor was originally conceived in Fall 2007, it was by five BYU students who had at least two things in common. First: we loved Mormon history. And second: we were all significantly influenced by Spencer Fluhman, then an assistant professor of Church History at BYU. (A third point of similarity was we all loved to waste time on the bloggernacle.) Besides being a charismatic and gregarious professor, Dr. Fluhman represented the witty and integrative field of Mormon studies to which he contributed. Since that time, Juvenile Instructor flowered into what it is today, and Fluhman emerged as a leading figure in not on Mormon studies but American religious history. He moved over to the history department, published his award-winning “A Peculiar People”: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (UNC Press, 2012) which Jon Butler declared “the quintessential history book” (see our Q&A with Fluhman about the book here), and then was announced editor of the newly re-launched Mormon Studies Review (which I wrote about here). Three volumes of MSR have appeared since then, each containing reviews and essays from leading scholars in Mormon and American religious history, and the journal is now the premier arbiter for books in the field. (Note: I’m biased.)
Today, BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship announced Spencer Fluhman as the new director. You can read the official announcement here.
By May 3, 2016
A few years ago at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association, I asked a question about how Mormons viewed Native American polygamy and sexuality. The answer from the panel was that very little work had been done on that area. I meant to answer that question in my dissertation but ended up shelving it. This semester, as I was revising my dissertation into a book manuscript, I decided to spend a significant amount of time reading nineteenth-century Utah newspapers in order to determine whether or not the practice of Mormon polygamy changed how Mormons viewed Native American sexuality.
I’m not done with that bit of research yet, but as I was working on it, I came upon this fascinating piece of evidence.
On May 9, 1884, The Salt Lake City Herald published an article called Beaver Kittens, which spent a great deal of time discussing the lives and habits of baby beavers. Contained with the article was the following paragraph, which accuses Native American women of breastfeeding beavers:
By May 2, 2016
Brian Birch, Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University, will be teaching a course on the intellectual life of Mormonism this coming fall at the University of Utah. He has kindly made his syllabus and course readings available online, which many readers will want to read at their leisure.
By April 28, 2016
I attend a LDS Homemaking Meeting and bring a book that I am reading with me. It is an older volume on the teachings of Joseph Smith. I share a quote that has left me perplexed:
Respecting the female laying on hands, he further remark’d, there could be no devil in it if God gave his sanction by healing— that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water— that it is no sin for anybody to do it that has faith, or if the sick has faith to be heal’d by the administration
Nobody has ever heard of this before. None of us know how to make sense of it. I leave unsatisfied, with more questions than answers.
By April 21, 2016
This last year, as part of my position as a fellow with the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy here at the University of Missouri, I ran a seminar aimed for members of the Columbia, MO, community on Mormonism’s relationship with American politics. We just held our final meeting last week, and the entire seminar was an absolute blast. (But I may be biased.) I thought others might be interested to see what we read and discussed, and this post might serve as a resource for other scholars and onlookers.
By April 19, 2016
Helen Z. Papanikolas Award for
Best Student Paper on Utah Women’s History
Utah State History sponsors the Papanikolas Award to encourage new scholarly research in the area of Utah women’s history at colleges and universities. The award is named for Helen Z. Papanikolas (1917-2004), a former member of the Utah State Board of History who was most noted for her research and writing on Utah and ethnic history, but also wrote fiction, as well as women’s history.
Helen Z. Papanikolas
- Papers must address some historical aspect of women’s lives in Utah.
- The author must be enrolled at a college or university.
- Papers need not be published.
- Papers should include original research that includes primary sources. The paper must be footnoted.
- Papers should not be more than 50 pages long.
- Papers must be received by May 15, 2016.
- Please call or E-mail us on May 16, 2016 if you have not heard directly from us that we received your paper.
The winner receives a monetary award as well as being honored at Utah State History’s annual meeting held September 30, 2016 in Salt Lake City.
Submit papers to:
By April 15, 2016
Call for Papers for the Annual Conference of The Communal Studies Association
October 6–8, 2016
Salt Lake City, Utah
Anticipating the End Times:
Millennialism, Apocalypticism, and Utopianism in Intentional Communities