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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By May 25, 2014


We’re back with another installment of your weekly roundup of links to articles, blog posts, and other notices in the world of Mormon Studies.

The Boston Globe ran an article on Harvard’s participation in the online course (MOOC) craze. Of interest to JI readers is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s participation. Dr. Ulrich’s class, “Tangible Things,” is a material history course that “will teach history through artifacts in Harvard’s museum collections to an expected 10,000 students.” Ulrich’s fellow Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney also made headlines recently when he weighed in on Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Police Commissioner Robert Copeland’s use of a racial slur to describe President Obama. Nothing particularly Mormon about Romney’s comments, but scholars of Mormon and race may want to take note.

Meanwhile, Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at CGU Patrick Mason was named a Fulbright Scholar. CGU’s website has all of the details about his upcoming “travel to the West University of Timisoara in Romania, where he will teach courses in American history, politics, and culture.” Congrats, Patrick!

Over at Rational Faiths, Laurel Sandberg-Armstrong summarizes the recent changes to Young Women lessons.

Those of you in Salt Lake will want to take note of Chad Orton’s June 12 lecture on George Q. Cannon’s mission to Hawaii at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Orton helped edit GQC’s Hawaii mission journals (which are now complete and set to be published in early July!). Greg Kofford Books posted an interview with Joe Spencer, whose For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope, is imminently forthcoming as well.

The Center for Religion & American Culture at IUPUI is hosting a conference on The Bible in American Life. The entire program looks fantastic, and JI readers will be particularly interested in Amy Easton-Flake’s presentation on “Biblical Women in the Woman’s Exponent: The Bible in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism.” Over at the Religion in American History blog, Paul Putz posted Part II of his preview of forthcoming books in American Religious History this year, a list that includes Terryl Givens’s Wrestling the Angel and Thomas Carter’s “biography of the cultural landscape of western LDS settlements,” Building Zion.

Part I of Putz’s list, posted in January, included David Howlett’s long-anticipated Kirtland Temple: Biography of a Sacred Space. That volume is scheduled to be released on Friday this week (!!), so hurry up and order your copy now.

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Mormons and Basketball in the Philippines

By February 25, 2014


LDS Meeting House, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

Just a quick note today to point readers to my post that went up yesterday at Peculiar People. It looks at the basketball-crazed nation of the Philippines and wonders about the place of basketball-crazed Mormons within that wider phenomenon. If you served a mission in the Philippines or are a basketball fan or otherwise want to weigh in, please do, either in the comments here or over there. Here’s a preview:

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By February 16, 2014


Missed out on the latest news in the world of Mormon Studies? We’re here for you and back with another weekly roundup of relevant links. Let’s get to it:

Over at Rational Faiths, Connell O’Donovan writes about three newly discovered early black Mormon women. The discovery—incredibly important to recovering the African American presence in early Mormonism in all of its facets—is based on careful and surely time-consuming analysis of personal papers and printed sources. 

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“Crows Can Now Eat Crickets”: An attempt to complicate our understanding of LDS reactions to the 1978 Revelation on the race-based Priesthood and Temple Ban

By February 12, 2014


What follows is a sort of follow-up to Joey’s excellent post last week analyzing reactions to the 1978 revelation ending the race-based priesthood and temple ban. I am admittedly far outside of my own field here, and it is entirely possible I’m not aware of some study that has already been written and published. Please feel free to point out any such work in the comments, and to otherwise respond to the post.

In December 2007, perennial presidential candidate and prominent Mormon Mitt Romney was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the 1978 revelation that signaled a shift in LDS church policy and lifted the ban that had previously denied people of African descent ordination to the priesthood and entrance into LDS temples. Romney’s response was a familiar one to most Mormons:

I can remember when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from — I think it was law school, but I was driving home — going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio and I pulled over and literally wept. Even to this day, it’s emotional.

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Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places: Volume 2 – Beastie Boys; Or, “No Man Knows My Lyrics”

By January 22, 2014


This is the second entry in the recently launched, occasional, not-at-all regular, sporadic  JI series, Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places. The basic idea is fairly straightforward: to identify instances in which Mormon Studies authors and/or their books, articles, etc. make an unexpected appearance in popular culture, political discourse, etc. Read the first entry here.

beastie-boys3

I’m like Fawn Brodie?

A few weeks ago, my cousin excitedly asked me on facebook if I knew that a Beastie Boys song contained a lyric referencing Fawn Brodie. I wasn’t aware, but it seemed plausible enough — the band is known for their clever lyrics, the late Adam “MCA” Yauch was reportedly somewhat eclectic in his own approach to religion, and their 1994 hit single, “Root Down,” referenced the band’s preference for snowboarding the powder of Utah’s slopes. Still, I was surprised to learn of the Fawn Brodie lyric.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By January 12, 2014


For you Sunday morning reading pleasure, it’s another Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup. Here we go:

On the academic front, join us in congratulating our friends over at the Religion in the American West blog, who were successful in achieving group status in the American Academy of Religion. Also of interest to those readers who study the American West — the Montana Historical Society has launched a website to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state. Check out a detailed list of features here. Meanwhile, The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists has released the program for its forthcoming conference at UNC-Chapel Hill (March 13-16), which includes the following panel of potential interest to JI readers:

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Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places: Volume 1 – Veronica Mars

By December 17, 2013


What follows is the first entry in what I intend to be an occasional, not-at-all regular, sporadic series here at the Juvenile Instructor: Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places. The basic idea is fairly straightforward: to identify instances in which Mormon Studies authors and/or their books, articles, etc. make an unexpected appearance in popular culture, political discourse, etc. 

In the third-to-last episode of the final season of Veronica Mars, a television show that aired from 2004-2007 on the CW about a witty, sarcastic, and smart high school student (and, in the final season, college freshman) who helps her private investigator dad solve crimes, the show’s eponymous star (played by Kristen Bell) is browsing the stacks in the fictional Hearst College’s library. There, she runs into her on-again, off-again boyfriend Logan Echolls, and somewhat sarcastically asks if he is “boning up on [his] South American culture? Conversational Portuguese, perhaps?” (a reference to Logan’s planned upcoming summer surf trip to Brazil.)

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By November 24, 2013


Most of our team that contributes links for the weekly roundup have been preoccupied this week, so the MSWR is a bit light in terms of quantity (though certainly not quality) this week. Let’s jump right in:

James Goldberg has written/curated an informative, fascinating, and, quite frankly, beautiful account of a Latter-day Saint exodus in covered wagons that most Mormons probably know nothing about (I certainly didn’t before reading the post). Check out online exhibit, “The Armenian Exodus,” at history.lds.org, to read more about the early 20th century journey of Mormon migrants from Turkey to Syria. Once you’ve finished there, head on over to Keepapitchinin to read Ardis’s complementary post that adds a bit more detail to the online exhibit and links to previous posts on Armenian Latter-day Saints at Keepa. You’ll be glad you did.

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“A son of the Forest” and “an intelligent son of Abraham”: Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith meet William Apess, 1832

By November 21, 2013


In June 1832, Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to preach Mormonism to the people of what was then the fourth largest city in the United States. The previous year, a young Methodist woman had traveled from Boston to Kirtland, Ohio, been baptized a Mormon, and then returned to her Massachusetts home. That woman—Vienna Jacques—had prepared several of her friends and family members for the arrival of the itinerant missionaries, and Hyde and Smith gained several converts that summer, a number of whom came from the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church, to which Jacques had belonged prior to her conversion to Mormonism.[1]

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From the Archives: The Mormon Problem in the Mind of Freethinkers, circa 1886

By October 29, 2013


At the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association in June, historian Leigh Eric Schmidt delivered a fascinating Tanner Lecture on “Mormons, Freethinkers, and the Limits of Toleration” (a helpful summary of his remarks can be found here). Among other things, I was struck by Schmidt’s discussion of the occasional moments of  agreement between Mormons and Freethinkers in the late 19th century. It was, most often, their mutual distrust and dislike of mainline Christians that afforded them these brief instances of mutual respect and accord.

I recently browsed through several issues of The Truth Seeker, a prominent 19th century newspaper devoted to “freethought and reform,” in search of something entirely unrelated to Mormonism.[1] But as I did, I came across a couple of articles on Mormonism. In the May 15, 1886 edition of the paper, Samuel B. Putnam, the secretary of the American Secular Union, reported on his recent visit to Utah. Among other things, Putnam noted with pleasure that “there are many Liberals at Ogden,” including some former Mormons. “Mr. James B. Stoddard was born in Mormonism,” he reported. “He, however, has a keen and fearless mind, and has broken away from the trammels. He will do much for Freethought by his influence and ability.”

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JWHA Call for Papers

By October 18, 2013


From our good friends at the John Whitmer Historical Association:

42nd Annual Meeting: Lamoni, Iowa—September 25–28, 2014
CALL FOR PAPERS—Sacred Places and Zionic Communities: The Ideals and Realities of the Restoration

ZION, GATHERING, SIGNAL COMMUNITIES, REFUGE, NEW JERUSALEM, CONSECRATION, UNITED ORDER … all have been used to describe the communalist thought that underpins the ideals of many of the Latter Day Saint denominations. Joseph Smith’s history with communalism is mixed. After his death, several leaders attempted to reinstitute communalism in various forms. In the Midwest, Strang gathered his followers at Voree and then Beaver Island. In Iowa, Charles B. Thompson gathered his followers to Preparation. Although not yet practicing consecration, Alpheus Cutler’s followers gathered at Manti, Iowa, then moved to Minnesota, finally to Independence, Missouri—where many of the members lived the law of consecration.

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Visionary/Prophetic Children: A Research Query

By October 16, 2013


As my contribution to this month’s theme of childhood, children, and youth, I want to throw around a couple of loosely-formed thoughts on how Mormonism fits into the history of childhood spirituality.

First, Mormons sometimes claim that the reason God appeared and spoke to the boy Joseph Smith that spring day in 1820 was specifically because JS was just a boy. As in the days of Samuel, God needed a pure vessel, one simultaneously untainted by worldly knowledge and skepticism and eager to learn and obey.

Of course, Joseph Smith isn’t the only boy/young man to experience a vision and receive a prophetic calling, and Mormons aren’t the only ones to connect the dots between the receipt of those visions and childhood innocence/willingness. American Christians have long used both the Old and New Testaments to bolster the claims of boy (and less commonly, girl) prophets and preachers. One researcher has found nearly 500 examples of child preachers from the 18th century until the present, and the phenomenon is particularly common in charismatic Christian churches, as the fascinating and somewhat tragic story of Marjoe Gortner illustrates. While historians have done a wonderful job of contextualizing Joseph Smith within the larger American prophetic tradition, they/we have mostly ignored where and how he fits into the history of childhood preachers/prophets. It seems like a potentially fruitful framework for understanding JS and his prophetic calling in new light.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By October 13, 2013


Another week, another list of links from the world of Mormon Studies. Let’s get started:

Those of you who enjoyed last month’s series of posts on material culture will want to read Rachel McBride Lindsey’s post at Religion in American History on a recently-rediscovered quilt auctioned off at her grandmother’s childhood church (Tabernacle Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri). Lindsey concludes:

My grandmother was a small child in 1938 and her memories of the quilt are probably more collective than personal. The quilt is not a proxy of material culture—that capacious category assigned to the stuff we designate as somehow meriting sustained inquiry—and neither is it a proxy of the tiny hands that have grown soft and arthritic, or the many other hands that stitched hundreds of names and sewed its patches into a single tapestry. It is not an unmediated connection to the past, but it is a connection whose twines are composed of threads and stories. Itself a patchwork, it asks us to piece together not only the history of the church and the ownership of the quilt, but also the many other histories of which it is a part.

Another non-Mormon post of potential interest to JI readers is Ken Owen’s thoughts on historical heroes over at The Junto. His concluding thoughts are certainly relevant to readers of Mormon history: “I’ll keep my heroes, for without them, I’d begin to wonder why history mattered at all. But I’ll remember that heroism is also a mug’s game, and I’ll do my best to keep my eyes open to the broader questions—good and bad—raised by the lives of those I admire.” 

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Mormon Jesus at the Jersey Shore: Some Thoughts on LDS Images of Christ in Non-Mormon Venues

By September 4, 2013


As a sort of follow-up to my post a couple of weeks ago on early Mormonism on the Jersey Shore and as my own contribution to the blog’s emphasis on material culture this month, I thought I’d offer some brief thoughts on Mormon images of Christ and their appropriation and use by non-Mormons.

Earlier this summer, a family member handed me a handful of pamphlets she’d picked up during a recent trip to the Jersey Shore. Knowing of my own interests in Methodist history, she thought I’d appreciate the literature she’d picked up at the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Methodism has a long and rich history in New Jersey—Asbury Park, a seaside community made famous by Bruce Springsteen, was named after the father of American Methodism, Francis Asbury, and the town of Ocean Grove traces its own roots to the efforts of two Methodist ministers in the mid-19th century to establish a permanent camp meeting site to host summer retreats and worship services. While I found the content of the pamphlets interesting, I was struck most by the image adorning the tri-fold pamphlet advertising a series of lectures entitled “Our God Present During Difficulty.”

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Breaking Brigham: Or, Methamphetamine and Mormon Tea

By August 26, 2013


Breaking Brigham

The original Heisenberg?

Over at the blog for The Appendix: A new journal of narrative and experimental history, Benjamin Breen has written a fascinating post on historical discoveries of illicit drugs. Capitalizing on the success of Breaking Bad‘s final season (a show centered around the dealings of a cancer-diagnosed high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook), Breen notes that while “the invention of Breaking Bad‘s blue meth has become the stuff of television legend” very few people “know the true origin stories of illicit drugs.”

After briefly covering “the first academic paper on cannabis” (penned in 1689 by British scientist Robert Hooke, who noted that “there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.”), Freud’s 1884 publication extolling the virtues of cocaine, and “Albert Hoffmann’s accidental discovery of acid,” Breen turns his attention to “the strange fact that methamphetamine was actually invented in 1890s Japan.” In 1893, Nagayoshi Nagai successfully synthesized meth by “isolat[ing] the stimulant ephedrine from Ephedra sinica, a plant long used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.”  For those interested in the whole story, I recommend clicking over and reading the entire post—it really is quite fascinating. But one throwaway line caught my attention and will almost certainly interest readers here. Describing ephedrine, Breen notes that it “is a mild stimulant, notable nowadays as an ingredient in shady weight-loss supplements and as one of the few drugs permitted to Mormons.”

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Joseph Smith on the Jersey Shore: In Search of NJ’s Nauvoo

By August 21, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, my wife, kids, and I closed out our summer vacation with a quick trip “down the shore” (we’d been staying with my in-laws in northern New Jersey, and I’ve been assured that’s the preferred terminology of locals for what the rest of America calls “going to the beach.”) Thanks to the wonderfully helpful research of our own Steve Fleming, I knew that Mormonism’s history in the Garden State dated back to the late 1830s, but I wasn’t sure if there was much activity along the Jersey Shore. Re-reading Steve’s article, along with a short piece in the April 1973 issue of The Ensign by Stanley B. Kimball (hey, remember when The Ensign used to publish short historical essays by actual historians? That was awesome.), I learned that not only did Mormonism’s history there date back to the 1830s, but that Joseph Smith himself preached in the region. From Kimball’s article:

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup (Inaugural Edition)

By August 11, 2013


Welcome to the inaugural installment of our new regular feature, Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup, which will appear each Sunday morning and consist of links to news and interesting items related to the study of Mormon history and culture. JI bloggers will take turn curating the post each week, and although we’re casting the net fairly wide here, the content posted will likely reflect that individual’s own interests. We don’t necessarily expect a lot of discussion to show up in the comments of these posts, though you are more than welcome to comment on any of the linked content and encouraged to post links to any relevant news items we might have missed. Thanks for reading!

_______________________

We’ll start with links to summaries of the two Mormon Studies conferences held last weekend in the Beehive State: FAIR (ably summarized by speed-typist Blair Hodges in a two part series at the Maxwell Institute Blog here and here) and Sunstone (reported on in the City Weekly here). If there other worthwhile reports of either, please do post links to them in the comments (especially if they report on the more scholarly papers presented at either).

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2013 MHA Award Winners

By June 7, 2013


JIers clean house.

JIers clean house.

As announced at this evening’s Awards Banquet in Layton, Utah:

Best Undergraduate Paper

• Joseph R. Stuart, “The Time Has Come: The Context and Post Script of the 1890 Woodruff Manifesto.” Brigham Young University

 Best Graduate Paper

• Benjamin Park, “Early Mormonism and the Paradoxes of Democratic Religiosity in Jacksonian America,” University of Cambridge

Best Thesis Award

• Matthew Lund, “The Vox Populi is the Vox Dei: American Localism and the Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri,” Utah State University

Best Dissertation Award

• Richard D. Ouellette, “The Mormon Temple Lot Case: Space, Memory, and Identity in a Divided New Religion,” University of Texas at Austin

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Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture,

By June 3, 2013


For those of you not familiar with it, the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture, headquartered at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), is a leading “research and public outreach institute that supports the ongoing scholarly discussion of the nature, terms, and dynamics of religion in America.” Among others things, they sponsor and host academic conferences, publish the bianual Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, and host a seminar for Young Scholars in American Religion (whose roster of mentors and seminarians reads like a who’s who of the best and brightest in the field).  

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“& exhort the Church”: Some Thoughts on the July 1830 Revelation to Emma Smith

By March 7, 2013


“We Latter-day Saints are Methodists, as far as they have gone, only we have advanced further.” -Joseph Smith to Peter Cartwright[1]

I’ve argued elsewhere that the above quote encapsulates how many Methodist converts to early Mormonism understood their new religion. The more I study the trajectory of Methodism in antebellum America and the beginnings of Mormonism, the more I’m convinced that the statement also highlights an actual historical truth. In matters of ecclesiology, theology, and liturgy, early Mormons—whether consciously or not (and I think there’s some of both going on)—took a concept originated and/or popularized by Methodists and went one step further, thus simultaneously building on and challenging the foundation from which the new religion sprang.[2] For this reason, among others, I think a close reading of Mormon texts—including scriptural texts—that pays particular attention to Methodism’s discursive community can yield important insights into the Mormon past.[3]

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