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History, Memory, and Faith: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers as Keepers of Cultural Memory

By May 12, 2014

Kari M. Main works as Curator at the Pioneer Memorial Museum. She has a master’s degree in Early American Culture from the Winterthur Program in Delaware and a master’s in American Studies from Yale. Her primary academic interests are material culture, women, religion, and the American West.

On Pioneer Day in 1933, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) held a ceremony to erect a roofed columnar structure over a juniper tree near the intersection of 600 East and 300 South. The women of DUP placed a bronze interpretive plaque which read:

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Searching for Wellness, Finding Mormonism

By March 26, 2014

For today’s post we welcome back Susanna Morrill, friend and occasional contributor to the JI.

I have been thinking about Nancy Peirson’s journal since I first ran across it years ago during my dissertation research. It is a fantastic resource for tracking the earliest, lived religious practices of Mormons, especially medical and health practices. I am at the beginning of this project centered on Peirson’s journal; these are some initial thoughts on the subject. Nancy Peirson was baptized into the LDS Church in 1838 and remained a faithful Mormon until she died en route to Salt Lake City in 1852. Peirson was part of the Richards family, a sister to Willard Richards.  Peirson recorded her life in a journal written from 1846 to 1852. Health, illness, and death are central themes in this journal. Regularly and carefully recording the health of her friends, neighbors, and family, Peirson became increasingly fixated on illness and disease as she dealt with a painful tumor on her side, a malady that probably led to her premature death. She created a network of Mormon correspondents, a network that was focused on discussions of health and illness. Most of these correspondents were her siblings: Willard, Rhoda, Levi, and Hepsy Richards (among others). In these exchanges we see how the family’s pre-Mormon Thomsonian health practices smoothed the way for their conversions to the LDS faith.

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Pathways for Female Socialization

By March 23, 2014

Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt is currently an assistant visiting faculty member in Brigham Young University’s Department of Ancient Scripture. A former seminary and institute instructor, she earned a PhD from Arizona State University in lifespan developmental psychology, focusing on women and social issues.

In the past week I attended a stake activity days event, young women’s new beginnings and a relief society birthday celebration.  While each was carefully planned, well attended and inspiring I couldn’t help but wonder how effective it might have been had the three events been combined to celebrate a female trajectory of discipleship. A clearly celebrated sisterhood across the lifespan is something I feel is lacking in the Church. LDS females lack delineated rites of passage. Activity days for 8-12 year old girl and young women programs such as personal progress are posed to set females on a path of goal setting but lack rich ritual behavior and frequent association with women of varying ages over a span of years. Further, it seems the three female auxiliaries often function territorially rather than as homogenous, unified sisters. Having said that, I’m intrigued by the possibilities of next week’s intergenerational gathering in the historic General Women’s Meeting of the Church. I’m hopeful that this initiates a pathway for female socialization including increased frequency of gatherings of this type in localized communities.

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Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God

By March 19, 2014

By Laura Allred Hurtado

On Monday, I attended a lecture celebrating the Relief Society Commemoration given by Sharon Eubank, Director of LDS Charities, sponsored by the Church History Department. Her comments were titled “Matriarchy” and she indexed the many ways Mormon women have historically performed acts of charity and whose legacy of service continue to have influence on the many projects LDS charities executes today, albeit on a much grander scale.

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Pageants and practice

By March 17, 2014

Megan Sanborn Jones is currently the coordinator for the Theatre Arts Studies program at BYU. She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in theatre critical studies. Her work about religious performance in 19th-20th century America has been published in Theatre Journal, The State of the Art, and Theatre Topics. Her book, Performing America in Anti-Mormon Melodrama, was published by Routledge in 2009 and won the Best First Book Award from the Mormon History Association. We are pleased to have her contributions here at the JI.

My interest in religious practice in Mormon history is neither wholly religious nor very historical.  I’m grateful to colleagues in the field who focus on theological practices from baptism ordinances to temple ceremonies to relief society birth rituals.  The topics I study as performance scholar are rarely fundamental to salvation.  Contextualizing Mormon ritual is generally a nineteenth century study, requiring detailed looks at the archives to tease out foundational practices and first-person accounts of origins.  My interest in the material practice of Mormonism is more contemporary.  As Ryan T. points out in his introduction to Religious “Practice” Month at the JI, “Time. . .has brought a new consciousness of the embodied, external, purposive behavior of religious actors.”  I take his description literally and examine Mormon actors of the twenty-first century, on theatrical stages, in LDS Pageants.

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Responses: Susanna Morrill responds to Boyd Petersen’s JMH article

By January 27, 2014

Susanna Morrill is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of White Roses on the Floor of Heaven: Nature and Flower Imagery in Latter-day Saints Women’s Literature, 1880-1920 and several excellent articles. She has previously guest blogged for JI here and here

In the latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History, Boyd J. Petersen effectively and succinctly describes Mormon women’s dialogic literary conversations about Eve in the Woman’s Exponent: “The speaking of many voices created a carnivalesque atmosphere where language was at once serious and subversive.” [1] This is a really great description of what was going on in Emmeline B. Wells’ Exponent. This periodical gave Mormon women a distinct, authoritative bandwidth within the community to express their views, views that as Petersen notes sometimes “subvert[ed] and sometimes co-opt[ed] the patriarchal gaze that watched over the publication.” [2] Petersen adds much to our understanding of how the present-day understanding of Eve developed as he meticulously chronicles the diversity of interpretations of Eve that appeared on the pages of the Exponent: she was alternately a hero, a goddess, “the hapless and unintentional instigator of the Fall.” [3]

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Mormon History and Indian History

By November 27, 2013

Todd Compton, award-winning author of the recently-published biography of “Apostle to the Indians” Jacob Hamblin, contributes this installment in the JI’s Mormons and Natives Month.

The problem with Mormon history is that it focuses on Mormons. I make this paradoxical statement to intentionally overstate the case—but there is some truth to it. We Mormons have never existed in a bubble; we have always interacted with non-Mormons. A historian can, of course, focus on the Mormon side of things, and you would expect a writer of “Mormon history” to do so, to a certain extent. However, if we don’t take the non-Mormon side of the story seriously, looking at it thoroughly and even sympathetically, we will not even understand the Mormon side of the story in a careful, holistic way. (Looking at the non-Mormon side of our history sympathetically can be difficult for modern loyal Mormons, given the polarized Mormon/anti-Mormon conflicts throughout nineteenth-century Utah history.)

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Introducing the Utah American Indian Digital Archive

By November 22, 2013

By Cassandra Clark

Beginning in 2008, staff at the American West Center of the University of Utah, the Marriot Library, Utah’s Division of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Heritage and Arts worked together to create the Utah American Indian Digital Archive (UAIDA). This keyword searchable online digital archive contains primary and secondary sources pertaining to Utah’s American Indian Peoples. The archive offers tribal members, professional researchers, and patrons the opportunity to participate in Utah’s diverse and interesting history by viewing digital copies of documents, photographs, maps, and recordings and transcripts of oral histories. The collection contains sources relating to the Northwestern Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Utah Navajo, White Mesa, and Ute Indians to offer a wide selection of resources to educate patrons about Utah’s complex cultural past.

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The Mormon Reserve

By November 20, 2013

This installment of the JI’s Mormons and Natives Month comes from Paul Reeve, associate professor of history at the University of Utah and frequent guest blogger at the JI.

In every instance where Mormons faced growing animosity from outsiders and tension escalated between Mormons and their neighbors, accusations of a Mormon-Indian conspiracy were among the charges. The Mormon expulsions from Jackson County, Missouri, from Clay County, Missouri, and from the state of Missouri altogether, along with their exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, and the later Utah War were all events notably marked by claims that Mormons were combining with Indians to wage war against white America.

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Return of Ma’ii: Brigham Young and his Indian Farms

By November 14, 2013

This installment in the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Corey Smallcanyon. He is a Din4 (Navajo) Indian from the Gallup, New Mexico area, who grew up on and off the Navajo reservation. He works as an Adjunct Professor with Utah Valley University teaching United States History. His emphasis is in U.S. History, the American West, Utah history, LDS history, Native American and Navajo history. In his spare time he volunteers teaching Navajo genealogy to surrounding areas and spending time with his family.

Among the Dine’ (Navajos) Ma’ii (coyote) stands center stage as a trouble maker, wise counselor, cultural hero, and powerful deity. Ma’ii stories help establish a foundation for the ethical teachings for all children. Early traditional memory tells of Ma’ii who tried to steal the farm of Grandfather Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii (Horned Toad). Ma’ii came “wandering” upon Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tending his farm and asked for some of his corn to eat. After much begging, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii gave into Ma’ii’s demands, but Ma’ii was not satisfied and began taking more without permission. As Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tried to take the corn away Ma’ii ate Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii. Upset with his predicament, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii was eventually able to make his way out of Ma’ii, and triumphed by taking back his farm.[1]

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The Re-Convergence of Mormon and Indian History

By November 7, 2013

This installment of the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Matthew Garrett, associate professor of history at Bakersfield College in California. He received his Ph.D. in American History from Arizona State University in 2010. He is currently revising for publication his dissertation, “Mormons, Indians, and Lamanites: The Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000,”  which should prove to be the definitive history of the ISPP.

When David G. approached me to contribute to this month’s theme, I initially thought the notion of a “Mormons and Natives” field of study seemed a bit odd. I never viewed the two fields with much connectivity, other than a few mid-century works about Jacob Hamblin or Chief Wakara. As I sat down to draft out the separate evolutions of the two fields, the task proved far more complicated than expected, and the only way I could think to articulate it was to take the reader on a semi-biographical journey that follows my own intellectual awakening. I trust that the Juvenile Instructor’s readers will tolerate a little self-indulgence as I relate the divergence and re-convergence of Mormon and Indian history.

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John Taylor’s Watch: Holy Relic, Cultural Artifact

By September 27, 2013

Alan Morrell, a curator at the Church History Museum, contributes this installment in the JI’s material culture month. Alan is completing a doctorate in American History at the University of Utah, and he has degrees from BYU and Villanova. 

I have an iPhone because I once missed an appointment. I was so engulfed in my research, I forgot about a meeting and didn’t realize it until it was already over. My wife teases me about being absent-minded, but she wasn’t amused when I told her what had happened. After years of marriage to a poor grad student, she was thrilled that I had a paying job. She worried that I’d screw it up so she went out and bought me something that could keep me on track. Now, the time and my schedule are always available, with reminders of upcoming appointments.

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Miss Indian BYU and Material Culture

By September 26, 2013

This installment in the JI’s material culture month comes from Farina King of the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House clan) of the Diné (Navajo). She is a second-year graduate student in the U.S. History Ph.D program at Arizona State University. She received her M.A. in African History from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies. King has written and presented about indigenous Mormon experiences in the twentieth century, drawing from interviews that she conducted for the LDS Native American Oral History Project at BYU. Her doctoral research traces the changes in Navajo educational experiences through the twentieth century. She was the last Miss Indian BYU crowned in 2006. King is also a dedicated wife and mother to two toddlers. A version of the following will appear in a special issue on Miss Indian pageants, forthcoming in the  Journal of the West .

The Tribe of Many Feathers (TMF), the BYU Native American student organization, hosted the Miss Indian BYU pageant for twenty-three consecutive years until 1990. TMF restarted the pageant in 2001. I was the last crowned Miss Indian BYU in 2006, since the TMF Council cancelled the pageant again in 2007. I had the opportunity to interview several former Miss Indian BYUs about their experiences as title-holders and pageant contestants including Vickie Sanders Bird and Jordan Zendejas who I feature in this blog post. The Miss Indian BYU Pageant and its winners’ memories reveal the ways that Native American LDS youth engaged and transformed material culture in the effort to represent BYU Indian students.

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Responses: Paul Harvey and Edward Blum respond to Noel Carmack’s Review Essay in the Journal of Mormon History

By September 24, 2013

Almost exactly one year ago, the University of North Carolina Press published Edward Blum and Paul Harvey’s The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, a sweeping and provocative analysis of the ways in which Americans from various walks of life over the last four hundred (!) years have imagined Jesus. Among the many contributions the book makes, and of particular interest to JI readers, is the authors’ situating Mormons as important players in the larger story of race and religion they narrate so masterfully. In fact, one paragraph in particular has garnered more attention than nearly any other part of the book—a brief discussion in chapter 9 of the large, white marble Christus statue instantly recognizable to Mormons the world over. In the latest issue of the Journal of Mormon HistoryNoel Carmack authored a 21 page review of The Color of Christ, focusing on their treatment of Mormonism and paying particular attention to their discussion of the Christus. Professors Blum and Harvey generously accepted our invitation to respond here, as part of both our ongoing Responses series and as an appropriate contribution to our look at Mormon material culture this month. 

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Abstractions, Shadows, and Images of Christ

By September 18, 2013

Laura Allred Hurtado contributes this next installment in the JI’s material culture month, on Mormon attempts to represent Jesus. Laura is the Global Acquisitions Curator for Art in the Church History Department. She has an MA in Art History and Visual Studies from the University of  Utah and a BA in Art History and Curatorial Studies at BYU. Laura has presented papers at scholarly conferences and curated exhibits at the Utah Museum of Fine Art, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, and various other venues.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.–2 Chronicles 7:14

 All representations of divinity fail. Fail in that they are made of terrestrial materials, seen through non-celestial eyes. 

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A Touchstone of the Past: The Face Wheel from Haun’s Mill

By September 17, 2013

Tiffany T. Bowles offers this installment in the JI’s material culture month. Tiffany is a Curator of Education at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. A native of Orem, Utah, she received a BA degree in history from BYU and an MA in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. She has worked for the National Park Service at Natchez National Historical Park in Natchez, Mississippi, and Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. In addition, she has worked at the Illinois State Military Museum and volunteered for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

On a quiet fall day in October 1838, Amanda Barnes Smith and her family busily worked to prepare a campsite on the banks of Shoal Creek in the small community of Haun’s Mill, Missouri. After a grueling journey from Kirtland, Ohio, the Smiths were relieved at the prospect of settling near others of their Latter-day Saint faith on the unfamiliar frontier.

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Remember Zelmo Beaty: Race, Religion, and Basketball in Salt Lake City

By September 13, 2013

Michael J. Altman received his Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from Emory University and is an Instructor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Mike’s areas of interest are American religious history, theory and method in the study of religion, the history of comparative religion, and Asian religions in American culture. He is currently completing a book manuscript analyzing representations of Hinduism in nineteenth century America. This post originally appeared at Mike’s personal blog. He graciously allowed the Juvenile Instructor to repost it in its entirety.

One of my favorite weekly podcasts is Slate’s Hang Up and Listen, a sports podcast that deconstructs sports media and culture with a wry wit that deflates American sports of all its self-seriousness. If sports talk radio is Duck Dynasty, Hang Up is 30 Rock.

Every week host Josh Levin signs off with the phrase “remember Zelmo Beaty.” Beaty, a basketball star in the 60s and 70s passed away recently and this past week Hang Up and Listen reminded us why we should indeed remember him. Stefan Fatsis’ obituary of Beaty opened by staking out Beaty’s importance as a pioneer for black players in professional basketball. But what caught this religious historian’s attention was the confluence of race and religion that surrounded Beaty’s move to Salt Lake City to play for the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association in 1970.

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Guest Post: Justin Bray on Mormon Sacrament and Material Culture

By September 12, 2013

Justin Bray is an oral historian at the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also an MA student at the University of Utah, where he studies American religious history. He has presented and published several papers on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper among the Latter-day Saints.

I’ve always found objects meaningful tools to reconstruct the past.

When my great-grandfather passed away many years ago, my dad inherited an old baseball bat—probably because my brothers and I couldn’t stop watching The Sandlot, and throughout our childhood we collected an unhealthy number of baseball cards. I really didn’t know anything about my great-grandfather (at the time), let alone that he was a baseball player. But the more attention I paid to the bat, the more the bat became a kind of lens into my great-grandfather’s world.

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Responses: Patrick Mason on David Pulsipher on Mormon Civil Disobedience

By August 14, 2013

This post continues the JI’s occasional “Responses” series and contributes to the August theme of 20th Century Mormonism. Semi-regular guest and friend of the JI Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, contributes this installment.

Review of David Pulsipher, “‘Prepared to Abide the Penalty’: Latter-day Saints and Civil Disobedience,” JMH 39:3 (Summer 2013): 131-162.

Pop quiz: Which group maintained the longest civil disobedience movement in American history, and the first such movement not to descend into violence? Since you’re reading a Mormon history blog, the question is a bit like asking who’s buried in Grant’s tomb. Yet even with the prodigious output of scholars working on Mormon related topics in recent years, there are relatively few offerings that not only give us new details but also really help us see Mormonism through a new perspective. David Pulsipher’s recent JMH article is one of those.

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Guest Post: Patrick Mason, “God Bless America: Ezra Taft Benson’s Exceptionalist Patriotism”

By July 22, 2013

mason[Another installment in this month’s series on “Mormonism and Politics,” this post is authored by Patrick Mason. Patrick, a friend of and mentor to many on the blog, is the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, and his works include The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Post-Bellum South and (co-edited with David Pulsipher and Richard Bushman) War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives. He is currently working on a biography of Ezra Taft Benson and a book on Mormon peace ethics. More recent family hobbies, supposedly related to peace ethics, include sneaking onto his former property with shovels and garbage bags to dig up grape vines and other shrubbery.]

The 1950s was a heady time for God in America.  Postwar enthusiasm and the fear of the surge of international “godless Communism” helped spark a national revival of religion, both privately and publicly.  Billy Graham emerged not only as the nation’s top revivalist but also as one of its biggest celebrities.  “In God We Trust” replaced the more secularly inflected “E Pluribus Unum” as the nation’s motto, and “under God” got plugged into the Pledge of Allegiance.

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