We are pleased that Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has responded to questions asked by JI bloggers about his plans for the Global Mormon Studies Center. You can find more about the Global Mormon Studies Center here.
The Global Mormon Studies Center is the first research organization directly connected to Mormon Studies. Do you see the Center as a part of the program’s draw for students, or as a separate research center attached to CGU?
In early June, Kris and I organized a “publication workshop” for graduate students and early-career scholars working on projects related to Mormon History and American Religious History. Thanks to the generosity of the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics at Washington University at St. Louis, we were able to meet in a central location before the meetings of the Mormon History Association (lots of capital letters!). I thought that it would be useful to share what I learned at the event and also share what I view as the primary benefits of organizing writing workshops.
I spent too much of coursework worrying about coursework. Of course, that’s easy to say now that I’m studying for comprehensive exams. Reading several hundred books has a way of putting things into perspective. You realize that there is a LOT of great work out there and that it is very difficult to publish a book. Nary has an acknowledgments section gone by without mentioning that the author reached a point where they nearly gave up or had to rely on their “people” for encouragement. However, something else struck me—very few of the books I’ve read mention anything about the project growing out of a paper written during coursework.
Chapter Six of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females details the crossing of Iowa and depicts a people in motion, both physically and emotionally. While many histories detail the environmental and emotional challenges of the exodus from Nauvoo, Ulrich adds depth to the story of the Mormon migration and complicates our thinking about it. Like biblical sojourners, who understand that they stand at a turning point in their story, A House Full of Females describes how some diarists began new journals just before leaving the city, while other new diarists appear on the stage.
Ulrich notes that Mormon diaries share many similarities with other Oregon trail journals including records of weather and difficulties with animals. However, she also claims that the Mormon migration of 1846 was unique, highlighting the fact that Mormons leaving Nauvoo were refugees who “had a bit in common with the displaced Potawatomi and Omaha people, on whose lands they took temporary refuge once they reached the Missouri River.”(138). Chapter six fully describes the emotional and physical disorder of the Nauvoo exodus, which made it different from later waves of Mormon migration. Finally, Ulrich also points to the pressures of ideal sainthood that had mounted during the final weeks in Nauvoo, “how much they had to learn about pioneering, and how little they knew about the demands of establishing God’s kingdom.”(139). A House Full of Females paints a visceral picture of a people both moving forward and mired in mud. Men, women and children up to their waists in mud, snakes slithering out of the muck and wagons needing to be extricated from swamps all portray the challenges of a physical journey that dragged on and the need to face new emotional challenges as a radical new family structure took shape during extreme circumstances.
Ulrich deftly illustrates that the earliest Mormon migration should not be understood simply as a move west, an exodus or a displacement. It also needs to be understood as the site of changing domestic and marital identities. In the face of birth, death, disease, separation, and domestic contention, A House Full of Females tells the story of both creating and dissolving families and community. The reality of aging parents, the death of children, changing marital structure as well as conflicts about succession within the church, ubiquitous disease and the physical demands of the journey culminate in Ulrich’s conclusion of the chapter which pushes the reader beyond hagiographic depictions of the Nauvoo exodus noting that, “The Saints had struggled through the mud of Iowa only to reach a worse misery. In their would-be Zion, there was never enough of anything to go around, never enough food or shelter, never enough respect or love or charity. The harder they tried to live by the dictates of their religion, the more they exposed their own lack of perfection.”(155)
This addendum has been added to the 2018 MHA Call for Papers (original call here). Paper abstracts are still due on November 15, 2017 and the conference will still be held on June 7-10, 2018 at Boise, ID.
Since its founding in 1965, the Mormon History Association has been dedicated to the promotion of intellectually rigorous, diverse scholarship on the history of the Mormon tradition. To help us create a welcoming space that embraces work from a wide variety of methodological and religious viewpoints, we encourage individuals to organize panels for the 2018 Conference in Boise, Idaho, that include presenters from a variety of institutional, social, and religious backgrounds. The program committee will give preference to panels that reflect the diversity of the historical profession by featuring women and underrepresented minorities. [Bold added by J Stuart]
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 email@example.com. 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.
“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.
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.
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.
American Religion: I enjoyed Timothy Matovina’s overview of Latino Catholicism and am eager to read his first book, Guadalupe and Her Faithful. I’m also looking forward to reading Colleen McDannell’s Picturing Faith and Jason Bivins’ Religion of Fear. Each of these books have been on my “to-read” list for years and I’m glad to have the opportunity to read them.
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 Historyby 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.
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.
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?
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?”
The International Society of Landscape, Place and Material Culture (ISLPMC) will hold its 49th annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 18-21, 2017.
The 2017 Conference theme is “Mormons, Miners and the American West.” In 1847 the first groups of Mormon settlers led by Brigham Young entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. After displacing most indigenous residents of the valleys, the Mormons established the first of their many permanent settlements in the region based on the Plat for the City of Zion. They were seeking isolation following decades of persecution; however, much of the area they settled also contained some of the richest precious metals deposits in the West. Soon they were joined by others seeking, among other things, silver and gold, and introducing an array of cultural conflicts.
We are pleased to feature this Q&A with Steve Evans, co-founder and a co-editor at the BCC Press. Steve was gracious enough to answer a few questions for scholars for JI. You can submit a manuscript or direct further questions to the press here.You can read more about the BCC Press here and here.
How would peer review work for authors at the BCC Press? Historians and academics are naturally concerned about issues of tenure, CV-building, etc.
At a recent gathering in Cambridge, MA, Richard Bushman introduced Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to her hometown crowd as Mormonism’s most “distinguished and decorated scholar.” Her Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and many other awards speak to her mastery of the historian’s craft in the broader academy. She is not only Mormonism’s most distinguished and decorated scholars, she is one of the most distinguished and decorated scholars alive today. Ulrich’s research and writing abilities made A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870a natural choice for JI’s Third Annual Summer Book Club. Hundreds of readers have followed along with our book club in the past few years—we hope to read with even more of you this summer!
Over the past few weeks, a white woman that goes by the name “A Purposeful Wife” (Ayla) has garnered a lot of attention on Twitter and was featured in an article on Buzzfeed for dual loyalties to Mormonism and the Alt-Right Movement (a political movement whose explicit purpose is to create a white, Christian nation). She spends her days spewing Alt-Right messages to her 20,000 followers and thousands more that respond to her. Her alt-right beliefs inform her “white nationalism.” Although she rejects the label of “Nazi,” she subscribes to Nazi race theory. She has issued a “white baby challenge,” encouraging people now considered to be white to bear more children than people of color in order to maintain white supremacy. This cannot be called anything other than a call to eugenics–commonplace rhetoric in the Alt-Right.Ayla has a Mormon.org profile, seemingly written before her adoption of Alt-Right politics [it has been taken down as of 11:40 AM MST, but you can see the profile courtesy of the Wayback Machine].
Despite the unsavory, dangerous, and abhorrent rhetoric, it’s important to know Mormonism’s long history of supporting eugenics—even when they were not considered white or Christian. As Ardis at Keepapitchinin has rightly written, this flies in the face of current Mormon teachings. I applaud the LDS Church’s statement condemning all forms of racism past and present, and join in that call. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the LDS Church condemns its past subscription to eugenics, not only the priesthood and temple restriction or other better-known racist or racial beliefs and practices.
While this post is a very short introduction, I will provide a brief overview of the Mormon embrace of eugenics, explicitly, and implicitly, in terms of race and gender. Mormon eugenics and political history will come in a second installment.[i]
Last year, Kris W. and I hosted a “Mormonism in Religious Studies” workshop at the University of Utah. We discussed religious disappointment, Mormonism and Spiritualism, failed healings, immigration, Mormon women and masonry, and other topics at length.
The workshop helped to create a sense of community among young scholars from a variety of places and disciplines while providing helpful feedback for developing projects. As a result, we have decided to host another workshop as a pre-conference workshop at the 2017 meetings of the Mormon History Association in St. Louis, MO. The workshop, “Surveying Trends in the Field: Mormon History and Mormon Studies in the Modern Academy,” will be held on Thursday, June 1 at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis from 9 AM-5 PM. There will be no cost for the workshop beyond punctual arrival and rigorous intellectual engagement.
The Utah State Historical Society invites the public, scholars, students, policymakers, and organizations to submit proposals for papers, panels, or multimedia presentations on the theme Local Matters. This is both a call for papers and a call for the participation of community organizations such as museums, preservation groups, and historical societies. Sessions for the 65th annual Utah State History Conference will be held on October 11, 2017, at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center.
Local can be broadly conceived. We encourage submissions examining the many strands that create the fabric of communities—such as interpersonal networks, long-standing festivals, neighborhood structures, churches, schools, or the arts—or that focus more narrowly on a family or a home. And community may also be interpreted broadly as communities of faith, advocacy, hobbies, politics, and so forth. Submissions might also consider the historical roots of the recent vogue for things local: farm-to-table eating, urban redevelopment, public markets, or local music.
Separately, we welcome papers and panels that discuss the uses and historiography of local history and the application of sophisticated methodology to personal, family, and community history. How do communities go about compiling their histories? What role do organizations play in preserving local history? How does community history intersect with broader historical themes?
Submissions on other aspects of Utah history will also be considered. We welcome a range of formats, from the traditional panels and sessions to more innovative formats. We encourage full session or panel submissions, though we will make every effort to match single paper proposals with other panels and papers.
Please read this post from Mormon History Association Director Rob Racker. Be sure to register for the conference, book your hotel, and consider a donation to the student travel fund!
Panoramic image of St. Louis downtown with Gateway Arch at twilight.
Dear Members and Friends of Mormon History Association:
You are invited to preregister and attend the Mormon History Association’s 52nd Annual Conference in the historic St Charles area of St Louis MO. We hope that you will be able to attend what promises to be an exciting event.
A copy of the preliminary conference program can be viewed HERE .