By October 24, 2017
Welcome to a new series at Juvenile Instructor entitled “The Gathering.” In this series of posts, several JI-ers will respond to a single question posed by another JI blogger. If you have a question you’d like to submit, please post it as a comment at the bottom of this post.
Which aspect of Mormon history needs to be studied through the framework of “lived religon?”
By October 20, 2017
At a conference sponsored by the Joseph Smith Papers Project (JSPP), LDS Church History Department (CHD) Director of Publications Matt Grow announced the publication of the William Clayton diaries. They will transcribe and annotate the volume, just like the Joseph Smith Papers volumes.
THIS IS ENORMOUS NEWS!
Some may wonder why this announcement is such a big deal. Long story short, the Clayton Diaries hold key information about plural marriage and Joseph Smith’s religious workings. While excerpts have been available for some time in publications, notably Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new book on plural marriage, they have not been available to the public, or even to most researchers. This will allow future projects to better understand the last years of Joseph Smith’s life. This is one of the best sources to understanding Joseph Smith’s personal life, thoughts, and activities in Nauvoo.
By October 11, 2017
Scott H. Partridge, ed., The Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832-1877 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2016).
Thirteenth Apostle is the first of Signature Books’ Legacy Series, which replaces their award-winning and incredibly valuable Significant Mormon Diaries Series.[i] They chose an excellent set of diaries to begin the Legacy Series. Not only was Lyman an apostle, his sons and grandsons became apostles, and more recently, his great-great grandson James E. Faust served in the LDS First Presidency. The Lyman family have shaped, and continue to shape, the religious and intellectual life of Latter-day Saints.
I first became acquainted with Amasa Lyman while reading Ron Walker’s Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young. Lyman is a major character in Walker’s work, an apostle, apostate, and seemingly, a man that never quite fit in either religious or philosophical circles. Lyman’s association with the Godbeites led to his excommunication from the LDS Church in 1870.[ii] Still, most readers will come to the diaries looking for information on the paths that led to his excommunication and later affiliation with the Godbeites and Spiritualists. On the first two accounts, readers will be disappointed. Regrettably, the diaries from Lyman’s time with the Godbeites are not available or do not exist.
Lyman’s life is much more interesting even than his affiliation with the Godbeites. He served multiple missions, joined the first group of Latter-day Saints that received the sealing ritual, was sealed to one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, helped to settle San Bernardino, and labored as an apostle. His rich life is only hinted at in the diaries themselves; however, historians are sure to be able to use Lyman’s diaries to illuminate the broader world of nineteenth-century Mormonism.
Readers are able to see the ways that Lyman was comparable to other Latter-day Saint men at the time—he served missions, he spent a lot of his time in travel, and pontificated on theology (including a controversial sermon that denied the necessity of Christ’s atonement). He participated in the Spiritualist Movement, and claimed to have spoken to his daughter about “the cancer with which he [was] afflicted” among other topics.[iii] I found Lyman a fascinating figure and immediately wished that Lyman had been able to Tweet during his lifetime. Heck, I would have even settle for following him on Facebook.
Lyman’s life, as much as any other apostle, reveals the ways that Mormonism participated in both the American culture and operated on its religious fringes. Lyman spent time on the frontier, moved west, served his community, and tried to serve his religious and secular communities. He participated in popular religious movements like spiritualism and worked on his writing and grammar. However, he was also an apostle in a religious group that wasn’t recognized as authentically religious as much as organized hearsay in the nineteenth century. He had eight wives and fathered dozens of children. I would love to see Lyman incorporated into studies that use those at the edges of Mormonism (intellectually, theologically, racially, sexually, etc.) to reveal more about the average experience of nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints.[iv]
Interestingly, and frustratingly, Lyman’s diaries do not reveal the inner workings of his mind to the degree that the journals of leaders like Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, or Ernest Wilkinson do. Partridge’s footnotes and introduction will be valuable for readers, although there are a few things that caused me some frustration. First, I would have liked to have seen events in the diaries in conversation with works in the history of the American West and American religious history. I believe Mormon history is best when it can speak to broader topics—pointing readers to works outside of Mormon history would be immensely helpful for non-experts. Second, I would have liked to have seen more works of Mormon history referenced in the text (especially newer works).
These issues aside, Partridge and the Signature Team have much to be proud of. I wholeheartedly recommend Thirteenth Apostle to all those that work in nineteenth-century Mormonism, spiritualism, and the history of the American West.
[i] Many of these volumes, along with other books and primary sources, are available at Signature Books’ Internet Archive site.
[ii] The excommunication was overturned (his baptismal and priesthood blessings were restored) in 1909.
[iii] A study could be done on what he reports seeing and hearing during séances. Emily Suzanne Clark’s recent book “Luminous Brotherhood” makes great use of spiritualist records left behind by black Catholic men in nineteenth-century New Orleans.
[iv] For a rationale behind such projects, see Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, “The Clock and the Compass: Mormon Culture in Motion,” Journal of Mormon History 32, no. 2 (April 2017): 1-19.
By September 27, 2017
The Obert C. & Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center presents The 2017 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion & Culture
“Science vs. Dogma: Biology Challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Greg Prince, Author & Historian
Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 PM
Salt Lake City Public Library – Nancy Tessman Auditorium
210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City
Open to the public, no tickets required
Facebook event: https://goo.gl/4jXtP8
LIVE STREAM: http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/h1ynw
The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah presents the 2017 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion & Culture, “Science versus Dogma: Biology challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Gregory A. Prince, author and historian, at Salt Lake City Public Library, September 27 at 7:00 p.m.
Until the late 1960s, when the Stonewall Riots in New York City brought LGBT issues into the public square, the consensus among clinicians, scientists, legislators, and religious leaders was that homosexuality was either an unfortunate choice that could be unchosen, or a disease that could—and must—be cured. As the field of molecular biology matured, there was a spirited hunt for a genetic explanation for homosexuality—the “gay gene.”
In the short term, failure to find such a gene reinforced the “choice paradigm” of homosexuality. However, recent research has shown that a combination of genetic and (mostly) epigenetic factors act during fetal development to imprint sexual preference and gender identity indelibly within the brain. Prince argues that the “biology paradigm” calls for a reassessment of Latter-day Saint doctrines, policies, and attitudes towards homosexuality, all of which were built on a foundation of the “choice paradigm.”
“Greg Prince’s unique perspective,” says Tanner Center director Bob Goldberg, “combines scientific knowledge with humanistic sensibilities. This insures that his insights will offer new ways of understanding matters that touch us all.”
Prince’s lecture will be followed by a book signing hosted by the King’s English Bookshop.
About Gregory A. Prince
Scientific researcher and historian Gregory A. Prince earned his graduate degrees in dentistry (DDS) and pathology (PhD) at UCLA. He then pursued a four-decade career in pediatric infectious disease research. His love of history led him to write three books, including the award-winning David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Most recently, he has published Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History.
Very Special Thanks
B.W. Bastian Foundation
The Salt Lake City Public Library
Q Salt Lake Magazine
The King’s English Bookshop
By September 25, 2017
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, whose book we have been reading together for nearly six months, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from JI bloggers and readers. If you found the book club useful and/or interesting, we hope you will follow JI on Facebook, Twitter, and share our articles.
JI: What has the reception been among academic, popular, and Mormon audiences?
By September 5, 2017
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?
By August 28, 2017
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.
STATE OF THE FIELD
By August 8, 2017
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.
By July 13, 2017
Our readers will be interested to see what becomes of CGU’s plans for a Global Mormon Studies Center. You can learn more about the proposed Center in the video below!
By July 10, 2017
This is the sixth entry 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 (Knopf, 2017). Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook.
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)
By June 28, 2017
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]
By June 12, 2017
Mormon History Association
Call for Papers – 2018 Annual Conference
“Homelands and Bordered Lands”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
By June 8, 2017
“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.
By June 2, 2017
We would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2017 MHA awards! Please find them below:
Leonard Arrington Award:
Jill Mulvay Derr
Simpson, Thomas W. American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940. University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
Prince, Stephen L. Hosea Stout: Lawman, Legislator, Mormon Defender. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2016.
Best Book International Mormonism:
Takagi, Shinji. The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968. Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2016.
Best Memoir / Personal History:
Bate, Kerry William. The Women: A Family Story. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.
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.
Article of Excellence:
Turley Jr. Richard E. and Jeffrey G. Cannon. “A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints.” BYU Studies Quarterly 55, no. 1 (2016): 9-38.
Best International Article:
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.
Best Women’s History Article
Newell, Quincy. “What Jane James Saw.” In Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Patrick Q. Mason, 135?51. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.
Graduate Student Awards:
Best unpublished graduate student paper
Kitterman, Katherine. “‘No Ordinary Feelings’: Mormon Women’s Petitions, 1870-1886.”
Brumbaugh Jr., John Howard. “‘We are Entitled to, and We Must Have, Medical Care’: San Juan County’s Farm Security Administration Medical Plan, 1938-1946”
Smith, Christopher C. “Mormon Conquest: Whites and Natives in the Intermountain West, 1847-1851”
By May 9, 2017
Last year, we shared what we planned/hoped to read over the summer. Here are our lists for this summer–be sure to add your own reading lists in the comments!
This summer I’ll be studying for my comprehensive exams full time. Rather than list the 300 books still on my list, here are three books from each of my three major fields.
- 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 History by 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.
- Theme: “Race, Gender, and Sex, oh my!” As I finished revisions on my book manuscript, I was ashamed with how little I engaged with this broad and significant field. It’s time to remedy that ill. I’m really excited to dig into Tera W. Hunter’s Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard UP), Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press), and Marisa Fuentes’s Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archives (UPenn Press).
- Theme: “The Basics of the Revolutionary Age.” I’m teaching a graduate course on the American Revolution for the first time this summer, so I’m digging into a number of the newest books to track current trends. Randomly, three of them are from the same publisher. These include Mike Rapport’s, The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution (Basic Books), Carol Berkin’s A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books), John Boles’s Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty (Basic Books), and Holger Hoock’s Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (Crown), and Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre (Harvard UP).
- Theme: “Jackson’s America.” Since my Nauvoo project is rooted in antebellum America, I’m excited to see some other histories that similarly aim to uproot traditional narratives of the period. These include J. M. Opal’s Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation (Oxford University Press) and Christina Snyder’s Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press).
- And two books that don’t fit a broader theme but I’m also excited to read are Douglas L. Winiarski’s Darkness Falls Upon the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (UNC/Omohundro) and David Garrow’s The Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (William Marrow). Winiarski’s articles that led to this book were so excellent that I’ve been counting down the days for its release. And though I’ve been worried by early reviews of Garrow’s book in which his narrative of 44 seems overly dramatic, it will still be a nice form of escapism to imaging we aren’t living under the rule of 45.
- 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.
- Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic. I’ll have a review up at some point at JI, so I’ll keep my comments brief. Jortner manages to offer a fresh perspective on a well-covered subject: Mormonism, anti-Mormonism, and miracles.
- James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa; Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers; Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. I am busily at work writing a new chapter for my book manuscript that examines the parallel rise and earliest connections between black Methodist churches in the United States, Canada, and West Africa, and revisiting some early works that touch on those topics or speak to the broader context in which they occurred. I’m starting with these three.
- William Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Transitioning from my research to my teaching, I’m considering adopting this one for the US survey in the fall, but want to give it a closer read to make sure that it meets all of my qualifications.
- 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?
By May 7, 2017
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?”
By April 13, 2017
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.
By April 4, 2017
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, 1835-1870 a 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!
By March 27, 2017
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]
By March 21, 2017
Greg Kofford Books has been publishing a series on the Mormon image in nineteenth and early twentieth century dime novels for a few years now. The series, edited by Ardis Parshall and Michael Austin, provides a smart, scholarly framework in addition to reprinting books that are disappearing every year. WVS has provided an excellent overview of Kofford’s publicity event at By Common Consent, and because we attended the same event and took roughly the same notes, I thought that I would offer some initial thoughts about Greg Kofford Books, Parshall and Austin’s work, and some possible uses for the series in academic work.
| Older Posts