Articles by

JJohnson

REVIEW: The Field is White: Harvest in the Three Counties of England

By December 6, 2017


Carol Wilkinson and Cynthia Doxey Green, The Field is White: Harvest in Three Counties of England (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017).

 

As a child, we had a record that narrated the story of Wilford Woodruff as a missionary at Benbow farm. (Vinyl played on our old blue Fischer Price record player. I only remember Woodruff and the headless horseman though I’m sure there were more options). The dramatic narration detailed a miraculous mass conversion of a whole sect by LDS apostle Woodruff in 1840 England.  Though fascinating that any American child might know of a pond on an obscure farm in the middle of the English countryside, the fame of Benbow Farm is well known among many Mormons. Lds.org lists scores of articles and talks focused on the same narrative. There Wilford Woodruff baptized a whole congregation of United Brethren—six hundred strong. The story has been retold and retold; Woodruff is legendary. As the story goes the United Brethren were just waiting for the Mormon missionaries to show up. John Benbow said they were “searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were continually calling upon the Lord to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge that they might know the true way to be saved.” Woodruff brought them the “light and truth” for which they searched and they converted in droves in Benbow’s pond. 

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THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPERS RELEASE DOCUMENTS 6: FEBRUARY 1838-AUGUST 1839

By October 26, 2017


Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, David W. Grua, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink.

 

The ink was barely dry on the sixth volume of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers when I was able to meet with three of the very capable editors of the volume—Mark Ashurst-McGee, David Grua, and Elizabeth Kuehn. That week I also heard JI’s own, David Grua, lecture on the Liberty Jail letters. It was all a lot to take in. In the time that has passed, I’ve been able to understand the depth and breadth of this volume a little better. The Missouri experience looms large in the Mormon memory and the contribution of this volume is essential to our understanding of this critical period—though it will take a very long time to take it all in.

This tome is the largest volume thus far in the Papers project. Its 776 meticulous pages cover just 19 months in four sections. Add the front matter and you’re over 800 pages. (Let’s hope the binding can hold up.)

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JI Summer Book Club 2017, II: A House Full of Females, Chapter 2

By June 11, 2017


Emma Smith, The Elect Lady by Theodore S. Gorka

 

“Women’s voices trouble the old stories.”

The line lingered with me for weeks.

Then at the Mormon History Association’s annual conference LDS Church historian and recorder Elder Steven E. Snow emphasized the need for the troubling saying, “For too long Mormon women’s voices have been ignored. We, as a people, have suffered because of it.”[1]

Chapter two of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females is a gorgeous example of how incorporating women’s accounts provides a more complete view of all of the colors and textures and corners of the tapestry of early LDS history, but also frays the neatly finished edges in troublesome ways. After the Missouri expulsion, dual male narratives act in concert–miraculous healing and distinct but likewise miraculous missionary work. Joseph Smith offered physical salvation through healing. Healing enabled male apostles to work to offer spiritual salvation to others. In a tidy reciprocal narrative structure, Latter-day Saints are provided with examples of both “what God can do for us and what we can do for God.” In both narratives, men endowed with priesthood power accomplished much.

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The 2nd Annual MWHIT Bazaar at MHA

By May 23, 2017


The countdown to MHA has begun. 9 days and counting…. (If you still need to register go here.)

Help support and promote Mormon women’s history with the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Bazaar. Plan now to attend MWHIT’s second annual fundraiser bazaar and silent auction, June 2-4, 2017, at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. Donate handmade clothing, textiles, crafts, or professional skills (editing, writing, consulting, etc.). Donations are welcome even if you can’t attend in person. Contact any member of the MWHIT team with questions. All proceeds from the bazaar will help fund MWHIT programs and writing awards.


MHA in St. Louis June 1-4, 2017 – Registration Price Increase Approaching

By May 5, 2017


June 1-4, 2017, Historic St Charles, St Louis area Missouri.

Mormon History Association’s 52nd Annual Conference is coming quickly–the first weekend in June in St. Louis. Registration prices will increase after May 6th. Go here to register. (You must have already joined MHA to get member pricing. Go here if you still need to join for the year.) Check out conference information here and a copy of the preliminary program here. We want to see you there.


“We shall now call on some of our sisters”: Regarding General Relief Society Presidents, Beginnings, and Endings

By April 6, 2017


Rachel Hunt Steenblik posed a question that intrigued me, so I decided to look a bit further at women’s conference participation to specifically those years when a new Relief Society Presidency was called.

I am again relying on the appendix from At the Pulpit here

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“We shall now call on some of our sisters”: LDS Women and General Conference Participation Part 2

By April 3, 2017


In March of 2013, I began to create a history of women speaking in General Conference here, though that effort was only a start. Recently, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, edited by JI’s own Jenny Reeder with Kate Holbrook offers an almost exhaustive appendix—“Latter-day Saint Women Speakers in General Conference.” Charlotte Hansen Terry’s extensive labors produced the appendix. My colleague John Thomas offered one correction to that appendix which did not make the imprint (or the online version as of yet): In October 1902 Mrs. Lucy Smith spoke in the outdoor overflow meeting as recorded here.

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The Friend and a Seer Stone

By February 5, 2017


Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 1.40.17 AMSince 1971, The Friend has been the LDS Church’s magazine for children. An article in the September 1974 issue of The Friend detailed that in addition to the Urim and Thummin “Joseph [Smith] also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating [the Book of Mormon] called a seer stone.”[1] After combining and revamping church magazines in 1971, this was the first mention of a seer stone. Three years later, historian Richard Lloyd Anderson published an article on Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon that likewise included mention of Smith’s seer stone usage.[2] This might surprise many Latter-day Saints today as Joseph Smith’s seer stone usage has not always played a role in the devotional narrative of Smith’s life and many might have believed the seer stone to be a part of antagonistic tall tales.

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New Year’s Day 2017 – Ring in the Historians

By December 31, 2016


Across the world, the 2017 LDS Sunday School course of study is the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. While church history has consistently been in the now regular four-year canonical rotation; the historical content beyond the manual has been minimal—basically limited to the 1838 canonized Joseph Smith—History and a glorified pamphlet—Our Heritage: A Brief History of fullsizerender-2the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996) in the last decade. Regrettably, English speaking members who use a hard copy manual or download the pdf will continue to use the same manual. (So don’t.) However, those who use the online lessons from lds.org or from the Gospel Library app will have access to a much broader scope of historical sources.

The new manual introduction—“Helps for the Teacher”—quotes from and links to M. Russell Ballard’s seminal February 2016 talk to Church Education System personnel, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century.” He then urged instructors to study the “best books”—including “the best LDS scholarship available.” Ballard cited

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Compatability, Conflict, and Community – Review of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

By December 9, 2015


pants quilt

Nikki Hunter’s beautiful “Sunday Morning” quilt (“The Pants Quilt”) adorns the cover of the new Oxford Press Publication Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright. The quilt is accompanied by this note: “On December 16, 2012, Mormon feminists around the world took action to raise the visibility of feminist issues by wearing pants to local LDS Church Services….Although not officially prohibited, pants-wearing by women at Sunday services jarred with deeply held gendered dress customs in many Mormon communities around the globe.” (xi) Women who participated sent their trousers to Hunter, who created a material sign of their community. The front cover encourages us to begin to think about Mormon feminism in terms of female identity, activism, and the place of community on a global scale.

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September 11th and the Politics of Comparison

By September 21, 2015


51meOlDJ63L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Most of us (of a certain age) have a very specific memory of where we were that day in 2001. I was sitting on my couch watching the Today Show as the plane hit the second tower. I set down my laptop and didn’t pick it back up that day.

At the time, it didn’t occur to me at the time that this was not the first time something horrific happened on September 11th. My abandoned laptop held evidence of another harrowing day in September almost a century and a half earlier—I had been reading newspaper articles about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Only later would I learn that 11 September was also the date of the Chilean coup in which elected President Salvador Allende was ousted (with help from the US) that led to the 15-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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The hours are counting down for She Shall be an Ensign.

By June 30, 2015


Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 7.48.21 AMLast month (here) we told you about friend of JI and Keepapitchinin’ blogger, Ardis Parshall, and her Kickstarter campaign–She Shall be an Ensign. We are glad to support her in achieving her goal, but she is still working with a shoestring budget. And if she reaches $40,000 everyone who donates $10 or more gets an additional packet of lesson plans.

If you believe that there is much Mormon History still to be written and a wide range of women’s voices need their rightful place in that history, contribute now. You’ve got 14 hours left!


Let her be an Ensign.

By May 29, 2015


Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 4.30.46 PM

Two years ago, I wrote a post called, “In the Ghetto: I Like It Here, but When Can I Get Out?” I lamented the separation of Mormon women’s history from the general narrative of the church. Having people read what you’ve written is always lovely, but it is exponentially better when someone continues to think about something you’ve written and then chooses to do something about it. Thank you, Ardis.

Ardis Parshall–the mastermind behind the Mormon history blog Keepapitchinin–has moved to act. Always one to go above and beyond, Ardis has begun a daunting project of writing a broad synthesis of Mormon history written from the perspective of women–She Shall Be an Ensign. And she needs our support.

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Roundtable on Paul Reeve, RELIGION OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: Red, White, and Mormon.

By May 12, 2015



Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 1.05.09 AM
One day several years ago, I was sitting in my office at the LDS Church History Library reading trial transcripts for the Mountain Meadows Massacre and it suddenly occurred to me that that language being used to describe the Mormons sounded a lot like late nineteenth century language to describe African Americans. The language was racial. This was not a group of early African American Mormon converts that were being described, but a group of Southern Utah settlers, mostly of English descent, whom I had never thought of as anything but white.

For many contemporary Americans the idea that race is a historical construct still seems foreign—race doesn’t change they might say, it just is. (If you fit in that category, perhaps start with this.) In the last twenty years, we have had a proliferation of studies of race built in mostly segregated histories: Indians, African Americans, and whiteness have been central. And while all of these studies have offered insightful arguments about how we construct race and how our perceptions change over time, few have offered intersections beyond oppositional definitions. Reeve’s brilliance is found in these intersections. Rather than starting with and emphasizing Mormon exceptionalism, Reeve broadly contextualizes the evolving concepts of race and the affect on Mormonism.

Reeve’s chapters 2 and 3 illuminate Elder Berry’s American Indian child concentrating on Mormons and Native Americans—“Red, White, and Mormon”—both the real and the perceived. In chapter 2 it is a Mormon and Indian alliance—“Ingratiating themselves with the Indians” and chapter 3 Mormons playing Indian in “White Indians” that center his analysis.

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Sin, Seminary, and Mountain Meadows.

By February 18, 2014


Last week a new Doctrine and Covenants seminary manual popped up on lds.org. My pragmatic self tends to try and manage expectations with new manuals, but I was pleased to see a new chapter on “The Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre” with most of the chapter focusing on the massacre. The prior seminary manual (2001) included nary a mention of the massacre.[1] This manual also includes a quite extensive chapter on plural marriage (extensive in comparison to other chapters).

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In the Ghetto: I Like It Here, but When Can I Get Out?

By March 27, 2013


My ghetto isn’t a slum; I’m quite comfortable here. My ghetto has lovely wallpaper, good hot (chocolate) drinks, and great stories. Really amazing stories. But it is separate.

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Women Praying in General Conference and Grassroots Efforts

By March 19, 2013


If (when) we see women praying in spring General Conference 2013 (hallelujah!), it may or may not be the result of grassroots efforts. Some will argue that the change was in place long before the efforts of “Let Women Pray in General Conference,” yet those involved will not likely feel that their efforts were of no consequence. Nor should they, they are part of a significant LDS historical tradition.

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“We shall now call on some of our sisters”: LDS Women and General Conference Participation

By March 14, 2013


On the second day of October conference 1929, LDS Church President Heber J. Grant introduced three other Presidents without warning—Sisters Louise Robison, Ruth May Fox, and May Anderson. President Grant commented,

“We have listened to a great many testimonies from our brethren during this conference.

We shall now call on some of our sisters…”[1]

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The Mountain Meadows Massacre in Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet

By November 8, 2012


Brigham Young “has never been less than the tyrant of the Mormon church, and if there does not cleave his soul today the deadly crime of wholesale murder in the massacre of Mountain Meadow, there will be forever, probably, cleave to his name the guilt of that awful slaughter, in the conviction of the American people, who would have indulged in no reprehensible joy, if he had been brought to the bar of human justice for that and the involved iniquities that defame his memory and disgrace his name.”[1]

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I Found it in the Archives: Archival Code Breakers

By October 29, 2012


I have to admit, as completely unpalatable as I find Nicolas Cage (despite his influential corner of internet memes), every once in a while I wish that archival research was a little less sitting and reading a little more jumping to action and making remarkable and miraculous connections—preferably in some deep lost underground tunnel holding documents no one has seen for a couple hundred years or more. (Dr. Jones, Jr. is clearly more acceptable than Cage, were it not for that crystal skull and his inability to get tenure, but I don’t really need to get in a row with cannibalistic natives.) Despite this desire for excitement, most archival finds and brief moments of epiphany occur only after a lot of work amidst the mundane.

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