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Ten Questions with Matt Grow and Eric Smith

By February 27, 2018

Friend of the blog Kurt Manwaring has published an interview with the historians Matt Grow and Eric Smith about their work on the Council of Fifty minutes. The interview in its entirety can be found here; selected snippets are published below. Enjoy, then hop on over to read all ten questions!

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JI Summer Book Club: A House Full of Females, Chapter 9

By July 30, 2017

This is the ninth 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.

In the previous chapter, we followed Mormon pioneers on the trail west. In Chapter Nine, Ulrich uses the theme of women using their pens as weapons, often aimed at their spouses, other times employed as a kind of self-defense. For example, Augusta Cobb longed to be independent, but found herself needing to defer to both her husband and his plural wives and failing at both. Ulrich weaves together Augusta’s personal circumstances with a larger reflection on the tensions caused by plural marriage in Utah and beyond. Not one to bow down and suffer in silence, her writings to her husband, Brigham Young, reflect either her inability or unwillingness to play by the rules that got things done in Zion–not only did she not submit silently to her husband, but as Ulrich writes, by refusing to participate in the sister-wife system, she took herself out of the political and economic flow, leaving her with few resources and an increasing frustration over the paradoxes and hardships of female independence and existence in Zion. 

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JI Summer Book Club: Update

By May 19, 2017

This summer, Juvenile Instructor is hosting a series on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new and long-awaited book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism. (The first two posts of the series can be found here and here.)

Many of you will have already learned the devastating news that the Ulrichs’ son Nathan, died in a plane crash in the Bahamas earlier this week, along with his girlfriend and her two sons. Out of respect for this immense loss, we will be pausing our discussion of Laurel’s book, to be resumed at a later date. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information on this hiatus.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, their friends, and loved ones at this time.

History and Presence, Chapter 7: The Abundance of Evil

By March 7, 2017

Welcome to the eighth installment of our Tuesdays with Orsi series! We’re taking a look at the seventh chapter of Robert Orsi’s History and Presence, and as Hannah introduced last week, today’s discussion will be on the meaning of abundant evil. Previous installments can be found here: Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4Chapter 5, and Chapter 6.

Where chapter six took on the idea of heaven, this chapter deals more with hell. What happens, Orsi asks, when the abundant event believers encounter is an evil one? He uses the stories of men and women who were sexually abused as children to tease out the question of presence and abundance in light of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

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Summer Book Club Week 5: Mormon Enigma, chapters 13-15

By July 4, 2016

Click here for part onetwothree, and four of this year’s summer book club. 

I have a magnet of Emma Smith on my fridge. It’s the lone souvenir of the church history trip I took in the summer of 2014, from Palmyra all the way down to Nauvoo, and I bought it at the Community of Christ-operated shop in Nauvoo. Emma’s portrait stares at me, amongst the magnets commemorating visits to national parks and museums, pictures of my family, postcards my friends send me from far-away places, and the coupons I can never remember to use before they expire. I deliberately did not buy the portrait of Joseph Smith. As a non-Mormon, Joseph is mostly irrelevant to my life, except in the ways he matters to those that matter to me. But Emma, Emma I feel for. And thus she has a place in my kitchen, and I was excited to start this year’s book club selection. 

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Summer Book Club Week 4: Mormon Enigma, Chapters 10-12

By June 27, 2016

J. Stapley brings us the next installment of the Summer Book Club. Click here for part one, two, and three

Ben mentioned last week that Mormon Enigma was one of the best treatments of Nauvoo polygamy available. The topic is a morass, and to be honest I have started more than one book on the topic, only to set it down never to pick it back up after a chapter or two. I’ve read a lot of the primary documents, and some of the prominent secondary literature. And it is true, that the chapters in Mormon Enigma are some of the most readable and insightful, even while laboring under the constraints of time. 

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Modest is Hottest: Beyond Amish Romance Novels?

By March 15, 2016

Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s 2013 book, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels unpacks the popularity of Amish romance novels among evangelical women. Although often dismissed as escapist fiction, women’s fiction, fluff lit, or all of the above, Weaver-Zercher argues that evangelical women turn to Amish romance novels for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the hypermodern and hypersexual world in which readers live.

This post isn’t about that, however. Rather, my interest was piqued by a footnote, in which the author catalogues writers who are writing similar stories, but in different settings. You have your Amish romance novels, but also your Mennonite, and Shaker, and Quaker romance novels. And to my surprise, apparently also Mormon romance novels.

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Giselle, or the making of idols

By January 21, 2016

One of my dissertation chapters deals with gender and the family as protectors of religious order, discussing how Mormon discourse contributes to the erasure of women’s voices on a local and institutional level. During my research, I read Fresh Courage Take: New Directions by Mormon Women, edited by Jamie Zvirzdin. It’s a book filled with essays by seasoned writers, and not-so-seasoned writers, traditionalists and progressives alike, and one of the essays that really struck me was “Giselle,” written by the editor herself. 

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Job Ad: Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer

By October 26, 2015

We’d like to make our readers aware of an exciting new opportunity: the University of Virginia posted an ad for a Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Mormon Studies.

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JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 5: Chapters 10-12

By June 8, 2015

This is the fifth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.


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Review: David Conley Nelson’s Moroni and the Swastika

By April 16, 2015

MoroniDavid Conley Nelson, Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany. University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.

David Conley Nelson’s book centers on a bold premise: that Mormonism in Germany did not only survive WWII relatively unscathed, but actually benefited from it. Nelson, who has a PhD in history from Texas A&M University, asserts that the church, helped by faithful historians, is invested in promoting a picture of German Mormons as suffering for the sake of the gospel. However, a more accurate picture would be that “German Mormons and their prewar American missionaries avoided persecution by skillfully collaborating to a degree that ensured their survival but did not subject them to postwar retribution” (xvi). Throughout the book, Nelson uses the rhetorical devices of ‘memory beacons’ and ‘dimmer switches’ to illustrate the construction of memory sites, and the ways in which realities of collaboration, then, were transformed into memories of appeasement and survival.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By April 12, 2015

This week, I have for your perusal:

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Understanding RLDS History: A Resource List

By February 16, 2015

In January, JI got an email asking for a post highlighting the “essential” books to understanding the history of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/Community of Christ. We reached out to David Howlett, author of The Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space (University of Illinois Press, 2014), and visiting assistant professor at Skidmore College. David’s book is well worth your time, and I urge you all to read it. He graciously provided us with a list of five essential books for any readers interested in RLDS/Community of Christ history.

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Review: Craig Harline’s Way Below the Angels

By January 28, 2015

Harline, Craig. Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Life Mormon Missionary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2014.

Craig Harline, professor of European History at BYU, wrote a missionary memoir about his time spent serving in Belgium. As its title suggests, this is not a typical memoir of perseverance and triumph. No, instead Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary chronicles his time as Elder Harline in a real, self-deprecating, and occasionally raw manner.

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JI on Polygamy

By October 25, 2014

On Wednesday, we here at JI declared we were happy to (try to) answer any questions about polygamy people may have, in response to the Church publishing two more essays on the topic. In preparation for that post (or several posts) next week, I’ve hunted through the archives to find older posts on the subject. (Warning, there are a lot.) I’ve tried to group them thematically here below.

LDS responses to anti-polygamy legislation

Responses: Patrick Mason on David Pulsipher on Mormon Civil Disobedience

Joseph H. Dean and Joseph F. Smith on Mexico/Polygamy

The Manifesto and post-Manifesto polygamy

A Review of Lu Ann Faylor Snyder and Phillip A. Snyder, eds., Post Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff (and another review here)

Wasted Seed and Spent Men: Corinne Allen Tuckerman and the Politics of Polygamy after 1890

Reading Like a Conspiracy Theorist, Part 1: A Post-Manifesto Polygamist’s Diary, Part 2: The Case for Polygamy, Part 3: Quinn and Hardy

Quantifying Polygamy

From the Archives: Joseph Smith III Congratulates Wilford Woodruff on the Manifesto

Remembering polygamy

From Embrace to Embarrassment: Remembering Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered: Charles W. Penrose on Polygamy, Etc.

“Plurality of Wives was an Incident, Never an Essential”: James E. Talmage on Polygamy

Mormon Folklore, Part Two (Polygamy)

Susa Young Gates, Juanita Brooks, and Plural Marriage: Situating the Legacy of Polygamy in the 1920s and 1930s

Celestial Polygamy is Inevitable

Grub Street History: Peggy Fletcher Stack and The Polygamies of Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs

The Perspectives on Parley Pratt’s Autobiography: BiV on “Conjugal Relations of Parley P. Pratt as Portrayed in his Autobiography”

Women and the Manifesto: Painting with Broad Strokes

Specific Polygamous Relationships

Helen Mar Kimball blessing and the dating of her marriage to Joseph Smith

Hannah Tapfield King’s Introduction to Polygamy and Hannah Tapfield King, Gendered History, and Class

Movie Review: Emma Smith: A Really Great Catch and Emma Smith Movie, Again

 Polygamy and gender

“The cheerless, crushed and unwomanly mothers of polygamy”

“Either a misogynist or proto-feminist”: Women and Polygamy in John Turner’s “Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet”

Passionate Stability: Polygamy, Dating, and the Creation of Modern Mormon Gender

Thoughts on Polyandry

Polygamy and race

Black Methodists, White Mormons: Race and Antipolygamy

“Prelude to American Imperialism”: Mormon Polygamy, Natural Law, and Whiteness

“A situation worse than polygamy”: Mormon Missionaries, “Mulattos”, and Defending the Faith in North Carolina, 1900


When Did Mormons Become Straight: The Intersections of Mormon History and Queer Theory

Spatial Dynamics and Polygamous Burial Practices

Notes from the Utah State Historical Society’s 56th Annual Conference, Part 2: Polygamy

From the Archives: “Polygamy…is Conducive to Health, Ingelligence, and Longevity”, An 1885 Letter of George Reynolds on Ebay

Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By September 21, 2014

Let’s dive right in:

First things first: the Church History department is now on Tumblr! I’ve already added it to my blog roll and look forward to more fun and informative posts.

Then, a Trib article on the (presumed) relationship between Mormons and the GOP, and a Huffington Post article on Mormons, social media, and progressive activism.

And because this post deserved another link, and these are words I never thought I’d read in one sentence, “Polygamist women in ninja costumes” involved in nefarious activity. See KUTV for more details on what is a funny headline for a sad story.

Lastly, a reminder that the deadline for this year’s Mormon History Association is coming up! All submissions are due October 1. You can find the CFP here.

Feel free to add your links in the comments!



five reasons to visit the Church History Museum

By September 19, 2014

1. There’s something for everyone: exhibits on Relief Society history, Presidents of the Church, Book of Mormon Fiesta…

2. One exhibit, “Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God,” features some striking art about the breadth and depth of womanhood and charity. Regular JI readers might remember this post, in which curator Lauren Allred Hurtado introduced the exhibit. (Not in Utah? You can see an online version of the exhibit here.)

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MSWR – July 20

By July 20, 2014

For your Sunday perusal:

Our own Amanda Hendrix-Komoto writes about the excommunication of Kate Kelly (and Mormon feminism?) on the Nursing Clio blog.

Pauline Kelly Harline writes about female Mormon bloggers and the long tradition of writing that exists in Mormon culture.

Joseph Spencer recaps the Mormon Theology Symposium that recently wrapped up in London here.

A whole host of qualified people (including JI-ers Andrea Radke-Moss and Rachael Givens) weigh in on the question of equality, gender, and priesthood here on a panel at Patheos.

Is the Mormon moment finally over? Find out here.

On the complexities of Mormon identities, being a gay Mormon, and going from being a missionary to playing one on a stage.

On the intersection of politics and religion when it comes to popular opinion.

Emmeline Wells is highlighted by the National Women’s History Museum here.

The Deseret News reports on the third new temple film to come into rotation in the span of twelve or so months.

And finally, the Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture is holding its symposium on July 22, 23, and 25. The program can be found here. In the neighborhood? Come listen to Natalie Rose on Tuesday!

Anything we missed? Leave your contributions in the comments!

“It’s hokey and didactic, but it works”: on the Mormon Miracle pageant in Manti, Utah*

By July 8, 2014

In June, I went to Manti to witness the Mormon Miracle Pageant that is put on there every year. In many ways, it was an indescribable experience (which is slightly problematic seeing as the pageant is supposed to make its way into one of my dissertation chapters). I’ve pulled together some thoughts for this post, and would be interested to hear yours.

photo 1Those of you that have been to the pageant will likely remember the proselytizing that goes on before the show. Signs had been put up on church grounds that proselytizing was not allowed. Understandable, but a tad ironic, given the LDS Church’s emphasis on missionary work and the vast resources it expends to send missionaries all over the world. It raises interesting questions about center vs. periphery and the ethics of missionary work that I would be happy to debate at some other time (or in the comments, if anyone’s interested). In any case, the signs did not help much, as there were an abundance of people (very careful to stay on public roads) wanting to engage with Mormons about the alleged false doctrine in the church. They ranged from the three or four hecklers shouting at the top of their lungs, to the somewhat bitter ex-Mormons wanting to save their former brothers and sisters, to people calmly handing out pamphlets. Of the latter group, I got the impression that many had been recruited to do their Christian duty and probably could not have told you much about the church except that it was wrong. (This went for some of the hecklers as well: Mormon doctrine was heavily misrepresented in their talk of Mormon polytheism, for example.) In his dissertation, Policing the Borders of Identity at the Mormon Miracle Pageant (2005), Kent Bean writes that the Manti pageant should be framed as a power struggle, between evangelicals, LDS, and Mormon fundamentalists. While I do not entirely agree with his characterization of the Mormon-evangelical debate, there is something to be said for the issue of power being central. I’ll come back to that.

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By June 1, 2014

I have a very short MSWR for you today.

The Salt Lake Tribune has a piece on what, exactly, makes Mormonism (among other faiths) attractive to people in Ghana.

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