Articles by

Tona H

Mormons Got Talent: the Choir Library Wayback Machine

By August 15, 2012


My new calling as ward choir director came with the keys, so to speak, to the closet of old music. I cleaned it out, took it all home, and spread it all over the floor of our library to organize. I didn’t intend for this to be an archival research moment, but as I sorted and tossed I became drawn into the experience and starting reading slower and slower… it was, in a sense, a historical archive dating back at least to the late 1970s.

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Climbing Up the Child’s Ladder: Catechism for Little Saints

By August 4, 2012


I stumbled on this little gem while looking for something else in the Internet Archive’s collection of Mormon publications [1] and was both charmed and intrigued by it. The pamphlet is a 16-page tract, titled “The Latter-day Saints’ Catechism: Or, Child’s Ladder,” by Elder David Moffat. Subtitle: “Being a Series of Questions Adapted for the Use of the Children of Latter-day Saints.”

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Our Modest Proposal for BYU Women’s Conference: A Mo-TED Talk on Female Ritual Healing

By June 8, 2012


This post co-authored by JI contributors Tona H and J. Stapley

We’ve been thinking…

Each spring, more than 14,000 women converge on the BYU campus for Women’s Conference. The annual 2-day event is cosponsored by BYU and the Relief Society, and it has a remarkable influence among its physical attendees, amplified by the larger sessions being broadcast on BYU-TV and because Deseret Book issues a “greatest hits” compilation volume of talks from the conference each year. Given its quasi-official status, alongside Deseret Book’s touring production of regional women’s retreats, “Time Out for Women,” BYU Women’s Conference provides an important venue for devotional talks by and about women’s experiences in the Church. Many LDS women see both as “approved” forums and use them as a spiritual retreat.

However, BYU Women’s Conference is more like a business conference/trade show than an academic conference. Which got us wondering…

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The Sacred Parking Garage Effect

By June 5, 2012


I get dibs on this clunky coining, but I wanted to articulate something that I’ve noticed in the way many non-academy-trained Mormons approach history. You probably have recognized the same phenomenon under a different name (and I’d love to know what you call it).

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A Weekend Poll

By March 9, 2012


I’ll be teaching a seminar this fall on American religious pluralism and I need to submit my book adoptions soon. What’s hip, new and suitable for upper-level undergrads? Or, alternatively, what are the go-to classics? It will be a general course, not specifically on Mormonism, but I know this crowd would have good ideas, so I’m just throwing it open for suggestions.

Just to reminisce… when I took my undergrad American religion course from Steve Marini at Wellesley College (using the cross-registration bus provided by MIT), we used Stephen Allstrom’s Religious History. Good times.

Suggest away.


Oz Behind the Curtain, Part 4: The Syllabus

By February 5, 2012


Here’s the premise of this post: a syllabus should be more than a boring, text-laden legal contract. If you let it, it can also be 1) a thing of beauty, and 2) a tool to think with about your teaching and your students’ learning.

At this point I hope you can see why this post comes late in my series about course and syllabus design (you can read part 1, part 2 and part 3 plus a part 3a if you care about the nitty-gritty of governance and assessment). Actually putting the stuff into a document necessitates having stuff to put, and all the course planning should happen long before you decide what font to use and what color paper to print it on.

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Religious History Classes Come With Instructions

By January 16, 2012


This is Part 3 in my series on course & syllabus design (“Oz Behind the Curtain”); here are Part 1 and Part 2. I’ve also posted a Part 3a on governance and alignment, but since it’s kind of technical it’s only on my blog; see here if you want to get into those nitty-gritty details.

All my syllabi have some generalized instructions. I include some boilerplate stuff on every syllabus: use of phone and laptops in class, something about attendance and participation to the effect that just showing up is necessary but not sufficient, something about disability accommodations, and so on.

But for a course that studies religion, somehow, I feel there needs to be something more along the lines of ground rules.

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Oz Behind the Curtain, Part 2

By January 11, 2012


This is Part 2 in a series on course & syllabus design; Part 1 is here.

I last taught “Religions in America” in the fall of 2009 as a special topics course in history, which meant I didn’t have to jump through any approval hoops. Since that time, I’ve put the course through our university and General Education governance so it could be listed with a course number in the regular catalog. Now that I’m planning to teach it again in 2012-2013, it’s time to revisit the course from the inside out and update its learning outcomes and course expectations (and give it a revamped web presence). All of this can be done without altering its catalog description or governance approvals–which is an important point if you are inheriting an existing course and are looking to redesign it or reinvent its pedagogy.

My 2009 syllabus enumerated course objectives (old-style, professor-centered).

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Oz Behind the Curtain, Part 1

By January 10, 2012


This will be a series of posts about the process of course creation, using my “Religions in America” course as a case study. I’m thinking about it this week because this is my university’s faculty “Winter Institute” and as part of it, there’s a two-day syllabus development workshop.

Course creation and syllabus design were not something that was covered in any great depth during my graduate education. I used syllabi I like as a model and tried to imitate the teachers I thought were exemplary, but as a general rule: pedagogy was a taboo topic. I don’t know if it seemed beneath us, or too self-evident to merit comment, or irrelevant to the research-and-dissertation-writing process… but you know, when I write those out that way, it seems so obvious that in real life it is NONE of those things, and that it is not only a worthwhile topic for us to talk about, but in fact a NECESSARY one.

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“Mormon Women and Modernity” at AAR San Francisco

By November 19, 2011


It’s a gorgeous sunny day in San Francisco – where’s that fabled fog?? I’m sporting the already-ubiquitous free red tote bag and lanyard as I stroll between the hotels in and around Union Square downtown. This my first AAR/SBL and yes — it is a BIG conference. I’m being remarkably restrained in the book exhibit although there’s lots to drool over (I was tweeting some of the more notable titles, feel free to follow my conference tweets @tonahangen, and the conference hashtag is #sblaar).

Saturday morning I headed over to the session sponsored by the Mormon Studies Consultation. Colleen McDannell was presiding (really, that’s the way it’s printed in the AAR program) over a session on “Mormon Women and Modernity.”

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Two Queries

By November 16, 2011


I’m surfacing from a very busy semester to ask two things:

–when did the term “FLDS” develop? I have my ideas and some initial research but if anyone has insight on that, I’d be grateful for input.

–who’s going to be at AAR/SBL in San Franciso this weekend and would there be interest in organizing an informal JI meetup?

This is my first time at AAR – I’m looking forward to it. I will be speaking in a panel sponsored by the History of Christianity Section on Monday morning on the state of the field of fundamentalism (Session A21-104), and among other things I’m musing about the emergence of the FLDS wing of Mormonism’s house–or at least the emergence of CALLING it that, and about what that might say about the changing meanings for the term “fundamentalism.” My fellow panelists are Matthew Sutton, David Harrington Watt, Randall Stephens, and Mary Beth Mathews.

FYI, the Mormon Studies Consultation panel will be on Saturday morning at 9, with Colleen McDannell at the helm, on “Mormon Women and Modernity” (Session A19-130). It sounds like it angles towards sociology rather than history, but should be interesting to attend. The contributors and papers:

Ann Duncan (Goucher College) “The Mommy Wars, Mormonism and the ‘Choices’ of American Motherhood”
Jennifer Meredith (U of U) “Western Pioneer Mythos in the Negotiation of Mormon Feminism and Faith”
Jill Peterfeso (U North Carolina) “Scripting, Performing, Testifying: Giving Faithful ‘Seximony’ Through the Mormon Vagina Monologues
Doe Daughtry (Arizona State) “‘Further Light and Knowledge’: Ways of Knowing in Mormonism and the New Spirituality”

Respondant is R. Marie Griffith from Harvard, and James M.McLachlan and Grant Underwood will be on hand for the business meeting.

Are other JI contributors, readers & fans going to be attending AAR? Maybe we could all have a breakfast or lunch together at some point over the weekend.


Developing Historical Methods

By September 6, 2011


This morning was the initial class in the historical methods course I teach, made up of undergraduate history majors/minors. It will be an interesting mix this term; some are double majors with education heading for public school classrooms, and I have a handful of students with plans to go to graduate school in history. A few are older than traditional college age. I can already sense that this will be a good group for discussions, that’s a good sign.

My Day One activity looks like this: divide the class into three groups (I have about 15 students in the class; if it were going to be bigger, I’d create more groups). One group has people who have brought laptops to class. I give each group a set of documents or artifacts and a series of questions to start them off, and then I stand back and observe for about half an hour. I’m looking to see how they approach an unfamiliar set of sources, and I’m trying to get to know them as learners. What kinds of questions do they ask? How do they begin to make sense of what’s in front of them? Who emerges as a natural leader? How well are they listening to each other’s ideas?

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How Deep Is Your Mormon Women’s History?

By August 6, 2011


In Claudia Bushman’s 2010 article for Dialogue, “Should Mormon Women Speak Out?” 41 (1): 171-184 – and by the way, the answer is yes – she writes,

I grew up in the Church but knew nothing of LDS women’s history. I did not know that the Relief Society operated cooperative stores, spun and wove silk fabric (including hatching the silkworms from eggs and feeding them on mulberry leaves that they gathered by hand), gleaned the fields to save grain for bad times, and trained as midwives and doctors. I didn’t know that they were the first women in the United States to vote, even though Wyoming’s women were first to receive the right to vote. I didn’t know that they edited their own excellent newspaper or that they had large meetings when they spoke up for their rights and beliefs as citizens and as Mormons. Finding all this out was part of our Boston women’s study [in the 1970s]. One of our women discovered bound volumes of the Woman’s Exponent, the newspaper edited by Lula Greene Richards and Emmeline B. Wells (1872–1914) in the Harvard library. She copied out sections; and we found in our foremothers who spoke out the models we were searching for in our own lives.

What strikes me about this observation is how true it STILL is, even in 2011.

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