Section

Biography

Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Bushman, and Psychoanalysis

By June 9, 2014


No, the title of this post is not the opening for one of those “…walk into a bar…” jokes, although it does provide good potential.[1]

NOTE: This post doesn’t aim to make a particular argument, or perhaps to say much new, but merely to express some issues that have been circling my mind for a while, and conclude one of those historical nerd tangential interests that we all know so well.

Apparently not satisfied with merely enraging Mormon historians, Brodie later tried to do the same to Jeffersonian scholars.

Apparently not satisfied with merely enraging Mormon historians, Brodie later tried to do the same to Jeffersonian scholars.

A few months ago, in a conversation on the H-SHEAR list (an email group focused on the history of the early American republic), someone made a reference to Fawn Brodie’s biography of Thomas Jefferson. Then, as an aside, the writer added, “Incidentally, Fawn Brodie is in my view the Rosalind Franklin of American history. There are many Watsons and Cricks in the historical profession who owe her a posthumous apology.” Franklin, for those of you (like me) who aren’t encyclopedias of this type of knowledge, was a biophysicist who studied DNA in the early 1950s. Watson and Crick, who were dismissive and rude toward Franklin in public and private throughout her life, accessed her data without her knowledge, much less permission, and used that data to make the critical leap in insight that elucidated the structure of DNA. They published with no mention of Franklin’s contribution and went on to great fame and a Nobel Prize a decade later.[2]

While Brodie is mostly known in Mormon circles for her controversial biography of Joseph Smith, she is more widely known in the American historical community for her innovative use of psychohistory, especially in her biographies of Thomas Jefferson and, less successfully, Richard Nixon. Indeed, No Man Knows My History was merely her entrance into the historical profession, where afterward she became one of the foremost practitioners of psychohistory American political biography, and was even one of the first tenured female professors at UCLA. Most especially, her Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Life (W. W. Norton, 1974) was a national bestseller and instigator of much debate in the academic community. In the book, Brodie focused on Jefferson’s private life, and was one of the first to strongly argue that there was a relationship between the president and his slave, Sally Hemings. The book was a commercial success, but was panned by many historians, especially Jeffersonian scholars, who rejected the thesis that Jefferson would procreate with a slave. Many historians rejected Browdie’s interpretation of Jefferson, just as Mormon historians rejected her interpretation of Joseph Smith.[3]

Several decades later, however, Brodie’s argument was vindicated.

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Hannah Tapfield King, Gendered History, and Class

By May 21, 2014


This image, from British Chartist George Cruikshank in 1840, raises a provocative question: when tracing the origins of Mormon symbology, why not look at the British political debates over class--an atmosphere most of the Q12 experienced in formative years?

This image, from British Chartist George Cruikshank in 1840, raises a provocative question: when tracing the origins of Mormon symbology, why not look at the British political debates over class–an atmosphere most of the Q12 experienced in formative years?

For a historiographical tradition birthed from the New Social History movement, New Mormon History has certainly lacked attention toward the potent topic of class. Sure, it pops up every once and a while—most expectedly from the economic work of Leonard Arrinton, and perhaps least expectedly in Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow’s biography of Parley Pratt—but historians of Mormonism in general have neglected class tensions as the dominant lens through which to view the LDS tradition. There are probably a number of reasons for this, including the lack of theoretical sophistication in most works on Mormon history, the assumption that Mormonism’s emphasis on communalism has shaped our understanding of distinct social classes, the LDS tradition’s emphasis on the equality of the gospel, most participants’ adherence to economic free markets, and perhaps the expectation that few Mormon historians would employ the tools of Marxist criticism.[1] This lack of focus should give us pause, because of at least three general points. First, Mormonism’s message had significant consequences for the temporal realities of its converts. Second, the LDS Church’s constant migration forced particants to create anew social networks and circumstances in several new contexts. And third, as confirmed through political debates year in and year out, notions of class and societal power have a real impact on how individuals live, work, and socialize, a phenomenon that is especially acute for communities that place religious significance on their cultural surroundings. Religious historiography of recent decades has digested these facts, and it is left for historians of Mormonism to catch up.[2]

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New Addition: Liz M.

By March 20, 2014


We’re pleased to announce that Liz M., a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University, has agreed to join the Juvenile Instructor. Here is how she describes herself:

I am working on a PhD in American religious history at Claremont Graduate University. My dissertation is on women’s popular family theologies in between the world wars. One chapter will be on Mormon women. So I am interested in family religion and women’s religious history.

Please join us in welcoming Liz to the Juvenile Instructor, the best academic Mormon history blog on the interwebz since 2007!


From the Archives: Thomas D. Brown’s “Missionaries’ Song”

By February 7, 2014


In late 1853, Brigham Young sent missionaries among the Paiutes in what is now southern Utah. The Southern Indian Mission, as it came to be known, resulted from a combination of factors, including Mormon beliefs in the Israelite origins of indigenous peoples and Young’s Indian policies in the wake of the Walker War of 1853-1854. Many Paiutes, including some prominent chiefs, found the missionaries’ message appealing, with hundreds of baptisms occurring over the next decade. The Paiutes embraced Mormonism for a variety of reasons. During the previous generation, the Paiutes’ Ute relatives had relied on horses and guns to raid non-equestrian Paiute bands, kidnapping women and children and selling them to New Mexican and Mormon buyers.[1] Seeing the Mormons as potential allies against the Utes, Paiute bands accepted the missionaries into their communities and expressed interest in learning new agricultural techniques and wearing Euro-American style clothing.[2] Additionally, many Paiutes who chose to affiliate with the church found the new religion compatible with their traditional religious views. By June 1854, one missionary reported that Paiute proselytes “prefer being called Pahute Mormons to Pahutes.”[3]

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Review: Compton, Jacob Hamblin: A Frontier Life

By December 31, 2013


Todd M. Compton. A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013. 642 pp. Illustrations, photos, maps, bibliography, index. Cloth: $44.95; ISBN: 978-1-60781-234-0

Todd Compton’s first major contribution to Mormon history was his 1997 In Sacred Loneliness, a collective biography of Joseph Smith’s plural wives.[1] In his most recent offering, Compton has returned to the biographer’s craft, with a definitive examination of Jacob Hamblin, a prominent figure in the Mormon colonization of southern Utah and the Southwest. Hamblin was a devout Latter-day Saint, who preached the Gospel to Indians, married plural wives, and played a key role in the expanding Kingdom of God in the West. Even in his lifetime, Hamblin achieved renown not only among the Saints as the “Apostle to the Lamanites,” but also nationally as a guide and an interpreter for John Wesley Powell’s famed expeditions to the Grand Canyon. Previous Hamblin biographies have been either fictionalized or hagiographic, reflecting the “Hamblin legend” that emerged in the nineteenth century.[2] More recent works, reacting against these earlier portrayals, have cast Hamblin in a more unfavorable light.[3] Compton’s biography, the first full-length scholarly treatment of Hamblin’s life, presents a positive reevaluation, while not ignoring the frontiersman’s flaws. Compton expertly analyzes Hamblin’s evolving attitudes toward Indians, showing how the missionary gradually became the “Apostle to the Lamanites.”

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Arapeen, the Ute Prophet

By November 26, 2013


Filed away in the Brigham Young Papers at the Church History Library, there is a document that records the vision of a nineteenth-century prophet. That visionary, however, was not Brigham Young. Rather, it was Arapeen, a leading Ute chief during the Mormons’ first two decades in the Great Basin. That the Saints believed that Arapeen had received a legitimate revelation is revealed in the language they used to categorize the document. John Lowry, Jr., the Manti resident who interpreted for Arapeen, and George Peacock, who acted as scribe, entitled the document “Vision of Arapine on the night of the 4th of Feb 1855.” Later, after it had been sent to Young’s office in Salt Lake City, an unidentified clerk scrawled “The Lord to Arrowpin” in the margins.[1] Arapeen’s vision provides a fascinating window into the Utes’ hybrid religious culture that was in the process of formation in the years following the Mormons’ arrival in 1847.

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“A son of the Forest” and “an intelligent son of Abraham”: Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith meet William Apess, 1832

By November 21, 2013


In June 1832, Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to preach Mormonism to the people of what was then the fourth largest city in the United States. The previous year, a young Methodist woman had traveled from Boston to Kirtland, Ohio, been baptized a Mormon, and then returned to her Massachusetts home. That woman—Vienna Jacques—had prepared several of her friends and family members for the arrival of the itinerant missionaries, and Hyde and Smith gained several converts that summer, a number of whom came from the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church, to which Jacques had belonged prior to her conversion to Mormonism.[1]

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True Blue, Depending on Who’s Telling the Tale: The Redacted Story of Joseph F. Smith and the “Ruffians”

By November 12, 2013


True Blue SceneIt’s a powerful story.  The young Joseph F. Smith, fresh off his mission to the Sandwich Islands, is traveling through Southern California on his way home to Utah in late 1857/early 1858.  The Mormons are viewed with mistrust and hostility:  rumors surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre are fresh on everyone’s lips as Johnston’s Army converges on Utah.  Joseph F.’s party is confronted by a band of rough and tumble men on horseback, looking to pick a fight with any Mormons they can find.  Joseph F.’s fellow travelers scatter, and when one burly ruffian pointedly asks Joseph F. if he is a Mormon, the young returned missionary responds, “Yes, siree, dyed-in-the-wool; true blue, through and through,” diffusing the tense confrontation by staying true to his identity.

But was he really “dyed-in-the-wool, true blue, through and through”?

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The Re-Convergence of Mormon and Indian History

By November 7, 2013


This installment of the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Matthew Garrett, associate professor of history at Bakersfield College in California. He received his Ph.D. in American History from Arizona State University in 2010. He is currently revising for publication his dissertation, “Mormons, Indians, and Lamanites: The Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000,”  which should prove to be the definitive history of the ISPP.

When David G. approached me to contribute to this month’s theme, I initially thought the notion of a “Mormons and Natives” field of study seemed a bit odd. I never viewed the two fields with much connectivity, other than a few mid-century works about Jacob Hamblin or Chief Wakara. As I sat down to draft out the separate evolutions of the two fields, the task proved far more complicated than expected, and the only way I could think to articulate it was to take the reader on a semi-biographical journey that follows my own intellectual awakening. I trust that the Juvenile Instructor’s readers will tolerate a little self-indulgence as I relate the divergence and re-convergence of Mormon and Indian history.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By October 13, 2013


Another week, another list of links from the world of Mormon Studies. Let’s get started:

Those of you who enjoyed last month’s series of posts on material culture will want to read Rachel McBride Lindsey’s post at Religion in American History on a recently-rediscovered quilt auctioned off at her grandmother’s childhood church (Tabernacle Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri). Lindsey concludes:

My grandmother was a small child in 1938 and her memories of the quilt are probably more collective than personal. The quilt is not a proxy of material culture—that capacious category assigned to the stuff we designate as somehow meriting sustained inquiry—and neither is it a proxy of the tiny hands that have grown soft and arthritic, or the many other hands that stitched hundreds of names and sewed its patches into a single tapestry. It is not an unmediated connection to the past, but it is a connection whose twines are composed of threads and stories. Itself a patchwork, it asks us to piece together not only the history of the church and the ownership of the quilt, but also the many other histories of which it is a part.

Another non-Mormon post of potential interest to JI readers is Ken Owen’s thoughts on historical heroes over at The Junto. His concluding thoughts are certainly relevant to readers of Mormon history: “I’ll keep my heroes, for without them, I’d begin to wonder why history mattered at all. But I’ll remember that heroism is also a mug’s game, and I’ll do my best to keep my eyes open to the broader questions—good and bad—raised by the lives of those I admire.” 

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New JI Addition: Farina King

By October 7, 2013


The JI is pleased to announce that Farina King has agreed to join the JI full-time. See here for her fantastic guest post on the Miss Indian BYU pageant. Here is her extended bio:

Bilagáana nish?? dóó Kiyaa’áanii báshíshchíín. Bilagáana dashicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dashinálí. In Navajo, we always introduce ourselves by our four clans. We are born to our mother and her clan, and we are born for our fathers and their clan. Navajos are a matrilineal society, so the clans represent the maternal family lines. We then introduce the clans of our maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather. I am “Bilagáana” (Euro-American), born for “Kiyaa’áanii” (the Towering House Clan) of the Diné (Navajo). My maternal grandfather was Euro-American, and my paternal grandfather was “Tsinaajinii” (Black-streaked Woods People Clan) of the Diné.

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John Taylor’s Watch: Holy Relic, Cultural Artifact

By September 27, 2013


Alan Morrell, a curator at the Church History Museum, contributes this installment in the JI’s material culture month. Alan is completing a doctorate in American History at the University of Utah, and he has degrees from BYU and Villanova. 

I have an iPhone because I once missed an appointment. I was so engulfed in my research, I forgot about a meeting and didn’t realize it until it was already over. My wife teases me about being absent-minded, but she wasn’t amused when I told her what had happened. After years of marriage to a poor grad student, she was thrilled that I had a paying job. She worried that I’d screw it up so she went out and bought me something that could keep me on track. Now, the time and my schedule are always available, with reminders of upcoming appointments.

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Miss Indian BYU and Material Culture

By September 26, 2013


This installment in the JI’s material culture month comes from Farina King of the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House clan) of the Diné (Navajo). She is a second-year graduate student in the U.S. History Ph.D program at Arizona State University. She received her M.A. in African History from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies. King has written and presented about indigenous Mormon experiences in the twentieth century, drawing from interviews that she conducted for the LDS Native American Oral History Project at BYU. Her doctoral research traces the changes in Navajo educational experiences through the twentieth century. She was the last Miss Indian BYU crowned in 2006. King is also a dedicated wife and mother to two toddlers. A version of the following will appear in a special issue on Miss Indian pageants, forthcoming in the  Journal of the West .

The Tribe of Many Feathers (TMF), the BYU Native American student organization, hosted the Miss Indian BYU pageant for twenty-three consecutive years until 1990. TMF restarted the pageant in 2001. I was the last crowned Miss Indian BYU in 2006, since the TMF Council cancelled the pageant again in 2007. I had the opportunity to interview several former Miss Indian BYUs about their experiences as title-holders and pageant contestants including Vickie Sanders Bird and Jordan Zendejas who I feature in this blog post. The Miss Indian BYU Pageant and its winners’ memories reveal the ways that Native American LDS youth engaged and transformed material culture in the effort to represent BYU Indian students.

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Remember Zelmo Beaty: Race, Religion, and Basketball in Salt Lake City

By September 13, 2013


Michael J. Altman received his Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from Emory University and is an Instructor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Mike’s areas of interest are American religious history, theory and method in the study of religion, the history of comparative religion, and Asian religions in American culture. He is currently completing a book manuscript analyzing representations of Hinduism in nineteenth century America. This post originally appeared at Mike’s personal blog. He graciously allowed the Juvenile Instructor to repost it in its entirety.

One of my favorite weekly podcasts is Slate’s Hang Up and Listen, a sports podcast that deconstructs sports media and culture with a wry wit that deflates American sports of all its self-seriousness. If sports talk radio is Duck Dynasty, Hang Up is 30 Rock.

Every week host Josh Levin signs off with the phrase “remember Zelmo Beaty.” Beaty, a basketball star in the 60s and 70s passed away recently and this past week Hang Up and Listen reminded us why we should indeed remember him. Stefan Fatsis’ obituary of Beaty opened by staking out Beaty’s importance as a pioneer for black players in professional basketball. But what caught this religious historian’s attention was the confluence of race and religion that surrounded Beaty’s move to Salt Lake City to play for the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association in 1970.

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Elder George P. Lee and the New Jerusalem: A Reception History of 3 Nephi 21:22-23

By August 27, 2013


“Do you think President Kimball approves of your action?” This question, asked by an unnamed general authority of the soon-to-be excommunicated Elder George P. Lee of the First Quorum of the 70, captured the lingering tensions over the rapid decline of the “Day of the Lamanite” that had marked Mormon views of Native Americans in the second half of the twentieth century. Lee, the first general authority of Native descent, was himself the product of several of the programs instituted under the direction of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball designed to educate American Indians and aid their acculturation into the dominant society. Even at the time of Lee’s call to the 70 in 1975, the church had begun reallocating resources away from the so-called “Lamanite programs,” but the full implications of these decisions were not apparent until the mid-1980s. Lee responded to the question posed above by laying out a distinct interpretation of 3 Nephi 21:22-23, an interpretation that he argued Kimball had shared and that the General Authorities in the 1980s had abandoned. The 1980s, known as the decade when Church President Ezra Taft Benson challenged the Saints to increase and improve their devotional usage of the Book of Mormon—a challenge that saw marked results, at least as measured by the significant increase of citations to the work in General Conference talks—was also a decade of debate over the meaning of the book’s intended audience and purpose.[1]

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York City Draft Riots, Part 3: 15-18 July 1863

By July 16, 2013


This is the third in a three-part series of posts about Joseph F. Smith’s experiences during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863.  See the first two parts here and here.

 

Map of Manhattan Island:  the cluster of attacks on property in the southwestern portion of the island is close to the Stevens House, where Joseph F. was staying with John W. Young.[1]

draftriotmap_large

 

In the previous post I argued that Joseph F. Smith seemed to be simply an observer for the first two days of the draft riots.  Late in the night on July 14, 1863, however, the riots came dangerously close, momentarily changing the nature of his relationship to them.  In this last post of my brief series, I have transcribed Joseph F.’s diary entries for the last few days of the riots and their aftermath.  I think they provide an interesting, if brief, look into how the riots affected him. 

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“Milk Strippings” Story Redux: Thomas B. Marsh’s Reconciliation with George W. Harris

By July 13, 2013


Every four years, the Sunday School curriculum cycle hits D&C/Church History. It’s during this time that we’re reminded of the story of Thomas B. Marsh, first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who left the church in 1838. According to Apostle George A. Smith, whose 1856 telling of this story became the basis of subsequent renditions, in 1838 Elizabeth Marsh got into a dispute with Lucinda Harris over a pint of milk skimmings [1]. Believing that his wife’s good name was at stake, Marsh defended Elizabeth in a series of investigations held, according to Smith, by the Teachers Quorum, the Bishopric, the High Council, and the First Presidency. Smith indicated that, humiliated by each quorum’s decision against Elizabeth, Marsh left the church and swore in an affidavit that the Saints were “hostile towards the State of Missouri.”  In Smith’s account, “That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.”

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York Draft Riots, Part 2: 13 & 14 July 1863

By July 12, 2013


This is the second in a three-part series of posts about Joseph F. Smith’s experiences during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863.  See the first part here.

 

Image:  CHARGE OF THE POLICE ON THE RIOTERS AT THE “TRIBUNE” OFFICE, Harper’s Weekly, August 1, 1863, p. 484 [1]

HarpWeekAug1

 

Joseph F. Smith arrived in New York City on July 6, 1863, after an unremarkable journey from Liverpool (though he did mention with disappointment on July 4th that “no demonstrations were mad[e] to commemorate the aneversery of American Independence,”[2] ).  He had been recently released from his missionary duties in the British Isles Mission, and was fulfilling an assignment to see several groups of Mormon emigrants safely into the U.S. and on their way toward Utah.  

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York City Draft Riots, Part 1: Background

By July 10, 2013


Image:  “The Riots in New York: The Mob Lynching a Negro in Clarkson-Street” [1]

engraving

 

One of the things that first interested me about Joseph F. Smith was his personality as a diarist.  He liked to pen elaborate descriptions of impressive places he visited, such as the ancient Mo’okini heiau (temple) in Hawaii, the famous Mauna Loa volcano, or the Wentworth Castle and Estates near Barnsley, England.[2]  He cataloged what he saw as faults in others, ranging from family members, to LDS church enemies, to people he encountered as a missionary.[3]  He recorded seemingly insignificant details and used trite or repetitive phrases (some of which have crept into my own journaling vocabulary), in the process illuminating much about his education, priorities, biases, and spirituality.[4]  And we can’t leave out the infamous cat massacre that Amanda HK described in a post some time ago.

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Women’s History Month at the JI: Thoughts on Elizabeth Kane (Smith)

By March 26, 2013


By Alex D. Smith

 

“To be burned unread if I die, unless Tom cares to read it. No one else. Mind! I will haunt any one who does!

E. D. K.”

 

I have waited with eager anticipation for Elizabeth Dennistoun Kane to fulfill this threat inscribed on the first page her 1860 diary. Elizabeth, if you are listening, at your convenience.

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