By November 14, 2013
This installment in the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Corey Smallcanyon. He is a Din4 (Navajo) Indian from the Gallup, New Mexico area, who grew up on and off the Navajo reservation. He works as an Adjunct Professor with Utah Valley University teaching United States History. His emphasis is in U.S. History, the American West, Utah history, LDS history, Native American and Navajo history. In his spare time he volunteers teaching Navajo genealogy to surrounding areas and spending time with his family.
Among the Dine’ (Navajos) Ma’ii (coyote) stands center stage as a trouble maker, wise counselor, cultural hero, and powerful deity. Ma’ii stories help establish a foundation for the ethical teachings for all children. Early traditional memory tells of Ma’ii who tried to steal the farm of Grandfather Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii (Horned Toad). Ma’ii came “wandering” upon Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tending his farm and asked for some of his corn to eat. After much begging, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii gave into Ma’ii’s demands, but Ma’ii was not satisfied and began taking more without permission. As Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tried to take the corn away Ma’ii ate Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii. Upset with his predicament, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii was eventually able to make his way out of Ma’ii, and triumphed by taking back his farm.
By November 12, 2013
It’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”?
By November 5, 2013
For the past several months, the JI has sponsored various theme months, allowing permas and guests to ruminate on such topics as politics, the international church, and material culture. November is Native American Heritage Month, which was first promoted in the Progressive Era by reform-minded Indians to recognize the contributions of Natives to the development of the United States. As in the case of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we at the JI believe that Natives are an intricate part of Mormon history, rather than a sub-topic only worthy of discussion once a year, but we also see the value in focusing our thoughts at this time in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month. This month’s editors, David G., Amanda, and Farina, have assembled an all-star cast of guest bloggers, who will share fascinating insights from their research, alongside contributions from permas. The editors have also put together some brief thoughts on their areas of expertise for this introductory post.
Mormonism’s Encounters with Native America in the 19th Century (David G.)
From the earliest days of Mormonism, indigenous peoples were central to Joseph Smith’s vision of the future.
By October 29, 2013
At the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association in June, historian Leigh Eric Schmidt delivered a fascinating Tanner Lecture on “Mormons, Freethinkers, and the Limits of Toleration” (a helpful summary of his remarks can be found here). Among other things, I was struck by Schmidt’s discussion of the occasional moments of agreement between Mormons and Freethinkers in the late 19th century. It was, most often, their mutual distrust and dislike of mainline Christians that afforded them these brief instances of mutual respect and accord.
I recently browsed through several issues of The Truth Seeker, a prominent 19th century newspaper devoted to “freethought and reform,” in search of something entirely unrelated to Mormonism. But as I did, I came across a couple of articles on Mormonism. In the May 15, 1886 edition of the paper, Samuel B. Putnam, the secretary of the American Secular Union, reported on his recent visit to Utah. Among other things, Putnam noted with pleasure that “there are many Liberals at Ogden,” including some former Mormons. “Mr. James B. Stoddard was born in Mormonism,” he reported. “He, however, has a keen and fearless mind, and has broken away from the trammels. He will do much for Freethought by his influence and ability.”
By October 8, 2013
Kenneth L. Alford, ed. Civil War Saints. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center (BYU), 2012. xxxiii + 569 pp. Hardcover $31.99. ISBN 978-0-8425-2816-0.
I have contributed here a thorough and lengthy discussion of this book; if you would like just the highlights, please read my first and last paragraphs below. –NRR
As America continues its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, it is fitting that at least one new book should come out examining the connections between Latter-day Saints and the war. Kenneth Alford aims in this edited volume to update and add to the small body of literature surrounding Mormons, the Utah Territory, and the Civil War. While he falls short of creating a one-volume comprehensive treatment of the subject, he and his co-contributors have explored important, previously-uncharted territory that make this book an important addition to any Mormon or Civil War History enthusiast’s library.
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.
By September 16, 2013
Is this really a post about material culture? I started out thinking it would be, but I suppose it hasn’t really ended up that way as I’m not analyzing the ways in which the makers or users of these objects physically interact with them. Yet I think there’s something significant in the fact that the Mormon beehive is such a substantial physical presence, both as it is materially incorporated into so many Mormon sites and as it appears in so many of the mundane physical assertions of state power in Utah. Perhaps I’m grasping at straws in an effort to anchor myself to our monthly theme here at JI – I’ll leave it for the readers of this post to decide!
I’ve always been a very visual person, and I take great delight in quizzing myself and the people around me on the people and pictures that we encounter in our everyday lives. I’m told it’s something of a trial to watch any BBC production with me, as every time a new character appears on screen I immediately give my fellow viewers a brief history of the actor’s previous performances and explain how their previous roles are being used to shape the audience’s reaction to the current character. (This might explain why my husband often chooses to go do something else when I turn on Masterpiece Theatre….) I do the same thing with Disney movies, and I also delighted, when I worked for the Disney Store in college and made frequent excursions to Orlando, at finding the “hidden Mickeys” that Disney incorporates into designs all over its theme parks. It’s a shame Dan Brown isn’t better at what he does – I’m a big fan of finding and analyzing hidden symbols… when they’re well hidden (or at least unnoticed or misunderstood by many) and worth finding anyway.
So imagine how much fun I have with the many not-so-hidden but all-too-overlooked symbols I have learned through my study of the Latter-day Saints (as evidenced here by the fact that all of the pictures below are mine, unless otherwise noted).
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.
By August 14, 2013
This post continues the JI’s occasional “Responses” series and contributes to the August theme of 20th Century Mormonism. Semi-regular guest and friend of the JI Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, contributes this installment.
Review of David Pulsipher, “‘Prepared to Abide the Penalty’: Latter-day Saints and Civil Disobedience,” JMH 39:3 (Summer 2013): 131-162.
Pop quiz: Which group maintained the longest civil disobedience movement in American history, and the first such movement not to descend into violence? Since you’re reading a Mormon history blog, the question is a bit like asking who’s buried in Grant’s tomb. Yet even with the prodigious output of scholars working on Mormon related topics in recent years, there are relatively few offerings that not only give us new details but also really help us see Mormonism through a new perspective. David Pulsipher’s recent JMH article is one of those.
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.
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.
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 . 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.”
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 
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,” ). 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.
By July 10, 2013
Image: “The Riots in New York: The Mob Lynching a Negro in Clarkson-Street” 
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. He cataloged what he saw as faults in others, ranging from family members, to LDS church enemies, to people he encountered as a missionary. 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. And we can’t leave out the infamous cat massacre that Amanda HK described in a post some time ago.
By May 27, 2013
Terryl L. Givens. The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy, updated edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Paperback. 978-0-19-993380-8. $24.95.
Since its original publication in 1997, Terryl Givens’ The Viper on the Hearth has been a mainstay of the study of Mormonism and anti-Mormonism in American culture. And deservedly so. Givens’ work provided the first substantial scholarly book-length exploration of images of the Latter-day Saints in American culture in any time period. His examination of the representations of Mormons in the United States in the 19th century is sweeping in its coverage of the period; thorough in its inclusion of a wide variety of sources, from newspapers to popular fiction to fictive memoirs; and convincing in its argument that, whatever American claims of separation of church and state and tolerance for differing religious views may have been, religion was at the heart of mainstream America’s intolerance, suspicion, and occasional violence toward the Mormons. For many students of Mormonism and of American religion, Viper has served as an introduction to anti-Mormonism in America. For the generation of scholars who have examined the subject since Viper’s first publication—including Megan Sanborn-Jones, Patrick Q. Mason, and J. Spencer Fluhman—Givens’ scholarship has served as a guide. No one can engage in a study of anti-Mormonism in the United States without responding to his arguments about the mechanisms of and motivations behind anti-Mormon sentiment in American culture.
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.
By February 19, 2013
By Quincy D. Newell
Jane Manning James (Wikimedia Commons)
Jane James haunts me. Not in the way you’re thinking—I don’t see her ghostly specter on cold evenings, or hear her humming a tune in the other room as I’m trying to sleep. What I mean is that she just won’t let me go. Every time I learn something new about her, it seems that I go down a rabbit hole. It takes me days to return, mentally, to whatever I was doing. James, an African American woman who converted to Mormonism in the early 1840s, moved to Nauvoo after her conversion and worked as a servant in Joseph Smith’s home. After Smith’s death, she worked for Brigham Young. She was in one of the first companies to arrive in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and she remained a faithful Latter-day Saint until her death in 1908. She left a pretty substantial paper trail, including a short autobiography, an interview with the Young Woman’s Journal, appearances in the Woman’s Exponent, and multiple petitions to church leaders for endowments and sealings. (The largest published collection of this material is in Henry J. Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith: Jane Elizabeth James and the Origins of the Utah Black Community,” in Social Accommodation in Utah, ed. Clark S. Knowlton, American West Center Occasional Papers [Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1975], 126-172. I have a new transcription of James’s autobiography and a reprint of that Young Woman’s Journal interview coming out in the Journal of Africana Religions this spring.)
By February 13, 2013
“Tainted blood” – The Curious Cases of Mary J. Bowdidge and Her Daughter Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry
Connell O’Donovan January 2013
In September 1885, Joseph Edward Taylor, First Councilor in the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, contacted LDS President John Taylor (no relation) regarding the curious case of “a young girl” (she was 20) residing in the Salt Lake 18th Ward named Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry. Berry and Hyrum B. Barton, son of a pioneering Salt Lake family originally from England, had fallen in love and began to make plans for a temple marriage or sealing – probably in the still functioning Salt Lake Endowment house. However, as Taylor explained to the church president, “the question of jeopardizing his [Barton’s] future by such an alliance has caused a halt.” The “jeopardy” that the already-married Hyrum Barton faced was that this bigamous marriage would be to a young woman “whose mother was a white woman but whose father was a very light mullatto [sic]” as Councilor Taylor reported. Taylor had written to Pres. John Taylor to request an exemption from the LDS policy at that time of not allowing women or men of black African descent to enter LDS temples to participate in what they consider to be sacred ordinances necessary to salvation and exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, specifically the endowment ritual and the eternal marital sealing ceremony. As Taylor further explained to his church superior, “The girl is very pretty and quite white and would not be suspected as having tainted blood in her veins unless her parentage was known.” In addition, Lorah J. B. Berry herself was adamantly requesting permission to be endowed for herself and then sealed for eternity to Barton on the basis of two known precedents, which she invoked to the Salt Lake Stake Presidency.
By January 31, 2013
Joseph Fielding Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith. Salt Lake City: The Deseret News Press, 1938. 490 pp.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of a classic of Mormon biography, Joseph Fielding Smith’s Life of Joseph F. Smith. It is a book that is many things: part genealogy, part hagiography, part scrapbook, part apologia, part castigation of anti-Mormon sentiment of any shade, and part history of Mormonism’s transformation into a 20th century organization. Its 490 pages are replete with personal stories, the kind winnowed from a lifetime of observing a loved one and careful interviewing of those who knew JFS intimately. Conversely,
By November 27, 2012
John Turner wraps up the JI’s roundtable discussion of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet.
Four-and-a-half years ago, during my initial research trip to Utah, I ventured down to Provo and had lunch with Spencer Fluhman and several of his students. Among them were David Grua and Chris Jones (and Stan Thayne, I think). The Juvenile Instructor was a newborn blog at the time. So it’s a bit surreal for me to have read the topical reviews of Pioneer Prophet over the past six weeks at this blog.
I love the field of Mormon history for many reasons. The rich sources. The voluminous scholarship. Most of all, I love the fact that so many people care about the Mormon past. This has some downsides. It makes the field contentious and testy. One need only read the “letters” section of the most recent Journal of Mormon History. Such contention, however, is more than outbalanced by the passion that so many individuals bring to their writing and to conversations about Mormon history. That passion is contagious.
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.”
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