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Material Culture

Gem from the Local Archive: My Turn on Earth

By April 17, 2017


For years, our hi-fi stereo languished in the attic. But it’s been dusted off and now resides in a place of honor in our teenager’s room, because vinyl is hip again, and suddenly we’re glad we saved our record collection all these years. Recently an LDS friend passed along some records she thought our teen might enjoy spinning, and tucked into the stack was a genuine piece of 1970s Mormon culture, a double album cast recording of the 1977 musical My Turn on Earth. With lyrics by poet Carol Lynn Pearson and music by Lex de Azevedo, My Turn on Earth turned the Plan of Salvation into a modern-day child’s parable tracing one girl’s journey from her preexistence in heaven, through allegorical earth life and back.

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A Gem from the Local Archive: A Beginner’s Boston

By January 12, 2017


When you live in a place over twenty years, and you come to know people who’ve lived there even longer than you, now and then you stumble over something in what we might call the local archives. Much of both the material and intellectual culture of Mormonism – indeed, of any group through which a thread of commonality can be drawn – never makes it into a formal archival collection. This is true even for old things, which have had more time to make their way out of private trunks, attics, and boxes into museums and historical societies and libraries. Just this week I saw someone on Twitter threatening to make a list of things offered for sale on eBay that, by rights, should belong in a public records office. But I daresay it’s even more true for things from recent history. For starters, no one fully knows which items of the endless detritus of the 20th century deserves preserving, and for seconds, a lot of it is still counted among living people’s prized possessions.

2-img_2528 One of those possessions was recently lent to me by a friend. The provenance of this object is probably convoluted, but suffice it to say, it’s from the local archives, and there’s more where this came from. It’s uncatalogued. But it’s a gem, nonetheless.

The object in question is a revised 1973 edition of a book that was first published in 1966. Its author, whose name no doubt is familiar to all our readers, has just released a new book, which arrived crisp and thick in my mailbox this very week. But this is her very first book.

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The Visitors: Jack Chick and the Intellectual History of Modern Anti-Mormonism

By October 25, 2016


0061_05In the summer of 2002, while knocking on doors in the sweltering August heat of suburban Phoenix, my missionary companion and I were handed a small booklet by a less-than-friendly individual. Entitled The Visitors, the short illustrated tract told the story of two Mormon missionaries who arrive to teach a woman considering converting to Mormonism. Arriving at Fran’ doorstep with the hope of committing her to baptism that evening, the Elders are greeted not only by their anxious investigator, but also her niece, Janice, also a missionary preparing to do humanitarian work as a nurse in Africa.

A few minutes into their lesson, the missionaries are confronted by Fran’s surprisingly knowledgeable niece about various points of Mormon doctrine, doctrine the missionaries had failed to previously reveal to Fran. Horrified to learn that the Mormons believe, among other things, that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, that God is a man (and not a spirit) with multiple wives in his heavenly abode, and Joseph Smith was fluent in the occult culture of early 19th century America, Fran asks the missionaries to leave and not come back. But Janice not only saved her beloved aunt that evening. She also, as we discover in the strip’s final frames, sparked the seeds of doubt in one of the missionary’s own minds.

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An MHA 2016 Primer; or, Reprising Practice Month at the JI

By June 8, 2016


On the cusp of the annual Mormon History Association conference, which is centered on the theme of “practice” this year and begins later this week at Snowbird, UT, it seems like a good time to highlight some of the resources and the work done here at the JI on the theme of “practice” during March 2014. During that month (which hardly seems like two plus years ago), we carried the theme of practice through a series of posts from guests and regular contributors. See, for instance, guest Megan Sanborn Jones’s analysis of Mormon pageants and religious performance, J. Stapley’s discussion of his favorite books on liturgy/ritual, or Kris Wright’s thoughts on “Vernacular Architecture and Religious Practice.” We also had a (somewhat delayed) multiple part “Scholarly Inquiry” interview with Dan Belnap on his edited volume By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in History, Scripture, and Practice. And we put some effort toward assembling a (theoretically) comprehensive bibliography dealing with matters of practice in Mormon history. If you’re looking to grease the skids for a memorable and productive conference this weekend, you could do worse than to start here!


Mormon Women’s Public Life and Activism pre-conference tour for MHA 2016

By June 7, 2016


Salt Lake City Cemetery

Speak ‘friend’ and enter.

Please join Juvenile Instructor’s Andrea R-M and tour co-director Janelle Higbee for the second round of fantastic Mormon women’s history on a bus, Thursday, June 9, leaving from Snowbird at 8:30 a.m. and returning after 5:00 p.m.. Tour spots are still available, and even those not registered for the conference may register for the tour.

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MWHIT Relief Society Bazaar and Silent Auction at MHA 2016

By May 27, 2016


The Mormon Women’s History Initiative Team (MWHIT) is pleased to announce its first annual Relief Society Bazaar and Silent Auction, to be held at the Mormon History Association Conference, June 9-12, 2016 at the Snowbird Resort. (For overall conference program and registration information, please see Mormon History Association 2016 conference registration.)  MWHIT encourages MHA attendees to visit our booth in the book exhibit space at the conference, where we welcome browsing, bidding, and purchase of our team members’ contributions.  Many of you know our members, from whom you can expect personal and detailed work:  Lisa T., Jenny R., Kate H., Sheree B., Taunalyn R., Andrea R.-M., Susanna M., Janelle H., Anna R., Barbara J. B., and Brittany N.

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20 Questions to Ask a Seer Stone and its Pouch

By August 5, 2015


The release of the photos of Joseph Smith’s seer stone as well as the pouch made by Emma Smith that protected it, illustrates the sheer viscerality of material religion. It demonstrates the power that objects can have in the lives of religious believers and is a great example of how religion is not just something that is believed or felt abstractly or read through a text. Objects and bodies mediate religious experience.

seer stones

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MSWR: 22–28 March

By March 29, 2015


There is much to highlight, so let’s get started:

MSWR

110th Translation of the Book of Mormon Published (LDS Church Growth)

“Kosraean is the 110th language into which the Church has translated the Book of Mormon. Other translations of the Book of Mormon that have been completed within the past seven years include Malay, Slovak, Serbian, and Yoruba.” See also: Kosraean language

 

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From the Archives: Lord Macaulay’s Search for a First Edition Book of Mormon

By March 18, 2015


This post resurrects an older occasional series here at JI devoted to interesting finds in the archives (manuscript, digital, or otherwise). 

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wa200802A47_00I’ve recently been reading Philip Gura’s recently released biography of William Apess, an itinerant Methodist preacher and American Indian activist in the early 19th century. While I was hopeful that Gura would note Apess’s fascinating encounter with Mormon missionaries Samuel H. Smith and Orson Hyde in 1832 (he regrettably doesn’t), I nevertheless recommend the book to readers here. As Jared Hickman has noted in his article on “The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse” (see our Q&A with Hickman on the article here), the Book of Mormon and Apess’s writings speak to one another in interesting ways, and Gura’s biography fleshes out the meanings of Apess’s corpus of biographical, polemical, and prophetic writings, and the life of the man behind them, like nobody has before.

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Mormon Studies in the Classroom: Field Trip!

By March 6, 2015


This post is a continuation of last year’s “Mormon Studies in the Classroom” series.  See the author’s previous post here, on Mormon Studies in the 7th Grade Utah Studies Classroom. 

IMG_1295At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, my principal approached me about teaching an elective class related to any of my interests as an educator.  I drafted and submitted a proposal for a class titled “History Detectives” (no relation to the PBS show), only to find that few students signed up for it.  To make a short story long, I ended up teaching Creative Writing instead (despite the glaring lack of classes on my college transcript that contain either “Creative” or “Writing” in their titles).  I had a good time with Creative Writing, though, and geared up to teach it a second time.  (If you’ve never heard of lipograms, you should check them out!  Pretty fun stuff.)

As the second semester of the 2014-2015 school year began, my principal asked if I could resurrect the History Detectives class and take on some of the middle school students that had nowhere else to go for an elective, either because they hadn’t paid their class fees, were behavior problems for other teachers, or simply needed an elective.  I quickly scrapped the Creative Writing syllabus I had planned, and resurrected my plans for History Detectives.   Here is the course description:

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The Salt Lake Tabernacle as Graphic Signifier in the 1880s

By January 21, 2015


In many anti-Mormon cartoons from the 1880s (and a few before and after), the Salt Lake Tabernacle functioned as a graphic shorthand to communicate Mormon-ness. That is, from its completion in 1867 until sometime after the completion of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, the presence of the Salt Lake Tabernacle was one of the ways you knew you were in a (usually anti-) Mormon cartoon. In retrospect, the point seems rather obvious, but it surprised me a bit when I noticed so I wrote it up. 

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Guest Post: Barbara Jones Brown, Remembrance: A Photoessay

By September 29, 2014


We’re pleased to present today’s guest post from Barbara Jones Brown. Barbara was the content editor of Massacre at Mountain Meadows (OUP, 2008) and is now at work on the book’s sequel. She holds a master’s degree in American history from the University of Utah and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Brigham Young University. She serves on the board of directors for the Mormon History Association and on the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Team.

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On September 11, 2014, dozens of people from throughout the United States gathered at the lower monument of southern Utah’s Mountain Meadows. We were there to remember the victims of the atrocity that took place in that valley exactly 157 years before, when Mormon militiamen led a massacre of some 120 California-bound emigrants. Most of the victims were from Arkansas. Only seventeen children aged six and under survived. The monument, dedicated September 11, 1999, marks the spot where the emigrants took cover behind their wagons during the five-day siege and where U.S. troops laid many of their bones to rest in 1859.

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Pioneer Day: Recommended Reading from JI’s archives

By July 24, 2014


Happy Pioneer Day, readers! Thank you for your patience with us lately — we know things have been slow around here (they tend to get that way during the summer), but we have some exciting things planned moving forward and hope you’ll keep checking in, reading, and commenting moving forward.

In recognition of Pioneer Day, I’ve culled from the Juvenile Instructor’s archives links to several previous posts treating Mormon Pioneers in one sense or another. In hopes that they’ll prove interesting to those who missed them the first time around (and to those, like me, interested in revisiting them), here we go:

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History, Memory, and Faith: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers as Keepers of Cultural Memory

By May 12, 2014


Kari M. Main works as Curator at the Pioneer Memorial Museum. She has a master’s degree in Early American Culture from the Winterthur Program in Delaware and a master’s in American Studies from Yale. Her primary academic interests are material culture, women, religion, and the American West.

On Pioneer Day in 1933, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) held a ceremony to erect a roofed columnar structure over a juniper tree near the intersection of 600 East and 300 South. The women of DUP placed a bronze interpretive plaque which read:

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Gardening at Temple Square

By March 18, 2014


In his introductory post to Religious “Practice” month here at JI, Ryan touched on the many ways ritual and practice informs Mormon lives, from the formal ordinances to the less formal expressions of lived religion, like hair wreaths or sacrament bread. Today’s post is about one of those informal practices, namely gardening, and more specifically, gardening at Temple Square.

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Spatial Dynamics and Polygamous Burial Practices

By February 26, 2014


Ironically, on Monday I concurred with Amanda that too much work is focused on the history of polygamy and today I am posting about polygamy.  Oh well…

In 1910, Hannah Adeline Hatch Savage recorded the details of the death of her father Lorenzo Hill Hatch in her journal:

My dear father departed this life April 20 1910 at Logan, Utah, had he lived four more day there would have been two months difference between my dear parents death….He is father of twenty four children, twelve sons and twelve daughters, one son having preseded(sic) him to the other side.  He is the husband of four wives who all departed this life before he did.  He is buried in the Logan Cemetary(sic) by the side of his second and third wives.  His first wife died and was buried on the road between Nauvoo and Salt Lake City [1]

lorenzo hill hatch grave II

(Headstones for Lorenzo Hill Hatch and wives Sylvia Savonia Eastman Hatch and Catherine Karren Hatch – Logan City Cemetery)

When I read this passage, I was immediately reminded of an article written by her lyrical great-nephew, Levi Peterson who described her isolated burial place. He wrote,”Hannah Adeline Hatch lies in the red, wind-stirred soil of the Woodruff cemetery…The wilderness was not a fit habitation for Hannah Adeline Hatch. I am desolated by her lonely, barren grave in the Woodruff cemetery.” [2]

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Mormons and Basketball in the Philippines

By February 25, 2014


LDS Meeting House, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

Just a quick note today to point readers to my post that went up yesterday at Peculiar People. It looks at the basketball-crazed nation of the Philippines and wonders about the place of basketball-crazed Mormons within that wider phenomenon. If you served a mission in the Philippines or are a basketball fan or otherwise want to weigh in, please do, either in the comments here or over there. Here’s a preview:

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Sewing Machine as Religious Technology?

By January 29, 2014


Recently, while listening to a podcast of the CBC’s Spark, a radio program that explores the intersection of technology and popular culture I was introduced to the work of Jeremy Stolow.  Stolow is a media historian in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University.  His principal interest is in religion and media and his research investigates the “sometimes counter-intuitive and often paradoxical ways (ancient, modern, and contemporary) religions relate to processes, practices and technologies of mediated communication.” 

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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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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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