Black Mormons and Friends in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, Part II

By February 24, 2016


This is part two of a three-part series chronicling the experiences of the The Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent support group in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. For part one, see here. Part three will be posted tomorrow morning. 

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Isaiah Cummings presents a lesson on "Blacks in the Bible," Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent, September 2011.

Isaiah Cummings presents a lesson on “Blacks in the Bible,” Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent, September 2011.

The Friends Group arose out of the African American cultural celebration as the brainchild of Brother Lee Cook, a white member of the Durham 1st Ward. Lee grew up in Richmond, Virginia, as a Southern Baptist. He described his younger self as a hippie and college dropout who joined the Air Force, which is where he met missionaries and joined the LDS Church. After moving around with the Air Force and then living for a while in New York, he returned to the South. It was exciting to see all of the changes that had occurred since the Civil Rights movement occurred, he explained. Yet, he noticed that, in many places, there was still that separation—a “wall of partition,” he called it. So he started visiting black churches as part of his own quest to overcome that partition and he became very spiritually impressed (a common Mormon term for inspiration from the Holy Spirit) “that the Lord has a great work for us to do together.” Then he met Christina and after one of the African American cultural celebrations she confided in Lee that, as he remembered her statement (which he shared with her permission), “this is the only day I feel good as a black Latter-day Saint.” So, to remedy that sense of loneliness that she and presumably other black Latter-day Saints in the stake feel throughout the rest of the year, he proposed the organization of a support group—“so instead of once a year—once a month.”[1]

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Black Mormons and Friends in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina: A History of the African American Night of Celebration and the Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent Support Group, Part I

By February 23, 2016


We’re pleased to present the following series of posts from Stan Thayne, PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founding editor of the Juvenile Instructor. The posts, which trace the little-known history and significance of the Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent support group in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, is longer than our usual offerings, but is well worth the time. It will be published serially over the next three days. –admin

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Meeting of the Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent, June 2011.

Meeting of the Friends of Latter-day Saints of African Descent, June 2011.

When Christina Stitt moved into the Chapel Hill 1st Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2005, she and her grand-daughter Dushana doubled the number of African Americans in the congregation. There were only two other black members at the time, as Christina remembers it: Brother and Sister John and Mary Moore. They didn’t get to know each other right off, Christina and the Moores. Perhaps both overly conscious of the blackness that should supposedly connect them in this sea of whiteness, they were both a little stand-offish toward each other at first, as Stitt recalls. But after Christina sang a gospel piece during sacrament services, Sister Mary Moore approached her and expressed her desire for a program in the church celebrating African American culture. “She planted a seed in me,” Christina told me during one of my interviews with her. “But me, when you say something that really hits my heart, I try to get it done. And that’s what I did. I went to the bishop and I asked him, and he thought it was a good idea too. So that’s where it started.” In February 2006 the Durham Stake hosted the first African American Night of Celebration at the LDS stake center on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Chapel Hill. It has since become an annual event held every February during black history month.

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Is Mormon History Global History? Mormonism in Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World

By February 17, 2016


k10179One of my very first posts at the Juvenile Instructor (nearly nine years ago!) asked whether Mormon History was American History, surveying the inclusion of Mormonism in two of the most significant treatments of Jacksonian America—Charles Sellers’s The Market Revolution and Sean Wilentz’s The Rise of American DemocracyA year later, I took a closer look at Daniel Walker Howe’s handling of Mormonism in his (then) recently-published What Hath God Wrought.

Shortly after that, in 2009 German historian Jürgen Osterhammel published Die Verwandlung der Welt. Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts, which was subsequently translated into English and published by Princeton University Press in 2012 as The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century. To call Osterhammel’s book ambitious is an understatement — it numbers nearly 1200 pages (over 250 more than Howe’s hefty tome) and is truly global in scope. The author describes it in the book’s preface as “a rich and detailed but structured, nontrivial, and nonschematic account of a crucial period in the history of humanity” (xiii). While many Mormons might consider Joseph Smith’s visions, the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the establishment of the Church of [Jesus] Christ [of Latter-day Saints] in 1830 as among the most important events of that crucial period, I was curious what mention (if any) Mormonism would receive in the book.

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Applications for The Marlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist in Residence Program (Due April 15, 2016)

By February 13, 2016


Another announcement from our friends at the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah:

The Marlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist in Residence Program

marlin-k-jensen-large

Program Launch: Spring, 2017.

The Tanner Humanities Center on the University of Utah is proud to announce a fellowship in the name of Marlin K. Jensen. Our Marlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist in Residence Program will host prominent scholars with expertise in Mormon Studies or renowned artists who explore the relationship between faith and art in their work.

Marlin Keith Jensen was a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), serving as the official Church Historian and Recorder from 2005 to 2012. During his tenure, Jensen worked to professionalize the Church’s History Department, give it international range, make its holdings more accessible to researchers, and publish primary materials. Jensen was made an emeritus general authority in 2012. Currently, he practices law in Salt Lake City and is a member of the Utah State Board of Regents.

The fellowship will consist of a semester-long residency. Each scholar will:

  • Teach a class for University of Utah students
  • Serve as a research or artistic mentor
  • Offer public lectures or performances
  • Contribute to Mormon Studies curriculum planning and program development

Nominees are asked to submit:

  1. A CV
  2. A one page course description for a Mormon Studies class
  3. The names of two recommenders

Please submit the above by April 15, 2016.

The successful candidate will have an office in the Tanner Humanities Center and be part of the Center’s fellow community. In addition, the position offers an honorarium of $50,000.

Please send your application material to Bob Goldberg, Center Director and Professor of History, University of Utah, at bob.goldberg@utah.edu


Tanner Humanities Center’s Mormon Studies Fellowship (Applications due March 1, 2016)

By February 12, 2016


From our good friends at the Tanner Humanities Center (University of Utah):

TannerHumanities

Mormon Studies Fellowship  

The first of its kind in the nation, the Tanner Humanities Center’s Mormon Studies fellowship (at the University of Utah) provides a doctoral student funds to spend a year researching the history, beliefs, and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and its members. This fellowship is open to all dissertation level students of the Mormon Experience from any university in the United States or from around the world. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to: Theology, History, Sociology, Economics, Literature, Philosophy, and Political Science.

This fellowship supports academic scholarship. It seeks to enlighten and educate while grounding understanding in serious research. The fellowship will not disparage or denigrate any religion, organization, people, or group. The fellow must be affiliated with a university and actively enrolled in a Ph.D. Program. A committee, chaired by the Director of the Tanner Humanities Center and composed of scholars and members of the community, informed and sensitive to the needs of Mormon studies, select the fellow annually.

The deadline for the 2016-2017 Mormon Studies fellowship is March 1, 2016

For more information and application forms please click here: http://thc.utah.edu/fellowships/mormon-studies.php


In Memoriam: Milton Backman, Jr., 1927-2016

By February 11, 2016


mou0046346-1_20160210I do not remember the first article I read authored by Milton Backman, Jr. It was almost certainly something he published in the Ensign during the 1970s or 1980s. As a 19-year-old missionary with a previously-untapped love for reading, learning, and history, those old Ensigns that occupied so much of the shelf space of ward libraries were treasure troves of information to me. Much to the annoyance of at least a few of my companions, I would eagerly request that we stay a bit longer at the church building after playing basketball on P-day so that I could flip through a dozen or so issues and photocopy each article dealing with church history, doctrine, or scripture. I don’t know if it was the first, but I do remember reading Backman’s 1989 essay, “Preparing the Way: The Rise of Religious Freedom in New England.” In addition to shattering some myths I had imbibed at some earlier point in my life (i.e. “Although many who sought religious liberty had immigrated to those colonies, the Pilgrims and Puritans did not, generally speaking, believe in extending religious freedom to others.”), Backman’s essay tied Mormonism into a larger narrative of American religious history in a way that I had not previously encountered. I was hooked.

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Bad Referees, Dirty Recruiting, Commercialization of College Football, and No One Wanting to Play the University of Utah: from the Diaries of Ernest L. Wilkinson

By February 9, 2016


I’ve started a new project that requires me to read the diaries of longtime BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson. I thought these four excerpts were interesting and funny. Wilkinson worried a lot about keeping up with the University of Utah–keep that in mind.

 

February 11, 1955

“In the evening attended the basketball game between the U. of U. and the B.Y.U. The paper had all predicted the U. of U. would have a comparatively easy time of it. Stan Watts, however, had devised some special strategy for the game. When the first half ended, the B.Y.U. was 10 points ahead. Near the middle of the second quarter the B.Y.U. was 15 points ahead, and then one of those unusual changes occurred, with the result that, with just four second left to go, the U. of U. made a field goal which tied the score. In the five minutes’ overtime, however, the B.Y.U. scored four points, and the U. of U. two, ending the game with a score of 76 for B.Y.U. and 74 for U. of U. It was a great upset. All admit that the B.Y.U. outplayed the U. We almost lost this game, however, through very poor foul pitching. The B.Y.U. made 56 points of field goals as compared with 44 for the U. of U.”

President [Ray A.] Olpin [the President of the University of Utah] cordially congratulated me after the game, but it was reported from many that he was vigorously complaining about the poor officiating of the officials. Ray does this so often that very few pay attention to him. His own guest at the game whispered to me that “B.Y.U. won fairly notwithstanding what Ray has to say.”

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The New Early Mormon Missionaries Database

By February 8, 2016


Matthew McBride is the Web Content Manager of the Church History Department, author of A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple, and a graduate student at the University of Utah.

Over 30 years ago, Mel Bashore began to create a list of Mormons who migrated to the Great Basin, pre-railroad. According to legend, the “database” was stored for years in a Word document. Eventually, the data was made available on the web as the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travels database. In addition to becoming an instant hit with family historians, the database has become an indispensable resource for historians of 19th-century Mormonism and sparked scholarship on the trail experience.

The pioneer database began as an incomplete set of data gathered by Bashore and other researchers—tens of thousands of trail pioneers were unaccounted for. With time and the help of missionaries and the community of family historians and trail scholars, it has grown by thousands of pioneers to become far more comprehensive. This combination of crowd sourcing and careful verification (which continues under the leadership of Marie Erickson at the CHL) was the model that inspired the new Early Mormon Missionaries Database, launched last Thursday at RootsTech.

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Write for Journal of Mormon History

By February 3, 2016


jmh_42_01_coverHere’s a message from JI’s good friend and recently-appointed editor of Journal of Mormon History, Jessie Embry:

Greetings JI readers. I enjoy seeing the interesting discussions that you have on the blog. I hope that you will consider expanding some of them and submitting them as articles to the Journal of Mormon History. There is not a back log anymore, and I am eagerly looking for seminar papers or chapters of your dissertations to enlighten the Mormon History Association members and other Journal of Mormon History readers. Guidelines for submitting articles are available on the MHA webpage. If you feel that you have something that is not quite ready for publication, I would enjoy working with you on it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jessie L. Embry

Editor, Journal of Mormon History

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Understanding “Interest” in Joseph Smith’s Original Tithing Revelation

By February 2, 2016


We’re pleased to present this guest post from Sam Brunson, Associate Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago, regular blogger at By Common Consent, and tax and business law geek extraordinaire. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 11.31.42 PMBoth in and out of the church, people are fascinated by tithing. On the one hand, according to Pres. Kimball, “it’s not difficult to be perfect in tithe paying, for if one pays one-tenth of his income annually, he is perfect in that respect.” On the other hand, while one-tenth is precise and easy to calculate, the church never defines what “income” means, leading to internal debates over, among other things whether we should pay on our gross or net income and whether we tithe on barter or gifts we receive.

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Digital Mormonists, Volume 1: American Panorama

By February 1, 2016


This is the first entry in yet another occasional, sure-to-be-irregular, but hopefully still important series here at the Juvenile Instructor. Since the blog’s inception in 2007, digital history projects have come a long way, and in the last couple of years, a number of really important digital databases, atlases, and other assorted projects have appeared. In “Digital Mormonists,” I plan to highlight those of potential interest and relevance to scholars of Mormonism and its history.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.35.15 PMA month or so ago, someone I follow on twitter linked to a new digital history project called American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History. A product of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond (whose other projects include the phenomenal Visualizing Emancipation and the very useful Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States), American Panorama presents a variety of interactive maps with historical data.

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MHA: Calls for Awards

By January 25, 2016


A friendly letter and reminder from the Mormon History Association. Be sure to nominate those who are deserving! Please remember female authors and scholars from underrepresented groups if/when one nominates work. It does not make much time to nominate someone else’s work!]
MHA Logo

MHA Logo

Dear members and friends of the Mormon History Association:

It’s that time of year when we’re actively seeking nominations for our annual publication awards.  Because submission information is currently unavailable on the MHA website, we felt that this email reminder would be timely and helpful.

Remember that the submission deadline is February 1, 2016 for all works that have a 2015 publication/copyright date.
For book awards 
We remind authors and presses that books should be submitted directly by the publisher.  Five copies of each book to be considered should be sent to the MHA office (note the NEW ADDRESS):

Mormon History Association
175 South 1850 East
Heber City, UT  84032

Tona Hangen chairs the book awards committee.

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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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Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places: Volume III – The Refiner’s Fire Edition

By January 20, 2016


Bone HunterThis is the third installment in an ongoing but terribly irregular series dedicated to the appearance of Mormon Studies in popular media, including musical lyrics, popular television shows, movies, and so forth. Previous installments can be read here and here.

A friend recently tipped me off to a series of books by Sarah Andrews, in which Wyoming-born geologist Emily “Em” Hansen uses her geological skills to help solve murders in various locales throughout the western United States.[1] The third installment in the series, Bone Hunter, takes place in Salt Lake City and Snowbird, Utah, where the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology is being held.[2] Here’s Publisher’s Weekly’s summary of the plot:

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BYU and Martin Luther King, Jr.

By January 18, 2016


Last weekend, while visiting Atlanta for the annual meetings of the American Historical Association, fellow JIer Ben P and I visited the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Site. That we approached the historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church just a few minutes before 11 am on a Sunday morning I can attribute to nothing other than perfect synchronicity.[1] It was my first time visiting the site, and I was moved by what I witnessed. I was unable to attend sacrament meeting that day, but the pilgrimage to the King site was worship enough. I resolved to post something here at JI in commemoration of King, but could think of nothing that would do justice to either King or my visit last weekend.

So today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to highlight two posts from the Juvenile Instructor’s early years. Both were penned by former JI blogger, Ardis Smith, whose excellent original research on student responses to the Civil Rights Movement at BYU in the 1950s and 1960s deserves a much wider audience.[2] As part of her research, Ardis surveyed student responses to the April 1968 murder of the famed civil rights leader who we remember and whose legacy we celebrate today, in the student newspaper, the Daily Universe. Ardis examined the DU‘s coverage in the immediate aftermath of the murder, and the DU‘s discussion on the one year anniversary of King’s death. Much of the response from students is what you might expect (subtly and not-so-subtly racist condemnations of King’s civil disobedience, his Marxist views, and his rumored ties to Communist leaders, justified with citations to LDS teachings and scriptures), but Ardis also discovered and recovered the voices of those students who dared to speak up in support of King and the movement he led.

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Announcing The Marlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist in Residence Program at the University of Utah

By January 14, 2016


marlin-k-jensen-large

Marlin K. Jensen

The Tanner Humanities Center is proud to announce its most recent Mormon Studies initiative. We have begun to raise funds to create a fellowship in the name of Marlin K. Jensen. OurMarlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist inResidence Program will host prominent scholars with expertise in Mormon Studies or renowned artists who explore the relationship between faith and art in their work.

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From the Archives: White Child Adopted by the Paiute Indians

By January 13, 2016


A few weeks ago, I found an entry in the Church History Library about an Indian woman who had adopted a white child. There was almost no information about the document in the library catalog. I immediately asked for it to be digitized but questions about the location of the original document meant that it was impossible for it to put online. I eventually asked Joseph Stuart, a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah to look at it for me.

Here’s the summary he provided:

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CFP: “Mormonism and Global Media” Symposium

By January 12, 2016


Doesn’t Hawaii in November sound perfect? Thought so. Check out this CFP, then; it looks broad enough to encompass historical approaches as well.

2016 MORMON MEDIA STUDIES SYMPOSIUM

CALL FOR PAPERS, PANELS, AND PRESENTATIONS

Theme: Mormonism and Global Media
Conference site: BYU Hawai‘i campus in Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i
Conference date: November 3 & 4, 2016
Proposal submissions due July 1, 2016

Sponsored by Department of International Cultural Studies and the College of Language, Culture and Arts, BYU Hawai‘i

Mormonism grows in a world with a variety of religion-society and religion-media relationships. Its historical, cultural, social, and political insertions into host countries may differ significantly from place to place. Thus Mormonism’s treatment by the media, its attempts to publicize itself through the media, and its members’ use of media technologies in religiously relevant ways—to name a few types of relationships with the media—may differ significantly from U.S. Mormon-media patterns. A conference on Mormonism and media surveys the current situation, raises new questions, and encourages new conversations about a globally growing religion and the part media play in particular cultures.

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Plato, Gender, and Eternal Marriage

By January 11, 2016


Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Matt 22:30), while Plato said in his Symposium that lovers desired Hephestus to “weld” them together so that “when [they] died, [they] would be one and not two in Hades.”[1]

Such was part of Aristophanes’s myth of the androgyn, that humans had once been androgynous pairs that the gods split into male and female, who now longed for their other half. Such lovers, when they found each other, still yearned to become one again, especially in the next life. Aristophanes then adds the following caveat: “Women who are split from a woman, however, pay no attention at all to men; they are oriented more towards women, and lesbians come from this class. People who are split from a male are male-oriented.”[2]

That is, eternal marriage is a Platonic concept, and Plato had allowances for same gender relationships.

Plato didn’t discuss eternal procreation, but in the Republic he did describe a system radically different than monogamy: shared wives and children.[3] In the Republic, the children belong to everyone, or as Plato says in the Timaeus (which begins by summarizing the Republic), “Everyone of them would believe that they all make up a single family, and that all who fall within their own age bracket are their sisters and brothers, that those who are older, who fall in an earlier bracket are their parents or grandparents, while those who fall in a later one are their children or grandchildren.”[4] Or as Mormon said, “All children are alike unto me” (Moroni 8:17).

I argue here and here that Joseph Smith sought to implement shared marriages as well: or that originally both men and women could have multiple spouses. Such sharing would make allowances for procreation by the larger group that would transcend individuals’ procreative abilities.

[1] Plato, Symposium, 190-193.

[2] Plato, Symposium, 191e.

[3] Plato, Republic, 457c-d.

[4] Plato, Timaeus, 18d.


Previewing 2016: Looking Ahead to Forthcoming Books in Mormon History

By January 6, 2016


A few weeks ago I highlighted the year of 2015 in Mormon historiography. But I’m not here to talk about the past. In this post, I highlight a number of books I’m especially excited to see published in 2016. This list is not comprehensive—it’s nigh impossible to keep track of everything in the Mormon publishing world—but I hope it captures a taste of what we have in store over the next twelve months.

Even beyond this next year, there is still a lot more to be excited about. Kathleen Flake’s book on gender, power, and Mormon polygamy and Laurel Ulrich’s book on polygamous women’s diaries are certainly going to shake the field, but they are not quite ready for release. (Word is Ulrich’s book is in the pipeline for a year from now, though, and should arrive by AHA 2017). And we all know the works-in-progress by stars like Spencer Fluhman, Quincy Newell, Steve Taysom, and others that we eagerly anticipate. But I think we have enough here to satiate our appetite.

Without further ado…

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