By May 30, 2017
Later this week bloggers associated with the Juvenile Instructor will assemble at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri (just outside of St. Louis), a yearly highlight for us. Many of us will be participating in the program as presenters, commentators, and chairs. This post summarizes our contributions.
By May 29, 2017
Seth Perry, “The Many Bibles of Joseph Smith: Textual, Prophetic, and Scholarly Authority in Early-National Bible Culture,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84, no. 3 (September 2016): 750–75.
One of the things I appreciate about our Article Review series, episodic as it may be, is that it enables bite-size engagement with some of the most important new scholarship as it comes into being. So much work is produced these days that we may not pay enough attention toward the notable arguments that do appear and a deserve a critical appraisal. And while books may be the gold standard, the genre of the article allows for us to engage at a more granular level, giving us a chance to sample and respond to important monographs in the making. My case in point here is Seth Perry’s JAAR article from September of last year: “The Many Bibles of Joseph Smith: Textual, Prophetic, and Scholarly Authority in Early-National Bible Culture.” This important article gives us a bite of Perry’s forthcoming book on the dynamics of early-national Bible culture. We also get a taste of how his arguments bear on the history of Mormonism and Mormon scripture.
By May 23, 2017
The countdown to MHA has begun. 9 days and counting…. (If you still need to register go here.)
Help support and promote Mormon women’s history with the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Bazaar. Plan now to attend MWHIT’s second annual fundraiser bazaar and silent auction, June 2-4, 2017, at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. Donate handmade clothing, textiles, crafts, or professional skills (editing, writing, consulting, etc.). Donations are welcome even if you can’t attend in person. Contact any member of the MWHIT team with questions. All proceeds from the bazaar will help fund MWHIT programs and writing awards.
By May 19, 2017
This summer, Juvenile Instructor is hosting a series on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new and long-awaited book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism. (The first two posts of the series can be found here and here.)
Many of you will have already learned the devastating news that the Ulrichs’ son Nathan, died in a plane crash in the Bahamas earlier this week, along with his girlfriend and her two sons. Out of respect for this immense loss, we will be pausing our discussion of Laurel’s book, to be resumed at a later date. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information on this hiatus.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, their friends, and loved ones at this time.
By May 14, 2017
Though it’s not in this chapter, If I were to pull a sentence from Ulrich’s book that I feel summarizes her project, it’s this: “Well before plural marriage became a recognized practice in the Church, these women had learned to value bonds of faith over biological or regional connections.” (xv)
When Phebe Carter Woodruff sent her husband Wilford off to serve a mission in the British Isles, she secured a small poem in his luggage. “While onward he his footsteps bend / May he find Mothers, and kind friends,” the lines ran. (38)
By May 12, 2017
The Immigration and Ethnic History Society has generously agreed to cross-post this content on their blog. The posts are slightly different, and I try to introduce Mormon readers here to scholarship in Immigration History, and IEHS readers there to scholarship in Mormon History. I’m hoping to facilitate conversation across audiences. Here’s the link:
In 1897, “Pres. G.Q. Cannon stated that the Presidents of Missions had been instructed not to encourage people to emigrate to Utah until they had become well grounded in the faith and not then until times in Utah became better, unless they have friends or means to provide a home on their arrival.” This discouragement became public the next year in 1898, when Mormon Apostle George Q. Cannon stated in the semiannual church-wide gathering, general conference, “There is one course that has been taken which I think will be attended with good efforts, that is, counselling the Saints in the various lands where they embrace the Gospel to remain quiet for a while; to not be anxious to break up their homes to gather to Zion.” This was the first of many announcements that called for the end of the gathering. Why did Cannon renege Mormonism’s long history with open immigration? How did the end of the gathering come about, and what did it mean for Mormonism?
By May 9, 2017
Last year, we shared what we planned/hoped to read over the summer. Here are our lists for this summer–be sure to add your own reading lists in the comments!
This summer I’ll be studying for my comprehensive exams full time. Rather than list the 300 books still on my list, here are three books from each of my three major fields.
- The Basics: Despite recently starting my PhD in American history, I feel like I still have a lot left to learn of just the basics of the field. In order to do some catching up, I have a few basic American history textbooks, including Give Me Liberty! An American History by Eric Foner. Much of my year thus far has been about thinking about entangled histories and the nuance in historical movements. While I mostly support the movement to complicate ideas about the past, I also have been craving learning some of the foundations. One of my goals this semester is to play with new formats to process and think about historical information and therefore, I want to create a large scale timeline, using some of the basic info that I find in Foner’s book, that will enable me to better visualize American history.
- Theory: A recent research project has got me thinking a lot about governmentality and surveillance as a means of knowing and controlling populations. Additionally, I have continually seen Foucault’s ideas (as well as Marx) in my readings throughout this semester as authors reference ideas that are indebted to Foucault without actually explaining them. I want to read The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception in order understand the ways that Foucault talks about the epistemic change in medicine. Secondly, I want to read The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction where Foucault discusses investigates the genealogy of how sexuality has been constructed over time. In both these books, I am looking forward to learning more about the ways Foucault grounds the body in discussions about power, sexuality, and governance.
- Journals: Another goal I have for the summer is to read more Mormon journals. In the fall, I started reading A widow’s tale: the 1884-1896 diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Helen’s journal especially has frequent vivid and intimate entries that made me deeply embedded in her life and I look forward to reading more. Additionally, I recently got the Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies by Davis Bitton from the library and look forward to using his descriptions of Mormon diaries as a jumping off place for where to look next in my readings.
- Theme: “Race, Gender, and Sex, oh my!” As I finished revisions on my book manuscript, I was ashamed with how little I engaged with this broad and significant field. It’s time to remedy that ill. I’m really excited to dig into Tera W. Hunter’s Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard UP), Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press), and Marisa Fuentes’s Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archives (UPenn Press).
- Theme: “The Basics of the Revolutionary Age.” I’m teaching a graduate course on the American Revolution for the first time this summer, so I’m digging into a number of the newest books to track current trends. Randomly, three of them are from the same publisher. These include Mike Rapport’s, The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution (Basic Books), Carol Berkin’s A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books), John Boles’s Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty (Basic Books), and Holger Hoock’s Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (Crown), and Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre (Harvard UP).
- Theme: “Jackson’s America.” Since my Nauvoo project is rooted in antebellum America, I’m excited to see some other histories that similarly aim to uproot traditional narratives of the period. These include J. M. Opal’s Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation (Oxford University Press) and Christina Snyder’s Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press).
- And two books that don’t fit a broader theme but I’m also excited to read are Douglas L. Winiarski’s Darkness Falls Upon the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (UNC/Omohundro) and David Garrow’s The Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (William Marrow). Winiarski’s articles that led to this book were so excellent that I’ve been counting down the days for its release. And though I’ve been worried by early reviews of Garrow’s book in which his narrative of 44 seems overly dramatic, it will still be a nice form of escapism to imaging we aren’t living under the rule of 45.
- Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. I’m admittedly skeptical of anything but that claims to be “the definitive history” of anything, but Kendi’s book, winner of the National Book Award, comes pretty close to living up to its subtitle’s billing. I’ve been slowly making my way through whenever I have a minute here or there. This is beautifully-written and incredibly important.
- Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. I’m indexing the book, so I’ve already read through it once, but it’s been a pleasure to see Max’s detailed research over the last several years comes to fruition. Standing alongside several other recent books exploring the subject of Mormonism’s complicated history of race, Max’s stands out for its focus on the experience of Mormons of color and its close and provocative reading of the Book of Mormon.
- Adam Jortner, Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic. I’ll have a review up at some point at JI, so I’ll keep my comments brief. Jortner manages to offer a fresh perspective on a well-covered subject: Mormonism, anti-Mormonism, and miracles.
- James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa; Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers; Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. I am busily at work writing a new chapter for my book manuscript that examines the parallel rise and earliest connections between black Methodist churches in the United States, Canada, and West Africa, and revisiting some early works that touch on those topics or speak to the broader context in which they occurred. I’m starting with these three.
- William Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Transitioning from my research to my teaching, I’m considering adopting this one for the US survey in the fall, but want to give it a closer read to make sure that it meets all of my qualifications.
- One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen Prothero. As I move deeper into American religious life, both personally and professionally, my reading list amasses more titles that try to elucidate what it is, exactly, that makes American Christianity well, so American.
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir by Michael Hicks. I have listened to countless hours of MoTab music on Pandora in the process of writing my dissertation. As the inauguration controversy in January showed, the choir is still a powerful symbol of Mormonism in America, so it’s high time I read this book.
- The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History by Robert Tracy McKenzie. It popped up recently on the Religion in American History blog, and it reminded me I own it, but haven’t yet read it. I’m interested in McKenzie’s historiographical and confessional approach, and figured you can never start amassing talking points for Thanksgiving dinner early enough, right?
By May 7, 2017
This is the first in a series of sixteen posts in the Third Annual Summer Book Club at Juvenile Instructor. This year we are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism. Check back every Sunday for the week’s installment! Please follow the book club and JI on Facebook
“Light snow obscured the view of the mountains on January 13, 1870 as masses of Mormon women crowded in to the old peaked-roof Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The pine benches were hard, the potbellied stoves inadequate against the cold. No matter. They would warm themselves with indignation.”
So begins Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s latest book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, in which she analyzes the twin growth of the institution of polygamy within the LDS Church and the place of Mormon women in the broader struggle for women’s rights.[i] Many readers, like the newspaper writers that wrote about Mormonism, may be skeptical that plural marriage created and fostered women-centric organizations and social networks. Ulrich acknowledges their skepticism and asks, “How could women simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights while defending marital practices that to most people seemed relentlessly patriarchal?”
By May 5, 2017
June 1-4, 2017, Historic St Charles, St Louis area Missouri.
Mormon History Association’s 52nd Annual Conference is coming quickly–the first weekend in June in St. Louis. Registration prices will increase after May 6th. Go here to register. (You must have already joined MHA to get member pricing. Go here if you still need to join for the year.) Check out conference information here and a copy of the preliminary program here. We want to see you there.
By May 2, 2017
Seven years ago when I was starting this project, I came across the three-tiered system of the Neoplatonist Hierocles, who called the first step the telestic, or purifying mystery rites. Thinking that was a remarkable similarity among many other similarities between Neoplatonism and Mormonism, I wrote this post giving an overview of those similarities and proposing Hierocles’s system as the possible source of that unusual word.
Many expressed understandable skepticism, and as I was brainstorming, I said the following in comment 17:
By April 24, 2017
From the Program Committee: We are just one week away from the submission deadline for the 2018 Church History Symposium!
2018 Church History Symposium
Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830-1930*
March 1-2, 2018
In 1958, Leonard J. Arrington published Great Basin Kingdom, a seminal study in Mormon economic history. Arrington followed this work with several other studies pertaining to the economic history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the state of Utah. Other scholars have examined in detail financial operations of the church in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, including explorations of the law of consecration (first revealed to Joseph Smith in 1831) and its implementation, enterprises such as the United Firm and the Kirtland Safety Society, and the economic impact of creating new communities throughout the Great Basin. Picking up where Arrington and others left off, there are new and exciting developments in the study of gender, society, race, and the environment that can enlighten the financial aspects of Mormon history.
By April 24, 2017
In this previous post, I noted the similarities between DC 88:6-13 and a passage from Thomas Taylor’s translation of Plato’s Republic 571b-c. That passage happens to be right in the middle of Plato’s allegory of the cave, and upon further reflection, major elements from the cave seem to show up not only in section 88 but also 93.
By April 21, 2017
If you haven’t heard already, yesterday a host of 19 scholars submitted an Amici Curiae Brief (amici curiae=friends of the court, or impartial expert advisors) in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13,780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Trump’s Executive Order received a cascade of pushback and resistance, mainly criticizing that the order seems to target Muslims (just search the executive order in google news for a host of coverage). The Amici Curiae Brief picks up on this vein and presents the Mormon past with federal immigration policy as an example of how targeting religious minorities through immigration legislation can go horribly wrong.
The Brief tells the history of early Mormon persecution, and late nineteenth-century legal battles over polygamy to show that the government treated Mormons as “outsiders, not full members of the political community.” The argument and section titles are enough to give a sense of the Brief in its entirety:
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.
By April 14, 2017
The International Society of Landscape, Place and Material Culture (ISLPMC) will hold its 49th annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 18-21, 2017.
The 2017 Conference theme is “Mormons, Miners and the American West.” In 1847 the first groups of Mormon settlers led by Brigham Young entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. After displacing most indigenous residents of the valleys, the Mormons established the first of their many permanent settlements in the region based on the Plat for the City of Zion. They were seeking isolation following decades of persecution; however, much of the area they settled also contained some of the richest precious metals deposits in the West. Soon they were joined by others seeking, among other things, silver and gold, and introducing an array of cultural conflicts.
By April 13, 2017
We are pleased to feature this Q&A with Steve Evans, co-founder and a co-editor at the BCC Press. Steve was gracious enough to answer a few questions for scholars for JI. You can submit a manuscript or direct further questions to the press here.You can read more about the BCC Press here and here.
- How would peer review work for authors at the BCC Press? Historians and academics are naturally concerned about issues of tenure, CV-building, etc.
By April 6, 2017
Rachel Hunt Steenblik posed a question that intrigued me, so I decided to look a bit further at women’s conference participation to specifically those years when a new Relief Society Presidency was called.
I am again relying on the appendix from At the Pulpit here.
By April 4, 2017
At a recent gathering in Cambridge, MA, Richard Bushman introduced Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to her hometown crowd as Mormonism’s most “distinguished and decorated scholar.” Her Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and many other awards speak to her mastery of the historian’s craft in the broader academy. She is not only Mormonism’s most distinguished and decorated scholars, she is one of the most distinguished and decorated scholars alive today. Ulrich’s research and writing abilities made A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 a natural choice for JI’s Third Annual Summer Book Club. Hundreds of readers have followed along with our book club in the past few years—we hope to read with even more of you this summer!
By April 3, 2017
In March of 2013, I began to create a history of women speaking in General Conference here, though that effort was only a start. Recently, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, edited by JI’s own Jenny Reeder with Kate Holbrook offers an almost exhaustive appendix—“Latter-day Saint Women Speakers in General Conference.” Charlotte Hansen Terry’s extensive labors produced the appendix. My colleague John Thomas offered one correction to that appendix which did not make the imprint (or the online version as of yet): In October 1902 Mrs. Lucy Smith spoke in the outdoor overflow meeting as recorded here.
By March 27, 2017
Over the past few weeks, a white woman that goes by the name “A Purposeful Wife” (Ayla) has garnered a lot of attention on Twitter and was featured in an article on Buzzfeed for dual loyalties to Mormonism and the Alt-Right Movement (a political movement whose explicit purpose is to create a white, Christian nation). She spends her days spewing Alt-Right messages to her 20,000 followers and thousands more that respond to her. Her alt-right beliefs inform her “white nationalism.” Although she rejects the label of “Nazi,” she subscribes to Nazi race theory. She has issued a “white baby challenge,” encouraging people now considered to be white to bear more children than people of color in order to maintain white supremacy. This cannot be called anything other than a call to eugenics–commonplace rhetoric in the Alt-Right. Ayla has a Mormon.org profile, seemingly written before her adoption of Alt-Right politics [it has been taken down as of 11:40 AM MST, but you can see the profile courtesy of the Wayback Machine].
Despite the unsavory, dangerous, and abhorrent rhetoric, it’s important to know Mormonism’s long history of supporting eugenics—even when they were not considered white or Christian. As Ardis at Keepapitchinin has rightly written, this flies in the face of current Mormon teachings. I applaud the LDS Church’s statement condemning all forms of racism past and present, and join in that call. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the LDS Church condemns its past subscription to eugenics, not only the priesthood and temple restriction or other better-known racist or racial beliefs and practices.
While this post is a very short introduction, I will provide a brief overview of the Mormon embrace of eugenics, explicitly, and implicitly, in terms of race and gender. Mormon eugenics and political history will come in a second installment.[i]
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