JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 10: Chapters 25-26

By July 20, 2015


This is the tenth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.

Installments:

  • Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
  • Part 2: Chapters 3-4
  • Part 3: Chapters 5-6
  • Part 4: Chapters 7-9
  • Part 5: Chapters 10-12
  • Part 6: Chapters 13-15
  • Part 7: Chapters 16-18
  • Part 8: Chapters 19-21
  • Part 9: Chapters 22-24
  • Next Week: Chapters 27-28

Of all the chapters of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, Chapter 25 is perhaps where Richard Bushman delivers most fully on his introductory promise to take seriously Joseph Smith’s religious ideas (xxi). Scholars writing previously about Smith had been more intrigued by his psychology than his theology, and had left the elaborate cosmological world that he created largely unexplored. Bushman, by contrast, is here determined to map out and to appraise some of the major themes that characterized Smith’s expansive teachings; the result is a rich and perceptive picture of how Joseph Smith came to tell what Bushman calls “Stories of Eternity,” narratives that defined the Mormon cosmos. When it was published ten years ago, Bushman’s account was one of the first legitimate attempts to explore and to appreciate the theological depth and “boundless” scope of Smith’s religious enterprise.

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Prepping for Archival Visits: The LDS Church History Library

By July 15, 2015


Last week at The Junto, Jessica Parr offered her thoughts on essential technological preparations for spending time in the archives. It got me thinking: what are some things that researchers should be aware of when they visit the LDS Church History? In this post, I’ll touch on transportation, lodging, the best food in the area, policies to be familiar with, and finding collections to peruse.[1]

This is only meant to be a brief introduction—please add your comments, suggestions, and experiences below!

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A “Krakauer Problem?”

By July 14, 2015


Religion & Politics has allowed us to excerpt a section of my meditation on the enduring popularity–and the problems therein–of Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. 

Thanks to my colleagues at JI and friends of JI for their input on this piece. And thanks to JI for allowing me to share it with you.

…This is what I call the “Krakauer problem”: more than twelve years after it was first published, and after Romney’s presidential campaigns helped make Mormonism an acceptable American religion, Under the Banner of Heaven remains the definitive book on Mormon history in popular culture. Under the Banner of Heaven spent months on The New York Times bestseller list, and it is still ranked number one on Amazon’s bestsellers in the “Mormonism” list. Its popularity is also reflected at social events—even social events with other scholars of religion. When historians of Mormon history like me explain what they study, most of those who have read one book on the faith will tell us that they’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven. And, as Krakauer himself intended, they will also tell us that they understand it to be not only an exposé of Mormon fundamentalism, but also a reliable history of the origins of the LDS Church, too. To be sure, this is a problem for the LDS Church and for its members. Mainstream Mormons don’t want to be called upon to answer for Jeffs anymore than “mainstream” Muslims want to be called upon to answer for jihadists. Yet, this is also a problem for scholars of Mormonism, a problem that we’ve yet to solve. Scores of both scholarly and popular books on Mormonism have been published since Under the Banner of Heaven was first released in 2003. Yet none have come close to displacing it as the dominant portrayal of Mormon history in American culture.

THE QUESTION IS, WHY? What’s so compelling about Under the Banner of Heaven? That is, what makes it such a gripping and troubling read?…

Read the rest of the piece here.

I’d love to throw this out to the JI readership–What is your experience with Under the Banner of Heaven?

 


JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 9: Chapters 22-24

By July 13, 2015


This is the ninth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.

Installments:

  • Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
  • Part 2: Chapters 3-4
  • Part 3: Chapters 5-6
  • Part 4: Chapters 7-9
  • Part 5: Chapters 10-12
  • Part 6: Chapters 13-15
  • Part 7: Chapters 16-18
  • Part 8: Chapters 19-21
  • Next Week: Chapters 25-27

GeneralJosephRichard Bushman begins Chapter 23 by saying, “Eighteen Forty may have been the happiest year of Joseph Smith’s life” (403). This was because it was basically a honeymoon period between the tragedy of Missouri and the rising tensions in Illinois. In these three chapters we meet a triumphant Joseph Smith—a Joseph Smith who pled his case to the President of the United States, earned the respect of intellectual observers, built a bustling city, and flirted with Christian heresies—and is notably couched in a triumphalist narrative. You could feel that it was in these years, 1839-1841, that Joseph Smith became a national figure worthy of more than mere parochial attention. Bushman compares the pro- and anti-Mormon literature of the previous few years that rarely mentioned Smith to the growth of pamphlets that now identified, engaged, denounced, and praised the Prophet. “Joseph Smith was at last given a name and a role in print as the searching youth to whom God and angels appeared,” he explains (402). Smith was finally a figure with which to be reckoned.

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Scholarly Inquiry: Ignacio Garcia, Part 2

By July 9, 2015


garciaFor Part 1, see here.

5. How do you envision your memoir contributing to both Mormon studies and Chicano studies?

While all of us want a legacy most of us never do enough to make it beyond a footnote or a family member’s sacrament meeting talk.

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Scholarly Inquiry: Ignacio Garcia on Chicano While Mormon

By July 8, 2015


garciaIgnacio M. Garcia is the Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr. Professor of Western and Latino History at BYU. He is the author of several significant scholarly studies of Chicano and Mexican American history and he mentored several JI bloggers when they were students at BYU. Ignacio recently published a memoirChicano While Mormon: Activism, War, and Keeping the Faith, which is the first installment in Farleigh Dickinson University Press’s new Mormon Studies Series. Dr. Garcia’s memoir recounts his early years, from his family’s migration to Texas from Mexico, his growing up Mormon in a San Antonio barrio, his time in Vietnam, and his college activism in the incipient Chicano Movement. With the Latino/a population now the largest minority in the United States, and Latino/as joining the church in growing numbers, understanding Mormon Latino/a history will becoming increasingly important in years to come. As the first published autobiography of a Mormon Mexican American, Dr. Garcia’s memoir is an important milestone.  For those interested in purchasing the memoir, here is a code for a 30% discount: UP30AUTH15 (enter it at the Rowman and Littlefield website, linked to above)

Continuing the JI’s occasional series, Scholarly Inquiry, Dr. Garcia agreed to answer the following questions:

1. Briefly, could you summarize the main points of the memoir for the JI’s readers?

I don’t know if you write a memoir with main points in mind.

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JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 8: Chapters 19-21

By July 6, 2015


This is the eighth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.

Installments:

  • Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
  • Part 2: Chapters 3-4
  • Part 3: Chapters 5-6
  • Part 4: Chapters 7-9
  • Part 5: Chapters 10-12
  • Part 6: Chapters 13-15
  • Part 7: Chapters 16-18
  • Next week (Part 9): Chapters 22-24

 

32493_000_01_Title.qxdIn the previous installment of the summer book club, Tona brought us through early January 1838, when, acting on a revelation, Joseph Smith (JS) fled Kirtland, Ohio, and reestablished the church’s headquarters in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. As chapter 19 begins, Bushman lays out JS’s vision of the burgeoning Mormon settlement in northwestern Missouri and the palpable optimism that the Saints felt regarding Far West’s prospects. However, as 1838 progressed, that optimism would fade in the face of internal dissension and external opposition, ultimately resulting in the violent deaths of perhaps forty church members, the government-sanctioned expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from the state, and JS himself incarcerated on charges of treason and other crimes. Sifting through an uneven historical record, Bushman seeks to evaluate JS’s role and responsibility in these difficulties.

The internal dissent that had plagued JS and the church in Kirtland in 1837 followed him to Missouri. In February 1838, church members voted to remove David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer as the presidency of the Missouri church, based on charges of mishandling church funds and properties. In March and April, church courts excommunicated the Whitmers, Phelps, and Oliver Cowdery, another church leader. These men had been among JS’s earliest and staunchest supporters, but by 1838 they had become estranged from the prophet. Cowdery had objected to what he saw as un-republican ecclesiastical interference in personal affairs. Bushman uses Cowdery’s trial as “a reminder of the complex ideological environment of Mormons in the 1830s. Most of the time they spoke Kingdom of God language, using words like ‘faith,’ ‘righteousness,’ ‘Zion,[’] ‘gathering,’ ‘priesthood,’ and ‘temple.’ At the same time, as American citizens, they knew the political language of rights and freedom” (348). Although JS himself used republican language when declaring that the Mormons would not submit to mob violence, he was less enthusiastic when his followers used it to undermine Latter-day Saint beliefs in consecration and unity.

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Guest Post from Jeff Turner: “Nineteenth-century Gathering: A Translocative Opportunity”

By July 3, 2015


[Today we are happy to have the second post in our guest series from UofU-bound-PhD student Jeff Turner. Make sure you didn’t miss his first post last week.]

Mormon-Pioneers-Expelled-from-MissouriIn the first volume of the Mormon Studies Review, Thomas Tweed writes, “in this brief essay I want to discuss Mormon displacement and emplacement, as Twain did, and I want to propose that consideration of these two themes, and others, shows that the Latter-day Saints offer an exceptionally generative case study for translocative history, historical accounts that trace cultural flows across geographical boundaries, and comparative analysis, the justly maligned but still useful strategy of interpreting one tradition in terms of another.”[1] While Tweed spends a significant portion of the essay addressing a comparative approach, he also suggests that missions and migration are two opportunities for a translocative study of Mormonism. In following this vein, we might ask: what might such a study of Mormonism look like?

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JMH Special Issue on Race: A Brief Introduction

By July 2, 2015


When I composed the introduction to the special edition of the Journal of Mormon History (July 2015), I described the study of race and Mormonism as a “nice subject, historically obscure even within the Mormon studies world.” But boy have I been proven wrong, or at least behind the times!

Anyone attending last month’s Mormon History Association annual meeting in Provo, where many of the panels dealt with race (broadly conceived) and the restored church—not to mention the powerful Smith-Pettit plenary by Margaret Jacobs on the adoption of Native American Children by Mormon families as well as the Best Book Award going to Russell Stevenson’s documentary history on people of African descent and Mormonism—would recognize that race has become a major preoccupation for the corner of Mormon studies that MHA represents.

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The hours are counting down for She Shall be an Ensign.

By June 30, 2015


Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 7.48.21 AMLast month (here) we told you about friend of JI and Keepapitchinin’ blogger, Ardis Parshall, and her Kickstarter campaign–She Shall be an Ensign. We are glad to support her in achieving her goal, but she is still working with a shoestring budget. And if she reaches $40,000 everyone who donates $10 or more gets an additional packet of lesson plans.

If you believe that there is much Mormon History still to be written and a wide range of women’s voices need their rightful place in that history, contribute now. You’ve got 14 hours left!


Love Wins

By June 29, 2015


Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that state restrictions on same sex marriage were unconstitutional. Their reasoning pointed to the importance of establishing a uniform understanding of marriage across the United States so that individuals who were legally married in one state would be assured their relationship would be recognized if they moved to another one. The reaction on my Facebook feed has been jubilant.

One friend wrote: SO MANY RAINBOWS. SO MUCH HAPPY.

Another posted a row of rainbow hearts.

And finally, a third posted a picture of her brother with his new husband, a marriage certificate, and the words: “Today brings joy to my heart. ?#?lovewins

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Guest Post: Jeff Turner, “Early Mormon Conversion: Method, Multiplicity, and Madness”

By June 25, 2015


[Today’s guest post comes from Jeff Turner, who recently completed a master’s degree at Claremont Graduate College where he worked with Patrick Mason in the Mormon Studies Program. This fall he will be a PhD student in history at the University of Utah.]

Mormon_baptism_circa_1850sAs far as I can tell, it’s been at least a year since JI has featured a post on conversion, which means that it’s time for us to take a trip back in our Delorean and uncover a topic that might be forgotten under a layer of dust.

Take, for example, two stories of two different English converts to Mormonism in the 1850s. First, in 1853, an Englishman attended his first Mormon meeting, encountered religious enthusiasm, and converted: “At this meeting, a testimony meeting, one young woman spoke in tongues and many of those present bore their testimony to the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This was something new to us and had a great impression upon our minds as being the truth and reasonable… So we were then and there baptized by James Woods in the baptismal font of the chappel yard… We attended meetings as often as circumstances would permit and our minds began to be lit up by the Holy Spirit which caused our hearts to rejoice.”[1]

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Photos of a Visit to Iosepa

By June 23, 2015


A few weeks ago Ben P, Catherine P, and I visited the Iosepa (pronounced, I think: ee-oh-SEP-ah, but, in practice usually closer to: yo-SEP-uh) Cemetery, near Dugway, Utah. Below I’m posting some of the pictures from the trip, mostly without commentary. 

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JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 7: Chapters 16-18

By June 22, 2015


This is the seventh installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.

Installments:
• Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
• Part 2: Chapters 3-4
• Part 3: Chapters 5-6
• Part 4: Chapters 7-9
• Part 5: Chapters 10-12
• Part 6: Chapters 13-15
• Next week (Part 8): Chapters 19-21

Sparse comments last week suggest some understandable mid-book fatigue (it IS hefty, after all, and it IS the busy part of the summer for most of us), but never fear – just jump right back in. Chapters 16-18 form, in many ways, the emotional heart of Bushman’s biography and a microcosm of the thorny problems inherent in writing a finely textured history of a figure as iconic and enigmatic as Joseph Smith. They are Rough Stone Rolling itself, writ small.

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Author Meets Roundtable: Paul Reeve Responds

By June 17, 2015


JI recently finished a roundtable review on Paul Reeve’s wonderful Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (New York: Oxford University Press: 2015). Dr. Reeve has kindly consented to respond to the roundtable–his thoughts are found below.

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Mapping Sexual Violence in 19th C Utah

By June 16, 2015


I am currently working on a mapping project at the University of Michigan focused on sexual crime in nineteenth-century Utah. Every day, I look through the index of the Third District Court Criminal Case files. The cases included in the index (which is available through ancestry.com) covers the years, 1882 – 1916. I still have a long ways to go with the project, but I thought I would share some preliminary thoughts.

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Editor Search and Executive Director Search for the Mormon History Association

By June 15, 2015


TWO job announcements from our friends at MHA, the editorship of the Journal of Mormon History and the Executive Director Position of the Mormon History Association:

Editor Search for the Journal of Mormon History

The Mormon History Association is conducting a search for a new editor of the Journal of Mormon History.  The editor determines the content of the quarterly Journal, solicits submissions, oversees peer review, works with submitting authors in performing substantive and stylistic content editing, and coordinates with a production staff to ensure that issues of the Journal are published according to deadline and within budget.  The editor has full editorial control of the journal but reports to the MHA board of directors in maintaining a high quality product that serves as the flagship publication for the organization.

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JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 6: Chapters 13-15

By June 15, 2015


This is the sixth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.

Installments:
• Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
• Part 2: Chapters 3-4
• Part 3: Chapters 5-6
• Part 4: Chapters 7-9
• Part 5: Chapters 10-12
• Next week (Part 7): Chapters 16-18

Chapter 13: Priesthood and Church Government
Chapter 14: Visitors
Chapter 15: Texts

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Something New Under the MHA Sun: Scholars Workshop

By June 12, 2015


This year, MHA piloted something I hope we see more of in the future: a workshop as a pre- or post-conference tour alternative. A half-day workshop about documentary editing (aka “Geeking Out with Old Documents”) was dreamed up by JI’s own Robin Jensen of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and supported by BYU Special Collections, where the event was held. I helped make some of the initial introductions and arrangements as part of the MHA 2015 Program Committee, and then Local Arrangements took it and ran, and we all held our breath a little as the registration opened up (especially since it was up against the deservedly popular women’s history bus tour – which I hope we get a write up about! But I digress–), not knowing who would be interested in spending a day in the library learning the ins and outs of turning an original document (letter, diary, manuscript) into a readable resource for researchers, genealogists, and possibly even for publication.

Turns out: quite a lot of folks.

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MHA 2016 CFP: “Practice”

By June 10, 2015


MHA logo

Mormon History Association 51st Annual Conference

Call for Papers

2016 Snowbird, Utah

“Practice”

The 51st annual meeting of the Mormon History Association will take place on June 9-12, 2016*. The conference theme is simple yet evocative: “Practice.” The work of Mormon history in the past few decades has delved deeply into theological, institutional, and cultural research. And yet the richness of the lived realities of the Mormon experience begs to be uncovered in new ways that cut across these familiar categories. “Practice,” in this sense, is used broadly in order to capture the dynamic participation of individual adherents within diverse strains of Mormonism throughout the past two centuries. Several decades-worth of scholarship in “lived religion” provides the tools to capture these fresh perspectives. Mormonism’s distinctive religious morphology and substantial corpus of records creates a promising field for new theoretical understanding. What role does “practice” play in Mormon religiosity? What is the relationship between hierarchical, correlated authority and grassroots implementation and innovation? How do Mormon practices change, evolve, and adapt over generations and throughout global communities? How are global Mormon religious norms shaped by indigenous culture in Salt Lake City, Kinshasa, or Manila?  

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