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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Papers on Mormonism and Papers by JI-ers at ASCH

By January 5, 2016


This week, historians from around the United States will descend upon Atlanta for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The American Society of Church History will meet concurrently—and happens to feature a number of JI-ers and several papers related to Mormonism. You can view the rest of the schedule here. If you are in Atlanta please let us know—we always look forward to meeting online friends in “real life.”

One more thing: if you are interested in offering a short blog post for JI about one of the sessions, please let us know in the comments!

The Nineteenth-Century American Scriptural Imagination: Three Case Studies
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, International Ballroom 10

Chair: James Byrd, Vanderbilt University

Papers:
Presidential Death and the Bible: 1799, 1865, 1881
Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame

A Rushing Mighty Wind: Tornadic Pentecosts and Apocalypses in Nineteenth-Century America
Peter J. Thuesen, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

The Abraham Mythos and Mormon Marriage, Early and Late
Kathleen Flake, University of Virginia

Comment: Philip Goff, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

 

The Confluence of Race, Religion, and Society: The Subversive Politics of Racial and Religious Minorities in the Progressive Era
Friday, January 8, 2016: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, International Ballroom 1

Chair: Elizabeth Jemison, Clemson University

Papers:
Whiteness, Christianity, and Civilization: Western Culture at a Black University, Howard University, 1900–30
Matthew Bowman, Henderson State University

Liquor and Liberty: African American Preachers, Poll Taxes, and Anti-Prohibition in Early Twentieth Century Texas
Brendan Payne, Baylor University

The “Evil of Race Suicide Now Sweeping Like a Blight”: Eugenics and Racialized Religion in the Progressive Era
Joseph Stuart, University of Utah

Comment: Elizabeth Jemison, Clemson University

 

The Uses of Propaganda in American Religious History: Catholicism, Mormonism, Protestantism
Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, International Ballroom 1

Chair: Seth Perry, Princeton University

Papers:
“So Many Foolish Virgins”: True Womanhood, Nuns, and Propaganda in Antebellum America
Cassandra Leigh Yacovazzi, University of Missouri-Columbia

Religious Outsiders and the Catholic Critique of Protestantism in America
Bradley Kime, University of Virginia

Part Serendipity, Part Strategy: The Public Image Boost of the 1936 Mormon Welfare Plan as an Exception to America’s “Religious Depression”
J. B. Haws, Brigham Young University

Comment: Seth Perry, Princeton University


Top 10 Most-Read JI Posts in 2015

By December 29, 2015


If you’re like me, you’re currently prepping for a wild New Year’s party. (In my case, it’s cozying up with a handful of books and perhaps some orange juice.) However, you hopefully also have time to catch up with the 10 most-read JI posts from the last year. Below are the ten posts that received the most viewers over the last 12 months, and I’m sure they are worthy of another read.

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Color Me … Uncorrelated

By December 28, 2015


This post begins with a rather cryptic instruction for Relief Society leaders, published in the Bulletin No. 13, July 1981, p. 2, which reads:

Homemaking Meeting Materials:
Relief Society leaders should ensure that all materials used in homemaking meeting are reliable and accurate. They should be especially careful about materials focusing upon color analysis for wardrobe planning. Materials presented in homemaking meeting should use basic color principles and promote an understanding of the use of color. Sisters should avoid “systems” of color analysis, many of which contain misinformation. [1]

IMG_1076Fellow JI blogger J. Stapley stumbled upon this puzzling little gem; I have a pretty solid hunch about it, but I also invite further interpretation / speculation about its meaning in the comments. The specific context might very well be forever lost in the mists of time, but it’s worth seeing if we can unpack this passage a little.

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Plato, Tolkien, and Mormonism, Part 3: Inclusive Monotheism and Fabula

By December 22, 2015


This final post on Plato, Tolkien, and Mormonism explores the boundaries between theology, fantasy, and literature, particularly in the context of inclusive monotheism. Barbara Newman points out that many theologians who embraced Plato’s Timaeus and its inclusive monotheism in the 12th century were condemned while writers who embraced the Timaeus through fabula, or literature, were not. “Poets, through much of the Middle Ages, had license to proclaim with impunity ideas, however radical, that if voiced as formal theology could have provoked swift, hostile response. Because of it unofficial status, mere literature might well be denounced (as Ovid so often was), but it was hardly worth the trouble repressing.”[1]

Tolkien mixed Platonist and Christian themes in his creation narrative in The Silmarillion and W. W. Phelps began his “Paracletes,” which also mixed these themes, with “Once upon a time.” Yet for Phelps, “Paracletes” was a higher form a literature: “And let me say that I have began this story of the ‘Paracletes,’ or Holy Ones to counterbalance the foolish novel reading of the present generation. My story is not revelation, but the innuendoes relate to holy transactions, which may lead good people to search after truth and find it.”[2] Andrew Michael Ramsay had a similar intent in writing his Travels of Cyrus, which also mixed Christian and Platonic creation ideas: “We have here a fruitful source of luminous ideas, beautiful images and sublime expressions, such as we find in the holy scriptures, and in Milton, who has copied them.”[3]

What Tolkien meant by the Ainulindalë I’m not sure, but like many others he used fabula to give expression to inclusive monotheistic ideas held by some of the West’s most notable thinkers.

[1] Barbara Newman, God and the Goddess: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 65.

[2] [W.W. Phelps] “Paracletes,” Times and Seasons 6 (May 1, 1845): 892.

[3] Chevalier (Andrew Michael) Ramsay, Travels of Cyrus: To Which is Annexed, A Discourse upon the Theology and Mythology of the Pagans (1727, reprint; Albany: Pratt and Doubleday, 1814), xxi.  See also Ronan’s series at BCC, which discusses similar themes (1, 2, 3).

 


The People Who Stir America: BackStory on Revivals and Prophets

By December 21, 2015


The December 11, 2015 episode of the impeccably crafted history podcast BackStory is worth a listen, on the topic of “American Prophets.” In many ways, it’s a sequel to their “Born Again” episode on the history of American religious revival back in April, continuing the story of charismatic leaders and religious movements forging transformation and innovation in an intense cultural pressure cooker. In “American Prophets,” the hosts explore Neolin (Delaware / pan-Indian), William Seymour (Asuza Street, Pentecostalism), Brigham Young (Mormonism), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology) and Elijah Muhammed (Nation of Islam). When added to the earlier episode’s portrayal of the First and Second Great Awakenings, Handsome Lake, Sam Jones, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Billy Graham, we now have a nice two-hour audio documentary on diverse American new religious movements featuring a stellar cast of religious scholars. [1]

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Religious Liberty, Mormons, and Muslims

By December 16, 2015


The Founding Era of the United States witnessed dramatic changes in regards to the relationship between the government and religious bodies. Previously, state churches had either suppressed dissent or heavily regulated it through taxes and other penalties. Based on the ideas of John Locke, however, Thomas Jefferson and other founders promoted the idea of having no state church and providing expansive religious liberties to all citizens. Some Americans opposed these proposals on the grounds that religious liberty should be limited to Protestants or, more broadly, to Christians. These opponents raised the specter of the Catholic Pope running for President, or, pushing this argument to its extreme limits, that “Mohammadans” (Muslims) might come to the United States and, claiming the rights of religious liberty, somehow undermine the nation. As Denise A. Spellberg has shown in her excellent book, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, there were likely tens of thousands of Muslims in America by this time, but they were African slaves with no public presence. Those invoking Muslims in the debates usually only knew about Islam from inherited cultural prejudices and popular media that cast Muhammad and his followers in an unfavorable light. Against these arguments, Jefferson and others contended that for religious liberty to be an effective principle, its protections needed to extend to all people and all religions, including Islam.

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Deacons anointing

By December 14, 2015


I’m currently working on a chapter for my book on Mormon liturgy and cosmology that focuses on healing as lens to look at shifts in authority throughout Mormon history. A while back, I picked up a 1941 edition (fourth printing) of the Aaronic Priesthood Handbook, and recently read through. Page 45 has this fascinating bit in the section for deacons under “Caring for the Poor”:

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Plato, Tolkien, and Mormonism, Part 2: W. W. Phelps’s “Paracletes”

By December 14, 2015


In my previous post, I discussed how many of Tolkien’s creation and fall themes fit within various aspects of Christian Platonism.

Plato had two models. In the Phaedrus, pre-mortal souls fall: “By some accident [the soul] takes on a burden of forgetfulness and wrongdoing, then it is weighed down, sheds it wings and falls to earth” (248c-d). In the Timaeus, God (or the demiurge) “showed [souls] the nature of the universe. He described to them the laws that had been foreordained,” that they would be placed in bodies, “and if a person lived a good life throughout the due course of time, he would at the end return to his dwelling place in his companion star, to live a life of happiness” (41e, 42b-c). As Alan Scott explains,

There was therefore a good deal of disagreement among the later Platonists about the character of the cosmos and the soul’s incorporation. Was the world and our life part of a divine plan? Those who adopted this understanding of Plato interpreted the soul’s incorporation as providential and the heavenly bodies as assistants to a kindly design. Another interpretation of Plato stressed that this life has come about because of sin and error, and so took a very different view of the cosmos.[1]

Scott explains further, “Philo interprets the Genesis account in terms of both of these myths so that the creation of the world is good and the result of divine plan (as in the Timaeus), but the story of Adam symbolizes the soul’s fall because of sin (as in the Phaedrus),” which sounds pretty similar to Mormonism.[2]

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