Church History Department Job Ads

By October 14, 2015


Editorial Assistant—Joseph Smith Papers Project 

The Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is looking for an editorial assistant to assist with The Joseph Smith Papers. This is a unique opportunity to learn about early LDS history, work with primary documents, significantly contribute to the project’s research and production processes, and acquire a variety of new skills relating to both print and web publishing. This is a benefited, full-time position that is contingent for one year. The start date for this position is dependent upon employee availability, preferably between October and December 2015.

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Scholarly Inquiry: Christine Talbot

By October 14, 2015


Christine Talbot is the author of A Foreign Kingdom: Mormons and Polygamy in American Political Culture, 1852-1890 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013).  We are delighted that she agreed to an interview with the JI about this important new book.  Christine is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Northern Colorado.

Yours is the latest entry in a number of books on polygamy in the Utah territory.  What makes yours distinct from, say, Sarah Barringer Gordon’s, or Kathryn Daynes’s?

I think my work builds on the previous work of Sarah Barringer Gordon, Kathryn Daynes, Terryl Givens, and others by bringing in a cultural perspective, especially in terms of anti-Mormon rhetoric. Cultural history led me to different conclusions about the nature of the Mormon question. A cultural history allows us to see what I think is one of the central roots of the Mormon question, issues of American national identity and citizenship. These issues were profoundly gendered in nineteenth century America; citizenship was built on the idea of a masculine public sphere where citizenship was enacted, juxtaposed to a feminine private sphere in the home where future citizens were trained. (However, married women’s property acts and the woman suffrage movement provided ample ammunition to contest the masculinity of citizenship). My book shows that the practice of polygamy upset the historical distinction between public and private in ways that many Americans found troubling precisely because it is a distinction that never held in the first place. Plural marriage denaturalized and deconstructed the distinction between public and private that upheld American ideals of citizenship. That, I think, is one of the things about plural marriage that so upset other Americans.

Having spent so much time with polygamy, what do you think are remaining areas that are worth exploring in relation to it?

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Jane Lead’s Inclusive Monotheism

By October 13, 2015


I wanted to put up some quotes from Jane Lead on the issue of inclusive monotheism because her writings generally look so very Mormon and because she addresses issues related to another post I want to do.

In her Enochian Walks with God (1694), Lead talks about holy people becoming deified in the next life who then seek to aid holy people on earth. “For those Angelical Spirits that once liv’d in Flesh, do more nearly sympathise with us in all our Infirmities, and therefore all feelingly they tenderly consider our tempting-state, and give themselves out most readily for our help; they are Advocates, and to remind the Lord Jesus of their Prophecies, that they may have their fulfilling upon us. Of this sort and degree, they are the choicest and greatest in the Kingdom of our Lord, and have very stately Pavilions which are pitched round the Majesty of the Jehovah God” (25).

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Tweets on Black, White, and Mormon: A Conference on the Evolving Status of Black Saints Within the Mormon Fold

By October 12, 2015


We hope to have more reflections and commentary on the conference here at the JI. In the meantime, please enjoy the Tweets, which have been Storified at this link!

If anyone who attended the conference is interested in blogging about the experience, please e-mail me at joseph dot stuart at utah dot edu.

BWM


McMurrin Lecture: “Looking Back, Looking Forward”

By October 6, 2015


Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture

Opening plenary session of Black, White, and Mormon: A Conference on the Evolving Status of Black Saints Within the Mormon Fold.

Thursday, October 8, 2015 / 7:00 p.m.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Dumke Auditorium

Open to the public. Seating is limited.

“Looking Back, Looking Forward: Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine Forty-Two Years Later”

2015 McMurrin Lecturer Lester Bush

Lester E. Bush Jr.

Lester E. Bush Jr. will reflect on the forty-two years since his seminal article was published in Dialogue which undermined the standing historical narrative that the LDS Church’s priesthood ban began with Joseph Smith. We invite Bush to consider the past forty years: what has changed, what has stayed the same, and what steps are yet necessary to bring about change.

Founded in 1992, the McMurrin Lecture supports the serious and knowledgeable study of religion. The McMurrin Lecture honors beloved scholar and teacher Sterling M. McMurrin (1914-1996), who served as U.S. Commissioner of Education during the Kennedy Administration.


Inclusive Monotheism and Joseph Smith’s Sermon at the Grove

By October 5, 2015


Franklin’s statement may provide a lens through which to view some of Smith’s final statements about God(s). In the Sermon at the Grove (June 16, 1844) Smith insisted that there were multiple Gods: “the word Eloiheam ought to be in the plural all the way thro—Gods—the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us.” Franklin said there was a high God over Gods and that our God was the one who created our solar system. Franklin was probably influenced by Isaac Newton who also said there were multiple God in the universe and cited 1 Corinthians 8:5-6: “But to us there is but one God.” Smith cited the same scripture in the Sermon at the Grove.[1]

Thus Smith taught similar ideas to what some of the West’s most important thinkers and scientists had. Franklin biographer James Parton noted that Kepler and Goethe taught the same thing.[2] Strict monotheism would win out in orthodox Christianity (it usually did) but these great thinkers had found inclusive monotheism a better for the new conception of the universe.

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Reminder: MHA Abstracts Due 10/1/15!

By September 30, 2015


MHA Logo

Mormon History Association Annual Conference, Call for Papers

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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Introducing MHA’s New Executive Director

By September 29, 2015


MHAAs many readers know, the Mormon History Association recently conducted a search for a new executive director. A few weeks ago they chose Rob Racker, a long-time MHA attendee and Utah-area business consultant for the job. I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with Rob this last weekend at JWHA and he seems like an excellent choice. Below is a brief exchange for JI’s readers to get to know Rob a little better.

[Also, consider this your urgent reminder that MHA conference submissions are due in two days!]

What is your own background, especially your intersections with the Mormon history community?

My interest in Mormon History and studies/culture has spanned over my entire adult life, but especially over the last 20+ years. I have a business/consulting professional background mostly helping companies with financial management and systems issues, so the interest and passion in Mormon History is mostly been from an amateur perspective. I remember reading Sillitoe and Roberts’ Salamander and  Naifeh and Smith’s The Mormon Murders shortly after the Mark Hofmann episode and later Juanita Brooks’ Mountain Meadows Massacre. After these and a few other books I couldn’t get enough of the “warts-and-all” kind of church history vs. the purely devotional perspectives learned earlier in my life. My first MHA Conference was in 1996 at Snowbird and I have been hooked ever since. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation and camaraderie of the diverse personalities, opinions and approaches found within MHA.

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Twelve Thoughts on Raising the Dead

By September 28, 2015


 

1. Thomas Aquinas
“Those things are properly called miracles which are done by divine agency beyond the order commonly observed in nature.” Summa Contra Gentiles, III

2. Peter Cartwright
This was the most troublesome delusion of all; it made such an appeal to the ignorance superstition and credulity of the people, even saint as well as sinner . . . They would even set the very day that God was to burn the world like the self deceived modem Millerites. They would prophesy that if any one did oppose them God would send fire down from heaven and consume him like the blasphemous Shakers. They would proclaim that they could heal all manner of diseases and raise the dead just like the diabolical Mormons.
The Backwoods Preacher (London: Heylin, 1858), 22.

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Seeing Religion (or Mormonism) Whenever I Teach

By September 24, 2015


This semester I am teaching both halves of American history at a small liberal arts college.  As a historian of American Religion, I tend to look for religion in whatever I am teaching at the moment. But then there is the nagging question of “because it is my specialty, do I always look for it?” and “Is it relevant?” Well, of course, it is. The same thing could be said for gender, race, class, ethnicity, etc. Religion (or if we want to call it a belief-system, meaning-making, what have you) is everywhere.

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Benjamin Franklin’s “First Principles”: More Inclusive Monotheism

By September 22, 2015


franklin

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky, c 1816, Benjamin West

Newton’s views likely influenced a remarkable statement from young Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had met with John Conduitt, the man who said that Newton had said that God had appointed “superior beings” over heavenly bodies.[1] Not long after, Franklin wrote the following which he entitled “First Principles.” Here I simply quote the whole thing and will offer further thoughts in a later post.

 

I BELIEVE there is one supreme, most perfect Being, author and father of the gods themselves.

For I believe that man is not the most perfect being but one, but rather as there are many degrees of beings superior to him.

Also when I stretch my imagination through and beyond our system of planets, beyond the visible fixed stars themselves, into that space that is every way infinite, and conceive it filled with suns like ours, each with a chorus of worlds for ever moving round him; this little ball on which we move, seems, even in my narrow imagination, to be almost nothing, and myself less than nothing, and of no sort of consequence.

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September 11th and the Politics of Comparison

By September 21, 2015


51meOlDJ63L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Most of us (of a certain age) have a very specific memory of where we were that day in 2001. I was sitting on my couch watching the Today Show as the plane hit the second tower. I set down my laptop and didn’t pick it back up that day.

At the time, it didn’t occur to me at the time that this was not the first time something horrific happened on September 11th. My abandoned laptop held evidence of another harrowing day in September almost a century and a half earlier—I had been reading newspaper articles about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Only later would I learn that 11 September was also the date of the Chilean coup in which elected President Salvador Allende was ousted (with help from the US) that led to the 15-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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Inaugural Joseph Smith Lecture at the University of Virginia, Senator Harry Reid

By September 18, 2015


Senator Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid

The  inaugural Joseph Smith Lecture featuring a conversation with Senator Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader, will be held on Saturday September 26 at 2:00 p.m. in the University of Virginia’s Newcomb Hall Theater. The conversation will be comprised largely of questions from the audience.

Parking is available in the Bookstore garage immediately behind Newcomb Hall.

Tickets are available for free from University’s box office at https://tickets.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/single/EventListing.aspx and may be picked up in the Theater’s lobby beginning at 12:24. Seating is open and tickets not picked up by 1:45 will be released to the public.


Isaac Newton’s Inclusive Monotheism

By September 16, 2015


 

Newton

Newton and Joseph Smith had a lot of similar ideas about God

In my previous post, I mentioned Barbara Newman’s discussion of “inclusive monotheism” where intermediaries and other divine beings all work in harmony under a supreme being, as opposed to the radical monotheism of the Reformation which sought to get rid of such beings. Wouter Hanegraaff argues that when Max Weber referred to “disenchantment,” “he was describing the attempt by new scientists and Enlightenment philosophers to finish the job of Protestant anti-pagan polemicists, and get rid of cosmotheism once and for all.”[1]

Yet a major figure in the Enlightenment speculated about intermediary beings as well. Isaac Newton’s editor, John Conduitt, reported that Newton wondered toward the end of his life “whether there were not intelligent beings superior to us who superintended these revolutions of heavenly bodies by the direction of the Superior Being.”[2]  

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Scholarly Inquiry: Samuel Brown, Part 2

By September 14, 2015


This is Part 2 of our two-part Scholarly Inquiry with Samuel Brown. For Part 1, see here.

 

4. You address some of this in First Principles, but who is the intended audience of for your devotional work, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

That’s the hard question. I mostly wanted my non-academic friends to have an accessible summary of my sense of how the Gospel might work. I felt sorry for the good people who felt stymied by the academic tone of In Heaven. I also felt like I was being a tiny bit cowardly by not taking a personal stand (academic writing, which I love, is always a little cowardly in my view, so easy to hide so much in the conventions of disciplined scholarship). My secret agenda (there is always a secret agenda in writing; you don’t have to admire Leo Strauss to acknowledge that) in First Principles was to begin to advocate for a relational theology of Mormonism, one that was true to Mormonism’s roots and promise, thereby gently de-Protestantizing the theologies available to contemporary Mormons.

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Scholarly Inquiry: Samuel Brown, Part 1

By September 11, 2015


headshot-MikeStack-2014-09-24-art-background-croppedSamuel M. Brown is a medical researcher, ICU physician, historian of religion and culture, and friend to many at the Juvenile Instructor. Today he fields our questions on his recent foray from academic research into devotional writing for an LDS audience. In particular we asked him about the significance of history for that kind of enterprise. This is Part 1 of a 2-Part feature. [For Part 2, see here.]

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What’s the Opposite of Strict Monotheism? A Question of Terminology

By September 8, 2015


Hanegraaff concludes Esotericism and the Academy by arguing that the two principal points that Enlightenment scholars of philosophy labeled as pagan heresy—the rejection of creation ex nihilo and the belief in the uncreated, divine part of the soul (or nous)—are in fact the chief traits of what we might term Western esotericism.

Hanegraaff calls the rejection of creation ex nihilo, cosmotheism, which he sees as a counterpart of strict monotheism. Quoting the Egyptologist Jan Assman, cosmotheism is one where “a divine world does not stand in opposition to the world of cosmos, man, and society; rather, it is a principle that permeates it and gives it structure, order and meaning … The divine cannot be excluded from the world.” Such, Hanegraaff argues, is “the logical alternative to classic monotheism, where the invisible and eternal Creator is strictly separate from this visible and temporal creation.”  Hanegraaff sees “a deep structural conflict between the dynamics of these two mutually exclusive systems and all that they imply” (371).

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Guest Post: Jeff Turner, “Spring Musicals: Weirdness, Accuracy, and Introductions”

By September 2, 2015


[We are thrilled to have yet another guest post from Jeff Turner, a PhD student at the University of Utah. See his previous offerings here, here, and here.]

Musical“I actually learned something about Mormonism,” said my seat-neighbor at the Book of Mormon musical this past spring. Terrified, curious, and excited, I found myself wondering what he could have learned from the musical that he hadn’t known beforehand. So I asked. Surprisingly, his new piece of information had to do with the relationship between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, namely that they knew each other in person, which made Young’s succession as the next church president more approachable to my seatmate (even though the succession was oversimplified in the musical). Well that’s not so bad, I thought, and I can see how he picked that up from the musical. We had a short chat about it afterward, and that was the end of it.

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Proposing Panels for MHA’s Annual Conference: A Few Thoughts

By September 1, 2015


MHAWe are one month away from the deadline for MHA’s call for papers, so I thought this was as good a time as any to talk about the conference in general and conference papers in particular. I hope every reader of JI has had the privilege to attend MHA’s annual conference. It truly is a phenomenal time, with a mixture of solid papers and warm comraderie. It is quite unlike most historical conferences I attend where few people actually attend sessions and most people remain in the halls, at restaurants, and doing anything but hearing papers. There is certainly plenty of socializing and networking at MHA, but the thing that sets it apart is people actually care about the sessions, papers, and presenters. It’s refreshing, honestly. There are at times poorly-attended sessions, but more often than not the rooms are mostly filled, and not too infrequently they are overflowing with more anxious attendees than there are chairs. This is one of the conference’s great strengths.

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Fresh Update

By September 1, 2015


You may have noticed the Internet has changed under your nose. Web standards have matured enough that designers have more flexibility in typeface choices, layouts, and interactive elements. The prime medium for delivering web content has pivoted from the static and simple browser window to the mobile app. To take advantage of these developments, we’re launching a new design. Readers, rejoice—the day of an on-the-go, crisply formatted, mobile-friendly Juvenile Instructor has arrived.

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