Yesterday the newest issue of the Journal of Mormon History arrived in my mailbox. This is the first JMH issued under the editorship of Martha Taysom. This issue’s cover departs from that of nearly the last twenty years of past issues, replacing the “abstraction of the window tracery, Salt Lake City Tenth Ward” with a section from the front page of a Finnish newspaper depicting Brigham Young (though the cover description of the window tracery remains along side the actual cover description) and trades the two-toned color scheme for a solid color. Unfortunately, the volume and issue number have been omitted from the spine, which may annoy bibliophiles, collectors, and possibly even some researchers. Perhaps this was done for space since the font is significantly larger on the spine than in past issues. Hopefully this is an oversight and the volume/issue designation will return.
One change found on page iii involves manuscript submission. In the previous issue it read, “Papers for consideration must be submitted on paper (not e-copies) in triplicate, with the text typed and double-spaced, including all quotations.” Now it reads, “Papers for consideration must be submitted to Martha Taysom…at firstname.lastname@example.org, preferably in Word. Illustrative materials must be attached in a separate file, not embeddded [sic] in the Word document.”
In terms of content, this issue comes with both barrels loaded. See the Table of Contents here.
The first article, Zachary R. Jones’ “Conversion Amid Conflict: Mormon Proselytizing in Russian Finland, 1861-1914” is a very interesting one. First he “discusses Russian/Finnish impression of Mormonism and reactions to LDS ministry, then examines the role of Mormon missionary efforts in nineteenth-century Russian Finland and investigates why Finns joined the LDS Church during this period.” Among other observations, Jones notes that the Russian Orthodox church played a pivotal role in the Russification of provinces like Finland. Influenced by negative press, among other things, clergy identified Mormonism as a radical sect and therefore, an enemy not only of the Church but of the state and actively sought to imprison and deport missionaries. Lutherans (the only other Church permitted under law) followed suit. Not only were Mormons seen as an immoral (polygamy) and ignorant (follow the prophet), but as Western and therefore, a threat to Russian culture. Interestingly, though historians focus often of the migrations to the United States of European converts in the late 19th century, Jones points to Swedish Mormons’ migration to Finland as a means for missionaries to gain a foothold in Finland, forming a nucleus of the faithful upon which to build. Jones’ article has much more to offer and is a must read, not only because of the light he throws on Finnish/Russian Mormon history, but also because he rightly, if only briefly, places the Mormon experience in the context of other failed 19th century missionary efforts. My work on Mexico and work I’m aware of involving Tonga echo many of the themes Jones explores.
The next article is “The Forms and the Power: The Development of Mormon Ritual Healing to 1847” by Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright. According to Stapley and Wright, Joseph Smith sought to ritualize the power to heal that was restored to him and followed scriptural and cultural precdedent in doing so. They document a progression in healing liturgy from a charismatic laying on of hands to anointing in connection with the Kirtland “proto-endowment,” both of which frequently involved direct contact with the afflicted part of the body. With the Nauvoo period came a closer affiliation of healing with temple ritual. On the trail west, ritual healing “provided for a meaningful expression of faith as well as the deepening of communal ties.” Throughout these periods, women participated in the healing culture. Stapley and Wright see the Utah period as a period in which the forms that Joseph Smith instituted to express the God-revealed power to heal were institutionalized. They conclude by stating that, “under the tutelage of Joseph Smith, early Saints also understood the temple rituals as a bridge between the forms and the power—the rites that would bequeath the gifts of the Spirit, heal those who were ill, and bind a community of believers together, both in sickness and in health, in life and death.” A great, insightful piece.
Next, Jill Mulvay Derr and Carol Cornwall Madsen have “Preserving the Record and Memory of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, 1842-92.” Derr and Madsen show that Emmeline Wells and Eliza R. Snow frequently cited the original Nauvoo Relief Society minutes (in Snow’s possession), drawing upon them “to legitimize and extent women’s participation in the Church and in the broader society.” These minutes provided women with the words of Joseph Smith, which Snow and Wells, among others, interpreted to place the Relief Society into the context of the both the primitive church and the priesthood as well as their restoration. Drawing from the records of numerous ward and stake records, Derr and Madsen demonstrate the widespread use and impact of these minutes. Snow quoted Joseph Smith’s teaching “that queens would come and learn of them” and in the process “offered women a sense of pride in the present, hope in the future, and reasons for participation.” As influential as what Snow did quote were the things that she did not. She did barely mentioned Emma Smith, her opposition to polygamy, or her claim of authority in the Society. Wells, who had known Joseph Smith, but who had not attended the Nauvoo period meetings, made a handwritten copy of the minutes and often used them in her published writings in the Exponent. Many women in turn copied selections from these publications into their journals, indicating the importance these records had to Utah women in creating a conceptual link between the Utah Relief Society and the Nauvoo Relief Society. With other examples of the preservation and use of these minutes, Derr and Madsen further elaborate on their impact on the memory and place of the Nauvoo Relief Society in the memory of the women of the Church through the early 20th century.
[To Be Continued…]