One year ago today, David G., Stan, Jared, and I sat down to lunch at J-Dawgs. We discussed our standard assortment of all things Mormon, discussed our then-current research, and eventually the talk turned to the bloggernacle. David, who had lurked and commented around the ‘nacle longer than the rest of us, shared with the rest of us the interesting posts and conversations dealing with various issues of Mormon history and culture at BCC, T&S, DMI, and the Mormon Wasp, among other blogs that post on issues from the Latter-day Saint past. We discussed the possibility of creating a blog dealing explicitly with Mormon history, dedicated to examining that history within wider contexts. We threw around various possibilities for the blog’s name (including The Men’s Exponent and Newer Cooler Thang), and decided on the Juvenile Instructor—partly as an attempt to playfully mock the trend among Mormon blogs to pick an old LDS periodical’s name and partly as an attempt to mock our own juvenile nature.
After lunch, we launched the Juvenile Instructor at wordpress.com, and drafted the following explanation of the blog’s purpose and aims:
The Juvenile Instructor takes its name from the 19th-century Mormon periodical, founded and edited by Mormon Apostle George Q. Cannon in 1866 in Utah Territory. Cannon, although not a professionally trained historian, sought to incorporate history into his editorials.
The name was unanimously chosen by the bloggers for four primary reasons:
1. It seems to be trendy to name Mormon blogs after defunct church periodicals, and many others were already taken.
2. Perhaps serendipitously, the motto of the original Juvenile Instructor is also appropriate to this blog’s aims – “With all thy getting get understanding.”
3. All bloggers are relatively “juvenile” (some in age, some in maturity, most in both).
4. We liked the masthead of the original Juvenile Instructor.
At The Juvenile Instructor, we seek to situate the study of Mormonism within wider frameworks, including American religious history, western history, gender history, and, on occasion, the history of the Republic of South Africa.
After adding Ben as our fifth blogger, and thanks to Matt B. of Mormon Mentality, Justin from Mormon Wasp, DMI Dave, and especially J. Stapley, we joined the Mormon Archipelago. From five BYU students, we have grown considerably over the last year, and now count eleven permabloggers among our ranks, representing not only the state of Utah, but also Texas, Illinois, Indiana, California, and Washington, D.C. In addition, we’ve had a number of outstanding guest bloggers (including both bloggernacle regulars who blog regularly elsewhere and others whose Mormon blogging experience amounts to their contributions here). Each of those contributors, along with the regular, occasional, and random commenters, have vastly improved the overall quality of the Juvenile Instructor.
In the last year, we have (thanks to J. Stapley) updated the blog’s layout, generated some mild controversy, been the object of criticism from more “orthodox and mainstream” bloggers, and even have moderated/banned a commenter or two (or, according to our current moderation and banned list, seven). Most of all, though, we have selfishly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know and converse with so many intelligent and thoughtful individuals about the Mormon past (I’ve even met a few of you in person). We hope that some of you have benefitted from what we’ve attempted to do over the last year, as well (and if that seems like a thinly-veiled hint begging for compliments and praise, then you’re right). For a rundown of some of our favorite posts from the last year, see here.
To everyone that has posted, left a comment, lurked, criticized, or contributed in some other way to the Juvenile Instructor, we thank you and look forward to future conversations.