The historiography of adoptive sealing practice

By January 18, 2020

In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith revealed a new temple liturgy and cosmology that incorporated the idea of sealing people together into a durable and eternal network of heaven. There were a lot of loose ends in the practical reality of sealing practice when he was killed. The Quorum of the Twelve instituted the practice of “adoption” (also sometimes referred to as the “law of adoption”)—sealing men and women to people other than their biological parents—when the temple opened for use by the Saints. This practice endured until 1894, when the church president Wilford Woodruff received a revelation mostly ending the practice. [n1]

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Digital News: The Woman’s Exponent Project

By January 9, 2020

Hello JI readers! Please join us in welcoming The Woman’s Exponent Project, a digital history exhibit from Digital Matters at the University of Utah and the Office of Digital Humanities and Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. We at JI are excited to see the project come to fruition.

The Woman’s Exponent Project is a collaborative digital humanities and public history project between the University of Utah and BYU that explores the content of the Woman’s Exponent (1872-1914) that captures the fascinating, complex, and even contradictory history of suffrage in Utah. The Woman’s Exponent Project aligns with a unique moment in time, as Utahns prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a Utah woman casting the first female ballot in the nation in 1870, a full 50 years before the 19th Amendment guaranteed universal women’s suffrage in America.

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Mormon Studies’ Growth in the Past Ten Years: Institution Building

By January 1, 2020

I didn’t know what Mormon Studies was in December 2009. Sure, I had just taken a course on American Christianity at BYU, but it hadn’t caused me to think much about the academic study of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any of the other branches that connect to Joseph Smith’s religious ideas. Now, a decade later, it strikes me that the field has risen considerably in the eyes of the academy and in the estimation of non-academic Latter-day Saints.

I believe the strength of Mormon Studies publications and the venues in which they appear is one of the most important developments of the past ten years. We’ve passed the point where a press will take on a Mormon Studies project just for book sales. Books on Mormonism are now published regularly by university press catalogues, and not just traditional Mormon Studies powerhouses like the University of Illinois Press, the University of Utah Press, or the University of North Carolina Press, but with Harvard University Press, Liveright/Norton, Oxford University Press, University of Nebraska Press, and the University of Chicago Press.

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An Archival Discovery—or a Mark on History

By December 27, 2019

Archival research is sometimes compared to the effort of putting together a jigsaw puzzle—a puzzle where you have to find the pieces, you have no photo reference of the actual puzzle, and there are zero edge pieces and certainly no corner pieces. There are obviously parts of the comparison that don’t work, but it is apt for those needing a crash course in archival understanding.

I spend my fair share of time in an archives (it helps to be employed in one). I have a master’s degree in library science with an archival concentration and I just finished a dissertation on the history of the nineteenth-century archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other words, I spend a lot of time thinking about archives and their creation and use by today’s scholars. I jokingly tell people that I’m more comfortable with dead people and their records than I am with living people (the joke, of course, is that I’m not joking).

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Paid Internship: Audiovisual Cataloging Intern

By December 17, 2019


Posting Dates: 12/10/2019 – 12/24/2019

Job Family: Human Resources

Department: Church History Department


This position will assist the Church History Library in processing, cataloging, arranging, housing, and indexing Church History Library archival collections in order to assist the Church History Department in its purpose to help God’s children keep and make sacred covenants. Successful applicants will work at the direction of Church History Specialists to create bibliographic records that will assist internal and external researchers in locating and using archival collections.

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Previewing 2020: Looking Ahead to Forthcoming Books in Mormon History/Studies

By December 15, 2019

Every year I look forward to seeing which books will be published (you can read my recap of the best books and articles of 2019 HERE). The list isn’t comprehensive—many books don’t have listings on press websites quite yet. Nevertheless, I hope that I’ve highlighted many of the books Mormon historians are anxiously waiting to have their hands on in the next twelve months (and that you’ll send me information on books I’ve missed!). All quotations are from the Press’s website (when available) and all links are to the publisher’s website (where available).

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What’s in a name? Putting “Jack Mormon” in the Timeline of History

By December 12, 2019

Historians exist in a world of naming (Mormon Historians doubly so!).1 But, what’s in a name? Historian John O’Malley offers two reflections on this question, one a little naïve and another a little wiser. The first:  

“Sometimes very little. A rose still smells as sweet. Even designations for historical phenomena like ‘the Middle Ages’ that were once loaded with prejudices lose them through repeated usage. They become the equivalent of dead metaphors, where the image loses its punch. Is it not further true that all such historical constructs are imperfect, not much more than pointers to what can never be fully grasped by them, impositions on a fluid reality that they can never adequately capture? What difference does it make, then, what we call the Catholic side of the early modern period? Should we not stop worrying about labels, mere terms of convenience, and get on with the real business of history?”2 

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CfP: Joseph Smith Papers Conference, 2020

By December 9, 2019

From our friends at the Joseph Smith Papers project:

To commemorate the 2020 release of volumes 10 and 11 of the Documents series, which cover the history of Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints from May 1842 to February 1843, the Joseph Smith Papers Project will host the fourth annual Joseph Smith Papers Conference on September 18, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The theme for this year’s conference is “Joseph Smith’s Connections and Networks.”

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CFP: 2020 MHA Poster Session

By December 9, 2019

Visions, Restoration, and Movements

Mormon History Association 55th Annual Conference


Submission Deadline: February 1, 2020

The Mormon History Association (MHA) is accepting submissions for a poster session, to be held in the Riverside Convention Center Exhibit Hall during the 55th annual conference in Rochester/Palmyra, New York, June 4-7, 2020. We welcome proposals that address the conference theme, “Visions, Restoration, and Movements,” but all proposals will receive equal consideration. Please visit to view the conference call for papers. This poster session offers participants the opportunity to discuss and answer questions about their work in a relatively informal, interactive setting. This format is particularly useful for works-in-progress and for projects with visual and material evidence. Presenters must be MHA members, register for and attend the meeting, and be available for a two-hour poster viewing session and reception during the conference, date and time TBD. MHA will waive the conference registration fee for all student poster presenters.

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Better Days 2020: Call for Volunteer Ambassadors

By November 26, 2019

Better Days 2020 is looking for volunteer ambassadors to help share suffrage history at community events throughout Utah in the next year.

2020 will mark the 150th anniversary of Utah women’s first votes, the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Better Days 2020 is a non-profit founded to commemorate these voting rights anniversaries in Utah. They’re working statewide to raise the profile of women in Utah’s history through education, public art, and events.

You can get involved by giving presentations, sharing information at a booth or table, or volunteering at events. To become a volunteer ambassador, check out the online training and sign up here to indicate your interest and availability. Better Days 2020 will send you a t-shirt and other materials when you schedule your first event!

Find more details about becoming a Better Days ambassador here. If have any questions or know of any groups interested in hosting a presentation on Utah’s suffrage history, please contact Katherine Kitterman, Better Days 2020 historical director, at katherine (at) betterdays2020 (dot) org.

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Recent Comments

J. Stapley on The historiography of adoptive: “Thanks, guys.”

Gary Bergera on The historiography of adoptive: “Really interesting information, J. Thanks.”

John Hajicek on The historiography of adoptive: “THIS is how all Mormon history should be written. Outside of Utah, historians write the history of the story, instead of writing a…”

Jeff T on Digital News: The Woman's: “Thanks Liz and JJohnson! I know that there are efforts to capture data from individual articles, although that might be a while down the pipeline.…”

JJohnson on Digital News: The Woman's: “Such a great source. And the scans are beautiful. Any attempt being made to identify all the authors? I'm particularly interested in A.P. today. …”

Liz Hammind on Digital News: The Woman's: “I read the first 4 years of the paper and it was fascinating - pioneer women had a much different view of religion than modern…”