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Author’s Response: Mueller’s *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By April 5, 2018


Below is Max Perry Mueller’s response to JI’s roundtable on his book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People.

Thanks to the JI crew, especially to Jessica Nelson, Ryan T, and J Stuart for their thoughtful comments on my book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. It?s a great honor and an immense pleasure to interact with readers who have read one?s work so deeply and carefully.

Each of the roundtable?s comments/critiques focuses on one or both of two of the major interventions of my book: the first is to theorize ?whiteness? and ?race? more broadly; the second is to theorize the ?archive.? And my response?or, better put, self-critique?is to remind us (me!) not to think too literally about race or the archive. That is, the book tries (intentionally) to have it both ways: that race and the archive are ?real??as in literal, tangible things and/or experiences?as well as ?metaphors??as in literary signifiers of signified (imagined/constructed) things.

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Guest Post: Indigenous Voices from San Juan Discuss Bears Ears at the Charles Redd Center

By April 2, 2018


Shí éí Bilagáanaa nishli dóó Kinyaa?áanii báshíshchíín. Bilagáanaa dashicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dashinálí. Ákót?éego asdzáá nishli. I am white and born for the Towering House Clan. My maternal grandfather was white and my paternal grandfather was of the Black-streaked Woods People Clan. In this way, I am a woman.

My name is Farina King. I am Assistant Professor of History and an affiliate of the Cherokee and Indigenous Studies Department at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

I am primarily writing to spread the news about an upcoming event, related to questions about monuments and the ongoing issues concerning Bears Ears, that I have been helping to organize with the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU.

The Redd Center will host a special panel at BYU on April 5 at 7 pm in the B092 JFSB on campus, which features diverse Native American voices and perspectives of Bears Ears from San Juan County, Utah. 

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Roundtable: Nelson on *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By March 26, 2018


This is the first of three posts on Max Perry Mueller’s Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Today’s post comes from Jessica Nelson, who recently completed an MS in history at Utah State University. She is interested in race and Mormonism in the twentieth century and loves riding her stationary bike. 

Max Perry Mueller?s book Race and the Making of the Mormon People actively and deliberately engages with the Book of Mormon. This is significant, and I hope that other scholars will follow suit and take the words of the Book of Mormon?along with its 19th century context and what it represents to Mormonism?seriously in their work. Mueller rightly demonstrates that the Book of Mormon?s stories of racial lineages are critically important to understanding racial constructs in early Mormonism.

Readers familiar with the Book of Mormon will be able to recognize that Mueller carefully read Mormonism?s foundational text. After finishing Mueller?s conclusion, however, I am left wondering how useful textual analysis and literary criticisms of the Book of Mormon are to fully understand race in nineteenth-century Mormonism. How central are Mormon scriptures to Mormon conceptions of racial otherness and whiteness? Can the Nephites as ?white? people within the Book of Mormon be problematized any more than the simplistic way that Mueller references them? Did nineteenth-century white Mormons even think of the Nephites as ?white? like they were? The Book of Mormon is inherently problematic as primary source material, but evaluating Mueller?s claims begs further examination of scripture and the characters in it.

 

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“Be confident in your identity and your ability”: Finding a Topic You Love and Staying the Course

By March 8, 2018


This is the fourth in a series of posts on selecting a finishing exams and finding a doctoral dissertation topic. All of our five participants have participated in Mormon Studies in the past, but not all of them chose to pursue a Mormon Studies topic for their dissertation. If you’d like to contribute a post that addresses this topic in future, please send me an email at joseph [dot] stuart [at] utah [dot] e dee ewe.

We are grateful for this post from Cassandra Clark, a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Utah.

Let me start by saying, choosing a dissertation topic is not for the weak of heart.  On top of the pressure to come up with an original idea, there are always those people who complicate to the process by sharing clichés like, ?Choose a topic that you love because you are going to get sick of it after studying it for a decade? or ?you will hate your topic before the end.? There is even the one that goes something like, ?be prepared to gain the dissertation fifteen.? Well, maybe that isn?t a cliché? Is it just me?

Those platitudes don?t apply to everyone.  I have worked on my topic for several years and have yet to grow weary of it.  While I am eager to complete my graduate degree, I am still enthusiastic about my topic, the time period, and the people I study.  I can?t necessarily say that I like all of the people–mainly because many of them were raving racists–but I can say that they are intriguing.

 

I decided on my dissertation topic during my first year as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah. One afternoon while digitizing sources at the Church History Library for the Utah American Digital Archive (UAIDA) I stumbled upon the transcript of an oral interview that referenced the DNA testing of Native Americans orchestrated by the LDS Church during the twentieth century. I have always loved to learn about medicine, genetics, and other science-history related subjects which is why this particular interview caught my eye.  I consulted with Matt Basso who suggested that I look into eugenics in Utah.  Mainly, I needed to establish a foundation before I dove into the DNA aspect of this particular issue. Little did I know that at the time several scholars were also interested in eugenics and Mormonism and I found myself struggling to stay ahead of the topic.  Frustrated, I decided to broaden my research scope to consider how people living in the intermountain west incorporated scientific race theories into their society and culture.

I rarely settle upon a topic before I do a preliminary scan of the available primary sources. Mainly, I want the sources to speak to me and provide me with direction. I consulted with archivists in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado and to locate materials.  My efforts paid off as I discovered that many individuals living in the intermountain west were obsessed with heredity, nature and their relation to brain function. I questioned how perceptions of the natural world influenced their definition of the ?normal? and ?abnormal? brain and how these ideas influenced whiteness.

The answer to this question became my dissertation topic. Instead of being the central focus, Mormons are a part of a broader conversation about race science and its tie to the environment.  I find that including members of the LDS Church in a larger exchange of ideas is more rewarding and an essential component of the history of the LDS Church, the intermountain west, and the nation. I am looking forward to continuing my research on DNA testing and the LDS Church once my dissertation is complete.

My decision to expand my topic was not without stumbling blocks. I have two daughters who I provide for, and I want them to have the best opportunities possible while avoiding debt.  At any given time, I am working two to three-part time jobs that prevent me from scheduling extended archival visits. My research trips are typically limited to five-day stints two to three times a year where I sit scanning documents like a fiend while streaming The Office with the occasional chat with an archivist. Researching on a tight schedule has slowed my progress, but none-the-less, I am inching closer to the finish line!

My advice to the graduate student wrestling with a dissertation topic is to listen to the sources.  Write for yourself. Be confident in your identity and your ability. Do not compare yourself to others. Never listen to anyone who judges your talent or your journey. Trust your instinct.  And finally, discuss your research with anyone who will listen.  Some of the best ideas come from sharing your research with others.


“What works best for any given person will of course depend on several factors”: Finding What Works for You

By March 7, 2018


This is the third in a series of posts on selecting a finishing exams and finding a doctoral dissertation topic. All of our five participants have participated in Mormon Studies in the past, but not all of them chose to pursue a Mormon Studies topic for their dissertation. If you’d like to contribute a post that addresses this topic in future, please send me an email at joseph [dot] stuart [at] utah [dot] e dee ewe.

We are grateful for this post from Katherine Kitterman, a Ph.D. Candidate in History at American University.

There?s already too much advice for grad students floating around the internet, so I?ve tried to pull a few things from my experience moving through a PhD that might be more generally helpful. The dissertation topic I eventually landed on isn?t the only question I could imagine myself working on for years, but it?s one I really enjoy thinking about, one my committee members are excited about, and one that raises and helps to answer some important questions. Most importantly, it?s a doable project for me.

Like most PhD students, I began my program assuming I was the only one in my cohort who hadn?t yet figured out exactly what I wanted to research. My path from coursework to candidacy was probably a little bit backward, but it was also much less time-consuming and stressful than I?d anticipated. It didn?t have to be a year of living like a hermit and typing past midnight. What works best for any given person will of course depend on several factors ? what your relationship with your adviser is like, what?s interesting to the professors you may want on your committee, and of course, what else is going on in your life for the next few years.

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“I became more invested”: Religious Studies, Race, and Identity

By March 6, 2018


This is the second in a series of posts on selecting a finishing exams and finding a doctoral dissertation topic. All of our five participants have participated in Mormon Studies in the past, but not all of them chose to pursue a Mormon Studies topic for their dissertation. If you’d like to contribute a post that addresses this topic in future, please send me an email at joseph [dot] stuart [at] utah [dot] e dee ewe.

We are grateful for this post from Alexandria Griffin, a Ph.D. Candidate in Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

I did my undergrad at the University of Utah in Anthropology. I just kind of wound up there; I had originally started out in linguistics and become disinterested when I realized it didn?t just mean I could take as many language classes as I wanted. The Anthropology department would take most of my credit hours as ?allied classes? so off I went, still taking as many language classes as I wanted. This included Arabic, which I ended up doing a study abroad for in the summer of 2010 in Alexandria, Egypt. While I was there I became very interested in the study of Islam and religion more broadly, and on my return took Islamic studies classes and began thinking about pursuing an MA in Islamic Studies.

Simultaneously, though, I began reengaging with my Mormon upbringing and checking out all of the university?s Mormon studies books and devouring them. I started wondering if there was a place I could get a degree studying Mormonism. I was surprised when I did some googling to see that there was a program that met that description in my mother?s hometown of Claremont, California.

I entered Claremont thinking I would study Mormon feminist theology, but gradually ended up weaving in my former interests in Islamic studies and writing a comparative study of women?s experiences of garments with anthropological literature on women?s experiences of hijab. I really enjoyed this project and am glad that I pursued it. However, as I looked at pursuing a PhD, I felt that staying in Mormon studies was no longer a good choice for me. As a woman married to another woman, many job avenues open to others in Mormon studies (like working for CES or at the Church History Library) are closed to me, and staying in Mormon studies seemed like making an already terrible job market worse for myself. Additionally, I felt that my attempts to discuss queer Mormon issues (in particular, looking at how organizations like Affirmation used history to bolster their arguments) were inevitably ignored in favor of analyzing my own identity as a lesbian somewhat-former-Mormon, which I found tiring.

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“We never complete a project alone”: Finishing Exams and Beginning a Dissertation

By March 5, 2018


This is the first in a series of posts on selecting a finishing exams and finding a doctoral dissertation topic. All of our five participants have participated in Mormon Studies in the past, but not all of them chose to pursue a Mormon Studies topic for their dissertation. If you’d like to contribute a post that addresses this topic in future, please send me an email at joseph [dot] stuart [at] utah [dot] e dee ewe.

We are grateful for this post from Farina King, Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern State University.

Dissertation research often caters to, or is influenced by the graduate program that the student is pursuing. I have studied under two different graduate history programs, and both approached their dissertation requirements differently. Some graduate programs require that students submit a dissertation prospectus or proposal upon the completion of their comprehensive exams, whereas other programs allow students to prepare and submit their dissertation prospecti within a couple months to a year after they complete their comprehensive exams. As in any graduate program, dissertation research should begin with writing a strong prospectus.

In both graduate programs that I studied under, they both ensured that the selected dissertation committee reviewed and approved the prospectus once the comprehensive exams were accepted. Programs may uphold different requirements of the prospectus, but common components include: abstract, thesis, description, literature review, organization, schedule, contributions, and budget. Before and while I prepared my dissertation prospectus for Arizona State University, where I entered doctoral candidacy, I also sought doctoral research funding. Organizations and programs that offer grant, scholarship, and fellowship opportunities often base their applications on the prospectus format.

 

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Book Review: When Religion, Race, and Sport Collide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)

By March 4, 2018


We are pleased to post this review from Craig Yugawa, a medical student at Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow Craig on Twitter

Darron T. Smith?s When Race, Religion and Sport Collide: Black Athletes at BYU and Beyond is a skillful recounting of the tenuous status black college athletes face in the larger American context, especially those at ?Predominantly White Institutions? (PWIs). While covering athletics in America more broadly, Smith uses BYU?s unique institutional and racial history as a lens to focus on the societal and cultural barriers commonly faced by black athletes who repeatedly face ?objectification of their bodies, [while at the same time] leav[ing] the ivy tower battered, bruised, and empty-handed? (148). This timely work is a compelling narrative which weaves together easily understood personal anecdotes; high level social science, medical, and humanities research; and theological summary to flesh out the complicated relationship between the LDS church and the athletes of color at its flagship university.

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Guest Post: Response to ?How Do You Rebuild Your Life After Leaving a Polygamous Sect??

By January 30, 2018


This post comes from Cristina Rosetti, a Ph.D. Candidate in Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside and is a Mormon Studies Fellow at the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah. Her dissertation examines spiritualism and fundamentalist Mormonism.

As new charges and depositions against Warren Jeffs surface, the FLDS is once again in the journalistic spotlight. This even includes a Buzzfeed article by Anne Helen Petersen who captured the way former members of the FLDS are returning to Short Creek (referred to as the ?Crick? by residents and frequent visitors alike), to rebuild a community that was left in ruin following the capture of Jeffs. [i] By any measure, they are succeeding. These are stories matter because they are often missing from work on Mormon fundamentalism. But, there are still other narratives and methods of story-telling that remain absent.

Most people, Mormon or otherwise, who read popular writings on fundamentalism are not aware of how we got here. To be fair, capturing the complex history of fundamentalism requires more space than many journalists are afforded (try writing the entirety of LDS history in one essay, even long-form). Writing on Mormonism is so centrally focused on an unbroken Priesthood lineage that began with Joseph Smith and ends with the current President of the LDS Church that other histories are left behind. The powerful testimonies from members of the Council of Friends, the compelling writings of Joseph Musser, and the lives of current fundamentalist leaders and Prophets are absent. These absences create a void in Mormon history that leave room for spectacle and causes outsiders to wonder how people like Warren Jeffs happened. It also leaves people assuming that all fundamentalists adhere to the same beliefs and practices.

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The New LDS First Presidency: Historical Notes and Contexts

By January 16, 2018


Thanks to Brother X for this post!

As expected, Russell M. Nelson was set apart as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His counselors are Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring were selected as First and Second Counselors, respectively.

I am a historian. I do not predict the future. Latter-day Saints view every calling as from the Mouth of God. I do not disparage that. As an active LDS I believe in that. I am merely pointing out lines of thought. So please no comments about this being political.

With that in mind, there are some interesting things to think about with this new First Presidency:

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