Articles by

J. Stapley

George F. Richards’ journals

By October 31, 2019


The Church Historian’s Press has released a new George F. Richards (GFR) digital history project that includes transcripts of his journals. This appears similar to the George Q. Cannon diaries CHP project. Currently the website holds transcripts of the first two volumes of GFR’s journals, spanning August 1880 to March 1892. GFR’s journals have been on a short list of documents that I have been interested in for a long time, and I am consequently very excited.

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A Quick Note: Historicizing the Role of Bishoprics

By October 7, 2019


The history of Bishops and their responsibilities throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has yet to be written. Historicizing the shifts in responsibility at the October 2019 General Conference of the church can consequently be challenging. I’d like to focus here on one key facet of the new ecclesiology: the role of Bishoprics with young men of the church.

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A note on the history of back-to-school blessings

By August 20, 2019


I am a practicing Latter-day Saint. I grew up practicing. One of the things that I remember from my childhood in the 1980s is when my father layed his hands on the heads of my siblings and I and blessed us at the beginning of the school year. I recently blessed my oldest child before he left for the first year of college and will bless his younger siblings in a couple of weeks. Today a friend asked me when this practice started.

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GQC Journal: Sealings and Adoptions

By July 9, 2018


In 1894 Wilford Woodruff stood in general conference and announced a revelation that had a larger influence on Mormon cosmology than the Manifesto. Even though most Mormons today are unaware of it, this revelation was the bedrock of twentieth century sealing and genealogical practice. I’ve written about these developments in an article on adoptive sealing rituals and in my recent volume on Mormon liturgy.

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JI Summer Book Club: On Zion’s Mount, Ch. 1

By June 28, 2018


The trick of successful religious and cultural movements is situating ephemeral presence and evolving relation in timelessness. This is equally true for Mormon and Native American identity. The trick for scholars of religious and cultural movements is to simultaneously respect that timelessness and complicate it. Farmer is a successful scholar, and in Chapter 1 of On Zion’s Mount frames both Mormons and Native Americans in the Great Basin by their physical place in the world—literally the space on this planet.

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Contextualizing quorum changes

By April 1, 2018


Quorum. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

First, let’s take a step back, but not all the way back. Mostly because this isn’t a book. Let’s go to 1964. At this time, each stake and mission generally included a High Priests quorum, at least one Elders quorum and at least one Seventies quorum. In the years leading up to this time, church policy was that if there were not at least 49 elders (a majority of the scriptural 96–D&C 107:89) then a “unit” en lieu of a quorum was to be organized. But why would that matter? I imagine that the majority of Elders quorums in the church today don’t have 49 members. The answer goes back to the definition of what a quorum is, namely, “the number (such as a majority) of officers or members of a body that when duly assembled is legally competent to transact business” (to quote Miriam-Webster).

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Sealings and Adoptions

By March 10, 2018


After talking to some folks about some material in my recent book, a friend suggested I write a short primer on nineteenth-century sealings based on my work.

First some nineteenth-century premises:

  • Heaven is comprised of people sealed together in various ways. People called this construction variations of “the priesthood.”
  • All sealings, regardless of type, are durable, and bestow a measure of “perseverance” (the unpardonable sin notwithstanding).
  • All of the various temple rituals can be performed outside of the temple except child-to-parent/adoption sealings.

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Publishing a book: Finding artwork and permission to publish

By August 7, 2017


I’m working my way through the production process for my first book, The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, and I thought it would be helpful to review some of the practical aspects of getting the book together. In this post, I address selecting artwork and acquiring permission to publish from the various repositories.

First is the issue of copyright

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JI Summer Book Club 2017: A House Full of Females, Chapter 5

By July 2, 2017


The Nauvoo Temple Liturgy, the killings of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the “succession crisis,” and the Nauvoo Temple. There are justifiably entire books and dissertations on each of these. And despite coming in at 26 lean pages, Ulrich still manages to surprise.

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Finding a story, or how to

By March 6, 2017


Sometimes I go fishing in the various digital collections, and once in a while something interesting comes up. I thought one such case was illustrative of several not-so-obvious techniques of research that it was worth posting.

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Gary Bergera on George F. Richards' journals: “I remember reading through the microfilms of the Richards's journals in the mid- to late-1970s. Nothing was redacted. They were amazing.”


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