Articles by

J Stuart

New Authors at the JI

By July 16, 2018

We are pleased to announce that we have added several new authors to our ranks! Please join us in welcoming them as perma-bloggers and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

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7 Takeaways from #MHA2018

By June 11, 2018

Another MHA has come and gone and it was one of my favorites yet. Lots of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances in one place speaking about a topic that occupies a lot of my brainspace. The plenaries and Judith Weisenfeld’s Smith-Pettit Lecture were all excellent, and you’ll all want to read all of them in JMH or future books. Rather than recap the conference, I’ve jotted down some quick thoughts on what I’m taking away from the 2018 MHA Annual Meeting.

Gender: More women presented at MHA than in previous years. This is unequivocally a good thing. I heard some grumbling that including more women was “too much too fast.” This seems insensitive and shows much more about the speaker than about the program. There’s no way for every worthy paper to be accepted for any conference (ask any member of any program committee). Thinking that there were too many women suggests that there is a right number of women or that women are somehow a supplement to the program. The program committee did an excellent job organizing their programs around the conference’s theme and balancing the need for new and seasoned voices on a variety of topics. My hat goes off to them  

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MHA Awards 2018

By June 8, 2018

Congratulations to all of the winners! JI-ers are in bold.

Individual Awards

Arrington: Gary James Bergera

Special Citation: Cherry Bushman Silver

Book Awards

Best Book: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 (Knopf, 2017).

Best Biography: Carol Cornwall Madsen, Emmeline B. Wells: An Intimate History (University of Utah Press, 2017).

Best First Book: Brent M. Rogers, Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory (University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

Honorable Mention: Mary Campbell, Charles Ellis Johnson and the Erotic Mormon Image (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Best Documentary Editing: Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Church Historian’s Press, 2016).

Article Awards

Best Article: Amy Harris, “Early Mormonism’s Expansive Families and the Browett Women,” in Rachel Cope et al., eds., Mormon Women’s History: Beyond Biography (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017): 83-112.

Women’s History: Andrea G. Radke-Moss, “Silent Memories of Missouri: Mormon Women and Men and Sexual Assault in Group Memory and Religious Identity,” in Rachel Cope et al., eds., Mormon Women’s History: Beyond Biography (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017): 49-81.

International: Lamond Tullis, “Tzotzil-Speaking Mormon Maya in Chiapas, Mexico,” Journal of Mormon History 43, no. 2 (2017): 189-217.

Excellence: Jeffrey David Mahas, “‘I Intend to Get Up a Whistling School’: The Nauvoo Whistling and Whittling Movement, American Vigilante Tradition, and Mormon Theocratic Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 43, no. 4 (2017): 37-67.

JMH Award: Tonya Reiter, “Black Saviors on Mount Zion: Proxy Baptisms and Latter-day Saints of African Descent,” Journal of Mormon History 43, no. 4 (2017): 100-123.

Student Awards

Dissertation: Taunalyn Ford Rutherford, “Conceptualizing Global Religions: An Investigation of Mormonism in India,” Claremont Graduate University.

Thesis: Jessica Nelson, “The ‘Mississippi of the West’: Religion, Conservatism, and Racial Politics in Utah, 1960-1978,” Utah State University.

Graduate Paper: Matt Lund, “Missionary Widows: The Economic and Social Impact of Mormon Missions on Families,” University of Utah.

How I Approach MHA Conferences as a Graduate Student

By May 30, 2018

Edje and several readers gave some excellent advice for first-time MHA attendees. I heartily endorse everything that was said, particularly the need to show up to events like the First-Timers’ Breakfast and the Student Reception (find them here with the rest of the program). MHA’s student rep, Hannah Jung, has worked incredibly hard to make the reception successful. Show up. Get some food. Win a book (everyone that attends will get one). Seriously. DO IT.

All this being said, I think that there are several important things that first-time attending graduate students should keep in mind. After all, we have different concerns than other groups. MHA is one of the better academic organizations I’ve seen for encouraging student participation which can be to your benefit. Before diving in, I want to stress that you need to find ways to make conferences work for you. They are significant investments of time, energy, and money. Make sure that you are doing what you can to get the most out of your MHA experience.

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Q&A with Gary Bergera on Editing the Leonard J. Arrington Diaries

By May 29, 2018

Gary Bergera, the editor of the Leonard J. Arrington Diaries and Mananging Director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the diaries and their potential use. You can purchase the diaries HERE and read Matt’s review of them HERE.     

  1. Which topics of research in Mormon history would benefit most from the Leonard Arrington diaries?

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Food Solves Everything (Or At Least Make MHA a Better Place)

By May 15, 2018

We at JI have been thinking about how MHA can be a more inclusive space for a long time. We’ve read a lot about different forms of mentorship (vertical vs. horizontal) and have reflected on our best conference experiences. We’ve thought a lot about the Mike Pence Rule (or the Spencer W. Kimball Rule). We’ve asked women about their experiences at MHA and how it can operate .

We’ve come to a few conclusions. It’s hard to go to a conference where you don’t know anyone. It’s hard to make friends if you don’t already have a few friends there. It’s hard to make a field more inclusive if social events aren’t more inclusive–you tend to think of the work of people you know when you’re citing and inviting other people to share their work. We don’t think that this is intentional, but that’s part of what privilege is: never having to think about what you haven’t experienced. If we want MHA to be a better place for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and others that haven’t traditionally felt welcome at MHA, we have to do something about it.

With that in mind, we at JI want to state that we are committed to making sure that no one eats alone unless they want to (no judging, we’ve all been there). We will put something up about where some folks are meeting before meals outside the conference center and will do our best to leave seats open at conference meals. We will post when and where we are meeting for meals on our Twitter account.

MHA has some major structural problems, like most academic organizations. JI doesn’t have the funds to help fix them. So we are doing what we can to make MHA a more diverse, enjoyable, and equitable place however we can.


Race, Gender, and Material Religion in Salt Lake City’s Utah Jazz Shrine

By May 1, 2018

In the past few weeks, a shrine to the NBA?s Utah Jazz has appeared next to Ken Sanders Books in Salt Lake City. The shrine features a confluence of religious figurines (none Mormon as of this writing), flowers, photos, Jazz memorabilia, and candles. J Stuart and Cristina Rosetti thought it would be an ideal opportunity to discuss lived religion and material religion within Mormonism. The authors acknowledge that the shrine isn?t uniquely Mormon, but we feel that there are some aspects of Mormonism that shine through when examined closely.

JS: I have jokingly referred to praying to the ?basketball gods? for favor in NBA games and playoff series. I loved seeing that someone had actually created a shrine, seemingly to the basketball gods, on behalf of the Utah Jazz. After my immediate basketball nerdery ebbed, my religious studies nerdery surfaced and I thought about how peculiar it was for there to be a shrine to anything in a place as Mormon-heavy as Salt Lake City. Of course there are fewer Mormons in Salt Lake County than throughout Utah, but it still struck me as particularly Mormon. Mormonism is both a lived and a material religion that believes in the ?presence? of supernatural beings directing events and people on the earth. Robert Orsi calls these forces ?the gods,? as he explains in History and Presence, ?Presence is real, but not necessarily good, not necessarily bad, and it is rarely either good or bad, as these words are understood in ordinary social discourse.? Presence is simply taken as for granted for many Mormons. Mormonism began with the apparition of heavenly beings and individual Mormons have continued to report their ?presence? to the present day. This shrine is another way for Mormons to acknowledge ?presence? in a way that doesn?t contradict what many of their leaders saying about the uselessness of praying for sports teams. What do you think, Cristina?

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Roundtable: Stuart on Mueller?s *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By March 28, 2018

You can read the first and second posts in this roundtable HERE and HERE.

Max Mueller should be commended for his analysis of race and the creation of the Latter-day Saint ?archive? in Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Mueller takes the Book of Mormon seriously and considers texts that aren?t considered within broader methodological arguments about the LDS Church?s creation of race in the nineteenth century. I think that Mueller?s attention to patriarchal blessings is worth highlighting (which I do below); I also think that his use of literary methodologies opens new avenues for research in Mormon history. Mueller?s book is the first monograph to engage Mormonism?s race-making project(s) through the interdisciplinary lenses of religious studies. Race and the Making of the Mormon People will occupy a central place in the part conversation surrounding Mormonism and race for the foreseeable future.

Mueller analyzes several patriarchal blessings in Race and the Making of the Mormon People, particularly an African American woman named Jane Manning James? two blessings.[i] He rightly tries to get into James? mind as well as the mind of the patriarchs that bestowed those blessings on her head. While Mueller?s book is not a study of ?lived religion,? he presents plausible readings of the blessing for both James and suggests how these documents helped place James squarely within the ?Mormon archive.? He persuasively argues that James may have seen herself as an heir of what Mueller calls ?white universalism,? meaning that everyone?s default pigmentation is white and that she had claim to the highest liturgical practices of Mormonism. Mueller?s innovative inclusion of patriarchal blessings should be taken up by others. I?m not aware of any other sources that offer as much potential for simultaneously presenting the leadership?s and the laity?s understanding of race from the same document.

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Roundtable: Stuart on *The Power of Godliness*

By March 20, 2018

Jonathan Stapley?s The Power of Godliness is a landmark for Mormon Studies. There are precious few academic, peer-reviewed publications that succinctly and accessibly explain the development of Mormonism?s definitions of priesthood and liturgical practices. While there are certain rough edges that could be smoothed out, it?s altogether remarkable that Stapley produced this book. It?s even more astounding that he wrote the book while working in the private sector, without summers for research or other designated ?work? times that many academic need to produce scholarship.

I?d like to focus on two aspects of Stapley?s work that I think are worth emulating in future work in Mormon Studies. First, I consider how Stapley?s work ?does? theology in an academically viable way. Second, I reflect on Stapley?s use of religious studies methodologies throughout his manuscript.

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“Consider Three Things”: Writing a Prospectus and Forming a Committee

By March 9, 2018

This is the fifth 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.

When writing your prospectus and choosing a topic, I would encourage you to consider three things:

  1. How do you want to be categorized in your field?
  2. What is the thread that ties your analysis together?
  3. Who are the people that you trust to help you do your best? And are those people invested in you and your wellbeing?

On the first point: I do not want to be pigeonholed as a religious historian. I am interested in much more than religion. My dissertation will be framed in terms of race and gender, though religion will form a major component of my analysis.

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Recent Comments

Jeff T on Summer Book Club: On: “Thanks, Matt!”

J Stuart on Summer Book Club: On: “Love these thoughts, Matt. I wonder, though, if the Americanization thesis needs further critical examination. Might be something for a periodical like the Mormon Studies…”

wvs on New Authors at the: “Welcome! New blood at the JI!”

J Stuart on New Authors at the: “Welcome!”

David G. on New Authors at the: “Welcome, CH Terry, Jeffrey M, and JM Nelson!”

Jeff T on JI Summer Book Club:: “Credit goes to Jon England!”