Articles by

J Stuart

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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BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES: A CONFERENCE [CALL FOR PAPERS]

By March 2, 2018


BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES: A CONFERENCE

CALL FOR PAPERS

DATE: October 12?13, 2018

LOCATION: Utah State University

SUBMISSION DATE: May 15, 2018

The Book of Mormon Studies Association is happy to announce a conference to be held October 12?13, 2018, at Utah State University. Sponsored by USU?s Department of Religious Studies and with thanks to Philip Barlow, the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon Studies, the conference aims to gather scholars invested in serious academic study of the Book of Mormon, providing them with a venue to present their work and receive feedback and criticism. As with last year?s inaugural conference at USU, this conference has no centralizing theme. Instead, we invite papers on any subject related to the Book of Mormon from any viable academic angle. Pursuant to decisions made at last year?s conference, there will an official event organizing the Book of Mormon Studies Association itself during the conference, along with elections of officers.

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Billy Graham and Mitt Romney: The Importance of October 2012

By February 21, 2018


Billy Graham, the most important figure in twentieth-century American Christianity, died this morning at the age of 99. You?ll have the opportunity to read countless obituaries or columns on his life, evangelistic prowess, stances on race, sexuality, his conversations with Nixon about Jews, and his theatrical preaching in postwar America. I?m sure you?ll also read about his son, Franklin, and the roles that the Grahams have played in the election of Reagan and Trump. Historian Anthea Butler called Graham the closest thing to a Protestant Pope that America has ever had. I think she?s right. Graham?s meteoric rise in film and radio is the stuff of legend. He preached to more than a hundred million people in person and taught a particular way to be Christian and American.

The most important thing that Graham ever did for Mormonism was remove it from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association?s list of ?cults.?[i] He did so after a meeting with Mitt Romney in October 2012, during the home stretch of the Republican presidential nominee?s campaign, in an attempt to increase the evangelical vote.

Mormonism no longer being named as a cult by the most prominent voice in American evangelicalism was a major coup for the LDS Church and its members. Although scholars no longer use the term cult, it has a powerful meaning in Christian communities (just ask Pastor Jeffress). Latter-day Saints, who have wanted to be a part of the White Protestant Establishment since the early twentieth century, had been excluded because of their views on the trinity, sexuality, and other non-creedal views. But, at least for the 2012 election, Graham gave Mormonism, and its most famous adherent, his blessing.

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Paid Student Internship at Nauvoo, Illinois

By February 12, 2018


From friend of JI Nancy Ross:

I have been informed that there is a paid history internship (related to LDS/Community of Christ history), which comes with housing and up to 6 credits in history from Graceland University. This is for undergrads and graduate students. Please forward the information to interested parties.

Please check out the description here:

http://www.cofchrist.org/common/cms/Human-Resources/History-Intern-Nauvoo-PD-1-19-18.pdf

To apply, the forms are below and you need to send them to hrm@cofchrist.org

https://www.cofchrist.org/common/cms/Human-Resources/Job%20Descriptions/Application-IHQ.pdf

This is a well-established internship and I can also put interested people in contact with someone who has done this internship before.

Image result for nauvoo illinois


Announcing MHA Executive Director Search

By February 5, 2018


See original post HERE

Position:  Executive Director, Mormon History Association

This person oversees and administers all aspects of the organization, reporting to the MHA President and Board of Directors.

About MHA:

The Mormon History Association is a nonprofit, independent, nondenominational organization dedicated to the scholarly study and understanding of all aspects of Mormon history, broadly defined. We promote this mission through scholarly research, conferences, awards, and publications.

Qualifications:

Proven record of experience in administrative work, preferably in the nonprofit field, with demonstrated competence in the following areas: accounting/bookkeeping and records management; public relations and communications; fundraising, donor relations, and capital development; event planning and coordination. Must demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills, and ability to be innovative and creative in generating new ideas and responding to external demands. Proficiency in newsletter publishing software, electronic communications, and records management is required; web design and social media expertise strongly preferred. The position requires personal flexibility, energy, diplomacy, and the ability to work independently.

The MHA Executive Director need not be a scholar of Mormon history, but should be able to enthusiastically support and publicly represent the organization?s mission, as well as interacting with the MHA membership which includes both professional historians and enthusiasts from a variety of religious backgrounds (or none at all).

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State-of-the-Field and Publication Workshop: Mormon Studies

By January 29, 2018


Last year, Kris W. and I hosted a Mormon Studies Publication Workshop at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

The workshop helped to create a sense of community among young scholars from a variety of places and disciplines while providing helpful feedback for developing projects. We were especially glad to receive so many excellent submissions on race, gender, and sexuality and were grateful to the Danforth Center for hosting scholars from California to Massachussetts. You can read more about the meeting here.

This year we will host another workshop on June 6, 2018 as a pre-conference option at the Mormon History Association conference in Boise, Idaho. The workshop, ?Beyond the New Mormon History: Trends and Methodologies,? will be held Thursday, June 6 from 9 AM-5 PM. There will be no cost for the workshop beyond punctual arrival and rigorous intellectual engagement.

ELIGIBILITY TO APPLY:

In a change from past years, anyone that is interested in Mormon Studies in any discipline may apply to participate in the workshop. Women and less represented groups are especially encouraged to apply and will receive preference in the selection process. The paper you propose to present must touch on Mormonism in some way (comparative studies are welcomed). Participants should be physically present in Boise to participate in the workshop.

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