I’ve spent a bit of time in the last month thinking about titles. I’m considering my own potential book titles, but also the titles of two books that I’m currently reviewing. When I got a copy of The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts edited by Blair G. Van Dyke, Brain D. Birch, and Boyd. J. Petersen (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018) I assumed I knew what it was about. Joseph Smith’s expansion on the Christian canon has been a lightning rod for attention since before he organized any church. I expected a focused consideration of Latter-day Saint expansions to the Christian canon: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Likewise, when I first saw Larry Morris’ Documentary History of the Book of Mormon (Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2019), I made assumptions. I initially panicked wondering if his work overlapped too much with my own current Book of Mormon reception book project and then hoped that he laid out the publication history through documents so I didn’t have to sort it all out myself.
Since the time I began working on my current book project on early Book of Mormon reception history, there have been individuals who have called what I am doing women’s history. I am certainly not offended by someone saying I do women’s history, I am not opposed to women’s history. I think women’s history does significant and important compensatory work to fill a historical chasm empty for too long. My Master’s thesis was clearly women’s history, I have done consistent work in that field, as well as the discipline directly informing other work that I do.
However, I’m always interested in the formal and informal categories that we construct to order the historical field and I’m wondering what makes something women’s history? As editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Joseph Spencer, introduced my recent article here for the Maxwell Institute, he complimented my work (thanks) and summarized the article: “how early converts—and especially women—approached the text of the Book of Mormon.” I suspect Joe wanted to highlight one of the things present in my article that is often absent in Mormon History, women. However, the “especially women” gave me pause. That pause has only expanded as I have heard others describe my current work as women’s history.
The Mormon History Association’s annual conference will be in SaltLake City, June 7-10, 2018. The topic for next year’s conference is “Isolation and Integration” and the deadline for proposals is this week—Thursday the 15th. Find the Call for Papers here.
Last year’s Book of Mormon Studies Conference was one of my favorites. The deadline for papers and proposals is quickly approaching. Come and join us in Logan for two days of engaging work on the Book of Mormon. See http://bomstudies.com/ for more details.
Matthew Godfrey, Spencer W. McBride, Alex D. Smith, Christopher James Blythe, eds. The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 7, September 1839-January 1841. (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018).
I was introduced to the newest addition to the Joseph Smith Papers Project the day the books hit the shelves a couple weeks ago. We were given an opportunity to meet with the editors and talk about their favorite parts of this new volume. The Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 7 continues the inevitable march to June 1844 and as we get closer, the numbers of documents increase and the time period covered shortens. This seventh Documents volume covers just five months from September 1839 to January 1841 in 713 pages. We might consider the meticulous nature of the editing and annotation of each of these volumes, in that, this new volume is no different. All offer new nuance and detail to the narrative of Joseph Smith?s life. However, unlike the last volume, this volume is a period often skipped over. After the harrowing drama of the Missouri War and expulsion and the brief respite found for the refugees in Quincy we often narratively find ourselves in a fully formed and functioning Nauvoo. This volume zeroes in on Joseph Smith laboring to establish and bring the Saints to what he considers will be ?the greatest city in the world? as he likewise endeavors to seek political redress for what happened in Missouri, and begins to introduced distinctive Mormon doctrines that will shape the Nauvoo period.
Better Days 2020 is using important upcoming suffrage anniversaries to celebrate Utah women’s illustrious heritage and expand knowledge of that history as they look to improve the future of women in Utah.Better Days is a great example of public history and how that history has the potential to make a difference and they need a historical director. 2020 will be the 150-year anniversary of Utah women becoming the first in the nation to vote, the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment and US women’s suffrage, as well as the 55-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act expanding access to disenfranchised minorities. Even if you don’t need a job, check out their efforts. Martha Hughes Cannon is on her way to Washington in 2020 and Better Days 2020 is on the move. Apply for a chance to become part of something important.
The particular danger of a roundtable in a digital format is in the overlapping repetition, forgive us for that. (Check out Tona and Joey‘s prior posts.) Though I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to respond to Jonathan Stapley?s The Power of Godliness in person, today I want to focus on the eminent accessibility of the nuanced liturgical history that Stapley crafted. Though I want the initial chapter on the cosmological priesthood to be more specific as he lays out the foundation of his argument, it is fulfilled over time in consecutive chapters. I appreciate that in each chapter Stapley outlines a dense history with complex transitions over time in a nuanced, compact, and entirely relatable manner. This would not be possible without the body of Stapley’s earlier work. (There will be rejoicing amongst my future students when they realize that there might be a more concise version of Stapley and Kris Wright?s spectacular but to them seemingly interminable 88-page JMH article on female ritual healing.) This accessibility matters both historically and devotionally.
In my current project, I am thinking about how a text becomes scripture?how people develop a relationship with a text. On this last day of Black History Month, I?m thinking about three items that reflect relationships to scripture that affect the life of Jane Manning James: a blessing, scripture, and an interview.
Carol Wilkinson and Cynthia Doxey Green, The Field is White: Harvest in Three Counties of England (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017).
As a child, we had a record that narrated the story of Wilford Woodruff as a missionary at Benbow farm. (Vinyl played on our old blue Fischer Price record player. I only remember Woodruff and the headless horseman though I?m sure there were more options). The dramatic narration detailed a miraculous mass conversion of a whole sect by LDS apostle Woodruff in 1840 England. Though fascinating that any American child might know of a pond on an obscure farm in the middle of the English countryside, the fame of Benbow Farm is well known among many Mormons. Lds.org lists scores of articles and talks focused on the same narrative. There Wilford Woodruff baptized a whole congregation of United Brethren?six hundred strong. The story has been retold and retold; Woodruff is legendary. As the story goes the United Brethren were just waiting for the Mormon missionaries to show up. John Benbow said they were ?searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were continually calling upon the Lord to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge that they might know the true way to be saved.? Woodruff brought them the ?light and truth? for which they searched and they converted in droves in Benbow’s pond.