Articles by

JJohnson

A blessing, scripture, and an interview.

By February 28, 2018


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.

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REVIEW: The Field is White: Harvest in the Three Counties of England

By December 6, 2017


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. 

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THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPERS RELEASE DOCUMENTS 6: FEBRUARY 1838-AUGUST 1839

By October 26, 2017


Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Volume 6: February 1838?August 1839, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, David W. Grua, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink.

 

The ink was barely dry on the sixth volume of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers when I was able to meet with three of the very capable editors of the volume?Mark Ashurst-McGee, David Grua, and Elizabeth Kuehn. That week I also heard JI?s own, David Grua, lecture on the Liberty Jail letters. It was all a lot to take in. In the time that has passed, I?ve been able to understand the depth and breadth of this volume a little better. The Missouri experience looms large in the Mormon memory and the contribution of this volume is essential to our understanding of this critical period?though it will take a very long time to take it all in.

This tome is the largest volume thus far in the Papers project. Its 776 meticulous pages cover just 19 months in four sections. Add the front matter and you’re over 800 pages. (Let’s hope the binding can hold up.)

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JI Summer Book Club 2017, II: A House Full of Females, Chapter 2

By June 11, 2017


Emma Smith, The Elect Lady by Theodore S. Gorka

 

?Women?s voices trouble the old stories.?

The line lingered with me for weeks.

Then at the Mormon History Association?s annual conference LDS Church historian and recorder Elder Steven E. Snow emphasized the need for the troubling saying, ?For too long Mormon women?s voices have been ignored. We, as a people, have suffered because of it.?[1]

Chapter two of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich?s A House Full of Females is a gorgeous example of how incorporating women?s accounts provides a more complete view of all of the colors and textures and corners of the tapestry of early LDS history, but also frays the neatly finished edges in troublesome ways. After the Missouri expulsion, dual male narratives act in concert–miraculous healing and distinct but likewise miraculous missionary work. Joseph Smith offered physical salvation through healing. Healing enabled male apostles to work to offer spiritual salvation to others. In a tidy reciprocal narrative structure, Latter-day Saints are provided with examples of both ?what God can do for us and what we can do for God.? In both narratives, men endowed with priesthood power accomplished much.

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The 2nd Annual MWHIT Bazaar at MHA

By May 23, 2017


The countdown to MHA has begun. 9 days and counting…. (If you still need to register go here.)

Help support and promote Mormon women’s history with the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Bazaar. Plan now to attend MWHIT’s second annual fundraiser bazaar and silent auction, June 2-4, 2017, at the Mormon History Association annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. Donate handmade clothing, textiles, crafts, or professional skills (editing, writing, consulting, etc.). Donations are welcome even if you can’t attend in person. Contact any member of the MWHIT team with questions. All proceeds from the bazaar will help fund MWHIT programs and writing awards.


MHA in St. Louis June 1-4, 2017 – Registration Price Increase Approaching

By May 5, 2017


June 1-4, 2017, Historic St Charles, St Louis area Missouri.

Mormon History Association?s 52nd Annual Conference is coming quickly–the first weekend in June in St. Louis. Registration prices will increase after May 6th. Go here to register. (You must have already joined MHA to get member pricing. Go here if you still need to join for the year.) Check out conference information here and a copy of the preliminary program here. We want to see you there.


“We shall now call on some of our sisters”: Regarding General Relief Society Presidents, Beginnings, and Endings

By April 6, 2017


Rachel Hunt Steenblik posed a question that intrigued me, so I decided to look a bit further at women’s conference participation to specifically those years when a new Relief Society Presidency was called.

I am again relying on the appendix from At the Pulpit here

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“We shall now call on some of our sisters”: LDS Women and General Conference Participation Part 2

By April 3, 2017


In March of 2013, I began to create a history of women speaking in General Conference here, though that effort was only a start. Recently, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, edited by JI’s own Jenny Reeder with Kate Holbrook offers an almost exhaustive appendix “Latter-day Saint Women Speakers in General Conference.” Charlotte Hansen Terry’s extensive labors produced the appendix. My colleague John Thomas offered one correction to that appendix which did not make the imprint (or the online version as of yet): In October 1902 Mrs. Lucy Smith spoke in the outdoor overflow meeting as recorded here.

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The Friend and a Seer Stone

By February 5, 2017


Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 1.40.17 AMSince 1971, The Friend has been the LDS Church?s magazine for children. An article in the September 1974 issue of The Friend detailed that in addition to the Urim and Thummin ?Joseph [Smith] also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating [the Book of Mormon] called a seer stone.?[1] After combining and revamping church magazines in 1971, this was the first mention of a seer stone. Three years later, historian Richard Lloyd Anderson published an article on Smith?s translation of the Book of Mormon that likewise included mention of Smith?s seer stone usage.[2] This might surprise many Latter-day Saints today as Joseph Smith?s seer stone usage has not always played a role in the devotional narrative of Smith?s life and many might have believed the seer stone to be a part of antagonistic tall tales.

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New Year’s Day 2017 – Ring in the Historians

By December 31, 2016


Across the world, the 2017 LDS Sunday School course of study is the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. While church history has consistently been in the now regular four-year canonical rotation; the historical content beyond the manual has been minimal, basically limited to the 1838 canonized Joseph Smith History and a glorified pamphlet Our Heritage: A Brief History of fullsizerender-2the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996) in the last decade. Regrettably, English speaking members who use a hard copy manual or download the pdf will continue to use the same manual. (So don’t.) However, those who use the online lessons from lds.org or from the Gospel Library app will have access to a much broader scope of historical sources.

The new manual introduction “Helps for the Teacher” quotes from and links to M. Russell Ballard?s seminal February 2016 talk to Church Education System personnel, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century.” He then urged instructors to study the “best books” including “the best LDS scholarship available.” Ballard cited

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