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Mormons and the Mythology of the “Greatest Generation”

By August 15, 2013

This post is my contribution to our August theme highlighting the history of 20th Century Mormonism. A quick disclaimer–in the post I critique the idea of ?The Greatest Generation.? This does not mean that I am degrading the patriotism or valor of men or relatives that served in the military during World War II. Many served valiantly and admirably. I am writing to expose some of the blind spots created by solely focusing on the pluck of individual soldiers and their commanders. Also, I know this post is a little long, so gird up your loins and ring the bell when you get to the top (how?s that for a mixed metaphor?)

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Panel Summary: “Teaching Mormonism in the Digital Age”

By January 9, 2012

I spent this last weekend at the annual American Historical Association meeting and since the American Society of Church History is an affiliated organization and holds its meeting concurrently, I was able to sit in on the Mormon History Association panel entitled ?Teaching Mormonism in the Digital Age.? What follows is a summary of the presentations given. Jan Shipps chaired the panel with Kathleen Flake, Patrick Mason, and Peter Thuesen participating. Jonathan Moore was supposed to participate, but ultimately was not able to make it. Dr. Flake tried to incorporate some aspects from his paper into her own. For me, the most exciting part of the panel involved the glimpses of Dr. Flake’s upcoming work which looks to be groundbreaking.  This rather long summary is from handwritten notes, so I make no claims to it being a perfect representation of the presenters’ ideas. Any mistakes are my own. I hope you enjoy.

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Book Review: Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901-1924 by Reid Neilson

By August 17, 2011

Neilson, Reid L. Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901-1924. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2010


Dr. Reid L. Neilson, managing director of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint?s history department, has written a fascinating account of the Mormon Japanese Mission at the turn of the 20th century. Neilson argues that the 19th century LDS missionary experience in the United States and Europe had calcified Mormon evangelizing strategies to a degree that ultimately determined their failure in the rapidly modernizing Japanese nation. While Neilson?s trajectory often wades a little shallow and missionary-centric, his transnational gaze at Mormon mission policy and practice, while situating his study in a comparative Christian missionary framework, offers important inroads for scholars of Mormon history who have too often found themselves mired in the nineteenth century American origins story of a 21st century global church.

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The Responsibilities of History (and Historians)

By September 1, 2010

JI bloggers invest significant amounts of time and effort in this blog, and this commitment becomes quite evident through the internal debates that sometimes occur behind the scenes as we discuss the future and purpose of this ever-changing form of new media in which we have become involved. Today we invite you behind the scenes to illustrate one of the great debates among historians today. In part, the discussions developed as many of us commented on Max?s excellent post on the proposed New York City mosque and community center, the debate about building it so close to Ground Zero, and how Mormons should react based on their shared history of religious persecution. Max adeptly historicized the issue of Mormons and the mosque in an effort to turn the overwhelming and sometimes baffling tide of Mormon opinion against its construction.

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Finding Mormon References in the Strangest Place

By June 1, 2010

This summer I am doing some freelance research for a family on one of their ancestors who edited a small community newspaper in Marion, Ohio from 1877-1883. The man, George Christian Sr., was Warren G. Hardings’ neighbor and his son became Harding’s secretary during his senatorial and abbreviated presidential years. Although Christian probably is not particularly relevant to the readership of this blog, I have been surprised to see how often Mormons make an appearance in Christian’s newspaper, the Marion Mirror.

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The Corporatization of the University (Updated)

By November 16, 2009

The Graduate Student Employment Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois is going on strike tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM. I know this blog is primarily about the study of Mormon History, but inasmuch as almost all of its contributors are involved in Graduate Education I thought they might be interested in the following letter I wrote to my undergraduate students as an explanation for the strike. I think it tries to explain and interrogate the rapid corporatization of universities all over the country. I promise I will write something about Mormon history soon 🙂 We would also appreciate any support from those of you in Illinois.

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Repudiating Scholarly Violence in Mormon History

By April 6, 2009

Before I start this post, I just want to apologize to all my fellow JIers for my unproductive participation in the blog as of late. Because my primary area of research falls outside of the Mormon History paradigm, I often have to wait for the spirit to move me towards some sort of meaningful post. I still want to put together some concluding thoughts on Mormonism and ethnicity one of these days, but it seems like my dissertation research has kept me pretty busy the last little while. I am hoping to attend at least some of the Mormon History Conference in May since Springfield is quite close to Champaign. Several posts on the Bloggernacle of late (not particularly on JI but as a blog devoted to Mormon history I think this is a good forum for addressing the issue) have made me think about the reality and role of bias in the production of historical scholarship.

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Examining Mormon Ethnicity (Part II)

By December 8, 2008

I realized after thinking about my previous post that I did not really summarize what scholars mean by defining Mormons as an “ethnic” group or “ethnicity.” Different historians have explained the idea in different ways. For example, Dean L. May’s explanation emphasizes the shared migratory experience of the pioneers and the voluntary spatial isolation represented by Mormon settlement in the West. [1] Jan Shipps similarly argues in her Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition that “by virtue of a common paradigmatic experience as well as isolation, [Latter-day Saints have acquired an ethnic identity so distinct that it sets the Saints apart in much the same fashion that ethnic identity sets the Jews apart. [2] Patricia Limerick outlines the components of Mormon ethnicity as “the creation of a community in which religious belief laid the foundations for a new worldview, a new pattern of family organization, a new set of ambitions, a new combination of common bonds and obligations, a new definition of separate peoplehood.” [3] All of these definitions sound very apt until you start to think about the process of defining and the ways that these definitions either include or exclude.

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Identifying with Romney? My Historiographical Rant Against Mormon Ethnicity

By November 17, 2008

Having recently completed my Preliminary exams, and thus ended my self-imposed blogging moratorium, I have decided to put up a first offering in a series of posts regarding the ethnicity paradigm and Mormon identity.

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Model Minorities?

By August 25, 2008

I have recently been exploring Chiung Hwang Chen’s 2004 book Mormon and Asian American Model Minority Discourses in News and Popular Media which, along with her and her husband Ethan Yorgason’s 1999 Dialogue article, makes the case that the media has portrayed both Asian Americans and Mormons in the last fifty years utilizing what Asian American scholars have identified as a model minority discourse. [1] Although Chen is not a historian, the way that she tracks changes in representation over time feels quite historical and, in some ways, might be considered a continuation of what Terryl Givens was trying to do in The Viper on the Hearth. [2] Although I have some critiques of the book which I will get to later, I thought it might be relevant to also consider some of the advantages to her approach.

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