By April 1, 2008
Joseph Smith was killed in 1846 by a mob in Alton, Illinois, near the Illinois-Missouri border. Unless I am mistaken, the foregoing statement is quite obviously false on two accounts (1846; Alton). Yet, I was quite surprised to find that the source of this mistake is a well-known historian of U.S. religious history.
By March 19, 2008
Graduate school provides rare opportunities to find obscure references to Mormonism in texts one would otherwise never think to look at. These sources often provide interesting insights, usually alongside flawed analysis. Constance Rourke’s American Humor: A Study of the National Character is one such source.
By March 12, 2008
The historian of American history loves to quote Tocqueville, and the historian of U.S. religious history is no different. Even historians of Mormonism find him helpful. Yet what place does Tocqueville’s work have in helping us understand early nineteenth century American religion?
By March 6, 2008
The First Presidency of the Latter-day Saint Church has never made a direct statement in response to Darwin, his book, or his theory of evolution. Yet, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the church did respond indirectly. Less formally, certain leaders openly attacked Darwin’s ideas, while other church officials and lay members disliked transmutation but contemplated other forms of evolution. Various personalities and their corresponding works exemplify these responses.
By February 27, 2008
In Brian Birch’s class, “Mormonism and Christian Theology,” at CGU we recently discussed the “King Follet Discourse” and the “Sermon in the Grove” and the ways Mormon scholars have interpreted records of these sermons over the years. A point of conversation relates to what Smith meant in stating that God “is a man like one of yourselves” who “dwelt on a Earth same as Js. himself did.” In a related recorded statement, Smith is said to have explained that “Paul says there are gods many & Lords many” I want to set it in a plain simple manner–but to us there is but one God pertaining to us.” Smith’s words generally have been interpreted in two ways.
By February 26, 2008
I will soundly argue that the answer to the question above is an unequivocal “No!” Just playing. The formation of Mormon Studies Chairs at Utah State University and Claremont Graduate School with similar programs in the works at other institutions of higher learning suggests an affirmative answer to this query. I think it is obvious that our intellectual predecessors have worked long and hard to make this possible, and consequently we should be grateful. The formation of chairs, along with other movements in the media and politics, mark a new era in the scholarly study of Mormonism, as universities “scramble” to create classes in Mormonism. Sunday night I attended a fireside in Pasadena where Drs. Richard and Claudia Bushman spoke of this exciting time. As Claudia was speaking she mentioned the idea that we had the opportunity to become intellectual pioneers. This struck me. To be honest, I felt rather overwhelmed thinking about the legacy that budding scholars of Mormonism have to live up to. Further, it seems that we must participate in forming the idea of what it means to study Mormonism at a graduate level. Consequently, I think the important question relates to what kind of place we will create for ourselves at the academic table.