Articles by

Nate R.

Roundtable on Paul Reeve, RELIGION OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: Black, White, and Mormon, pt. 1

By May 15, 2015

BY I'm A Mormon Meme

Meme satirizing the “I’m A Mormon” campaign in the wake of the LDS Church’s 2013 essay on Race and the Priesthood. In context here.

Whence the priesthood ban?

It?s a question that has been wrestled often over the last several decades.  Beginning with Lester Bush?s seminal Dialogue article in 1973, historians, sociologists, and theologians have scrutinized the decisions made between Mormonism?s founding in 1830 and the solidification of the priesthood denial to Saints of African origin in the 1850s.  JI permabloggers and friends have made our own humble contributions to the debates, as well, which continue in the wake of the LDS Church?s essay published 18 months ago on the historical priesthood ban.

Building on decades of scholarship, in chapters 4 and 5 of Religion of a Different Color Paul Reeve shows that Mormonism?s banning of blacks from holding the priesthood was less a black vs. white issue in Mormonism than it was a black vs. white issue in America that Mormonism?s universalist claims were forced to confront, and to which they ultimately gave way, in attempt to preserve Mormon aspirations for whiteness.

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Mormon Studies in the Classroom: Field Trip!

By March 6, 2015

This post is a continuation of last year’s ?Mormon Studies in the Classroom? series.  See the author?s previous post here, on Mormon Studies in the 7th Grade Utah Studies Classroom. 

IMG_1295At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, my principal approached me about teaching an elective class related to any of my interests as an educator.  I drafted and submitted a proposal for a class titled ?History Detectives? (no relation to the PBS show), only to find that few students signed up for it.  To make a short story long, I ended up teaching Creative Writing instead (despite the glaring lack of classes on my college transcript that contain either ?Creative? or ?Writing? in their titles).  I had a good time with Creative Writing, though, and geared up to teach it a second time.  (If you’ve never heard of lipograms, you should check them out!  Pretty fun stuff.)

As the second semester of the 2014-2015 school year began, my principal asked if I could resurrect the History Detectives class and take on some of the middle school students that had nowhere else to go for an elective, either because they hadn?t paid their class fees, were behavior problems for other teachers, or simply needed an elective.  I quickly scrapped the Creative Writing syllabus I had planned, and resurrected my plans for History Detectives.   Here is the course description:

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More than One Stubborn Log in the Field

By October 1, 2014


Okay, so this is from a different era. Still, I think it applies!

1863 was a troublesome year for Abraham Lincoln.  His Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1st, but it needed to be vindicated by victories on the battlefield.  However, Grant?s prolonged siege of Vicksburg and the game-changing victory at Gettysburg wouldn?t see completion until early July.

Those victories were inconceivable mid-1863, especially after costly Union losses at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville the previous winter and spring. Lincoln had another problem on his hands, too:  political trouble in Missouri, brewing since the start of the war and coming to a head in the summer of 1863.  The Border State had a large population of slave owners and had been occupied by a heavy Union military presence since early in the war.  The various Unionist factions that arose in the state continued to press Lincoln to support their respective camps, either in spreading immediate emancipation to Missouri or allowing slavery to exist with a more gradual emancipation plan.  When a delegation of the more radical faction visited Lincoln in Autumn to appeal for his support, he refused to add presidential clout to either group.

Frustrated with the politicking in Missouri, but unwilling to join sides, Lincoln remarked to a reporter that he had ?adopted the plan learned when a farmer boy engaged in plowing.  When he came across stumps too deep and too tough to be torn up, and too wet to burn, he plowed round them.?  In other words, he opted for the course of least resistance rather than directly dealing with the most difficult of situations?and possibly unwinnable ones? as in Missouri.[1]

Wait?he said that about Missourians?

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Mormon Studies in the 7th Grade Utah Studies Classroom

By April 28, 2014

As my contribution to the Juvenile Instructor?s series on Mormon Studies in the Classroom, I thought I?d discuss the place of Mormonism in the Utah Studies course, which is a required class for all 7th graders in the state?s public schools.  The structure, sources, and activities for such a class are necessarily tailored to a younger audience than those of the other courses that will make up this series, but I think it?s important to consider how less-seasoned?and more often than not, less-willing?students interact with Mormon studies.

I?m only in my second year teaching the Utah Studies Course, but have been given a lot of latitude by my school (which is a charter school that employs the Core Knowledge Sequence for its main curriculum).  So I?ve put a lot of thought into what I?d like my course to look like, where I think Mormonism should fit, and what I want my adolescent audience to take away from the course.

Course Objective:

The Utah Core Curriculum introduction to the Utah Studies Course says this: 

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True Blue, Depending on Who’s Telling the Tale: The Redacted Story of Joseph F. Smith and the ?Ruffians?

By November 12, 2013

True Blue SceneIt?s a powerful story.  The young Joseph F. Smith, fresh off his mission to the Sandwich Islands, is traveling through Southern California on his way home to Utah in late 1857/early 1858.  The Mormons are viewed with mistrust and hostility:  rumors surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre are fresh on everyone?s lips as Johnston?s Army converges on Utah.  Joseph F.?s party is confronted by a band of rough and tumble men on horseback, looking to pick a fight with any Mormons they can find.  Joseph F.?s fellow travelers scatter, and when one burly ruffian pointedly asks Joseph F. if he is a Mormon, the young returned missionary responds, ?Yes, siree, dyed-in-the-wool; true blue, through and through,? diffusing the tense confrontation by staying true to his identity.

But was he really ?dyed-in-the-wool, true blue, through and through??

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Review of Kenneth Alford’s Civil War Saints

By October 8, 2013

Kenneth L. Alford, ed.  Civil War Saints.  Provo, UT:  Religious Studies Center (BYU), 2012.  xxxiii + 569 pp.  Hardcover $31.99.  ISBN 978-0-8425-2816-0.

I have contributed here a thorough and lengthy discussion of this book; if you would like just the highlights, please read my first and last paragraphs below.  –NRR

Civil_War_Saints_Front_smaller_detailAs America continues its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, it is fitting that at least one new book should come out examining the connections between Latter-day Saints and the war.  Kenneth Alford aims in this edited volume to update and add to the small body of literature surrounding Mormons, the Utah Territory, and the Civil War.[1] While he falls short of creating a one-volume comprehensive treatment of the subject, he and his co-contributors have explored important, previously-uncharted territory that make this book an important addition to any Mormon or Civil War History enthusiast?s library.

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Guest Book Review: Dominic Martinez on “Remembering Iosepa”

By August 10, 2013

Dominic Martinez {dominic.martinez AT} is currently a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver in the School of Education and Human Development with a focus on Leadership for Educational Equity.  He has presented papers titledIosepa “The Iosepa Voyage: The Reconstruction of Hawaiian Voyaging within Mormon Context” and “Iosepa, Utah: Reclaiming History Through Connectedness” at national conferences.  The Juvenile Instructor is pleased to share his review of Kester’s book on Iosepa.  


Matthew Kester. Remembering Iosepa: History, Place, and Religion in the American West.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013. vii, 203.  Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. Hardcover: $44.35; ISBN 978-0-19-984491-3


I had the opportunity to meet J. Matthew Kester in the summer of 2009 when I was in Hawai?i conducting research for my Master?s thesis on Polynesian Mormons.  I was thrilled to meet this exceptional scholar with his laid-back, surfer-dude personality.  Our conversation focused on three main subjects: the history of Brigham Young University Hawai?i; a character from the Book of Mormon named Hagoth who is speculated to have been one of the first ancestors to the Polynesian population; and Iosepa, a community in Utah founded by Mormon Hawaiians.  Knowing his passion for the history of Mormonism and the Hawaiian culture, I was pleased to see that his first book to be published is on Iosepa–a space, according to Dennis Atkin, that has not been researched enough (1). Other than Dennis Atkin?s Master?s thesis, his chapter, ?Iosepa: A Utah Home for Polynesians? in Voyages of Faith: Explorations in Mormon Pacific History (2) and Tracy E. Panek?s chapter, ?Life at Iosepa, Utah?s Polynesian Colony? in Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier (3), there has not been as much attention spent on this Mormon colony for Polynesians in the west.

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York City Draft Riots, Part 3: 15-18 July 1863

By July 16, 2013

This is the third in a three-part series of posts about Joseph F. Smith?s experiences during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863.  See the first two parts here and here.


Map of Manhattan Island:  the cluster of attacks on property in the southwestern portion of the island is close to the Stevens House, where Joseph F. was staying with John W. Young.[1]



In the previous post I argued that Joseph F. Smith seemed to be simply an observer for the first two days of the draft riots.  Late in the night on July 14, 1863, however, the riots came dangerously close, momentarily changing the nature of his relationship to them.  In this last post of my brief series, I have transcribed Joseph F.?s diary entries for the last few days of the riots and their aftermath.  I think they provide an interesting, if brief, look into how the riots affected him. 

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York Draft Riots, Part 2: 13 & 14 July 1863

By July 12, 2013

This is the second in a three-part series of posts about Joseph F. Smith?s experiences during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863.  See the first part here.


Image:  CHARGE OF THE POLICE ON THE RIOTERS AT THE “TRIBUNE” OFFICE, Harper?s Weekly, August 1, 1863, p. 484 [1]



Joseph F. Smith arrived in New York City on July 6, 1863, after an unremarkable journey from Liverpool (though he did mention with disappointment on July 4th that ?no demonstrations were mad[e] to commemorate the aneversery of American Independence,?[2] ).  He had been recently released from his missionary duties in the British Isles Mission, and was fulfilling an assignment to see several groups of Mormon emigrants safely into the U.S. and on their way toward Utah.  

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Joseph F. Smith and the New York City Draft Riots, Part 1: Background

By July 10, 2013

Image:  ?The Riots in New York: The Mob Lynching a Negro in Clarkson-Street? [1]



One of the things that first interested me about Joseph F. Smith was his personality as a diarist.  He liked to pen elaborate descriptions of impressive places he visited, such as the ancient Mo?okini heiau (temple) in Hawaii, the famous Mauna Loa volcano, or the Wentworth Castle and Estates near Barnsley, England.[2]  He cataloged what he saw as faults in others, ranging from family members, to LDS church enemies, to people he encountered as a missionary.[3]  He recorded seemingly insignificant details and used trite or repetitive phrases (some of which have crept into my own journaling vocabulary), in the process illuminating much about his education, priorities, biases, and spirituality.[4]  And we can?t leave out the infamous cat massacre that Amanda HK described in a post some time ago.

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