By July 20, 2015
This is the tenth installment of the first annual JI Summer Book Club. This year we are reading Richard Bushman’s landmark biography of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). JI bloggers will be covering small chunks of the book in successive weeks through the summer, with new posts appearing Monday mornings. We invite anyone and everyone interested to read along and to use the comment sections on each post to share your own reflections and questions. There are discussion questions below.
- Part 1: Prologue, Chapters 1-2
- Part 2: Chapters 3-4
- Part 3: Chapters 5-6
- Part 4: Chapters 7-9
- Part 5: Chapters 10-12
- Part 6: Chapters 13-15
- Part 7: Chapters 16-18
- Part 8: Chapters 19-21
- Part 9: Chapters 22-24
- Next Week: Chapters 27-28
Of all the chapters of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, Chapter 25 is perhaps where Richard Bushman delivers most fully on his introductory promise to take seriously Joseph Smith’s religious ideas (xxi). Scholars writing previously about Smith had been more intrigued by his psychology than his theology, and had left the elaborate cosmological world that he created largely unexplored. Bushman, by contrast, is here determined to map out and to appraise some of the major themes that characterized Smith’s expansive teachings; the result is a rich and perceptive picture of how Joseph Smith came to tell what Bushman calls “Stories of Eternity,” narratives that defined the Mormon cosmos. When it was published ten years ago, Bushman’s account was one of the first real attempts to explore and to appreciate the theological depth and “boundless” scope of Smith?s religious enterprise.
By March 26, 2015
In 1991, the iconoclastic historian Jon Butler brought forth one of the greatest of his many “historiographical heresies.” Well known for being an ardent revisionist, Butler had called the previous year in his important book Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (1990) for narratives that paid more attention to the enduring and even escalating power of religious institutions in nineteenth-century America. Institutional power, he suggested, had been unduly marginalized in the pursuit of other interests. In 1991, however, Butler took this logic all the way and proposed an entirely new model for American religious history, one that was sure to astound many of his colleagues. In the heyday of the new scholarship on American evangelicalism and during the very apotheosis of Nathan Hatch’s Democratization of American Christianity, Butler insisted that–of all groups–Roman Catholics could serve as a productive baseline for American religious history. Catholicism in America, he argued, more than the hurly-burly of American evangelicalism, could help historians account for hidden aspects of the religious past. 
By January 10, 2015
Keep an eye out, now! A small handful of roundup links on matters of interest from the past few weeks…
TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay
Just when you’d thought we’d exhausted all the angles for a Mormon-related reality series, we now have My Husband’s Not Gay, from TLC (of Sister Wives and My Five Wives fame). Shot in Salt Lake City, My Husband’s Not Gay premieres tonight at 10 ET, and reportedly it revolves around the lives of four LDS men who, despite feeling attraction to men, do not identify as homosexuals. Indeed, three have chosen (presumably on the basis of their religious convictions) to marry women, and the show will trace the conflicts between sexual desire, human identity, and religious conviction.
In anticipation of the premiere, the show has generated a fair bit of controversy. Gay advocates have turned up the heat on TLC, denouncing the show as “downright irresponsible”; “dangerous for LGBT people”; and “damaging for Mormons, especially gay Mormon youth.” A sizable campaign has also been petitioning for the show’s cancellation. TLC, for its part, shrugged off the criticism earlier this week, and the LDS Newsroom struck a moderating tone. On the basis of his critic’s sneak preview, NYT TV critic Neil Genzlinger characterizes the show as classic incendiary reality tv, although he does note “a few interesting and genuine-sounding moments in which the couples or their friends explore the collision of faith and feelings.” Those kinds of enlightening moments, however, he expects to be inevitably “drowned out.”
Other multifarious tidbits:
Peggy Fletcher Stack reports on Ordain Women‘s new photo illustration series envisioning female officiation in priesthood ordinances.
Regional media continue to track the unfurling of the Book of Mormon musical across the country in smaller markets, the responses of Latter-day Saints and the Church’s proselytizing response.
A new (and largely nonplussed) review of Avi Steinberg’s recent “bibliomemoir” The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri.
P.S. To all last-minute applicants for the Maxwell Institute’s Mormon Theology Seminar, 2015, a reminder that Jan. 15 is your day of reckoning.
By October 5, 2014
Hi all, here’s the best of the Mormon week that was. No General Conference commentary or historical perspective until next week!
FamilySearch has teamed up with GenealogyBank.org for a huge–seriously, huge–digitization project that was announced recently. When it’s completed, a billion records from 100 million US newpaper obituaries, from 1730 onward will be digitized and searchable online. They’re looking for tens of thousands of volunteers to help–could be you!
By August 11, 2014
Just a quick note to turn your attention to two fine documentary articles published in the latest issue of BYU Studies Quarterly:
By July 10, 2014
The stirring conclusion of our conversation with Dan Belnap on ritual in Mormon Studies. For those new to the conversation, refer to Part 1.
One of the challenges faced by theorists of practice and ritual is defining precisely what these categories are and what they encompass. Do you have any opinions on the scope of Mormon ritual studies or, for that matter, on the boundaries of Mormon liturgy?
By July 3, 2014
This post belongs to our occasional “Scholarly Inquiry” series which facilitates conversations with important scholars in Mormon history and studies. Today we reprise our focus on religious practice and ritual from a few months ago and hear from Dan Belnap, professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU. Belnap, who has a particular interest in ritual in both ancient and contemporary contexts, is the editor of a book entitled By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in History, Scripture, and Practice, and published by the Religious Studies Center at BYU and Deseret Book last year. (And it features, one must add, a stellar chapter from our very own J. Stapley on the development of Mormon ritual!) We appreciate Professor Belnap’s responses and invite your thoughtful engagement. Also, stay tuned for Part 2.
By June 29, 2014
Just a few links for your Sunday evening/Monday morning perusal, most carrying over from last week’s discussions of church discipline:
National media have reported extensively on the excommunication of Kate Kelly; see articles at CNN, the Washington Post, USA Today and interviews with Kelly at NPR and CNN. Consideration of church discipline in the case of Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin has also attracted widespread media interest. See pieces, for instance, at NBC and the Washington Post.
The LDS Church offered a related statement from the offices of the Twelve and First Presidency.
David Holland, meanwhile, offers some insights to Harvard Divinity School on Latter-day Saints, gender, and church discipline. Holland joined the Harvard faculty last year in 2013.
Jabari Parker, a Latter-day Saint from Chicago, was taken as the #2 lottery pick in this week’s NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, and the NYT revisits the perennial question of Mormon athletes and missionary service. Parker has also drawn attention as the “first black Mormon” in the NBA. (Although that may be news to Brandon Davies.)
By March 21, 2014
This quick-and-dirty post traces some of the history of Christian liturgy to consider a different way to think about Mormon ritual. It’s very much exploratory; I welcome your insights and critiques.
Many of the most rancorous debates of the Reformation Era–and there were lots of them–revolved around liturgy and the practice of Christian rituals. Not only did Protestants clash with the Roman Church as they attacked and rejected the conventional set of seven sacraments, but before long, the new Protestant schools of thought were in conflict with each other as well. More than anything else, in fact, it was the debate over the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that shattered the prospects of a united Protestant Christendom.
By March 7, 2014
Today’s the day here at JI when, in keeping with our theme this month, we compile a listing of scholarship on the history of Mormon practice. This is intended to be a collaboration, so we hope you’ll jump in and contribute. The list below ought to get us going, but many studies have surely been overlooked, and the categories are arbitrary, so additions and reconfigurations are more than welcome. What works and categories are we missing? What glaring lacunae do you see in the field? What piques your interest? What trends can you identify? How much praise can we heap upon the superstars here? Share your thoughts and insights as we build a comprehensive bibliography.
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