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Tona H

The People Who Stir America: BackStory on Revivals and Prophets

By December 21, 2015


The December 11, 2015 episode of the impeccably crafted history podcast BackStory is worth a listen, on the topic of ?American Prophets.? In many ways, it?s a sequel to their ?Born Again? episode on the history of American religious revival back in April, continuing the story of charismatic leaders and religious movements forging transformation and innovation in an intense cultural pressure cooker. In ?American Prophets,? the hosts explore Neolin (Delaware / pan-Indian), William Seymour (Asuza Street, Pentecostalism), Brigham Young (Mormonism), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology) and Elijah Muhammed (Nation of Islam). When added to the earlier episode?s portrayal of the First and Second Great Awakenings, Handsome Lake, Sam Jones, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Billy Graham, we now have a nice two-hour audio documentary on diverse American new religious movements featuring a stellar cast of religious scholars. [1]

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Mormon Studies Roundup August 2015 (New! Improved! Monthly!)

By August 2, 2015


At a recent meeting of the JI permabloggers which coincided with the MHA meeting in early June, we decided to move our Mormon Studies roundup from weekly to monthly. training.RedCalendarThe feature will now appear on the first Sunday of the month. However, the roundup then promptly took a holiday in July, so apologies for the unintentionally long stretch from the last MS roundup to this one. After such a fast, we are back with a veritable feast of Mormon history-related news and events.

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Pioneer Day Re-Post: Youth Trek, Public History, and Becoming “Pioneer Children” in a Digital Age

By July 24, 2015


This Pioneer Day, we’re republishing an edited version of a post from Tona H. that originally appeared in August 2013. Comments on the original pointed out that some youth treks definitely predated the 1997 Susquecentennial celebration, and more importantly: that a Google search of the word “trek” cannot distinguish between Mormon events and Hollywood film releases. The corrected post follows. For more on pioneer day from our archives, see here.

In 2009 our stake organized its first trek for youth conference and put it into the regular rotation for youth conference planning. In 2013, we repeated the event with roughly the same itinerary and logistics and presumably will keep it going in future years as well. Now, you may know that I live in New England, not in the Wasatch front region, the sagebrush plains of Wyoming, or along anything remotely resembling a traditional handcart route.

[1]

“Pioneer Trek” [1]

Even so, treks outside the historical landscape of the handcart companies have become commonplace: unusual enough to generate local news coverage, but frequent enough that a whole subculture has sprung up to support and celebrate it. With some similarities to Civil War reenactment and cosplaying in its emphasis on costuming, role play and historical storytelling, youth trek evokes and romanticizes selected aspects of the Mormon past to cement LDS identity and build youth testimony and unity. It is a unique (and, I?m arguing, actually very recent) form of LDS public history.

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JI Summer Book Club: Rough Stone Rolling, Part 7: Chapters 16-18

By June 22, 2015


This is the seventh 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.

Installments:
? 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
? Next week (Part 8): Chapters 19-21

Sparse comments last week suggest some understandable mid-book fatigue (it IS hefty, after all, and it IS the busy part of the summer for most of us), but never fear ? just jump right back in. Chapters 16-18 form, in many ways, the emotional heart of Bushman?s biography and a microcosm of the thorny problems inherent in writing a finely textured history of a figure as iconic and enigmatic as Joseph Smith. They are Rough Stone Rolling itself, writ small.

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Something New Under the MHA Sun: Scholars Workshop

By June 12, 2015


This year, MHA piloted something I hope we see more of in the future: a workshop as a pre- or post-conference tour alternative. A half-day workshop about documentary editing (aka ?Geeking Out with Old Documents?) was dreamed up by JI?s own Robin Jensen of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and supported by BYU Special Collections, where the event was held. I helped make some of the initial introductions and arrangements as part of the MHA 2015 Program Committee, and then Local Arrangements took it and ran, and we all held our breath a little as the registration opened up (especially since it was up against the deservedly popular women?s history bus tour ? which I hope we get a write up about! But I digress–), not knowing who would be interested in spending a day in the library learning the ins and outs of turning an original document (letter, diary, manuscript) into a readable resource for researchers, genealogists, and possibly even for publication.

Turns out: quite a lot of folks.

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Art + Belief: #MHA50 Session Preview

By May 31, 2015


A+B_filmThe sixties beget all kinds of social experiments, and even Mormons were not immune to the call of the bohemian zeitgeist of their times. It may interest you to know that in the late 1960s there was an artists’ commune in the foothills of Alpine, Utah, calling themselves the Art & Belief Movement. Four artists – sculptor Neil Hadlock, figurative artist Dennis Smith, symbolist realist Gary Ernest Smith, and romantic realist Trevor Southey – and their families formed the core of the group. Though as transitory as many hippie communes of the era, this Mormon version is worth a closer look.

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The Church in Action, ca. 1973

By April 13, 2015


While doing a close reading of Rick Turley’s essay for our #JMH50 roundtable series, I came across a tidbit that was new for me. He writes,

Beginning around 1970, our department had sponsored newsreel-style movies under the series title The Church in Action. These annual or five-year retrospectives used existing footage to feature newsworthy events like the international travels of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brigham Young University?s dance teams. Useful though they were in featuring Church events in multiple countries, these films did not begin to capture the depth of Church history around the globe. [1]

As a scholar of religion and media, my ears perked up.

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Into (and From) All the World: A New Paradigm for Global LDS History, JMH50th Roundtable

By April 6, 2015


Previous #JMH50 posts:

Liz M. on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich?s Personal Essay
David Howlett on his own article on jobs and publishing in Mormon Studies
J. Stuart on William Russell’s “Shared RLDS/LDS Journey”
Brett D. on Jared Farmer’s “Crossroads of the West”
Ryan T. on Matthew Bowman’s “Toward a Catholic History of Mormonism”

This post continues our series on the Mormon History Association’s 50th anniversary issue of the Journal of Mormon History, considering the important insider account provided by LDS Church assistant Church historian and recorder, Richard E. Turley, Jr., titled “Collecting, Preserving, and Sharing the Global History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Turley, who is a prolific author and co-author, notably of the Church History Library-sponsored Women of Faith in the Latter Days series and the award-winning OUP book on the Mountain Meadows massacre, has directed the LDS Church’s Historical Department beginning in 1986. He oversaw the Church History department’s consolidation with the Family History department between 2000-2008 and most recently the Church History Department’s transition into its elegant and archivally sound new building in 2009.

In this essay, Turley takes readers behind the scenes at the Historian’s Office to describe its ongoing cultural and paradigm shift decentralizing church historical collection throughout the world. Though he attributes little of this great shift to his own values, decisions or leadership, it is apparent that his personal involvement was critical to this transition and his firsthand perspective is a valuable primary source in itself.

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Sabbath, Sabbatical, and the Changing Seasons

By December 27, 2014


Solstice was this week (which is also my birthday), a day which to me always represents a fresh start, the year’s pivot point back towards the light. This dawning feels especially significant, as the start of an unfamiliar new phase: I’ve just begun a sabbatical.

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A Research Time Capsule

By November 17, 2014


And now for something completely different…

A few weeks ago, I introduced my first-year students to the Internet Archive, and we played a bit with the Wayback Machine, which has archived portions of the web since its beginning so we can know what digital environments looked like and how they’ve changed over time.

I also had occasion recently to pull out the files I collected while pursuing my undergraduate thesis on Mormon Indian Placement. I conducted that research between 1990 and 1992, which included some library research trips and a month of field research and collecting oral interviews. It was an interesting in-between time to engage in this kind of study. Research began at the literal card catalog in each library. I had access to computers, yes, but laptops were clunky and large, and could not wirelessly connect to anything. So I bought an electric typewriter on which to make my field notes. I carried a cassette tape recorder for interviews, and after I collected them all, I got some funding to rent a transcription machine with a foot pedal stop/start to help me transcribe them and save them on our home desktop. I backed up everything on 3.5″ disks (called floppies, for you millennials). Thinking I might need to present my research at some point, I brought a camera loaded with 35mm film and took a couple rolls of slides. Now all those things are stored in two very heavy cardboard boxes in my attic. I.e. accessible to no one, barely even me.

Tucked among my papers I found this small brochure from the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, listing ALL of its available computer research databases, most of which were installed on the library’s terminals (i.e. not accessed real-time via internet yet) and some of which required the user to switch out numbered CD-ROM disks manually. I thought it such a quaint artifact of early electronic academic resources that I took the liberty of uploading it to the Internet Archive, where it now lives. I’ve also Flipsnack’d it below (sorry it’s sideways, they don’t do landscape orientation apparently). The brochure was published in 1990, which I guess depending on your age seems like either a lifetime ago, or not very long ago at all.

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