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Book and Journal Reviews

JMH Spotlight: Brian Q. Cannon’s Presidential Address

By May 2, 2018


Brian Q. Cannon, ??To Buy Up the Lamanite Children as Fast as They Could?: Indentured Servitude and Its Legacy in Mormon Society,? Journal of Mormon History 44, no. 2 (Apr. 2018):1-35.

The most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History has arrived in mailboxes and it is a very strong number. We?ll be highlighting many of the articles over the next few weeks, starting with the Presidential Address of outgoing president, Brian Q. Cannon. His piece, ??To Buy Up the Lamanite Children as Fast as They Could?: Indentured Servitude and Its Legacy in Mormon Society,? examines the white Mormon entanglement with the 19th-century Indian slave trade, a system that emerged in the violence of Spanish colonization of the Great Basin. As Native nations such as the Utes acquired horses, they began raiding non-equestrian tribes and capturing women and children, who were then sold as slaves in New Mexico and California. After the Mormons? arrival in the Great Basin, they found themselves drawn unwillingly into the trade, leading to the purchase of captive children, and in 1852 the Utah Territorial Legislature legalized the trade as an indenture system of unfree labor, albeit one with extensive requirements for the education and good treatment of the indentures.[1]

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Author’s Response: Mueller’s *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By April 5, 2018


Below is Max Perry Mueller’s response to JI’s roundtable on his book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People.

Thanks to the JI crew, especially to Jessica Nelson, Ryan T, and J Stuart for their thoughtful comments on my book, Race and the Making of the Mormon People. It?s a great honor and an immense pleasure to interact with readers who have read one?s work so deeply and carefully.

Each of the roundtable?s comments/critiques focuses on one or both of two of the major interventions of my book: the first is to theorize ?whiteness? and ?race? more broadly; the second is to theorize the ?archive.? And my response?or, better put, self-critique?is to remind us (me!) not to think too literally about race or the archive. That is, the book tries (intentionally) to have it both ways: that race and the archive are ?real??as in literal, tangible things and/or experiences?as well as ?metaphors??as in literary signifiers of signified (imagined/constructed) things.

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Roundtable: Stuart on Mueller?s *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By March 28, 2018


You can read the first and second posts in this roundtable HERE and HERE.

Max Mueller should be commended for his analysis of race and the creation of the Latter-day Saint ?archive? in Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Mueller takes the Book of Mormon seriously and considers texts that aren?t considered within broader methodological arguments about the LDS Church?s creation of race in the nineteenth century. I think that Mueller?s attention to patriarchal blessings is worth highlighting (which I do below); I also think that his use of literary methodologies opens new avenues for research in Mormon history. Mueller?s book is the first monograph to engage Mormonism?s race-making project(s) through the interdisciplinary lenses of religious studies. Race and the Making of the Mormon People will occupy a central place in the part conversation surrounding Mormonism and race for the foreseeable future.

Mueller analyzes several patriarchal blessings in Race and the Making of the Mormon People, particularly an African American woman named Jane Manning James? two blessings.[i] He rightly tries to get into James? mind as well as the mind of the patriarchs that bestowed those blessings on her head. While Mueller?s book is not a study of ?lived religion,? he presents plausible readings of the blessing for both James and suggests how these documents helped place James squarely within the ?Mormon archive.? He persuasively argues that James may have seen herself as an heir of what Mueller calls ?white universalism,? meaning that everyone?s default pigmentation is white and that she had claim to the highest liturgical practices of Mormonism. Mueller?s innovative inclusion of patriarchal blessings should be taken up by others. I?m not aware of any other sources that offer as much potential for simultaneously presenting the leadership?s and the laity?s understanding of race from the same document.

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Roundtable: Nelson on *Race and the Making of the Mormon People*

By March 26, 2018


This is the first of three posts on Max Perry Mueller’s Race and the Making of the Mormon People. Today’s post comes from Jessica Nelson, who recently completed an MS in history at Utah State University. She is interested in race and Mormonism in the twentieth century and loves riding her stationary bike. 

Max Perry Mueller?s book Race and the Making of the Mormon People actively and deliberately engages with the Book of Mormon. This is significant, and I hope that other scholars will follow suit and take the words of the Book of Mormon?along with its 19th century context and what it represents to Mormonism?seriously in their work. Mueller rightly demonstrates that the Book of Mormon?s stories of racial lineages are critically important to understanding racial constructs in early Mormonism.

Readers familiar with the Book of Mormon will be able to recognize that Mueller carefully read Mormonism?s foundational text. After finishing Mueller?s conclusion, however, I am left wondering how useful textual analysis and literary criticisms of the Book of Mormon are to fully understand race in nineteenth-century Mormonism. How central are Mormon scriptures to Mormon conceptions of racial otherness and whiteness? Can the Nephites as ?white? people within the Book of Mormon be problematized any more than the simplistic way that Mueller references them? Did nineteenth-century white Mormons even think of the Nephites as ?white? like they were? The Book of Mormon is inherently problematic as primary source material, but evaluating Mueller?s claims begs further examination of scripture and the characters in it.

 

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Roundtable: Liturgy and Practice in Stapley’s *Power of Godliness*

By March 23, 2018


In reflections earlier in the week, J Johnson and J Stuart offered thoughts on how Jonathan Stapley?s excellent new book, The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, models the kind of attentiveness to ?lived theology? that some scholars have called for, and which has been characterized as part of the analytical school of ?lived religion.? This is not the theology of the elites, but rather, as Robert Orsi put it, the ?theology of the streets?: vernacular meaning-making and ?cultural bricolage? performed by ordinary people [1]. It is colored by the vicissitudes of ordinary life and, while informed by the pronouncements of religious authority figures, it is not bounded by them. This is experiential theology, and it matches with the premium valued place by the ?lived religion? approach upon experience. Johnson and Stuart are quite right; Stapley has, in his deployment of ?cosmology,? certainly succeeded in his aspiration to ?[open] new possibilities for understanding the lived experiences of women and men in the Mormon past and Mormon present? (pg. 2).  In this reflection, however, I offer a few thoughts not (or at least not directly) on ?cosmology? or theology, but on the other major category of Stapley?s book, ?liturgy,? and on how The Power of Godliness relates to the study of religious practice in Mormon history and in American religious history more generally.

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Roundtable on Stapley, Power of Godliness: The Cultural Context(s) for Mormonism’s Priesthood

By March 22, 2018


[This is the fourth in our week-long roundtable on Jonathan Stapley’s The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology (Oxford University Press). You should make sure to read Tona’s post here, Joey’s post here and Janiece’s here. Building on their excellent reviews, I’d like to focus my remarks on a couple questions Stapley’s book raised.]

Modern Mormon discourse often revolves around the priesthood. Does the LDS Church’s conception of the priesthood lead to too much of a hierarchical organization? Does it inevitably result in abuses of power? Does it make gender equality impossible?

Jonathan Stapley’s new book does not seek to answer these questions. He makes it clear in the introduction that he wishes to steer clear of the political implications of Mormonism’s priesthood tradition. But what he does is destabilize the very conception of the “priesthood” itself. For the church’s first century, early Mormons believed in what Stapley calls a “cosmological priesthood,” a heavenly network that bound individuals together in order to form a communal salvific unit. Mormons were, quite explicitly, creating the celestial kingdom, and the priesthood served as ligaments holding everything together. But starting during the progressive era, members of the faith shifted toward an ecclesiastical framework for understanding the priesthood, a paradigm that focused entirely on ecclesiastical offices held by men. That shift eventually led to the Mormonism of today.

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Roundtable: Stuart on *The Power of Godliness*

By March 20, 2018


Jonathan Stapley?s The Power of Godliness is a landmark for Mormon Studies. There are precious few academic, peer-reviewed publications that succinctly and accessibly explain the development of Mormonism?s definitions of priesthood and liturgical practices. While there are certain rough edges that could be smoothed out, it?s altogether remarkable that Stapley produced this book. It?s even more astounding that he wrote the book while working in the private sector, without summers for research or other designated ?work? times that many academic need to produce scholarship.

I?d like to focus on two aspects of Stapley?s work that I think are worth emulating in future work in Mormon Studies. First, I consider how Stapley?s work ?does? theology in an academically viable way. Second, I reflect on Stapley?s use of religious studies methodologies throughout his manuscript.

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Book Review: The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology (Oxford, 2018)

By March 19, 2018


As Joan Scott said, ?Those who would codify the meaning of words fight a losing battle, for words, like the ideas and things they are meant to signify, have a history.? [1] Jonathan Stapley?s important new book, Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology explores the history of priesthood, one of Mormonism?s most fractious and fertile ideas, a word that contains worlds of complex meaning and diversity of lived practice about sacred authority and divine power. His work does so primarily by cleaving elements of Mormon priesthood into two general categories, which have too often become conflated in contemporary Mormon discourse and history: cosmology and ecclesiology [2]. Both deserve closer examination if we are to understand just what makes this book so significant and refreshing.

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Book Review: Terryl Givens, Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis (Oxford, 2017)

By March 12, 2018


With Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis, published with Oxford last year, Terryl Givens has brought us the second installment in his magisterial and systematic treatment of Mormon theology. It follows on the heels of Wrestling the Angel, issued from the same press in 2014. That book explored what Givens designated as the global themes of Mormon thought?history, theology, and “restoration”?as well as core elements of its Christian theology?its cosmology, its theology proper (that is, its conceptions of the divine), and its theological anthropology. This second volume (which, like the previous one, weighs in at over four hundred pages) has a different and narrower scope: it is devoted almost entirely, as Givens acknowledges, to ecclesiology?to Mormon teachings about the church, its activities, and the theological structures which undergird them. Suffice it to say, as an opening, that Feeding the Flock offers the ambitious, expansive, visionary style that we?ve come to expect from Givens. It is a well-wrought, elegantly gathered work. As he did in Wrestling the Angel, Givens once again sets an entirely new standard for the study of Mormonism?s theological foundations. And he sets the bar high.

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Book Review: When Religion, Race, and Sport Collide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)

By March 4, 2018


We are pleased to post this review from Craig Yugawa, a medical student at Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow Craig on Twitter

Darron T. Smith?s When Race, Religion and Sport Collide: Black Athletes at BYU and Beyond is a skillful recounting of the tenuous status black college athletes face in the larger American context, especially those at ?Predominantly White Institutions? (PWIs). While covering athletics in America more broadly, Smith uses BYU?s unique institutional and racial history as a lens to focus on the societal and cultural barriers commonly faced by black athletes who repeatedly face ?objectification of their bodies, [while at the same time] leav[ing] the ivy tower battered, bruised, and empty-handed? (148). This timely work is a compelling narrative which weaves together easily understood personal anecdotes; high level social science, medical, and humanities research; and theological summary to flesh out the complicated relationship between the LDS church and the athletes of color at its flagship university.

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