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International Mormonism

Book Review: Colvin and Brooks, Decolonizing Mormonism: Approaching a Postcolonial Zion

By September 9, 2019


Gina Colvin and Joanna Brooks provide an important intervention into the field of Mormon studies with their edited volume of essays by thirteen scholars. The authors in Decolonizing Mormonism show the power dynamics that become visible by looking at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a global lens. By viewing Mormonism from the margins, these scholars argue, it is possible to see the colonial history and structures within the LDS tradition. Colvin and Brooks are not just interested in producing scholarship to observe these dynamics. They also call for change, saying that the metropole needs to listen to these voices forgotten both by the institutional church and by Mormon studies scholars. These authors argue that the margins provide the answers to decolonize both the church and scholarship and bring Zion into existence. This is not just an historical text. The intent of this book is to challenge the stories often reflected in Mormon history, arguing that scholars can no longer be complacent in the continued narratives of colonization.

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DH and the Woman’s Exponent

By June 14, 2019


“The techno-revolution has begun! Soon, robots will scour women’s words and discover the truth about everything.” Or, at least, that’s what I imagine Brigham Young would have said if he had read the University of Utah’s Digital Matters Lab and BYU’s Office of Digital Humanities’ preliminary report on topic modeling the Woman’s Exponent. Sounds like something he’d say.

The “Quick and Dirty Topic Model” is a sneak-peek at a larger project that will be released with Better Days 2020, which is the sesquicentennial celebration of women’s suffrage and the centennial of the 19th Amendment. It sounds like the results of the later slow and thorough topic model will be released in a digital and explorable format with the Better Days celebrations.

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From the Archives: Black Internationalism in 19th Century Salt Lake City; or a Haitian-born African American in Utah Reports on the Fourth of July, 1873

By July 4, 2018


NOTE: The original version of this post was based, in part, on faulty research, for which I take full blame. What appears below is a revised version (with a slightly modified title).  There is no documentation identifying either Francis or Martha Grice as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Believing, however, that the source shared below is still sufficiently interesting and important, I’m keeping the post. A copy of the original can be seen here

I’ve been slowly making my way through Paul Ortiz’s new book, An African American and Latinx History of the United StatesIn a chapter on the Cuban Solidarity Movement of the 1860s through the 1890s, Ortiz quotes an 1873 letter from “an African American in Salt Lake City,” published in the black-owned newspaper, The Elevator.[1] Curious to learn more (and anxious to see if there were any clues where the SLC correspondent was a Latter-day Saint), I searched for the original letter in the digitized version of the paper (courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection), and to my great delight, discovered that it was written by Francis H. Grice, a “mulatto” artist, miner, and restauranteur who moved to Salt Lake City in 1871.[2] 

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Book Review: Hokulani K. Aikau’s A Chosen People, A Promised Land: Mormonism and Race in Hawai‘i

By June 18, 2018


Hokulani K. Aikau’s book, A Chosen People, A Promised Land, published in 2012, is an important work on Mormonism in the Pacific, addressing the colonial legacy of the church and its racial ideologies. Back in 2013 here on this blog, Aikau’s work was listed as an important work in Mormon history and the history of indigenous peoples. But the Juvenile Instructor blog has never had a full review of Aikau’s book published. In order to fix this error, this post includes a portion of my review of Aikau’s book that was just published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History. 

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From the Archives: Mormonism in Barbados (Almost), 1853

By March 13, 2018


(detail from John Arrowsmith, Map of the Windward Islands, 1844. Click on image for original)

Last month, Elder Dale Renlund visited the West Indian island of Barbados, which he dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. The timing of his doing so carries with it some special significance. As Elder Renlund noted in his remarks, the West Indies Mission was first dedicated thirty years ago, in 1988. And it was, of course, forty years ago this summer that the temple and priesthood ban denying black women and men certain blessings and opportunities in the church was lifted, which opened up Barbados and the other predominantly black Caribbean islands for full-fledged missionary work. 

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Mormonism in The Moslem Sunrise, 1922

By December 21, 2017


In 1921, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, a representative of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the first Muslim missionary to America, launched the The Moslem Sunrise, a newspaper intended to help proselytize Americans. In its October 6, 1922 issue, Sudiq included a short excerpt from another paper on “Mormon Christians.” Here it is in its entirety:

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Review: Östman on Allen, Danish, But Not Lutheran

By November 30, 2017


We are pleased to post this book review by friend of the JI Kim Östman, who has researched and written extensively on Mormonism in the northern-European country of Finland. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative religion from Åbo Akademi University (2011) and a D.Sc. in microelectronics from Helsinki University of Technology (2014), and works as a Senior R&D Engineer with Nordic Semiconductor.

Dr. Östman?s research on nineteenth-century Mormonism in Finland was published as a doctoral dissertation by Åbo Akademi University Press. It discusses how Mormonism was viewed in Finnish print media, by local civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and what kind of results the LDS church’s Swedish-led missionary efforts in perilous legal conditions led to. A co-founder of the European Mormon Studies Association (EMSA), he is continuing his Mormon history research into early twentieth-century Finland and Sweden on his free time, as a post-doctoral scholar affiliated with Åbo Akademi University.

Julie K. Allen: Danish but Not Lutheran: The Impact of Mormonism on Danish Cultural Identity, 1850?1920. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2017, 288pp.

Scandinavians are overwhelmingly Lutheran to this day, although religiosity has tended to give way to “believing in belonging” during the past centuries. Their national churches are still seen as custodians of culturally significant rites of passage, bringing people together at life?s critical junctures. As Prof. Julie Allen explains in her study of Mormonism?s impact on Danish culture and identity, Denmark was the first Nordic nation to officially decouple citizenship from Lutheranism. Being a Dane had meant being Lutheran, but the new 1849 constitution separated the two identities by legalizing the activity of new religious movements while retaining the privileged position of the state church. This leap in religious freedom was preceded by for example Baptist activity in the kingdom.

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Mormons and Refugees: A Reading List from the Juvenile Instructor and Friends

By January 29, 2017


lds armenian refugees 1921_zpsdtce7hd8

Image courtesy of Ardis Parshall, keepapitchinin.org.

Some recommended reading from Juvenile Instructor bloggers and friends on the history of Mormonism and/as refugees:


Year in Review … 1975, That Is

By December 30, 2016


It?s the time for year-in-review articles and retrospectives, as we get ready to kick 2016 out the door. I’m not sure how to put my thoughts about this year into coherent words, so maybe I’d rather write about some other proxy year instead. Some months ago, I posted about the Church?s annual Church in Action films by profiling the 1973 version. I recently began teaching Institute in my stake and because of a boundary change I took over mid-semester in the Cornerstones class about Church history and the Restoration. Joey Stuart?s thought-provoking piece earlier this fall on Mormonism’s biggest “change year” challenged me to find a way to present some of the rapid transformations in Church demographics, policies and practices that have taken place in recent decades for the last class in the semester. I thought bringing in one of the Church in Action recaps might highlight both continuity and change in recent Mormonism. It definitely did; we had a lively discussion about the film and what had / hadn’t changed since then.

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Review: Philip Lockley, ed., Protestant Communalism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1650-1850

By July 14, 2016


Protestant CommunalismPhilip Lockley, ed., Protestant Communalism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1650-1850 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). 

A little more than five years ago, I posted some thoughts on Scott Rohrer’s chapter on Mormonism in his Wandering Souls: Protestant Migrations in America, 1630-1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). I was particularly intrigued by his inclusion of Mormonism in a volume on Protestant migrations, and a lively conversation and debate over whether Mormonism is, was, or ever has been Protestant ensued in the comments.

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