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JIers in Print

The First Vision Gets Sunstoned

By July 6, 2011


There has been a lot of books and articles on the First Vision. But the recent article by our own Steve Taysom, which appeared in the newest issue of Sunstone, may be the first that references Mircea Eliade, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Stephen King. Indeed, Steve’s article is a fresh perspective in a debate that grows old quickly, and he demonstrates how theory—and, more generally, tools borrowed from the interdisciplinary nature of religious studies—can give us important insights on traditional narratives. Part of Sunstone’s “Mapping Mormon Issues” series, where they sponsor a researcher to examine and explain controversial aspects in Mormon history, “Approaching the First Vision Saga” attempts to do three things: first, detail the famous accounts and circumstances surrounding Smith’s 1820 theophany; second, outline how past historians, scholars, and amateurs have approached the topic; and third, hint to what a possibly more insightful framework might be.

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Book Notice-Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore

By February 13, 2011


Hitting shelves this April is this long-awaited collection of essays edited by Paul Reeve and Michael S. Van Wagenen and which features the work of two JIers: Matt and Stan. The book’s webpage states that,

Mormons gave distinctive meanings to supernatural legends and events, but their narratives incorporated motifs found in many cultures. Many such historical legends and beliefs found adherents down to the present. This collection employs folklore to illuminate the cultural and religious history of a people.

The contents:

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News and Notes from MHA

By January 27, 2011


MHA put up its quarterly newspaper this week, and there are a few items worth noting.

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Joseph Smith and Matthew Philip Gill: the dynamics of Mormon schism

By January 18, 2011


Jacob Baker and I discovered the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ while Bushman summer fellows in 2007.    We spent a lot of time kicking back and forth analysis of this most interesting schism group, and organized an MHA panel around them in 2008.    And, today, the turgid pace of academic publishing has finally reached consummation, and the paper I wrote that summer has been published in the current issue of Nova Religio 14:3 (February 2011) 42-63.

The Latter Day Church is fascinating in part because of how skillfully Matthew Philip Gill engages in prophetic mimesis, replicating the experiences and language of Joseph Smith to create himself as Smith’s heir, calling to repentance the failed church of Salt Lake City and promising a re-invigorated version of Mormon spirituality – one which both invokes Joseph Smith’s charisma anew, but which also rewrites the sacred history of Mormonism in ways that follow the cultural accommodations the LDS church has made.   Gill’s movement is neither sectarian – which seeks to heighten tension with Western culture – nor a church movement – one which seeks to lessen that tension.  Rather, scholars like Armand Mauss and Thomas O’Dea have observed that the LDS Church itself seems to combine both of these impulses, oscillating back and forth along a spectrum of resistance, tension, and accommodation.  Just so, the Latter Day Church of Christ itself seeks to heighten both resistance and accommodation – rejecting, for instance, evidence that Joseph Smith ever practiced polygamy and embracing whole-heartedly the LDS church’s sentimental emphasis upon the family, but also heightening the sort of radical spiritual claims which have become routinized in American Mormonism.   Gill, after all, has had visionary experiences of all the figures Joseph Smith claimed to have encountered, adding a resurrected Joseph himself into the bargain.   As his father (and first counselor) asks derisively of the LDS Church, “We have again an era of prophets.  Proper prophets.  Not people who are just put into position and over time get to be a prophet . . . Where?s the revelation in that?”    And such is a new church born.

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Q&A with Stephen C. Taysom, author of Shakers, Mormons and Religious Worlds: conflicting visions, contested boundaries (part II)

By December 9, 2010


Below is part II of our q&a with Stephen C. Taysom.

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Q&A with Stephen C. Taysom, author of Shakers, Mormons and Religious Worlds: conflicting visions, contested boundaries (part I)

By December 7, 2010


Over the past two months, Matt Bowman and Steve Taysom have had an ongoing dialogue about Taysom’s new book, in part in response to your questions.  Part I is below; part II will come Thursday.

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2010 in Retrospect: A Glance at some of the Scholarly Books and Articles in Mormon History

By December 6, 2010


I love year-in-review lists. Building on last year’s post, this is a retrospective of 2010’s scholarly output in Mormon studies. I hope to add to the excellent posts by Jared (forthcoming) and J Stapley by listing not only books, but articles that also deserve attention. (As noted recently, historians should really reconsider our “journal standard,” and place more importance on scholarship other than monographs.) I also like this format because it allows reflections on general trends within Mormon studies and historiography in general.

I am bound to overlook some books and articles that others feel are significant. This is not on purpose–it is more a result of being 1) lazy 2) limited in my personal interests, or 3) ignorant of work while being stranded across the Atlantic Ocean. I hope people will mention and discuss the texts I overlook in the comments. There could also be another post dedicated to the excellent historical posts found in the bloggernacle over the last year–but that would be beyond the scopes of this retrospect.

[Note: Some of these works have a publication date of 2009. I include these for one of two reasons. 1) They were published after I posted last year’s retrospective (the perils of posting at the beginning of December). 2) Though they have a 2009 publication date, they actually didn’t appear until 2010.]

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Book Announcement: Stephen C. Taysom, Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries

By October 22, 2010


Stephen C. Taysom. Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. xvi + 263 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $34.95. Cloth.

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“A Uniformity So Complete”: Early Mormon Angelology

By July 15, 2010


[To continue my attempt to post something without much work on my part, what follows is the introduction to my recent article, just put online by the Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies. I post this also to encourage other graduate students to consider submitting to IMW Journal in the future; while it is a student-run production, it boasts an impressive academic review board with professional and respected scholars to help improve your submission; I received great feedback on my earlier drafts that significantly improved the article. To view the articles from the most recent issue, as well as to see submission guidelines,  click here.]

?An angel of God never has wings,? proclaimed Joseph Smith in 1839, just as the LDS Church was establishing itself in what would come to be known as Nauvoo, Illinois.

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New Article: “Salvation Through a Tabernacle: Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and Early Mormon Theologies of Embodiment”

By June 8, 2010


[The following is the introduction to my recently published article in Dialogue. I post it here with three goals in mind: 1) To get any feedback/corrections/accusations on the article, as well as to provide discussion for anyone else who finds the topic as fascinating as I do. 2) To fulfill my guilt and anxiety to post something of substance here, but doing so without much work on my part. 3) To remind everyone what a great resource Dialogue is, and how awesome they are for strengthening their online presence. For those who haven’t done so yet, go to their website right now and subscribe and/or donate!]

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Recent Comments

J. Stapley on A note on the: “Have you seen anything like on this side of the Atlantic, Steve?”


Steve Fleming on A note on the: “My footnote to patriarchal blessings: Such blessings of parents to children were also a medieval and early modern folk practice. Keith Thomas refers to the practice,…”


J. Stapley on A note on the: “Thanks John. I hadn't thought of that and some googling around suggests that it is a thing. Methodist back to school…”


John Turner on A note on the: “Great post, Jonathan. I wonder how common similar rituals are in other traditions. For instance, I can imagine that many evangelical parents -- and even…”


J. Stapley on A note on the: “A bit of an addendum, now that I have had a chance to research some more. The 1976 General Handbook included a quote from…”


J. Stapley on A note on the: “Thanks for that pointer, Clark. If I've done my math and sleuthing correctly, that would put that story in the late 1960s or early…”

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