A note on the history of back-to-school blessings

By August 20, 2019

I am a practicing Latter-day Saint. I grew up practicing. One of the things that I remember from my childhood in the 1980s is when my father layed his hands on the heads of my siblings and I and blessed us at the beginning of the school year. I recently blessed my oldest child before he left for the first year of college and will bless his younger siblings in a couple of weeks. Today a friend asked me when this practice started.

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30-50 feral hogs or unruly swine?

By August 12, 2019

Twitter was created for certain things, and one of those things occured last week. If you missed the twitter fracas centered on 30-50 feral hogs last week, catch up. It was good.

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Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought announces a new editor

By August 8, 2019

The Dialogue Foundation’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Taylor Petrey, Associate Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, has been appointed the next editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Petrey holds a BA in philosophy and religion from Pace University, and both an MTS  and a Th.D. degree from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity. He joined the faculty of Kalamazoo College in 2010 and served as the Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program from 2012 through 2016. He is currently chair of the Religion Department.

Petrey is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on Mormonism, gender, sexuality, and early Christian thought. His essay “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology” received Dialogues “Best Article” award in 2011 and has become one of the most downloaded and cited articles in the journal’s history.

“We are very excited that Taylor has agreed to become our next editor, said Dialogue Board chair Michael Austin. “He brings a profound understanding of some of the most crucial issues in Mormon Studies today–issues surrounding gender and sexuality, international Mormonism, interfaith connections, and inclusive theology. And he also understands what it takes to do academic publishing in the information age.”

Under Petrey’s leadership, Dialogue will enter its 54th year of publishing articles, personal essays, fiction, poetry, and sermons relating to the Mormon experience. Dialogue began publication in 1966 with Eugene England as its founding editor. Since that time, the journal has published four issues a year. 

In 2018, Dialogue moved the electronic version of its journal from a subscription-supported to a donor-supported publication model. All of its content is now free on the Internet from the moment of its publication. In 2020, Dialogue will begin partnering with the University of Illinois Press to produce the print edition of the journal and will make all of its past issues available through JSTOR and other electronic databases. 

“This is an exciting time for academic journals generally,” said BYU History Professor Rebecca de Schweinitz, a Dialogue Board member who co-chaired the search committee that recommended Petrey for the editorship. “And it is an especially exciting time for Mormon Studies. We need somebody at the helm who understands both the new audiences that have emerged and the new technologies needed to reach them. Taylor is an exemplary scholar with a deep understanding of the modern publishing world.” 

“I am thrilled to join Dialogue and to be a part of the legacy of this great journal,” says Petrey. “This journal reflects and shapes the best of Latter-day Saint thought, culture, and scholarship and I can’t wait to embark on the next phase of the LDS tradition’s premier intellectual and literary venue.” 

Petrey will replace Boyd Petersen, who has been Dialogue’s editor since 2016. Please join us in welcoming him to the team.  We appreciate your continued support of the journal.

“The spirit of murder seems to be on the increase … due to the increase in firearms”: George Q. Cannon Denounces Gun Violence, 1891

By August 5, 2019

In the July 15, 1891 issue of the (original) Juvenile Instructor, Mormon apostle and editor George Q. Cannon penned an editorial entitled, “Obedience — Do not Kill.” As that title implies, Cannon’s editorial contains both advice to parents on raising obedient children (“the best family government is that in which the judgment of children is appealed to and they are shown, by kind words, that the requests made of them are for their benefit and happiness”) and a denunciation of violence and bloodshed.

Cannon’s aim is broad — he decries both murder and, in words that seem as foreign to modern Mormonism as polygamy — hunting for sport. But his primary focus is on the shedding of innocent human blood, and in light of additional mass shootings this past weekend, Cannon’s words are all too relevant:

The spirit of murder seems to be on the increase in our day. This is partly due to the increase of firearms and to their cheapness, also to the fashion which prevails in many quarters of carrying deadly weapons. The frequency with which shooting is done also has its effect to break down the feeling of sacredness which should surround human life.

George Q. Cannon, “Obedience — Do not Kill,” Juvenile Instructor 26:14 (July 15, 1891), 443

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Review: Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith

By July 29, 2019

Juvenile Instructor is grateful for a JI-emeritus writer, Brett Dowdle, for writing this review! Dr. Dowdle is a historian for the Joseph Smith Papers Project and holds a Ph.D. in American History from Texas Christian University.

Review, Thomas G. Alexander, Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019).

Image result for Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith

            Despite its immense popularity, few genres of historical writing are more complex than that of biography. Those figures who tend to merit the kind of biographies that will be widely read generally carry with them a host of popular perceptions and myths that either border on demonization or hagiographic adoration. In most cases, the best biographies must ultimately find someplace in the muddy middle, displaying the complexity and humanity of the subject. Thomas Alexander’s recent biography of Brigham Young does an admirable job of finding just such a place for the controversial leader. The result is a highly readable and fast-paced biography that is approachable to both trained historians and the interested public.

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Paid Intern (Full-time)- Church History Department

By July 23, 2019

UNITED STATES |  UT-Salt Lake City

ID 239568, Type: Temporary Full-Time


Posting Dates: 07/22/2019 – 08/05/2019

Job Family: Human Resources

Department: Church History Department


The Church History Library is seeking a candidate for a one-year, full-time (40 hours/week) paid internship opportunity working with archivists in arranging, describing, and preparing records for digitization which are related to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members.


  • Process archival records in paper, audiovisual, and/or electronic form.
  • Participate in intake activities of newly acquired collections.
  • Create finding aids using the EAD register and rendering tool.
  • Assist in preparing paper and electronic records for digital preservation.
  • Assist in workflow management of records from acquisitions and processing to digitization and storage.
  • Review/edit cataloging work of others.
  • Develop expertise with the cataloging system to capture descriptive metadata, adhering to internal and professional standards.
  • Contribute to a collegial and professional atmosphere that incorporates the highest standards of behavior and cooperation, promoting teamwork and group purposes.


  • Required: Bachelor’s degree in history, humanities, or related field
  • Preferred: Master’s (earned or in process) in archival studies, library science, or history
  • Understanding of archival theory and practices
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office suite
  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Highly detail-oriented with excellent writing and editing skills
  • Willingness to dress and present oneself appropriately
  • Experience teaching and/or training (in any setting)
  • Knowledge of the historiography and sources of Church history
  • Proficiency in working both independently and in a team setting
  • Experience conducting research and/or working in an archive, including arranging and describing archival collections


Must be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and currently temple worthy.


Please Note: All positions are subject to close without notice. 

Find out more about the many benefits of Church Employment at

Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision Account and Plato’s Cave

By July 12, 2019

So Universal Theosophy having recently put Thomas Taylor’s 1804 translation of Plato’s works online has made it a whole lot easier to go through the edition of Plato’s works that would have been available in Joseph Smith’s day. I’ve argued that Smith seemed to have used Taylor’s translation, but I was still surprised to have just discovered the striking similarities between certain passages in Smith’s 1832 account of his First Vision and Taylor’s translation of Plato’s cave allegory from the Republic, especially lines 515 to 517. As I argued last year that Smith seemed to have drawn on the passage just after this for the description of Christ in the Olive Leaf revelation (which he dictated the same year), I do see these similarities as evidence that Smith read, knew, and used Plato. And that fact that Plato showed up so prominently in this earliest account of this founding event, I would argue, is a very big deal.

Here’s a write up that I just put together.

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Digitized Publications Available from Utah Archives

By July 8, 2019

This post will focus on digitized periodicals and publications available through Utah archives related to Mormon history. All of these sources are very helpful for doing research, both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in particular has a rich history of magazines, though many of these magazines ended in 1970 with the push towards correlation and consolidation. Even though this post is focused on publications, I will also include a few other helpful links and materials. Before I get going, I want to express my gratitude to all the archivists and employees at so many archives who worked to make this material available. These are such rich sources, and being able to access so many remotely is just awesome. And it wouldn’t be possible without all the labor these people put in.

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JSPP Documents 5 goes to Class

By July 5, 2019

The Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Documents 5: October 1835-January 1838 provides an in-depth series of sources relating to building of the Kirtland Temple, economic collapse related to the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society, the expulsion of Mormons Missouri, and religious dissent. In this post, I’d like to highlight how a teacher might use documents from this volume in a broader American History class.[1]

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“Your Sister in the Gospel”: What do We Know and How do We Remember Jane Manning James?

By July 4, 2019

Quincy Newell’s biography of Jane Manning James is a significant and important piece of scholarship, not only for the field of Latter-day Saint history, but also for African American, women’s, Western, and the larger field of American religious history. Newell carefully takes readers through these histories and shows how Jane’s life connects all of them. This is a critical aspect of Newell’s methodology because even though Jane’s life is fairly well-documented, scholars must necessarily rely on the historical context of Jane’s life to help tell her story. Fortunately for her readers, this is something that Newell excels at. As J Stuart pointed out in an earlier round table post, Newell uses words like “perhaps” and “likely” when describing possible interpretations of the events in Jane’s life rather than imposing her own narrative. Indeed, Newell’s work serves as an example of how historians should approach subjects with limited documentary evidence while still connecting that subject to wide historical developments.

One of the merits of Newell’s work is that she provides us a view of Mormonism through Jane’s life, which in and of itself is a “history of Mormonism from below” (pg. 135). Mormon history has been told and retold through the lives and tenures of its leaders—important white males—and by subverting that structure, Newell illuminates the lived religious experience of an African American woman who made the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints her religious home in spite of all that she went through. This “from below” approach encourages research centering on how women of any and all races participated in Mormonism from the nineteenth century to the present. As Newell and others have demonstrated, scholars are only beginning to scratch the surface of Latter-day Saint history that incorporates source content created by women, particularly as it relates to women of color.

Newell’s Your Sister in the Gospel is not the final word on Jane’s story. Instead, it is a foundational monograph for future studies on other Latter-day Saints who were not in powerful leadership positions and whose experience as a member of the church was impacted by their race and gender. Indeed, the appendices included in the back of the book (including two patriarchal blessings) make it more of an initiative or starting point than an exhaustive conclusion. It’s fair to say that Newell hopes that these primary sources will help other scholars interested in black Latter-day Saints in the nineteenth century and that scholars in other fields will benefit from the eased accessibility of these documents.

In the epilogue, Newell briefly mentions how Jane has been remembered by Latter-day Saints in the last few decades and especially in the last three years. Jane is a very interesting historical subject, but so is her legacy and the narratives that are claimed and told (or performed) about her at certain moments in time. I’m particularly intrigued by the possibilities for studies on the memory of Jane and how both black Latter-day Saints and the church at large have utilized her connection to the life of Joseph Smith and early church history. Your Sister in the Gospel provides a sound historical basis for such studies and will inform further memory projects about Jane in the future. And in its own way, Newell’s book is as much a presentation of historical research as it is a part of the zeitgeist in Mormon studies and more recent popular trends in Latter-day Saint culture. This timely biography of Jane Manning James succeeds in informing and participating in current memory-making developments.

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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…”

The Other Clark on A note on the: “Great post. I look forward to the contributions of others to the conversation. My two cents: 1) One memorable school blessing story "on the…”

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Ben P on 30-50 feral hogs or: “brb, trying to stop the presses so I can fit it in...”