Announcement: George Q. Cannon Journals Blog Series

By June 27, 2018

In 1849, George Q. Cannon began his first known journal documenting his journey to the California gold mines. Fifty years later, his last known journal recounts his final trip to California in hopes of finding a healthier climate. The intervening journals—for a combined total of 52 notebooks, blank books, typescripts, and published day planners—offer an extensive (some might say overwhelming) record of this prominent leader of the LDS Church. This morning, the Church Historian’s Press published the final installment of the Cannon journals, offering a tremendous source for nineteenth-century Mormon history from one of its most influential members and leaders. (Website here and e-book here)

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News from Church Historian’s Press

By June 20, 2018

For those not paying close attention, a fairly important milestone might go unnoticed at the Church Historian’s Press website. The church just announced that last year’s volume, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, is now available in Spanish and Portuguese on the Church Historian’s Press website. Later this week the translated volume will also appear in the Gospel Library app. Having published numerous books, this is the first volume from the Church Historian’s Press in a language other than English. Given the international growth in the latter half of the twentieth century—particularly in the Southern Hemisphere—this is a crucial step in reaching members and scholars outside the English-reading wards, branches, and universities.


Four Tips for Attending MHA as a Non-Mormon

By June 6, 2018

MHA is one of my favorite conferences. People are friendly and approachable, there are always a wide variety of panels, and it’s a great place to catch up on what’s happening in Mormon Studies. That said, MHA is also a very Mormon space. Here are four tips for getting through MHA with your Gentile-ness intact.

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Taves’s Revelatory Events, pt. 6: What Jane Lead Said (pt. 2)

By June 5, 2018

The passage I cited in my previous post (“The Angelical Key”) contained the following side note: “This Vision is a more distinct Revival of a former one, that was given several Years before, and is already Published in the First Volume of this Diary, pag.22 Entitled, The Key of the Great Mystery. Which ought therefore to be compared with this.”

In that vision (see “In the Month of August”), Lead seeks a key to unlock a gate to the Holy City, but is unable to make it. Wisdom then comes to her and says that she shouldn’t feel bad since most have failed at this, and then adds,

But in as much as thou ownest and bewailest thy unskillfulness, I will make known to thee what Key will turn this great Wheel of my Wisdom, so as it may move, and manifest it self in thee, through all thy Properties, if thou canst bid up to the Price of it. For understand that it is compounded of all pure Gold…. But the great thing, saith Wisdom, now is to discipline and make thy Spirit a cunning Artist, to give it Knowledge of what Matter in Number, Weight and Measure this pure Key is made up of, which is all pure Deity in the Number THREE; which is weighty indeed, being one exceeding weighty Glory.

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Taves’s Revelatory Events, pt. 5: What Jane Lead Said (pt. 1)

By June 4, 2018

Part 1, 2, 3, 4

The line about an object being touched and transformed by “the Finger of God,” at the beginning of the second paragraph (below) is what struck me about this passage from a vision Jane Lead titled, “The Angelical Key,” from her third journal. I’ve posted some of the numerous similarities between Lead’s visions and Mormonism and the following is one of many more like it. The abundance of passages like the following have convinced me that Joseph Smith knew Lead’s writings well.[1]

The following not only has parallels to the brother of Jared’s experience but also suggests the need for one to create a special object before one could gain knowledge. It doesn’t mention gold plates, but Lead does mention a gold book in another passage and I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

What follows is Lead’s “The Angelical Key,” (see here under November 16, 1678) with some of my commentary afterwards.

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Taves’s Revelatory Events, pt. 4: Personal Reflections

By June 3, 2018

Reading Revelatory Events was curious experience for me. Not only am I Taves’s former student who is researching and writing on Joseph Smith, but I’ve also been a believer in supernatural and revelatory events not only for Joseph Smith and Mormon history, but in my own life.

I’ve naturally engaged in plenty of reflection on these topics, but Revelatory Events brought my experiences into particular focus with discussion of certain traits like highly-hypnotizable individuals and benign schizotypy. Having been friends with some of Ann’s other students at UCSB that worked on cognitive science and religion, I had the chance to discuss these kinds of topics including various methods that scholars use to determine these traits. I do not know the names of these scales, but scholars will do surveys how “susceptible” one is based on their tendency toward being highly imaginative and having unusual/spiritual experiences. Simply put, I’d probably rank high on those charts.

In the spirit of applying these methods to one’s self I’ll mention two experiences I had that had to do with Ann.

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How I Approach MHA Conferences as a Graduate Student

By May 30, 2018

Edje and several readers gave some excellent advice for first-time MHA attendees. I heartily endorse everything that was said, particularly the need to show up to events like the First-Timers’ Breakfast and the Student Reception (find them here with the rest of the program). MHA’s student rep, Hannah Jung, has worked incredibly hard to make the reception successful. Show up. Get some food. Win a book (everyone that attends will get one). Seriously. DO IT.

All this being said, I think that there are several important things that first-time attending graduate students should keep in mind. After all, we have different concerns than other groups. MHA is one of the better academic organizations I’ve seen for encouraging student participation which can be to your benefit. Before diving in, I want to stress that you need to find ways to make conferences work for you. They are significant investments of time, energy, and money. Make sure that you are doing what you can to get the most out of your MHA experience.

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Q&A with Gary Bergera on Editing the Leonard J. Arrington Diaries

By May 29, 2018

Gary Bergera, the editor of the Leonard J. Arrington Diaries and Mananging Director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the diaries and their potential use. You can purchase the diaries HERE and read Matt’s review of them HERE.     

  1. Which topics of research in Mormon history would benefit most from the Leonard Arrington diaries?

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Attend MHA

By May 23, 2018

Last week commenter acw wrote: “As one who hasn’t ever attended but has considered it,, could you also post some kind of MHA for newbies guide? Like why and how to come/participate, etc.” Below I provide a general description of what to expect and how to attend. In a subsequent post I’ll talk about the whys and hows of my experience at MHA as an avocational historian. We’re hoping to get together a few other what-it’s-like posts from different perspectives.

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By May 21, 2018

Leonard Arrington loved people. “From as early as I can remember, I had a positive attitude toward people,” he wrote several years into his retirement. (3:645) Elsewhere he mused that had he not ended up a historian, “I would have been drawn into politics and would have done well, I think.” (3:133) Arrington was a handshaker and a backslapper, a gossip and a bearer of Christmas gifts. He was an extrovert, an inveterate socializer (out of the house four or five nights a week, some weeks, driven forward by a positive starvation for conversation that seems to have exhausted his wife Grace at times), and a manager loved by his subordinates for his care and supportiveness, if not his bureaucratic acumen.

Arrington’s delight in and longing for community was not simply a matter of temperament. It was a matter of theology. It was his Mormonism. That is not, of course, normally the theme his story is given. The diaries certainly document the better-known story; the fascinating account of Arrington’s service in what is variously called the Church Historian’s Office or Church History Division of the church’s Historical Department (a larger bureaucratic umbrella that also included the church’s archives and the department operating the church’s historic sites). Arrington’s appointment, initiated by First Presidency member N. Eldon Tanner with the support of church presidents Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball, came with a new mandate. Arrington and his staff were to research and publish material on the history of the Latter-day Saints. As his ten years in the job went on, the jovial Arrington was baffled when he found his work increasingly criticized, his office monitored, his subordinates questioned and their publications scrutinized for reasons he could never quite understand.

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