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Ritual

Scholarly Inquiry: Dan Belnap on Ritual, Pt. 1

By July 3, 2014


This post belongs to our occasional “Scholarly Inquiry” series which facilitates conversations with important scholars in Mormon history and studies. Today we reprise our focus on religious practice and ritual from a few months ago and hear from Dan Belnap, professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU. Belnap, who has a particular interest in ritual in both ancient and contemporary contexts, is the editor of a book entitled By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in History, Scripture, and Practice, and published by the Religious Studies Center at BYU and Deseret Book last year. (And it features, one must add, a stellar chapter from our very own J. Stapley on the development of Mormon ritual!) We appreciate Professor Belnap’s responses and invite your thoughtful engagement. Also, stay tuned for Part 2.

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Building a Bibliography: The History of Mormon Practice

By March 7, 2014


Today’s the day here at JI when, in keeping with our theme this month, we compile a listing of scholarship on the history of Mormon practice. This is intended to be a collaboration, so we hope you’ll jump in and contribute. The list below ought to get us going, but many studies have surely been overlooked, and the categories are arbitrary, so additions and reconfigurations are more than welcome. What works and categories are we missing? What glaring lacunae do you see in the field? What piques your interest? What trends can you identify? How much praise can we heap upon the superstars here? Share your thoughts and insights as we build a comprehensive bibliography.

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“Undone:” The Contours of a Folk Tale

By March 4, 2014


There?s a new Mormon urban legend making the rounds.

You may have heard it before ? even from me.

The story goes like this: an infant has been brought to be blessed and given a name in a Mormon sacrament meeting, a public rite of passage initiating the newborn into the community of the congregation, and by extension, into the Church as a whole. The father for whatever reason is unavailable to perform the ceremony, so an elderly relative, generally a grandfather, steps in. The child is brought before the congregation, the old man lays his hands upon it, and promptly ordains the child to priestly office. The blessing ritual has been bungled.

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Sewing Machine as Religious Technology?

By January 29, 2014


Recently, while listening to a podcast of the CBC?s Spark, a radio program that explores the intersection of technology and popular culture I was introduced to the work of Jeremy Stolow.  Stolow is a media historian in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University.  His principal interest is in religion and media and his research investigates the ?sometimes counter-intuitive and often paradoxical ways (ancient, modern, and contemporary) religions relate to processes, practices and technologies of mediated communication.? 

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Arapeen, the Ute Prophet

By November 26, 2013


Filed away in the Brigham Young Papers at the Church History Library, there is a document that records the vision of a nineteenth-century prophet. That visionary, however, was not Brigham Young. Rather, it was Arapeen, a leading Ute chief during the Mormons? first two decades in the Great Basin. That the Saints believed that Arapeen had received a legitimate revelation is revealed in the language they used to categorize the document. John Lowry, Jr., the Manti resident who interpreted for Arapeen, and George Peacock, who acted as scribe, entitled the document ?Vision of Arapine on the night of the 4th of Feb 1855.? Later, after it had been sent to Young?s office in Salt Lake City, an unidentified clerk scrawled ?The Lord to Arrowpin? in the margins.[1] Arapeen?s vision provides a fascinating window into the Utes? hybrid religious culture that was in the process of formation in the years following the Mormons? arrival in 1847.

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Guest Post: Justin Bray on Mormon Sacrament and Material Culture

By September 12, 2013


Justin Bray is an oral historian at the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also an MA student at the University of Utah, where he studies American religious history. He has presented and published several papers on the sacrament of the Lord?s Supper among the Latter-day Saints.

I?ve always found objects meaningful tools to reconstruct the past.

When my great-grandfather passed away many years ago, my dad inherited an old baseball bat?probably because my brothers and I couldn?t stop watching The Sandlot, and throughout our childhood we collected an unhealthy number of baseball cards. I really didn?t know anything about my great-grandfather (at the time), let alone that he was a baseball player. But the more attention I paid to the bat, the more the bat became a kind of lens into my great-grandfather?s world.

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Touchdown Jesus, Catholic Blessings, and Supporting Mormon Religion

By January 9, 2013


Not even a Catholic blessing could save Manti Te’o and the dying pop-culture Mormon moment he represents. (source: Wall Street Journal)

[cross-posted at Religion in American History]

On Monday afternoon, just hours before the Alabama Crimson Tide blew out the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS National Championship football game, Peggy Fletcher Stack posted a short note at the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Following Faith blog on the Catholic pregame rituals of ND.

Specifically, Stack drew readers’ attention to the Mormon story embedded within a fuller exploration of that subject at the Wall Street Journal: Star linebacker, Heisman Trophy runner-up, and devout Mormon Manti Te’o joins his teammates in “attend[ing] a Catholic Mass, receiv[ing] ‘a priest-blessed medal devoted to a Catholic saint,’ and ‘kiss[ing] a shrine containing two slivers Notre Dame believes came from Jesus? cross.'” He was even photographed receiving a blessing from Notre Dame president emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh (a blessing Te’o reportedly sought out). Football team chaplain Father Paul Doyle explained that Te’o has privately told him that “he feels supported here [at Notre Dame] in his Mormon religion.”

All of this immediately brought to mind some of my previous thoughts on Mormon supplemental worship, in which Latter-day Saints supplement their Mormon activity by attending other Christian church’s services (a habit that dates back to at least the late nineteenth century). While the example provided by Te’o is clearly part of that larger historical tradition, it also strikes me as unique for a couple of reasons:

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Lecture Report: Janet Bennion and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on “The Faces of Eve: Varieties of Mormon Feminism”

By November 3, 2012


On Thursday, October 25, Janet Bennion, Professor of Anthropology at Lyndon State College in Vermont, delivered a lecture, ?The Faces of Eve: Varieties of Mormon Feminism,? at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University. Professor Bennion is an expert on the contemporary practice of polygamy among Mormon fundamentalists, and the author of several books on the subject. Bennion?s lecture focused on her most recent book, Polygamy in Primetime: Media, Gender, and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism, which she presented as a synthesis of her more than twenty years of research among polygamous groups in North America. Her goal, she said, was to produce a readable work that would educate the general public about these groups, as well as better preparing law enforcement officials to deal with them?and thus to avoid another event like the ill-managed 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas.

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Responding to Christopher Smith on adoption

By April 24, 2012


[The following is Jonathan Stapley’s response to Christopher Smith’s post.]

First, I want to thank Christopher Smith for his critical reading of both my ritual adoption article and my article on last rites. His call for increased clarity and finer argumentation in my work is welcome and surely needed. As an example, the bulk of Smith’s comments relate to what I observed to be a declension in Brigham Young’s rhetoric surrounding adoption ritual performance in Utah, and the possible relationship between this declension and the transformative vision of Joseph Smith that Brigham Young received relating to adoption early in 1847. I’m grateful to respond to these comments as well as some particular questions which Smith raised.

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Responses: Christopher Smith and Jonathan Stapley on Brigham Young’s Vision of Adoption

By April 24, 2012


[This continues our new series “Responses,” which offers a venue to respond to and discuss recent Mormon scholarship, especially journal articles. We are pleased to have Christopher Smith here respond to two articles authored by Jonathan Stapley last year (found here and here), along with Stapley’s own response (posted tomorrow). Christopher Smith is a PhD candidate in Religions in North America at Claremont Graduate University. He is currently living in Provo while he works on his dissertation on Mormon and American Indian relations during the life of Joseph Smith. At least, that’s what he’s supposed to be working on…]

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