Scholarship at Church

Guest Post: Jeff Turner, “Spring Musicals: Weirdness, Accuracy, and Introductions”

By September 2, 2015

[We are thrilled to have yet another guest post from Jeff Turner, a PhD student at the University of Utah. See his previous offerings here, here, and here.]

Musical?I actually learned something about Mormonism,? said my seat-neighbor at the Book of Mormon musical this past spring. Terrified, curious, and excited, I found myself wondering what he could have learned from the musical that he hadn?t known beforehand. So I asked. Surprisingly, his new piece of information had to do with the relationship between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, namely that they knew each other in person, which made Young?s succession as the next church president more approachable to my seatmate (even though the succession was oversimplified in the musical). Well that?s not so bad, I thought, and I can see how he picked that up from the musical. We had a short chat about it afterward, and that was the end of it.

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More Questions from the Mailbag (On Plural Marriage, Joseph Smith’s Youngest Wife)

By December 22, 2014

Welcome back to our series, wherein we answer questions from our readers about plural marriage. Where possible, I’ve linked to all the available sources for readers, so that others can investigate each question more fully, if they wish.

Apologies for the delay in answering questions (finals, life, etc.), but if you have any more questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

For other posts in this series, see

Samuel Brown and Kate Holbrook (Embodiment and Sexuality)

WVS (D&C 132 Questions)

Miscellaneous Questions

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Scholarly Inquiry: A Q&A with John Fea

By September 3, 2013

We’re thrilled to present the following Q&A with historian John Fea. Dr. Fea is Associate Professor of History and  Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of several books, including The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011), and Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), which he co-edited with Jay Green and Eric Miller. His latest book, Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past (Baker Academic, 2013) is scheduled to be released in two weeks. Dr. Fea is currently at work on two book projects—a religious history of the American Revolution and one on history and memory in the town of Greenwich, NJ. In addition to his scholarly output, John is a prodigious blogger, a tireless traveler and dynamic speaker (check out that list—chances are he’ll be in your general neck of the woods at some point), Bruce Springsteen devotee, avid sports fan, and 2010 inductee to the Montville High School (NJ) Hall of Fame. By nearly all accounts, he is also an incredibly nice guy.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Fea!

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The Sacred Parking Garage Effect

By June 5, 2012

I get dibs on this clunky coining, but I wanted to articulate something that I’ve noticed in the way many non-academy-trained Mormons approach history. You probably have recognized the same phenomenon under a different name (and I’d love to know what you call it).

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Introducing Ordinary Mormons to Academic Mormon History

By November 7, 2011

Recently, I’ve been think about how ordinary members use church history in their everyday lives. In my limited experience, few members read much church history, especially if it wasn’t published by Deseret Books. I realize this isn’t news to anyone reading this blog, as we’ve discussed in several of Ben’s recent posts why many church members resist more academically-oriented literature if it challenges accepted oral traditions, is seen as unaccessible due to academic prose and/or jargon, among other reasons. But I’ve wondered what more we could be doing to encourage ward members to see the benefits of incorporating more academic history into their busy schedules.

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Pioneer Day, The Sweetwater Rescue, and the Role of History in Mormonism

By July 24, 2011

While I generally like to challenge–if not completely burst–historical myths, both in and outside the classroom, I sincerely hesitated to write and publish this post on Pioneer Day. I don’t like being an iconoclast for iconoclasm’s sake. But in hearing the story discussed below several times over the last week (including in the ward I am currently attending, in the classroom, in the Ensign, and even on the internet), I thought this was an issue that needed to be addressed. Thus, I hope that the discussion is more sophisticated than merely degenerating into “average Mormons don’t know diddley squat about history.” That would, indeed, be missing the point.

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Women’s History Month at JI: Janiece Johnson, “Rebecca Williams, Steadfast and Immovable: Part Deux”

By March 20, 2011

As part of our continuing series celebrating Women’s History month here at JI, Janiece Johnson, graduate student at the University of Utah, has contributed the following insightful look at one early Mormon woman’s religiosity.

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Sacred Space at BYU, June 3, 2009: Conference and metaconference

By June 4, 2009


There’s been a lot of enthusiasm for this conference, and every inch of it deserved. Not a cubic zirconium among the presentations, and more than one absolute diamond (Laurie Maffly-Kipp on preparation; Richard Cohen on the Hebrew temple). This was an impressive and a diverse kaleidoscope, and the most interesting thing was the way, one after another, each speaker demonstrated the point Jeanne Halgren Kilde made – that talking about sacred space, at its essence, is talking about the way we experience religion. Space matters because people do things in it.

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Teaching About Racism (Including the Priesthood Ban) in Sacrament Meeting

By May 6, 2008

This is not one of my normal posts, which are usually pretty detached and scholarly. Rather, I’m going to share a personal experience about bringing in academic history to the ward setting. Sunday before last I gave a talk in sacrament meeting, with the assigned topic being scriptures and their value in my life. Initially, the second counselor in my bishopric asked me to address the FLDS situation and continuing revelation, a topic that I was initially excited about but with further reflection I realized that it would be altogether too difficult to do justice in a 10 minute presentation that is supposed to be faith promoting. So I backed off, opting instead to tackle a slightly less

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