CALL FOR APPLICANTS—2020 Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar

By October 9, 2019

The 7th Annual Summer Seminar on Latter-day Saint Theology
“A Wrestle Before God: Reading Enos 1”
Université Bordeaux Montaigne, Bordeaux, France
June 22–July 4, 2020

Sponsored by the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar in partnership with The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and the Wheatley Institution

In the summer of 2020, the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Enos 1. The seminar will be hosted by the Université Bordeaux Montaigne in Bordeaux, France, from June 22 through July 4, 2020. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1250 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar.

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Upcoming Events and Lectures Oct 10-18, 2019

By October 8, 2019

Here are details on a few events over the next couple weeks in Provo and Salt Lake City.

“Saints, and Other Western Wonders”

Date: Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

Time: 11 am

Location: Karl G. Maeser Building Auditorium, Brigham Young University

Dr. David Walker will draw from his new book, Railroad Religion: Mormons, Tourists, and the Corporate Spirit of the West and discuss how the transcontinental railroad era mainlined the church. You can find more details here.

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Church History Library Digital Asset Processing Internship

By October 8, 2019


Posting Dates: 10/07/2019 – 10/21/2019

Job Family: Human Resources

Department: Church History Department


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Library has established a process to digitize, describe, and provide online access to as many of its holdings as possible. Using metadata from paper and electronic indices, spreadsheets, and other files, we are attempting to identify people, places and events in the over twelve million pages of digitized published materials and archival collections. The Library is seeking a part-time (28 hrs/wk) intern to help transform and create this metadata, and to train volunteers involved in the digital asset identification process. We invite students or recent (within last 12 months) college graduates with career goals in the field of metadata and/or digital asset management to apply for this 1-year, paid internship.


  • Learn how to use the Church History Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
  • Train volunteers how to use the Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
  • Assign and review volunteer metadata enrichment work.
  • Reconcile and resolve problems or exceptions encountered in this process.
  • Create and enhance training documentation for metadata projects.
  • Consult on improving metadata enrichment tools and processes.
  • Normalize and transform existing metadata in spreadsheets and other electronic documents.
  • Participate with other library, archival, and product management professionals in improving library services.
  • Improve professional skills relating to library, archives, and digital asset management.
  • Improve personal knowledge of Church history.

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A Quick Note: Historicizing the Role of Bishoprics

By October 7, 2019

The history of Bishops and their responsibilities throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has yet to be written. Historicizing the shifts in responsibility at the October 2019 General Conference of the church can consequently be challenging. I’d like to focus here on one key facet of the new ecclesiology: the role of Bishoprics with young men of the church.

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Q&A with Christopher Blythe

By October 2, 2019

An excerpt from an interview with Christopher Blythe, a Research Associate at BYU’s Maxwell Institute working on a book about the cultural history of Book of Mormon geography. Blythe received his PhD in American Religious History in 2015 and has worked on the Joseph Smith Papers. He is also the associate editor for the Journal of Mormon History. For the full interview, head over to Kurt Manwaring’s site, From the Desk.

How did your understanding of Joseph Smith change during your time as a documentary editor for the Joseph Smith Papers?

My thoughts on Joseph Smith as a prophet and visionary are much the same as they have been from when I first read Joseph Fielding Smith’s Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith as a teenager. I’m enthralled and moved by Joseph’s vision for mankind and his theology of the divine.

As a documentary editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, I became acquainted with Joseph not only as a prophetic figure but as a political leader and businessman as well.

I was surprised to learn just how involved he was in real estate, local politics, and business. This can be disorienting for someone who is only aware of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry, but, for Joseph, this was all wrapped up in his vision of building the Kingdom of God on earth.

What are a few of the most pressing issues in American Religious History today?

I think matters of race have moved to the center of conversations on religious studies in the United States.  There is also extensive work being done on the role of scripture in American churches, what is termed “scripturalization” – how texts or ideas become sacralized within a community. Since the 1990s, and at the center of my own research, is an ongoing effort to bring out the lived experience of ordinary believers. Religious intolerance remains a crucial discussion in American religious history as well. Increasingly we have Latter-day Saint scholars and Latter-day Saint subjects integrated into these wider studies, whether it be race, scripture, or religious prejudice.

What are two or three breathtaking documents you have personally handled in the Church History Library archives?

As a historian on the Joseph Smith Papers, we would check typescripts against the original manuscript, so I have had the opportunity to work with many documents that were handled by Joseph Smith and other early church leaders.  I have a special place in my heart for a little booklet from 1840 that Wilford Woodruff used to record Joseph Smith’s teachings. He included revelations that weren’t yet canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and in a few instances, notes about more private interactions with the prophet. The document was re-discovered in the past several years in the Church’s holdings and was made available digitally about two years ago. It includes esoteric beliefs—speculative ideas—that Joseph would never discuss publicly, but which he felt comfortable discussing with his closest friends. 

Guest Post – Mormonism and Book History: A Search for Sources

By October 1, 2019

Tyler Balli is a master’s student in history at Virginia Tech working on a thesis project that intersects at the history of Mormonism and the history of the book. He can be contacted at tylerab AT

In August of 1877, seventeen-year-old Annie Wells confided to her diary about the “splendid novel” she was then reading, Marquis of Lossie. She wrote, “I never read a good novel, with out I [feel] allmost [sic] jealous of my heroine, and even now I keep building castles in the air about this book only putting my self in as the heroine.” She even composed a poem about her reading experience:

Who ever read the daring deed;

Of some great hero,

Who rode upon his flashing steed

As brave as any hero

Without a thought of admiration

A longing for such a one they feel

And when they close the splendid volume

They recognize their beau-ideal

Concluding her entry, she writes, “Really not a very excellent poet am I, but then that expresses my opinion and no one else need read it.”[1]

Wells’s frank admissions of reading a romantic novel written by a non-Mormon, as well as her fantasies of becoming the novel’s heroine, would have alarmed many church leaders, editors, and other cultural arbiters of the day. Many of them often warned against the dangers of fiction, which could give readers “false ideas about human nature” or inspire “poor, weak-headed creatures . . . [to] assume the character of [a novel’s] heroine, until it passes from recollection, or is superseded by another heroine of a novel read subsequently,” never allowing them to develop their true selves.[2] These are just a few of the ideas about proper or improper reading that swirled around in nineteenth-century Utah, of which ideas about fiction only composed a small part.

I’m interested in uncovering more sources like Wells’s journal. I’m currently a master’s student in history at Virginia Tech working on a thesis project that intersects at the history of Mormonism and the history of the book, and I’d greatly appreciate the help of my fellow scholars in suggesting sources.

I’m specifically interested in looking at Mormon readers from 1869 till the turn of the century: what they read (both secular and religious publications, fiction and nonfiction), how they read, their reactions to reading, how they navigated the contemporary proscriptions and prescriptions of reading, and how reading helped them make sense of the tumultuous transformations going on during this period. I’d like to look at this through the lens of gender as well.

If you have come across a primary source that sheds light on any of these topics, I would greatly appreciate you pointing me toward it. Since comments about reading material and reactions to it are often spread widely across letters, journals, or other places, I won’t be able to scan them all, and I’d greatly appreciate your help if you’ve spotted something.

[1] Annie Wells Cannon, journal, 1877 Jun 30–1881 Sep 4, typescript, MSS 2307, box 2, folder 7, pp. 7–8, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, UT.

[2] “What We Women Do with Our Time,” Woman’s Exponent, February 1, 1878, 132; O. F. Whitney, “The Way to Be Great,” Contributor, April 1880, 158–160.

Q&A with Richard Bennett

By September 24, 2019

Kurt Manwaring published an interview with Richard Bennett at his site, From the Desk, discussing Bennett’s most recent book Temples Rising: A Heritage of Sacrifice (2019, Deseret Book).

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September 26, 2019: Lecture at the Assembly Hall

By September 23, 2019

Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers Project for sharing this event! You can sign up for the JSPP newsletter HERE.

Date: September 26, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Assembly Hall (50 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah) 

The Church History Department invites you to attend a special lecture entitled “Joseph Smith, The Leader.” The lecture will explore the leadership positions that Joseph Smith held in Nauvoo in 1842. The presenters, Elizabeth A. Kuehn and Alex D. Smith, will draw on examples and insights from the latest volume of The Joseph Smith PapersDocuments, Volume 9, and the forthcoming Documents, Volume 10, which will be published in spring 2020.

Joseph Smith’s leadership was a central factor in developing the Latter-day Saint community of Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1842, Smith took on new civic, ecclesiastical, and financial responsibilities in addition to those he already held. These roles ranged from becoming the city’s mayor and judge over the local courts to editing the Church’s newspaper the Times and Seasons and helping to establish the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. The lecture will highlight these responsibilities, their significance, and how Joseph Smith’s involvement provides insights into his character and leadership style.

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News from the Mormon History Association

By September 17, 2019

Here are a few highlights from the Mormon History Association’s newsletter, which you you should receive with your MHA membership.

NEW JMH EDITORS: Christopher James Blythe and Jessie L. Embry have been appointed as co-editors of the Journal of Mormon History. From the newsletter, ” As co-editors, Jessie and Chris are committed to improving the scholarly profile of the JMH. While the journal will continue to be comprised of traditional historical articles, they will expand the journal’s vision to include articles on the Mormon past from a wider range of methodologies and perspectives. They look forward to special issues devoted to a particular theme and genre, as well as new sections of the journal devoted to the analysis of historical documents, visual and material culture, and field notes. They invite and seek contributions from both seasoned and emerging scholars, including those of underrepresented groups. Do not be surprised if you hear from them in the coming months! The next four years promise great things for the JMH.”

NEW BOARD MEMBERS: “During the business luncheon, MHA members elected five new board members, including Jenny Lund as President-Elect, Sara Patterson as Liaison Chair, David Simmons as Financial Chair, and Charlotte Hansen Terry as Student Representative. One of the most exciting changes announced was the addition of a Global Outreach Chair to the MHA board. Vinna Chintaram was elected to fill this important new role. We look forward to exciting things to come from this new position.” 

FUNDRAISING FOR A JAN SHIPPS AWARD: MHA is thrilled to announce that we are raising funds to endow an article award in honor of Jan Shipps. A decades-long member of MHA and the first woman to serve as MHA President, Shipps is known to many in the organization as a friend and mentor. A pioneer of academic Mormon history, over many years her articles pushed the field in new and important directions. We feel it worthwhile to prominently feature her name when recognizing our best scholarship. An endowed award in her name will assure that MHA continues to promote and highlight the finest academic work on a yearly basis. We are pleased to report that $2,600 was raised when we announced the award at the 2019 MHA conference, and thank those who so generously donated. Please help us reach the endowment goal of $10,000. Donations may be made through MHA’s website or by mailing a check to MHA, P.O. Box 980398, Park City, Utah 84098 (write “Jan Shipps Article Award” on the memo line). For more information, or to assist in fundraising efforts for the endowment, please contact MHA Executive Director Barbara Jones Brown at

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Book Review: Colvin and Brooks, Decolonizing Mormonism: Approaching a Postcolonial Zion

By September 9, 2019

Gina Colvin and Joanna Brooks provide an important intervention into the field of Mormon studies with their edited volume of essays by thirteen scholars. The authors in Decolonizing Mormonism show the power dynamics that become visible by looking at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a global lens. By viewing Mormonism from the margins, these scholars argue, it is possible to see the colonial history and structures within the LDS tradition. Colvin and Brooks are not just interested in producing scholarship to observe these dynamics. They also call for change, saying that the metropole needs to listen to these voices forgotten both by the institutional church and by Mormon studies scholars. These authors argue that the margins provide the answers to decolonize both the church and scholarship and bring Zion into existence. This is not just an historical text. The intent of this book is to challenge the stories often reflected in Mormon history, arguing that scholars can no longer be complacent in the continued narratives of colonization.

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