The Journal of Mormon History 37:1 (Winter 2011)
The Journal of Mormon History’s first issue of the year comes out swinging. Can I reiterate that I love the new cover designs? This issue features a 1905 Relief Society banner with the motto: “Bless the Sick, Soothe the Sad, Succor the Distressed, Visit the Widow and Fatherless.” The back cover features a 1918 Temple Recommend of Ethel Naylor.
I dare say that Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright’s article on Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism is worth the price of a year’s membership to the Mormon History Association. In it, they outline the origins and development of the practice and, through some incredible source material, show how female ritual healing fell out of practice as “the rhetorical evolution of the term ‘priesthood'” signaled a refocusing and recentering of Church notions of authority. They end the article on a poignant note with a journal excerpt from Ed Kimball who describes a scene wherein Elders McConkie and Hanks arrived to bless his father, President Kimball. After anointing him with oil, Ed Kimball joined in laying on of hands for the blessing. To Ed’s surprise, Elder McConkie asked Camilla Kimball to join them in laying hands on her husband’s head. “After the administration Mother wept almost uncontrollably for some minutes, gradually calming down.”
Their concluding paragraph states, “Beginning as simply a sign that follows those who believe, female ritual healing was an integral part of the development of Mormon healing generally. Affirming years of practice, Joesph Smith revealed that women in the Church had both the authority to heal and access to divine power. Equipped with the same rituals as male members, even sometimes ministering with them, women helped to establish Mormonism’s unique culture, blending medicine and divine cures. Women learned how to ritually administer as did men; they relied on the ready examples of trusted leaders, communal experience, and oral communication. The twentieth century brought dramatic changes, first with liturgical and then priesthood reformation. While female healing persisted for decades, relying on older and outmoded methods of pedagogy, it eventually faded as modern systems and new perspectives dominated the liturgy and leadership of the Church. Though the Church currently does not authorize women to administer healing rituals, the heritage of female healing in the LDS Church is an essential facet of Mormon history and testament to the faith, power, and community of Mormon women” (85).
This is truly a gem of an article (and part of what makes it so is the source material they use–wow) and this brief overview does absolutely no justice to it.
Scott Esplin’s article on the closing of the Church college in New Zealand is interesting and a welcome addition to the growing literature on Church Education, particularly on units outside the United States. He does a good job of presenting the facts of the school’s establishment and some of the struggles over its closing including some local opposition. Esplin notes, though, that once Church leaders called on members in the area to accept the closing as the decision of 15 prophets, local opposition calmed. He hints at the role of the school and its buildings for the larger New Zealand community.
I would love to see someone take up this subject with a new set of questions that take a closer look at some phrases that stuck out to me as begging for analysis. One of these phrases being the rational for closing a Church school, cited in the very first paragraph of the article and given by Elder Paul V. Johnson in announcing the closure: “It is the policy and practice of the Church to discontinue operation of such schools when local school systems are able to provide quality education” (86). What might policies like these and their articulation tell us about underlying views about the perceived core vs the perceived periphery of Mormondom, etc?
Kevin Folkman’s article on the “Failed” 1873 Mission to the Little Colorado explores this early and unsuccessful effort to plant permanent settlements in Arizona in the context of Brigham Young’s declaration that the returning colonists were “a passel of squaws,” “pets whom we have raised in Salt Lake City…on a feather pillow with silver spoons in their mouths,” and “Men who don’t know anything about a hard day’s work.” Ouch! Folkman argues that “leaders in Salt Lake City and southern Utah did not fully understand the magnitude of the obstacles involved” and that “unrealistic expectations and a lack of first hand information hampered the 1873 group in particular” (the implication being that the “failure” label and subsequent criticism were unfair). Folkman notes that the 1873 colonization effort blazed trails, built roads and watering holes that would give an advantage to the later 1976 effort that succeeded in planting permanent settlements. All in all, it’s a very interesting and solid article. Folkman also seeks to discover whether BY actually said what he said about the colonists (since the citation comes from a later source) and argues that it is likely. One somewhat significant omission, IMO, is lack of discussion of the 1875 Mission to Mexico (which scouted out areas of Arizona for colonization on the way to Mexico). Folkman has guest posted at Keepapitchinin.
Of special interest to JI readers is the publication of the Roundtable on Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography, which our own Ben Park organized here at the JI in 2009. Excellent work, all!
Finally, Ron Bartholomew’s article on the missiology of the Bedfordshire Conference is very good as well. He outlines the following points of focus of the article:
1. What position in the taxonomy of religions in Victorian England did Mormonism occupy?
2. What mission theology characterized the missionaries in this conference?
3. What was the message of the missionaries? Was the theology of the message they preached similar to their mission theology?
4. What mission philosophies were the driving force behind the missionary labors in this conference?
5. Who were the missionaries that served in this conference? Were they primarily from America, or were they predominantly British converts? What was the ratio? Was the call to serve a mission extended diferently to American missionaries than to native British converts?
6. What proselytizing methods did these missionaries employ? To what extend were the members involved in their efforts? What role did emigration play in their missionary labors?
7. What were the final circumstances?
Blair provides a well written and positive review of Magnum Opus. Ending with this stellar line, “Magnum Opus is a true insider’s view of organ origins.”
Hogge gives an overall favorable review of Minert (reading the review actually made me quite interested in reading the volume). His main reservation is that a general reader might get lost in its extensiveness.
Morris calls Navigating the Missouri “a solid resource for students and scholars of nineteenth-century Western and Mormon history.”
Van Dyke also gives a mainly favorable review of Grover’s book. He notes that he would have traded more information about some of the topics Grover discusses including “Mormon-Catholic relations, compelling gender issues, and preselecting potential investigators based upon conceptions of Israelite descent,” in the place of other anecdotes such as Jessie Evans Smith’s (spouse of Joseph Fielding Smith) spending spree during one visit to the mission.