Scholarly Inquiry: Spencer Fluhman takes your questions

By September 3, 2012

Scholarly Inquiry is an ongoing series at the Juvenile Instructor. It aims to introduce recent scholarship in Mormon studies to a wider audience and to involve a larger community of scholars in attempts to situate the Mormon experience in wider contexts and new and innovative ways. Visiting scholars will include both Mormons and those from other faith traditions, as well as historians of Mormonism and those whose primary research interests focus on other subjects. Previous participants include Mark Ashhurst-McGee (here and here), Mark Staker (here and here), Stephen Taysom (here and here), Patrick Mason (here and here), and Paul Gutjahr (here and here). 


As the latest contribution to the series, we’re thrilled to introduce Spencer Fluhman.

J. Spencer Fluhman is assistant professor of History at Brigham Young University. He graduated summa cum laude from BYU with a degree in Near Eastern Studies (1998) and attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was awarded a MA (2000) and PhD (2006) in History. He is the author of the recently-released A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), and the editor (with Andrew H. Hedges and Alonzo L. Gaskill) of  The Doctrine & Covenants: Revelations in Context (Religious Studies Center, BYU, and Deseret Book, 2008). He also guest edited (with Steven Harper and Jed Woodworth) the Summer 2012 issue of the Journal of Mormon History, “Mormonism in Cultural Context.” Dr. Fluhman is also a dynamic lecturer and popular teacher at BYU. He personally mentored several of the bloggers at Juvenile Instructor, and remains a close friend and trusted mentor to the current generation of Mormon graduate students.

We invite you to propose questions you would like to ask Dr. Fluhman as comments below. Please keep questions generally focused on the scholarly study of Mormonism, Spencer’s own research interests and projects, and other related issues. Thanks for your participation!

Article filed under Miscellaneous Scholarly Inquiry


  1. To what extent was the charge that Mormonism is not “Christianity” a part of the 19th century? Were the creeds use as a criteria for excluding Mormonism, or was some other standard applied? Was the term “cult” used yet, or does the category and stigma of the term arise in the 20th century?

    Comment by TT — September 3, 2012 @ 6:16 am

  2. Dr. Fluhman, why _are_ there so many songs about rainbows?

    On a more serious note, what are the main changes you made to transform this from an excellent dissertation to an excellent book from UNC?

    (I’m still curious about the rainbows, by the way.)

    Comment by smb — September 3, 2012 @ 9:00 am

  3. How has switching to BYU’s history department changed (if at all) your approach to teaching Mormonism in the classroom?

    Comment by David G. — September 3, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  4. Could he elaborate on his title of the “Fresh Prince of BYU”? [grin]

    Comment by Ben P — September 3, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  5. On a serious note, here’s a few questions:

    How does he place his book within the recent explosion of anti-Mormon historiography, including recent books by Megan Sanborn Jones and Patrick Mason? And how does this recent historiographical shift build upon and move away from earlier generations, especially Terryl Givens’s Viper on the Hearth?

    Much of your book traces the broad transitions within 19th century anti-Mormonism and what it tells us about America’s evolving conceptions of “religion.” Generally, what do you think today’s manifestations of anti-Mormonism tell us about modern understandings of religion?

    Comment by Ben P — September 3, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Nice. Thanks for responding, JSF.

    1. How would you characterize the relationship, if any, between ongoing 19th C criticisms of charismatic, “enthusiastic” religion and anti-Mormonism? Are you aware of Mormons being condemned for speaking in tongues, for example, which John Turner’s book suggests was radical at the time? Or was Mormonism a categorically different complaint? In other words, were Mormons ever overly religious, or always deviantly religious?

    2. On a national scale, how influential would you say that Mormon dissenters/apostates were in the proliferation of anti-Mormon sentiment in the 19th C (pre-Frank Cannon)?

    Comment by Ryan T. — September 3, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  7. I wonder if Spencer could spend some time comparing anti-Catholicism to anti-Mormonism? Did anti-Catholicism play a similar in American history as anti-Mormonism? How did the two play off each other? How were they different?

    Comment by AmandaHK — September 3, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

  8. How would you characterize Mormonism’s responses to anti-Mormonism? Did this come into play in missionary work? How did they engage in polemics against Protestant America? Main themes?

    Comment by J Stuart — September 3, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

  9. I’d be interested in Spencer’s thoughts regarding Mormonisms reaction to antimormonism. To what degree is Mormonism’s development (liturgy, theology, practice) catalyzed by, in response to, reaction against (etc.) antimormonism?

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 3, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  10. In addition to the question above regarding how your teaching has changed since changing departments, I’m curious to know how you think your students’ expectations and engagement have changed upon moving to the history department.

    Also, current/future projects?

    Comment by Craig M. — September 4, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  11. I’m interested in how women played into generating or promoting antimormonism and what role Mormon women had in responding to antimormonism in the 19th century, and particularly in the JS era.

    Comment by WVS — September 4, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  12. Thanks everyone, for your questions. We’ll send a list off to Spencer and post his responses soon!

    Comment by Christopher — September 12, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  13. […] friend and trusted mentor to the current generation of Mormon graduate students. Below he answers your questions about his recent book, broader researcher, and Mormon history more […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Scholarly Inquiry: Spencer Fluhman answers your questions — October 15, 2012 @ 1:31 pm


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