What Language Does God Speak?: A Roundtable on the Politics of Language within Mormonism

By August 18, 2012

A few days ago, Christopher Jones posted a link on the backchannel for Juvenile Instructor, linking to a post by a New Zealand Mormon.  The post explored the effects that correlation and the homogenization of the Mormon Church has had on Mormon communities outside of the United States.  The conversation that ensued that was so interesting that we decided to post an edited version here: 

Christopher Jones: Amanda, David, Max, others: thought you’d be interested in this. It’s written by a New Zealander, but touches on issues that relate to each of your respective research interests in some way or another. Really fascinating stuff.

Unlatching from the Amerimormon Cultural Teat


David G.: Love it, especially the last part.

Max Mueller: Interesting!

Amanda Hendrix-Komoto:   Chris, I wanted to wait till I had *real* internet access to respond. (Yay for Special Collections at BYU!)   What I find interesting here is the piece?s language politics. The Mormon Church has often adopted a Polynesian identity in the Pacific, positioning itself as a protector and promoter of Polynesian culture (See Johnny Lingo, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and The Other Side of Heaven). It does this while disallowing Maori and Hawaiian language church services. Part of the reason why this blog and Hokulani Aikau’s work are so interesting is that they point to the odd status of Polynesians within the church: they are at once a favored people and one that experiences intense discrimination.

Christopher Jones: Thanks, Amanda. I was entirely unaware that native language services were disallowed prior to reading her post (it’s just something I’d never considered before).  The whole thing strikes me as strange, especially as the church continues to create separate Spanish language branches, wards, and “groups” in various stakes throughout the US. This deserves more attention, I think, both from an academic perspective and a religious one.

Steve Fleming: Plus, there are a lot of Tongan and Samoan branches and wards in the US.

Christopher Jones:  Are the services in Tongan and Somoan, or in English, Steve?

Amanda Hendrix-Komoto: I think the difference might be related to the status of the language. Almost all speakers of native Hawaiian and Maori speak English as their first language. The revival of these languages has been part of a movement to reassert an indigenous identity and in the case of Hawaii, to assert island’s status as a colonized nation. The church has promoted native Hawaiian in its church schools, but it doesn’t recognize the politics of the movement as legitimate. It angers a lot of people who see it as trying to have its cake — by claiming an indigenous identity — and eat it too — by disclaiming the inherent politics of that identity.

Stephen Fleming: Probably a lot in English. I think a decent amount of Samoan and Tongan is spoken though. I’ll have to ask. Our ward in Sacramento met in the same building as the “Liahona” ward which was a Tongan ward (we also had a lot of Tongans in our ward). I know the older people mostly did not speak English, but the last two bishops were Tongans that could only speak English.

Christopher Jones: Fascinating. Thanks again, Amanda. I spent the first few months of my mission working with small branch of only 10 or 11 active members on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. If I remember correctly, only two of them spoke Apache. All services, of course, were in English. There was a general consensus at the time that the language would soon die. As I understand, there has been something of a small revival in the decade since then and more Apaches are trying to pass along the language to their children and grandchildren. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes the dynamics of the church there and on other reservations.

And I have to admit that the post I initially linked to was somewhat difficult for me to read.  My now-deceased grandfather was the assistant principal of the CCNZ when it first opened, and my father maintains a number of Maori friends whom he met as a youth there. Thinking about my grandfather as an agent of colonialism is difficult for me.  I think it?s important to point out that much of this cultural colonialism exported from the United States via missionaries and correlated publications is well intended.

What I cannot figure out, though, is why the church services of Maoris in New Zealand are not conducted in their native language. The church, after all, is fairly established there; it’s not like it relies on American missionaries to serve in leadership positions. If the language is widespread and an officially recognized language in the country, why wouldn’t services be held using it? I wonder whether it is the preference of a majority of members and if so, whether a formal proposal has ever been presented to area authorities?

David G.: Indigenous language revitalization is a broad-based movement. The Lakotas and Navajos are seen as large enough tribes with enough Native speakers that the languages can survive, and the Lakotas, at least, have a significant educational movement that produces textbooks so kids can learn their languages in school. There are also ties between American Natives and Pacific Islanders, with a Pacific Islander delegation recently visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation, in South Dakota, to learn about the Lakotas’ language initiatives. But it’s an uphill battle, given the long-entrenched efforts by the U.S. government to encourage English as a colonizing tool. Some New England tribes, for example, haven’t had a Native speaker for over a century, but some contemporary tribal members are reconstructing the language, creating dictionaries, and developing grammars using written documents produced during the colonial era and nineteenth century, and raising their kids, as much as is possible, as Native speakers.

There is at least one branch on Pine Ridge, where I’ve conducted dissertation research, with an acculturated Lakota branch president, that I plan to visit the next time I do field research in South Dakota. I imagine the services are in English, but I’m curious now to find out for sure.

Christopher Jones: Stan, do you know what the situation is for the Catawba?

Stan Thayne:  Language isn’t really an issue for Catawbas because no one speaks it. It is at least a generation or two removed from fluent speakers. There is an effort to revitalize it; a professional linguist was hired by the Nation a few years back, but I don’t think it is anywhere near the point where services could be held in Catawba even if they wanted to. And the Catawba Wards are not Catawba-only wards. In one ward Catawba members might make up a slight majority (maybe), but in the other ward they are a minority. As far as Navajo, I think Jessie Embry would know the answer to that question.

Andrea Radke-Moss: One of the interesting things about Latin America is the place of indigenous languages there.  Most of my American friends who served in Paraguay picked up some kind of working fluency in Guarani by the end of their missions.

Stan Thayne: I am reading Scott R. Christensen’s SAGWITCH, and he indicates that when Isaac Zundel was over the Shoshone ward in the Box Elder Stake, services were primarily conducted in the Native language. Of course, that was in the 1870s, and I don’t know how long that tolerance lasted. I was also very surprised to read that “Zundel also allowed the Indians to contract marriages in the traditional Shoshone way without formal ceremony” (170).

David G.: Thanks for bringing up the Sagwitch bio, Stan. The services were conducted in Shoshone, although the sacrament prayers were in English. Aside from permitting traditional marriage rituals, white leaders also tolerated traditional healing practices. But there was simultaneously a strong push for the Shoshone converts to adopt farming, wear “citizen” clothing, and assimilate, which necessarily resulted in language loss. By the mid-20th century, few Shoshones remained in the farming settlement that Sagwitch had founded, as subsequent generations left to obtain educations and employment. I wrote a review of Christensen’s book here: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/review-sagwitch-shoshone-chieftain-mormon-elder-1822-1887/#comments

Edje Jeter: So? I’m curious about the situation in India. I wonder how much the policy is designed to target English speakers (and their socio-economic status) rather than avoid all the other language politics in a country with so many linguistic and ethnic divisions as India.  Since less than a third of Indians speak Hindi as a native language, I wonder how many church members would perceive Hindi-language services as alienating.  Of course, the option is to proselyte in the dozens of major languages (and eventually in the hundreds of minor languages). It might be mere pragmatism to restrict small number of missionaries now to building up an Anglophone church in preparation for a more linguistically diverse effort later.

Andrea Radke-Moss:  But since the Indian government itself is trying to reclaim Hindi (see the renaming of Bombay to Mumbai, Varanasi to Benares, and Calcutta to Kolkata), then that might be one less level of alienation to avoid, before moving on to the other hundreds of native languages in India. And a “third of Indians” is still greater than the whole population of the United States. Hindi is an ancient, recorded, established, written and translated language.

Christopher Jones: Excellent. Thanks for the additional info, Andrea. Does anyone know about Africa? Max? With recent church growth there, it seems like a crucial part of this conversation.

David G.: From Jeff Cannon: “In most cases, they are in colonial languages (English, French, or Portuguese), but Kenyan congregations have recently been allowed to use Swahili. The accepted rule in South Africa when I was a missionary (I don?t know if that was official) was that prayers and testimonies could be given in the speaker’s own language, but ordinances and talks were supposed to be in English.

Some wards in Afrikaans-speaking areas allowed one Afrikaans hymn and one of the sacrament prayers to be said in Afrikaans. Possibly because there used to be Afrikaans-speaking units and Afrikaans materials were widely available, Afrikaans retained something of a privileged status over other non-English languages. But the last time I was there, one of the Afrikaans-speaking members told me the Afrikaners around Pretoria all been called in to a special meeting by the stake president who told them Afrikaans would no longer be allowed and everything had to be done in English.?

The conservation was much longer than this and included some really interesting information.  I am going to stop it short here for the purposes of brevity.  I did want to include, however, some a quick snippet of conversation from Max and Chris, which I think adds a historical dimension.  In response to a request for information from his research in the politics of language in the nineteenth-century church, Max had the following to say:

Max Mueller: English, at least under Brigham Young, was seen (sometimes) as the language of the second coming (that’s why the Book of Mormon was delivered in it) so there were strong efforts to get everybody speaking English quickly, Indians and Scandinavians in particular.

Christopher Jones:  Is there any scholarship on any of this? I’m drawing a blank.

Max Mueller: Christopher Jones…wait until my book! This is how I use the Deseret Alphabet…

This snippet, although referencing a different time period than that above, might provide some  context on why English and language as a whole might be so important within Mormonism.  Here, I would like to open it up to the Juvenile Instructor readership.  What are the politics of adopting different languages within the church?s sacrament meetings and worship services?  How has the church dealt with these politics in different places and times?  What has the effect been on different communities?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. The difficulty with this issue of language is that choosing one over the other has poltical and social implications even in the church. Why do we want to speak English or Spanish or any other language, and why are we required to speak one or the other? When I was small I attended a “Spanish-language” branch but we were prohibited from conducting our services in Spanish. That changed when members kept dropping out. I’ve also attended spanish branches in which speaking English was discouraged. I would have no problem with a universal language in the church if it did not empower one group over another, and at this juncture that does not seem possible, so language continues as a point of contention.

    Comment by Ignacio M. Garcia — August 18, 2012 @ 7:16 am

  2. I attended church in Switzerland where they must have a rule requiring everyone to use High German, which was great for me because I could understand most of what was said. Had they used Swiss-German, I wouldn’t have had a clue. That said, I’m not a big fan of homogenization. I think every language can teach us something about the gospel, the scriptures, God etc. that we can’t fully appreciate or understand in our own native tongue.

    Comment by Aaron — August 18, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  3. Thanks for posting this, Amanda (and for doing most of the editing to make it read a bit more clearly). I just revisited the post at kiwimormon.com to find a really fascinating discussion going on in the comments, with New Zealanders representing several different points of view chiming in. I’d recommend to all interested to check it out. It adds to and answers some of the questions we raise in our discussion here.

    Comment by Christopher — August 18, 2012 @ 9:00 am

  4. I read the Kiwimormon post after it came out and was surprised at the (perceived at least) level of mandate of what language should be used in Church settings. I’ve always assumed that the Church was more flexible than this, especially given the number and variety of language units in the U.S. [At one point I counted, IIRC, Church members IN THE U.S. were speaking something like 20 different languages in various congregations around the country, because of different immigrant and ethnic groups. This was based on the list in the printed Church directory that Bishops and Stake Presidents have.]

    I asked a friend from the U.K. some time ago what language units they had there, and was told that there were none, something I found very strange given the amount of immigration into the U.K. and into other western countries in Europe. I have since heard that my friend was incorrect and that there are language units in the U.K., but that they aren’t very common. On T&S a little while ago, Wilfried Decoo reported that in France and Belgium many units were made up of a majority of immigrants, making the language issue quite complicated.

    I’m generally of the opinion that the more languages we support the better, because language is the seat of culture, the place where how and what we think originates. To force someone to work in another language, and worse to be fed spiritually in another language, has to be incredibly alienating. I even wrote about the language challenges this view leads to: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2008/11/each-in-his-own-language/

    But, of course, we shouldn’t forget the logistical difficulties that language requires. I assume that one reason the Church has streamlined programs and produced lesson manuals the way that it does is the need to facilitate translation into many different languages. Removing the need for a language reduces a lot of cost and effort, to say nothing of the administrative headaches that come from miscommunication. I know that in our mixed-language (Spanish, English and Chinese) stake, we have continual difficulties translating stake-wide materials into all languages. Too often the flyers posted about an event are only in English because the person producing the flyer has no where to go to find someone who can translate it for them.

    Perhaps that is why there is so much resistance locally to allowing Maori’s to use their own language.

    Personally, I think a lot of the blame (if there is blame for underperformance in handling additional languages) lies with returned missionaries who have learned another language and who then do nothing with the language for the rest of their lives. What a waste to learn another language and never use it! In my experience, most have forgotten the bulk of their mission language within 5 years. Surely that asset could be used to help the Church or the world in some way!

    Sorry if I’m running on about the issue. Its one that I love and that fascinates me. I’ve even thought about trying to start a group blog to discuss language and the Church — but I have too much on my plate at the moment. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact me.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — August 18, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  5. Ignacio, wonderful points that get right at the heart of the matter. The problem is definitely that choosing one language over another privileges certain groups and their experiences, and sheer numbers mean that the group likely to be favored is the one that already has the most political power and influence.

    Kent, really interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that language homogenization occurs most obviously outside of the U.S. I wonder what the cause of this is? Does it have to do with where resources are concentrated? Is it because the church in the U.S. feels relatively secure and thus, cannot donate resources to non-English communities, while communities outside of the U.S. feel less secure in their communities? Whatever the reason it’s an interesting phenomenon.

    Comment by AmandaHK — August 18, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

  6. I finally had time to read through the KIWIMORMON blog. Chris, I think that besides your grandfather, the Church as a whole has been seen ?as an agent of colonialism? by many non-Euro-Americans. Having different groups of people who speak non-English languages at Church is more Church policy and not so much Church doctrine (as far as I know), as to why that is, I don?t know. I know that back on the Navajo reservation, wards and branches that have Navajo speakers were a majority of the members solely speak Navajo, the services are done almost entirely in Navajo, I would figure that this is done only out of necessity in retaining Navajo-only speaking members (I could be wrong). The push for English-only could be for the issues that surrounding translation, which from English into Navajo, many times there is not a direct correlation in definition. The same goes for Navajo into English. You lose meaning in translation.

    If you look at old speeches by Brigham Young and others after him, his whole thing was to ?civilize? the lowly Redman. Brigham Young participated and allowed Native traditions and ceremonies as long as it was a means to conversion and eventual ?civilization.? It?s later where the Church states that Natives have to be completely Mormon and leave behind their culture and tradition. And in the 70s, Spencer W. Kimball jumps on board to several ideas of Richard Henry Pratt?s Carlisle Indian boarding school motto of ?Kill the Indian, Save the Man;? believing that it would be better to send Native children far away from the influences of the reservation to ?civilize? and Americanize Indian children.

    Max Mueller spoke of the Deseret Alphabet, which reminds me of Brigham Young?s efforts with the Hopi Indians. When making contact with them, the missionaries made an extra effort to distinguish themselves from Americans. Saying they were not Americans and had nothing to do with them, but they were a better group of people called the Mormons; this was reiterated over and over not only with the Hopi, but with other Indians, such as the Navajos. Young thought that the Hopi Indians were a more advance (or civilized) group of Indians, and maybe part of the Prince Madoc welsh Indians. As such, they were better than the Indians who were not accepting Mormonism whole heartedly and maybe these so-believed welsh Indians could help build Zion and foster in the Second Coming. Brigham Young stressed that the Hopis should learn the Deseret Alphabet and should eventually move to Utah to live with the Mormons, and not just live next to Indians. Other than trying to teach the Hopis the Deseret Alphabet, there were no efforts to teach them English, which could be because the Hopis became disillusioned with the Church because they didn?t like polygamy and they thought the Mormons were a war-Like people (such as the so-called Utah War, Utah Navajo War, Black Hawk War, Mountain Meadows Massacre, and other skirmishes and battles in southern Utah).

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — August 18, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

  7. Mr. Smallcanyon,what’s the basis of your claim that “Young thought that the Hopi Indians were … maybe part of the Prince Madoc welsh Indians”?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 18, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

  8. Ardis, Brigham Young’s interest in the Hopi Indians and its relationship to myths circulating about the Prince Madoc Welsh Indians is something is occasionally brought up in discussions of Jacob Hamblin and the Mormon mission to the Hopi. George Givens mentions it in his 500 More Little-known Facts in Mormon History (108). Harry James mentions it in a popular history of the Hopi (93). Stegner even mentions it in Mormon Country (146). It’s also all over various websites. I haven’t seen the evidence myself nor has it been treated by a scholar I trust, so I’m not willing to comment on the story’s veracity. There’s just too much myth that passes as fact in Mormon history, for me not to maintain some skepticism till I’ve seen the sources. That said, it seems to be a semi-common story and is all over the internet.

    Comment by AmandaHK — August 19, 2012 @ 12:00 am

  9. Thank you. I’ve seen references to it only in the gossipy kinds of sources you name, never in BY discourses, correspondence with Indian missionaries and farmers, diaries of missionaries, or other credible documentary sources. It’s so out of character with what BY did teach that I think it’s irresponsible to repeat without some attempt at evidence. All due respect to such fine scholars as Givens, of course.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 19, 2012 @ 12:50 am

  10. Choosen by Brigham Young, of Welsh blood, James Davis, was sent as an interpreter to study the Hopi language, but could not find any correlation between the two languages. found in James Little?s so-called narrative of Jacob Hamblin, notes for the narrative are also located with the UT Historical Society if I remember right?

    James Bleak, appointed historian for the Southern Utah Mission and also uses and shares complete interviews, letters, and etc. recording any and everything he could, which also includes several things about Brigham Young and the Hopis being of Welsh blood.

    There one or two Deseret News articles from the 1850s which talk about the Hopi Welsh connection.

    Welsh-American Mormon missionary Llewellyn Harris also talks of the Prince Madoc connection, but with the Zuni Indians, Also states he was picked by Brigham Young to go and check out the validity of the connection if any. I think his diaty was in the Juvenile Instructor from the 1870s.

    Wilford Woodruff also talks about Brigham Young?s Welsh-Hopi connection in one of his writings, in one of his diaries i believe.

    There is also an article called ?Captain Dan Jones and the Welch Indians? for light reading, can?t remember who wrote this one. But the author uses some letters written by Mormon missionary Dan Jones. Jones argues he was sent by Brigham Young (for this one i haven’t checked the primary sources he uses).

    hopefully these can start you out. not too hard to find if you actually look.

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — August 19, 2012 @ 2:45 am

  11. why the church services of Maoris in New Zealand are not conducted in their native language.

    Interesting question. Of course there are the ethnic conflicts that occur when you have groups that are only majority one group, not entirely one group.

    Some of the Tongan/Samoan/Hawaiian group conflicts have been interesting.

    Comment by Stephen R. Marsh — August 19, 2012 @ 9:13 am

  12. I should note that the writing style, triumphal progressive, of http://kiwimormon.com/2012/08/07/unlatching-from-the-amerimormon-cultural-teat/ can be a bit off-putting.

    Not to mention, her bottom line is that any procedure she doesn’t like is a human rights violation.


    The conversation at Juvenile Instructor was brilliant, it was good to see where you went from there.

    Now I’m curious about why the early tradition of using the native languages in New Zealand morphed into an English preferred/default/only sort of approach.

    Comment by Stephen R. Marsh — August 19, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  13. Actually, I’m not sure that it is entirely out-of-character. The Book of Mormon is partially an explanation of the origins of American Indians. If the Lehi’s family could have come from the Middle East to the Americas, why not a band of Welsh people? Also, it’s important to remember that it was a common belief at the time. Although I’m not willing to completely credit till I’ve read the sources that the other commenter mentioned above, it does fit with the cultural zeitgeist.

    Comment by Amanda — August 19, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  14. The use of Guarani in Paraguay was briefly mentioned in the discussion, and as a former missionary there I do think it is relevant to the discussion. Guarani (as I understand it – recognizing that missionaries often have misconceptions about host cultures) is an official language in Paraguay and taught in schools to predominantly Spanish-speakers just as Spanish is taught to predominantly Guarani-speakers. For a long time it was officially marginalized, but now is embraced and Guarani is used in politicians’ stump speeches, etc. (I recall a news story about the US Ambassador recording a Paraguayan folk album in Guarani, must to Paraguay’s delight.) Spanish is used in more formal settings, while Guarani is used with friends and family. (I should note that most people don’t speak “pure” Guarani, but “jopara,” which is a mix of Spanish and Guarani.) The more rural the area is, the more likely people are to speak Guarani more regularly (and in at least one area on my mission I think I went an entire day without meeting anyone new who spoke Spanish).

    Church meetings were all held in Spanish in areas where I served, but it was not uncommon for members to bear testimony in Guarani or when teaching explain concepts in Guarani when those in the class were not understanding the Spanish explanations well. Missionaries would do the same if they were able. I saw no suppression of Guarani, though usually members would precede their Guarani usage with an obligatory “and I apologize to the elders for doing this, because they’re not going to understand.”

    As for why the meetings were more Spanish-heavy than conversation, I have a few thoughts. (1) Church materials were all in Spanish. This is probably a result of it being easier and more cost-effective to print more Spanish copies of materials, but more so because Guarani is predominantly spoken and not read. There is a Book of Mormon in Guarani, as well as Gospel Principles, but basically no one can read a pure Guarani translation. (Those who speak the purest Guarani would generally be less likely to be literate.) There is also General Conference translation in Guarani (I think it is more jopara), as well as temple ordinance translation, but I doubt too many listen to it. (2) The missionaries are trained in Spanish, not Guarani. Therefore, the people they can teach and bring to church are more likely to speak Spanish. (Learning Guarani was encouraged and considered a virtue, but as you can imagine a limited number of missionaries have the facility to pick up another language on the side.) (3) Visiting church leaders spoke Spanish and wouldn’t have understood Guarani. Thus, the “examples” for the members in the early years (missionaries and outside leaders) were all speaking Spanish. (4) As I mentioned, Spanish was generally used in formal settings, and church is a pretty formal setting.

    Comment by Craig M. — August 20, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  15. Fascinating discussion, all. Just as a small addition, a nephew who returned two years ago from the Bangalore, India mission, was instructed that by agreement, the missionaries could only conduct lessons in English rather than Hindi or the local dialects. The reasons given have come into question, so I won’t speculate on that, other than it seemed to have originated in a legal agreement with the Indian Government.

    Smallcanyon, I did a rather exhaustive search of Bleak’s Annals of the Southern Utah Mission for the years of 1873 to 1877 regarding anything Brigham Young may have said about the Hopi’s and the Moencopi area for my article on the 1873 Arizona effort, and found nothing about the Welsh Indians there. My understanding is that the Welsh/Native American connection speculation had pretty much dried up by the 1870’s, so I believe it hit its peak in earlier years.

    Comment by kevinf — August 20, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  16. In two of the branches I’ve had the chance to attend abroad they’ve had multiple languages represented. In the Amman Jordan Branch the sacrament meeting was in both Arabic and English (translated if needed) and Sunday School was split into Arabic, Filipino, and English segments. RS/Priesthood were all together, as I understand it, meaning that there was a lot of translation going on.

    In the Istanbul Turkey Branch the situation was similar: Sacrament Meeting in English and Turkish (interpreted as needed), and Sunday Schools in English and Turkish.

    Comment by Michael H. — August 20, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  17. Craig M. — that’s an interesting point about the use of Guarani. One of the things that we didn’t come up in the discussion is the way that some languages are used primarily for familial and informal purposes. To use those in church might be deeply alienating, even if that is the language that individuals speak the best.

    I am reminded here, however, of the Protestant Reformation. I am surely stereotyping the medieval period, but Latin was often used in Catholic Church services because it seemed to be a holier, more formal language. The shift to vernacular languages was partially a shift to more informal languages that was done to be more inclusive. That doesn’t address the spoken issue, but I do wonder if we are often privilege certain voices by always privileging the text. Why not move between the two?

    Also, as someone who prefers contemporary worship services with drums and bands, I have to ask, Why does church have to be formal?

    Comment by Amanda — August 21, 2012 @ 12:34 am

  18. Kevinf: you’re right, it is pre-1870s, and that is quite a bit of reading going from 1873-1877. you’re also right that by the 70s the Church gave up hope on the Welsh-Hopi myth connection.

    I wrote about the colonization efforts of the Church in northern arizona, mainly dealing with Tuba City, Moenkopi and Moenave, from the 1850s until the 1900s. solely dealt with this area because it was the first and became the main headquarters for the most part and the halfway point for the Mexico colonies to SLC.

    i would assume you are writting about the failed expedition to the Moenkopi and Moenave area. i would be interested in your take on it.

    i also wrote about the ascention of Tuuvi (Tuba) to the role of “chief” through Mormon meddling when they began fighting for land and water rights in the Tuba City/Moenkopi area. I try to include the perspective of the Natives (Navajo and Hopi, not so much the Paiutes), the Mormons, and the U.S. government.

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — August 21, 2012 @ 1:08 am

  19. Amanda, I can’t say for sure why church “has” to be formal (though I do prefer it and think it has important virtues), but I do think we could agree that in Mormonism that’s something that seems very unlikely to change in the near future! Thanks for sharing the interesting conversation.

    Comment by Craig M. — August 21, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  20. Smallcanyon, my article about the 1873 Arizona colonization effort is in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal of Mormon History.

    As to the Tuba City area, I ran across something that I didn’t take careful notes on at the time, regarding a revised partition of the border separating the Hopi and Navajo reservations in and around Tuba City, with the Hopis getting the Moenkopi and Moenave lowlands, and the Navajo people getting the plateau where Tuba City now sits. It resulted in the church having to abandon the mill and other presence in Tuba City, and the implication was that the border was aligned in particular to force the Mormons out of Tuba City and lessen their influence. However, I don’t recall where I saw that, and have not had the chance to revisit it.

    I’d also be interested in reading your history of the Tuba City/Moenkopi area. Where can I find it?

    Comment by kevinf — August 21, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  21. kevinf: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ETD/id/2591/rec/1

    Comment by Christopher — August 21, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  22. If they like JB and JD so much having services in their own language might not be all the help they need….if it were me and I were fluent in both languages I would say do it in English and…has the BoM been translated to any of those Maori dialects ? might be a bit of a waste of time and money since these are marginal groups.

    Comment by christine randolph — August 21, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  23. Christopher, thanks!

    Comment by kevinf — August 21, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  24. I’d like to second one of the points raised that by having English-heavy services and materials, there is some self-selection of people that come into the church. Converts are not necessarily limited to English speakers but they tend to be those who are at least comfortable accepting constant translation during meetings and limited personal access to church materials. My experience in Africa is that this required acceptance of what can only be described as a lesser “LDS experience” has a major effect on retention. It also causes problems of understanding basic doctrine, to say nothing of more complicated concepts.

    Comment by warno — August 21, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  25. Lynn Henrichsen (and students) have done some great work on language maintenance among the Scandinavian immigrant populations in Utah from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. It challenges the standard narrative that the immigrants learned English quickly and assimilated quickly. As I recall, Scandinavian language church meetings were discouraged, but they held them anyway. There must a Mormon Ole and Lena joke in there somewhere about those stubborn Scandinavians!

    Comment by sar — August 21, 2012 @ 8:03 pm


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Kevin Barney on What to Expect When: “I'll be there. I first started subscribing to the Journal circa 1995, because I was teaching a stake church history class and thought I ought to…”

Edje Jeter on What to Expect When: “Great comments, y'all.”

Jeff T on What to Expect When: “Thanks, Edje! In case anyone else is as unorganized as me: the conference hotel doesn't have any more rooms at the MHA rate ($122 per night),…”

Ardis on What to Expect When: “I see the First Timers’ Breakfast is on the schedule this year, which is another place to break the ice, have questions answered, and recognize…”

Curtis C on What to Expect When: “Thanks for the great writeup! I've always wanted to attend MHA, but never seemed to have the time to do it. Now that it's in…”

acw on What to Expect When: “Thanks for this thorough and inspiring intro! I hope to make it one of these years.”