Okay, so this is from a different era. Still, I think it applies!
1863 was a troublesome year for Abraham Lincoln. His Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1st, but it needed to be vindicated by victories on the battlefield. However, Grant’s prolonged siege of Vicksburg and the game-changing victory at Gettysburg wouldn’t see completion until early July.
Those victories were inconceivable mid-1863, especially after costly Union losses at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville the previous winter and spring. Lincoln had another problem on his hands, too: political trouble in Missouri, brewing since the start of the war and coming to a head in the summer of 1863. The Border State had a large population of slave owners and had been occupied by a heavy Union military presence since early in the war. The various Unionist factions that arose in the state continued to press Lincoln to support their respective camps, either in spreading immediate emancipation to Missouri or allowing slavery to exist with a more gradual emancipation plan. When a delegation of the more radical faction visited Lincoln in Autumn to appeal for his support, he refused to add presidential clout to either group.
Frustrated with the politicking in Missouri, but unwilling to join sides, Lincoln remarked to a reporter that he had “adopted the plan learned when a farmer boy engaged in plowing. When he came across stumps too deep and too tough to be torn up, and too wet to burn, he plowed round them.” In other words, he opted for the course of least resistance rather than directly dealing with the most difficult of situations—and possibly unwinnable ones— as in Missouri.
Wait—he said that about Missourians? (more…)
From our friends in SoCal.
Authority, Community, and Identity
Call for Papers
The Religion Department at Claremont Graduate University is pleased to announce its annual Mormon Studies Conference, to be held March 6 and 7, 2015 in Claremont, California. We encourage proposals from graduate students and faculty of all disciplines. There are limited travel subsidies available for graduate student presenters. The theme for this year is “Authority, Community, and Identity.
The study of Mormonism requires an exploration of what it means to be a religious person. Individuals exist within a community where they negotiate and maintain their identities. The conference organizers are open to a wide range of paper proposals, including but not limited to topics suggested by the following themes and questions: How do people negotiate their Mormon identity in joining or leaving Mormonism? How does ritual impact community maintenance and religious authority? How have developments in communication changed methods of creating orthodoxy and heterodoxy? In what ways have changing norms and debates regarding gender and sexuality impacted identity and community? How have communities of doubt influenced claims to authority and identity? How has Mormon identity and community developed regionally and internationally? What role does tradition play in different geographies? How has secularization altered Mormon community formation and institutional authority?
While this conference will focus on Mormonism in particular, we encourage comparative papers, or papers on related traditions in which the theories or insights developed have some bearing on Mormonism.
Please email paper proposals and a CV to email@example.com by November 15, 2014. Proposals should be no longer than 250 words and should be attached as a Word or PDF document. Please indicate in the email if you would like to be considered for travel funding.
We’re pleased to present today’s guest post from Barbara Jones Brown. Barbara was the content editor of Massacre at Mountain Meadows (OUP, 2008) and is now at work on the book’s sequel. She holds a master’s degree in American history from the University of Utah and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Brigham Young University. She serves on the board of directors for the Mormon History Association and on the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Team.
On September 11, 2014, dozens of people from throughout the United States gathered at the lower monument of southern Utah’s Mountain Meadows. We were there to remember the victims of the atrocity that took place in that valley exactly 157 years before, when Mormon militiamen led a massacre of some 120 California-bound emigrants. Most of the victims were from Arkansas. Only seventeen children aged six and under survived. The monument, dedicated September 11, 1999, marks the spot where the emigrants took cover behind their wagons during the five-day siege and where U.S. troops laid many of their bones to rest in 1859. (more…)
Another week, another Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup
On the more academic side of things, the annual conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association kicked things off this weekend in Lamoni, Iowa. Check out the twitter feed for JI Ben’s tweets on the conference. The feed also confirms rumors that LDS Church Historian Steven E. Snow is in attendance. BYU’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections has advertised a position for Curator of 19th and 20th Century Mormon and Western Americana Books. Also, the Mormon Texts Project announced that five historical Mormon e-books have been added to Project Gutenberg. If you’re in the Logan area next week, come hear venerable historian Ron Walker speak on Brigham Young and the Utah War at the 20th Annual Arrington Lecture.
Elder Snow and other Church History Department officials spoke at a press conference recently that provided details on the Church History Museum’s permanent exhibit renovation, “The Heavens Are Opened,” scheduled to open October 2015. As several media outlets noted, the new exhibit will augment the museum’s artifact collection with technology to enhance the story of the early Restoration (1820-1846). These newspaper articles interpret the new exhibit within the church’s recent efforts to approach its history with transparency (with the Joseph Smith Papers and the Gospel Topics essays as the most notable examples), as the exhibit will attempt to tackle difficult historical issues, such as multiple accounts of the First Vision, seer stones and Book of Mormon translation, and Nauvoo polygamy. (more…)
Several years ago–perhaps 2009 or 2010–I first heard about a paper slated to be published in a major literary journal that radically reinterpreted the Book of Mormon as an Amerindian apocalypse. Whispers of both its imminent publication and its brilliance continued, and at some point, I was forwarded a prepublication draft of the paper. This isn’t altogether unusual in Mormon Studies–unpublished papers and theses, typescripts of difficult-to-access manuscript sources, and PDFs of out-of-print books passed from person to person have a long, storied, and sometime litigious history in the often insular world of Mormon scholarship. But unlike other instances I’m aware of, the importance of this paper was not in its access to otherwise unavailable primary source material or its controversial content, but rather in its interpretive significance. (more…)
Michael W. Homer, Joseph’s Temples: The Dynamic Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014).
There are few topics in Mormon history more fraught than the relationship between Mormonism and masonry. From the Mormon apologetic folklore that Joseph Smith only attended three masonic meetings to the anti-Mormon accusation that the temple rituals were merely plagiarized masonic rites, this is a topic that enlivens discussion in academic classrooms and missionary companionship study alike. Michael Homer’s Joseph’s Temples is the most recent contribution to this discussion, as it is a vastly expanded version of his previous work on the topic. And though it may not be up to addressing the deeper and more complex issues involved with the topic that are demanded by today’s Mormon studies field, it is the culmination of four decades of Mormon scholarship on the religion’s contested history with the contested fraternity.
Unlike most work on Mormonism and masonry, this book is not dedicated to the two years between Joseph Smith’s introduction of temple endowments, which came months after his induction to the Nauvoo Lodge, and his death in Carthage Jail, when his last words were the masonic call for distress. Rather, this book has a very broad chronological and geographic sweep, detailing freemasonry’s development in Renaissance Europe to masonry’s demise and resurgence in Utah. Half of the book does, though, detail with the Nauvoo period, which chapters dedicated to race, gender, ritual, and succession. Though this framework for chapters made it somewhat redundant at times—and certainly did not help with the book’s length—it did add to the book’s exhaustive nature, which is indeed its best strength. (more…)
Exponent II’s board in 1974 and 2014 (credit: Heather Sundahl)
began in 1974 in the Cambridge neighborhood of Harvard Square. On its fortieth anniversary, its founders – silver, sassy, and more than a little surprised that what they had wrought was still going strong – returned to one of the neighborhood’s church halls packed with guests to celebrate the organization and its achievements. I was so, so happy to be there, too. (more…)
Let’s dive right in:
First things first: the Church History department is now on Tumblr! I’ve already added it to my blog roll and look forward to more fun and informative posts.
Then, a Trib article on the (presumed) relationship between Mormons and the GOP, and a Huffington Post article on Mormons, social media, and progressive activism.
And because this post deserved another link, and these are words I never thought I’d read in one sentence, “Polygamist women in ninja costumes” involved in nefarious activity. See KUTV for more details on what is a funny headline for a sad story.
Lastly, a reminder that the deadline for this year’s Mormon History Association is coming up! All submissions are due October 1. You can find the CFP here.
Feel free to add your links in the comments!
The newly redesigned Harold B. Lee Library website is a great resource. Having spent a good deal of time with the site I thought it would be useful to highlight resources and (generally) overlooked goodness at BYU’s libraries and archives for your Mormon Studies research.
L. Tom Perry Special Collections
You know what it is, but did you know the Special Collections provides RSS feeds for the following?
The feeds can be a bit spotty, but the collection highlights are at least monthly and very helpful. One blog recently featured the excellent Newel K. Whitney Papers, which were digitized not long ago by the staff there. A few more highlights include: a direct link to search the Special Collections’ finding aids: http://findingaid.lib.byu.edu/, Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846–1869, and a web map that shows all geocoded (items with a geographic location) collections (over 3900 items!). (more…)
1. There’s something for everyone: exhibits on Relief Society history, Presidents of the Church, Book of Mormon Fiesta…
2. One exhibit, “Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God,” features some striking art about the breadth and depth of womanhood and charity. Regular JI readers might remember this post, in which curator Lauren Allred Hurtado introduced the exhibit. (Not in Utah? You can see an online version of the exhibit here.) (more…)
I’d like to offer some thoughts I’ve had on Jehu J. Hanciles’ Tanner Lecture at the 2014 meeting of the Mormon History Association. During his lecture, Professor Hanciles, a Professor of Global Christianity at Emory University, shared his research on the growth of Mormonism in Africa. (more…)
And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be [links]:
First up, a couple of items from a little beyond a week ago: The Salt Lake Tribune wrote about the latest exhibit at the Church History Library, a veritable treasure trove of rare documents and publications from the archives. Over at Religion in American History, Charlie McCary and Michael Graziano introduced readers to a course they’re team-teaching at Florida State this semester on Religion & Law in U.S. History. See Part I here and Part II here.
Last Saturday, Slate‘s “The Vault” featured a “day-by-day commemorative map of the Mormon journey West” from the late 19th century. According to Rebecca Onion, “The map’s commemorative publication in 1899 seems to show how quickly pilgrimage tourism, now common among Saints, had taken hold.” Speaking of the late 19th century, it was in 1893 that the LDS Church was denied a seat at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Next year, 122 years later, the Parliament will be held in the heart of Mormonism, Salt Lake City.
The Givenses remained in the news this week, with Terryl and Fiona each participating in a Reddit AMA on r/latterdaysaints. They also joined Doug Fabrizio on RadioWest for an interview about their latest book.
Over at A Motley Vision, Scott Hales lays out “a fifteen-week reading course in the Mormon novel.” Check it out here.
We’ll wrap things up this week with a handful of conference announcements: The Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture has posted a CFP for their annual conference, to be held next March in Boston. Proposals are due October 3 (for single papers) and October 17 (for complete sessions). Miles Mullin previews this year’s Conference on Faith and History annual conference at The Anxious Bench. Colleen McDannell is giving one of the four plenary addresses on the subject of “Heritage Religion and the Mormons.” And finally, in what looks to me like the conference of the years, Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History and the Danforth Center at WUSTL are co-sponsoring a conference on “Religion and Politics in 21st Century America” (in Dallas, TX on November 8). The roster of presenters is a veritable who’s who of the best and brightest young scholars of American religious history, including JI’s good friend Spencer Fluhman, who will present on “Never-Ending Mormon Moments.”
One final announcement for the week:
Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought, seeks an editor for the five-year term that will begin in 2016 and end in 2020. The new editor will inherit a journal with a fifty-year tradition of superb editorial leadership and a strong reputation as a premier publisher of academic and creative work related to Mormonism. Candidates must be available to begin assembling an editorial board and production team during the first half of 2015 and to begin work, during a six-month transition, on July 1, 2015.
Details concerning the scope of the editor’s duties, the qualifications sought, and the application requirements may be found on the Dialogue website at this link. Applications, which should consist of a cover letter with a statement of philosophy or vision, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample, must be submitted no later than November 1, 2014, to Morris Thurston (Morris@MorrisThurston.com), chair of the Search Committee. Questions may be directed to any member of the Committee, which also includes Patrick Mason, Michael Austin, Fiona Givens, Robert Goldberg and Laurie Maffly-Kipp.
From the event‘s organizers:
Date: September 20, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Wells Fargo Center Building at 1300 SW 5th Ave.
At the offices of Davis Wright Tremaine
Located on the Max Green line stop at 5th and Jefferson
There are several parking lots/garages in the vicinity.
Full day parking on Saturday is between $5 and $6.
Please note the approaching deadline (October 1, 2014). This conference promises to be MHA’s best yet.
Call for Papers
2015 Provo, Utah
50th Anniversary Conference
“Mormon Cultures, Cultural Mormons”
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Mormon History Association, whose annual conference will beheld in Provo, Utah, on June 4–7, 2015, at the Utah Valley Convention Center. We invite papers and presentations that consider Mormon history in its broadest possible sense, as well as those which reflect retrospectively on the history of the MHA itself at its first half-century mark. (more…)
Smith’s own lack of education may be an objection to the claim that Christian Platonism influenced him. “Being in indigent circumstances [we] were obliged to labour hard,” Smith said of his childhood. “Therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education[.] Suffice it to Say I was mearly instructed in reading writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements.” His mother, Lucy, said Smith read less that her other children and his wife Emma said at the time he dictated the Book of Mormon, he “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter.” Smith’s writing skills were limited and he most often dictated what he wanted to communicate. But Smith was not cut off from learning and literacy in his day. His mother said he read less than her other children, not that he didn’t read at all, and both his mother’s and his wife’s statements were made in context of defending the validity of the Book of Mormon against the claim the Smith was the author. Lucy and Emma may have been exaggerating Smith’s ignorance to bolster that claim. Though he grew up in a small, recently settled town, print was available to him: newspapers, bookstores, and libraries. Smith also made attempts to engage intellectually with his peers by attending religious meetings and a local debating society. Furthermore, Smith continually worked at his education; Smith even attended school when he was 20 to 21. A major shift occurred when Smith founded his church. Smith now had more free time with which to read and many of his followers had better educations than he did; he even founded a study group, the school of the prophets. In an important sermon toward the end of his life, Smith declared after giving an exegesis of Genesis 1:1 along Christian-Platonic lines, “if you do not believe it you do not believe the learned man of God.” (more…)
Yet arguing for the influence of these various thinkers on Smith raises the issue that Smith never once mentioned any of their writings. Visionaries often did not cite their sources, however: Jacob Boehme, Jane Lead, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and William Blake said nothing about what they were reading other than the Bible. This has caused problems for scholars who have tried to contextualize these visionaries. Swedenborg’s followers have tended to view claims of influence as delegitimizing and have argued against Swedenborg being influenced by other thinkers (similar to Mormon scholars’ concerns), but as Brian Gibbons argues, “The tendency of Swedenborg’s hagiographers to see his work as created ex nihilo is clearly untenable.” Scholars have vigorously debated what William Blake’s influences might have been with Harold Bloom declaring that Blake “was not an antiquarian, a mystic, an occultist or theosophist, and not much of a scholar of any writings beyond the Bible and other poetry insofar as it resembled the Bible,” while numerous other scholars have argued that Blake was influenced by esoteric ideas, particularly Neoplatonism. (more…)
Yet Mormonism was not simply a product of Joseph Smith digging through texts that described early Christianity and Judaism (though he likely made use of such texts). Smith’s earliest contact with Christian-Platonic ideas came through the Smith family’s religiosity. A series of dreams that Smith’s father had continually described the feeling that something fundamental was missing from the established churches; Smith’s notion that that the established churches and even the Bible were missing truth likely came from his father. As I argue in Chapters Two and Three, Smith’s father’s dreams align with visions described in John Dee’s spirit diary (1659). Dee and Smith had a number of additional similarities: both used a seer stone, wrote a book that was dictated by a person looking in a seer stone, made Enoch central to their theology, and had similar marital practices. Dee was heavily influenced by Christian Platonism (see below) and the similarities between Dee and Smith suggest that Smith felt that early modern visionaries could also have parts of the missing truth. Smith’s grandfather was a Universalist and his father joined them at one point; Origen’s writings inspired the rise of Universalism in early modern Europe. In addition, the Smiths engaged in a number of traditions related to the cunning-folk, or those who either believed that they had special powers or believed that such could be derived from “magic” books called grimoires. Grimoires were full of Neoplatonism (Platonic philosophy inspired by Ammonius), particularly theurgy. Furthermore, evidence suggests that Smith’s father had some association with a movement called the New Israelites, who, among other things, believed that they really were Israelites, a claim that the Mormons also made. These connections suggest that interest in Jews was part of the Smith family religion, an interest that may have led Smith to read Allen’s Modern Judaism. (more…)
Just as Allen had condemned Kabbalah as Platonic, Mosheim and the encyclopedias also condemned Ammonius and Origen. These sources went so far as to claim that these thinkers had corrupted Christianity. Mosheim began the passage by declaring, “A new sect of philosophers arose of a sudden, spread with amazing rapidity throughout the greatest part of the Roman empire … and was extremely detrimental to the cause of Christianity.” Mosheim then asserted, “This new species of philosophy imprudently adopted by Origen and many other Christians, was extremely prejudicial to the cause of the gospel, and to the beautiful simplicity of its celestial doctrines.” Ultimately, said Mosheim, this philosophy led to “an unseemly mixture of platonism and Christianity.” Those who reprinted this passage reprinted these denunciations and Alexander Campbell in his introduction to Mosheim’s passage declared, “Mosheim … satisfactorily shows, that the first ‘Theological Seminary’ established at Alexandria in Egypt, in the second century, was the grave of primitive Christianity.” Such, said Campbell, “was the fountain, the streams whereof polluted the great mass of Christian professors, and completed the establishment of a paganized Christianity, in the room of the religion of the New Testament.” Mosheim and Campbell were repeating the popular notion that Platonism had corrupted primitive Christianity, a notion that Protestants had developed to attack both Catholics and Christian Platonists in their day (Chapters One and Three). (more…)
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The above quotes from Mosheim were descriptions of the same movement: Alexandrian philosophy of the first centuries C.E. In addition to attempting to pull together all truth and entering the presence of God (similar to Smith’s goals), Mosheim said that Ammonius Saccas taught that Jesus’s “sole view, in descending upon earth, was … to remove the errors that had crept into the religions of all nations but not to abolish the ancient theology from whence they were derived.” Mosheim went on to say that Jesus’s “only intention was to purify the ancient religion, and that his followers had manifestly corrupted the doctrine of their divine master.” Mosheim suggested that Ammonius believed that Jesus’s followers had corrupted Christianity by removing truths that aligned with the “ancient theology.” Just like the Book of Mormon said, according to Mosheim, Ammonius believed that truth had been removed, and as Mosheim said that Ammonius believed that the ancient theology was Platonic, the truth removed by Jesus’s followers would align with the Platonic ideas found in the Book of Mormon and Allen’s Modern Judaism. Thus, just like Ammonius, Smith sought to restore this lost truth: Mosheim called Ammonius’s followers the “latter platonics” similar to Smith’s Latter-day Saints. (more…)