After a brief hiatus, we are back with the weekly round-up. Let’s go!
I thought I’d write up a quick note on the status of the growing Dictionary of Mormon Biography (DMB). We have welcomed a few more editors in the last few months and our database continues to expand.
Over three years ago, I posted my first attempt at a Mormon History Canon. Since a few years have past, a few new books have shaken the field, and I am bored post-dissertation, I thought it was time to do an update. I’ve also refined the type of list this is, which is discussed below.
The goal of the list was to name 25—and the number had to stick to 25—books that every student of Mormon history should read. It is designed as a template for a grad student’s theoretical comprehensive exam list (though I should again emphasize that I’d think it’d be a stupid idea for a grad student to dedicate a portion of a comprehensive exam merely to Mormonism). Thus, books need to cover a broad swath of topics, chronologies, and approaches in order to be inclusive, but they should also match a particular level of quality. I’m also shying away from (most) biographies, edited collections, and documentary sources; those can have separate lists. (more…)
The Mormon History Association Spring 2014 newsletter is now available, and we wanted to continue our tradition of highlighting its contents and announcements.
Registration is now open for the San Antonio conference (MHA’s 49th), expertly organized by Brian Cannon, and the lead story reminds us that there is a long history of church connections with Texas dating back to 1844 and continuing through the followers of Lyman Wight, missionary efforts in the 1850s, and vibrant local growth in the 20th century. The conference will take place at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk hotel, and self-guided tour maps will be available for those wanting to see the city on foot. There are still some seats open in the pre-conference tour to the Spanish Missions, and in the post-conference tour to the Wightite sites, state capitol at Austin, and LBJ locations.
Starting in July 2014, MHA welcomes its new executive directors, Debra J. and David B. Marsh of Sandy, Utah, who are profiled in this issue. Debbie is a professional genealogist and historian who will be defending her PhD dissertation at the University of Utah this summer on the Carthage mob. David is a longtime CES educator and church curriculum designer with degrees in psychology, family studies, and sociology of religion, currently working for the church’s Priesthood Department.
Calls for Papers and Upcoming Events, in order of their submission deadlines – (more…)
From our friends at the Joseph Smith Papers
Historian/Documentary Editor, Joseph Smith Papers
With Joseph Smith having given the King Follett Discourse one-hundred seventy years ago this day, I thought I would put up a post from my dissertation that addresses one of the themes from the Discourse. Here I discuss the Platonic concept of the nous, or the uncreated part of the soul that was divine.
I put this analysis in the context of discussing the Book of Abraham, so this is the part where Abraham discusses “intelligences.”
The Nous. Using the term “intelligence” to describe pre-mortal beings was similar to the Platonic concept of the nous; indeed, intelligence is one way to translate nous in to English, mind is another. Smith used both terms to describe a similar concept. (more…)
The marriage of Helen Mar Kimball to Joseph Smith is certainly one of the most controversial polygamous relationships in LDS Church history. [n1] Relying upon the work of Andrew Jenson, the marriage has generally been dated to sometime in the month of May 1843. [n2] I recently read a blessing given to Helen Mar Kimball by her father Heber C. Kimball, dated May 28, 1843, available at the LDS Church History Library.
We here at JI have an exciting announcement. A few months ago, Amanda and Natalie stumbled across a particularly moving passage in a nineteenth-century diary in which a small child was healed after being run over by a wagon on the Mormon Trail. Imagining the child’s broken, crumpled body being healed while his mother wept nearby affected the two who began to wonder how people who seemed so reasonable could have believed in the possibility of divine miracles. After several days of fervent prayer, they decided to ask the missionaries to visit them in Natalie’s home in Lansing. After finally reading the Book of Mormon, they realized Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he never could have written something so beautiful and inspiring as the Book of Mormon as a young, uneducated man. Both JIers will be baptized next week in the Lansing 2nd Ward. Please welcome them as your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Note: Amanda has also recognized her importance as a mother and will no longer be completing her dissertation at the University of Michigan. You may keep up with her at her new mommy blog komotodragons.wordpress.com
Let me begin with a mea culpa. It was my turn to do the round-up this week and I completely forgot about it till I was sitting in Au Bon Pain after church, eating a lemon cupcake and wondering if the baby was going to fall asleep so I could do some work. (She’s still awake right now, but I have my fingers crossed that she’ll fall asleep soon or that her father will magically return and relieve me of my childcare duties.) (more…)
By now most of us probably know about the story Hannah’s New Dress. I will let Peggy Fletcher Stack describe the scenario from her excellent and multilayered article Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects from from February 28th:
One of them tells of little Hannah, who wanted to wear to the zoo a red-and-white sundress that her grandma had given her, but she noticed it didn’t have any sleeves. So her mother put a T-shirt under it. “Now I am ready to go to the zoo,” said the child.
The message is implicit: modesty matters and should matter even to the youngest members of the church. What is most striking about this story is that the young girl is the one who recognizes the problems with the dress.
For today’s post we welcome back Susanna Morrill, friend and occasional contributor to the JI.
I have been thinking about Nancy Peirson’s journal since I first ran across it years ago during my dissertation research. It is a fantastic resource for tracking the earliest, lived religious practices of Mormons, especially medical and health practices. I am at the beginning of this project centered on Peirson’s journal; these are some initial thoughts on the subject. Nancy Peirson was baptized into the LDS Church in 1838 and remained a faithful Mormon until she died en route to Salt Lake City in 1852. Peirson was part of the Richards family, a sister to Willard Richards. Peirson recorded her life in a journal written from 1846 to 1852. Health, illness, and death are central themes in this journal. Regularly and carefully recording the health of her friends, neighbors, and family, Peirson became increasingly fixated on illness and disease as she dealt with a painful tumor on her side, a malady that probably led to her premature death. She created a network of Mormon correspondents, a network that was focused on discussions of health and illness. Most of these correspondents were her siblings: Willard, Rhoda, Levi, and Hepsy Richards (among others). In these exchanges we see how the family’s pre-Mormon Thomsonian health practices smoothed the way for their conversions to the LDS faith.
Last year I drove from Salt Lake City to Logan for the first time. One of the things that I found most captivating along the route was the barns. They were so different from the ones where I live. I found both the basic structure and the pitch of the roof to be intriguing, and wondered what it was about the environment and culture that made them so different from the barns I was familiar with. I would imagine that to anybody who lives locally or drives that route often, the barns are unremarkable. This is the challenge of vernacular architecture – the ordinariness of a building almost renders it invisible. However ordinary buildings and landscapes are revealing indicators of culture and identity and in some cases religious practice. (more…)
Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt is currently an assistant visiting faculty member in Brigham Young University’s Department of Ancient Scripture. A former seminary and institute instructor, she earned a PhD from Arizona State University in lifespan developmental psychology, focusing on women and social issues.
In the past week I attended a stake activity days event, young women’s new beginnings and a relief society birthday celebration. While each was carefully planned, well attended and inspiring I couldn’t help but wonder how effective it might have been had the three events been combined to celebrate a female trajectory of discipleship. A clearly celebrated sisterhood across the lifespan is something I feel is lacking in the Church. LDS females lack delineated rites of passage. Activity days for 8-12 year old girl and young women programs such as personal progress are posed to set females on a path of goal setting but lack rich ritual behavior and frequent association with women of varying ages over a span of years. Further, it seems the three female auxiliaries often function territorially rather than as homogenous, unified sisters. Having said that, I’m intrigued by the possibilities of next week’s intergenerational gathering in the historic General Women’s Meeting of the Church. I’m hopeful that this initiates a pathway for female socialization including increased frequency of gatherings of this type in localized communities. (more…)
This quick-and-dirty (and embarrassingly long) post traces some of the history of Christian liturgy to consider a different way to think about Mormon ritual. It’s very much exploratory; I welcome your insights and critiques.
Many of the most rancorous debates of the Reformation Era—and there were lots of them—revolved around liturgy and the practice of Christian rituals. Not only did Protestants clash with the Roman Church as they attacked and rejected the conventional set of seven sacraments, but before long, the new Protestant schools of thought were in conflict with each other as well. More than anything else, in fact, it was the debate over the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that shattered the prospects of a united Protestant Christendom.
We’re pleased to announce that Liz M., a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University, has agreed to join the Juvenile Instructor. Here is how she describes herself:
I am working on a PhD in American religious history at Claremont Graduate University. My dissertation is on women’s popular family theologies in between the world wars. One chapter will be on Mormon women. So I am interested in family religion and women’s religious history.
Please join us in welcoming Liz to the Juvenile Instructor, the best academic Mormon history blog on the interwebz since 2007!
On Monday, I attended a lecture celebrating the Relief Society Commemoration given by Sharon Eubank, Director of LDS Charities, sponsored by the Church History Department. Her comments were titled “Matriarchy” and she indexed the many ways Mormon women have historically performed acts of charity and whose legacy of service continue to have influence on the many projects LDS charities executes today, albeit on a much grander scale. (more…)
In his introductory post to Religious “Practice” month here at JI, Ryan touched on the many ways ritual and practice informs Mormon lives, from the formal ordinances to the less formal expressions of lived religion, like hair wreaths or sacrament bread. Today’s post is about one of those informal practices, namely gardening, and more specifically, gardening at Temple Square. (more…)
Megan Sanborn Jones is currently the coordinator for the Theatre Arts Studies program at BYU. She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in theatre critical studies. Her work about religious performance in 19th-20th century America has been published in Theatre Journal, The State of the Art, and Theatre Topics. Her book, Performing America in Anti-Mormon Melodrama, was published by Routledge in 2009 and won the Best First Book Award from the Mormon History Association. We are pleased to have her contributions here at the JI.
My interest in religious practice in Mormon history is neither wholly religious nor very historical. I’m grateful to colleagues in the field who focus on theological practices from baptism ordinances to temple ceremonies to relief society birth rituals. The topics I study as performance scholar are rarely fundamental to salvation. Contextualizing Mormon ritual is generally a nineteenth century study, requiring detailed looks at the archives to tease out foundational practices and first-person accounts of origins. My interest in the material practice of Mormonism is more contemporary. As Ryan T. points out in his introduction to Religious “Practice” Month at the JI, “Time. . .has brought a new consciousness of the embodied, external, purposive behavior of religious actors.” I take his description literally and examine Mormon actors of the twenty-first century, on theatrical stages, in LDS Pageants.
It’s that time of the year, when the snow begins to melt (hopefully) and a hoops fan’s heart turns to March Madness. This year, we at Juvenile Instructor are hosting a March Madness bracket challenge for our loyal followers. Join us! (more…)
Okay, my last post talked about the concept of the “genius”: guardian beings like angels. Here I talk about a possible ritual that young Joseph Smith might have performed on the night of the Moroni visitation. Michael Quinn argued that Smith may have performed some type of ritual on the night of the visitation. After summarizing Quinn’s arguments, I present the following:
An additional piece of context for the Moroni visit was the statement from the neighbor that Smith was “born with a genius.” Again, this was a Platonic notion that remained prevalent in grimoires. (more…)