Mormons have a long history of supplementing their LDS worship with attendance at or participation in the services of other Christian denominations. In the 19th century, some Latter-day Saints in the American South would, in the sometimes lengthy periods between visits from traveling missionaries, attend Sunday services at the local Baptist or Methodist church. In the 21st century, Mormons are counted among mega-preacher Joel Osteen’s many listeners and viewers, tuning into his broadcasts on Sunday mornings while getting ready to attend their own meetings; others, acting as spiritual tourists, occasionally take in a Catholic or Anglican service while traveling.
Perhaps the most notable (and timely) example of Mormons supplementing their worship outside the confines of the Mormon chapel or temple, though, is the increasing number of Latter-day Saints who take part in some aspect of the traditional Christian liturgical calendar. Some attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve, others finding personal meaning and significance in Ash Wednesday. In perhaps the most striking example, a ward in Medford, Oregon collectively observed Palm Sunday last year, complete with palm fronds made by the primary children. Last year, I decided to observe the Lenten fast, giving up dessert/candy/sweets for the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. I did so quietly, taking as my guide the excellent devotional readings by the good folks at By Common Consent as part of their ongoing Mormon Lectionary Project. It ended up being a wholly worthwhile experience, and this year I was eager to participate again. Yesterday at noon, I attended the Ash Wednesday service at the Williamsburg United Methodist Church, accompanied by another Mormon grad student. (more…)
A few weeks ago we looked at how the Salt Lake Tabernacle was frequently invoked as a symbol for Mormonism in the 1880s and then at descriptions of the Salt Lake Tabernacle as turtle-shaped. This week we combine the two to imagine a symbol that might have been. First, however, we’re going to talk about anti-Catholic crocodiles. (more…)
In January, JI got an email asking for a post highlighting the “essential” books to understanding the history of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/Community of Christ. We reached out to David Howlett, author of The Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space (University of Illinois Press, 2014), and visiting assistant professor at Skidmore College. David’s book is well worth your time, and I urge you all to read it. He graciously provided us with a list of five essential books for any readers interested in RLDS/Community of Christ history.
For today’s discussion, the image is “Situation of the Mormons in Utah” by George Frederick Keller, which appeared in San Francisco’s Wasp on 1879 Feb 01.  (more…)
From the John Whitmer Historical Association organization:
Do you love church history? Visit the annual John Whitmer Historical Association meeting at Independence, Missouri, September 24–27, 2015. Listen to presentations and discuss historical events with some of the most knowledgeable authors like Erin Metcalfe, Newell Bringhurst, Joseph Johnstun, and many more. Even better, propose your own paper and present your research on a topic pertinent to the Restoration. The proposal deadline is April 1, 2015. Directions for submission can be found here.
In the next two posts I’m going to look at turtles as symbols in a Mormon context. I resisted the titles “Mormon Testudines” and “Mormon Chelonians” as being bit obscure for a non-science blog. For our purposes today, “turtles” will include “terrapins” and “tortoises,” acknowledging that some versions of English make distinctions among the three. It turns out that almost everything I found with Mormons and turtles in the same sentences involved comment on the shape of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. (more…)
The schedule for the Fifth Biennial Faith & Knowledge Conference was posted this morning at faithandknowledge.org. The event will be held on Friday, February 27 and Saturday, February 28, 2015 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Registration is now open, as well.
For the first time ever, Friday night’s opening panel will be open to the public, and if you’re in the general area, you won’t want to miss this. Noted LDS scholars Terryl Givens, Professor of Literature and Religion, and the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at University of Richmond, and J.B. Haws, Assistant Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University and author of The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (OUP, 2013), will offer their respective thoughts in response to the prompt, “What’s Changing in Mormonism?” They will be followed by a response from Jennifer L. Geddes, Research Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and Director of Publications at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture University of Virginia. Dr. Geddes is the author of several articles and essays, and the editor of two books: Evil after Postmodernism: Histories, Narratives, Ethics (Routledge, 2001); and, with John K. Roth and Julius Simon, The Double Binds of Ethics after the Holocaust (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
Attendance at Saturday’s proceedings is limited to currently-enrolled LDS graduate students and early career scholars. It features presentations from some of the very best and brightest young Mormon scholars in panels ranging in subject from “LDS Experiences in and Approaches to the Academy” to “LDS Perspectives on Faith, Personality, and Work,” and from “Gender, Sexuality, and Race in Mormon History, Theology, and Experience” to new and innovative “Approaches to Mormon Scripture” to “Faith Crises and Faith Transitions.”
If you’re an LDS graduate student or early career scholar interested in the intersections between religious faith and scholarship, please consider attending.
[Looks like a great program, including a smattering of JIers–always a good sign for a successful conference.]
Claremont Mormon Studies Conference
Community, Authority, and Identity
Claremont Graduate University
March 6-7, 2015
925 N. Dartmouth Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711 (more…)
Posting Dates: 01/29/2015 – 02/27/2015
Job Family: Library, Research & Preservation
Department: Church History Department
The Church History Department seeks a full-time Writer/Editor who will be responsible for the research, writing, and editing of products associated with historic sites significant to the history of the Church.
A few weeks ago, I began to scan and catalog notes from previous research projects. One of my notes from a project on the development of the notion of the post-mortal spirit world caught my eye. It is a telegram sent from Heber J. Grant to Edna Lambson Smith, the wife of President Joseph F. Smith, in the wake of her son, Hyrum Mack Smith’s, death. I thought this note was a lovely expression of affection and empathy from Grant and don’t really have anything to do with it, research-wise. I figured I would post it here and see if it inspired somebody else. At any rate, it’s been exactly 97 years since the telegram was sent, and presumably, received. (more…)
Harline, Craig. Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Life Mormon Missionary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2014.
Craig Harline, professor of European History at BYU, wrote a missionary memoir about his time spent serving in Belgium. As its title suggests, this is not a typical memoir of perseverance and triumph. No, instead Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary chronicles his time as Elder Harline in a real, self-deprecating, and occasionally raw manner.
[We are happy to pass along this CFP from our good friends who run the Mormon Studies Group at AAR. In my personal experience, these sessions usually include some of the most exciting work currently being done in the field.]
The Mormon Studies Group seeks proposals for full sessions or individual papers that consider any aspect of Mormon experience using the methods of critical theory, philosophy, theology, history, sociology, or psychology. This includes the use of Mormonism as a case study for informing larger questions in any of these disciplines and, thus, only indirectly related to the Mormon experience. For 2015 we are particularly interested in proposals addressing international Mormonism and which engage questions of globalization, imperialism, and decolonization. (more…)
Welcome back to our continuing series, where we answer questions about plural marriage. As always, there are actual questions from actual readers.
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES
To what extent was Emma aware of the various sealings? Was Joseph actively deceiving Emma about the sealings? What do we know of the impact of polygamy on the Smith’s marriage? Do we know if divorce was ever seriously being considered?
Our friends in the Religion Department (Church History and Doctrine) at BYU are hiring adjunct faculty to teach a Doctrine and Covenants course this SUMMER term. (more…)
In many anti-Mormon cartoons from the 1880s (and a few before and after), the Salt Lake Tabernacle functioned as a graphic shorthand to communicate Mormon-ness. That is, from its completion in 1867 until sometime after the completion of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, the presence of the Salt Lake Tabernacle was one of the ways you knew you were in a (usually anti-) Mormon cartoon. In retrospect, the point seems rather obvious, but it surprised me a bit when I noticed so I wrote it up. (more…)
It’s that time of year, and MHA folk are reminding us to submit books and articles for their annual awards to be given at the conference in June. We would especially like to draw your attention to the following awards, and encourage everyone to submit your own work to the relevant categories. The deadline is February 1. (more…)
[A few months ago, we highlighted a recent article by Jared Hickman titled, “The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse,” published in American Literature (the premier journal of its field). This was a long-awaited article, and was worth all the excitement. I’d argue it is one of the most sophisticated treatments of the Book of Mormon, from an American literary perspective, in quite some time. We are thrilled to offer the following Q&A with Professor Hickman, who was gracious enough to give very thoughtful responses to our questions.]
This has been one of those long-awaited articles that (probably unethically) passed around in manuscript form for nearly a decade. Could you describe the provenance and development of this important article?
Around 2005 or 2006, while still in graduate school, I was graciously invited by Richard Bushman—a cherished mentor from my days as a Smith fellow—to participate in a Book of Mormon roundtable in Salt Lake City. The idea was that this roundtable would eventuate in an Oxford Introduction to The Book of Mormon. As a Ph.D. candidate soon to face the bleak academic job market, I couldn’t turn down such an opportunity to beef up a meager c.v. Fortuitously, I had been teaching The Book of Mormon in Sunday school in our local ward—full of formidably smart and thoughtful people—and was thus reading it with a new level of rigor informed by my ongoing scholarly training. I found it speaking profoundly to both my research interests in religion, race, and American literature and my evolving spiritual proclivities. Its formal curiosities were suddenly apparent to me as never before, and I fancied I could see in its intricate narrative architecture theological and ethico-political possibilities that I at the time desperately needed. I wrote a draft at the tail end of a summer spent working in a one-room yellow-brick house that had formerly housed a plural wife and her family on my in-laws’ glorious patch of earth in Sanpete County, Utah. It was a summer that had in part been spent absorbing local lore about Chief Sanpitch and the Ute groups ousted by the Mormon settlers, including an outing to the reported site of Sanpitch’s tragic death, a boulder movingly inscribed with commemorative marks. I recall the initial composition process as an exhilaration—one of those rare alignments of will and circumstance. The essay seemed to go over well enough at the roundtable, but the projected volume never materialized, so I was left holding a long and idiosyncratic essay on The Book of Mormon that didn’t have a home. At my adviser’s suggestion, I sent it to a couple of journals in my field and received rejection notices, but richly bemused rejection notices that made me think I might have something if I could figure out how to make it a less quirky artifact of my own intellectual alchemy. So I put it on the back-burner. Then, in a pinch—when I didn’t have a dissertation chapter ready for workshop—I presented it in my American literature doctoral colloquium and was cheered by my non-Mormon peers’ enthusiastic response to it. For a brief time, the essay was up and available on the colloquium website, and many people seem to have gotten hold of that very early (and, frankly, embarrassing) version of the essay. Over the ensuing years, I thought about it now and again and tinkered with it here and there, but I had other, more pressing projects to work on. After years of encouraging e-mail queries about it from readers of the online version that had circulated, I finally got my act together and got it in good enough shape to submit to American Literature. The review process was especially rigorous—for which I am most grateful—and forced me to translate the essay in important ways that I hope make it a valuable contribution not only to Mormon studies but American literary studies. (more…)
Announcing the 2nd Annual Wheatley 2015:
The 2nd Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” summer seminar will run from June 22 through July 10, 2015. It is being sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and is under the direction of Professor Terryl Givens, Wheatley Fellow and Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. From the announcement:
What are the general contours of Christianity’s efforts to find a marriage of belief and intellect? Does Mormonism face the same challenges as the broader Christian tradition? What are the contributions of Mormon theology to current debates in the political and cultural realms? How reasonable are LDS positions on the family, marriage, pro-life and end of life issues? Is the Mormon theological tradition an asset or a handicap in the public sphere? With what mix of revealed truth and rational discourse can Mormons best address these issues in public debate?
Students in the seminar will spend three weeks addressing these and related questions. Along the way they will survey illustrative moments in Christianity’s engagement with secularism, and examine pivotal Mormon theological understanding of such concepts as agency, the eternal soul, embodiment, and human potential and purpose. Invited guests from inside and outside the Mormon tradition will share experiences related to religiously informed participation in the public square. The purpose is to foster Latter-day Saints who are better equipped to participate effectively in society-wide conversations where LDS values are relevant and at stake. The seminar will culminate with student-authored position papers to be presented in a public symposium.
The Wheatley will provide $1500 stipend to seminar participants, along with a housing allowance. The seminar will meet on Brigham Young University campus for two hours a day, generally four days a week. Students will be expected to devote full time to the seminar during its three week duration. Applications are invited from upper level undergraduates or graduate students in all disciplines.
Additional details and an application form can be found by clicking the title above. The application deadline is March 15, 2015 and notifications will go out by March 31, 2015.
Julie K. Allen joined the Scandinavian Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006. She received her PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University in 2005. Her research focuses on questions of national and cultural identity in nineteenth and twentieth century Danish, German, and Scandinavian-American culture. (more…)
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Joseph Smith Papers Project Internship
The Church History Department announces an opening for a one-year internship with the Joseph Smith Papers Project. This will be a part-time (28 hours a week) temporary position beginning in March 2015.
Duties will include research related to document analysis (textual and documentary intention, production, transmission, and reception) and to contextual annotation of documents (identifications and explanations). Research will involve work in primary and secondary sources for early nineteenth-century America and early Mormonism. Work will include general assistance to volume editors.
• Bachelor’s degree in history, religious studies, or related discipline, with preference given to those with master’s degrees and/or in doctoral programs.
• Possess excellent research and writing skills.
• Ability to work in a scholarly and professional environment.
• Requires both personal initiative and collaborative competence. (more…)