Desperate times (the expected dearth of posts at the end of the semester) call for desperate measures (narcissistically posting about our own scholarship).
Parley Pratt, whose theology was as rugged as his looks.
In summer 2009, I participated in the Mormon Scholars Summer Seminar, that year led by Terryl Givens and Matt Grow, where I had the opportunity to study the writings of the Pratt brothers. While my seminar paper was on Parley Pratt’s theology of embodiment, which soon evolved into a larger article on early Mormon theologies of embodiment in general, the topic with which I became particularly transfixed was how Joseph Smith’s teachings were adapted and appropriated during the first few years after his death. At first, I was interested in the very parochial nature of the issue—the specifics of theological development, who said what and when, and what ideas were forgotten, emphasized, or even created anew. But I then became even more interested in broader questions: how were Smith’s ideas interpreted in the first place within a specific cultural environment, and how did Smith’s successors utilize that environment when molding their own theology? And further, what does that process tell us about the development of religious traditions in general, and the progression of religion in antebellum America in particular? (more…)
Note: It is a pleasure to have Margaret Blair Young contribute to JI’s monthlong series on issues of Race and Mormonism. Margaret Blair Young has written extensively on Blacks in the western USA and particilarly Black Latter-day Saints. Much of her work has been co-authored with Darius Gray. She authored I Am Jane.
The first staged reading of I Am Jane was on the Nelke theater stage at BYU. It was the climax of a playwriting class, and met some deserved criticism. It was, as I recall, about 120 pages. Too many words. The first draft I wrote used a clichéd convention: rebellious teenager dreams about/ learns about/ re-enacts the life of a heroic ancestor and gains self-respect and courage. But such a play is more about the teen than the character whose life I wanted to explore. And I was researching it even as I was scripting the play.
After I had chiseled away at the script, I thought it ready for its debut, which happened on March 5th, 2000. The play was that month’s Genesis meeting. There was no stage, so we threw a blanket over a trellis to suggest a covered wagon, used the sacrament table for Jane’s death bed, and the clerk’s table for other scenes.
I knew there was more sculpting to do, and revised several times before our performances in Springville’s Villa Theater. During that two-week run, I played Lucy Mack Smith, who let Jane handle a bundle purportedly containing the Urim and Thummin. (This is according to Jane’s life story, which she dictated near the end of her life.) (more…)
By Armand Mauss
Note: The following is an excerpt from Prof. Mauss’ recent memoir, Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic (UofU Press, 2012), which Prof. Mauss kindly shared with the Juvenile Instructor for inclusion in our Black History Month series. The memoir (which everyone should buy and read!) has received some attention in the ‘nacle here and here.
All during this post-1978 period, I remained in periodic personal contact with many black LDS friends, especially those in the Genesis Group.27 As conversations with my black LDS friends made clear, the circulation of this repackaged folklore greatly hindered the conversion and retention of new black members. I became well acquainted personally with one case, in particular, which produced a major national news story in 1998. This was the case of a middle-aged black couple named Jackson, who lived in Orange County, California. Betty Jackson happened to be a coworker with one of my sons at the Mazda Corporation, and through friendly conversation, each discovered that the other was a member of the LDS Church. The Jacksons had only very recently been converted along with one or two of their children. Having learned of the traditional LDS racial teachings and policies only after joining the Church, the Jacksons were having considerable trouble in accommodating the new information. My son gave Betty a copy of the Bush & Mauss Neither White nor Black in hopes that it might help them understand and deal with the matter, which it did to some extent. (more…)
By Quincy D. Newell
Jane Manning James (Wikimedia Commons)
Jane James haunts me. Not in the way you’re thinking—I don’t see her ghostly specter on cold evenings, or hear her humming a tune in the other room as I’m trying to sleep. What I mean is that she just won’t let me go. Every time I learn something new about her, it seems that I go down a rabbit hole. It takes me days to return, mentally, to whatever I was doing. James, an African American woman who converted to Mormonism in the early 1840s, moved to Nauvoo after her conversion and worked as a servant in Joseph Smith’s home. After Smith’s death, she worked for Brigham Young. She was in one of the first companies to arrive in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and she remained a faithful Latter-day Saint until her death in 1908. She left a pretty substantial paper trail, including a short autobiography, an interview with the Young Woman’s Journal, appearances in the Woman’s Exponent, and multiple petitions to church leaders for endowments and sealings. (The largest published collection of this material is in Henry J. Wolfinger, “A Test of Faith: Jane Elizabeth James and the Origins of the Utah Black Community,” in Social Accommodation in Utah, ed. Clark S. Knowlton, American West Center Occasional Papers [Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1975], 126-172. I have a new transcription of James’s autobiography and a reprint of that Young Woman’s Journal interview coming out in the Journal of Africana Religions this spring.) (more…)
“Tainted blood” – The Curious Cases of Mary J. Bowdidge and Her Daughter Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry
Connell O’Donovan January 2013
In September 1885, Joseph Edward Taylor, First Councilor in the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, contacted LDS President John Taylor (no relation) regarding the curious case of “a young girl” (she was 20) residing in the Salt Lake 18th Ward named Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry. Berry and Hyrum B. Barton, son of a pioneering Salt Lake family originally from England, had fallen in love and began to make plans for a temple marriage or sealing – probably in the still functioning Salt Lake Endowment house. However, as Taylor explained to the church president, “the question of jeopardizing his [Barton’s] future by such an alliance has caused a halt.” The “jeopardy” that the already-married Hyrum Barton faced was that this bigamous marriage would be to a young woman “whose mother was a white woman but whose father was a very light mullatto [sic]” as Councilor Taylor reported. Taylor had written to Pres. John Taylor to request an exemption from the LDS policy at that time of not allowing women or men of black African descent to enter LDS temples to participate in what they consider to be sacred ordinances necessary to salvation and exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, specifically the endowment ritual and the eternal marital sealing ceremony. As Taylor further explained to his church superior, “The girl is very pretty and quite white and would not be suspected as having tainted blood in her veins unless her parentage was known.” In addition, Lorah J. B. Berry herself was adamantly requesting permission to be endowed for herself and then sealed for eternity to Barton on the basis of two known precedents, which she invoked to the Salt Lake Stake Presidency. (more…)
By Paul Reeve
In May 2012, Susan Saulny, a reporter for the New York Times published a story, “Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity,” an investigation into how black Latter-day Saints grappled with their decision between a Mormon Republican and a black Democrat in the 2012 presidential election. The online version of the story featured a “TimesCast” four minute video which included a fellow reporter from the Times interviewing Saulny about her story. The conversation began with an expression of “surprise” that there were in fact black Mormons for Saulny to interview. The exchange then entertained a bit of speculation over how many black Mormons there are in the United States, with a “very small number,” a “couple of thousand max,” and “500 to 2,000” offered as possibilities. The “TimesCast” did rightly note that the LDS Church does not keep racial statistics on its membership, so that the number of black Mormons is difficult to know. (more…)
In February 1926, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson inaugurated Negro History Week, which was designed to highlight and celebrate African American contributions to American history and life. He chose February because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in that month, hoping that remembering the births of these two men would improve race relations in the United States. A half century later, in the wake of post-World War II Third World decolonization, the Civil Rights Movement, and in honor of the bicentennial, Gerald R. Ford expanded the week to a month and nationalized February as Black History Month in 1976. The move reflected the ways that social historians were changing how American history was written and taught, shifting way from “great white man” narratives to include the experiences of blacks and other racial minorities as well as women of all races.
In honor of Black History Month 2013, the Juvenile Instructor will be hosting a month-long series examining the history of black experiences with Mormonism. We have invited leading experts on the subject to participate in the series, in hopes of highlighting cutting-edge scholarship and increasing dialogue among scholars and our readers on the importance of blacks in Mormon history. Some JI bloggers will also contribute to the series, starting tomorrow with J. Stapley’s opening post. At the conclusion of the series, our resident expert on the subject, Max, will offer concluding thoughts.
N.B. In recent years, there has been debate over whether dedicating one month to black history gives Americans a pass to forget the subject for the remainder of the year. We at the JI believe that Mormon history should be racially inclusive, regardless of the month, although we also see some benefit in concentrating our discussion this month for the reasons discussed above.
For prior JI posts on the priesthood/temple ban and black experiences with Mormonism, see here.
This Christmas we got a lovely gift under the tree from my sister that was especially appropriate for our family, and which we really liked. It was a gift set on the “Art of Manliness” with two books and a set of coasters in a self-described “classic cigar box.” One book was an etiquette and advice manual updating 19th and early 20th century counsel for the 21st century man dispensing “classic skills and manners,” and the other was a collection of readings described as Manvotionals, clustered around “the seven manly virtues” (in case you’re keeping track, those are: manliness – which, I have to say, seems a little redundant, plus courage, industry, resolution, self-reliance, discipline and honor). My teen sons have already devoured both books and the collection’s appeal is undeniable – the books come pre-scuffed in that new-but-looks-old-book way that is so popular these days, abundantly illustrated with graphic elements and engravings that look borrowed from Gilded Age business periodicals and 1920s Arrow collar ads. (more…)
Not even a Catholic blessing could save Manti Te’o and the dying pop-culture Mormon moment he represents. (source: Wall Street Journal)
[cross-posted at Religion in American History]
On Monday afternoon, just hours before the Alabama Crimson Tide blew out the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS National Championship football game, Peggy Fletcher Stack posted a short note at the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Following Faith blog on the Catholic pregame rituals of ND.
Specifically, Stack drew readers’ attention to the Mormon story embedded within a fuller exploration of that subject at the Wall Street Journal: Star linebacker, Heisman Trophy runner-up, and devout Mormon Manti Te’o joins his teammates in “attend[ing] a Catholic Mass, receiv[ing] ‘a priest-blessed medal devoted to a Catholic saint,’ and ‘kiss[ing] a shrine containing two slivers Notre Dame believes came from Jesus’ cross.’” He was even photographed receiving a blessing from Notre Dame president emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh (a blessing Te’o reportedly sought out). Football team chaplain Father Paul Doyle explained that Te’o has privately told him that “he feels supported here [at Notre Dame] in his Mormon religion.”
All of this immediately brought to mind some of my previous thoughts on Mormon supplemental worship, in which Latter-day Saints supplement their Mormon activity by attending other Christian church’s services (a habit that dates back to at least the late nineteenth century). While the example provided by Te’o is clearly part of that larger historical tradition, it also strikes me as unique for a couple of reasons: (more…)
John Turner assumed a tall task when he decided to write a biography of Brigham Young, a larger than life personality who, after Joseph Smith, was the defining figure in nineteenth-century Mormonism. Young was a key participant in the church’s founding years and was the driving force behind the Mormon settlement of the Great Basin. As Amanda noted in her contribution to this roundtable, the sheer scope of Young’s life required Turner to not only familiarize himself with a mountain of primary sources, but also the extensive and growing secondary literature on various facets of the second Mormon prophet’s life and environment. She also fairly notes that no biographer (except, perhaps, Richard Bushman) can be reasonably expected to competently cover all parts of a subject’s life equally, which will doubtless leave some readers disappointed. Brigham Young’s engagement with and impact on the Natives of the Great Basin was one area that Turner sought to contextualize within a broader secondary literature and, for the most part, he was highly successful. (more…)
When Larry Echo Hawk was sustained as a Seventy earlier this month, he became just the second self-identifying North American indigenous person to serve as a General Authority. His call came over two decades following the excommunication of his predecessor, George P. Lee, and three decades following the church’s decision to discontinue its programs aimed at American indigenes: the Indian Student Placement Program, the Indian Seminary, and BYU’s Indian programs. Echo Hawk’s experience therefore presents a window into how at least one Mormon Native reared during the twentieth-century’s “Day of the Lamanite” continues to appropriate and utilize a Lamanite identity, at least for a predominantly white audience. Since the early 1990s, Echo Hawk has commented on this subject in talks given at BYU, LDS Church News interviews, and his recent conference talk . (more…)
I don’t remember what I was looking for specifically; it was in August, 2007. (more…)
By friend of the JI Joseph Stuart
Whilst transcribing portions of the Oliver Huntington journals for a paper to be presented at the Utah State Historical Society, I stumbled upon this gem in Oliver’s stake conference notes. The conference’s visiting authority was apostle and Church Historian Wilford Woodruff, who made considerable efforts to address certain rumors/falsehoods circulating about LDS Church History in his address. (more…)
Professor Jared Farmer and the State University of New York at Stonybrook very generously posted a free e-book last week—Mormons in the Media, 1832-2012. Though the title should be “Mormons in American Media,” the 342-page book and the hundreds of images therein need to be seen. They are beautiful and brilliant—some impressively horrific in their full technicolor glory. Farmer builds upon a foundation established by Gary Bunker and Davis Bitton in their 1983 The Mormon Graphic Image, 1833-1914: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations and is able to radically enlarge it. The expansive scope of these pages can easily induce a little head spinning—the very best kind. (more…)
Earlier this week, Max Mueller posted at Peculiar People some thoughtful reflections on non-Latter-day Saint historians of Mormonism and their role as “friendly critics” to Mormons and Mormonism. He used recent op-eds authored by Helen Radkey and John Turner on proxy baptisms and Mormonism’s history of racial exclusion, respectively, to frame his argument. It’s well worth reading and recommended to all JI readers.
Edward Blum is associate professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and most recently, co-author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012), which will be available next month. He is the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005). Ed also blogs at Religion in American History and Teaching United States History.
The media is buzzing about the current “Mormon moment,” by which they mean that Americans, in contrast with decades past, currently seem fascinated by and inclined to be positive about the Latter-day Saints. But this is not non-Mormon America’s first flirtation with this long-suspected native-born religion. Americans have had several such moments of fascination with the Saints throughout the last century. (more…)
At 6 a.m. on July 24, 1947, the centennial of the Mormon Pioneers’ entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, the first spectators arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, Utah. By mid-morning, perhaps ten thousand cars were parked over several square miles, with as many as fifty thousand attendees waiting for the festivities to begin. They had gathered to witness the dedication of the sixty-foot tall “This is the Place” Monument, which would honor not only the Latter-day Saint Pioneers, but also the Spanish, British, and American forerunners who had laid a foundation for the Mormon settlement of the Great Basin. At 9:30, the Boy Scouts raised the American and Utah state flags, while the U.S. Marines band from San Diego, California, began playing “America.” Church President George Albert Smith, as master of ceremonies, introduced the program and delivered the dedicatory prayer. Speakers included J. Rueben Clark and David O. McKay, Smith’s counselors in the First Presidency; the Most Rev. Duane G. Hunt, bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese; Rt. Rev. Arthur W. Moulton, retired Episcopalian bishop of Utah; and Rabbi Alvin S. Luchs of Temple B’Nai Israel, all of whom were members of the monument commission. The dedication marked an important occasion in what Laurie Maffly-Kipp has called the “Long Approach to the Mormon Moment,”as Latter-day Saints sought to claim a prominent place both in the present and the past of the American nation. (more…)
Christopher Rich’s response to Nate Ricks’ review of “The True Policy for Utah: Servitude; Slavery; and ‘An Act in Relation to Service,’” Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 54-74.
I was very happy to learn of this forum for discussing LDS History, and jumped at Nate’s invitation to have lunch and discuss the history of servitude in Utah. I found his master’s thesis to be invaluable when I first began to research this area, and thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him about this nuanced and highly interesting topic. (more…)
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Nate Ricks’ response to Christopher Rich Jr.’s article “The True Policy for Utah: Servitude; Slavery; and ‘An Act in Relation to Service,’” Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 54-74.
When JI introduced the “Responses” series a few weeks ago, Amy T. suggested that someone review Chris’s fascinating article. David G. invited me to give it a go, since I examined the same topic in my master’s thesis in 2007. When I looked up Chris’s contact info, I was delighted to find that we currently live in the same city. We arranged a lunch date and had a great time discussing slavery in Utah while devouring Mexican food. (more…)