Todd Compton, award-winning author of the recently-published biography of “Apostle to the Indians” Jacob Hamblin, contributes this installment in the JI’s Mormons and Natives Month.
The problem with Mormon history is that it focuses on Mormons. I make this paradoxical statement to intentionally overstate the case—but there is some truth to it. We Mormons have never existed in a bubble; we have always interacted with non-Mormons. A historian can, of course, focus on the Mormon side of things, and you would expect a writer of “Mormon history” to do so, to a certain extent. However, if we don’t take the non-Mormon side of the story seriously, looking at it thoroughly and even sympathetically, we will not even understand the Mormon side of the story in a careful, holistic way. (Looking at the non-Mormon side of our history sympathetically can be difficult for modern loyal Mormons, given the polarized Mormon/anti-Mormon conflicts throughout nineteenth-century Utah history.) (more…)
Filed away in the Brigham Young Papers at the Church History Library, there is a document that records the vision of a nineteenth-century prophet. That visionary, however, was not Brigham Young. Rather, it was Arapeen, a leading Ute chief during the Mormons’ first two decades in the Great Basin. That the Saints believed that Arapeen had received a legitimate revelation is revealed in the language they used to categorize the document. John Lowry, Jr., the Manti resident who interpreted for Arapeen, and George Peacock, who acted as scribe, entitled the document “Vision of Arapine on the night of the 4th of Feb 1855.” Later, after it had been sent to Young’s office in Salt Lake City, an unidentified clerk scrawled “The Lord to Arrowpin” in the margins. Arapeen’s vision provides a fascinating window into the Utes’ hybrid religious culture that was in the process of formation in the years following the Mormons’ arrival in 1847. (more…)
This post is adapted from a presentation given at the 2012 Sidney B. Sperry Symposium at Brigham Young University.*
Ideologies can turn heads. In United States of America, ideological head turning has often been westward. In this post I argue that it was the ideology and force of Indian Removal that turned the heads of early Mormons and oriented them to the West. (more…)
In June 1832, Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to preach Mormonism to the people of what was then the fourth largest city in the United States. The previous year, a young Methodist woman had traveled from Boston to Kirtland, Ohio, been baptized a Mormon, and then returned to her Massachusetts home. That woman—Vienna Jacques—had prepared several of her friends and family members for the arrival of the itinerant missionaries, and Hyde and Smith gained several converts that summer, a number of whom came from the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church, to which Jacques had belonged prior to her conversion to Mormonism. (more…)
This installment of the JI’s Mormons and Natives Month comes from Paul Reeve, associate professor of history at the University of Utah and frequent guest blogger at the JI.
In every instance where Mormons faced growing animosity from outsiders and tension escalated between Mormons and their neighbors, accusations of a Mormon-Indian conspiracy were among the charges. The Mormon expulsions from Jackson County, Missouri, from Clay County, Missouri, and from the state of Missouri altogether, along with their exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, and the later Utah War were all events notably marked by claims that Mormons were combining with Indians to wage war against white America. (more…)
By Laura Allred Hurtado, with David G. Note: This represents preliminary and ongoing research for the Armitage painting.
In 1890, British born painter and founder of the Utah Art Association William Armitage created the massive historic painting, Joseph Smith Preaching to the Indians. The artwork, which once hung with prominence in the Salt Lake Temple, now fills the wall leading up to the 2nd floor of the Church History Museum. The scale itself means that it demands the attention of the entire room, standing almost as a sentinel within the space. The painting depicts, as the title suggests, a well-dressed Smith preaching to a crowd of nearly forty American Indians which surround the frame. Smith’s outstretched right arm gestures heavenward while his left hand holds the Book of Mormon, a book that according to historian Ronald W. Walker was “not just a record of the ‘Lamanite’ or Native American people, but a highly unusual manifesto of their destiny.” Smith stands triumphantly and confidently among this crowd of mostly male Indians whose expressions vary from guarded, taken aback, distrusting, perhaps even provoked but in all instances, they are engaged, looking toward Joseph and his distinct message regarding the destiny of North America’s Indigenous peoples. (more…)
This installment in the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Corey Smallcanyon. He is a Din4 (Navajo) Indian from the Gallup, New Mexico area, who grew up on and off the Navajo reservation. He works as an Adjunct Professor with Utah Valley University teaching United States History. His emphasis is in U.S. History, the American West, Utah history, LDS history, Native American and Navajo history. In his spare time he volunteers teaching Navajo genealogy to surrounding areas and spending time with his family.
Among the Dine’ (Navajos) Ma’ii (coyote) stands center stage as a trouble maker, wise counselor, cultural hero, and powerful deity. Ma’ii stories help establish a foundation for the ethical teachings for all children. Early traditional memory tells of Ma’ii who tried to steal the farm of Grandfather Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii (Horned Toad). Ma’ii came “wandering” upon Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tending his farm and asked for some of his corn to eat. After much begging, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii gave into Ma’ii’s demands, but Ma’ii was not satisfied and began taking more without permission. As Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii tried to take the corn away Ma’ii ate Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii. Upset with his predicament, Na’asho’ii Dich’izhii was eventually able to make his way out of Ma’ii, and triumphed by taking back his farm.
Since the JI’s founding in 2007, our permas and guests have spent a lot of time thinking about Mormonism’s encounters with indigenous peoples. Here’s a “blogliography” (ht: Blair) of our past posts on the subject, through October 2013:
One of the difficulties with engaging in new fields of inquiry is finding out what books are essential for providing a background in the topic. As part of our month investigating the relationship between indigenous people and the LDS Church at the Juvenile Instructor, we have compiled a list dealing with the top 10 books on Native American, Polynesian, and other native peoples within Mormon history. Compiling the list of books was difficult because it raised issues of how much weight should be placed on different categories. How should we weight syntheses vs. monographs? How much should theory count over information? How do you compare books about different locales and different time periods? How should articles count?
Included with each books is a description of its contents from Amazon.
In no particular order, they are: (more…)
This installment of the JI’s Mormons and Natives month comes from Matthew Garrett, associate professor of history at Bakersfield College in California. He received his Ph.D. in American History from Arizona State University in 2010. He is currently revising for publication his dissertation, “Mormons, Indians, and Lamanites: The Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000,” which should prove to be the definitive history of the ISPP.
When David G. approached me to contribute to this month’s theme, I initially thought the notion of a “Mormons and Natives” field of study seemed a bit odd. I never viewed the two fields with much connectivity, other than a few mid-century works about Jacob Hamblin or Chief Wakara. As I sat down to draft out the separate evolutions of the two fields, the task proved far more complicated than expected, and the only way I could think to articulate it was to take the reader on a semi-biographical journey that follows my own intellectual awakening. I trust that the Juvenile Instructor’s readers will tolerate a little self-indulgence as I relate the divergence and re-convergence of Mormon and Indian history. (more…)
Here is a guest post from Megan Falater who is researching the interactions between nineteenth-century Mormon ecclesiastical authority and doctrine related to the family for her dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also a longtime lurker of Juvenile Instructor. For this post, she revisits an undergraduate project on the LDS Indian Student Placement Program.
In 1971, Victor Selam complained in Diné Baa-Hani, an underground newspaper published in the Navajo Nation, that Brigham Young University limited American Indians’ expression of their identities. Selam recounted a conversation he held with a member of the University Standards Office prior to his dismissal from the school:
I reminded the “Man” that in Mormon prophecy the Indian people would “rise up and blossom as a rose in the latter days.” I said that I fully agreed with the prophecy and that it also exists among the Indian people, only in different words in a different language. But how can this rose “blossom” if it doesn’t push and pull itself up? How will Indians rise up if they sit back, quote prophecy, and do nothing like some people at B.Y.U.? And furthermore, what of those Indians who cease to exist as Indians-who want to be white people and act accordingly and forsake their own people? (more…)
For the past several months, the JI has sponsored various theme months, allowing permas and guests to ruminate on such topics as politics, the international church, and material culture. November is Native American Heritage Month, which was first promoted in the Progressive Era by reform-minded Indians to recognize the contributions of Natives to the development of the United States. As in the case of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we at the JI believe that Natives are an intricate part of Mormon history, rather than a sub-topic only worthy of discussion once a year, but we also see the value in focusing our thoughts at this time in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month. This month’s editors, David G., Amanda, and Farina, have assembled an all-star cast of guest bloggers, who will share fascinating insights from their research, alongside contributions from permas. The editors have also put together some brief thoughts on their areas of expertise for this introductory post.
Mormonism’s Encounters with Native America in the 19th Century (David G.)
From the earliest days of Mormonism, indigenous peoples were central to Joseph Smith’s vision of the future. (more…)
Second only to polygamy, Mormons in the second half of the nineteenth century were known for violence. Paramilitary groups of “Danites” or “Avenging Angels” allegedly surveilled, threatened, and/or killed as directed by Church leaders. In three instances that I know of, non-Mormons portrayed members of these groups as using robes, hoods, and masks like those of the Ku Klux Klan. The purpose of this post is to put all three instances on the same page at the same time. (more…)
John C. Begay recalled the day when his branch president, Don C. Hunsaker, pulled him out of his class at the Intermountain Indian Boarding School to invite him to attend the Latter-day Saint Indian Seminary program. His mother had enrolled him in seminary, but Begay followed his peers to the Catholic and Nazarene activities until Hunsaker found him. He then started to attend the seminary class of a respected LDS leader and local of Brigham City, Elder Boyd K. Packer. Begay claims, “‘That’s where I was converted to the LDS Church. My mother had secretly signed me up for Seminary which became my favorite class….’” .
This installment in the JI’s material culture month comes from Farina King of the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House clan) of the Diné (Navajo). She is a second-year graduate student in the U.S. History Ph.D program at Arizona State University. She received her M.A. in African History from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies. King has written and presented about indigenous Mormon experiences in the twentieth century, drawing from interviews that she conducted for the LDS Native American Oral History Project at BYU. Her doctoral research traces the changes in Navajo educational experiences through the twentieth century. She was the last Miss Indian BYU crowned in 2006. King is also a dedicated wife and mother to two toddlers. A version of the following will appear in a special issue on Miss Indian pageants, forthcoming in the Journal of the West .
The Tribe of Many Feathers (TMF), the BYU Native American student organization, hosted the Miss Indian BYU pageant for twenty-three consecutive years until 1990. TMF restarted the pageant in 2001. I was the last crowned Miss Indian BYU in 2006, since the TMF Council cancelled the pageant again in 2007. I had the opportunity to interview several former Miss Indian BYUs about their experiences as title-holders and pageant contestants including Vickie Sanders Bird and Jordan Zendejas who I feature in this blog post. The Miss Indian BYU Pageant and its winners’ memories reveal the ways that Native American LDS youth engaged and transformed material culture in the effort to represent BYU Indian students. (more…)
Almost exactly one year ago, the University of North Carolina Press published Edward Blum and Paul Harvey’s The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, a sweeping and provocative analysis of the ways in which Americans from various walks of life over the last four hundred (!) years have imagined Jesus. Among the many contributions the book makes, and of particular interest to JI readers, is the authors’ situating Mormons as important players in the larger story of race and religion they narrate so masterfully. In fact, one paragraph in particular has garnered more attention than nearly any other part of the book—a brief discussion in chapter 9 of the large, white marble Christus statue instantly recognizable to Mormons the world over. In the latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History, Noel Carmack authored a 21 page review of The Color of Christ, focusing on their treatment of Mormonism and paying particular attention to their discussion of the Christus. Professors Blum and Harvey generously accepted our invitation to respond here, as part of both our ongoing Responses series and as an appropriate contribution to our look at Mormon material culture this month.
Michael J. Altman received his Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from Emory University and is an Instructor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Mike’s areas of interest are American religious history, theory and method in the study of religion, the history of comparative religion, and Asian religions in American culture. He is currently completing a book manuscript analyzing representations of Hinduism in nineteenth century America. This post originally appeared at Mike’s personal blog. He graciously allowed the Juvenile Instructor to repost it in its entirety.
One of my favorite weekly podcasts is Slate’s Hang Up and Listen, a sports podcast that deconstructs sports media and culture with a wry wit that deflates American sports of all its self-seriousness. If sports talk radio is Duck Dynasty, Hang Up is 30 Rock.
Every week host Josh Levin signs off with the phrase “remember Zelmo Beaty.” Beaty, a basketball star in the 60s and 70s passed away recently and this past week Hang Up and Listen reminded us why we should indeed remember him. Stefan Fatsis’ obituary of Beaty opened by staking out Beaty’s importance as a pioneer for black players in professional basketball. But what caught this religious historian’s attention was the confluence of race and religion that surrounded Beaty’s move to Salt Lake City to play for the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association in 1970. (more…)
“Do you think President Kimball approves of your action?” This question, asked by an unnamed general authority of the soon-to-be excommunicated Elder George P. Lee of the First Quorum of the 70, captured the lingering tensions over the rapid decline of the “Day of the Lamanite” that had marked Mormon views of Native Americans in the second half of the twentieth century. Lee, the first general authority of Native descent, was himself the product of several of the programs instituted under the direction of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball designed to educate American Indians and aid their acculturation into the dominant society. Even at the time of Lee’s call to the 70 in 1975, the church had begun reallocating resources away from the so-called “Lamanite programs,” but the full implications of these decisions were not apparent until the mid-1980s. Lee responded to the question posed above by laying out a distinct interpretation of 3 Nephi 21:22-23, an interpretation that he argued Kimball had shared and that the General Authorities in the 1980s had abandoned. The 1980s, known as the decade when Church President Ezra Taft Benson challenged the Saints to increase and improve their devotional usage of the Book of Mormon—a challenge that saw marked results, at least as measured by the significant increase of citations to the work in General Conference talks—was also a decade of debate over the meaning of the book’s intended audience and purpose. (more…)
Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns came to seem, in the media frenzy of the last few years, like bookends to America’s much-touted Mormon moment. But Americans’ fascination with the Latter-day Saints did not begin or end with Mitt Romney. This is not the first period in American history when non-Mormon Americans have, to some extent, embraced their LDS neighbors. In fact, Mitt Romney isn’t even the first Republican Romney whose religious affiliation has colored his national political image. His father George, the successful head of the American Motor Company in the 1950s and popular governor of Michigan in the 1960s, was a prominent candidate for the 1968 Republican nomination for President. Also like Mitt, George owed at least some measure of his political success to a period of increased interest in and positive feeling towards the Mormons. As J.B. Haws, Assistant Professor of Church History at BYU, shows in his article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History, George Romney’s candidacy was not seen as tainted by a “Mormon problem,” as were his son’s campaigns a half-century later.  In the United States in the 1960s, the Romneys’ Mormonism simply “mattered less” than it does in the 21st century. And if it mattered at all, Haws argues, it did so by lending George Romney the air of “benign wholesomeness” that characterized public perceptions of the Latter-day Saints in this period (99).
Haws’ current article is based on the research for his forthcoming book The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (OUP, November 2013), and essentially lays the groundwork for that longer study, in which he traces public perceptions of Mormonism in the American media across the last half-century. In the 1960s, he argues, George Romney ran for the Republican nomination for the presidency and faced remarkably few challenges to his religion—or at least what look like remarkably few challenges to those of us who lived through the most recent Mormon moment. By comparing political polling data from both Romneys’ campaigns and examining news coverage of the elder Romney’s presidential aspirations and editorial commentary on his campaign and on the larger question of the role a candidate’s religion should play in voters’ assessment of his fitness for office, Haws convincingly demonstrates that Americans were less concerned in the 1960s—or at least said they were less concerned—by the possibility of having a Mormon in the White House than were their early 21st-century counterparts. While George Romney’s religion was occasionally challenged—primarily, Haws claims, regarding the Church’s policies on race (remember, George Romney was running for the presidency in the midst of the Civil Rights movements, and a decade before the Church lifted its ban on blacks in the priesthood)—according to Haws it was not Romney’s religion but his moderate politics and his ill-advised declaration in 1967 that he had been “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam war that sunk him with American voters. In short, Haws argues that political views, not religious beliefs, were the elder Romney’s greatest obstacles.
Next Page »
This is the second in a three-part series of posts about Joseph F. Smith’s experiences during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863. See the first part here.
Image: CHARGE OF THE POLICE ON THE RIOTERS AT THE “TRIBUNE” OFFICE, Harper’s Weekly, August 1, 1863, p. 484 
Joseph F. Smith arrived in New York City on July 6, 1863, after an unremarkable journey from Liverpool (though he did mention with disappointment on July 4th that “no demonstrations were mad[e] to commemorate the aneversery of American Independence,” ). He had been recently released from his missionary duties in the British Isles Mission, and was fulfilling an assignment to see several groups of Mormon emigrants safely into the U.S. and on their way toward Utah. (more…)