For this roundtable, I was asked to give my reactions to the last two chapters: Reeve’s chapter on Mormons and Orientalism and the conclusion. I also want to provide a few thoughts in summation. I’ll try to keep the post relatively brief.
As I was reading the book, one of the things that occurred to me is that the real meat of the book lies in the chapters on Native Americans and African Americans. I agree with previous posters that Reeve has done some excellent work thinking about the racialization of Mormons affected Mormonism’s internal racial politics. At times, however, I found Reeve’s discussion of the conflation between Native Americans and Mormons unsettling. At times, he seemed to be suggesting that the creation of a Missouri county for Mormons was the same as Indian Reservations. Like Christopher Smith, I found myself wanting Reeve to add a reminder that white Mormons retained access to certain rights that other groups did not. They did so because of their skin color. (more…)
One of the women in my family tree is Aidah Clements, a New York convert whose testimony is often cited as one of the sources for the idea that Emma Smith pushed Eliza R. Snow, one of her husband’s wives down the stairs. Aidah’s relationship to the Smith family has always fascinated me. Aidah participated in many important events in Mormon history. She was a part of Zion’s Camp, immigrated with some of the companies to travel to the Salt Lake Valley, and watched as her two daughters married the same man.
I was recently searching for more documents about Aidah Clements when I came across some documents in the Church History Library that provided some interesting information about her marital history. (more…)
A few weeks ago, Ben published a round up of the best books published in Mormon History in 2014. This week, we are publishing a list of the forthcoming books. There are some amazing books coming out this year. Paul Reeve has already published his long awaited Religion of a Different Color as a Kindle Book. A hardback book will be out within a month. Thomas Carter’s emphasis on the material world offers a fascinating change of pace from the work that is usually published within Mormon history. His book promises to help us understand how Mormon theology affected the physical settlement of Utah. Signature Books was unable to produce a list of forthcoming books but as you will see, provided some interesting rumors. (more…)
2016 Church History Symposium
Beyond Biography: Sources in Context for Mormon Women’s History
March 3–4, 2016
Scholars of Mormon women’s history have long demonstrated a commitment to and an interest in biography. The resulting narratives have helped to recover and preserve voices that would have otherwise been lost to modern awareness and have allowed us to sketch the outlines of Mormon women’s experience over the past two centuries. The 2016 Church History Symposium will build upon past biographical work and push our understanding forward by addressing the following questions: How might we employ archival and other sources to create more complete and complex pictures of Mormon women’s history? How might we consider what individual lives mean within their broader contexts? How will these approaches expand or recast our understanding of Mormon history? (more…)
Welcome back to our series, wherein we answer questions from our readers about plural marriage. Where possible, I’ve linked to all the available sources for readers, so that others can investigate each question more fully, if they wish. Today’s question addresses the rumor concerning a physical altercation between Emma Hale Smith and Eliza R. Snow in Nauvoo.
In the 1982 issue of BYU Studies, three important Mormon women’s historians – Maureen Beecher, Val Avery, and Linda King Newell – explored the “oft-told tale” that Joseph Smith’s wife Emma pushed Eliza R. Snow down the stairs in a fit of jealousy. The story as they construct it is one that has several variants: “The characters involved are Joseph Smith, his wife Emma Hale Smith, and a plural wife, usually Eliza Roxcy Snow. The place is invariably Nauvoo, the scene either the Homestead residence of the Smiths or the later roomier Mansion House. The time, if specified, is either very early morning, or night, in 1843, April or May, or in 1844. The action involves two women in or coming out of separate bedrooms. Emma discovers the other woman in the embrace of or being kissed by Joseph. A tussle follows in which Emma pulls the woman’s hair, or hits her with a broom, or pushes her down stairs, causing either bruises, or a persistent limp, or, in the extreme versions, a miscarriage. There may or may not be a witness or witnesses.” (more…)
The coming of Christmas has slowed Mormon-related news this week. TLC announced that it will be airing a special called “My Husband’s Not Gay,” which will follow the lives of several men whose primary sexual attraction is towards men but who have chosen to marry women. The announcement of the program has revived discussions about Josh Weed and his willingness to discuss his relationship with his wife Lolly. Think Progress (linked above) hopes that the program will avoid the suggestion that homosexuality is something to be overcome but isn’t holding its breath. As someone who supports same sex marriage,* I agree with the sentiment and share their overall pessimism. It makes me yearn for the TLC of my high school years, which aired Baby Story every morning at 11:00 a.m. The last episode of Mormon Expression in which John Larsen will be hosting the podcast also aired this week. Adam Archer will take over soon.
*I should note that not everyone at JI agrees with my support of same sex marriage.
This came through my inbox last week, and I thought I would post it here in case anyone was interested.
The American Studies Consortium welcomes
Professor of English and Comparative Literature, San Diego State University
author of The Book of Mormon Girl
“When Storytelling is Movement Building:
Putting American Studies to Work in the World of Mormonism.” (more…)
Our post today comes from Brooke Brassard, who recently became a PhD Candidate (congrats Brooke!) at the University of Waterloo. Her dissertation focuses on how Canadian Mormons constructed an identity that was linked to but separate from American Mormons.
When you become perplexed with your problems, ask Betty Blair. She’ll help you find the answer or point the way to a solution of your difficulties,” advertised the Salt Lake Telegram on April 9, 1925, (more…)
First, a mea culpa: We at JI screwed up and failed to plan anything for women’s history month. Instead, we ended up doing a month on ritual. Although the month was fantastic and pointed to a lot of new insights and directions for Mormon history, we felt that it was important to devote a month to women’s history. We batted around a few times of the year when we could do it and eventually decided to begin the month on Mother’s Day. That decision, however, wasn’t without some trepidation. There was a feeling that conservative religious groups often reduce women to their status as mothers – lauding them for their ability to have sex and produce a child afterwards. Breastfeeding, housework, and the willingness of some women to stay home are lauded and pointed out as women’s true calling, while the other things that women do – factory work, the production of academic scholarship, etc. are forgotten. Even more marginalized are those women who chose not to or cannot have children or those who remain single throughout their lives. (more…)
In the fall, I’ll be teaching my own course for the first time. In the past, my funding has been a healthy mixture of TAships (2 years) and fellowships (4 years). At Michigan, PhD Candidates who decide they would like to teach a course as part of their final year of funding are allowed to choose their own topic. Although my dissertation focuses on Mormon missionary work, I decided NOT to focus the course on Mormonism. I felt that doing so would define me too narrowly – as a Mormon historian rather than a historian of religion, colonialism, and sexuality whose first project happens to focus on Mormonism. I also wanted to take a break from Mormon Studies. I also wanted, however, to teach a course that was related in some way to my dissertation and would challenge me methodologically. I eventually decided to teach a course called Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft that uses the tools of anthropology, history, and literary theory to think critically about the relationship between religion and magic. (more…)
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…)
Note: The description of the Salt Lake City lesbian community comes from Vern and Bonnie Bullough’s “Lesbian in the 1920s and 1930s: A Newfound Study,” which appeared in the Summer 1977 issue of Signs.
As part of a course I am taking on public history, we are writing an application to make the Henry Gerber house in Chicago a National Historic Landmark. Gerber was a German immigrant who founded the first gay rights organization in Chicago in the 1930s. He was a cantankerous man who was exasperated by the inability of his organization to attract people more respectable than a laundry queen, an impoverished preacher, and an employee of the railroad. When I took the class, I assumed that it would have very little to do with my dissertation research, which focuses on nineteenth-century Mormon missionary work. I was surprised when a historical consultant, who was visiting class to help us strategies ways to maximize the chances that the application would be accepted, mentioned that there had been a lesbian club in Salt Lake City in the 1920s.
I looked up surprised and asked, “Really?” (more…)
Occasionally, I do a keyword search for “Mormon” in JSTOR and Project Muse to see if anything comes up. A few days ago, I got a hit for a journal article that I didn’t know had been published or was even in the works. Quincy Newell, a religious studies professor at the University of Wyoming, has an article in the Journal of Africana Religions about Jane Manning James. Newell’s article is meant to showcase two significant documents: the autobiography that James dictated to Elizabeth Roundy around 1902 (more…)
Next week, I am going to be attending a course on how to teach writing in preparation for teaching English 125, Writing and Academy Inquiry next fall. The goal of the course is to teach students how to write in a variety of genres and to create complex, analytic arguments. Although most of the graduate students teaching the course are English PhDs, every year they ask a few PhD candidates from other departments to teach a section. Hence – me! One of our first assignments is to bring in an example of excellent writing from our field. I am torn about what to bring in. My first thought was Linda King Newell and Valeen Avery’s Mormon Enigma, which has a tenderness to it rarely seen in academy writing. But then, I saw Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre in stack of books a friend was assigning to her undergraduates next fall. After talking with the JI folks on the backlist, I decided that it might be fun to turn to the bloggernacle for ideas. What do you think are the best written books in both Mormon history and history in general? Also, what should I teach? Part of me wants to do a course on witchcraft and religion but I’ve also thought having the students research and write histories of Mormonism in Michigan. The topic could be almost anything. A friend of mine who works on Catholicism in Italy taught his on “Death and Dying.” Morbid, I know!
I’m looking forward to any and all suggestions.
The Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association will take place in Washington D.C., from January 2 – 5, 2014. It will be meeting jointly with the American Society of Church Historians. Several JIers will be presenting. The dates, times, and descriptions (when available) of their presentations are as follows: (more…)
Note: I haven’t been purposefully lewd in this post, but if you find discussions of women’s body parts and nursing uncomfortable, you should 1) probably never have a kid and 2) not read this post.
A few days ago, I decided to look at the program for the 2014 Meeting of the American Historical Association where I’ll be presenting in a few weeks. One of the things that surprised me was that they have a nursing room. As a mother of an almost entirely breastfed infant (no formula but she ate her first spoonful of pureed carrots the other day), my first thought was SCORE! Honestly, I have been to too many conferences that offered little to no support for young mothers in attendance. Typically, you are on your own to find a plug-in for your breast pump that is anywhere near the conference sessions, and the conference hotel may or not have a refrigerator to store pumped milk. The conference schedule is also usually too jam-packed to allow you to attend more than one session in a row without being so full that your breasts hurt.
As I look forward to AHA, I thought it might be helpful to me and other nursing mothers to create a document full of advice for new moms who may be attending their first conference. (more…)
A few years ago at a meeting of the Mormon History Association, Lisa Tait suggested that I read Susa Young Gates’ novel The Little Missionary. It was a barely fictionalized account of Susa’s experiences as a missionary wife in L?’ie, a small Mormon community in Hawai‘i focused on the production of sugar cane. Lisa felt that the novel would offer me insight into daily life on the plantation – the difficulty of eating Hawaiian food, the close relationships that developed between the men and women stationed there, and the gossip that sometimes circulated around the small community. It wasn’t until a few days ago, however, that I finally found the novel, which had been serialized in the Juvenile Instructor, and began to read.
Most of the novel is a light, cheerful exploration of the difficulties that white women as missionaries. Using a Mary Jane character, Susa describes the nausea that had greeted her on her way to the islands and the initial distrust of her children towards poi, mangos, and other Hawaiian foods. She also describes meeting the Hawaiian queen and watching Hawaiian Mormons pounding kapa cloth. Not all of the novel, however, has a jovial tone. While she was living in Hawai’i, two of her sons died of “diphtheritric croup.” (more…)
My world is crashing down around me. Things I never thought would happen are happening: A federal court has declared that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional and the LDS Church has produced a statement admitting that the priesthood ban was largely the result of nineteenth-century racism. The Salt Lake Tribune lauded the church for its decision to publish the essay as part of a series answering questions about its beliefs. In Religion and Politics, Max Mueller was similarly optimistic about the effects of the essay. He sees the document as the repudiating the church’s racist past and officially addressing the ban’s origins in statements by leaders like Brigham Young. For him, it is a monumental document that represents the beginnings of a sea change in the church’s positions on race. Other commenters have been less optimistic. Gina Colvin argued on her blog that the priesthood ban and ideas that African Americans had been less valiant in the preexistence had been taught as doctrine and as such, deserved to be addressed in General Conference rather than in a letter hidden on the church’s website. In a podcast with Dan Wotherspoon, Margaret Young, and Janan Graham, she further argued that the essay had been written from the perspective of the institutional church and failed to provide readers with the stories and voices of those who had been marginalized by the priesthood ban. Colvin has not been the statement’s only critic. At Young Mormon Feminists, Nick Lindsey suggests that the document creates a fiction that church leaders were always working towards racial equality rather than participating in and furthering racist discourses that relegated African Americans to the margins of Mormon society. KUTV released a fairly tempered article suggesting that the church’s statement was the result of a desire to answer questions that were arising because of information available on the Internet. Although the article did not address claims that the document represented a change in the church’s position on the priesthood ban, its analysis was less jubilant some of the others that have addressed the issue this week. (more…)
For the month of November, we at the Juvenile Instructor hosted indigenous history month. It was a bit of whirlwind with a lot of fantastic posts and content. A few of us thought we would have some thoughts about one or two posts that will change the way that we write about indigenous people in the future.
Amanda Hendrix-Komoto: One of my favorite posts was Farina’s on oral history and the politics of translation. In the post, Farina explores the conversation that was happening between translator, an elderly Navajo woman, and a Church history employee during an interview. Although the translator tries to capture what the woman is saying and to translate it accurately into English, Farina demonstrates that re-reading the Navajo section of the oral interviews provides an interesting glimpse into the mistranslations that occur as the translator is forced to slightly alter the meaning of questions to make them make sense in Navajo. Answers that appear incongruous suddenly make sense when the meaning of the question as it was asked in Navajo is considered. (more…)
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Note: This post continues our series on Mormonism and indigenous histories. Barbara Jones Brown is a talented historian who serves on the board of the Mormon History Association with me. She is a wonderful historian who displays compassion towards her historical subjects and to those people she meets as part of everyday life. She has worked extensively on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and on twentieth-century Mormon Indian history. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism at Brigham Young University in Provo and a master’s degree in history from the University of Utah. We are delighted to have her post with us today.
For nearly half a century beginning in 1947, the LDS Church ran a foster program called the Indian Student Placement Program. At the Church’s encouragement and with parental permission, the program removed Latter-day Saint Native American children from their homes on reservations or reserves in the United States and Canada. These children were placed with white LDS families for ten months of each school year and returned to live with their own families for two months every summer. The program’s goals were to provide better educational opportunities for the children while immersing them in white and Mormon culture. 
A 1978 Church pamphlet about the placement program opens with a 1941 quotation from historian Kenneth Scott La Tourette: “[Native Americans are] a race in process of being engulfed in an irresistible flood of peoples of utterly different culture. Dislocated from their accustomed seats, transplanted again and again, . . . at times demoralized by an excess of well intentioned but ill directed paternalistic kindness, it is a wonder that the Indians [have] survived.”
Ironically, beginning with the next paragraph, in a tone of “well intentioned” and “paternalistic kindness,” the pamphlet goes on to explain how the Indian Student Placement Program benefits Latter-day Saint Indian children by dislocating them from their accustomed homes, transplanting them into white LDS families, and engulfing them in an “utterly different culture.” (more…)