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…)
A few weeks ago, I read Mark Rifkin’s When Did Indians Become Straight for a workshop hosted by the University of Michigan’s American Indian and Queer Studies Now Interdisciplinary Groups. I was surprised to see Mormonism mentioned within the text. Rifkin’s key argument is that heterosexuality is defined by more than the number of partners that an individual has. Ideas about racial purity, couplehood, and domesticity also mark what it means to be heterosexual. Because many American Indian groups rejected a focus on the nuclear family as the normative family model, Rifkin argues that they cannot be considered “straight.” Mormonism serves for Rifkin as an example of a religious faith in the nineteenth century that became “perverse” because of its rejection of traditional understandings of marriage and domesticity. (more…)
JI would like to welcome James Egan. He is a third-year law student at Brigham Young University who studied literature and political philosophy at the University of Utah. He reads JI regularly and loves jazz music.
I must confess at the outset of this post that I am most definitely an amateur when it comes to Mormon history. (If I had the guts, I’d confess that I am in fact a law student.) So with the all-too-convenient excuse for ignorance that my amateur status afforded me (I trust I haven’t lost it yet), I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the annual Maxwell Institute Seminar, which gave time to dive into the deep well of early Mormon primary documents. I spent a good portion of my time in the Utah sermons of the latter half of the 19th century, and my paper for the seminar’s symposium grew out of a fascinating remark in one of Brigham Young’s earlier sermons. During one of his many calls for gathering truth from every corner of the world, Young pointed the saints to “pagans of all countries” and made the remarkable claim that “in their religious rights [sic] and ceremonies may be found a great many truths which we will also gather home to Zion.” I ended up writing about the elements of Mormon intellectual history that made it possible for Brigham Young to entertain the possibility that pagan or heathen ritual would be a part of Mormon gathering, but along the way, I spent a little time considering how other invocations of heathen nations functioned rhetorically in Young’s sermons. (more…)
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…)
The Journal of Mormon History will be sponsoring a special issue devoted to innovative student scholarship. The issue, which will be edited by Christopher Jones and Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, will seek to highlight a wide variety of perspectives and methodologies. They particularly welcome submissions that take seriously Mormonism’s international history, its engagement with non-white people, and its emphasis upon materiality. Please see the call for papers below.
Call For Papers
Special Student Issue of the Journal of Mormon History
The Journal of Mormon History is seeking contributions for a special issue that will highlight the work of undergraduate and graduate students working on Mormon history. Papers may address any aspect of the Restoration Movement, including the Community of Christ and Mormon fundamentalists. The Journal is especially interested in contributions that address Mormonism’s racial and geographic diversity, twentieth-century Mormon history, and material culture. All topics and contributions, however, will be given serious consideration.
Interested students should submit a short 500-word abstract of their suggested article along with a CV or brief biography by January 1st, 2014. Accepted articles will be due September 1st, 2014 for planned publication in Fall 2015. The issue will be co-edited by Amanda Hendrix-Komoto (PhD Candidate, University of Michigan) and Christopher Jones (PhD Candidate, College of William and Mary).
Please submit all abstracts and CVs to either Amanda Hendrix-Komoto (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Christopher Jones (email@example.com)
Welcome to the Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup!
This week did not begin well for “Mormons in the News” when it was revealed that Orem-born and primary-raised Julianne Hough had apparently missed the memo that blackface is racist and decided to darken her skin for her Crazy Eyes costume. Hough, who is most famous for her appearances on Dancing with the Stars, is also a country singer whose first album debuted (more…)
This is a guest post by Cassandra Clark, a PhD student at the University of Utah whose work focuses on how religious communities thought about religious discourse and race. Cassandra is the mother two lovely daughters – both of whom bear the names of Presidents!. She also attended the University of Northern Colorado where she earned a MA in history and teaches courses at the community college in Salt Lake.
Filed away in the archives of the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are two copies of a 1907 postcard with the by-line, “No Race Suicide in Utah!” The scene printed on the postcard depicts an old bearded gentleman, decked out in a black suit and top hat, carrying a baby on each arm with eight children following him. Each child is adorned in brightly colored dress, and several of them hold toys while two clutch balloon strings. The artist, identified as C.R. Miller, printed “No Race Suicide in Utah!” in all capital letters on one fourth of the top right hand corner of the card.
As I held this postcard in my hands, I realized that this one piece of material culture provided a physical representation of the conclusions I drew about Mormon involvement in the American eugenics movement. The eugenics movement, or the scientific program pioneered by Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, encompassed two main objectives. First, the promotion of “positive eugenics,” or the proliferation of the “white” race by emulating Victorian gender roles and large family sizes, and second, “negative eugenics,” or the sterilization of all people deemed “unfit” because of their lifestyles and economic status. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the midst of the American West, eugenics became a vehicle (more…)
This is a guest post from Kris Wright, a fantastic independent historian whose work on the healing practices of Mormon women (written with Jonathan Stapley) has received awards from the Mormon History Association and should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of Mormon women. Links to those articles can be found here: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/mormonhistory/vol37/iss1/1/ and here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1664187
Photo courtesy of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers
Two weeks ago, I ran up the steep hill behind the Conference Centre in the pouring rain (without an umbrella, of course) on my way to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. I have been interested in the material religion of Mormon women, particularly how they have created and used religious objects that are associated with LDS rituals –things like sacrament bread, sacrament vessels, consecrated oil, sacred clothing and other textiles. I was hoping to see some handmade sacrament cloths that were housed in the museum and cursed myself for my poor planning. As I entered the building soaked and winded, I hoped that the trip was going to be worthwhile. I did see the sacrament cloths, but it also ended up being a great opportunity to see something that I would have never imagined still existed – sacrament bread from the 19th century.
Note: This may be the least academic post I’ve ever written. It’s mostly a collection of my random thoughts on clothing, modesty, and religious communities. Read it with that in mind.
On Sunday night, as I was flipping through TV channels, I came across Breaking Amish, a TLC reality show about young men and women who have decided to leave the Amish. There has been significant controversy surrounding the show. Although TLC claimed that all of the young men and women it was filming had been a part of the Amish when it began production, evidence emerged that they had frequented strip clubs, owned cell phones, and been involved in drunken parties. Websites like Jezebel accused the show of fabricating the lives of its participants, using makeup, clothes, and creative editing to make individuals who hadn’t been involved in the Amish community for years appear to be recent apostates. Perhaps the most interesting of their techniques was the clothes.
Like many reality TV shows, Breaking Amish has its participants reflect on recent events – whether it be a night carousing on the town, a clandestine kiss, or, in this season, an unplanned pregnancy (more…)
Has LL Cool J been keeping his faith in Mormonism secret?
In the Mormon Studies Weekly Round-Up, we try to present some of the most interesting and fun news items concerning Mormonism from the past week. We also link to any relevant conferences, book announcements, and calls for papers. This week, a New York rapper and former TV and movie star tweets a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley while a former NFL quarterback comes out publicly in support of gay rights. Matt Bowman also chronicles the strange world of the Mormon supernatural and Blair Hodges provides a helpful guide to debates about the viability of Mormon studies as discipline.
General Mormon History
LL Cool J, accidental Mormon? Chris Jones and the Deseret News investigate.
Steve Young: Hall of Fame Quarterback, BYU Graduate, and Supporter of LGTBQ rights (more…)
Recently, two biographies were published on Elijah Abel/Ables, a black Mormon man who held the priesthood in the nineteenth century with the blessing of Joseph Smith and many of his contemporaries. Rather than attempt a traditional review, I decided to write a conversations post with Russell Stevenson, the author of one of the two biographies. Stevenson is an independent scholar with a master’s degree in history from the University of Kentucky. He recently self-published Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables.
In order to make the post easier to read, I have arranged the questions I asked and Stevenson’s responses into categories.
The Spelling of Abel’s Name
Amanda: In your book, you use a spelling of Elijah Abel’s name that many readers will be unfamiliar with. Where does it come from? Why did you decide to go with that spelling? (more…)
Note: This post is part of our international Mormonism month. Audrey Bastian is a freelance writer and interpreter speaking Mandarin, Arabic and American Sign Language. She lived in various countries in Asia eight years and received her masters degree in International Law and World Order from the University of Reading in England. Her bachelors degree is in History with a minor in Arabic. She won an honorable mention in 2006 in the Writer’s Digest 75th Annual Writing Competition for a memoir entitled, “Japanese Carp”. She currently owns her own business and resides in Washington, DC.
“…the King confined bro. [Trail] 71 days in a Siamese prison, 14 feet square, with 50 other prisoners, some were confined for debt others for stealing &c several ware put to the rack to draw out a fu [teekals (tikal money)]…” –Elam Luddington April 1854
A day after Elam Luddington baptized his first and only convert in Siam, Captain James Trail, the King of Siam thrust the convert into a debtor’s prison without food. The captain’s crime was misunderstanding a command and firing a salute from his ship in the rhodes of Singapore. (more…)
Note: This post is part of our series on International Mormonism. Russell Stevenson is a freelance writer born and raised south in rural western Wyoming. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and his master’s degree in history from the University of Kentucky. He has taught history and religion at Brigham Young University and Salt Lake Community College. He has a forthcoming biography on Elijah Ables, which will be available this afternoon.
In 1964, Abraham F. Mensah, a schoolmaster visiting Great Britain from Ghana, first came into contact with the Mormon church through literature given to him while he was visiting a Sufi friend living in St. Agnes, England. (more…)
The Mormon Temple in Surrey
One of the most significant discussions of religion and politics during 2012, was the dynamics of the US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and his religious affiliation to Mormonism. While the presidential race was watched globally, within the United Kingdom, it remained mainstream news throughout and Romney received close examination of his history, religion and policies. For many in the United Kingdom, they knew little of him except him being a Mormon, and a rich one at that, which seemingly concentrated their curiosity. However, during a goodwill visit to London, he successfully undermined his own standing with both the British political establishment and public at large by making ill-informed statements and swimming in blind ignorance. (more…)
Grouard as a young man
Frank Grouard was something of an enigma in the nineteenth century. In 1876, he had become a Chief Indian Scout for the United States Army, helping General George Crook locate and fight bands of Sioux who were refusing to stay on their reservations. On June 25, 1876, he saw smoke signals rising from the Battle of Little Bighorn, rode to the scene of the battle where he discovered the bodies of the dead, and reported the death of Custer to the General Crook. He also interpreted during peace negotiations between Crazy Horse and the American government and was present at the Battle of Wounded Knee. For much of his life, Grouard lived in relative anonymity but a series of newspaper articles and the publication of an as-told-to biography in in 1894 catapulted the Indian scout to fame.
In spite of his newfound renown, however, certain parts of Grouard’s life remained mysterious. One of the most interesting and perplexing for those at the time was Grouard’s racial background. At various times, he was identified as a Lakota Indian, as a mulatto, as a French-Creole, and as a half-breed. Throughout his life, however, Grouard claimed to be the son of Benjamin F. Grouard, a Mormon missionary who had traveled to the South Pacific in the 1840s and had married an indigenous Maohi woman. It is the latter story that the archival record bears out. (more…)
One of the questions that emerged out of this year’s Mormon History Association Conference was how we should think about Mormonism in colonial spaces. I had the pleasure of commenting on a session with Gina Colvin, Chad Emmett, and Russell Stevenson. Colvin began the session by exploring what it would mean to write Mormon history in a way that would take seriously the perspectives and lives of indigenous people such as the Maori. Emmett then detailed the lives of Mormon men and women living in Dutch Indonesia in the early- to mid-twentieth century. Stevenson rounded out the panel by exploring the meanings of conversion in British colonial India through the lens of the life of Mizra Khan, a wealthy Indian convert who wrote letters to church leaders about the legal and social status of his polygamous wives.
Taken together, (more…)
One of my advisor’s favorite questions to ask during our preliminary exams is whether Mormonism should be considered an American religion, given the number of British converts to Mormonism and their emigration to the United States. Because I work on Mormonism, I wasn’t asked the question and instead had to field questions on the role of violence in the American Revolution and Puritan ideas about the family. Apparently, most students hem-and-haw in response to the question about the Americanness of Mormonism. One of my friends asked jokingly if she could use her lifeline and phone a friend – me. The question is supposed to force students to think about what it means for something to be an American religion, what the potential effects of early Mormon missionary work may have been on the church’s theology, and how Mormon was perceived outside of the confines of the United States. (more…)
This is a just a quick reminder that a group of lovely lady historians and their friends will be meeting at the Marie Callender’s in Layton to discuss Mormon women’s history. The group met for the first time last year and had a fantastic discussion of the role of material culture in women’s lives and in our historical reconstruction of them.
This year, we will be discussing:
An Article by Eliza R. Snow, which appeared in the Woman’s Exponent (https://www.dropbox.com/s/4tyhi78x48uedd6/ElizaRSnow_AnAddress_WEx_1873-09-15_v2n8p62-63.pdf?v=0mcns)
Neylan MacBaine’s presentation from FAIR (http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm#en16)
Lisa Thomas Clayton’s essay on revelation from Mormon Women Have Their Say, edited by Claudia Bushman ( http://www.amazon.com/Mormon-Women-Have-Their-Say/dp/1589584945/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370193985&sr=8-1&keywords=mormon+women+have+their+say)
It’s okay if you don’t get to all of the articles, but we ask that each participant make a concerted effort to have read at least two of the articles.
For the original JI announcement, see: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/mormon-womens-history-tea-and-discussion-group-announcement/
We will meet at 4 p.m., Thursday, June 6th. Note the slight change in time and venue.
Note: I have tamed my views considerably since high school. Not living in Southeastern Idaho for a while has helped. Anyone who would like to critique my rash, abrasive high school self should remember their own foibles first and that I was acting from a place of pain and alienation. I’m also not saying that Ed Decker or Fanny Stenhouse is correct in their depiction of Mormonism – just that we need to take their geographic location seriously.
Recently, there has been a spate of work about how Mormons have been perceived in American popular culture. Spencer Fluhman recently published A Peculiar People, which explores the role that anti-Mormonism played in defining what counted as “religion” in the United States in the nineteenth century and what was dismissed as fanaticism and lunacy. J.B. Haws will also be publishing a book on the Mormon image in the twentieth century with the same publisher next year. Cristine Hutchinson-Jones and Megan Goodwin have both written about the public perception of Mormonism on this and other blogs. (For examples, see here, here, here, and here.)
Although I have used a lot of this work in my dissertation (more…)
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A year and a half ago, Brittany Chapman and I discussed the need for a space where young female scholars of Mormonism could gain the academic skills necessary to engage in discussion about Mormon women’s history. Although we both felt comfortable with our ability to conduct research in primary sources, write interesting narratives about those who had lived in the past, and to connect our histories to larger historiographies, we felt woefully unprepared to engage with feminist and gender theory. The Mormon Women’s History Tea and Discussion Group was born out of a desire to create a space where young female scholars could gain the tools necessary to participate in academic discourse. As a result, we initially planned to pair an academic article on some issue of feminist theory or women’s history with a piece written on Mormonism and have a discussion about the intersections between the two. (more…)