I am a PhD student in the department of history at the College of William & Mary whose research focuses on evangelical religion in the early modern Atlantic world. Within the realm of Mormon studies, I am interested in the intellectual and cultural origins of Mormonism and its early converts, lived religion, the experience of "ungathered" Latter-day Saints, and the confluence of race and religion in the Mormon past and present. I also blog at Religion in American History.
I suspect that most readers of John Turner’s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (and consequently, most readers of this roundtable) are interested primarily in the final thirty years of Young’s life, or at least some aspect of it. It was during that time, after all, that the most obviously exciting, controversial, and significant events in Brigham Young’s own life and the church that he led occurred; it was during that time that Young became the pioneer prophet the book sets out to describe and analyze. (more…)
For our Utah readers, friend of JI and author of the recently-released Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet John Turner will be speaking about his book at locations along the Wasatch Front. If you’re around, be sure and make it a point to attend. Here’s the schedule: (more…)
The latest issue of Religion and American Culture arrived in the mail several weeks ago, and swamped with a thousand other things to read, I tossed it on my bedside table and promptly forgot about it. While cleaning in preparation for the arrival of visitors last weekend, I pulled the issue out from under a stack of library books and scattered, semi-coherent dissertation notes I scribbled down in the middle of the night while laying in bed and quickly glanced at the table of contents. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article on Mormonism, and even more pleased when I saw that Thomas Simpson was the author. (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.
To whom it may concern:
I’m thrilled that you’ve taken an interest in Mormon studies. I think that there is much interdisciplinary work to be done in this emerging (sub)field and welcome the perspectives you bring from your own discipline. There seems to be some confusion on your end, though, about what historians do. Let me try and assuage your concerns by assuring you of two things: (more…)
Highest MHA award
Leonard J. Arrington Award
William G. Hartley—citation attached (more…)
Just a reminder to our readers that next weekend (June 28-July 1) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the Mormon History Association will be holding its annual conference. There’s a number of fantastic panels, papers, and sessions dealing with a whole range of fascinating topics. A number of JIers are on top to present, as are many friends of JI. It should be a great conference and I hope to see many of you there. Be sure and introduce yourself if you’re a reader and we’ve never met. (more…)
Mormonism has a complicated relationship with Protestantism. It also has a complicated relationship with the United States of America. If Mitt Romney’s impending nomination as the Republican candidate for President has done nothing else, it has reinforced in my mind that complexity. It was with sincere appreciation, then, that I read Ben Park’s timely article in the latest issue of Dialogue. No, Ben’s essay does not address Mitt Romney. But it does examine Mormonism’s historical relationship with both the American nation and its Protestant establishment. (more…)
Mortensen, Joann Follett. The Man Behind the Discourse: A Biography of King Follett. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011.
A few weeks ago, a friend at church noticed the book I’d brought along with me that day and asked about it. Showing him the cover, he immediately responded, “King Follett? Is there enough information to write a full-length biography?” At that point, I’d only read the first few chapters, and wasn’t sure how to answer. I finally finished the book a couple of days ago, but I’m still a little unsure about my answer.
King Follett, an early convert to Joseph Smith’s Church of Christ whose name is familiar to modern Mormons because of its rhetorical association with one of Smith’s most famous sermons, left behind no written record. No journal and next to no correspondence have survived. And posthumous biographical summaries offer little more than the most basic information about his life. With that in mind, Joann Follett Mortensen has accomplished a wonderful feat, gathering together the scattered references to her third great-grandfather (passing mentions in LDS church records, legal and public documents, and occasional (and almost always brief) references in the diaries and journals of his fellow Latter-day Saints) and turning it into a comprehensive and lengthy history (468 pp. + 4 appendices, a bibliography, and index) of King Follett and his immediate family. (more…)
I was pleased to learn this week that the late Manning Marable’s exhaustive biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize in History. Thoroughly and thoughtfully revisionist, Marable’s account of Malcolm X’s life challenges much of what is presented in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a now classic piece of 20th century American literature that has popularized a particular view of the Nation of Islam minister and his role in the Civil Rights, Black Muslim, and Pan-African movements. Deconstructing the Autobiography (which was published posthumously and, as Marable highlights, heavily edited by “co-author” Alex Haley), Marable then reconstructs the life of the man born Malcolm Little, utilizing a wealth of primary sources, including letters, diaries, interviews, and even FBI files. It is a fascinating biography and well worth the read for anyone interested in the life of this controversial figure.
It also provides a captivating account of the Nation of Islam’s rise in mid-20th century America. The NOI—a somewhat militant Black Nationalist sect that emerged in Great Depression-era Detroit and Chicago—was founded by the mysterious Wallace D. Fard but grew to national prominence under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad in the mid 20th century, when Malcolm Little converted and quickly rose to prominence as a talented preacher and recruiter. Later, Malcolm grew disillusioned with Muhammad’s leadership and left the NOI. His inability to leave it alone, though, ultimately led to his assassination in February 1965 at the hands of NOI henchmen. (more…)
Some of you may have already seen the new column at Patheos.com’s Mormon Portal launched last week. The brainchild of two JI bloggers, Peculiar People aims to provide “commentary on culture, politics, the humanities, sports, the arts, and so on through the lens of Mormonism.” Featuring a talented team of contributors—including our own Ben P, Matt B, Ryan T, Max M, and myself, along with present and prior JI (guest) bloggers Rachel Cope, Heidi Harris, Rachael Givens, and David Howlett and a whole slew of other brilliant scholars of Mormon history and culture (Patrick Mason, Susanna Morrill, Taylor Petrey, Richard Livingston, Kate Holbrook, Seth Perry, Xarissa Holdaway, Emily Belanger, and Alan Hurst)—the column will appear twice weekly (Monday and Wednesday). We hope to attract both Mormon and non-Mormon readers, and invite those of you who follow JI regularly to check in over there occasionally, too. (more…)
Givens, Terryl L. and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
In 1854, Parley P. Pratt, Mormon apostle, theologian, polygamist, and apologist, set out to write his autobiography. In a letter to church historian George Smith, he explained that it was intended to be “a Lean, megre sketch of Church History. As my hurried life, and hurried manner of writing, prevents my branching out on many interesting items” (as quoted on p. 348). As anyone who has read Pratt’s autobiography—published posthumously by his son in 1874—can testify, it goes far beyond the “Lean, megre sketch” he apparently set out to write, and has served as both a ready resource for historians of 19th century Mormonism and a beloved book to thousands and thousands of lay Latter-day Saints to the present day. But Pratt was certainly right in noting that the Autobiography left out “many interesting items.” In Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism, accomplished scholars Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow set out to investigate those “many interesting items”—including many episodes that Pratt would likely never have discussed in detail even if he had the time and space to do so.
What struck me most forcefully while reading Givens and Grow’s book was Parley Pratt’s personality. Described by the authors as having a “tempestuous character,” Pratt comes across (more…)
As a reminder to those interested, this weekend (Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25) at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy is sponsoring what is being billed as a “groundbreaking event” intended to “facilitate a conversation of the ‘mind and heart’ that will set the standard for how members of religious communities can discuss differences in a way that does not compromise intellect or integrity, but is also sincere and empathetic.” Entitled “At the Crossroads, Again: Mormon and Methodist Protestant Encounters in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries,”* featured presenters include a number of well-known and recognized scholars of Mormon and Protestant history, theology, hymnody, politics, gender and sexuality, and social activism, including David Campbell, David McAllister-Wilson, Kristine Haglund, Eileen Guenther, Terryl Givens, Kathleen Flake, Elaine Heath, Robert Bennett, and Warner Woodworth, plus many more. A full schedule is available here and brief biographies of the several presenters here. (more…)
Those of you who have received the latest issue of the Mormon History Association’s newsletter—newly rebranded as MHA News
and available as a PDF here
—likely noticed two important announcements noting the Association’s new logo and new website. From the newsletter: (more…)
For those of you, like myself, who have used and benefitted from the wonderful Mormon History Database—a regularly updated online bibliography of all articles, books, theses, and dissertations in the field—maintained by Mike Hunter at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library, please consider taking 5 minutes to participate in the following survey:
From the Mormon History Association:
The Mormon History Association will give its yearly awards for the best books, articles, dissertation, thesis, and student papers published or writte on Mormon history during 2011 at its annual 2012 conference, which will be held in June in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The submission deadline is February 15, 2012. Books should be submitted in hard copy in the number specifically requested by chairs. If there is a hardship because the list price of a book is $75 or more, we ask the publisher for one hard copy and an electronic version of the book. Electronic submissions must be sent in WordPerfect, Word, or as a .pdf document. Any member of the Mormon History Association may submit or nominate a publication for consideration. Send specific questions to the subcommittee chairs. (more…)
Over at the Religion in the American West blog, Laurie Maffly-Kipp has offered her thoughts to the above question. The whole post is worth reading—and it’d be great to generate some discussion on the topic over there—but I wanted to highlight a couple of points I found especially important. (more…)
(cross-posted at Religion in American History)
In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Samuel Brown, professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Utah, friend of the JI, and author of the recently-released In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012), penned a short annotated list of “the five best” books on Mormonism, which included the following: (more…)
We’ve spent quite a bit of time at JI over the years considering how Mormonism fits into larger narratives of U.S. history, and I was finally able to put some of those discussions and recommendations to use this semester while teaching the first half of the U.S. History survey (U.S. History to 1877) to a group of 35 students, most of whom are from the mid-Atlantic and upper South and have very little personal experience or interaction with Mormons or Mormonism. (more…)
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(cross-posted at Religion in American History)
While pundits and theologians continue the seemingly endless debate over whether or not Mormonism is Christian/Mormons are Christians/a Mormon can be a Christian, over at Slate, browbeat writer David Haglund weighs in on the Mormon church’s latest advertising campaign (the “I’m a Mormon” campaign) and the recent participation of The Killers frontman and international rockstar Brandon Flowers in that effort: (more…)
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