I am a PhD. candidate at Texas Christian University, studying Native American and Western history. I received my BA and MA from BYU, both in American history. My publications have appeared in BYU Studies and Mormon Historical Studies and I have presented scholarly papers at annual conferences of the Mormon History Association, the John Whitmer Historical Association, the Utah State Historical Society, as well as at the 2007 Bushman Summer Symposium.
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…)
The Juvenile Instructor is pleased to announce a round table discussion of one of the most important works to appear on Mormon history in recent memory–John G. Turner‘s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. Turner’s biography, published by Harvard University Press, represents perhaps the apex of what I’ve called elsewhere a “Brigham Young Revival,” as historians have revisited the second Mormon prophet with renewed vigor after a long period of scholarly neglect. In the early twentieth century, historians found Brigham Young to be a far more interesting figure than Joseph Smith, since the former embodied scholars’ fascination with the frontier as the source of American culture and distinctiveness. Smith, by contrast, was usually cast as a womanizing deceiver who preyed upon credulous dupes, whose achievements paled in comparison to those of his successor. By the 1940s, however, scholars began to see Smith in a more positive light, producing several important studies and biographies, while the interest in Young waned. In the post-Civil Rights era, Young’s primary importance for historians lay in his racial policies and controversial theological teachings. Only Leonard Arrington published a major work on Young during this period, whose 1985 Brigham Young: American Moses reflected an earlier era of frontier historiography. (more…)
Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Journals, Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843 in The Joseph Smith Papers, gen. eds. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011). xl, 558 pp. Cloth: $54.95; ISBN: 978-1-60908-737-1.
On October 2, 1841, Joseph Smith deposited in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, a first edition Doctrine and Covenants, a Bible, and other items deemed sufficiently important to preserve for future generations. Among these was a memorial to the U.S. Senate describing the Latter-day Saints’ persecutions in Missouri and a history of the persecutions published in the Times and Seasons. The addition of these two histories to a repository that included sacred writ demonstrated the degree to which the Latter-day Saints were committed to writing about their persecutions and preserving their writings for subsequent readers. As sociologist Jeffrey K. Olick has noted, “collective memory” is not a single or monolithic “thing,” but a “wide variety of mnemonic products and practices,” which only “gain reality by being used, interpreted, and reproduced or changed.” Early Mormon writings on persecution, then, are best understood as mnemonic products that were gradually “used, interpreted, and reproduced” as they shaped how Mormons and others remembered the past. (more…)
Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860, by Anne F. Hyde. History of the American West Series. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011. xiii-xv, 628 pp.
The great project of turning the West into part of the United States, initiated in 1803 and begun in earnest in the 1840s, had made little progress in many places. Much remained flexible and contingent about life on its complex border into the second half of the nineteenth century. Residents of the West seemed quite ambivalent about nationality, easily claiming new citizenship when it served personal or business needs. During a time when no one knew which nation or empire would finally impose control, effective trade was the sole source of power. And it continued to be a world defined by personal connections. (30)
So argues Anne Hyde, Professor of History at Colorado College, in Empires, Nations, and Families, winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize earlier this year. (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…)
In recent years, historians have looked beyond Utah’s borders to Arizona as a fruitful place to explore the dynamics of race, gender, and class among Mormons in the American West. Two works that have appeared of late include Mormons as prominent actors in Arizona’s history, Daniel J. Herman’s Hell on the Range: A Story of Honor, Conscience, and the American West (2010) and Katherine Benton-Cohen’s Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (2011). Herman examines the Rim County War of the 1880s, which violently drew together Mormons, cowboys, New Mexican sheepherders, Jewish merchants, mixed-blood ranchers, and eastern corporations. Many Mormons, with their “code of conscience,” stood opposed to Southern whites’ “culture of honor” (although Herman is careful to note that these categories were always porous). Benton-Cohen analyzes interracial interactions in Cochise County between Mormons, Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Apaches, Chinese merchants, white Midwestern transplants, white female reformers, Serbian miners, and New York mine managers. She asks how racial categories developed along with national identities in the borderlands. In both works, the authors use Mormons to complicate facile notions of “whiteness.” (more…)
Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-1839, by Leland Homer Gentry and Todd M. Compton. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2010.
Leland H. Gentry’s 1965 dissertation “A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-1839” was part of a wave of new Mormon scholarship of the 1960s that sought to reinterpret Mormon history in more academic terms, avoiding the polarities of the “traditional” anti-Mormon/pro-Mormon battles of the 19th and early 20th century. After reviewing the literature on Mormon Missouri during the late 1830s, Gentry noted in his introduction that (more…)
Recently, I’ve been think about how ordinary members use church history in their everyday lives. In my limited experience, few members read much church history, especially if it wasn’t published by Deseret Books. I realize this isn’t news to anyone reading this blog, as we’ve discussed in several of Ben’s recent posts why many church members resist more academically-oriented literature if it challenges accepted oral traditions, is seen as unaccessible due to academic prose and/or jargon, among other reasons. But I’ve wondered what more we could be doing to encourage ward members to see the benefits of incorporating more academic history into their busy schedules. (more…)
With Romney drawing increased attention to Mormonism in American life, I’ve wondered how much to bring Mormon history into my US history survey courses. I’m currently teaching the first half, and he’s come up a couple of times when discussing religious tests for the presidency (I first mention JFK’s Catholicism, which most of my students have heard about, and then I ask which contemporary candidate is having problems with his religion, and at least a few students are aware of opposition to Romney’s Mormonism). (more…)
Joseph Smith Papers Project Internship-Church History Department
The Church History Department announces an opening for a one-year internship with the Joseph Smith Papers Project. This will be a full-time temporary position beginning in October 2011. (more…)
A few of us at the blog have started teaching our own courses, so we’re thinking more about teaching than as a blog we’ve done in the past. So I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts discussing how we’d design a college course on early Mormonism. I picked early Mormonism because it’s something most of the permas are familiar with, even if it’s not our primary area of study. And most of our non-academic readership also knows a fair amount about this period. So let’s start with organizing the weekly topics. At my university, we’re on a sixteen-week schedule per semester, so here’s how I would do it: (more…)
On December 29, 1890, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry surrounded a group of ninety Minneconjou Lakota men just west of Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. The wives and children of the Lakota warriors were camped a few yards to the south of the council ground. The Cavalry was engaged in disarming the warriors, who military leaders believed were part of a wide-ranging indigenous conspiracy to push back white settlement. The Lakota men were known to be adherents of the Ghost Dance, a religious phenomenon that originated with the Paiute prophet Wovoka in Nevada and had spread from the Great Basin to the Plains in 1889-1890. During the disarming, a struggle ensued between the troopers and a young Lakota who thought he could hide his rifle under his blanket, and a shot fired into the air. Chaos—and death—followed, as the five hundred members of the Seventh Cavalry proceeded to slaughter not only the by-then largely disarmed men but also the women and children as they fled the scene. Although exact numbers are unknown, perhaps as many as three hundred Lakotas died. It was shown in the aftermath of Wounded Knee that the Ghost Dance was not a broad-based scheme to overthrow U.S. authority, and, more to the point, that most if not all of the Lakotas who lost their lives on December 29, 1890 had died innocently after surrendering without resistance. Although Latter-day Saints had nothing to do with the massacre at Wounded Knee, since 1890 commentators have speculated that Mormons were somehow connected and even the primary movers behind the Ghost Dance movement. (more…)
In the wake of the successful nationwide broadcast of Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons on the Documentary Channel, the political website The Daily Beast interviewed the film’s co-producer (and director and star, etc.) Darius Gray to highlight the documentary and the place of blacks in the church. Here are a few snippits: (more…)
Last week my wife and I spent five days conducting field research for my dissertation in the National Archives, Central Plains Region branch in Kansas City, Missouri. Although I’m not writing on a Mormon topic, we flagged anything that might have a Mormon connection in the Bureau of Indian Affairs files we were examining. On Friday, my wife Hope turned to me with an excited look on her face, and handed me this piece of paper: (more…)
Kris W. contributed to our Women’s History at JI series last month, and we liked her post so well we asked her to be a permanent contributor. As stated on the other post, Kris has a M.A. in History from The University of Western Ontario and she has co-authored three articles with Jonathan Stapley on Mormon healing rituals. An emeritus permablogger at BCC, Kris brings much needed expertise in healing rituals, women, gender, and material religion. Please join us in welcoming Kris! (more…)
In the late 1960s, a black woman named Wynetta Martin joined the church in California, finding in Mormonism a loving God with whom she could identify. Martin moved to Utah at a time when the church was seeking to diversify its public face in response to boycotts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and BYU. It was therefore a combination of her own tenacity as an individual (she drove all night from Los Angeles to make her audition) and the church’s need to adapt to changing circumstances that allowed Martin to become the first African American member of the Tabernacle Choir and the first black instructor at BYU (she taught classes on “Black Culture” in the Nursing department). (more…)
Patrick Q. Mason. He did his graduate work at Notre Dame under George Marsden and recently published a form of his dissertation as The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Antebellum South (I have to say that the title of his dissertation, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob,” is pretty dang awesome). He has also published several articles of note. Apparently it won’t be official until March, but the word is now out.
Congrats, Pat. This is great news for Claremont, too.
Last Columbus Day, I wrote a post on Mark Ashurst-McGee’s dissertation and the radical and subversive nature of the Book of Mormon. (more…)
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Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887. By Scott R. Christensen. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999.
Scott R. Christensen has written a landmark biography of Sagwitch, the Northwestern Shoshone chief who converted to Mormonism a few years after the Bear River Massacre of 1863. Sagwitch (1822-1887) witnessed one of the most transformative periods in the history of the North American West, when European and then American colonial powers incorporated Shoshone homelands into colonial and global economies. Sagwitch himself was a survivor of the incredible violence that American expansion entailed, somehow escaping when over three hundred members of his band were slaughtered by U.S. troops stationed at Fort Douglas in January 1863. For over two decades following the massacre, Sagwitch sought to rebuild his people within the religio-cultural milieu of Mormonism. Christensen has done an admirable job, utilizing ethnohistorical techniques, combining oral histories with Sagwitch’s descendants, a rich array of images, and archival materials. (more…)