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.
Although recent scholarship has done much to understand Native conversions to Christianity in early America, asking intriguing questions about indigenous agency and adaptation within colonial contexts, little has been written on Native converts to Mormonism. Part of the hesitance, at least for nineteenth-century historians, stems from the nature of the source material. There are, simply put, few “Native texts”—written accounts drafted by indigenous converts to Mormonism that reflect their viewpoint—prior to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From the 1850s through the 1880s, thousands of Native peoples accepted Mormon baptism in the inter-mountain American West and the Pacific Islands. Few if any of these converts could read Roman script, meaning their experience with Mormonism was largely oral in nature. They heard about rather than read the Book of Mormon and Mormon beliefs about the Lamanite ancestors of indigenous peoples. The corollary to this point is that few if any Mormon Natives could record in writing their own interpretations of church teachings, meaning historians are left with accounts of Native words that have been filtered through white interpreters and scribes. That said, some indigenous converts such as the Ute Arapeen, although unable to read or write English himself, used ingenious techniques to turn writing to his own purposes as he navigated the world around him that was rapidly being transformed by Mormon settlement. (more…)
Historian/Documentary Editor, Joseph Smith Papers
Job Description: The Joseph Smith Papers seeks a full-time historian/documentary editor with the academic training, research, and writing skills to edit Joseph Smith’s papers. The Joseph Smith Papers is producing a comprehensive edition of Smith’s documents featuring complete and accurate transcripts with both textual and contextual annotation. The scope of the project includes Smith’s correspondence, revelations, journals, historical writings, sermons, legal papers, and other documents. Besides providing the most comprehensive record of early Latter-day Saint history they will also provide insight into the broader religious landscape of the early American republic. (more…)
The latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes recently. Here’s a brief rundown of the articles:
- “The Curious Case of Joseph Howard, Palmyra’s Seventeen-Year-Old Somnium Preacher,” by Noel A. Carmack
- Carmack compares Joseph Smith’s method of translation through seer stones with two New York “somnium preachers,” Rachel Baker and Joseph Howard, who delivered devotional and theological messages while appearing to be asleep or entranced. Carmack argues that Baker and Howard provided a context within which to place JS’s “subconscious religious exhortations taken down by dictation–one of which occurred only blocks away from the reflective, developing boy prophet.”
- “The Upper-Room Work: Esotericism in the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite), 1853-1912,” by Christopher James Blythe
- Blythe continues his ongoing investigation of Cutlerite history with an investigation of the role of esotericism (basically, the practice of “secret” rituals) in the development and persistence of Culterite identity in the face of competition from RLDS and other Restoration groups. (more…)
Another week, another edition of the Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup!
There were significant new developments at church headquarters. First, it has been reported that the church’s Seminaries and Institutes department was revising its curriculum, in part to incorporate insights from the Joseph Smith Papers Project and the revamped Gospel Topics page on lds.org. The first installment in this revised curriculum was released this week, with an updated Church History and Doctrine and Covenants manual. The folks at FAIR Mormon are pleased with the results. Second, the Young Women organization announced a new board that will include substantial representation from women outside the United States. The Relief Society and Primary organizations are expected to form similar boards to better meet the needs of the international church. Additionally, training sessions for these organizations, which have traditionally been held only in Salt Lake City, will be made available via the internet. The Research Information Division at church headquarters is looking for a full-time researcher with graduate training in the social sciences. (more…)
In late 1853, Brigham Young sent missionaries among the Paiutes in what is now southern Utah. The Southern Indian Mission, as it came to be known, resulted from a combination of factors, including Mormon beliefs in the Israelite origins of indigenous peoples and Young’s Indian policies in the wake of the Walker War of 1853-1854. Many Paiutes, including some prominent chiefs, found the missionaries’ message appealing, with hundreds of baptisms occurring over the next decade. The Paiutes embraced Mormonism for a variety of reasons. During the previous generation, the Paiutes’ Ute relatives had relied on horses and guns to raid non-equestrian Paiute bands, kidnapping women and children and selling them to New Mexican and Mormon buyers. Seeing the Mormons as potential allies against the Utes, Paiute bands accepted the missionaries into their communities and expressed interest in learning new agricultural techniques and wearing Euro-American style clothing. Additionally, many Paiutes who chose to affiliate with the church found the new religion compatible with their traditional religious views. By June 1854, one missionary reported that Paiute proselytes “prefer being called Pahute Mormons to Pahutes.” (more…)
The latest Journal of Mormon History has been reaching subscribers’ mailboxes this week, which means it’s time for the JI’s semi-regular brief reviews of the issue.
Ronald W. Walker, joined by Matthew J. Grow, completes his two part analysis of the 1851-1852 “Runaways” incident in “The People Are ‘Hogaffed or Humbugged': The 1851-52 National Reaction to Utah’s ‘Runaway’ Officers, Part 2,’ 1-52. The first installment, which appeared in the last issue of JMH, chronicled the origins of the crisis with the first non-Mormon federal appointees in Utah Territory. This second part continues the story as the scene shifts to the nation’s capital, and follows the public affairs and behind-the-scenes activities of Jedediah Grant, John M. Berhisel, and Thomas L. Kane. Walker and Grow not only tell a gripping tale, but also demonstrate the importance of this event in the long and tortured history of Mormon-federal relations from the late 1840s through the 1890s. Unlike the similar struggle with federal appointees in the lead-up to the Utah War, the 1852 even actually turned out in the Mormons’ favor. The article provides a teaser for Walker and Grow’s forthcoming documentary volume on Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane’s correspondence. (more…)
Todd M. Compton. A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013. 642 pp. Illustrations, photos, maps, bibliography, index. Cloth: $44.95; ISBN: 978-1-60781-234-0
Todd Compton’s first major contribution to Mormon history was his 1997 In Sacred Loneliness, a collective biography of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. In his most recent offering, Compton has returned to the biographer’s craft, with a definitive examination of Jacob Hamblin, a prominent figure in the Mormon colonization of southern Utah and the Southwest. Hamblin was a devout Latter-day Saint, who preached the Gospel to Indians, married plural wives, and played a key role in the expanding Kingdom of God in the West. Even in his lifetime, Hamblin achieved renown not only among the Saints as the “Apostle to the Lamanites,” but also nationally as a guide and an interpreter for John Wesley Powell’s famed expeditions to the Grand Canyon. Previous Hamblin biographies have been either fictionalized or hagiographic, reflecting the “Hamblin legend” that emerged in the nineteenth century. More recent works, reacting against these earlier portrayals, have cast Hamblin in a more unfavorable light. Compton’s biography, the first full-length scholarly treatment of Hamblin’s life, presents a positive reevaluation, while not ignoring the frontiersman’s flaws. Compton expertly analyzes Hamblin’s evolving attitudes toward Indians, showing how the missionary gradually became the “Apostle to the Lamanites.” (more…)
Editor, Joseph Smith Papers Project-Church History Department
ID# 106611, Type: Full-Time – Regular
USA – UT – Salt Lake City (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…)
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…)
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:
Welcome to the Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup! Let’s get down to business.
The ever-insightful Jana Reiss recently published an article with Publishers Weekly, where she attempts to quantify the extent of Mormon Studies publishing. In a teaser posted on her blog, she reports that, while many presses struggle just to break even on most academic books, Mormon tomes tend to outpace expectations. An average (non-Mormon) book has to sell more than 1,500 copies just to stay out of the red. John Turner’s award-winning biography of Brigham Young, put out by Harvard University Press, sold an eye-popping 10,000 copies during its first year in print. Oxford University Press told Jana that the Mormon Studies category in its catalog is easily in the top three in terms of sales, with Massacre at Mountain Meadows ranking in the press’s top ten best sellers in the overall Religion category over the last two decades. Jana doesn’t provide a number for copies sold, but knowledgeable observers associated with the JI suggest that it exceeds 65,000. Although Jana doesn’t address it in her blog post, the number of mid-tier presses trying to get into the Mormon Studies market is also increasing (I’ll defer to Ben, the JI’s resident Mormon Studies watcher, to provide a list in the comments section). This week’s announcement of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s new Mormon Studies series demonstrates this. (more…)
With Andrea R-M
Earlier this month, the Western History Association met in Tucson, Arizona. As always, there was great scholarship, great conversation, and even great Mormon history, with papers by JIers.
The International Church:
Mormonism as a Global Religion
BYU CHURCH HISTORY SYMPOSIUM
March 6–7, 2014
Jointly Sponsored by
The Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, and
The Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
On Wednesday, September 4, 2013, the Joseph Smith Papers Project hosted a launch party for journalists and bloggers to introduce the Documents Series, which will serve as the chronological backbone of the project. Previously, the project has released volumes from Journals Series (2), the Revelations and Translations Series (2, plus an oversized facsimile volume), and the Histories Series (2). The first volume of the Documents Series reproduces in chronological order all of Joseph Smith’s papers from July 1828 to June 1831, beginning with the earliest extant recorded revelation (D&C 3) and concluding with the historic church conference where the high priesthood (that is, the office of high priest) was restored. This was a foundational period in Mormon history, tracking the translation of the Book of Mormon, the recording of the first revelations, the organization of the church, the mission to the “Lamanites,” the beginning of Joseph Smith’s revisions of the Bible, and the beginnings of the first two gathering places of the church–Kirtland and Independence. The editors–Mike Mackay, Gerrit Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Bob Woodford, and Bill Hartley, along with other smart people at the JSPP who also contributed–contextualized these issues in commendable fashion. Although images and transcriptions of these documents have been available on the JSPP website for some time, the “value added” of the JSPP editors’ introductions and annotations is well worth paying for the print volume. (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…)
The Historic Sites Division within the Church History Department seeks qualified applicants for the following positions:
Position: Historic Sites Curator – Building Conservator (more…)
Every four years, the Sunday School curriculum cycle hits D&C/Church History. It’s during this time that we’re reminded of the story of Thomas B. Marsh, first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who left the church in 1838. According to Apostle George A. Smith, whose 1856 telling of this story became the basis of subsequent renditions, in 1838 Elizabeth Marsh got into a dispute with Lucinda Harris over a pint of milk skimmings . Believing that his wife’s good name was at stake, Marsh defended Elizabeth in a series of investigations held, according to Smith, by the Teachers Quorum, the Bishopric, the High Council, and the First Presidency. Smith indicated that, humiliated by each quorum’s decision against Elizabeth, Marsh left the church and swore in an affidavit that the Saints were “hostile towards the State of Missouri.” In Smith’s account, “That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.” (more…)
Position: Church History Web Content Editor/Writer
Purposes: The Church History Department seeks a full-time Web Content Editor/Writer who will be responsible for the research, writing, and editing of a wide range of projects for publication on the Church History Department website (http://history.lds.org/). The Church History Department is seeking to expand its Internet presence through the development of new and unique historical content that will serve Church members and interested outsiders, including researchers and academics. (more…)
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ABC-Clio, one of the leading publishers of academic encyclopedias, has announced a new reference volume: Miracles: An Encyclopedia of People, Places and Supernatural Events from Antiquity to the Present. The editor has issued a call for contributors, which makes this a prime opportunity for experts in Mormon history to submit proposals for articles on such subjects at Joseph Smith’s Visions, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, glossalia and healing in early Mormonism, etc. (more…)