Justin Bray is an oral historian at the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also an MA student at the University of Utah, where he studies American religious history. He has presented and published several papers on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper among the Latter-day Saints.
I’ve always found objects meaningful tools to reconstruct the past.
When my great-grandfather passed away many years ago, my dad inherited an old baseball bat—probably because my brothers and I couldn’t stop watching The Sandlot, and throughout our childhood we collected an unhealthy number of baseball cards. I really didn’t know anything about my great-grandfather (at the time), let alone that he was a baseball player. But the more attention I paid to the bat, the more the bat became a kind of lens into my great-grandfather’s world. (more…)
This post continues the JI’s occasional “Responses” series and contributes to the August theme of 20th Century Mormonism. Semi-regular guest and friend of the JI Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, contributes this installment.
Review of David Pulsipher, “‘Prepared to Abide the Penalty’: Latter-day Saints and Civil Disobedience,” JMH 39:3 (Summer 2013): 131-162.
Pop quiz: Which group maintained the longest civil disobedience movement in American history, and the first such movement not to descend into violence? Since you’re reading a Mormon history blog, the question is a bit like asking who’s buried in Grant’s tomb. Yet even with the prodigious output of scholars working on Mormon related topics in recent years, there are relatively few offerings that not only give us new details but also really help us see Mormonism through a new perspective. David Pulsipher’s recent JMH article is one of those. (more…)
[Another installment in this month's series on "Mormonism and Politics," this post is authored by Patrick Mason. Patrick, a friend of and mentor to many on the blog, is the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, and his works include The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Post-Bellum South and (co-edited with David Pulsipher and Richard Bushman) War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives. He is currently working on a biography of Ezra Taft Benson and a book on Mormon peace ethics. More recent family hobbies, supposedly related to peace ethics, include sneaking onto his former property with shovels and garbage bags to dig up grape vines and other shrubbery.]
The 1950s was a heady time for God in America. Postwar enthusiasm and the fear of the surge of international “godless Communism” helped spark a national revival of religion, both privately and publicly. Billy Graham emerged not only as the nation’s top revivalist but also as one of its biggest celebrities. “In God We Trust” replaced the more secularly inflected “E Pluribus Unum” as the nation’s motto, and “under God” got plugged into the Pledge of Allegiance. (more…)
Please join us in welcoming this guest post from Edward Blum, a recognized scholar of race and religion in U.S. history who has contributed to JI previously. Ed is associate professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and most recently, co-author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012). He is the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005). Ed also blogs at Religion in American History and Teaching United States History, and last week attended his very first Mormon History Association conference in Layton, Utah.
Has darkness ever overwhelmed you? Have you seen cities sink and communities set ablaze? Has a voice saved you? If you know the Book of Mormon, then you are familiar with the tale I tell. After hundreds of pages chronicling the ebbs and flows of civilizations, the narrative reaches a climax. In Palestine, Jesus Christ was crucified and buried. The world felt the reverberations. “Thick darkness” fell upon the land. Nothing could bring light, “neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceeding dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all.” The sounds of howling and weeping pieced the darkness. Sadness reigned. (more…)
By Alex D. Smith
“To be burned unread if I die, unless Tom cares to read it. No one else. Mind! I will haunt any one who does!
E. D. K.”
I have waited with eager anticipation for Elizabeth Dennistoun Kane to fulfill this threat inscribed on the first page her 1860 diary. Elizabeth, if you are listening, at your convenience. (more…)
Friend of JI and all-around awesome person Melissa Inouye has initiated a wonderful project. Can you help?
As Mormonism continues to develop internationally, so too does the field of Mormon studies. More and more foreign scholars are looking to do work in the area, but often lack the requisite resources. The International Mormon Studies Book Project is a new effort to provide critical resources for developing Mormon studies internationally by purchasing books to form a base Mormon studies collection at institutions where scholars have demonstrated a keen interest in doing research on Mormonism. Currently, institutions interested in partnering with the IMS Book Project span the globe, from Asia to Australia to Europe. The first two IMS Book Project collections are slated for donation to Jianghan University?????) in Wuhan, China, and the newly formed French Institute for Research on Mormonism (Institut Français pour la Recherche sur le Mormonisme) in Bordeaux, France. (more…)
“Tainted blood” – The Curious Cases of Mary J. Bowdidge and Her Daughter Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry
Connell O’Donovan January 2013
In September 1885, Joseph Edward Taylor, First Councilor in the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, contacted LDS President John Taylor (no relation) regarding the curious case of “a young girl” (she was 20) residing in the Salt Lake 18th Ward named Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry. Berry and Hyrum B. Barton, son of a pioneering Salt Lake family originally from England, had fallen in love and began to make plans for a temple marriage or sealing – probably in the still functioning Salt Lake Endowment house. However, as Taylor explained to the church president, “the question of jeopardizing his [Barton’s] future by such an alliance has caused a halt.” The “jeopardy” that the already-married Hyrum Barton faced was that this bigamous marriage would be to a young woman “whose mother was a white woman but whose father was a very light mullatto [sic]” as Councilor Taylor reported. Taylor had written to Pres. John Taylor to request an exemption from the LDS policy at that time of not allowing women or men of black African descent to enter LDS temples to participate in what they consider to be sacred ordinances necessary to salvation and exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, specifically the endowment ritual and the eternal marital sealing ceremony. As Taylor further explained to his church superior, “The girl is very pretty and quite white and would not be suspected as having tainted blood in her veins unless her parentage was known.” In addition, Lorah J. B. Berry herself was adamantly requesting permission to be endowed for herself and then sealed for eternity to Barton on the basis of two known precedents, which she invoked to the Salt Lake Stake Presidency. (more…)
By Paul Reeve
In May 2012, Susan Saulny, a reporter for the New York Times published a story, “Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity,” an investigation into how black Latter-day Saints grappled with their decision between a Mormon Republican and a black Democrat in the 2012 presidential election. The online version of the story featured a “TimesCast” four minute video which included a fellow reporter from the Times interviewing Saulny about her story. The conversation began with an expression of “surprise” that there were in fact black Mormons for Saulny to interview. The exchange then entertained a bit of speculation over how many black Mormons there are in the United States, with a “very small number,” a “couple of thousand max,” and “500 to 2,000” offered as possibilities. The “TimesCast” did rightly note that the LDS Church does not keep racial statistics on its membership, so that the number of black Mormons is difficult to know. (more…)
John Turner wraps up the JI’s roundtable discussion of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet.
Four-and-a-half years ago, during my initial research trip to Utah, I ventured down to Provo and had lunch with Spencer Fluhman and several of his students. Among them were David Grua and Chris Jones (and Stan Thayne, I think). The Juvenile Instructor was a newborn blog at the time. So it’s a bit surreal for me to have read the topical reviews of Pioneer Prophet over the past six weeks at this blog.
I love the field of Mormon history for many reasons. The rich sources. The voluminous scholarship. Most of all, I love the fact that so many people care about the Mormon past. This has some downsides. It makes the field contentious and testy. One need only read the “letters” section of the most recent Journal of Mormon History. Such contention, however, is more than outbalanced by the passion that so many individuals bring to their writing and to conversations about Mormon history. That passion is contagious.
[JI's good friend Joey Stuart shares some reflections on reading David Haglund's article on D. Michael Quinn.]
David Haglund’s excellent article on Slate yesterday provoked pity and some personal soul-searching on my part. Haglund highlights the rise and fall of D. Michael Quinn, one of the most important figures in the study of Mormon History. Quinn’s relationship with President Boyd K. Packer, from his interview with President Packer to be hired at BYU to President Packer’s alleged involvement in the Church disciplinary council that cost Quinn his membership in the LDS Church. Rather than placing Quinn with the 5 other members of the “September Six,” my thoughts turned to Asher Lev, from the protagonist of My Name is Asher Lev.[i] (more…)
Connell O’Donovan is an independent researcher, genealogist, and historian of early Mormonism. He has generously shared the following material related to his volume of Augusta Adams Cobb Young’s life writings, forthcoming with the University of Utah Press.
In transcribing the scores of letters and drafts in the Augusta Adams Cobb files, archived in the Theodore Schroeder Collection on Mormonism at the Wisconsin Historical Society, I found an undated draft of a letter (PDF of the holograph document here), which may be the earliest written account of the massacre at Mountain Meadows in September 1857.[i] (more…)
We recently invited Jared Farmer, associate professor of history at Stony Brook University and author of On Zion’s Mount, to answer some questions about his latest project, Mormons in the Media, 1830–2012.
What was the genesis of this (e-book) project? Did it start as a casual interest that only later became a serious project? Was it an outgrowth of teaching?
All of the above. The past couple of years I spent a lot of time creating a personal archive of historic images for use in my lecture courses. In the process I got quite good at finding images online—using familiar search engines (e.g., Google Images, Flickr), as well as some obscure sites, and many educational databases that are inaccessible to non-academics because of paywalls. This past spring, once Romney cinched the GOP nomination, I decided it would be worthwhile—and fun—to put my image-finding skills to public use. What began as a diversion from my book manuscript (Trees in Paradise: A California History, due out next year) became a minor obsession; what was supposed to be a little online illustrated essay on portrayals of Mormon facial hair became Mormons in the Media. I ended up spending far more time than I budgeted, and I used up my professorial tithing on eBay buying LDS ephemera. (more…)
By friend of the JI Joseph Stuart
Whilst transcribing portions of the Oliver Huntington journals for a paper to be presented at the Utah State Historical Society, I stumbled upon this gem in Oliver’s stake conference notes. The conference’s visiting authority was apostle and Church Historian Wilford Woodruff, who made considerable efforts to address certain rumors/falsehoods circulating about LDS Church History in his address. (more…)
MARK ASHURST-MCGEE is a historian and documentary editor with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, where he specializes in document analysis and documentary editing methodology. He holds a PhD in history from Arizona State University and has trained at the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. He is a coeditor of the first volume in the Journals series and of the first volume of the Histories series of the Joseph Smith Papers. He is an author of peer-reviewed articles on Joseph Smith and early Mormon history. The following selection is taken from his 2008 dissertation: “Zion Rising: Joseph Smith’s Early Social and Political Thought.” Other works growing out of his dissertation are published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History (“Zion in America: The Origins of Mormon Constitutionalism” [vol. 38, no. 3 - Summer 2012]: 90-101) and in the just recently released anthology War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives (Kofford Books, 2012). Selections from his dissertation have also appeared here at the Juvenile Instructor, here and here. Ashurst-McGee is currently working on articles on political restorationism and Zion nationalism along the path of turning the dissertation into a monograph.
Joseph Smith’s Enoch expansion built on that for Enoch’s grandfather Enos, the grandson of Adam. Due to the “secret works of darkness” that had pervaded the land, Enos led “the residue of the people of God . . . out from the land which was called Shulon and dwelt in a land of promise, which he called after his own son whom he had named Cainan.” (more…)
Edward Blum is associate professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and most recently, co-author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012), which will be available next month. He is the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005). Ed also blogs at Religion in American History and Teaching United States History.
By Pete Wosnik
Last fall I took a class from Dr. Philip Barlow at USU called Religion, Evil, and Human Suffering. This was really big class, not in terms of the amount of students who took it, but rather in its subject matter as well as its breadth. Mormonism was only allotted a few precious class hours, but the class gave me an added appreciation for Mormon theological contributions to the larger world. Something I quickly learned in the course was that all religious traditions have grappled with the problems of pain, suffering, and evil; indeed, most religions are born in such conditions. (more…)
Joseph Stuart is a BA student in American Studies at Brigham Young University, entering his last semester. He recently “rocked the GRE” in the words of his fiancee, and is planning on going to grad school in history or religious studies. He has worked on several fascinating projects, one of which examines the social history of the Woodruff Manifesto, from which the following document is taken. Let’s give a warm welcome to Joseph.
This summer I have had the good fortune to work for the Charles Redd Center at BYU, attempting to examine responses to the 1890 Woodruff Manifesto. By canvasing nearly 1000 journals, diaries and autobiographies, I found a veritable cornucopia of results, from the bemused to the belligerent. (more…)
By Pete Wosnik
This week I’ve been reading through primary sources of converts to Mormonism who lived in Kirtland- and the surrounding counties- in 1830. In my initial research, I have used boap.org and saintswithouthalos.com to examine narratives by Levi Hancock, Lyman Wight, and Josiah Jones. Saintswithouthalos.com also has the Ohio 1830 census uploaded which has proven to be very helpful. I’ve also consulted Staker’s Hearken O Ye People, Givens and Grow’s Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism, and Van Wagoner’s Sidney Rigdon: Portrait of Religious Excess. These resources have laid a groundwork for my thesis; however, I plan to consult original documents and other sources in the archives at BYU, U of U, and the CHL. (more…)
[This is the first guest post from Saskia Tielens.]
Last spring, I taught a course called The Book of Mormon and American Culture at the TU Dortmund University in Dortmund, Germany. It was an elective class and meant for undergraduate students.
The first thing my students asked me last spring was whether I was Mormon.
Actually, that’s not true. The first thing they asked me was something incomprehensible in German. Since I prefer my German the American way (slowly and loudly), I stared at them for a moment before letting them know that however much I appreciated being addressed as Frau Tielens (it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?), Ms. Tielens would do for now. (more…)
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By Pete Wosnik
I have long been interested in the cultural influences that helped shape Mormonism. This fascination led me to ask questions about conversion: what accounts for Mormonism’s success, and why did early converts find it so appealing? Delving into the subject I quickly realized that there is a rich historiography full of brilliant scholars grappling with these questions. Whitney Cross and Mario DePillis were some of the earliest scholars to debate these topics. And while they used very limited data, they were in agreement that early Mormons were generally poor coming from the fringes of society. These author’s ideas were rooted in a socioeconomic theory that those unhappy with their current situation are more likely to join radical movements. (more…)
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