I have to admit, as completely unpalatable as I find Nicolas Cage (despite his influential corner of internet memes), every once in a while I wish that archival research was a little less sitting and reading a little more jumping to action and making remarkable and miraculous connections—preferably in some deep lost underground tunnel holding documents no one has seen for a couple hundred years or more. (Dr. Jones, Jr. is clearly more acceptable than Cage, were it not for that crystal skull and his inability to get tenure, but I don’t really need to get in a row with cannibalistic natives.) Despite this desire for excitement, most archival finds and brief moments of epiphany occur only after a lot of work amidst the mundane. (more…)
In March of this year, the newly rebranded BYU Studies Quarterly published an article I wrote entitled “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace: James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39–40.” The article, which began as a short and poorly-written blog post here at JI a few years earlier, represented the culmination of a year in the archives pouring through manuscript sources and rolls and rolls of microfilmed newspapers and church records from three different Methodist churches (assisted by the indefatigable staff at the United Methodist Archives and History Center in Madison, New Jersey), piecing together the life and preaching career of a man I initially knew next to nothing about. It also represented the culmination—or so I thought at the time—of my research on connections between Methodism and early Mormonism. I’d moved on to what I imagined at the time as an entirely unrelated project: my dissertation, which examines the growth and development of Methodism in North America and the Caribbean from 1760 to 1815. (more…)
We’re delighted to feature this contribution from JI’s good friend and former blogger Heidi Harris as part of our “I Found it in the Archives” series.
From my experience, historians don’t consciously believe archives are a neutral space in the historical research process, but there is not nearly enough literature on the filtering process that occurs within an archives. I’m not speaking of the difficulties inherent in historic documents. All historians are taught to focus a critical eye on a source, look at why it’s created, and to weigh its biases. But I think historians are ill-trained in analyzing the archival influence of various collections. Scholars need to think about and engage with the fact that historical documents are processed by archivists with their own prejudices, (changing) professional standards, and varying historical knowledge. What have historians missed due to not understanding processing and preservation practices? This opens up a tremendous array of questions scholars can glean in their own research. Below is but a small example of this kind of thinking. It’s in no way earth-shattering, but I think uncovers some illustrative evidence historians should remember. (more…)
Archival research and the resulting discovered sources often provide the critical foundation for scholarly articles and books. There is something wonderful about stepping into the archives and having the past delivered to your table in Holinger boxes and non-acidic folders; not to mention that you often discover answers to questions you had not thought to ask.
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…)
The following post comes from intrepid researcher by Erin Jennings. Erin (BS, Cameron University; MSE, Arkansas State University) is an independent historian and current board member of the John Whitmer Historical Association. Among her areas of focus, Erin has extensively researched Jesse Gause, Charles Anthon, and the Whitmer family. She has published, “The Consequential Counselor: Restoring the Root(s) of Jesse Gause,” in the Journal of Mormon History, and “The Whitmer Family Beliefs and Their Church of Christ,” in the book Scattering of the Saints: Schism Within Mormonism, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and John C. Hamer. The Juvenile Instructor thanks Erin for kindly sharing an important document she recently found:
A relentless eight-year search has finally come to an end for me. Thanks to an ever-growing trove of digital tools, I’ve finally located an elusive Oliver Cowdery letter that in February 1830 Cornelius Blatchly claimed was reproduced in a New York newspaper in 1829.
I stumbled on this little gem while looking for something else in the Internet Archive’s collection of Mormon publications  and was both charmed and intrigued by it. The pamphlet is a 16-page tract, titled “The Latter-day Saints’ Catechism: Or, Child’s Ladder,” by Elder David Moffat. Subtitle: “Being a Series of Questions Adapted for the Use of the Children of Latter-day Saints.” (more…)
One fascinating document that has been submitted to the Saints of Alberta Project (SAP) is this page of lyrics for a folk hymn composed by “H. Garner” on April 17, 1884, titled “Wait till the clouds roll by Zion”:
I came across an intriguing article not long ago, published in a 1927 issue of the Cumorah Monthly Bulletin. The Bulletin was the official publication of the South African Mission from 1927-1970. I suppose you know what’s coming next based on the title of this post, so I might as well get right to it.
WHO MAY BEAR THE PRIESTHOOD?
This is a subject of frequent inquiry in the South African Mission, where so many good people are unable to declare, with certainty, a genealogy pure from the Hamite or Canaanitish blood. (more…)
[If Elder Holland was correct in his General Conference talk from saturday that we are never too far along the path of sin to repent and return to God’s fold, then I hope I can make amends for not participating in March’s Women’s History Month by reproducing a revealing document written by one of my female idols.]
Hannah Tapfield King (1807-1886) was a fascinating woman. Born in Cambridge, England, to Peter Tapfield, a land steward and second son of the 5th Duke of Leeds, and Mary Lawson, daughter of one of the most respected families of Yorkshire, she was married at a young age to Thomas Owen King–an arrangement between the King and Tapfield families that set Hannah for a life of wealth and comfort. While living in Cambridge shortly after her fortieth birthday, she was introduced to the Mormon message and went through a long, complicated, and intense investigation period. (Probably worth its own post.) Finally, on April 17th, 1851, she was “buried in the liquid grave and raised up out of it in the likeness of the burial and resurrection of our Saviour.” Her baptism brought a lot of trouble: it was in the midst of a debate concerning Mormonism in the Cambridge area, and Hannah, before a highly respected member of the community, received much condemnation from her peers. Even worse, her parents strongly disapproved of her decision, and were almost apoplectic when she announced she would be immigrating to Utah. Fortunately, her husband, though he never joined the LDS church, was supportive and even agreed to move with her to the American west two years later. (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…)
John Adams imagined that America would always celebrate July 1776 as the beginning point of American freedom, but he was off a few days. “The Second Day of July 1776,” he wrote, “will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.” If Adams was mistaken on the exact date, he was prescient concerning the celebrations. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Witnessing the pompous proceedings that surround Independence day—especially here in Utah County—reminds me that Adams was certainly at least half-right. (more…)
It seems to be a common assumption that the use of folk magic objects like peep stones and divining rods had pretty well died out by the time the Saints arrived in the Great Basin. At least, we don’t talk much about them being used after that. When we speak of seer stones in a Mormon context Joseph Smith’s early treasure digging days, Book of Mormon translation, and Hiram Page are typically the topic of discussion. Such instruments were used for finding treasure, translating ancient texts, for revelation, and, in a few cases, for locating lost objects.
A while ago I came across a few references to the use of a “peep stone” that surprised me for several reasons. The date was later than I would have expected: 1856. And the peeper was younger than I expected: about 14 or 15. And the object of peeping was rather unusual. (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…)
One of the first references to the LDS Church in London’s newspaper The Times occurred on 6 November 1838, when The Times correspondent on Ireland made a passing derogatory remark on a “scene of uproar and confusion that would be sufficient to disgrace an assemblage of Mormonites.” The author also stated that these “Mormonites” were led “by that transatlantic ruffian who styles himself the true prophet of God.”  Nearly three years later, another article in the news section stated that “A good deal of curiosity has been excited in this city during the last few days by the departure of great numbers of deluded country people (Mormonites), old and young, for the ‘New Jerusalem’ in America.” The author believed that these “unfortunate dupes” were motivated by the idea “that on their arrival at the American paradise they shall be made young again and shall live for a thousand years.”  (more…)
From Evangelical Christendom 12 (1870), 27.
Evangelical Christendom, published out of London, was the official journal of the World Evangelical Alliance, organized in Britain in 1846 to coordinate and promote evangelical mission work around the globe. (An American affiliate was organized in New York City in 1847.) The journal was annual, but also comprehensive; routinely hundreds of pages long, containing book reviews, conference reports, missionary dispatches from around the globe, and a section entitled “Foreign Intelligencer,” made up of dispatches from countries around the world on the state of evangelical religion. “Mormonism in New York and Utah” is one of these.
Despite being a member of the first Quorum of the Twelve, to most members of the church today William E. McLellin, if he’s known at all, is associated primarily with D&C 67. The revelation was received at the November 1831 conference, where the publication of Joseph Smith’s revelations was discussed in detail. (more…)
Ezra Booth, a former Methodist minister, he converted to Mormonism in 1831 after witnessing a miraculous healing performed by Joseph Smith. Booth initially found the Mormon message very compelling, especially the promise of spiritual gifts and the imminent establishment of the New Jerusalem. But as months passed, Booth found the gap between expectation and result to widen, as in his mind the spiritual gifts did not come in the manner he hoped and the site of the New Jerusalem in Missouri (see D&C 57) was not the land of milk and honey he envisioned (as described in D&C 38:18). He also didn’t like the June 1831 (D&C 52) commandment to walk to Missouri for the dedication of the temple site, or the August 1831 commandment to walk back to Ohio (D&C 60), preaching along the way (at 800 miles one way, I wonder how many people actually liked the thought of that), and he became increasingly critical of JS and other Mormon leaders. In early September, the church conference silenced Booth from preaching, and over the next few months he published a series of letters in the local newspaper, the Ohio Star. (more…)