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…)
In preparing my priesthood lesson on baptisms for the dead for tomorrow (lesson 41), I’ve been going through the omissions from the text. As JNS pointed out awhile back, some of these omissions are pretty interesting. Here’s the text of Joseph Smith’s October 1841 speech on baptisms for the dead (more…)
So in my ever-stewing never-ending revisions of my work on Mormonism in the Philadelphia area, I’ve decided that I need to say more about women. This is a challenge since my sources are overwhelmingly written by men. I do have some detailed journals that I can mine better than I have though.
Anyway, up at the archives the other day and I came across another letter from a woman in the area (making a total of 5 letters by women in all). (more…)
We recently had a stirring discussion over at BCC concerning the causes of the 1838 conflict in Missouri. Much of the discussion concentrated not on the historical evidence that has survived, but on the role of bias in determining what gets included and what gets left out when individuals narrate the past. (more…)
So, I am more than a little embarrassed that almost all of Women’s History month has passed and the JI has not published even one post on women and Mormonism. I was hoping to put together a more analytical post on how gender shaped some of the early Mormon narratives and poems written after the expulsion from Missouri, but that’s a project that will have to wait for now. But here is an Eliza R. Snow poem that describes the Haun’s Mill massacre. How does Snow use gender to shape the memory of the massacre? (more…)
(I am taking a break from Woodruff for a moment, and thought I would post something related to Unitarianism in honor of Ryan T’s guest-blogging.)
The quick success of early Mormonism came as a shock to many contemporaries. This left religious thinkers scrambling to find a way to account for this “heretical” movement’s growth, attempting to explain why so many people were finding the Mormon message so persuasive. (more…)
Although I have drafted this post, I acknowledge that the idea for it and one of the sources comes from frequent commenter and guestblogger Steve Fleming.
As Connell O’Donovan has shown in his brilliant research on Walker Lewis and the origins of the Priesthood ban, Brigham Young initially did not see black skin as an impediment to a man holding the priesthood (unless otherwise noted, all quotations come from O’Donovan’s article). In fact, as late as March 1847, Young is quoted as saying that
Its [that is, priesthood restrictions] nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh, we (more…)
All this talk about the imminent publication of the first volume in the Joseph Smith Papers’ Journal Series has brought back a lot of memories about my time spent on the Project, especially 2004-2005 when I worked specifically on this volume. The Scriptory Book, Joseph’s 1838 journal, contains some of our only contemporary references to the Danites from a pro-Mormon source. Another important contemporary document that sheds invaluable light on the organization is the Danite Constitution. We unfortunately haven’t found the original text, so determining authorship by examining the handwriting is not an option. Scholars have speculated that either Sampson Avard or Sidney Rigdon wrote it, but it’s really too difficult to know at this point. I may at some point write a post giving a more detailed discussion about what we know about the Constitution, but for the time being here’s a transcript of it. What strikes me the most about it is the rich republican language as well as the obvious reference to the Declaration of Independence.
Whereas, in all bodies laws are necessary for the permanency, safety and well-being of society, we, the members of the society of the Daughter of Zion, do agree to regulate ourselves under such laws as, in righteousness shall be deemed necessary for the preservation of our holy religion, and of our most sacred rights, and the rights of our wives and children. But, to be explicit on the subject, it is especially our object to support and defend the rights conferred on us by our venerable sires, who purchased them with the pledges of their lives and fortunes, and their sacred honors. And now, to pro (more…)
“[I]t is a moral evil for any person…to deny any human being the right…to every privilege of citizenship”: Civil Rights in General Conference, 1963
Although it has been described as such, the following document is not an official declaration by the First Presidency supporting civil rights. It wasn’t even written by the First Presidency, but rather by Sterling M. McMurrin. However, President Hugh B. Brown read the statement as part of his October 1963 General Conference address with the approval of Pres. McKay and it was later reprinted in the Deseret News as a quasi-official statement of the Church’s position on civil rights. The statement was drafted in an attempt (that proved to be successful) to avoid protests at conference by the NAACP, which had requested and was denied a meeting with the First Presidency to discuss the Church’s position on civil rights legislation in Utah. Despite its semi-official status, the document is an anomaly, a lone representation of racial liberalism in a sea of conservatism. (more…)
I had the privilege a couple weeks ago of plowing through the Beinecke Library out at Yale in search of LDS-related stuff. Specifically, I got to spend a couple days just looking through the D. Michael Quinn Collection–quite a treasure-trove of documents, specifcally relating to “transitional” period Mormonism. (more…)
“[T]he only thing that distinguishes Utah from Georgia is that it does not have jim-crow cars”: Wallace Thurman, Mormon Utah, and Blacks in the West
Although it may be surprising to many today, during the nineteenth century anti-Mormons often denied that Latter-day Saints were white. Mormon authors fiercely contested this argument, using republican discourses to portray themselves not only as literal but also ideological descendants of the Revolution. As Patty Limerick has argued, anti-Mormons waived aside these objections and gave the Mormons the same choice given to Native Americans during the 1830s–either renounce your cultural distinctiveness, or move west of the Mississippi River, where no whites live.
Once the Mormons resettled in the Great Basin, they discursively constructed their territory as a place of refuge in contrast to the tyranny of the East. Perhaps due to their insistence on claiming whiteness, their Great Basin refuge had borders that were not only geographically defined but also racially delimited. Although sporadic attempts were made during the first few decades of settlement to live peaceably with Native Americans, by 1850 Mormons in Utah Valley (more…)
David Whitmer was a powerful figure in the early Mormon Church. Besides being one of the Book of Mormon Witnesses, he was in the Missouri Presidency and (some believed) ordained to be Joseph Smith’s successor in 1834. He was released from his Missouri position in 1837 and was excommunicated from the Church in 1838. (more…)
Well, it depends on who you ask. As discussed before (see esp. comments 9-12, 25-29), the argument over what was rational and what was absurd was a hot topic in Antebellum America, especially when attempting to describe and understand new religious movements. What many felt was completely asinine, others found fulfilling. This led to confusion on both sides while they tried to grapple with the other’s beliefs. Here, for example, is an editorial written in Europe in 1843 attempting to explain this new Mormon movement stealing away many of their citizens. (more…)
“Our forefathers, by their blood, have purchased for us liberty; but as far as the rights of the weak are concerned, the Revolution has progressed slowly.”
Happy Independence Day. Here’s a discourse given by George A. Smith on the fourth in 1854. Remember that at this time the Saints are struggling with the federal government over the right to self government. Notice how Smith negotiates in his narration his commitment to both an American identity and a Mormon identity.
George A. Smith, “Celebration of the Fourth of July,” July 4, 1854, Journal of Discourses, 6: 364-67.
Gentlemen and Ladies-Fellow-Citizens,-I arise here to address you a few moments upon a subject which has, perhaps, been worn threadbare by orators, statesmen, and divines, for the last seventy years, in the minds of a great portion of (more…)
No time for a real post dealing with the martyrdom today, but here’s ERS’s memorial of Joseph Smith’s death. (more…)