Blaine M. Yorgason, Richard A. Schmutz, and Douglas D. Alder, All That Was Promised: The St. George Temple and the Unfolding of the Restoration (SLC: Deseret Book, 2013). 348 pp.
Those who have been to St. George, Utah, know that the LDS temple there is something of a spectacle. Blindingly white against the red-rock bluffs that surround it, the contrast is startling enough that it seems to demand some kind of compelling explanation. St. George is now flourishing as Utah’s warm-weather mecca, but for generations it was a quiet and dusty desert outpost like many others throughout the state. Then, the incongruity must have been even more glaring. Why build a temple of worship at such an early date and in such remote place? To what purpose? And, retrospectively, to what effect?
In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to contribute a small piece on the reaction to the LDS revelation on race and priesthood, Official Declaration 2 (ODII). ODII was released by President Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, and reads in part:
“The long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.” (more…)
A diverse and plentiful array of material in this edition of Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup. Take a look at the following morsels:
The Mormon History Association will give its annual awards for the best books and articles published (by copyright date) as well as theses, dissertations, and student papers written during 2013 on Mormon history, at its annual 2014 conference, which will be held in June in San Antonio, Texas. Details regarding the nominating procedure are available on the MHA website for the following awards: (more…)
Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints. By Stephen H. Webb. Oxford University Press, 2013. 203 pages (with appendices). $27.95
Stephen Webb, a Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian, attempts to introduce non-Mormons to Mormon metaphysics and theology with a “rosy” outlook onto his subject (42). Although Mormon Christianity is published by Oxford University Press, its tone and Webb’s frank admission that he is a practicing Catholic may help Mormon Christianity to gain wide distribution from Christian bookstores, as well as Deseret Book (the LDS Church owned bookstore-which does carry the book). Webb’s means of understanding Mormonism are derived from his argument that Mormonism is a positive, Christian amalgamation of Catholicism and Protestantism. He employs each religious tradition to explain Mormonism to a non-specialized audience (15). (more…)
Recently, while listening to a podcast of the CBC’s Spark, a radio program that explores the intersection of technology and popular culture I was introduced to the work of Jeremy Stolow. Stolow is a media historian in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University. His principal interest is in religion and media and his research investigates the “sometimes counter-intuitive and often paradoxical ways (ancient, modern, and contemporary) religions relate to processes, practices and technologies of mediated communication.” (more…)
(or more accurately titled “How I Justify my Facebook Procrastination”)
A question I am usually asked about my research is why I end my study of Mormon adolescent girls and young women in 1930? The beginning year for my research 1869 is a pretty obvious choice—at least to me! 1869 is the year the Retrenchment Association was established and certain monumental events such as when the transcontinental railroad first traversed Utah and just a few short years before Mormon women could exercise suffrage in the territory. So why then end my study in 1930? First of all, the church celebrated its centennial year. Secondly, the year of 1930 (or thereabouts) is historiographically considered to be the end of the church’s transformation to be considered a part of mainstream America. In Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saint, 1890 – 1930, Thomas Alexander writes: “In the view of the relative isolation of Church members in the nineteenth century from the currents of social change in the remainder of the nation, the alteration of Mormon society by 1930 was nothing less than miraculous.” What did this so-called end of this transitional period specifically mean for adolescent girls and young women? Can it be considered a turning point for the young females adherents of the church?
Susanna Morrill is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of White Roses on the Floor of Heaven: Nature and Flower Imagery in Latter-day Saints Women’s Literature, 1880-1920 and several excellent articles. She has previously guest blogged for JI here and here.
In the latest issue of the Journal of Mormon History, Boyd J. Petersen effectively and succinctly describes Mormon women’s dialogic literary conversations about Eve in the Woman’s Exponent: “The speaking of many voices created a carnivalesque atmosphere where language was at once serious and subversive.”  This is a really great description of what was going on in Emmeline B. Wells’ Exponent. This periodical gave Mormon women a distinct, authoritative bandwidth within the community to express their views, views that as Petersen notes sometimes “subvert[ed] and sometimes co-opt[ed] the patriarchal gaze that watched over the publication.”  Petersen adds much to our understanding of how the present-day understanding of Eve developed as he meticulously chronicles the diversity of interpretations of Eve that appeared on the pages of the Exponent: she was alternately a hero, a goddess, “the hapless and unintentional instigator of the Fall.” 
For this week’s edition of the MSWR, I have all kinds of lovely links for your perusal. (more…)
If you subscribe to BYU Studies Quartely like I do, you’ll know that the latest issue is no longer hot off the press. Not even warm, really. Mine has been lying around for a while, clamoring for recognition, languishing for want of care. Without further neglect, then, the JI brings you another content overview for BYUSQ 52:4. Three historical articles in the issue may be of interest to JI’s readers:
A sign that your book has truly “made it”: people purchase the text as an impulse buy between ordering their Starbucks and boarding their plane.
There are many different types of books on Mormon history: faith-promoting, exposé, amateur, academic, and popular, not to mention the many books that blur those boundaries. Here at JI, we usually focus on the academic variety, which usually implies those published by university presses, though we also often engage the many top-rate amateur books that make our field so lively and exhaustive. These are the type of books that are directed at the audience with which we are most familiar: either the small group of people especially interested in Mormon history in particular, or the broader academic community interested in religious history more generally.
But I’d like to spend a post, and hopefully a discussion, on the popular. (more…)
This is the second entry in the recently launched, occasional, not-at-all regular, sporadic JI series, Mormon Studies in Unexpected Places. The basic idea is fairly straightforward: to identify instances in which Mormon Studies authors and/or their books, articles, etc. make an unexpected appearance in popular culture, political discourse, etc. Read the first entry here.
I’m like Fawn Brodie?
A few weeks ago, my cousin excitedly asked me on facebook if I knew that a Beastie Boys song contained a lyric referencing Fawn Brodie. I wasn’t aware, but it seemed plausible enough — the band is known for their clever lyrics, the late Adam “MCA” Yauch was reportedly somewhat eclectic in his own approach to religion, and their 1994 hit single, “Root Down,” referenced the band’s preference for snowboarding the powder of Utah’s slopes. Still, I was surprised to learn of the Fawn Brodie lyric. (more…)
In reading a collection of German Mormon WWII stories for a project, I came across a story told by the Uchtdorfs. Both Dieter and Harriet Uchtdorf were not members by birth; rather, their families converted after the war. President Uchtdorf’s grandmother was actually the one to encounter Mormonism first, when she met “a wonderful white-haired lady with a kind expression on her face” while standing in line one day (queuing up for supplies, any supplies, was part of post-war life for many Europeans, Germans included). (more…)
Occasionally, I do a keyword search for “Mormon” in JSTOR and Project Muse to see if anything comes up. A few days ago, I got a hit for a journal article that I didn’t know had been published or was even in the works. Quincy Newell, a religious studies professor at the University of Wyoming, has an article in the Journal of Africana Religions about Jane Manning James. Newell’s article is meant to showcase two significant documents: the autobiography that James dictated to Elizabeth Roundy around 1902 (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…)
Or: All Web is Not Created Equal, have you noticed?
One of the sessions I attended at the AHA this month was Session 151, Social Media and History. It featured one of our JIers, Max Mueller, talking about tensions and complications in the church’s “I am a Mormon” campaign, including the fascinating case of one woman whose tattoos were airbrushed out of her profile pic (her profile is now gone, for other reasons). Great talk, by the way, along with several others that reflected on the ethical and methodological problems of using social media as historical sources for researching marginalized groups or threatened voices. In each of the presentations — Max’s on constructing Mormon online “diversity,” Jessica Lingel’s on underground music scenes, Sadaf Jaffer’s on online discussion boards for Pakistani atheists, and Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa’s on sites made by and about Tibetans — the very existence of the sites to begin with, and especially their continued life on the web, is inherently unstable. It was actually a rather terrifying session, like watching 4 canaries in a coal mine (Hey! There’s a pocket of air over here! Oh wait, never mind). (more…)
For you Sunday morning reading pleasure, it’s another Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup. Here we go:
On the academic front, join us in congratulating our friends over at the Religion in the American West blog, who were successful in achieving group status in the American Academy of Religion. Also of interest to those readers who study the American West — the Montana Historical Society has launched a website to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state. Check out a detailed list of features here. Meanwhile, The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists has released the program for its forthcoming conference at UNC-Chapel Hill (March 13-16), which includes the following panel of potential interest to JI readers: (more…)
Note: the following books and article discussed are no by no me representative of the studies that look at Judaism and Mormonism in contrast. They are studies I happened to come across in my early days of reading about Mormon history. For example, I do not discuss Armand Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (2003) because it was simply not a book I read until later in grad school. Also, while I am very interested in the discussing about Mormonism as an ethnicity, I don’t feel too qualified to discuss in such a brief post. Plus, it’s already been covered here at JI back in 2008 here and here.
During my seventy-two hour self-imposed house arrest during the latest snowpocalypse here in Michigan and the POLAR VORTEX!!! (OK those will be my only references to the weather), I had extra time to develop my first lecture for the American Jewish History class I am teaching this semester. I had the chance to sit through the class a few years and was very interested by one of the questions posed to the class: are Jews a nation, ethnicity, religion, race, or all of the above? The question is a provocative one and assumedly has varying answers depending on what sort of group you asking and what region/area you are asking it in. I am sure there may be different answers in a religious studies class versus a history class, as well. I don’t remember they’re being a specific reached consensus on the answer from the class I sat in on, but I do remember they’re being arguments and understandings for a variety of answers.
Next week, I am going to be attending a course on how to teach writing in preparation for teaching English 125, Writing and Academy Inquiry next fall. The goal of the course is to teach students how to write in a variety of genres and to create complex, analytic arguments. Although most of the graduate students teaching the course are English PhDs, every year they ask a few PhD candidates from other departments to teach a section. Hence – me! One of our first assignments is to bring in an example of excellent writing from our field. I am torn about what to bring in. My first thought was Linda King Newell and Valeen Avery’s Mormon Enigma, which has a tenderness to it rarely seen in academy writing. But then, I saw Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre in stack of books a friend was assigning to her undergraduates next fall. After talking with the JI folks on the backlist, I decided that it might be fun to turn to the bloggernacle for ideas. What do you think are the best written books in both Mormon history and history in general? Also, what should I teach? Part of me wants to do a course on witchcraft and religion but I’ve also thought having the students research and write histories of Mormonism in Michigan. The topic could be almost anything. A friend of mine who works on Catholicism in Italy taught his on “Death and Dying.” Morbid, I know!
I’m looking forward to any and all suggestions.
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In chatting with some of the JI crew about what sorts of tools we use in research and writing, I thought it might be interesting to post about how we do things. I consider myself fairly technically proficient. I can design and maintain websites and have some coding experience. But as you will see in my research and writing, I am perhaps a little old-school.
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