Happy New Year’s Eve! Before we ring in the new year, we thought we’d look back at the year that was at JI. Below you will find the 10 most-viewed posts from the past twelve months. (more…)
Welcome back to our series, wherein we answer questions from our readers about plural marriage. Where possible, I’ve linked to all the available sources for readers, so that others can investigate each question more fully, if they wish. Today’s question addresses the rumor concerning a physical altercation between Emma Hale Smith and Eliza R. Snow in Nauvoo.
In the 1982 issue of BYU Studies, three important Mormon women’s historians – Maureen Beecher, Val Avery, and Linda King Newell – explored the “oft-told tale” that Joseph Smith’s wife Emma pushed Eliza R. Snow down the stairs in a fit of jealousy. The story as they construct it is one that has several variants: “The characters involved are Joseph Smith, his wife Emma Hale Smith, and a plural wife, usually Eliza Roxcy Snow. The place is invariably Nauvoo, the scene either the Homestead residence of the Smiths or the later roomier Mansion House. The time, if specified, is either very early morning, or night, in 1843, April or May, or in 1844. The action involves two women in or coming out of separate bedrooms. Emma discovers the other woman in the embrace of or being kissed by Joseph. A tussle follows in which Emma pulls the woman’s hair, or hits her with a broom, or pushes her down stairs, causing either bruises, or a persistent limp, or, in the extreme versions, a miscarriage. There may or may not be a witness or witnesses.” (more…)
In my research of Navajo educational history, I have come across several student case files that include “religion” as a major category in individual profiles. Growing up with Navajo family and friends, I remember references to how they had to choose their “religion” at boarding school during the 1950s. (more…)
Secret ecclesiastical organizations usually draw a lot of attention, yet few secret ecclesiastical organizations have garnered as much speculation and mythologization as the Council of Fifty. Anyone with even a cursory interest in Mormon history has heard of the council, often wrapped up with rumors of kingly coronations, clandestine governments, and power struggles. Academic engagement with the organization has ranged from the ambitious (and as it turns out, overstated) Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Michigan State University Press, 1967) by Klaus Hansen to the more nuanced articles by Michael Quinn and Andrew Ehat. Recently, the LDS Church has announced plans to publish the long-secluded minutes from the original Nauvoo council as part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. But the council left a larger printed impact than what is found in that minute book; further, the council lasted much longer than merely Nauvoo. To help chart the development and relevance of this quixotic council, Jedidiah S. Rogers has edited The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, which compiles a large number of documents that shed light on the secretive organization from its formation in 1844 through John Taylor’s resuscitation of the council in the 1880s. There are a lot of things that could be highlighted from the volume for discussion, but as a historian of American religious and political culture, I’d like to point out two themes that stood out to me. (more…)
The coming of Christmas has slowed Mormon-related news this week. TLC announced that it will be airing a special called “My Husband’s Not Gay,” which will follow the lives of several men whose primary sexual attraction is towards men but who have chosen to marry women. The announcement of the program has revived discussions about Josh Weed and his willingness to discuss his relationship with his wife Lolly. Think Progress (linked above) hopes that the program will avoid the suggestion that homosexuality is something to be overcome but isn’t holding its breath. As someone who supports same sex marriage,* I agree with the sentiment and share their overall pessimism. It makes me yearn for the TLC of my high school years, which aired Baby Story every morning at 11:00 a.m. The last episode of Mormon Expression in which John Larsen will be hosting the podcast also aired this week. Adam Archer will take over soon.
*I should note that not everyone at JI agrees with my support of same sex marriage.
Solstice was this week (which is also my birthday), a day which to me always represents a fresh start, the year’s pivot point back towards the light. This dawning feels especially significant, as the start of an unfamiliar new phase: I’ve just begun a sabbatical. (more…)
Note: the post below includes images of pejorative racial and ethnic stereotypes from 1912.
Today’s image, “The Mistletoe Tradition at Salt Lake City,” came to my attention via Bunker and Bitton’s The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834-1914, where it illustrates a period (1908-1914) when portrayals of Mormons declined in frequency and hostility. “Mistletoe…” comes from the British Punch’s Almanack for 1912—an appendage to the more famous Punch—and Bunker and Bitton only included the Mormon part of the full-page, three-panel gag about cultural exchange in British colonialism.  The whole page is below. (more…)
Welcome back to our series, wherein we answer questions from our readers about plural marriage. Where possible, I’ve linked to all the available sources for readers, so that others can investigate each question more fully, if they wish.
Apologies for the delay in answering questions (finals, life, etc.), but if you have any more questions, feel free to post them in the comments.
For other posts in this series, see
Samuel Brown and Kate Holbrook (Embodiment and Sexuality)
WVS (D&C 132 Questions)
All the most important links for the past 3 weeks. You know the drill: if we missed anything, let us know in the comments. If you have opinions on the news articles, let us know in the comments. (more…)
One of my favorite hyperbolic descriptions of Brigham Young (“…In the course of an unusually long life, he was never known to do a generous or unselfish action…”) includes the line: “If we search history for his prototypes, we find him a mixture of Mokanna, the veiled prophet of Kohrassan, and that terrible chief of the assassins, the Old Man of the Mountain.”  I recently wrote about the Mormon Mokanna; today I address the other half of the mix. In the mid- and late-nineteenth century, critics of Mormonism sometimes compared Mormons to the “Old Man of the Mountain,” the leader of what Marco Polo and many since understood to be the fanatically dedicated and fantastically skilled Hashashin / “Assassins.” (more…)
With this post we begin an occasional series entitled “Images.” We’ll post an image—contemporary photograph, political cartoon, post card, picture of an object, book cover, whatever—briefly describe it, and then invite comment on the image and/or its context. Hopefully we’ll accumulate a small collection of crowd-annotated Mormon-related images. Furthermore, the text descriptions of the images might help researchers find images via text searches. (more…)
It’s that time of year again.
This is the sixth annual installment of my “Restrospect” series, which attempts to overview what I thought were important books and articles from the last 12 months. (Previous installments are found here, here, here, here, and here.) Every year, I wonder if I want to do this post again; every year, I decide it is once again worth it. (Though no promises for next year.) Mostly, it is an excuse to catch up on what has been published and to chart historiographical trends–something that really is only possible when you look at articles as well. I’ll also continue my tradition of offering my selections for MHA’s awards.
The usual caveat: my selections represent my own interests, and I admit I likely have many blindspots. So please fill in the gaps with your comments.
Of course, if you want more substantive engagement with recent scholarship in Mormon studies, you’d read the recent issue of Mormon Studies Review, especially since digital subscriptions are only $10. But you already knew that. (more…)
Last week, Ben highlighted the latest issue of the Mormon Studies Review. This week the Maxwell Institute gave Mormon Studies geeks even more goodness with the release of the first issue of the newly-revamped Studies in the Bible and Antiquity. You can read Carl Griffin’s overview of the entire issue here, but I wanted to take the time to highlight two of the articles included in particular. While much of what Studies in the Bible and Antiquity falls outside of the more narrow interests of JI bloggers, this issue includes a roundtable review of the BYU New Testament Commentary (BYUNTC) that features two prominent historians of Mormonism: Philip Barlow, Leonard J. Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, and Grant Underwood, Professor of History at Brigham Young University and coeditor of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Barlow opens the roundtable with some reflections on the aims of the BYUNTC, highlighting five particular questions that the undertaking raised for him, as a believing Mormon and a scholar of Mormonism and the Bible: (more…)
Below is a first-draft list of sister missionaries called in the first three years of the formal female missionary program. I needed to know which “number” an early sister missionary was for another project; I was surprised at how difficult the information was to chase down in digital form. To spare others similar pain, I submit the following list. I also commend the list to any History instructor assigning mini-biographies to classes of undergraduates (and please share the results). While we’re on the subject, check out Matt McBride’s http://sistermissionaries.org/.
Please note, with emphasis, the first-ness of the draft. I have verified very little on the list and am certain there are transcription errors and possibly even wholesale omissions. (more…)
(Allow me to grab my cheerleading megaphone…)
I’m happy to state that the second volume of the Mormon Studies Review is now available in digital and paperback form. If you missed it last year, I described volume one and the general outlook for the periodical here. But in short: the Mormon Studies Review attempts to chart the development of the subfield of Mormon studies, which we generally define as scholars using Mormonism to speak to larger academic issues through many disciplines (history, religious studies, literature, philosophy, sociology, etc.). The primary audience are other academics, though we are sure there are many interested in the topics that they will find much to interest them. The journal is filled by several different types of essays, all solicited: a forum (where a handful of respected scholars discuss a relevant issue), discipline essays (where a scholar engages the current state of a particular academic field), review essays (where a particular book, or series of related books, receive an extensive review), as well as traditional book reviews. As an editorial team (Spencer Fluhman is editor, while Morgan Davis, Melissa Inouye, and myself are associate editors), with extensive imput from our editorial board, choose who we think are the best people to trace the state of the subfield through their engagement with these issues and texts. We are grateful for all the authors who agreed to our invitations, especially those who are not generally part of the Mormon studies community; we feel that their participation is what makes our project most crucial to the Mormon studies world.
Melissa Inouye has a helpful overview of the new issue at the Maxwell Institute Blog; go read it now. You can also see the entire Table of Contents here. I’ll be brief by just outlining what practitioners of Mormon history will find interesting in this volume. (more…)
On Monday, December 1, the Joseph Smith Papers Project released their newest volume: Documents, Volume 3 provides transcriptions of letters, city and temple plans, revelations, reports of discourses, and minutes dating between February 1833 and March 1834, a period that began with glorious hopes of building Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, but descended into crisis on two fronts. In Kirtland, the excommunicated Doctor Philastus Hurlbut began publishing negative accounts of Joseph Smith, and in Jackson County, mob violence led to the expulsion of Mormons from their legally purchased lands.
At the launch of this newest volume, Matthew Grow, head of the Publications Division at the Church History Library, also announced that Joseph Smith Papers Project staff have refreshed the project’s website. To improve the user experience, the team has improved the navigation and readability of the site, added a Table of Contents to the document viewer to enable users to switch pages more easily, and improved the site’s search capabilities.
While Documents, Volume 1 contained a profusion of early revelation documents, Volume 3 has fewer revelations, but a greater variety of documents. Noteworthy documents include: meeting minutes of a collective, shared vision at the School of the Prophets in March 1833; a warrant with a long list of names of prominent Mormons that prevented those named from attaining legal residency and voting rights in Jackson County; annotated drawings of temple and city plans (this is the first volume to reproduce architectural designs and drawings of city plans; it is quite the type-setting feat!); and letters that shed light on the lives of Joseph Smith’s less prominent contemporaries who moved to Jackson County directly in response to his revelations.
These documents are compelling for various reasons. In reference to the March 1833 meeting minutes, Gerrit Dirkmaat, one of the volume editors, observed that most visionary accounts come from Joseph Smith. A handful of visionary accounts come from small groups, such as the “Testimony of the Three Witnesses” to the Gold Plates. The account recorded by Frederick G. Williams of the collective vision at the March 1833 meeting is unique because a relatively large number of people participated in the event.
Alison Palmer, one of the editors, discussed the process of figuring out how to reproduce the city and temple drawings in a book format in a way that preserved the evolving relationship of the annotations to the designs. The document of the City of Zion Plat, for instance, is 17×22 inches in size. It depicts multiple religious buildings in the central block, and identifies the surrounding blocks as residential spaces. Ultimately, the team divided this document into nine sections and transcribed each.
According the to the volume editors, Joseph Smith’s correspondence reveals his unwavering confidence that Zion would be built. The time delay in communication (it took three weeks for a letter from Jackson County to arrive in Kirtland, for instance) was very interesting to me, especially in light of the need for immediate decisions in response to the increasing mob violence.
The Documents series is one out of six being published by the Joseph Smith Papers Project. The other five series are: Revelations and Translations, Histories, Journals, Legal and Business Records, and Administrative Documents. Photographs, videos, curricula/lesson plans for secular universities, and, of course, images of the documents themselves are all available on the Joseph Smith Papers Project Website.
With the new polygamy essays out, I’ve heard and seen a number of comments along the lines of “we can maybe wrap our brains around this, but how in the world are we supposed to explain this to our children?” Good question. I, like probably a lot of bloggernacle folks, have tried to make it a point to go over various often undressed points of early Mormon history my my kids (like the seer stone) but I had neglected polygamy. This neglect was brought to my attention one summer after my then twelve-year-old son had returned from a trip to California to spend a week with his non-Mormon friends. He informed us that they had been razzing him about polygamy, something he knew nothing about. My wife and I started into a basic explanation of how we used to practice this but no more when he cut us off by asking, “But it was wrong, right?” (more…)
Announcement: 2015 Summer Seminar: “Organizing the Kingdom: Priesthood, Church Government, and the Forms of LDS Worship”
2015 SUMMER SEMINAR
“ORGANIZING THE KINGDOM:
PRIESTHOOD, CHURCH GOVERNMENT, AND THE FORMS OF LDS WORSHIP.”
Brigham Young University
June 14 – July 23, 2015
In the summer of 2015, the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, with support from the Mormon Scholars Foundation, will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students, CES educators, and other qualified individuals, on “ORGANIZING THE KINGDOM: PRIESTHOOD, CHURCH GOVERNMENT, AND THE FORMS OF LDS WORSHIP.” The seminar will be held on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, from June 14 to July 23. Admitted participants will receive a stipend of $3000 with an accommodations subsidy if needed. International participants will also receive some transportation assistance, the amount to be determined by availability of funding. (We are hoping to cover most airfares for the internationals). (more…)
Church History Library Intern
ID 120839, Type: Full-Time – Temporary
UT-Salt Lake City
Posting Dates: 11/20/2014 – 12/12/2014
Department: Church History Department (more…)