Juvenile Instructor, a Mormon History Blog

“It is Just There”: Jesse Holiday, a LDS Navajo Elder

By: Farina King - November 09, 2014

Some historians have told me how they fear that their sources will “talk back.” As an oral historian, I rely on my sources to “talk back.” On one level, oral history is a conversation between an inquirer and a source. In my perspective as a Navajo scholar, the relationship between a teaching elder and learning listener interweaves storytelling and oral history. Storytelling represents a form of dialogue, which depends on the rapport between speaker and audience. Among the Dine, our elders serve as storytellers, and simultaneously, public intellectuals, historians, and teachers. Dine scholar Jennifer Nez Denetdale asserts, “As manifestations of cultural sovereignty, oral histories have proven crucial in projects to decolonize the Navajo Nation and our communities, for the teachings of our ancestors are reaffirmed in the retelling of stories” [1]. When our elders speak, we are obligated to listen and learn.


Return to Elkton

By: Tona H - November 06, 2014

This post comes out of my experiences this fall teaching a senior seminar on “Writing Recent History” (which my students are finding especially challenging), and thinking about what that might mean in the Mormon context. And it’s also prompted by something that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said about Claudia Bushman at the Exponent II 40th celebration last month that caught my ear and which I’ve been thinking about ever since. Laurel said that one of the motivations for starting the journal was Claudia’s desire to “contain our anger by coming up with a project.” (more…)

Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By: Christopher - November 02, 2014

MSWRLinks to the latest Mormon Studies news from around the internet:

Mormons and Politics are in the news again. Only this time, in book form. David Campbell, John Green, and Quinn Monson’s new book from Cambridge University Press, Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics was reviewed in the Deseret News. Interested in more? Jana Riess posted a Q&A with Campbell and Monson over at Flunking Sainthood; Doug Fabrizio also hosted the co-authors on his Radio West program on Thursday.

You’ve likely heard that BYU Religious Education has revamped its curriculum, and the bloggernacle has weighed in from all angles. See here, here, here, here, and here for a sampling.

Also out of BYU, a couple of big announcements from the Maxwell Institute: The online edition of Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project has launched, and a new digital subscription option to all three journals published by the MI (Mormon Studies Review, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and Studies in the Bible and Antiquity) is now being offered (for only $10!).

Several archives in Utah and Arizona have teamed up to create the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project, “an online aggregator and exhibition that brings together the stories of US 89, as it travels through the state of Utah.” Their aim “is to aggregate existing images, texts, and oral histories related to US 89 while simultaneously identifying and digitizing additional relevant collections.” Read more at Researching the Utah State Archives

Finally, one final reminder that the submission deadline for the 2015 Faith & Knowledge Conference is approaching (THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7!) Get your submissions in ASAP!

Questions about D&C 132 and Plural Marriage

By: Guest - October 31, 2014

Today’s post, the latest in our series where we answer questions about plural marriage, is about textual questions related to Doctrine and Covenants 132. Again, we are grateful to those who asked questions, wrote answers, and helped edit and format the post. Thanks especially to WVS, who answered the questions today. WVS has been a long-time bloggernacle denizen, blogging at his solo blog–boaporg.wordpress.com and at bycommonconsent.org. His fascinating multi-part analysis of the textual development of D&C 107 was recently published in Dialogue. He later wrote an in-depth series of posts at BCC on D&C 132, which he is currently expanding into a book. (more…)

Job Posting: Historian/Documentary Editor, Joseph Smith Papers

By: David G. - October 30, 2014

Historian/Documentary Editor, Joseph Smith Papers

Job Description: The Joseph Smith Papers seeks a full-time historian/documentary editor with the academic training, research, and writing skills to edit Joseph Smith’s papers. The Joseph Smith Papers is producing a comprehensive edition of Smith’s documents featuring complete and accurate transcripts with both textual and contextual annotation. The scope of the project includes Smith’s correspondence, revelations, journals, historical writings, sermons, legal papers, and other documents. Besides providing the most comprehensive record of early Latter-day Saint history they will also provide insight into the broader religious landscape of the early American republic. (more…)

The Book of the Law of the Lord

By: Guest - October 30, 2014

Friend of the JI and Joseph Smith Papers editor and historian Alex D. Smith has agreed to send along this brief comment on the recent announcement that the entire text of the Book of the Law of the Lord–a Nauvoo-era donation record book that also includes JS’s 1842 journal and the text of several revelations–has been made available on josephsmithpapers.org. As Alex notes, this is kind of a big deal. Like the Book of Commandments and Revelations (published in 2009) and the Council of Fifty Minutes (forthcoming in 2016), the publication of the Book of the Law of the Lord  on the project’s website reflects the ongoing trend of including previously unavailable historical documents as part of the Joseph Smith Papers. Alex co-edited the second volume of the Journals series, which included annotated transcriptions of the the Book Law of the Lord journal entries, and he wrote an important article on the the Book of the Law of the Lord in The Journal of Mormon History (38, no. 4 [Fall 2012]). He is currently hard at work on Journals, vol. 3 (slotted to appear next year) and Documents, vol. 7, covering early Commerce and the founding of Nauvoo, September 1839-January 1841 (expected in early 2018).

Friends: (more…)

“Entanglement”: The Legacy of Polygamy in Mormon Theology

By: J Stuart - October 29, 2014

Today’s post comes from Samuel Brown and Kate Holbrook, good friends of JI and exceptional scholars. This excerpt, from a forthcoming book edited by Phil Barlow and Terryl Givens, offers some provocative thoughts on the legacy of polygamy in Mormon theology. Also, be sure to check out Samuel’s essay in Dialogue, linked below. After reading the essay, I’m sure you’ll want to purchase the book to read the rest of the essay. (more…)

Answers to First 3 Questions About Polygamy from JI’s Readers

By: J Stuart - October 28, 2014

Here is the first, in a series, of answers to historical questions about polygamy, as a result of the LDS Church’s new Gospel Topics essays on plural marriage.

Let us know if you have more questions here.

Without further ado, here are the first three questions. (more…)

MSWR: 10.12-10.26

By: J Stuart - October 26, 2014

Most notably, the LDS Church released three essays on the practice of polygamy during the Nauvoo, Utah, and post-Manifesto eras. if you have questions about polygamy that were not answered in any of the essays, SUBMIT THEM HERE.

Despite the click-baity title, The New Republic had a great article on Mormon genealogy, particularly as it relates to LDS theology. Here’s a snippet:

  • “The church’s most ambitious project is its online tree. Anyone who logs in to Family Search may record and research his or her family history there, but what distinguishes this tree from all the other online services is that the church is trying to connect all the branches, using its massive records and the activities of users to build a big tree of all of humanity. “


JI on Polygamy

By: Saskia T - October 25, 2014

On Wednesday, we here at JI declared we were happy to (try to) answer any questions about polygamy people may have, in response to the Church publishing two more essays on the topic. In preparation for that post (or several posts) next week, I’ve hunted through the archives to find older posts on the subject. (Warning, there are a lot.) I’ve tried to group them thematically here below.

LDS responses to anti-polygamy legislation

Responses: Patrick Mason on David Pulsipher on Mormon Civil Disobedience

Joseph H. Dean and Joseph F. Smith on Mexico/Polygamy

The Manifesto and post-Manifesto polygamy

A Review of Lu Ann Faylor Snyder and Phillip A. Snyder, eds., Post Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff (and another review here)

Wasted Seed and Spent Men: Corinne Allen Tuckerman and the Politics of Polygamy after 1890

Reading Like a Conspiracy Theorist, Part 1: A Post-Manifesto Polygamist’s Diary, Part 2: The Case for Polygamy, Part 3: Quinn and Hardy

Quantifying Polygamy

From the Archives: Joseph Smith III Congratulates Wilford Woodruff on the Manifesto

Remembering polygamy

From Embrace to Embarrassment: Remembering Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered: Charles W. Penrose on Polygamy, Etc.

“Plurality of Wives was an Incident, Never an Essential”: James E. Talmage on Polygamy

Mormon Folklore, Part Two (Polygamy)

Susa Young Gates, Juanita Brooks, and Plural Marriage: Situating the Legacy of Polygamy in the 1920s and 1930s

Celestial Polygamy is Inevitable

Grub Street History: Peggy Fletcher Stack and The Polygamies of Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs

The Perspectives on Parley Pratt’s Autobiography: BiV on “Conjugal Relations of Parley P. Pratt as Portrayed in his Autobiography”

Women and the Manifesto: Painting with Broad Strokes

Specific Polygamous Relationships

Helen Mar Kimball blessing and the dating of her marriage to Joseph Smith

Hannah Tapfield King’s Introduction to Polygamy and Hannah Tapfield King, Gendered History, and Class

Movie Review: Emma Smith: A Really Great Catch and Emma Smith Movie, Again

 Polygamy and gender

“The cheerless, crushed and unwomanly mothers of polygamy”

“Either a misogynist or proto-feminist”: Women and Polygamy in John Turner’s “Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet”

Passionate Stability: Polygamy, Dating, and the Creation of Modern Mormon Gender

Thoughts on Polyandry

Polygamy and race

Black Methodists, White Mormons: Race and Antipolygamy

“Prelude to American Imperialism”: Mormon Polygamy, Natural Law, and Whiteness

“A situation worse than polygamy”: Mormon Missionaries, “Mulattos”, and Defending the Faith in North Carolina, 1900


When Did Mormons Become Straight: The Intersections of Mormon History and Queer Theory

Spatial Dynamics and Polygamous Burial Practices

Notes from the Utah State Historical Society’s 56th Annual Conference, Part 2: Polygamy

From the Archives: “Polygamy…is Conducive to Health, Ingelligence, and Longevity”, An 1885 Letter of George Reynolds on Ebay

The Mormon Mokanna

By: Edje Jeter - October 24, 2014

In the mid- and late-nineteenth century, critics of Mormonism sometimes compared Mormon leaders to the eighth-century Persian religious leader Hashim ibn Hakim, better known as Mokanna, Al-Muqanna (Arabic: “The Veiled”), “The Veiled Prophet,” or “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan.” In some instances commentators made more involved comparisons between the methods, character, and attributes of al-Muqanna’s followers and non-leader Mormons. (more…)

Taking All Questions About Polygamy

By: J Stuart - October 22, 2014

We at JI were very happy to see the LDS Church’s release of three essays on plural marriage yesterday. The histories of Nauvoo Era, Utah Era, and Post-Manifesto polygamy have not been told by institutional sources in such a clear, open way. Facebook conversations and Twitter dialogues  popped up quickly; many are still ongoing. The Bloggernacle has begun to respond already.

With that said, we at JI couldn’t help but notice that many individuals still had burning questions on plural marriage. Although many of the questions people had were actually answered by the essays, there are still more nuanced questions that were not answered by the essays. There are also questions of a more personal nature that, for obvious reasons, could not be answered by an essay aimed at a western, if not global, audience. Often, the questions asked on social media were not answered by folks with an academic knowledge of plural marriage. While many people know a lot about polygamy and polyandry, many of the responses to people’s questions were not based in history.

Juvenile Instructor wants to try and answer people’s questions about plural marriage with reference to sources, where available. As an academic Mormon History blog, we have a duty to not only analyze the essays themselves, but to engage with those interested in Mormon History and do our best to answer people’s questions about plural marriage. All questions, from academics or non-academics, are welcome.

There are a few ground rules to participating:

  • We are not here to evaluate truth claims or whether or not plural marriage is “true” in any sense. That is not the point of this blog.
  • Be kind. We know that plural marriage can raise a lot of powerful feelings, but there are human beings reading and answering the questions.
  • We do not know the answers to every question.  We cannot make any promises in regards to finding exact sources or firm answers.


Please submit your questions here. You can also ask questions in the comments. We will answer the questions in future posts.



Review: Terryl Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought

By: Ben P - October 22, 2014

Terryl L. Givens. Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmology, God, Humanity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xv, 405 ppg. Notes, index. Cloth: $34.95. ISBN 978-1-9979492-8.

wrestlingFew books encompass as audacious a scope as Wrestling the Angel. In this work, the first of projected two volumes, prolific Mormon scholar Terryl Givens presents a rigorous and exhaustive overview of Mormonism’s theological foundations. This is not necessarily a historical work that systematically traces theological developments and places them in cultural context as it is an attempt to faithfully reproduce the intellectual tradition founded by Joseph Smith, refined by Parley and Orson Pratt, and tinkered with by a handful of twentieth century thinkers like B.H. Roberts, James Talmage, John Widtsoe, and, sometimes, more contemporary LDS leaders. The finished product is an overwhelming account that makes a compelling case for Mormonism’s inclusion within the Christian theological canon.

The book is separated into five sections. The first, “Frameworks,” outlines Mormonism’s relationship with theology and posits a new prism through which to understand Joseph Smith’s conception of “restoration”; the second is a very brief overview of Mormonism’s theological narrative, which is meant to ground the remainder of the discussion. The final three chapters are the “meat” of the project by taking, in turn, the three broad topics under consideration: “Cosmology,” “The Divine,” and “The Human.” Each chapter within these sections engages particular topics—embodiment, salvation, theosis, etc.—and places them within Christian theological context. (more…)

Mormon Studies Audiobooks

By: Christopher - October 21, 2014

I have a post up over at The Junto this morning reflecting on my audiobook listening habits. I note there, among other things, that “audiobooks … have become a means of helping me keep up with scholarship outside of early America (including periods and subjects I will likely need to teach at some future point), introducing myself to historical subjects in which I am peripherally interested (including the history of sport, the history of food), and of listening to popular and academic histories that fit under the broad umbrella of ‘early American history’ that I might not find time to read in the immediate future.” While writing that post, my thoughts turned to the relative dearth of quality audiobooks on subjects that fall under the large umbrella of Mormon Studies.

My reasons for wanting to listen to Mormon Studies audiobooks largely mirror the reasons cited in the first paragraph — it would be a convenient way to keep up with a field I remain committed to and interested in but one in which my current research does not fall. Given the general success of books in the subfield published by major university and trade presses over the last few years, I am a little surprised that more have not been recorded as audiobooks. Looking back through the library of audiobooks I’ve purchased, downloaded, and listened to over the last three or four years (a library of 50+ volumes), I realized that it included only one Mormon title — our very own Matt Bowman’s excellent survey of Mormon history. A quick search for “Mormon,” “LDS,” and “Latter-day Saints” in Audible.com’s library turns up an odd mix of ex-Mormon narratives, nineteenth-century faith promoting titles, a couple of volumes either for or against Mitt Romney, and only a small handful of Mormon Studies titles (including, most promisingly, Terryl Givens’s The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction and Spencer Fluhman’s A Peculiar People). The only biography of Joseph Smith available is Alex Beam’s American Crucifixion [edit: I somehow missed Robert Remini’s short and accessible biography of JS.]. The offerings at University Press Audiobooks are even slimmer. (more…)

One Memorable(?) Event from LDS General Conference History

By: Kris - October 14, 2014

Earlier this year, Tona wrote an excellent post about the fragility of digital archives following up on Max Mueller’s AHA paper that explored both the possibilities and pitfalls of the “I’m A Mormon” campaign as a primary source.  Tona noted that, “What is available to historians relies largely upon on goodwill, technology upgrades, and the market.”

Within this context, it is fascinating to observe, in real-time, the debate over whether or not the General Women’s Meeting is a session of General Conference.  This controversy includes the editing of a video of a conference session as well as conflicting (and possibly changing) interpretations about the status of the Women’s Meeting from LDS Public Affairs, the Deseret News website as well as lds.org.  While the debate about the status of the Women’s Meeting has been largely framed as a feminist issue, it also raises questions for researchers in tracing changes to historical documents and other sources as well as how ideas get lodged in the imaginations of religious believers. As Tona states,

Things come, go, vanish, launch, in a constant state of (often unannounced) change that nonetheless presents itself as final, unchanging and authoritative… it is a historian’s worst nightmare. If you cannot see the “manuscript edits” so to speak, how do you know what changed, when, how and why? And if the old just vanishes from the online environment without a trace, what happens to the possibilities for historical research? Most of what we are all busily creating in this decade has simply been written in the equivalent of vanishing ink.


Lecture Announcement: Joanna Brooks at the University of Michigan

By: Amanda - October 14, 2014

This came through my inbox last week, and I thought I would post it here in case anyone was interested.

The American Studies Consortium welcomes


Joanna Brooks

Professor of English and Comparative Literature, San Diego State University

author of The Book of Mormon Girl

“When Storytelling is Movement Building:

Putting American Studies to Work in the World of Mormonism.” (more…)

Columbus Day, Indigenous Day/Columbus as Hero or Villain: A Native American Mormon Perspective

By: Farina King - October 13, 2014

I did not start to question Columbus Day until my first history course at Brigham Young University in 2008, when an instructor discussed with the class the controversies concerning Columbus and the Quincentennial in 1992. We read The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters, and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives published by Penguin Classics in 1992. The class showed me how to search primary sources and understand the current debates about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. As a Latter-day Saint Native American, my complicated opinion of Columbus began to gel. I learned of his human weaknesses and impacts (both direct and non-direct) on indigenous peoples. As a historian, I came to recognize a historical figure’s context and the “pastness of history.” I became increasingly uncomfortable with the appropriations of Columbus’s image, especially in the contests over Columbus Day and Indigenous Day. (more…)

Reminder – CFP: 2015 Faith & Knowledge Conference

By: admin - October 13, 2014

A reminder to our readers that the Fifth Biennial Faith & Knowledge Conference will be held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on February 27 and 28, 2015. The submission deadline for proposals is November 7, 2014. Please note that, unlike previous years, the conference is now officially open to LDS graduate students and early career scholars in religious studies and related academic disciplines interested in the intersections of scholarship and religious faith. Three members of this year’s committee (Rachael Givens Johnson, Joseph Stuart, and Christopher Jones) are all bloggers here at the Juvenile Instructor; please contact us if you have any questions.



University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA
February 27-28, 2015


The Deseret Alphabet in Facebook Profiles

By: Edje Jeter - October 10, 2014

In the past few days I’ve seen two different Facebook profile pictures with “I am a Mormon” written in Deseret. The happy confluence of Mormonness and nerdiness in these images makes me happy. Further, even though I know very little about Deseret or its mechanics, these images also give me entrée to talk about two of the (many) reasons Deseret failed to catch on in Mormonism or anywhere else. (more…)

Announcement: 2014 McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture

By: admin - October 09, 2014

David CampbellThe University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center is proud to present the Fall 2014 McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture with David Campbell, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of the recent book Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics. Campbell’s lecture, titled “Whither the Promised Land? Mormons’ Place in a Changing Religious Landscape,” will be held on Thursday, October 30 at 7:00 PM in the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium, 210 E 400 S. This event is free and open to the public. More information at www.thc.utah.edu.

In his lecture, Campbell will explore how Mormons fit into a society where once-sharp religious distinctions have blurred and secularism is on the rise. With their high levels of religious devotion and solidarity, Mormons in America are increasingly “peculiar.” Does their peculiarity come at a price? Does that price include a “stained glass ceiling” in presidential politics? In other words, did Mormonism cost Mitt Romney the White House? And, how has Mitt Romney’s campaign affected popular perceptions of Mormonism?

« Previous PageNext Page »