Here is the first Mormon Studies Roundup of the year — a summary of news, research and announcements.
The Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association will take place in Washington D.C., from January 2 – 5, 2014. It will be meeting jointly with the American Society of Church Historians. Several JIers will be presenting. The dates, times, and descriptions (when available) of their presentations are as follows: (more…)
Todd M. Compton. A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013. 642 pp. Illustrations, photos, maps, bibliography, index. Cloth: $44.95; ISBN: 978-1-60781-234-0
Todd Compton’s first major contribution to Mormon history was his 1997 In Sacred Loneliness, a collective biography of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. In his most recent offering, Compton has returned to the biographer’s craft, with a definitive examination of Jacob Hamblin, a prominent figure in the Mormon colonization of southern Utah and the Southwest. Hamblin was a devout Latter-day Saint, who preached the Gospel to Indians, married plural wives, and played a key role in the expanding Kingdom of God in the West. Even in his lifetime, Hamblin achieved renown not only among the Saints as the “Apostle to the Lamanites,” but also nationally as a guide and an interpreter for John Wesley Powell’s famed expeditions to the Grand Canyon. Previous Hamblin biographies have been either fictionalized or hagiographic, reflecting the “Hamblin legend” that emerged in the nineteenth century. More recent works, reacting against these earlier portrayals, have cast Hamblin in a more unfavorable light. Compton’s biography, the first full-length scholarly treatment of Hamblin’s life, presents a positive reevaluation, while not ignoring the frontiersman’s flaws. Compton expertly analyzes Hamblin’s evolving attitudes toward Indians, showing how the missionary gradually became the “Apostle to the Lamanites.” (more…)
Note: I haven’t been purposefully lewd in this post, but if you find discussions of women’s body parts and nursing uncomfortable, you should 1) probably never have a kid and 2) not read this post.
A few days ago, I decided to look at the program for the 2014 Meeting of the American Historical Association where I’ll be presenting in a few weeks. One of the things that surprised me was that they have a nursing room. As a mother of an almost entirely breastfed infant (no formula but she ate her first spoonful of pureed carrots the other day), my first thought was SCORE! Honestly, I have been to too many conferences that offered little to no support for young mothers in attendance. Typically, you are on your own to find a plug-in for your breast pump that is anywhere near the conference sessions, and the conference hotel may or not have a refrigerator to store pumped milk. The conference schedule is also usually too jam-packed to allow you to attend more than one session in a row without being so full that your breasts hurt.
As I look forward to AHA, I thought it might be helpful to me and other nursing mothers to create a document full of advice for new moms who may be attending their first conference. (more…)
Sheri Dew’s recently released Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes (Deseret 2013) comes on the heels of an eventful year for liberal Mormon women. The day(s) of Pants, the petitions for women to pray in conference, and the launching of Ordain Women’s official site, among other events, have provoked widespread discussion on the well-worn but still dimly understood topic of women and the priesthood.
Women and the Priesthood, despite the title, isn’t so much an attempt to answer questions about women’s lack of priesthood authority (ordination), the nature of the priesthood, or the relationship between gender and the priesthood, so much as it is an attempt to discuss women’s general status and participation in the Church. This is important to note, since readers approaching the book with the former questions in mind will most likely be disappointed. Dew dedicates only one chapter to the topic of women and the priesthood, packed between seven other “contextual” or “foundation-laying” chapters, which highlight ways women should understand their eternal role, identity, and relationship to God and the Church.
It is clear early on that Dew’s imagined audience is split between those who think women have no significance in the Church (i.e. uninformed outsiders or members who are missing the picture) and those wishing to defend women’s current position in LDS belief and practice. As a result of this polarization, a considerable population is excluded: active, faithful members who are uneasy with or puzzled about the relationships between women, gender, and the priesthood, as currently practiced or discussed by the Church. (more…)
Hey gang, let’s recap what happened this week in Mormonism and Mormon History. Vamos!
A few years ago at a meeting of the Mormon History Association, Lisa Tait suggested that I read Susa Young Gates’ novel The Little Missionary. It was a barely fictionalized account of Susa’s experiences as a missionary wife in L?’ie, a small Mormon community in Hawai‘i focused on the production of sugar cane. Lisa felt that the novel would offer me insight into daily life on the plantation – the difficulty of eating Hawaiian food, the close relationships that developed between the men and women stationed there, and the gossip that sometimes circulated around the small community. It wasn’t until a few days ago, however, that I finally found the novel, which had been serialized in the Juvenile Instructor, and began to read.
Most of the novel is a light, cheerful exploration of the difficulties that white women as missionaries. Using a Mary Jane character, Susa describes the nausea that had greeted her on her way to the islands and the initial distrust of her children towards poi, mangos, and other Hawaiian foods. She also describes meeting the Hawaiian queen and watching Hawaiian Mormons pounding kapa cloth. Not all of the novel, however, has a jovial tone. While she was living in Hawai’i, two of her sons died of “diphtheritric croup.” (more…)
This past semester, I wrote a brief historiography of American religion and Evangelicalism in my American Religious History course. For the assignment, I read several books released in the past 5 years regarding this sub-field of American religious history (I addressed one of my favorites here). While writing the paper, my mind kept returning to a sermons of Ezra Taft Benson’s in 1962.
Benson’s sermon, excerpted below, highlights the possibilities of studying church leader’s political views and potential ramifications in shaping their believer’s politics. For a bit of context, Benson gave these remarks after visiting the Soviet Union, and one year from the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The political and economic overtones not have been out of place in Evangelical sermons in the South at the same time (at least in my reading of post-WWII Evangelicalism and politics).
- We must never forget exactly what communism really is. Communism is far more than an economic system. It is a total philosophy of life — atheistic and completely opposed to all that we hold dear.
- We believe in a moral code. Communism denies innate right or wrong. As W. Cleon Skousen has said in his timely book, The Naked Communist, the communist “has convinced himself that nothing is evil which answers the call of expediency.” This is a most damnable doctrine.
- We believe in religion as a mode of life resulting from our faith in God. Communism contends that all religion must be overthrown because it inhibits the spirit of world revolution. Earl Browder, a long-time leader of the Communist Party in the U. S. A., said, “. . . we Communists do not distinguish between good and bad religions, because we think they are all bad.”
- I visited the Soviet Union last fall…I saw no evidence that the communist leaders have altered their goal of world conquest—by economic if not by military means…[But]It takes a month’s wages to buy a pair of shoes and two months or more to buy a suit of clothes.
- What can you and I do to help meet this grave challenge from a godless, atheistic, cruelly materialistic system–to preserve our God-given free way of life? This is a choice land—all of America—choice above all others. Blessed by the Almighty, our forebears have made and kept it so. It will continue to be a land of freedom and liberty as long as we are able and willing to advance in the light of sound and enduring principles of right… Let us stand eternal watch against the accumulation of too much power in government. …Finally, let us all rededicate our lives and our nation to do the will of God.
Researchers may be able to answer important questions stemming from this sermon and others. To what degree was Benson in line with other conservative religious leaders at the time? Did Mormons have a peculiar form of political conservatism, tied to their canonical statements on the Constitution? Who were the movers and shakers in Mormon anti-Communism outside of Benson, McKay, and Cleon Skousen—how did they work together to shape the Church’s public politics? How important was financial prosperity a key to Christian anti-communism? These questions could easily be extended to other religiously motivated political movements after the Second World War. These questions could also help historians of Mormonism move their projects further into the twentieth century.
The study of Mormonism seems particularly apt for studying Christian anti-Communism, beyond its embodiment in Ezra Taft Benson, David O. McKay, W. Cleon Skousen, and others. Such a study could elucidate particular strains of Mormon conservatism mingled with its theology; it could also show how Mormon yearnings to be both “Christian” and “American” may have led them to ally politically with Evangelicals–bringing Mormonism into broader historiographies and conversations.
 This could be said of Billy Graham, Fighting Bob Shuler, or Catholic leaders in this same time period.
What follows is the first entry in what I intend to be an occasional, not-at-all regular, sporadic series here at the Juvenile Instructor: 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.
In the third-to-last episode of the final season of Veronica Mars, a television show that aired from 2004-2007 on the CW about a witty, sarcastic, and smart high school student (and, in the final season, college freshman) who assists her private investigator dad solve crimes, the show’s eponymous star (played by Kristen Bell) is browsing the stacks in the fictional Hearst College’s library. There, she runs into her on-again, off-again boyfriend Logan Echolls, and somewhat sarcastically asks if his is “boning up on [his] South American culture? Conversational Portuguese, perhaps?” (a reference to Logan’s planned upcoming summer surf trip to Brazil.) (more…)
From the University of Utah Press:
University of Utah Press would like to announce a new series:
The Mormon Experience in Perspective
The University of Utah Press is pleased to announce a new series in Mormon studies edited by Robert A. Goldberg and W. Paul Reeve. This series situates Mormonism—its culture, institutions, and people—in a broad perspective that reflects the views of religious studies, history, literature, theology, politics, and other disciplines. Titles published in this series will facilitate and enhance the scholarly exploration of the Mormon experience in ways that enrich our understanding of the role religion plays in shaping the human condition.
Robert A. Goldberg, as the director of the Tanner Humanities Center, organized and led the Mormon Studies initiative at the University of Utah, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America; Back to the Soil: The Jewish Farmers of Clarion, Utah, and Their World (University of Utah Press, 2011); Barry Goldwater; and other books. His courses at the University of Utah include one in American Social Movements.
W. Paul Reeve’s current book project, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, is under contract at Oxford University Press. He is the author of Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes and coeditor of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia. He teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West at University of Utah.
The University of Utah has been a center for scholarship in Mormon culture, religion, and history since its founding as the University of Deseret in 1850. The University of Utah Press has been contributing to this work by disseminating relevant scholarship for more than sixty years. Manuscript monographs in The Mormon Experience in Perspective series are eligible for competition inthe Press’s Juanita Brooks
Prize in Mormon Studies, a $10,000 biennial book publication prize.
My world is crashing down around me. Things I never thought would happen are happening: A federal court has declared that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional and the LDS Church has produced a statement admitting that the priesthood ban was largely the result of nineteenth-century racism. The Salt Lake Tribune lauded the church for its decision to publish the essay as part of a series answering questions about its beliefs. In Religion and Politics, Max Mueller was similarly optimistic about the effects of the essay. He sees the document as the repudiating the church’s racist past and officially addressing the ban’s origins in statements by leaders like Brigham Young. For him, it is a monumental document that represents the beginnings of a sea change in the church’s positions on race. Other commenters have been less optimistic. Gina Colvin argued on her blog that the priesthood ban and ideas that African Americans had been less valiant in the preexistence had been taught as doctrine and as such, deserved to be addressed in General Conference rather than in a letter hidden on the church’s website. In a podcast with Dan Wotherspoon, Margaret Young, and Janan Graham, she further argued that the essay had been written from the perspective of the institutional church and failed to provide readers with the stories and voices of those who had been marginalized by the priesthood ban. Colvin has not been the statement’s only critic. At Young Mormon Feminists, Nick Lindsey suggests that the document creates a fiction that church leaders were always working towards racial equality rather than participating in and furthering racist discourses that relegated African Americans to the margins of Mormon society. KUTV released a fairly tempered article suggesting that the church’s statement was the result of a desire to answer questions that were arising because of information available on the Internet. Although the article did not address claims that the document represented a change in the church’s position on the priesthood ban, its analysis was less jubilant some of the others that have addressed the issue this week. (more…)
For the month of November, we at the Juvenile Instructor hosted indigenous history month. It was a bit of whirlwind with a lot of fantastic posts and content. A few of us thought we would have some thoughts about one or two posts that will change the way that we write about indigenous people in the future.
Amanda Hendrix-Komoto: One of my favorite posts was Farina’s on oral history and the politics of translation. In the post, Farina explores the conversation that was happening between translator, an elderly Navajo woman, and a Church history employee during an interview. Although the translator tries to capture what the woman is saying and to translate it accurately into English, Farina demonstrates that re-reading the Navajo section of the oral interviews provides an interesting glimpse into the mistranslations that occur as the translator is forced to slightly alter the meaning of questions to make them make sense in Navajo. Answers that appear incongruous suddenly make sense when the meaning of the question as it was asked in Navajo is considered. (more…)
Last week, the Joseph Smith Papers Project released their newest volume: Documents Volume 2 (July 1831-January 1833). (You can find a report from the launch party for the first Documents volume here.) There are more than 40(!) copies of revelations included in the new volume, as well as several letters between Joseph and Emma Hale Smith, meeting minutes and licenses for church leaders (more on that later). The documents in this collection offer special insight to the developing administration of the Church, as well as Joseph Smith coming into his own as a Church administrator. Researchers will find the first written copies of the preface to the Book of Commandments (Doctrine and Covenants 1), the revelation now canonized as (Doctrine and Covenants 76), and the revelations that became the basis for the delineation of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods (Doctrine and Covenants 84). (more…)
Last week I highlighted noteworthy books and articles in Mormon history from 2013. But today, I’m not here to talk about the past. Continuing a tradition from last year, this post highlights forthcoming scholarship slated to appear in 2014.
This is not a comprehensive overview; for that, we can only hope that Jared T. continues his prestigious and exhaustive series at his blog. (I will include a link to his post if/when it shows up.) These are merely those works that I’m personally excited for, which obviously reflects my own interests. I encourage you to share your own additions in the comments below. And just like any year, some of these volumes may slip out of 2014 and appear the following year; but at least they are nearing arrival. (more…)
So the ‘nacle is abuzz with discussion of past mistakes, historical distance, and leadership mistakes. But enough about the woeful judging at the “Beardliness is Next to Godliness” competition, which robbed our own Jordan W. as well as a few others who were more adventurous than the boring Heber J. Grant-style.
Beyond the always-crucial discussion of beards, I guess race was also an important talking point this week. (more…)
(We are posting this reminder for the Maxwell Institute’s Summer Seminar, on behalf of good friend Adam Miller, because applications are due next week.)
The Mormon Theology Seminar and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship are pleased to announce the First Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology, “A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1.”
The seminar will be held at BYU’s London Centre in June 2014. Graduate students, junior scholars, independent scholars, senior scholars, and European-based scholars from a range of disciplines are invited to apply. Full information is included below. A printable PDF of the call for applications can be found here. (more…)
Editor, Joseph Smith Papers Project-Church History Department
ID# 106611, Type: Full-Time – Regular
USA – UT – Salt Lake City (more…)
This post is adapted from a paper given at the Mormon History Association’s annual meeting held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in July 2012.
Mormon missionaries have been very good at finding the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples–”Lamanites” and “Nephites”–wherever they have been sent in the western hemisphere, and sometimes beyond: throughout the Americas and the Pacific Islands, even as far as Taiwan and Japan. Hagoth has typically been the figure linking these latter-day Lamanites in far-flung areas with their mainland kin. After mysteriously departing from the narrative near the end of the book of Alma, never to be heard of again–or so the writer thought–Hagoth has covered a lot of mileage since then, linking up a considerable amount of geography as a figure of remarkable, if wandering, significance. Using the figure of Hagoth as a narrative motif, this paper will explore how Mormons have constructed racialized readings of various Indigenous peoples in the Americas and the Pacific Islands based on their reading of Mormon scripture, and, conversely, how they have read their missionary successes back onto the “text,” greatly expanding the Mormon conception of to whom (and to how many) the signifier “Lamanite” applies. Further, the LDS church has not been able to contain the wanderings of this signifier. Members of a recently organized religious group–who profess no connection to Mormonism–have published a nine-volume text that purports to be a record of Hagoth’s (or Hagohtl’s) departure from the Land Southward and his migration up the Colorado River to form a heretofore unknown Indigenous group known as the Nemenhah. As a narrative figure, Hagoth has been complicit in multiple revisions of the histories (and sometimes the identities) of Indigenous peoples throughout the western hemisphere–and his migrations show no sign of flagging.
I have decided to work my way through the Frederick Kesler diaries, conveniently available through the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library, both digitally and by on-demand printing. I just finished the 1874-1877 diary, which included several items relating to Mormon interactions with Native Americans. And while I have no real expertise in Native American history, I thought that the following items would be of interest to the regular readers of the JI, particularly in light of the recent wonderful content. Those more skilled than I may be able to use the material to probe conceptions of blood, literacy, newspaper exchanges, evangelism and more.