In discussions of female ritual healing, I often see people point to a 1946 letter written by Joseph Fielding Smith as the “death knell” of the practice. I don’t believe that is an accurate characterization. In this post I’m going to be highlight material that Kris and I briefly covered in our article on female healing.
The 1949 Relief Society handbook included the following text: (more…)
Our post today comes from Brooke Brassard, who recently became a PhD Candidate (congrats Brooke!) at the University of Waterloo. Her dissertation focuses on how Canadian Mormons constructed an identity that was linked to but separate from American Mormons.
When you become perplexed with your problems, ask Betty Blair. She’ll help you find the answer or point the way to a solution of your difficulties,” advertised the Salt Lake Telegram on April 9, 1925, (more…)
I have a very short MSWR for you today.
The Salt Lake Tribune has a piece on what, exactly, makes Mormonism (among other faiths) attractive to people in Ghana.
The final program for the annual conference of the Mormon History Association has been posted. It looks like there are going to be many great discussions about Mormon Women’s history in San Antonio. (more…)
Susanna Morrill is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland where she teaches courses in United States religious history. She received her doctorate in the history of religions from the University of Chicago. Her work in the recent past has focused on how early Mormon women used popular literature in order to argue for the theological importance of their roles in the home, community, and church.
I finally got around to reading carefully the latest handbook of the Relief Society, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society. It got me thinking about the symbolic connection between women and the home in Mormon and American culture. A little further afield, it got me thinking about feminine divinity in Mormonism and U.S. religious traditions and public discourses. (more…)
The way my family described my great grandma was that she was very clean, very shy, and very superstitious. The superstitious characterization is the one I heard the most; my mom once used Great Grandma in an attempt to contextualize Joseph Smith’s “magical” practices–everyone was doing it. So I was surprised and interested to get a little more context for Great-Grandma’s beliefs when my grandma read a history of her mother (Great Grandma) to us last year (this was just a few months before my grandma passed away). (more…)
We’re back with another installment of your weekly roundup of links to articles, blog posts, and other notices in the world of Mormon Studies.
The Boston Globe ran an article on Harvard’s participation in the online course (MOOC) craze. Of interest to JI readers is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s participation. Dr. Ulrich’s class, “Tangible Things,” is a material history course that “will teach history through artifacts in Harvard’s museum collections to an expected 10,000 students.” Ulrich’s fellow Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney also made headlines recently when he weighed in on Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Police Commissioner Robert Copeland’s use of a racial slur to describe President Obama. Nothing particularly Mormon about Romney’s comments, but scholars of Mormon and race may want to take note.
Meanwhile, Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at CGU Patrick Mason was named a Fulbright Scholar. CGU’s website has all of the details about his upcoming “travel to the West University of Timisoara in Romania, where he will teach courses in American history, politics, and culture.” Congrats, Patrick!
Over at Rational Faiths, Laurel Sandberg-Armstrong summarizes the recent changes to Young Women lessons.
Those of you in Salt Lake will want to take note of Chad Orton’s June 12 lecture on George Q. Cannon’s mission to Hawaii at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Orton helped edit GQC’s Hawaii mission journals (which are now complete and set to be published in early July!). Greg Kofford Books posted an interview with Joe Spencer, whose For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope, is imminently forthcoming as well.
The Center for Religion & American Culture at IUPUI is hosting a conference on The Bible in American Life. The entire program looks fantastic, and JI readers will be particularly interested in Amy Easton-Flake’s presentation on “Biblical Women in the Woman’s Exponent: The Bible in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism.” Over at the Religion in American History blog, Paul Putz posted Part II of his preview of forthcoming books in American Religious History this year, a list that includes Terryl Givens’s Wrestling the Angel and Thomas Carter’s “biography of the cultural landscape of western LDS settlements,” Building Zion.
Part I of Putz’s list, posted in January, included David Howlett’s long-anticipated Kirtland Temple: Biography of a Sacred Space. That volume is scheduled to be released on Friday this week (!!), so hurry up and order your copy now.
As Ben noted here, Mormon history is often told through a male lens. And as my advisor likes to say, women bear the brunt of being different. As a consequence, when their stories are told, they’re often relegated to a specially-labeled conference session or class unit or journal article, somehow set apart from instead of being an integral part of whatever history is being told. Obviously, I don’t know the solution to this problem, except to tell women’s stories wherever I can. Which is why I spent a good while perusing the site of The Mormon Women Project. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the project, but for those that are not, the project aims to showcase “the diversity and strength” found in the roughly seven million LDS women around the world. The site features profiles and pictures of women that “overcome personal trials, magnify motherhood, contribute to communities outside their homes, or be converted to the Gospel.” To insiders, it hopes to show that there is no one right path a faithful Mormon woman must follow, and to outsiders, it shows “the immense strength and wisdom of our people.”  Quite the charge. (more…)
The story of Zion’s Camp has usually been told absent its female participants. In fact, it might surprise most readers that women (and children) even participated in Zion’s Camp. (more…)
This image, from British Chartist George Cruikshank in 1840, raises a provocative question: when tracing the origins of Mormon symbology, why not look at the British political debates over class–an atmosphere most of the Q12 experienced in formative years?
For a historiographical tradition birthed from the New Social History movement, New Mormon History has certainly lacked attention toward the potent topic of class. Sure, it pops up every once and a while—most expectedly from the economic work of Leonard Arrinton, and perhaps least expectedly in Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow’s biography of Parley Pratt—but historians of Mormonism in general have neglected class tensions as the dominant lens through which to view the LDS tradition. There are probably a number of reasons for this, including the lack of theoretical sophistication in most works on Mormon history, the assumption that Mormonism’s emphasis on communalism has shaped our understanding of distinct social classes, the LDS tradition’s emphasis on the equality of the gospel, most participants’ adherence to economic free markets, and perhaps the expectation that few Mormon historians would employ the tools of Marxist criticism. This lack of focus should give us pause, because of at least three general points. First, Mormonism’s message had significant consequences for the temporal realities of its converts. Second, the LDS Church’s constant migration forced particants to create anew social networks and circumstances in several new contexts. And third, as confirmed through political debates year in and year out, notions of class and societal power have a real impact on how individuals live, work, and socialize, a phenomenon that is especially acute for communities that place religious significance on their cultural surroundings. Religious historiography of recent decades has digested these facts, and it is left for historians of Mormonism to catch up. (more…)
Food is really important to Mormon life, and specifically to the life of Mormon women. Women, by long-seated and seemingly immovable cultural tradition in many (most? all?) world cultures, are the preparers and servers of food. This is especially true across many religious communities, not just Mormonism – church suppers grace all Protestant faiths; Catholic feast days and Jewish holidays and Muslim observances (just to name a few) are built around food and have both women and specialized food preparation at their center. Food made and presented by women marks Mormon occasions: births, funerals, baptisms, weddings, potlucks, “linger-longers,” and of course the ubiquitous and generic “refreshments” concluding nearly every Mormon event I have ever attended. (more…)
My contribution fits under the Mormonism in the Classroom and Women’s History Month at JI.
During the spring semester, I took a course entitled “American Religious Innovation.” The course examined Mormonism, the Nation of Islam, and Scientology. Each unit covered the history of each religious movement and focused on different aspects of the religion’s beliefs, which encouraged discussion and comparison. The readings for Mormonism addressed American religious culture in the early 19th century, the Book of Mormon, polygamy, Mormon Christianity, the Mormon community, and modern Mormonism.
At the end of the class’s section on Mormonism, a group of “real live Mormons” were invited to answer the class’s questions.[i] The panel was comprised of a PhD student in History, a worker at UVA’s hospital, a local bishop and his wife, and a set of Mormon elders (one from Southern Utah and one from Taiwan). As might be expected, there were many questions about the role of women in Mormonism and Mormon history.[ii] I’ve included the answers given (if any were addressed on the panel) in italics.[iii] (more…)
When we decided to devote a month to women’s history beginning with mother’s day, I thought about how my research about Mormon girls and young women is also very much about hopes for the future mothers of the next generation of Mormon children. It is clear that the changing (both Mormon and non-Mormon) representations and experiences of Mormon women as mothers is an integral aspect of the church’s metamorphosis from being perceived as an outsider religion to becoming patriotic, religious Americans. A question along the lines of “how did Mormon women transition from a group of polygamist wives who fought for women’s suffrage to embodying the model of wholesome stay at home wives and mothers?” has dominated scholarly research about Mormon women’s history.
Kari M. Main works as Curator at the Pioneer Memorial Museum. She has a master’s degree in Early American Culture from the Winterthur Program in Delaware and a master’s in American Studies from Yale. Her primary academic interests are material culture, women, religion, and the American West.
On Pioneer Day in 1933, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) held a ceremony to erect a roofed columnar structure over a juniper tree near the intersection of 600 East and 300 South. The women of DUP placed a bronze interpretive plaque which read: (more…)
Okay so here’s another section of my dissertation, this one on Heavenly Mother. It’s part of a larger chapter on Smith’s plan of salvation. It’s taken out of context somewhat and make several references to W. W. Phelps’s “Paracletes” that I examine in the next section. But it was getting a little long, so I think this section with suffice. Happy Mother’s Day.
God Has a Wife. In his “Paracletes,” William Phelps referred to pre-mortal spirits living with their “father and mother in heaven”; a few months earlier Phelps declared, “O Mormonism! Thy father is God, thy mother is the Queen of heaven,” in a letter to Smith’s brother William. This was the first printed reference to what would become one of Mormonism’s distinctive doctrines: Mother in Heaven. (more…)
First, a mea culpa: We at JI screwed up and failed to plan anything for women’s history month. Instead, we ended up doing a month on ritual. Although the month was fantastic and pointed to a lot of new insights and directions for Mormon history, we felt that it was important to devote a month to women’s history. We batted around a few times of the year when we could do it and eventually decided to begin the month on Mother’s Day. That decision, however, wasn’t without some trepidation. There was a feeling that conservative religious groups often reduce women to their status as mothers – lauding them for their ability to have sex and produce a child afterwards. Breastfeeding, housework, and the willingness of some women to stay home are lauded and pointed out as women’s true calling, while the other things that women do – factory work, the production of academic scholarship, etc. are forgotten. Even more marginalized are those women who chose not to or cannot have children or those who remain single throughout their lives. (more…)
I’d like to thank all the contributors and those who provided excellent discussion during the Mormon Studies in the Classroom series from the past two weeks. In case you missed any, all the links are below:
- Ben P, Introduction
- Christopher Blythe, Mormonisms
- Patrick Mason, Approaches to Mormonism
- Nate R, Mormon Studies in the 7th Grade Utah Studies
- Amanda HK, Religion, Witchcraft, and Magic
- Ben P, Mormonism and American Politics
- Grant Hardy, The Beginning of Wisdom
- Saskia, On Sensitivity
- Andrea RM, Mormon Women, Patriarchy, and Equality
We certainly didn’t cover all angles possible under this topic; no classes on Mormonism outside of America, most notably. But I am thrilled with the broad range of perspectives and backgrounds exemplified in the various posts, and the number of questions they raise.
I’m still not covinced that, in most cases, a course devoted to Mormonism is the best option, save in special circumstances. I’m of the mind that Mormonism works best when included amongst a plethora of groups dealing with the same issues. Yet I do believe Mormonism can serve a useful case study for a number of topics, as demonstrated through the various theoretical and real courses listed above.
Any general thoughts on the series? Do you think Mormonism works well in the classroom? What other courses would you have in mind? How would you incorporate Mormonism into broader courses? What books on Mormonism do you think work best in the undergraduate classroom?
As a professor of history at a predominantly Mormon university, lately I have been a magnet for students with questions about the changes for Mormon women, especially considering the recent public attention to the roles of women in our traditional religious culture. (more…)
When Ben announced his intention for a new series about teaching Mormonism, it dovetailed nicely with something I’ve been thinking about. Back in 2012, I taught a class on Mormonism at my university in Germany. This past semester, I attended one at the University of Utah. Besides the obvious difference of being a student vs being a teacher, something else came up time and time again: how although the locations couldn’t be more different, both courses exhibited a certain kind of sensitivity that was oddly similar.
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This week, I have a series of eclectic links for you:
–The LDS Church donated $1.5 million to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The museum is set to open in 2016 and sounds well worth a visit!
–Remember when the American Bible Society did a survey on American Bible reading habits? Mormons came off less-than-favorably, despite their long-held devotion to the KJV. Stacie Duce of the Deseret News addresses that issue here. (The original report can be downloaded as a pdf here.)
–NPR did an interview with Neon Trees, “the Mormon band who made it big,” on Provo, honesty, being LDS, and the occasional song lyric.
–The Salt Lake Tribune talks about why the increase in missionaries since the age change has not led to an increase in baptisms per se.
–For Utah history buffs, check out the KUED documentary “Courthouse” about Utah law and the Mormon-non-Mormon legal relationship. The Salt Lake Tribune heralds it as engaging and lively, so there you go.
–LDS and Seven Day Adventist leaders met to discuss social media, religious freedom, and the importance of keeping young people in the church.
Anything we missed? Add your links in the comments!
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