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:
Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, Beautiful Isles: Mormons, Polygamy, and Exile in the South Pacific
Friday, January 3, 2014: 8:50 AM
Truman Room (Marriott Wardman Park)
In 1882, the Edmunds Act declared the practice of polygamy a felony. Between 1884 and 1895, over nine hundred Mormons were convicted of charges ranging from adultery to incest. An additional two hundred and fifty men left on missions every year, hoping to escape prosecution, and hundreds more lived in hiding. As a result of federal prosecution, thousands of Mormon families were torn apart as women denied their husbands and claimed to have no idea who had fathered their children. Those who had been left behind as husbands fled the law were forced to manage their farms and business interests. The emphasis of Mormon theology on the family made it even more difficult for Mormon men and women. Mormon theology expanded and deified the family, promising that husbands and wives would be sealed together for eternity and would propagate “their species,” creating numberless “intelligent, immortal beings.”
In this paper, I explore the attempts of Mormon men and women to re-establish domesticity in Hawai’i. Although many Mormon men were forced to abandon their wives to become missionaries, those who traveled to Hawai’i were allowed to take one of their wives with them. As a result, Hawai’i became where Mormon men and women could recreate a domesticity that had temporarily disrupted. The domesticity they created, however, was complicated. Although the Mormon men and women who served as missionaries remained thoroughly committed to polygamy, they lived monogamously. The result of this decision was that the domesticity that white Mormon missionaries families modeled in Hawai’i was not the one that they advocated in Utah. This paper explores the intimate dynamics of life in nineteenth-century Mormon Hawai’i to understand how these tensions manifested themselves in the day-to-day experiences of both indigenous and white men and women living in the communities the church established.
Matt Bowman, Evangelicals and the Progressive Movement: Embodying Scripture in a Reforming Age
Friday, January 3, 2014: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Embassy Room (Washington Hilton)
Christopher Jones, Evangelical Religion and Revolution in the Atlantic World: The Methodist Experience in Canada and the Caribbean
Friday, January 3, 2014: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
For scholars of American history, the ubiquitous “I Am A Mormon” campaign is a vast primary resource of twenty-first century of Mormons and Mormonism—perhaps comparable in value to polygamous family portraits from nineteenth-century Utah. Yet it is also a resource that is by nature ephemeral, constantly “updating” its content, and as such, constantly changing its own its self-representation.
I propose a paper exploring the “I Am A Mormon” campaign as an important case of both institutional (top down) and individual (bottom up) representations of both Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). To be sure, “I Am A Mormon” is a sleek marketing campaign. Launched in 2011, the campaign, in part a carefully curated set of testimonies from a diverse set of Mormons, is the LDS Church’s own intervention into the media landscape in which outsiders—political pundits as well as Broadway producers of the “Book of Mormon” musical—often define what Mormonism is and who the Mormon people are. In fact, the battle for first billing on a Google search for the phrase “Book of Mormon” continues to be a high-stakes contest between the LDS Public Affairs office in in Salt Lake City and advertising agents in New York. But the LDS Church also allows “everyday” Mormons to post their own “I Am a Mormon” stories.
My paper explores the possibilities and pitfalls of the “I Am A Mormon” campaign as a primary source for scholars of American religion by investigating one case of institutional objection to one Mormon individual’s “I Am A Mormon” portrait. This portrait, and the Church’s response to it, reveals a lot about both the diversity of the Mormon community and the LDS Church’s wariness towards this diversity, which the campaign itself celebrates.
Hope to see you all there!