I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations. I have no respect for attempts to conventionalize them. Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.
It has generally been the case that when those interested in Mormon history gather to chat about the latest publications, it is frequently primary documents which elicit much excitement. When synthesis is subject of the chatter, one hears names like Alexander or Bushman or Walker invoked. Only in the dark recesses of lonely hallways does one hear of others: Jonathan Z. Smith, Victor Turner, or Mary Douglas.
When people discuss the new New Mormon History (or the post-new Mormon History, or whatever), I think many envision something like Steve Taysom’s Shakers, Mormons and Religious Worlds. I also think that there are people that for any number of reasons (not excluding generational bias) just won’t like Taysom’s volume, which analyzes Shaker and Mormon boundary maintenance. He employs what the kids like to call “theory.” [Read more…]
Along with many others this weekend, I attended the Duck Beach of Mormon history nerds: the annual MHA Conference. This year it was in St. George, Utah. It was as splendid as ever. I did not present this year, but I did respond to a panel.
Emily Jensen wrote an article on David Pulsipher’s paper—a history of Latter-day Saint exegesis of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi passages of the Book of Mormon. I noticed that Emily did not comment on the cogent remarks of the responder. Bah. [Read more…]
This semester I have been teaching an “Adult Religion Class” as part of the BYU Continuing Education program. Doctrine and Covenants. It has been great fun. This week the lesson was on Section 138—Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the Descensus Christi ad Inferos. We have a great classroom dynamic and the students have proven themselves eager and capable to tackle scholarly approaches to our history. [Read more…]
Within the last few hours, the Joseph Smith Papers Project website was updated to include the Documents volume covering 1834-1835, and the entirety of Minute Book 1 and the Record of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.
O, Lord! help our widows, and fatherless children! So mote it be. Amen. With the sword, and with the word of truth, defend thou them. So mote it be. Amen.
The following is a talk I delivered yesterday during the adult session of Stake Conference.
Today, I will press my hands on my son who was born eight days ago and I will bless him. [Read more…]
I have to admit that I am pretty weak when it comes to the Hebrew Bible. But my perception is that the divine sword of the Lord is wielded by angels, typically in vision, to show God’s displeasure with the principles of the narrative in which they appear.
The last six years have been a lot of fun, and I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work on this project and to work on it with Kristine. Honestly, there were moments in the Church History Library when I thought to myself, “If I never have the opportunity to see anything else or work on another project, I will still be full.” We owe many friends and institutions much for their support. Thank you.
Ardis’ recent post about the details of early twentieth century temple practice reminded me of a favorite document. There is a great devotional angle, but there are many fun details for the historians of Mormon practice as well.
In February 1931, Mary McClellan sat down with her daughter Zitelle to record some of her life’s history to be included in a ward publication: Gleaners’ Treasures of Truth. Mary and her husband George lived in Colonia Morelos when church leaders determined sitting out the Mexican revolution was no longer feasible. Unlike some who had means sufficient for relocation, the Lloyds suffered desperately. The family settled in Bisbee, Arizona, just across the boarder, while George worked in the dank conditions of the Queen copper Mine. They struggled with sickness and death and after two year, the McClellans saved enough to move to Clinton, Utah just south of Ogden.
Behold the list both mighty and strong.
Kris Wright, in her recent post, discussed women’s history in a way that complicated some of the comments I had made in a podcast with Scott on the participation of women in the Mormon healing liturgy. This is an important discussion, and the subsequent discussion was helpful, I think. Here I’m going to outline, hopefully with some measure of clarity, why I think that apolitical history is approachable and that the use of history as a “weapon,” as I said in the podcast, is not desirable.
One of my responsibilities at church is to encourage regular temple attendance. Last month I decided to start the Fun Temple Facts (TM) email series, in which a few days before ward temple day, I send out a multiple choice question relating to the temple, with a subsequent answer. I thought it would be fun to share more widely.
After working all day in the Nauvoo Temple, the early Saints liked to:
- a) Square dance in the upper rooms of the temple.
b) Have Mississippi River catfish dinner (though all were invited, not just the High Priests and spouses) .
c) Go over to Bishop Miller’s for Refreshments.
d) Pull sticks and wrestle.
I recently sat down with Polly Aird and Levi Peterson to discuss Polly’s recent book, Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector (reviews here, here, and here). This volume is a biography of Peter McAuslan, who converted to the Mormon church in Scotland, then immigrated to Utah just in time for the challenges of the mid 1850’s, the Mormon reformation, and the Utah War. There is no question that this was a jarring transition.
Armistice. While less than 90 years ago, perhaps more ages have come and gone since than did before it. 1918. Women could not vote. A railroad carriage. Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum’s son, had one week left to live. The beginnings of peace. Gordon Hinckley was eight years old. [Read more…]
I have to admit that I am rather insulated from the doomsayers who associates insist are confident and vocal that the end is nigh at hand. I do have one friend that has made cryptic comments suggesting that he thinks something eschatological is near. It doesn’t really surprise me, really. However, I do find the contemporary incarnations, as I have said before, not only goofy and creepy, but a bit dangerous.
During General Conference this last weekend, two separate members of the Seventies Quorums quoted from a talk apostle Ezra Taft Benson delivered at BYU entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” It is notable that the talk was not without controversy when it was given. Many authorities apparently were supportive but according to his biographer, “Spencer [Kimball] felt concern about the talk, wanting to protect he Church against being misunderstood as espousing ultraconservative politics or an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.”  What follows is a review of each point with some historical context and my own thoughts and analysis.
In February 1847, the Latter-day Saints were quartering in the Omaha Nation. Young had gathered those that were sealed to him and others who intended to be into a family company, for migration and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. From the beginning of the month this group prepared for a two day meeting and feast. For the bulk of his discourse at the first day of this gathering, Brigham Young chose adoption—the sealing of non-biological relations—as his subject. People were confused and some had tried to abuse the system. Young in his characteristic manner, did not pull his punches.
In the original version of this post, I responded to a statement in a recent Salt Lake City Weekly article about WAVE. I conflated an editorial statement by the journalist with a summary of Tresa Edmund’s description of WAVE. I apologize to Tresa. I have edited the post to reflect her kind correction. My comments in this post should not be viewed as a critique of WAVE or their positions, but as a response to the idea promoted by the journalist who wrote the article.
The perennial debate. The Salt Lake City Weekly had an article about WAVE, a group of feminists who are seeking to promote equality within the Church. After quoting Edmunds about WAVE’s hope to be viewed as faithful members, the author wrote:
On Sunday, I received a blessing for being the husband of the Primary President. We sat down in our traditional area of the chapel and the family in front of us turned around to inform the president that the members of their family that teach the nine and ten year-olds would not be at church. Nice. My wife then turned to me and asked if I would teach the class, hurrying off to the closet where she keeps the spare lesson manuals.
Here in western Washington last Saturday, over 11,000 Mormons gathered at approximately 150 different locations. We joined a trend, which tempts me toward the sin of pride. President Obama had designated September 11, as a day for the nation to serve in remembrance. For a number of reasons, that day of service got moved; but the Mormon momentum was already strong. Still, it is important to note that the Mormons could not have done it alone. Community partners provided tremendous amounts of aid and organization. These folks included Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Muslim faith groups; the American Red Cross; YMCA; various municipalities; Catholic Community Services; Rotary International, and many others.
This post is a continuation from Part 1 and includes my response to Lavina Fielding Anderson at the 2010 MHA Conference in Independence, MO.
Lavina is well known as the editor extraordinaire of Mormon Studies. She also edited Lucy’s Book a critical edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s family history. She is currently working on Lucy’s biography (I can’t wait). In this session, she presented some of her work looking at the early Patriarchal Blessings of Joseph Smith Senior. She outlined areas of emphasis and areas for future work.
Mentioning the Nauvoo Legion often conjures images of a uniformed Lieutenant General Joseph Smith, bicorne chapeau, golden epaulettes, and perhaps drawn sword. The conflated roles of religious leader, civil governor, and military commander have been a source of fear and antagonism for 170 years. This new volume, authored by three BYU professors, is billed as a revisionist history, a new look at the old Legion and an effort to see the regional army in terms of its real context.
It is perhaps well known that we sometimes use language that isn’t readily comprehended by those outside of our faith. Some of that results from anachronism. For example, while some other Christians during the Second Great Awakening called the Lord’s Supper “the Sacrament” and called sacraments “ordinances” they generally outgrew the practice while we kept the terms. So too with words like “proselyting,” though now I think it is generally viewed as incorrect (proselytize is the correct verb). One curious example of Mormon vocabulary is the verb “to tract,” by which we mean to knock on people’s doors in order to proselytize.
I saw Ardis’s post about the upcoming Utah State History Conference and noticed a number of interesting papers, including Gary Bergera’s presentation on the BYU Spy Ring (which I understand is quite good and forthcoming in the UHQ). I had the pleasure of responding to Gary, LaJean Carruth and Lavina Fielding Anderson at the MHA conference last spring and I thought I could translate my response into something of interest for those who did not attend.
Ardis’s recent post, which included some interesting bits on Latter-day Saint liturgy got me digging through some of my files. I have a long term study of Mormon liturgy and ritual brewing and at one point I sat down to sketch out the evolution of authority within the church over time. I came across these Venn diagrams, which some might find interesting.