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.
For a number of years, I thought it would be fun to get a sort of a book club together, where a group of interested folks would read a scholarly article about a Mormon History topic and then discuss. I finally got around to doing that this summer and we recently had our second meeting. My hope was to have a diverse group of people (older and younger, men and women). I fully understand that such things are no replacement for sincere participation in Church and personal devotion. I also realize that this sort of history simply isn’t interesting to some people. Still, so far, it has been fun. I thought I would write up some of my comments from the most recent readings for those interested outside of my neighborhood.
I’ve often thought that the food at the Bishop’s Storehouse should be rebranded “Kirtland Select.”
Tomorrow is a holiday in Utah, and many Latter-day Saints beyond its boarder commemorate, or at least remember, the entrance of Brigham Young into the valley. Today, 163 years ago on the day before, many of the Vangaurd company had already made camp in the valley and there was no rest from the transcontinental journey.
Inspired by Ardis’ recent post on the inadvertent fermentation of wedding rice on the Temple grounds, I thought I would share one of my favorite buildings of the Restoration. I don’t know much about its history, but I understand that it was designed by Church Architect and son of Brigham, Joseph Don Carlos (J.D.C.) Young. [Read more…]
I was delighted to see the recent issue of the International Journal of Mormon Studies; the table of contents has much to entice the reader. I’ve skimmed a few of the papers and will likely review them as I have time. Here, however, I’d like to make a few comments on John Walsh’s article (PDF) treating the silly criticism that Mormons view Satan and Jesus as brothers. (Note: This is not the John W. Welch who is associated with BYU.)
At the recent Mormon History Association annual conference, Rick Turley, Assistant Church Historian, announced a multi-year, multi-volume project focused on Mormon women. He announced this at the Women’s History breakfast and everyone was thrilled. Turley and his co-editor, Brittany Chapman (LDS Church History Library and editor of the forthcoming Ruth May Fox diaries), have committed themselves to realizing this publication effort in an expeditious manner. Here is the thing: they need some help.
I recently remembered two items that share a similar response to the titular question. The answer? Not me. [Read more…]
The recent and perennially anticipated announcement that Deseret Book would finally let Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine go out of print was warmly received by many. After being stripped from the references in Church curricula, it was perhaps no surprise that the day had finally come (to the likely consternation of many in Seminary and Institutes). As much as I find sections of MoDoc deeply problematic and unhealthy for the Church, I also think it is important to remember that it is and always will be important.
Dr. Fred E. Woods at BYU has recently made available an online database of migration primary sources. This project compliments work done by the LDS church on overland trail sources. Work like this allows for extremely precise surveys of lived Mormonism by groups that often fall beneath the radar of history. As an example of the excellent material now available, I present some of the sources relating to immigrating Mormons and people with black-African ancestry. Coming from Northern Europe, many of these immigrants had never seen black people before.
In 2009 the Joseph Smith Papers Project published their second volume, the first in the Revelations and Translations series (review here). This volume included the “Book of Commandments and Revelations,” which had previously been unknown to researchers. Robin Jensen (RSJ) is an editor with the JSPP and worked specifically on Revelations 1 (Robin introduced some important aspects of the text in a series of posts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Robin also recently wrapped up his thesis involving early Mormon record keeping and has graciously agreed to an interview about his important work. This is the first of two posts with him.
In his address at the Priesthood session of General Conference, Elder Oaks delivered the type of sermon that historians will read one hundred years from now. His sermon, actually a liturgical treatise, frames Mormon ritual healing in some perhaps surprising ways. It is my intent to situate his discourse in the historical context of the development of Mormon ritual healing, albeit on the fly.  [Read more…]