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...]
Holy Thursday, or Maundy for the anglophilic, commemorates the last Thursday in the life of our Lord. At supper, Christ introduced his sacrament, then washed the Apostles’ feet. [Read more...]
I am deeply troubled by the actions and attitudes of some our people with regard to politics. I encourage you to read John Fowles’ guest post at Millennial Star for further context. What follows is a post from a number of years ago that highlights President Grant’s message with regards to politics that I believe is timely (particularly the last quotes).
Perhaps not unlike our current Church President, Heber J. Grant was fond of telling stories in Church meetings. He told of the time when Eliza R. Snow blessed him at least five times in General Conference that I have found; and I have run across journal entries that described him telling the story at various stake conferences. It seems that he was also fond of a particular humorous story on politics and repeated it at General Conference at least four times that I have seen: [Read more...]
My brother started his mission in Vienna and had been learning Czech in order to teach the many refugees. Then the Velvet Revolution, and he, with a small band of fellows, crossed the border to preach in the former Soviet satellite. His mission was remarkable in many ways, but it still shared regular aspects of the traditional evangelist’s life. One item from this trans-mission culture that he brought home and shared with the family was Truman Madsen’s “Joseph Smith tapes.” At the time, we lived a significant distance from our chapel and as my mother and I drove we listened. She didn’t appreciate Madsen’s smooth Kirkian refrains; but I was struck by his oratorical finesse and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the Prophet. Struck! [Read more...]
Before the back-issues of the Journal of Mormon History had been digitized and made available online and on DVD, I needed to track down a couple of articles. Unfortunately, none of the institutional libraries nearby carry the journal and while discussing the matter with the JMH staff, they suggested that I visit Polly Aird, who happens to live across the Lake from me and has an extensive back catalogue. I did not know, when I later walked into her home, that the first member of my family to join the Mormon church was also the individual who presided in the Ward that ran her ancestors from the faith (and State of Utah). Polly has been actively engaged in Mormon history circles as she has diligently researched the story of her ancestors, and published on various topics relating to their context. Happily our families have had something of a rapprochement; we are currently serving together on the JMH editorial board. And it is with great pleasure that I review the culmination of her work. [Read more...]
Motioned by Sister Whitney and seconded by Sister Packard that Mrs. Emma Smith be chosen President–passed unanimously. [Read more...]
The forthcoming SMTP conference looks great, and I wish I could attend. In particular, I would like to attend Eric’s presentation billed as a look at the theological advantages of procreative/viviparous spirit birth. The idea that God the Father (with the Queen of Heaven) created our spirits out of pre-existing element has firm genesis in the post-exodus teachings of Brigham Young and the Pratt Brothers. I think it is fascinating history, but as far as theology goes, I tend to think it isn’t all that consistent. I quite like Eric, but we tend to approach this question differently. So, while I can’t be to his presentation, I figured I would briefly post my reasons for that perspective. [Read more...]
This last weekend my stake held their annual Relief Society Conference. The Relief Society Presidency asked me to hold a workshop on women, books and the Church. Even though I am not a Relief Society member, I was deeply gratified to attend and discuss a topic which has held a large measure of my attention for the last number of years.
After a powerpoint (PDF) introduction to the history of literacy, education and the Relief Society (with a healthy dose of liturgical development), I distributed this bibliography (PDF). We used it as a basis for discussion. The bibliography focuses on female authors and topics. Time was a bit constrained, but I found the interaction quite fun. I must give credit to Margaret Young who gave me the fiction and poetry recommendations and many other friends who gave excellent bibliographic suggestions for addition.
I love the Relief Society. My stake rocks. That is all. [Read more...]
The Mormon History Association annual conference is being held in Independence Missouri this spring and the preliminary program is newly available (PDF). It is a great meeting for experienced historians and neophytes. And you never know who you will bump into (last year it was a bishop from my youth).
In scanning through the program, the quality of presentations looks as splendid as ever. There are plenty of Mormon History rock-stars and scholars. I figure I would point out some names that would be familiar to regular readers: [Read more...]
The garden is a foundational narrative to Christianity and Mormonism. It is also dynamic. I tend to agree with Ronan – as Mormons we have a particular relationship to the garden due to our temple liturgy. Beyond the fascinating insights that ancient near-eastern studies offer, beyond traditional biblical readings, Mormonism’s relationship to the garden is essentially extra-biblical. [Read more...]
I met Ron Watt as a novice researcher when I first entered the old LDS Church Archives. He joined the archives with Leonard Arrington and having toiled diligently for many decades has subsequently retired (though you will still find him in laboring in the new building). He is perhaps the best expert we have on the Brigham Young Office Files, truly irreplaceable. At the end of 2009 Utah State University Press publish his magnum opus, a biography of George D. Watt. It will surely win awards (it is remarkable in many ways), but perhaps more than most recent books, it captures the humanity of its subject and exacts empathy from its readers. [Read more...]
In reading the President Veazey’s “Counsel to the Church” in anticipation of the Community of Christ’s next general conference, I reflected on the general approaches to church governance represented in this document as well as our own tradition. Specifically, I was intrigued by the CoC’s apparent move to accept the baptisms of other Christians (noting that confirmation is still required). My gut reaction was incredulity. Rebaptism was central to early Mormonism. However, our tradition has equally diverged from early practice and so I think it is instead a great opportunity to look at how our own praxis evolves. [Read more...]
The only true and living church. It strikes me that when the voice of the Lord exclaimed unique pleasure in the nascent church, it was qualified with the adjective living. In this post I outline what I perceive to be a great danger to the living church: fundamentalism. In doing so, I am espousing the decidedly partisan position that the current LDS Church is “true.”
It is before Thanksgiving, I know. Nevertheless, the time has once again come to consider our relations and judge among them who will receive something cool and who will receive n’importe quoi. [Read more...]
Eleven months ago, the Joseph Smith Papers Project inaugurated their publication efforts with the Journals series (review here). While the documents of that series had been previously available, the volume was nonetheless an extraordinary contribution to the study of Mormonism and its history. In September of this year, the Church Historian’s Press released their second volume, the first in the Revelations and Translations series: a facsimile edition, comprising two manuscript revelation books. [Read more...]