Mormon Studies “auf Mish”!

My title is borrowed from Ronan, I hope he does not mind me plagiarising.  Following a brilliant post at JI on Nibley, I was talking to some Missionaries the other day about their Mission reading habits and rules (they apparently have quite strict guidelines in this Mission) and it reminded me of the time and money (photocopies are not cheap) I spent trying to gather everything I could find about the Church.  Yet, apart from Ensigns and the odd mimeographed essay from yester-year, pretty much everything I read was from either Truman Madsen and/or FARMS. [Read more…]

Creativity, Generosity and Humility: Grand Fundamentals of Mormonism

At a recent FAIR conference, Terryl Givens, while introducing his work on the history of the Pre-Mortal life in Western thought, made this statement: ‘What I have come to appreciate is this cardinal insight: If the restoration is not yet complete, then other traditions have much to teach us. Not by way of confirming, corroborating, or verifying the truths we already have. But by way of actually adding to the body of revealed doctrine we call precious and true. The Restoration is neither full nor complete… What if, instead of scrambling frantically to find explanations when Joseph appears to have borrowed from the masons, or Ethan Smith, or Tom Dick, we instead see another marvellous possibility of his actually practicing what he preached.’ [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 9 — History Done Backwards)

This is the final, and longest, post of the series. Read the first eight installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more…]

Heber J. Grant on politics

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…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 8 — The Rise of Correlation)

Read the first seven installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

I should note that the dissertation chapters that coincide with this portion of the discussion are among the most accessible of the entire work. They’re also rich with detail in a way that this conversation can really only approximate. Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 5 — The Rise of Fundamentalism)

For those of you who have kept up with and continue to follow this series, we thank you for your diligence and patience. In part 1 we tracked the polygamist Underground and the discursive splitting it generated within Mormonism. From there, part 2 cast the issuance of Manifestos in light of the possibilities for reading capacitated by that discursive rupture and semiotic fragmenting. This led, eventually, to strategies for curtailing what was emerging as a kind of neo-Underground by Church leaders, and the Church courts wherein these things were (not particularly) sorted out were canvassed in part 3. The formal division between holdout polygamists and the newly monogamous Church only began to really take hold with the excommunication of recalcitrant apostles, most prominent among them John W. Taylor. Discussion of his excommunication comprised the bulk of part 4 in the series. Again, I heartily recommend that you read Daymon’s dissertation, available here. Now, to business… [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 4 — John W. Taylor, Excommunicated)

Catch up on the series with parts one, two, and three. Daymon’s dissertation can be downloaded and read here.

Brad: So to this point we’ve basically laid some important historical groundwork. We began in the 1880s on the Underground and ended last time roughly three decades later with the implementation of disciplinary hearings. These historical developments entailed some really difficult, complicated, entangled issues involving authority, priesthood, the relationship between polygamous and monogamous Mormons in the wake of the 1904 Manifesto, etc. The whole idea is that by the time we actually get around to the emergence of what we can today recognize as Correlation—that process doesn’t really make a lot of sense in a vacuum. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and the more we understand the issues that LDS leaders faced at the time in their efforts to transform Mormonism into a “modern” religion and church, and especially a post-polygamous church, the more the rise of Correlation will make a kind of historical and logical sense, as a particular response to a particular set of concerns and difficulties. [Read more…]

Religion Without Culture: Self-Identifying as a Mormon

Since the results for the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Study (RLS) were released, there has been fairly little attention paid in the Bloggernacle to the outcomes as they pertain to LDS belief and policy–a few posts here and there, mostly reporting a particular outcome: As a Church, we are more effective at retaining life-long members than any other of the major religions included in the study. However, an eye single to this stat robs us of a more curious one: the LDS Church is the only major religion in the United States in which lifelong members exhibit higher degrees of religiosity than converts. Julie Smith at Times & Seasons provided a link to a summary article on this topic last October, and I recommend reading the comments in her thread, as they touch on the key purposes of this post.[1] The full paper can be found here and contains considerably more detail.[2] [Read more…]

The Social Science of Mormonism Q&A, Part I

This post is brought to BCC by Mike McBride is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Irvine.

When the folks at BCC offered me the chance to do a blog post, the idea of a Q&A panel on the social science of Mormonism sounded like a great topic. Though the social scientific studies on Mormonism are not as large in number or as well known among the LDS population as are the historical studies of Mormonism, there are many such studies. There is even a dedicated professional association–the Mormon Social Science Association (MSSA).

In this two-post series, I asked four MSSA members a series of questions about the social scientific research on Mormonism. Our four panelists are, in alphabetical order: Ryan Cragun (RC), Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Tampa; Armand Mauss (AM), Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Washington State University; Michael Nielson (MN), Professor, Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University; and Rick Phillips (RP), Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Florida.

[Read more…]

Early Mormonism and Masonry: Lesser-Known Connections

There is no shortage of interest in the connections between the Masonic Craft and Joseph Smith-era Mormonism. Nearly four decades ago Dr. Reed Durham, then director of the LDS Institute at the University of Utah and president of the Mormon History Association, delivered a now (in)famous address to the MHA on Joseph Smith and Freemasonry. His presentation emphasized the connection between masonic ritual and temple ordinances, though in what Durham viewed as a faith-promoting way. Despite the subsequent public apology Durham issued (at the behest of his CES superiors), and his refusal to submit the paper for publication or even to publicly discuss it, the fascination over the connections between the Craft and the innovations of Nauvoo Mormonism — most importantly the inception of Mormon temple ritual — has remained vibrant. [Read more…]


From David Morris:

I am pleased to announce that the new issue of the International Journal of Mormon Studies is released and can be accessed on You will also find a link to order a hard copy. We have tried to keep the price down to a minimum in order that you might support the printed version. If any profits are made they will be reinvested into the EMSA programme of conferences. The full issue can also be downloaded gratis at the journal home page.
This issue contains articles from distinguished scholars both Mormon and non-Mormon who present different perspectives of the international experience of Mormonism, many of which were presented at the 2008 EMSA conference in Finland. The full table of contents are listed below. For those who would like to submit articles, be considered as reviewer or any other role please drop a line to us (davidmmorris at hotmail).

[Read more…]

Restoration Studies X

Restoration Studies X
The new volume of Restoration Studies is out — and I have the first copy here in my hands. If you’re not familiar with it, the first nine volumes of this Mormon studies journal were published irregularly by the Community of Christ’s Temple School. Going forward, Restoration Studies will be an annual journal, jointly published by the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA) and the Community of Christ Seminary Press.
[Read more…]

Restoration Studies Symposium 2009

I’m very pleased to announce the program for our second annual Restoration Studies / Sunstone Midwest Symposium, held from the evening of Friday, April 17, to the morning of Sunday, April 19, in Independence, Missouri. The first of these was held last year and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. This year’s program leads me to expect a similarly energizing experience. [Read more…]

Coming Soon

nathancover …to a mailbox near you!

The Spring 2009 issue of Dialogue is in the mail. You should first judge its cover–the artwork is by Dialogue’s new Art Director, Nathan Florence, and it’s beautiful. He also designed the new logo. I try studiously not to have an opinion about such things, because I’m completely ignorant of principles of design, but I’m interested in your (undoubtedly erudite) opinions.

There’s some good stuff inside, too. [Read more…]

MHA Preliminary Program

The Preliminary Program for the MHA Conference, May 21-24, has now been posted at the MHA website. It looks like a terrific program. Please make plans to join us in Illinois in about three months.

[Read more…]

An interview with Joseph Smith Papers editors: Part 2 of 2

Thanks again to the crew of the JSPP for their participation. Part 1 available here.

[Read more…]

An interview with Joseph Smith Papers editors: Part 1 of 2

Mark Ashurst-McGee and Robin Jensen, both volume editors of The Joseph Smith Papers, were kind enough to answer a few questions about their work and the project generally. I thank them for their participation. [Read more…]


Signature Books recently announced that it has stopped publishing for an undetermined period of time. As one who is critical of Mormon Studies publishing generally, I see Signature’s move as unfortunate, though perhaps not unforeseeable. As I peruse my shelves I count not a few seminal works distributed by the press that George Smith built and I hope that most people join me in the hope that the press will soon be back in action. [Read more…]

Review: Journals, Volume 1: 1832-1839 of The Joseph Smith Papers

After literally years of anticipation and abortive publication dates, the The Joseph Smith Papers released their first volume a few weeks ago. In a year of important historiographical developments in Mormon Studies, one event was paramount: on December 1, 2008, Journals, Volume 1: 1832-1839 arrived at my door. [Read more…]

A History of Baptism for Health

Three years ago, I sat in a nice café with Kris and her husband John. By the end of the dinner, it was evident that Kris and I shared a complimentary passion for Mormon history and an interest in its particulars. This week, the first fruits of our (if I may say) fabulous collaboration hit my mailbox in the form of the Fall 2008 issue of Journal of Mormon History. I am planning to do a non-critical review of the issue in the near future; but I thought I would throw up a brief outline of “‘They Shall Be Made Whole’: A History of Baptism for Health.” [Read more…]

A letter to a friend: Joseph Smith polygamy

I received an email from someone close to me last week. This individual has been reading Rough Stone Rolling and had gotten through Joseph Smith’s polygamic episode. This person was unsettled by certain events and activities involved and wondered if I had any helpful thoughts. I probably should have paged Kevin, but I decided to respond strait-up. The following is my somewhat edited reply, the first of several that ensued: [Read more…]

Mexico research question

April_2008_puebla-capilla-700-pixRecently a sociology graduate student in Mexico posted a question to the ASPMS list asking for pointers to articles discussing the church’s system for youth education (or CES in general), or to discussions of “institutions of socialization within the church.” He is working on a master thesis project which compares religious education among Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in a particular region in Mexico (Veracruz). He also asked for recommendations on how to make a comparison between socialization strategies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

A BYU history professor and student provided a bibliography with some relevant texts. Others pointed him to the half a dozen recent Dialogue articles on the Church in Latin America. But, even in these bibliographies, and in [Read more…]

Q & A – The Community of Christ and Latter-day Saints

By Common Consent has invited David Howlett, a believer in the Restoration and a religious scholar, to be a guest blogger. We have started with a question and answer format to help our readers understand how the CofC and LDS communities are similar and how they are different. Please welcome David to BCC. [Read more…]

Parody in Dialogue

July_2007_37-1To read past issues of Dialogue I usually leaf through my collection of the hard copy journals, or I open up my copy of the DVD archive. But right now the Dialogue team is exploring how we might enhance readers’/researchers’ online experience. To that end, for this post I spent a half-hour using our new index and the search engine for the online archive to explore discussions of parody (my sample research topic) within Mormon studies. (1)

What did I find? In “Poetic Borrowing in Early Mormonism” (18:1, Spring 1985), though parody isn’t the main thrust of the article, Michael Hicks provides some examples of early Mormon parodies. These included “The God That Others Worship” (parodying “The Rose that All are Praising”):

“The God that others worship / is not the God for me;
He has no parts nor body / and cannot hear nor see;
But I’ve a God that lives above / A God of Power and of love,
A God of revelation / O! that’s the God for me…”

[Read more…]

BCC Research Collaborative 3: Social History of Evolution

From an exemplary graduate student in history:

I’m interested in researching the impact of evolution on Mormonism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We know a great deal about Mormons’ doctrinal response to Darwin – men like BH Roberts sought to incorporate it into Mormon doctrine; others like Joseph Fielding Smith virulently opposed it.

What I’m more interested in is its impact on Mormon theologizing in areas other than Biblical literalism, and on Mormon culture and society in general. Thus, I’m less interested in citations to conference talks and The Truth, The Way, The Life, and more interested in more informal references. What did Mormons think about Social Darwinism? Was evolution brought up when genealogical work got hot in the 1890s in relation to issues of ancestry? Did it pop up as men like Roberts sought to clarify the exact nature of the familial relationship between God and man?

References to that sort of theology welcome; to popular culture (Nephi Anderson novels, diaries) treasured.


As always, we wil be glad to consider your questions at research at bycommon consent dot org

BCC Research Collaboration 1: Sacramental Emblems

It seems that one of the sample questions was considered of interest: the variety of emblems employed for the sacrament.
[Read more…]

BCC Research Collaborative

It has occurred to some of us that a possible strength of the network of interested parties associated with Mormon-centric blogs is the possibility of collaborative research (a human answer to the popular distributed algorithm systems that discover ETs and fold proteins). The exceedingly useful responses to my snippets from Nauvoo newspapers are a case in point.

We therefore propose a weekly feature that would host a research question by a student/scholar of Mormonism (all terms defined broadly), with a small paragraph of background followed by the question for the week.

[Read more…]

Baptism for healing and women as healers: twin trajectories of early Mormon ritual

Besides being general conference, yesterday was the last day for submissions for the Mormon History Association Conference in 2007. Kris and I submitted this proposal on Friday and will be notified as to whether it is accepted by January 15th. As we would like to cover a large body of material, we have asked that we be allotted an extended period for our the presentation — I hope this doesn’t compromise our chances for acceptance. [Read more…]

The Lingering Legacy of Post-Manifesto Polygamy

For the few that might not be familiar with post-Manifesto polygamy, a very brief overview might be in order. Today members of the Church look at the 1890 Manifesto as the revelation that ended polygamy. However, Wilford Woodruff and those around him, although they may have believed the Manifesto (or at least the idea of issuing the Manifesto) to be inspired, they definitely saw it as a political document meant to save the Church in the short-term. It was not issued to declare the conclusive end to polygamy. And in fact, polygamy continued to be sanctioned and practiced at the highest levels of the Church until at least 1904. Apostles such as George Teasdale, Abraham Cannon, John W. Taylor, and Matthias Cowley took additional wives during this period, while they and other apostles continued to seal men and women in plural unions.

I’ll only briefly say that this history of new plural marriages might at first look ominous, and as evidence of lies and deceit on the part of Church leaders. It is true leaders were not always as forthright, candid, or perhaps as honest as they could have been when it came to the subject of post-Manifesto polygamy. However, I believe a more sensitive, albeit complex, view is in order. The many facets of this view cannot be enumerated here, but suffice it to say, I believe it is possible to judge Church leaders as righteous, honest men, despite the dilemma of post-1890 plural marriages.

So with that all-too lengthy introduction, I come to the lingering legacy of post-Manifesto polygamy. I’ve only begun now to appreciate the huge, in fact, enormous impact these marriages have had on Mormonism and how we are today.

First and foremost, post-Manifesto polygamy forced an answer to the “Mormon problem” as it was called. It came in the form of the Smoot hearings — perhaps the most important recognition given to the Church that they could be considered a part of American culture and society. In fact, I would argue that the outcome of the Smoot hearings was more important than granting Utah statehood. Kathleen Flake, in her new book and in her dissertation, has argued quite convincingly that the Smoot hearings created the compromise between the Church and the government that allowed the Church to continue. As testimony in the trial quickly indicated, polygamy was still very much alive in Utah, much to the dismay of the rest of the country. The Church finally gave up polygamy, and even sacrificed two of its own, John W. Taylor and Matthias Cowley, as evidence of their willingness to obey the law. This, I believe, is the beginning of the respect and admiration the Church has grown to have in the 21st century.

Quite ironically, we are almost the exact opposite of what we were 100 years ago. Then we were fighting against a constitutional amendment defining marriage, now we support such an amendment. Then we were arguing for a broader approach to marriage, now we are perhaps the most representative group of the nuclear family. Then, we were separate, despised, and looked upon as a threat. Today, we are respected, and are seen as an important ally to those wanting to preserve the status quo. Then, we were hardly patriotic; we reviled the government and looked upon their treatment of us as injustice of the worst kind. Today, we are counted among the most patriotic; our Boy Scout troops proudly place flags on the lawns of Church members every holiday. We stand as one of the very few Churches to support war in Iraq, even as most others spoke out against it. I would argue the change began with the death of post-Manifesto polygamy.

Second, post-Manifesto polygamy single-handedly contributed to the many fundamentalist schisms that exist today and that still force the Church to confront its polygamous heritage. Polygamy after 1890 was practiced among knowing winks and nods, among double-speak and an environment where one thing was said to outsiders, another to insiders, and still another to those in leadership positions. Because of this environment, fundamentalists today still argue that the Church never intended to abandon polygamy, but that some leaders were simply not strong enough to resist the pressures of the world. The legacy of post-Manifesto polygamy gives them tremendous ammunition in their fight to convince us of the legitimacy of their claims.

These fundamentalists continue to be a thorn in the Church’s side to this day, causing embarrassment and reminding the world that Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy. They’ve forced us into a very uncomfortable position — one in which we have to say polygamy was inspired (otherwise there are some very unpleasant implications for Joseph Smith), yet we also have to confess our own lack of desire to practice it, and we are ambiguous about its future in the Church.

Third, although the practice of saying one thing to outsiders and another to insiders had been practiced in the Church before, it reached its height during the years following the Manifesto. Today, the Church continues to exhibit such a practice. President Hinckley has gone on national television and conducted interviews with high profile magazines, announcing to the world that the Latter-day Saints don’t believe in some of the doctrines that make us most unique. Then he returns and while speaking in General Conference, with a smile and while getting a big laugh, announces that he knows the doctrine of the Church just as well as anybody. From my perspective the message was clear: We’re going to tell them certain things to move the work of the Lord forward, but don’t you all worry about it.

Finally, I believe post-Manifesto polygamy has helped contribute to an environment of shared secrecy and of circling the wagons. Many, many Church members descend from such marriages. Yet they normally keep it quiet. For a Church that prides itself on ancestry and our rich past, those whose grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were part of post-Manifesto unions are normally silent. We keep our secrets in the Mormon Church — we don’t let the skeleton out of the closet. Post-Manifesto polygamy, ironically, is one of those great secrets.


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