Juvenile Instructor


JWHA Update by Christopher
November 13, 2007, 3:03 am
Filed under: Christopher, JWHA, Mormon Literature

The latest John Whitmer Historical Association newsletter arrived in the mail this week, and it contained some exciting information about the future of JWHA.  In addition to including David King Landrith’s summary of the Kirtland Conference in September (originally posted at Mormon Mentality), the newsletter discussed some of the new directions John Hamer is steering JWHA, including the advent of John Whitmer Books.  I picked up a copy of Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism (ed. by Newell G. Bringhurst and John Hamer) at the conference in September, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It includes essays on various Latter Day Saint schisms by a variety of noteworthy authors, including Robin Jensen, Vickie Speek, Michael Marquardt, Craig L. Foster, David Howlett, and Roger Launius.  All of the books printed thus far are available only in paperback, though I have heard rumors that there are plans to begin publishing hardcover books. 

The newsletter also contained information regarding the potential name change of JWHA.  The previous newsletter mentioned that the proposal includes changing the name of the organization from John Whitmer Historical Association to Society for Latter Day Saint Studies, and the name of the journal from JWHA Journal to Latter Day Saint Studies.  A Naming Committee is in the process of being formed to begin surveying and researching the positives and negatives associated with the proposed name change.

For those interested in theology and religious studies, JWHA will initiate an annual Spring Theology, Cultural, and Religious Studies Symposium that will be called the “Restoration Studies Symposium.” The first symposium is scheduled for April 11-12, 2008 at Graceland University in Independence, Missouri.  It is being co-hosted by the Sunstone Educational Foundation. On a related note, a journal focusing on Latter Day Saint Theology and Religious Studies is in the works, tentatively called Restoration Studies: A Journal of Theology, Religion and Culture.  It aims to be the “Prarie Saint” equivalent of Dialogue and Sunstone.

Lastly (and perhaps most significantly for those interested in Mormon history), the digitization of the JWHA Journal is underway (a la The Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue) , with the goal of completing the project by next year’s conference.  It looks as though the complete contents of Courage: A Journal of History, Thought and Action and Restoration Studies will be included on the same DVD.  This will be a welcome addition, I am sure, to many personal libraries, as past issues of the JWHA Journal are difficult to get your hands on (BYU’s HBLL Library doesn’t even include the journal in its periodicals section, and the only copies are available in Special Collections).  Once the project is complete, it will allow JWHA to reprint entire sets of the journal (for those who prefer the actual journals for their collection, and also to offer to additional libraries around the country).



Comparing the 1981, 2004, and 2006 Book of Mormon Introductions by Christopher
November 8, 2007, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Book of Mormon, Christopher

The news that the introduction to the 2006 Doubleday edition of The Book of Mormon contains significant changes seems to be all the rage on the bloggernacle today.  Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article in the SL Tribune this morning announced that the introduction’s previous claim that the Lamanites “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians” has been altered to read that the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

It was then pointed out on two different threads that an additional change was made, but that it was a change made in the 2004 Doubleday edition of The Book of Mormon and then repeated in the newer edition.  For sake of clarification and all interested readers, below are the changes made between the 1981 edition (published by the LDS Church), the 2004 Doubleday edition, and the 2006 Doubleday edition (relevant passages are denoted with blue font).

1981 (Salt Lake City, UT: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

2004 (New York: Doubleday First Edition)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

2006 (New York: New Doubleday Edition)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

Also, as noted, the version available at lds.org still follows the wording of the 1981 edition.



Folklore Society of Utah Annual Conference by Christopher
November 7, 2007, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Christopher, Conferences, Folklore

On Saturday, November 17 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City, the Folklore Society of Utah will be hosting its Annual Conference.  The keynote speaker is William A. “Bert” Wilson, Emeritus professor of English at BYU and past president of the Association for Mormon Letters.  He will be speaking on “What’s True in Mormon Folklore?” The Contribution of Folklore to Mormon Studies.” 

In addition, two of our permabloggers–Stanley Thayne and Ben Park–will be presenting papers. Stan will be presenting a paper entitled, “‘Stranger than Fiction’: Remembering Marie Ogden and the Home of Truth”, which will address folklore surrounding Marie Ogden’s millennial, celibate, communal society in Depression-era southern Utah.  Ben’s paper will address “Perceptions of Polygamy: The Oral History of Plural Marriage.”  Ben’s research looks at a variety of folkloric explanations by Mormons today in reference to the reasons why plural marriage was practiced (and stopped) by the Latter-day Saints. 

I attended the conference last year, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  The folklore conference has much more of an informal, relaxed atmosphere than academic conferences I’ve attended.  It is much smaller in both the number of presenters and the size of the audience, meaning attendees don’t have to choose between break-out sessions.  I don’t remember the cost, but it was minimal and well-worth it.  If you’re in the area and don’t have plans, try and make it out to the conference.  Folklore provides a unique and important approach to Mormon studies, and you will no doubt enjoy yourself.  Below is the complete schedule:

Folklore Society of Utah Annual Meeting

November 17, 2007

Utah Cultural Celebration Center (Rooms 104-105)

9:30-10:00          Registration

10:00-10:15        Welcome; introductions & announcements: Michael Christiansen (FSU President/host)

10:15-11:15         Keynote Speaker: William A. “Bert” Wilson: What’s True in Mormon Folklore?: The Contribution of Folklore to Mormon Studies

11:15-11:30         Break

11:30-12:45         Student Panel: Moderator-David Allred (FSU Vice President)

  • Stanley J. Thayne: “Stranger Than Fiction”: Remembering Marie Ogden and the Home of Truth
  • Ben Park: Perceptions of Polygamy: The Oral History of Plural Marriage
  • Rajalekshmy Achath: “Lerala Thanima”: The True Malayali or the Very Private Space in a Diverse Public Sphere
  • Tammy Messick: Hmong Marketplace: Representations of the Homeland

12:45-2:00          Lunch (on site: pre-ordered box lunches, $6)

2:00-3:15            50th Anniversary Planning Meeting: Moderators-Polly Stewart & Elaine Thatcher

3:15-3:30           Break

3:30-4:30           Professional Session: Moderator-Lisa gabbert (FSU Sec. Treas.)

  • Polly Stewart
  • Randy Williams
  • Ronda Walker Weaver
  • Michael Christensen

4:30-5:30            FSU Business Meeting

5:30                    End



From the Archives: John Wesley, the Latter-day Saint by Christopher
November 7, 2007, 7:28 pm
Filed under: 19th-century Mormonism, Archives, Christopher

Modern Mormons, it seems, are quite fond of “romanticizing the Reformation,” meaning that Mormons often portray Luther, Arminius, and other Protestant Reformers as being sort of proto-Latter-day Saints.  In my experience, this tendency is not limited to seeing Reformers as such, but often extends to Christopher Columbus and America’s Founding Fathers.  However, this is far from being a recent development in Mormonism’s worldview.  Parley P. Pratt, noted apostle and editor of The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, included the following in the June 1841 (Vol. 2, No. 2) issue of that periodical.

JOHN WESLEY A LATTER-DAY SAINT,

IN REGARD TO THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE APOSTACY OF THE CHURCH!!

Extract from the 94th Sermon of John Wesley, on “The More Excellent Way.”–“It does not appear that the extraordinary gifts of the spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian religion, heaped riches, power, and honour upon the Christians in general From this time they almost wholly ceased. Very few instances of this kind were found. The cause of this was not, as has vulgarly been supposed, because there was no more occasion for them, because all the world had become Christians. This is a miserable mistake! Not a twentieth part was then nominally Christians. The real cause was because the love of many waxed cold–the Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens! The Son of Man when he came to examine his church could hardly find faith on the earth.–This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church, because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.”[1]

A couple of things, I think, are noteworthy.  While this may indeed be just another example of Mormons’ romanticizing the Reformation, I find it interesting that in early Mormonism, there seems to have been a special affinity for Wesley in preference to other Reformers.  This particular sermon included by Pratt suggests that one reason is that Wesley emphasized an apostasy and the need for spiritual gifts–two of the features many early Mormons used in establishing their identity as God’s true church.  It is also perhaps telling that this was published in the 1840s, suggesting that despite some evidence to the contrary, Methodist practices and beliefs continued to influence Mormon thought until near the end of Joseph’s life.  

_____________________

[1] The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star (Liverpool: June 1841), Vol. 2, no. 2, 23.



Jeffs Attempted Suicide by Christopher
November 6, 2007, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Christopher, Fundamentalism

As a follow-up to the previous post on the latest in the Warren Jeffs saga, it appears that Jeffs attempted to hang himself while imprisoned in Purgatory Correctional Facility in January.  Brooke Adams of the Salt Lake Tribune reports that despite a motion opposing their release, court documents released today reveal that shortly after Jeffs’s confession to his brother that he was not a Prophet in January, he attempted suicide.  The new documents also explain that Jeffs admitted that William E. Jessop was the rightful FLDS prophet and that he had usurped the position. 

Fifth District Judge James L. Shumate explained that he didn’t release the documents until now so as to ensure that Jeffs would get a fair trial in Utah. In reference to whether the records will hurt Jeffs’s chances of a fair trial in Arizona, Shumate said  “We were successful here in picking a jury and there is no question it can be done in Mohave County.”

All court filings are available here.



Meet the Mormons: From the Margins to the Mainstream by Christopher
November 6, 2007, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Christopher, Mormon studies, other blogs

Matthew N. Schmalz, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the College of Holy Cross, has an article entitled “Meet the Mormons: From the Margins to the Mainstream”  over at Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture (hat-tip to American Religious History blog).  Schmalz discusses his personal history with Mormonism (“It was Kolob and associated exotica that first drew me to the study of Mormonism” he says), as well as how his students at Holy Cross react to the study of Mormonism (“I’ve found that my students combine a personal openness to Mormonism . . . with deep skepticism about details of Mormon belief.”). 

As a Catholic, he sympathizes with Mormons who struggle to get others to take their religion seriously.  He explains that unless “one sees Mormonism as something more than eccentricity or pathology” there cannot be “a more substantive kind of Mormon talk, especially surrounding Mitt Romney’s [Presidential] candidacy.”  He also briefly critiques the PBS documentary The Mormons (“[it] did not give a full sense of the diversity of Mormon life, the surprisingly broad spectrum that exists between orthodoxy and apostasy”), shares his experience at the Sunstone Symposium in 2004 and concludes by calling for others to approach Mormonism in “good faith.”

As a religion, Mormonism is still quite young-but it is a religion. As Sunstone’s Dan Wotherspoon told me, “Someone who views others in good faith would assume that these other people have gone through similar processes in sifting the wheat from the chaff of their religion.” In other words, we share more than we might think at first. Talking about Mormonism in “good faith” does not mean accepting all-or any-of Mormonism’s teachings. Instead, it means accepting that Mormonism is composed of real people who are best seen up close, not from high atop the Rameumptom.



Revisiting the “Re-visioning of Mormon History” by Christopher
November 5, 2007, 7:16 pm
Filed under: 19th-century Mormonism, Christopher, Mormon Historiography

In 1986, the Pacific Historical Review published an article by Grant Underwood entitled, “Re-visioning Mormon History.” [1] Challenging the traditional portrait of 19th-century Mormonism as a countercultural, radical response to democratic politics, capitalist economics, and Victorian marriage ideals, Underwood argues that “upon closer examination, the nineteenth-century attitudes and behavior of most Latter-day Saints may prove to be less countercultural and the influence of communitarianism, plural marriage, and theocratic politics more superficial than transformationists generally assume” (412). 

Underwood also takes to task historians of 20th-century Mormonism who have exaggerated the Americanization of the Church.  He points to the size of Mormon families, the Word of Wisdom, the Church’s welfare system, and contemporary politics to show that “Latter-day Saints continue to be a ‘peculiar people’” (412-413).  He warns against “attribut[ing] everything that the Saints said or did to the fact that they were Mormons,” and argues that if “doctrines and beliefs are traced to their ultimate refuge in the mind of the common individual, there may be found, even within the institutional boundaries of the LDS church, a kaleidoscopic pattern of Mormonisms” (420-422). 

In his view, the “transition of Mormonism” that scholars have suggested occurred in the period of 1890-1920, is not quite as black-and-white as made out to be.  While admitting that a transformation certainly occurred, Underwood suggests that it was neither as drastic nor as instantaneous as previously suggested.  

Overall, the essay is well-argued, carefully-documented, and somewhat convincing.  However, few historians, if any, have followed Underwood’s suggestion that “monolithic Mormonism on either side of 1900 needs to give way to a more fine-grained analysis.” (414-415).  The reasons why deserve further discussion.  Thomas Alexander’s excellent (and highly influential) work, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 appeared just after Underwood’s article had been sent to the printer.  Alexander’s work, noted by Underwood as “the most detailed and sophisticated treatment of this period to date” (406, n. 6), was probably convincing enough to most readers so as to negate Underwood’s article altogether.  But should it?  I’m not entirely convinced one way or the other.  The historical interpretations Underwood critiqued continue to dominate the literature of Mormon studies, but is this because that interpretation is most convincing? Is it because many Mormon historians (myself included) find expression of personal ideals in 19th-century Mormon radicalism?  Or is it because polygamy, communalism, and theocracy are more mysterious and consequently more interesting than the moderate Mormonism Underwood suggests?

_________________________

[1] Grant Underwood, “Re-visioning Mormon History,” Pacific Historical Review 55 (August 1986), 403-26.