Church History

Dotting the Earth with … Baptismal Fonts

February 12, 2009 | no comments
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In a day when new temples are being announced by the handful, it’s easy to forget how far we have come in making priesthood ordinances available, convenient, and even non-life threatening. Read more »

The Ashtabula Horror

February 9, 2009 | no comments
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The train known as the Pacific Express (No. 5, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway) pulled out of Erie, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of December 29, 1876, headed toward Chicago. Two locomotives, christened “Socrates” and “Columbia,” towed its two passenger cars, three sleeper cars, two baggage cars, two express wagons, a smoker, and the caboose. The Pacific Express reached Ashtabula, Ohio, early on that snowy evening. When it pulled out of the Ashtabula station, 159 passengers and crew members were aboard. Read more »

If You Had Been a Mormon Boy Born in 1915 …

February 4, 2009 | no comments
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If You Had Been a Mormon Boy Born in 1915 …

… and if you had lived in the Mormon Corridor or somewhere else with a fully organized Primary, you would have become a Trail-Builder when you turned 10 in 1925, and you would have received one of the new “First Year Books” to track your progress during the year as your learned to do some really cool boy stuff. Your handbook was decorated with the pine tree, your class emblem, and you learned how this tree represented the kind of boy you were learning to be: Read more »

A Child’s-Eye View of the Mormon Silk Experiment

February 2, 2009 | no comments
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Utah’s 19th century silk industry was one of those projects encouraged by Brigham Young to stimulate home production and reduce Mormon dependence on a hostile world. Period literature is heavy on sermons advocating sericulture, treatises on raising worms and the mulberry trees they fed on, and praise for the quantities and artistry of finished articles. What I’ve never seen before is the memoir of a child who assisted in the enterprise. Read more »

“The ‘Wild West’ Has Ceased to Be”

February 1, 2009 | no comments
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David G. at Juvenile Instructor (the blog, not the periodical) has just posted Mormonism’s Unbroken Past: Transcending the 1890 Rupture, noting that 1890 is as historically significant to the Mormons as that year is to the wider history of the West: For us, the 1890 Manifesto marked as great a shift in outlook, traditional Mormon historical thinking goes, as the 1890 “closing of the frontier,” declared in 1893 by Western historian Frederick Jackson Turner, signaled in the development of all that was distinctively American. Read more »

The Political Uses of Debt and Mormon History

January 30, 2009 | 9 comments
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Yesterday’s discussion got me thinking about debt, in particular the political uses of debt.  Here, I think that the experience of the American Revolution and the failure of the Confederacy may have something to tell us about Mormon history. Read more »

Friedrich Schulzke: “It Fell to My Lot to Guide the Little Branch”

January 28, 2009 | no comments
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Friedrich Schulzke: “It Fell to My Lot to Guide the Little Branch”

Friedrich Schulzke Read more »

The Totality of Mortality

January 8, 2009 | 60 comments
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When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it. Read more »

Hugs and Kisses

December 15, 2008 | 5 comments
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It’s holiday season, which means more friends and family and greetings, in person or otherwise, than usual. Add to that a few weddings receptions and you can get downright sore from all the hugging and hand-wrenching. Not to mention confused by the vast array of possibilities for saying hello or goodbye or Merry Christmas or Happy New Year to someone. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned anthropologist dizzy. Read more »

Past and Present

November 30, 2008 | 15 comments
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It’s an intellectual banality to point out that how one thinks of the present structures how one thinks about the past. The cliché, however, is useful when thinking about Mormon history. Read more »

President Hinckley and J. Edgar Hoover

October 20, 2008 | 12 comments
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The FBI released its files on Gordon B. Hinckley last week in response to a FOIA request from the Salt Lake Tribune. Apparently the FBI conducted a background check on President Hinckley in 1951 in order to ensure he wasn’t a communist and clear him for a potential position with Voice of America. The results… no dirt. The verdict seemed to be that this Gordon B. Hinckley was a “loyal American” whose reputation and work ethic were unimpeachable. The whole (slightly redacted) file is pretty interesting and definitely worth a look. Read more »

Polygamy Poetry

October 14, 2008 | 21 comments
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Polygamy was a topic for persuasive prose, not poetry in nineteenth century Utah. Read more »

The Difficulty of Theological Interpretations of Mormon History

October 9, 2008 | 26 comments
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Providing a theological interpretation of Mormon history is tricky. I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the reasons that Mormons care so much about history is that in some sense they regard it has having a normative force. Part of how we understand God’s will is by offering an interpretation of our past that sees in it the working out of God’s purposes. On this view, God is involved in the story of the Restoration and a careful parsing of that story will reveal something about God. This, of course, is the sort of thing that sets the teeth of... Read more »

“Nobody Knows” Screening

October 9, 2008 | 8 comments
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Heads up for those in the D.C. area. Earlier this Spring I posted a notice about a great series of events that Greg Prince, co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, hosted at his house in Potomac, Maryland. After a brief summer interlude, Brother Prince is back at it. The speaker at his next meeting will be Darius Gray, who will screen and discuss his recently completed documentary, “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons” (which he co-wrote and produced with T&S alum Margaret Young). Brother Gray served in the presidency of the Genesis... Read more »

My inner historian smiles

September 29, 2008 | 29 comments
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The little historian in me cheers for small things, such as correct phrasing. At the General Relief Society Broadcast on Saturday, September 27, Sister Barbara Thompson Read more »

Visions and Enivison

September 17, 2008 | 28 comments
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I am sorry I have not been posting more regularly. Hurricane Ike slowed me down a bit. However, everything is starting to get back to normal. So…. Here we go. If the nineteenth century Mormon experiment in planning claimed anything, it claimed to be founded on revelation. Read more »

Changing Conceptions of Zion

September 8, 2008 | 26 comments
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The Mormon conception of Zion has changed dramatically over the past century. Today’s members of the church are likely to define “Zion” as wherever the members of the church are: LDS homes, congregations, and stakes. While the conception of Zion in the 19th century may have included these elements, these Saints were determined to literally be Zion communities Read more »

Returning to Zion

September 8, 2008 | 11 comments
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Given all that might be said of Mormonism, it should not come as a surprise that a lot of interesting topics sit pretty much neglected. One of these, I would argue, is the Mormon contribution to building settlements in the United States. Read more »

Why Visit Mountain Meadows?

August 20, 2008 | 46 comments
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A week ago I visited Mountain Meadows for the first time. I was surprisingly hard to find. While the site does appear on maps of the area, there aren’t any signs until you get within a mile of the entrance. That is a shame. Read more »

Wish I’d Been There

August 12, 2008 | 41 comments
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Need a smile? Then you might wish you’d gone to sacrament meeting on March 15, 1857 in the Salt Lake Thirteenth Ward: Read more »

Pioneers and Indians in Utah Valley

August 11, 2008 | 9 comments
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Just last week I heard a familiar comment at church: Brigham Young’s policy was to feed the Indians rather than fight them. The actual record of relations between Pioneers and Indians was a bit more complicated, especially in Utah Valley, the watery jewel of early Utah. Read more »

Yesharah

August 8, 2008 | 15 comments
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Did you know that BYU had a combined-gender missionary club in the early 1920’s named the Y.D.D.? It took me a month to discover the secret of the initials: “Young Doctors of Divinity.” Read more »

Socialism and United Order

August 5, 2008 | 21 comments
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I stumbled across a few LDS socialist stories when I was writing my MA thesis. Read more »

Political Remembering

August 4, 2008 | 12 comments
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Fascinating Utah history factoid: Read more »