Church History

The Salamander Letter in a nutshell

March 16, 2009 | 32 comments

So, what is this scary Salamander Letter that the church is hiding from everybody?    Read more »

Forgetting, and History

March 12, 2009 | 11 comments

From Ernest Renan, a French 19th-century philosopher: Forgetting, and I would say even historical error, is an essential element in the creation of a nation, and that is why the progress of historical studies is often a danger for the nation itself. Read more »

Monument to the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

March 12, 2009 | no comments
Monument to the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

While uncounted thousands of visual artists have contributed their skills to building Zion, the Fairbanks dynasty holds a special place in the world of Mormon art history: John B. Fairbanks (1855-1940) was one of the art missionaries sent to Paris by the Church, who came home to paint murals for the temples. His sons J. Leo (1878-1946) and Avard T. (1898-1987) have a catalog that must amount to a hundred or more Mormon-themed works: Read more »

Laura Rees Merrill: Replacing Fear with Peace

March 4, 2009 | no comments

Laura Liona Rees was born in Brigham City, Utah, in 1876, to LDS parents (her father had emigrated as a convert from England; her mother was born at Council Bluffs). With only an eighth grade, district school education, she studied for and passed the test to be licensed as a grade school teacher. Then she became one of the first women to attend Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) at Logan. Read more »

“You Can’t Go to Heaven in Cologne Water”: A Missionary Talk by J. Golden Kimball

March 2, 2009 | no comments

If you’re going to be disappointed by a J. Golden talk that doesn’t fit the swearing-elder stereotype, stop reading now. This isn’t that kind of J. Golden story. It is a talk the future Seventy gave to a small South Carolina branch in 1891 during a period when local members – including a woman – had been whipped and shot at, their homes ransacked, and the missionaries ordered out of the county at gunpoint. Read more »

Confidential: Have I Got a Deal for You

February 24, 2009 | no comments

The original Keepapitchinin printed this “editorial” in 1870: Confidential. We have received the following letter: ”Dear Sir: – a confidential friend having notified us that you can be relied on we send you the enclosed circular.” Read more »

A New Book for the Mormon Canon

February 22, 2009 | 7 comments

There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United... Read more »

For Those in the D.C. Area

February 18, 2009 | 3 comments

Richard E. Turley will be speaking at the Wesley Theological Seminary this coming Sunday. Last year I posted a couple of notices about a great series of events that Greg Prince, co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, hosts every few months at his house in Potomac, Maryland. Read more »

Dotting the Earth with … Baptismal Fonts

February 12, 2009 | no comments

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

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
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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »