In this ground-breaking book, D. Michael Quinn masterfully reconstructs an earlier age, finding ample evidence for folk magic in nineteenth-century New England, as he does in Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s upbringing. Quinn discovers that Smith’s world was inhabited by supernatural creatures whose existence could be both symbolic and real. He explains that the Smith family’s treasure digging was not unusual for the times and is vital to understanding how early Mormons interpreted developments in their history in ways that differ from modern perceptions. Quinn’s impressive research provides a much-needed background for the environment that produced Mormonism.
This thoroughly researched examination into occult traditions surrounding Smith, his family, and other founding Mormons cannot be understated. Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans. Ninety-four photographs and illustrations accompany the text.
Although scholars have increasingly investigated the impact of religion and religious movements on nature, studies of the interactions between Mormons and the natural environment are few. This volume applies the perspectives of environmental history to Mormonism, providing both a scholarly introduction to Mormon environmental history and a spur for historians to consider the role of nature in the Mormon past.
Since Joseph Smith’s revelations, Mormons have interacted with nature in significant ways—whether perceiving it as a place to find God, uncorrupted spaces in which to build communities to usher in the Second Coming, wildness needing domestication and control, or a world brimming with natural resources to ensure economic well-being. The essays in this volume—written by leading scholars in both environmental history and Mormon history—explore how nature has influenced Mormon beliefs and how these beliefs inform Mormons’ encounters with nature. Introducing overarching environmental ideas, contributors examine specific aspects of nature and Mormon theology to glean new insights into the Mormon experience.
The first fifty years of United States history was a period of seemingly endless possibility. With the birth of a new country during the age of revolutions came new religions, new literary genres, new political parties, temperance and abolitionist societies, and the expansion of print and marketing networks that would dramatically change the course of the century. Envisioning Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Revelations in Their Early American Contexts brings together ten essays from leading scholars on the history of early American religion and print culture. Covering issues of gender, race, prophecy, education, scripture, real and narrative time, authority and power, and apocalypticism, the essays invite the reader—scholar, student, etc.—to expand their knowledge of early Mormon history by grasping more fully the American contexts that Mormonism grew out of.
Contributors include Catherine A. Brekus, William Davis, Elizabeth Fenton, Kathleen Flake, Paul Gutjahr, Jared Hickman, Susan Juster, Seth Perry, Laura Thiemann Scales, and Roberto A. Valdeón.
American Indians have long played a central role in Mormon history and its narratives. Their roles, however, have often been cast in support of traditional Mormon beliefs and as a reaffirmation of colonial discourses.
This collection of essays, many the result of a seminar hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University, explores the historical and cultural complexities of this narrative from a decolonizing perspective. Essays cover the historical construction of the “Lamanite,” settler colonialism and the Book of Mormon, and connections between the Seneca leader Handsome Lake and Joseph Smith. Authors also address American Indian Mormon tribal identities, Navajo and Mormon participation at the dedication of Glen Canyon Dam, the impact of Mormon Polynesian missionaries in Diné Bikéyah, the ISPP, and other topics. Prominent American Indian Mormon voices lend their creative work and personal experiences to the book.
With the aim of avoiding familiar narrative patterns of settler colonialism, contributors seek to make American Indians the subjects rather than the objects of discussion in relation to Mormons, presenting new ways to explore and reframe these relationships.
After converting to Mormonism in 1832, Brigham Young (1801-77) quickly rose to prominence and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles within three years. He personally directed the highly successful 1839 proselyting mission to Great Britain, and he was appointed president of the Twelve Apostles the following year. In 1846-47 he oversaw the epic colonization of the Intermountain West.
Self-educated and preoccupied with the day-to-day business of his widespread empire, Young rarely found time to read. But he delivered hundreds of lively, extemporaneous sermons which blended common sense with theological speculation. Such homespun treatises carried an immediacy that was absent from the philosophically-oriented studies of his ecclesiastical colleague Orson Pratt, though, at the same time, Young’s speeches could be unfocused and contradictory.
Several of the more controversial teachings that Young promulgated—Adam-as-God, divine omniscience, and blood atonement—have sparked considerable debate since they were first uttered more than one hundred years ago. “Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise,” he once asked, “when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?”
Other favorite topics were the “personality of God,” “election and reprobation,” and “the resurrection.” His sermons usually begin in a chatty way: “I remarked last Sunday that I had not felt much like preaching,” or “When I contemplate the subject of salvation, and rise before a congregation to speak upon that all-important matter, it has been but a few times in my life that I could see a beginning point to it, or a stopping place.” Readers will find themselves drawn into the rhythm of Young’s rhetoric in the same way as his original hearers were.
Latter-day Saints were stunned in 1911 to learn that the interior of the Salt Lake temple had been secretly photographed and that perpetrators were demanding a $100,000 ransom for the photos. As church leaders considered their options, former University of Utah president James E. Talmage proposed that the First Presidency commission its own photos, which they did, authorizing Talmage to write his landmark House of the Lord. As the manuscript and photos were being readied for press, the presidency appointed the forty-nine-year-old educator to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
This was not the first time that Talmage had been of service to his church. As a geology professor, he was consulted about underground ventilation options for the Salt Lake Tabernacle and about the scientific evidence for organic evolution, which he cautiously promoted. At the church president’s request, Talmage also delivered a series of lectures on church theology which would form the basis for his later influential books.
Not that Talmage was unaccustomed to controversy. When his book, The Articles of Faith, first appeared, he was accused of “apostasy” and narrowly escaped church sanction. When he read from an advance text of Jesus the Christ in general conference, some leaders objected to the doctrinal content and had the offending paragraphs excised from the published conference proceedings.
Scholars have noted that much of Talmage’s work reflects the thinking of his day, particularly in his reliance on Frederick Farrar’s Life of Christ and in his portrayal of a so-called “Victorian Jesus.” But as James P. Harris observes, Talmage also “supplemented the biblical narrative with modern revelation” and produced “a source of information and inspiration to church members worldwide.”
The Essential James E. Talmage includes some of the apostle’s lesser-known works. For Talmage’s more popular writings, the editor has included relevant diary entries and material omitted from later editions. Readers will appreciate the process by which these seminal works were produced and the character of the man who composed them.
How perceptions of Mormonism from 1830 to the present reveal the exclusionary, racialized practices of the U.S. nation-state
Are Mormons really so weird? Are they potentially queer? These questions occupy the heart of this powerful rethinking of Mormonism and its place in U.S. history, culture, and politics. K. Mohrman argues that Mormon peculiarity is not inherent to the Latter-day Saint faith tradition, as is often assumed, but rather a potent expression of U.S. exceptionalism.
Exceptionally Queer scrutinizes the history of Mormonism starting with its inception in the early 1830s and continuing to the present. Drawing on a wide range of historical texts and moments—from nineteenth-century battles over Mormon plural marriage; to the LDS Church’s emphases on “individual responsibility” and “family values”; to mainstream media’s coverage of the LDS Church’s racist exclusion of Black priesthood holders, its Native assimilation programs, and vehement opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; and to much more recent legal and cultural battles over same-sex marriage and on-screen Mormon polygamy—Exceptionally Queer evaluates how Mormonism has been used to motivate and rationalize the biased, exclusionary, and colonialist policies and practices of the U.S. nation-state.
Mohrman explains that debates over Mormonism both drew on and shaped racial discourses and, in so doing, delineated the boundaries of whiteness and national belonging, largely through the consolidation of (hetero)normative ideas of sex, marriage, family, and economy. Ultimately, the author shows how discussions of Mormonism in this country have been and continue to be central to ideas of what it means to be American.
After the 1872 publication of Expose',Fanny Stenhouse became a celebrity in the cultural wars between Mormons and much of America. An English convert, she had grown disillusioned with the Mormon Church and polygamy, which her husband practiced before associating with a circle of dissident Utah intellectuals and merchants. Stenhouse’s critique of plural marriage, Brigham Young, and Mormonism was also a sympathetic look at Utah’s people and honest recounting of her life. Before long, she created a new edition, titled "Tell It All," which ensured her notoriety in Utah and popularity elsewhere but turned her thoughtful memoir into a more polemical, true expose' of Polygamy. Since 1874, it has stayed in print, in multiple, varying editions. The original book, meanwhile, is less known, though more readable. Tracing the literary history of Stenhouse’s important piece of Americana, Linda DeSimone rescues an important autobiographical and historical record from the baggage notoriety brought to it.