In Contemporary Mormon Pageantry, theater scholar Megan Sanborn Jones looks at Mormon pageants, outdoor theatrical productions that celebrate church theology, reenact church history, and bring to life stories from the Book of Mormon. She examines four annual pageants in the United States-the Hill Cumorah Pageant in upstate New York, the Manti Pageant in Utah, the Nauvoo Pageant in Illinois, and the Mesa Easter Pageant in Arizona. The nature and extravagance of the pageants vary by location, with some live orchestras, dancing, and hundreds of costumed performers, mostly local church members. Based on deep historical research and enhanced by the author's interviews with pageant producers and cast members as well as the author's own experiences as a participant-observer, the book reveals the strategies by which these pageants resurrect the Mormon past on stage. Jones analyzes the place of the productions within the American theatrical landscape and draws connections between the Latter-day Saints theology of the redemption of the dead and Mormon pageantry in the three related sites of sacred space, participation, and spectatorship. Using a combination of religious and performance theory, Jones demonstrates that Mormon pageantry is a rich and complex site of engagement between theater, theology, and praxis that explores the saving power of performance.
Eugene England championed an optimistic Mormon faith open to liberalizing ideas from American culture. At the same time, he remained devoted to a conservative Mormonism that he saw as a vehicle for progress even as it narrowed the range of acceptable belief.
Kristine L. Haglund views England’s writing through the tensions produced by his often-opposed intellectual and spiritual commitments. Though labeled a liberal, England had a traditional Latter-day Saint background and always sought to address fundamental questions in Mormon terms. His intellectually adventurous essays sometimes put him at odds with Church authorities and fellow believers. But he also influenced a generation of thinkers and cofounded Dialogue, a Mormon academic and literary journal acclaimed for the broad range of its thought.
A fascinating portrait of a Mormon intellectual and his times, Eugene England reveals a believing scholar who emerged from the lived experiences of his faith to engage with the changes roiling Mormonism in the twentieth century.
The central issue Bush finds in these works is how their authors have dealt with the authority of Mormon Church leaders. As she puts it in her preface, "I use the phrase 'faithful transgression' to describe moments in the texts when each writer, explicitly or implicitly, commits herself in writing to trust her own ideas and authority over official religious authority while also conceiving of and depicting herself to be a 'faithful' member of the Church." Bush recognizes her book as her own act of faithful transgression. Writing it involved wrestling, she states, "with my own deeply ingrained religious beliefs and my equally compelling education in feminist theories that mean to liberate and empower women."
Faithful Transgressions examines a remarkable group of authors and their highly readable and entertaining books. In producing the first significant book-length study of Mormon women's autobiographical writing, Bush rides a wave of memoir publishing and academic interest in autobiography and other life narratives. As she elucidates these works in relation to the religious tradition that played a major role in shaping them, she not only positions them in relation to feminist theory and current work on women's life writings but ties them to the long literary tradition of spiritual autobiography.
These eighteen essays span more than thirty years of Lavina Fielding Anderson’s concerns about and reflections on issues of inclusiveness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including her own excommunication for “apostasy” in 1993, followed by twenty-five years of continued attendance at weekly LDS ward meetings. Written with a taste for irony and an eye for documentation, the essays are timeless snapshots of sometimes controversial issues, beginning with official resistance to professionally researched Mormon history in the 1980s. They underscore unanswered questions about gender equality and repeatedly call attention to areas in which the church does not live up to its better self. Compassionately and responsibly, it calls Anderson’s beloved religion back to its holiest nature.
I will introduce myself with a few facts. I was born and raised in Snowflake, a Mormon town in northern Arizona. I have lived most of my adult life in the cities of the American West. Although I consider myself a religious person, I know very little about God. At first I intended this book to be about wilderness, but as I wrote it, it became an autobiography with many themes. Among these themes are wilderness, my vexed and vexing relationship with Mormonism, my moral and emotional qualities, and my family.' So begins the autobiography of educator and author Levi S. Peterson.
Peterson has won a wide readership for his novels and short stories, his prize-winning biography of historian Juanita Brooks, and the essays that have appeared with regularity in western and Mormon literary and historical journals. In his autobiography, Peterson describes growing up on the Mormon frontier of rural Arizona, his growing skepticism with his Mormon faith, his teaching career at Weber State University, and his struggle to understand and master personal crises of confidence that kept him in therapy for almost two decades. Of particular interest to readers familiar with Peterson’s fiction are the many pages devoted to the creative process.
Winner of the Mormon History Association Turner-Bergera Best Biography Award.
Brigham Young had over 50 wives and 56 children, but none has better name recognition than daughter Susa Young Gates (1856–1933). Yet she, like so many women of Mormonism's past, has remained a mystery to most church members. In Susa Young Gates, Romney Burke paints a portrait of a strong woman who rose to prominence within the church, fought for the rights of women throughout the country, yet dealt with personal trials and her share of heartbreak.
The divorce of Susa from her first husband was so traumatic that she never again mentioned that union or his name in public. Eight of her 13 children died before adulthood. She was unable to reconcile her older sister's departure from the LDS Church and conversion to Catholicism. Yet, despite her trials, Susa found fulfillment in her faith through service, as a prolific writer—co-authoring with her daughter Leah Dunford Widtsoe the 1930 biography of her father, Life Story of Brigham Young, founding the Young Woman's Journal in 1889, the Relief Society Magazine in 1915, and in her associations with such prominent women's advocates as Susan B. Anthony.
Raised by devout Mormon parents, Vardis Fisher drifted from the faith after college. Yet throughout his long career, his writing consistently reflected Mormon thought. Beginning in the early 1930s, the public turned to Fisher's novels like Children of God to understand the increasingly visible Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His striking works vaulted him into the same literary tier as William Faulkner while his commercial success opened the New York publishing world to many of the founding figures in the Mormon literary canon. Michael Austin looks at Fisher as the first prominent American author to write sympathetically about the Church and examines his work against the backdrop of Mormon intellectual history.
Engrossing and enlightening, Vardis Fisher illuminates the acclaimed author's impact on Mormon culture, American letters, and the literary tradition of the American West.