Jan 14, 2005

Let us sing with one accord

Davis Bitton, one-time assistant church historian, has a short piece on the 1835 hymnal in today's Meridian Magazine. He notes some interesting features of the hymnal, which was put together by Emma Smith and W.W. Phelps, including the fact that it featured no music (typical for the period) and authors were not listed for the 90 hymns.

Emma was directed by revelation in July 1830 to put together a selection of hymns, and Phelps was asked the following year to revise and publish them. However, due to a number of intervening events, including the printing of the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants and the destruction of the Missouri press, printing was not completed until early 1836.

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Jan 10, 2005

A Politician Lecturing the Brethren

Stewart Udall, U.S. Representative from Arizona and Secretary of the Interior during President Kennedy's and President Johnson's administrations, was no shrinking violet. He came from a strong Mormon background, but he carried an indisputable independent streak when it came to his beliefs.

At the time of his marriage and graduation from law school in 1947, Udall wrote down his reasons for disaffection from the church, which included a difficulty with fellowshipping with other members because "too many find it easy to be simultaneously devout Mormons" while holding bigoted views (F. Ross Peterson, "'Do Not Lecture the Brethren': Stewart L. Udall's Pro-Civil Rights Stance, 1967," Journal of Mormon History 25.1 [Spring 1999], p. 273).

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Jan 06, 2005

"Selected Collections" for the select few

In late 2002, in what Scott Kenney calls the "most important event in modern Mormon publishing," the Church released two volumes of DVDs containing images of thousands of documents related to Mormon history--papers of Joseph Smith, correspondence from Brigham Young, architectural drawings, Relief Society meeting minutes, journals of J. Golden Kimball, Joseph F. Smith, Lorenzo Snow, and Franklin D. Richards, to name a few of the items. The second set of DVDs consists of the Journal History of the Church from 1896 to 1923. All together, the set consists of 74 DVDs (a table of contents can be seen here).

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Jan 04, 2005

God on the (BYU) Quad

I can't keep up with the flow of new books, but there is one that recently caught my eye. It's called God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America and the author is Naomi Schaefer Riley. Riley, an adjunct fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a frequent contributor to publications such as The Wall Street Journal, National Review, and the Boston Globe. I've read her columns in the WSJ over the last few years and seem to remember that the bios noted that she was working on a book about religious colleges. Her book is now out.

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Jan 03, 2005

Wanted: Fifteen humanities scholars who are willing to live in Provo for six weeks (beer and tobacco not off limits)

I have previously blogged on a landmark seminar to be held at Brigham Young University this coming summer. I'll briefly quote from a October 2004 BYU news release to set the stage:

In a set of firsts for Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Endowment for Humanities announced it will fund an intensive six-week seminar in the summer of 2005 on the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Grant Underwood and Richard Lyman Bushman from BYU's Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History will co-direct "Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormonism: Bicentennial Perspectives" from June 20 to July 30 for 15 selected college professors from around the nation.

"This NEH grant means that the premier humanities sponsor in the United States has decided that BYU faculty can be trusted to conduct with objectivity a seminar on the life and thought of the Church's founding prophet. This represents no small recognition for BYU," says Underwood.

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Dec 29, 2004

Best of 2004

With the close of 2004, I am in the mood to make lists, including my list of favorite Mormon works during the past year. Feel free to nominate your own favorites or perhaps the worst books in your view.

Without further ado, here are my favorites for 2004:

Best book: Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle

Other favorites:

Newell Bringhurst and Darron Smith, eds., Black and Mormon

Newell Bringhurst and Lavina Fielding Anderson, eds., Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century

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Sunstone Symposia MP3s (Cross post)

In early December, I posted the following on my personal blog:

Sunstone Symposia MP3s

The Sunstone website has recently made available MP3s from recent Sunstone symposia in Salt Lake and elsewhere. One can download MP3s from the following symposia:

2004 SLC
2003 Dallas
2003 Northwest
2003 SLC
2003 West
2002 SLC
2001 SLC
1987 SLC (I have no idea why 1987 files are available, as opposed to any other year before 2001)

MP3s from the 1987 and 2001 symposia are available for download at no cost, while files from more recent symposia can be downloaded for $2-4 each.

One can look for MP3s by Symposium, Speaker, or Subject Category.

Update: I would add that Sunstone has added MP3s from 12 other symposia between 2001 and 1987. One can listen--for free--to 100 sessions from the 2001 Salt Lake Symposium alone. All the MP3s from symposia before 2002 continue to be free, but I have it on good authority that this may change in the near future.

The files are available here.
Happy downloading!

Dec 27, 2004

A Conversation with Gordon B. Hinckley

Last night CNN aired a previously taped interview of President Gordon B. Hinckley conducted by Larry King. King hit the usual topics--women in the church, the church's wealth, the church's fancy buildings, blacks, revelation, church growth, etc.

Here is a transcript of the interview.

Here are some news stories from the Utah press:

Pres. Hinckley optimistic

Hinckley appears on 'Larry King Live'

Comments on and critiques of all parts of the interview are welcome, including thoughts on style and substance.

Dec 26, 2004

Part II of Is This Discussion Over?

A recent post of mine, entitled "Is This Discussion Over? Talking about the LDS Church's History on Race," asked the question whether LDS leaders and members need to engage in discussion regarding the history of the priesthood policy, including teachings by leaders, justifications for the policy over the years, and its effect on the modern church. Assuming a need for such a discussion, I asked how LDS leaders should open it up, whether by General Conference address, Ensign article, or a prescribed Priesthood/Relief Society lesson.

BYU adjunct professor of sociology Darron Smith, who was the focus of a recent Salt Lake Weekly article on this subject, has been at the forefront of this issue, raising questions and otherwise attempting to inspire discussion in the church. Part of his efforts can be seen in the recently published anthology of essays, Black and Mormon, which Smith edited along with Newell Bringhurst.

Continue reading "Part II of Is This Discussion Over?" »

Dec 23, 2004

Joseph Smith's 199th birthday

Happy Festivus to all. This holiday dates back to 1966, but it's growing in popularity. (See here for some resources for celebrating the holiday.) The New York Times featured an article the other day on the holiday, which, among other things, reported the informed views of a Colgate University astronomist and anthropologist regarding the holiday's future:

Infused as Festivus is with so much potential meaning, it is not far-fetched to imagine it as a permanent part of the American holiday firmament, said Anthony F. Aveni, a professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate and the author of "The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays" (Oxford University Press, 2002). After all, Halloween used to be an obscure festival observed by few, Kwanzaa was invented by an academic in California in the 1960's, and Hanukkah has been reinvented in modern times to include gift-giving. "Even Christmas comes out of a pagan holiday that happened around the solstice," Professor Aveni said.

So there may be a future for Festivus. Today, of course, is also the 199th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birthday (see here for an article on the commemoration of the 200th anniversary next year). It's hard to say how widely this day is celebrated, but due to the spread of members across the globe, it has the potential to be big.

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Dec 21, 2004

New FARMS Review

The latest issue of the FARMS Review is now available on the FARMS website.

I haven't had a chance to read more than brief passages from the volume, but here is the table of contents:

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Dec 17, 2004

The "Old Folks" Catch the Christmas Spirit

In honor of the holiday season, I post an account of Christmas festivities long ago. This "racy" account was published in the Deseret News on January 17, 1883.




E.H.P. of Brigham City, furnishes the following racy account of an interesting occasion at that place:

While fathers and mothers are at their wits end during the holidays, fixing up for the children, and while Christmas trees are being decorated to please the eye and gladden the heart of the young, who is there to look after the welfare of the old? If first childhood claims our undivided attention[,] will second childhood be neglected or entirely forgotten?

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Dec 16, 2004

Like a Rolling Stone

The AP is carrying an article today by Richard Ostling, co-author of Mormon America, on the upcoming bicentennial of Joseph Smith's birth. It provides a brief summary of Joseph's life, but its main focus is on modern perceptions of Joseph Smith as a man and a religious leader.

We have already seen the publication of a skeptical biography of Joseph Smith by Dan Vogel, and next October, Ostling says, we will see the "landmark" of the bicentennial celebration, the appearance of Richard Bushman's biography "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling."

This is the first time I've seen a title attached to the book, and I do not like it. Still, it serves to illustrates the point that one can perceive a historical figure in many ways.

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Dec 15, 2004

Is This Discussion Over? Talking about the LDS Church's History on Race

The latest issue of Salt Lake City's alternative publication Salt Lake City Weekly carries a thought-provoking article on the LDS Church's history regarding race. The article's subtitle--" For black Saints, forgetting the LDS Church's racist heritage is easier said than done"--indicates the subject of the piece.

BYU adjunct professor of sociology Darron Smith, the co-editor of a recently published collection of essays entitled Black and Mormon, is the focus of the article. Apparently his efforts to promote Black and Mormon have been met with some sharply negative reaction from others, including some threatening emails and a phone call from a woman spewing racial epithets. His own reaction to historical teachings on race within the church is simple: "Smith argues that the dubious justifications for the ban will continue to foment in the hearts of well-meaning white Saints, not to mention continue to torment faithful and potential black Saints, until the church disavows the racist teachings once and for all. Otherwise, he says, 'We’re still going to be talking about this 10, 15, 20 years from now.'”

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Welcome Justin

I'm pleased to announce DMI's first guest blogger, Justin Butterfield of Mormon Wasp. Justin has been blogging there since May 2004, and has a reputation for posting terribly interesting historical episodes from LDS and Utah history, as well as commentary on more current events. Whether he posts new historical write-ups, just summarizes with a link to a post at Mormon Wasp, or tries something completely different here, I know he'll have interesting things to say. Welcome aboard, Justin!

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