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Posts posted by Emerson

  1. Does being elected president of the International Society for Residual Trivia count as a scholarly achievement, or merely as "citizenship" (i.e., as the equivalent of chairing the Department's Fall Social Refreshments Committee)?

    My two biggest academic goals! :)

  2. Although essentially a refrain of my comments above, your observation touches upon a very important aspect of this still-developing tale of intrigue: There is no lack of publishing venues for those who find the typical "Mormon Studies" approach to their liking. Indeed, the number and variety of journals catering to "Mormon Studies," when compared to similar journals focused on other areas of religious studies, is entirely disproportionate to the number of Mormons, both in the United States and worldwide. Sunstone, Dialogue, JWHA, MHA ... there are probably at least a dozen or more journals focused on Mormon Studies! Unfortunately, most of those journals have come to be dominated, especially in recent years, by voices more or less hostile (both overtly and covertly; explicitly and implicitly) to the truth claims of Mormonism, as well as its leadership, both historical and contemporary.

    This is very admittedly a threadjack, so I honestly wouldn't feel offended if it is ignored, but I was hoping I could ask you a question on this, especially your last sentence.

    I fully agree that Mormon studies has more of a quantity than quality when it comes to academic(ish) journals, especially now that the best work in the field is being published in journals that don't specialize in the subfield. But, while heaven knows many of the articles in these journals lack substance, I am not so sure they can be described as "dominated...by voices more or less hostile...to the truth claims of Mormonism, as well as its leadership, both historical and contemporary." Do you feel this is the case with all the journals, or just a few? Personally, I find that JMH, Dialogue, and BYUSQ produce, in general, the best content. (JWHA is very spotty, and Sunstone doesn't, in my estimation, produce anything that fits the rubrik of "Mormon Studies.") Were there recent articles in the three major journals I listed that imply a dominance of hostility toward Mormonism?

    I am genuinely curious, and would love an answer, if you have the time and interest.

  3. For anyone into the academic study of Mormon history, here is a roundup of what I found to be the best books and articles in the field from the past twelve months: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/2012-in-retrospect/

    If you are just into the cream of the crop, here are my picks for the MHA awards:

    Best Book Award: John Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet

    Best First Book: Spencer Fluhman: Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America

    Best Biography: Thomas Alexander, Edward Hunter Snow: Pioneer-Educator-Statesman

    Best Documentary Book: Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, vol. 3

    Best International Book: Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958

    Best Article Award: Thomas Simpson, “The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877-1896”

    Awards of Excellence: Alex Smith, “The Book of the Law of the Lord”; Christopher Jones, “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace”

    Best Article on Mormon Women’s History: Lisa Olsen Tait, “The Young Women’s Journal: Gender and Generations in Mormon Women’s Magazines”

  4. As I understand the matter from having read Massacre at Mountain Meadow by Turley, Walker and Leonard, Brigham Young's policy during this impending invasion by the U.S. Army was a matter of ceasing to intervene in hostilities between emigrant trains and the Indians. In the past, some travelers had antagonized indigenous Indian tribes, and that made it tough for everybody who was going west. In effect, President Young was saying to government: "You're on your own now in protecting travelers from Indian hostilities." It was an effective strategy, because it greatly increased the distance of overland travel to the West Coast.

    That was Young's rhetoric to the federal government, yes. But his rhetoric to certain indigenous tribes was basically, "have at it." Walker, Turley, and Leonard say that explicitly. In fact, little of what Turner says in this piece is much different from the bare facts presented in <i>Massacre at Mountain Meadows</i>. John had Rick Turley look over everything having to do with Mountain Meadows, and they became good friends.

  5. Journalism sites like HuffPo generally don't provide references as part of their style guide. All quotes Turner gives are also found in his tremendous Brigham Young biography, which everyone should read. Perhaps one reason anti sites don't use these quotes is because Turner had greater access to Church records than many in the past, and he was diligent in uncovering sources heretofore overlooked.

    I didn't find anything in the article that should raise an eyebrow; all clames and analysis was responsible and reasoned.

  6. Yes...yes...I think you make some very valid points here. But I think the following is also true:

    To the average academic, the whole idea of a "believing Mormon" occupying an academic chair for Mormon Studies at a secular institution is absurd on its very face, a non-starter from the git-go: gold plates delivered by an angel, God intervening in the affairs of men in the quite literal ways in which Mormon history is replete with. No qualified scholar, not to mention self-respecting intelligent human being could believe in such nonsense. And so the need to appoint a non-LDS, or at least a non-believing "enlightened" former LDS.

    You'll be pleased to learn that the average academic believes nothing of the sort. Sure, there might have been a time when that is the case, and there are certainly a small (if loud) number who still believes that, but the vast majority of the academy does not hold such atrocious views.

  7. Many thanks for engaging , DCP. I mostly agree with what you say, though I'll respond to a few points (which I number with [brackets] for convenience).

    Some quick observations, in no particular order...

    [1] Claremont is in Los Angeles Country, not Orange County.


    [2] Historical studies of and within Mormonism are far more advanced and developed than most other fields. So it's likely that this chair will take a historical approach (as USU's Arrington Professorship and CGU's Hunter Chair have tended to do).

    [3] Perhaps for accidental historical reasons (e.g., the pivotal influence of Leonard Arrington, whose formal training was actually in economics rather than in history as such), Mormon historiography has focused heavily on economic and institutional history, as well as on biography, but not so much on doctrinal, theological, or, often, even expressly religious matters.


    [4] Emerson, just out of curiosity, what kind of Mormon studies program do you think Professor Hamblin is seeking? I don't know, myself.

    [1] Thanks for the appreciated correction, though I was mostly insisting that the LDS funding and donors came from Orange County, which has a large number of wealthy and extremely generous members. I had heard from several on the Claremont committee that this is where most of the funding for the chair came from, but as I was not privy to those discussions and donations first hand I'd be happy to stand corrected.

    [2] Fully agreed and, as a historian, I'm of course happy that one of my colleagues will likely get the positions. Though I do hope (and expect) it to be a historian with an interdisciplinary background, which I think is a hallmark of the recent developments in the still-developing field. People like Flake, Givens, Hardy, and Maffly-Kipp jump to mind as "historians" who represent a more multifaceted approach to their studies. I also look forward to the day when a Mormon Studies chair can be filled by a philosopher, literary theory critic, anthropologist, etc.

    [3] I have been thrilled to see moves within the field to address those neglected aspects of past neglect. There have been several works in theology, religious, and lived religion that have been superb in appropriating larger methodological trends and dealing with Mormon religiosity in ways unthought of before. I'm thinking of Givens, Sam Brown, Matt Bowman, Steve Taysom, Spencer Fluhman, and a number of others who are at the forefront of this move. Exciting times, indeed.

    [4] I was mostly responding to Professor Hamblin's statement that one chair does not make a program. I'll willingly admit that I could have been reading too much into that statement, and if so I sincerely apologize. I was mostly pushing back on what I thought was the idea that a "Mormon Studies Program" required a number of professors and a very large self-sustaining cadre of scholars. I hear that type of vision from several people--both who strongly endorse Mormon studies as well as those who are skeptical of it--so I likely had too much of a trigger response. I just wanted to emphasize that I don't want to see Mormon studies programs becoming so large that they only speak to each other; rather, I like the forced necessity that comes from being small because it forces you to always engage with people outside the field and anxious to address broader issues. UVA actually has a larger hope for what they do with their program that Claremont currently does--I'm not at liberty to say what, though--but I sincerely hope it, or any MS program, ever gets so big that it just becomes the parochial, circular debates that have dominated the field in the past. MS is always best when categorized as a subfield, and the programs should reflect that.

    Sorry for the long and rambling response. Hope everyone had a great sabbath!

  8. Could you be more specific?

    Specific on which points? On the degree process? Or job options? On the former, someone doesn't graduate with a degree in "Mormon studies"; rather, they have a degree in Religious Studies but just so happened to participate in a program that broadened their background in Mormonism.

    On the latter question, most graduates will go on to teach at a university level, most likely as a professor of religious studies somewhere. (Virginia has a very high placement rate for their graduates.) They may also go work for various research institutions that promote the study of, say, history or religion. In Mormon circles, there are places like the Maxwell Institute and the Church History Department in SLC; elsewhere, there are institutes on religion and democracy (at UC-Santa Barbara), religion and public life (at Yale), or religion and politics (at Princeton), just to name a few of the most notable and respected examples. Graduates with a religious studies PhD could also work in libraries, archives, or historical societies. They could become editors with journals, magazines, or publishing companies. They could work at think tanks in DC. There are many options that they could take, actually.

  9. Is it possible that Bushman might be considered?

    No. He's well-past retirement age, and is finally enjoying his well-earned respite from teaching and administration duties while working on a few final book projects.

    Plus, it'd be more than a tad odd to hold a chair named in your honor.

  10. What would people graduated from a Mormon Studies program do for a living?

    Well, your degree would be in Religious Studies, and your options would be similar to having graduated from any other top-tier graduate program in religious studies. Many go into academia, but that's not the only option.

  11. True enough. But one professor does not a Mormon Studies program make. That's all I've been saying.

    But that's fine. We'll see what happens.

    I won't press this further, but only to say I don't think Mormon studies should become the type of program you are hinting at. The moment the field becomes so big that they have numerous professors on each faculty, it will descend into the parochial quibbles that dominated earlier generations. Mormon studies is, and always will be, at its best as a subfield in conversation with numerous disciplines and areas. I would hope we don't get many more than the 6 chairs that are either currently in use or in the works. Again, Mormon studies programs are at their best when they are integrated into larger fields without becoming too insular.

  12. Isn't this also outside the Mormon culture and region? Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University

    I don't think it is a big deal but So Cal does not seem to me to be "inside the Mormon culture." While there are a lot of LDS here, we are a tiny minority in a huge population.

    I understand your point, and I fully agree that the Claremont position is hugely influential and important, but there are also a large number of Mormons in Orange County, including a large number of donors. The Virginia position is far away from any large Mormon bubbles, which is what makes it significant.

  13. Maybe they could appoint D. Michael Quinn for a few years, and then when he re-retires, appoint someone up-and-coming.

    I imagine they would want someone involved in mainline academia and who has a reputation outside of Mormon history. As monumental as Quinn's work has been in the (sub) field of Mormon history, huge does not have the credibility outside of it.

  14. Happy to introduce a new bi-weekly column on Mormonism and the public square: Peculiar People: Mormonism Through the World, and the World Through Mormonism (hosted and sponsored by Patheos.com). Run by young faculty members and graduate students of many disciplines, new articles will be published every Monday and Wednesday. Here is the introductory post by Matt Bowman:

    For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

    - Deuteronomy 14:2 (KJV)
    But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

    - 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)
    There are still those who regard us as a peculiar people. Let us accept that as a compliment and go forth showing by the virtue of our lives the strength and goodness of the wonderful thing in which we believe.

    -Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1997
    Welcome to “Peculiar People.” The phrase, of course, is drawn from scripture, and it refers to three things: first, the sense of a community of believers as particular, set apart by their faith, citizens of Augustine’s city of God and aliens in the city of man, exiles in their own country. Second, it refers to the regard which the rest of the world has for those believers: the word here is used to emphasize awkwardness and distinctiveness. Third, it refers to the regard which those believers have for the world: a place functioning according to slightly different rules than those assumed by their neighbors.
    In the Hebrew Bible Yahweh dubs the Jews peculiar; in the New Testament the first Epistle of Peter does the same for Christians. Innumerable small Christian sects have followed in claiming the term. Among them, of course, have been the Latter-day Saints; the Mormons.
    The title is elaborated in the subtitle: Mormonism through the World and the World through Mormonism. Here we hope to unpack all three aspects of the term ‘peculiar.’ How does the world see Mormonism? How do Mormons see the world? More, how might we explore the world through the lens of Mormonism, and see ways in which this particular peculiar gaze might illuminate life in the United States, from the grand drama of presidential elections to the weird fascinations of reality TV?
    Our topic, then, is commentary on culture, politics, the humanities, sports, the arts, and so on through the lens of Mormonism. Every Monday and Wednesday, the column rotates among our various contributors. We’ve got here Mormons of varying degrees of activity, people from various streams of the Mormon tradition, and a few interested non-Mormons to leaven the mix. We aim for generosity, curiosity, and a genuine appreciation for the ways thinking about American life might educate Mormons and non-Mormons alike, and the ways the Mormon experience might enrich American life as well.

    The bios of contributors are found here. I'm biased, but I think it is one of the best lineup of young scholars on Mormonism out there.

    The first post, titled "Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and the Tensions of an 'American Religion,'" explores how Mormonism's Church/State relations shed light on American religious history in general.

  15. I don't think it makes any sense that Joseph or Brigham would have instituted the ban without discussing it with HF first. My best guess on the reason is that ordaining blacks would have provoked such violence from the rest of the country that the church couldn't have survived. But, of course, like every one else, I'm just guessing.

    Right, because divinely sanctioned polygamy didn't cause any persecution.

  16. Yup. She has been the go-to non-Mormon voice on LDS history since the mid-eighties. Though she is well advanced in years now (though she'll hopefully finish her book on post-WW2 Mormonism soon), and there are several other respected non-Mormon scholars gaining stature (Laurie Maffly-Kipp and Sally Gordon being the most prominent, but Seth Perry, Max Mueller, and John Turner are some of the younger generation), her's is an opinion heavily respected within the academy and the Church itself.

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