The Long Night of Whiteness

For my book, Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables, click here

Official Declaration #2 is often cast–in its most generous light–as the Church’s efforts to usher in a new era of racial pluralism and globalization.  President Kimball had long dreamed of “when all the world will be converted,” and this was merely the next step.  It speaks to what I call the dispensational interpretation of Official Declaration #2.  Because Peter received a vision to “take the gospel to the Gentiles,” we assume that Official Declaration #2 was merely another incarnation of that. The interpretation has become almost axiomatic.  Continue reading

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Death Cannot Conquer The Hero: Joseph Smith’s Body and The Evolution of an Icon

*Note: This is introductory research and makes no claims to exhaustiveness

The body of Joseph Smith plays a prominent role in Mormon lore about the early Saints.  The early Saints often commented on how they expected the Prophet to look, walk, or talk.  Yet how the Saints perceived Joseph’s body shape-shifted as the worlds in which they lived changed.   Embedded in Joseph’s body (or the memory thereof) are the fears, insecurities, and hopes for the Mormon community in the 19th-century.

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Early Mormons and Anti-Americanism


Happy America day.

General Andrew Jackson, a National Icon in Joseph Smith’s America

The Mormon relationship with the nation-state (particularly, the United States) is a classic example of how the guy/capitalists with the guns/government wins.  The earliest Mormons harbored neutral feelings towards the United States at best, recognizing that the United States would collapse soon enough anyway.   Mormon newsman W.W. Phelps warned that the United States could “well fall to the dust, with the other crumbling nations of the earth.”  Though Phelps appreciated the freedom America provided, he reminded the Saints that the Savior “asked no aid of the governments of the earth to spread the gospel.” While the world chattered on about America’s experiment in free government, the Lord was “setting up his kingdom upon this choice land above all others.”

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Book of the Week: More Wives Than One

Yes, we’re going there.

Kathryn Daynes’ survey treatment of Mormon polygamy, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 is the best of its kind.   Don’t let the relative brevity deceive you; this book has something for everyone.  Rich anecdotes, a solid argument, and groundbreaking quantitative data pepper the book’s lively prose.  Most importantly, she provides verifiable, hang-your-hat-on-it answers on the actual prevalence of polygamy in the Utah territory.  Perhaps you have even heard a quote or two from early Mormon leaders blasting monogamy and imploring the Saints to embrace polygamy now; “it’s how things work in the hereafter, so get used to it.” Yet Mormon polygamy was an inconsistently-applied system of doctrinal principles, at best.  There were success stories, broken hearts, and awkward divorces (which were ridiculously easy to get in territorial Utah–perhaps it’s no surprise that Mormons also settled Las Vegas).  If you are going to read one book on Mormon polygamy, Daynes’ book will give you everything you need to understand the most distinctive feature of Mormon life in the 19th-century.

Mormonism’s Political Neutrality–Part One: Wild Card, 1830-1846

Joseph Smith

When Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, politics were far from his mind. His settlement had been on the frontier. Politicians didn’t visit Joseph’s Manchester settlement much. Nor did its settlers care if they did.
Even still, Joseph’s movements had grand designs. In a little log cabin in Fayette, New York, Joseph promised a small number of newly-ordinaed Melchizedek priesthood holders that Mormonism would eventually become a world religion. Most of the men had received the right to vote only a few years prior. Joseph’s religious movement was to be a populist revolution against a world order gone awry.

 

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