Category: Church History

12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part One

Marvin Perkins has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Times & Seasons. Brother Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions. As part of this effort, he has appeared on CNN, among other places. In late 2007, Brother Perkins and former Genesis Group President Darius Gray put out a DVD entitled “Blacks in the Scriptures” that contains four lecture-style scriptural presentations on Blacks and the Bible, Skin Color, Curses, Equality, Priesthood and Blacks as well as a historical look at Blacks and the LDS Priesthood.

History and Identity

I recently read a short essay by Eric Hobsbawm, “Identity History Is Not Enough.” I came across it in his book On History, a collection of essays, but fortunately for you it is available online at the above link (except for the last page, for some reason). Mormonism is not mentioned, but the discussion seems to bear directly on the writing and reading of Mormon history.

Mormons as Minorities

Today I gave a presentation to the William & Mary chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Society on “Mormons as Minorities” in which I discuss some of my research on Mormon legal and political history (and other stuff). If you are interested, you can listen to the presentation here.

“Aviva Levine”: The God of Her Fathers

”Aviva Levine” is the pseudonym used by a woman who told of her conversion to the Church almost 50 years ago. Because I do not know her real name, I cannot update the story she told in 1964, and can only hope that her new life continued as it began. [UPDATE: Justin identifies her as Annette Tilleman Lantos, whom Researcher recognizes as the widow — still LDS — of U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos.] Aviva was born in Hungary in 1932, the daughter of an observant Jewish father and a non-religious, possibly Gentile mother.

What I Learned about Mormon Courts (and the Writing of Mormon History)

For those who are interested in Mormon legal history, my article “Preaching to the Court House and Judging in the Temple” was just published in the most recent issue of the BYU Law Review. (You can download a copy of the article here.) This article provides my own take on the rise and fall of civil cases in church courts in the nineteenth-century. Of course the story of how nineteenth-century Mormons took lawsuits over broken contracts, wandering cows, disputed property lines, and the like to their local bishops has been told before, most elaborately in Ed Firmage and Collin Mangrum’s book Zion in the Courts, which was published about twenty-years ago. Here is where my take differs from previous interpretations.

I Have a Question, 1891

These questions and answers are from the Juvenile Instructor of 1891. Some of them appear in columns headed “Editorial Thoughts,” some of which are explicitly signed The Editor, marking them as the work of George Q. Cannon.

The Double-Minded Essence of Mormonism

A while ago I was reading some sermons from the 1880s in the Journal of Discourses.  The 1880s, of course, is the decade when the anti-polygamy crusades were at their most intense.  Thousands of Mormons were incarcerated, the Brethren were in hiding from the law much of the time, and every time you turned around there was a new law confiscating Mormon property or disenfranchising Mormon voters.  Hence, I was surprised to come across a sermon in which George Q. Cannon spoke unironically of his admiration for George Edmunds.  Edmunds was a Republican Senator from Vermont, and the chief proponent of harsher anti-Mormon legislation in Congress.  Cannon noted that he disagreed with Edmunds and thought him mistaken.  Nevertheless, he said in effect that he thought Edmunds an admirable man of principle.  Cannon’s remarks reveal a deep double-mindedness in nineteenth-century Mormonism, a double-mindedness whose preservation surely counts as one of the triumphs of the modern Church.

En Route to the Field: Missionaries Aboard the S.S. Vestris, 1928

David Henry Huish, born in the Mormon colony of Morelos, Sonora, Mexico in 1906, and Keith Wynder Burt, born in the Mormon colony of Cardston, Alberta, Canada in 1908, met in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City late in 1928, after both young men had been called to serve missions in South America. After finishing their few days’ training in Salt Lake – which did not include language training – the two young men traveled together by train, via Denver, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., to New York City. They spent two and a half days exploring New York, then boarded the S.S. Vestris, a ship of the Lamport & Holt Line (British registry), which specialized in service to South American ports.

(Beehive) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – 1916

In 1916, the Beehive Girls were Latter-day Saint young women ages 14 and 15 (the 12- and 13-year-olds were still in Primary). Older teens, and even the mothers of Beehive Girls, could learn the same skills and earn the same badges of honor, if they chose to. Beehive Girls from Thatcher, Arizona

Jensine Hostmark Grundvig: Zionward

Jensine was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1837, her parents’ youngest child. Her father died when she was 4, her mother when she was 12; she probably spent her youth in the household of one of her much older brothers. In1857 Jensine was married to Frants Christian Grundvig, a young joiner who had come to Copenhagen a few years earlier to learn his trade.

What My Father Did

Richard G. Oman as a young man.

A few weeks ago my father retired after spending three decades working for the Church Historical Department.  I’m no doubt guilty of an excess of filial piety, but I think that the Church and Kingdom are better for the work that he did. 

Forgetting, and History

From Ernest Renan, a French 19th-century philosopher: Forgetting, and I would say even historical error, is an essential element in the creation of a nation, and that is why the progress of historical studies is often a danger for the nation itself.

Monument to the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

While uncounted thousands of visual artists have contributed their skills to building Zion, the Fairbanks dynasty holds a special place in the world of Mormon art history: John B. Fairbanks (1855-1940) was one of the art missionaries sent to Paris by the Church, who came home to paint murals for the temples. His sons J. Leo (1878-1946) and Avard T. (1898-1987) have a catalog that must amount to a hundred or more Mormon-themed works:

Laura Rees Merrill: Replacing Fear with Peace

Laura Liona Rees was born in Brigham City, Utah, in 1876, to LDS parents (her father had emigrated as a convert from England; her mother was born at Council Bluffs). With only an eighth grade, district school education, she studied for and passed the test to be licensed as a grade school teacher. Then she became one of the first women to attend Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) at Logan.

“You Can’t Go to Heaven in Cologne Water”: A Missionary Talk by J. Golden Kimball

If you’re going to be disappointed by a J. Golden talk that doesn’t fit the swearing-elder stereotype, stop reading now. This isn’t that kind of J. Golden story. It is a talk the future Seventy gave to a small South Carolina branch in 1891 during a period when local members – including a woman – had been whipped and shot at, their homes ransacked, and the missionaries ordered out of the county at gunpoint.

Confidential: Have I Got a Deal for You

The original Keepapitchinin printed this “editorial” in 1870: Confidential. We have received the following letter: ”Dear Sir: – a confidential friend having notified us that you can be relied on we send you the enclosed circular.”

A New Book for the Mormon Canon

There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United States.

For Those in the D.C. Area

Richard E. Turley will be speaking at the Wesley Theological Seminary this coming Sunday. Last year I posted a couple of notices about a great series of events that Greg Prince, co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, hosts every few months at his house in Potomac, Maryland.

The Ashtabula Horror

The train known as the Pacific Express (No. 5, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway) pulled out of Erie, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of December 29, 1876, headed toward Chicago. Two locomotives, christened “Socrates” and “Columbia,” towed its two passenger cars, three sleeper cars, two baggage cars, two express wagons, a smoker, and the caboose. The Pacific Express reached Ashtabula, Ohio, early on that snowy evening. When it pulled out of the Ashtabula station, 159 passengers and crew members were aboard.

If You Had Been a Mormon Boy Born in 1915 …

… and if you had lived in the Mormon Corridor or somewhere else with a fully organized Primary, you would have become a Trail-Builder when you turned 10 in 1925, and you would have received one of the new “First Year Books” to track your progress during the year as your learned to do some really cool boy stuff. Your handbook was decorated with the pine tree, your class emblem, and you learned how this tree represented the kind of boy you were learning to be:

A Child’s-Eye View of the Mormon Silk Experiment

Utah’s 19th century silk industry was one of those projects encouraged by Brigham Young to stimulate home production and reduce Mormon dependence on a hostile world. Period literature is heavy on sermons advocating sericulture, treatises on raising worms and the mulberry trees they fed on, and praise for the quantities and artistry of finished articles. What I’ve never seen before is the memoir of a child who assisted in the enterprise.

“The ‘Wild West’ Has Ceased to Be”

David G. at Juvenile Instructor (the blog, not the periodical) has just posted Mormonism’s Unbroken Past: Transcending the 1890 Rupture, noting that 1890 is as historically significant to the Mormons as that year is to the wider history of the West: For us, the 1890 Manifesto marked as great a shift in outlook, traditional Mormon historical thinking goes, as the 1890 “closing of the frontier,” declared in 1893 by Western historian Frederick Jackson Turner, signaled in the development of all that was distinctively American.

The Totality of Mortality

When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it.