Mormon Studies News: Brave New World Edition

POLYGAMY: EMPOWERING AND SUBORDINATING

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s newest book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights In Early Mormonism, reexamines the power and gender dynamics created by polygamy in early Mormon marriages. In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Ulrich defines plural marriage as “both empowering and subordinating,” which “added to the complexity and adversity” women experienced. Ulrich recently spoke about her work locally at Benchmark Books, and you can watch her presentation online.

A GOOD BOOK WE DID NOT PUBLISH

Ben Park recently reviewed Mary Campbell’s Charles Ellis Johnson and the Erotic Mormon Image, and claimed it “may be my favorite Mormon history title from 2016.” That’s fine, Ben. Just fine. It’s the artistic value of the articles, not the pictures. We know. Anyway. Campbell documents Johnson’s photography career, from erotic nudes to portraits of the First Presidency. According to Park, the book succeeds “not only as a must-read treatment in the sphere of Mormon history, but it is a wonderful contribution to the literature on religion, photography, and gender.” And nice pictures.

A REVIEW OF A BOOK WE DID PUBLISH

Andrew Hamilton reviewed Natural Born Seer for the Association of Mormon Letters, and does a great job explaining how Van Wagoner’s biography of the prophet’s early life is different from previous books: “Van Wagoner did his homework and we are all the beneficiaries of his prodigious research and well-woven narrative in which he paints the milieu of Joseph Smith’s life in greater detail than I have before experienced.”

MORE HISTORIANS!

Community of Christ President Stephen M. Veazey announced the creation of the Church History and Sacred Story Team. Three volunteer historians will lead this history team: David Howlett, Barbara Walden, and Ron Romig. Apostle Lachlan Mackay stated that “history is alive and well, valued, and continues to play a critical role in the life of the church.” Amen to that! Appointed historians will be responsible for researching, publishing, and promoting historical inquiry relating to the Community of Christ.

A NEW HISTORIAN?

Apparently, if you ask Alexa of Amazon Echo “how many wives did Joseph Smith have,” she’ll tell you he had 51. Does Alexa know something we don’t? Maybe she’s confusing Joseph Smith with Baskin Robbins? 31? 51? Someone get Todd Compton on the phone…