In this important episode, Russell Stevenson sits down with historian Brian Hales, author of the three-volume series, Joseph Smith and Polygamy. We talk about the concept of “dynastic marriage,” sexuality in Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, and the Women Who Told Joseph Smith “No.” Hales offers his own feelings and concerns about polygamy and helps Saints navigate their way through the confusing–and ambiguous–documentary trail. Listen in!
It is the foundational event of Mormonism–or at least that is what it became. Beginning in 1832, Joseph Smith began to publicly talk about a visionary experience he had in a grove of trees nearby his home in upstate New York. However, what he told audiences differed from year-to-year in what feels to be substantial detail. Is this evidence of rank fraud? Or, as his supporters say, does it indicate the natural human tendency to emphasize/omit details of a story based on one’s audience or perhaps his own changing understanding of the importance of certain theological principles. Brittany Nielson and I speak with LDS Church Historian Dr. Stephen Harper about his book, Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts. Harper currently works on the Joseph Smith Papers Project production team for the LDS Church.
In this podcast, Kate Kelly Harline takes on the role of interviewer and discusses Russell Stevenson (author of Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables and author of the forthcoming, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Documentary History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013). We discuss the meaning and ramifications of the LDS Church’s new statement on “Race and the Priesthood.” Obviously, we present this perspective from the perspective of historical analysis. Towards the end of my recent interview on RadioWest, one of my co-hosts specifically distanced himself from that perspective, and I respect his right to do so. However, as the statement was an historical statement, we have little choice but to employ historical methods in assessing it–even if it does not fit neatly into talking points or agendas. We trace the origins, course, and trajectory of the Saints’ relationship with the black community and racial exclusion. Tune in for the conversation at the Mormon History Guy podcast.
*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.
Happy America day.
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.”
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.