BYU Studies

Submitted by madison.brann on Wed, 2019-09-04 10:09
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This podcast contains audio versions of articles published by BYU Studies Quarterly, an academic journal that features articles informed by the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Our articles delve into topics as varied as mathematics, archealogy, history, philosophy, and more while exploring topics of interest to Latter-day Saints.

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    Although it is little known today, the Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall was an important part of Nauvoo’s cultural history. Joseph Smith designated a spot for it near the temple, the spiritual landmark of the city. The Saints completed the building after Joseph Smith’s death, with funds raised by the Nauvoo Music Association. Many musical concerts were given to packed crowds, and the building was used for meetings of the Apostles, the Seventies, and women’s groups. That the Saints living on the American frontier would care to build a large hall that was acoustically designed for music performance is evidence of the value they placed in cultural refinement. The Saints had to abandon Nauvoo, but the events in that hall affirmed the Saints’ love of music that continues today.

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    Who would be more likely to survive in a wilderness setting, beset by starvation and extreme cold? Women or men? Single individuals or families? Would age make a difference? In Sex and Death on the Western Emigrant Trail, Donald Grayson looks at who died and who lived in three mid-nineteenth-century emigrant groups. An emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, Grayson began looking at patterns of death in the Donner Party, publishing his findings in 1990 and 1993. Curious if those same patterns of death were manifest in another emigrant group, Grayson began looking at the 1856 Willie handcart company. Grayson acknowledges my help with his research at the Church Historical Department in the mid-1990s, and he published his findings about mortality in the Willie handcart company in the Journal of Anthropological Research in 1996. In Sex and Death on the Western Emigrant Trail, Grayson re-examines his earlier analyses, adds new ones, and in some instances, reaches different conclusions than his earlier studies. He also looks at death in the Martin handcart company, an entirely new analysis for him. While his earlier publications were written in technical form, in this book, the statistical analyses are woven into the fabric of the story of the tragic disasters. This makes Sex and Death suitably readable for anyone curious about the differences in death and survivorship among groups entrapped in situations like those faced by the unfortunate members of the Donner Party and Willie and Martin handcart companies.
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    Darren Parry is the chairman of the Northwest Band Tribal Council of the Shoshone Nation. On January 29, 1863, the U.S. Army attacked and killed 250 to 500 Shoshone people encamped at the Bear River, near present-day Preston, Idaho, in what was later named the Bear River Massacre. Parry tells how the Native American perspective of this history as he learned it from his ancestors has been ignored but deserves to be represented and respected. Part of the cause of the massacre was that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled in Shoshone land, consumed scarce resources, and complained to the army when the Shoshone took food. Despite that animosity, many surviving Shoshone joined the Church about ten years later and eventually chose to assimilate into a changing community. Parry shows how we can remember and honor the past but not let a tragic past prevent us from success in the future.

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    When Cris and Janae Baird first saw the painting She Will Find What Is Lost, by Brian Kershisnik, Janae felt a deep connection to it because it portrayed what she had felt when she had a severe illness: that God loved her and that ministering angels were with her, extending above her and caring for her. This essay tells how she became ill and dealt with that illness, and how they met with the artist, purchased the painting, and loaned it for display at the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. They are delighted that so many people also feel the spiritually important and universally applicable message of the painting: that God loves us, and we are never truly alone.

    “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken.” (Ezek. 34:16)

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    Robbie Taggart tells of the couch he and some youthful friends found one day and decided to burn. When the fire got out of control, a fire truck showed up fortuitously, and a firefighter with a large extinguisher put out the flames. “So. What’s going on here?” he then asked. “I, uh,” the young Taggart stammered, “we were just being idiots.” The firefighter smiled broadly and said, “Well, sometimes being an idiot catches up to you.” He then walked away. Taggart and his friends, relieved that they were not going to be arrested, drove away at exactly the speed limit, laughing and astonished. This is his first example of grace, a concept he brings to life with two other stories, one about a friend who was rescued from drug-addicted and abusive parents by a caring second-grade teacher. This essay was awarded first place in the 2019 Richard H. Cracroft Personal Essay Contest.

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    Since its founding in 1830, the Church has had three official names (not including the fine-tuning of punctuation that came with the final refinement). Initially, it was the “Church of Christ,” then “The Church of the Latter Day Saints,” and then—as with so many other aspects of the Restoration—a line- upon-line process led to the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This article charts the refining process by presenting a timeline of the Church’s official and unofficial names and explores the nature of human and divine collaboration along the way. In addition to divine revelation, we also see in the construction of the name of our faith the imprints of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, and others.

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    The discovery of a Latter-day Saint artist from a former era, who had almost been forgotten to the vicissitudes of history, is a noteworthy event in the annals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Paul Vorst’s prolific painting career spanned two continents and two world wars during his short lifetime. Vorst excelled in a variety of techniques and media, producing a significant body of work. Glen Nelson’s painstaking research has resulted in an eminently readable monograph compiled from multiple sources in Germany and the United States. It is the first book to explore Vorst’s life and art. Nelson’s monograph is a valuable addition to the cannon of Latter-day Saint art. The book is a fitting tribute to an artist who produced a wealth of paintings, drawings, watercolors, murals, etchings, and sculptures that prominently reflect the social realist movement of his day, but who was almost forgotten in the onward rush of modernism.

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    Moramona is the quintessential history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints in Hawai‘i. The book journeys from the first missionaries arriving on the islands in 1850 and their initial struggles to maintain a foothold there to the eventual success of the Church on the islands. The book concludes with a summary of the current prosperity of the Church in Hawai‘i, including the successes of Brigham Young University– Hawai‘i, the Kona Hawai‘i Temple, and the rich culture of faith among today’s members. Moramona is recommendable to those interested in the Church and its history in the Hawaiian islands. The book accommodates casual reading with its easy-to-read language, elegant organization, and narrated personal histories, but also facilitates detailed study with its glossary, a Hawaiian pronunciation guide, and statistical reports.

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    If you are looking for excellent scholarship and insights into Latter-day Saint scripture, you might want to start with this new compilation from Greg Kofford Books. The authors of the fourteen essays in this volume explore a wide range of topics related to the Latter-day Saint canon and offer a surprisingly consistent level of discourse. Usually anthologies include a few weak links, but that is not the case with this volume.

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    There are two schools of thought about Utah’s participation in the Civil War: it was de minimis, unworthy of comparison to the blood-soaked contributions of nearly all other American states and territories; or, it was larger than the size of its troop commitment to the Union Army and has a record more complex than is often understood. With this book, Utah and the American Civil War, Kenneth L. Alford is squarely in the latter camp, arguing that “the common belief that Utah Territory ‘sat out’ the Civil War is incorrect. Although the territory was removed from the war’s devastation and provided only one active-duty military unit . . . , the war deeply affected Utah and its inhabitants—from pioneers and Union soldiers stationed in Utah to the Native Americans they clashed with throughout the war” (15). What follows to support this assertion is a mammoth, 864-page collection of military documents, ancillary material, and analysis. Because of its clarity and orderliness, Alford’s study is unquestionably valuable to professional historians needing the details of what happened in Utah Territory during 1861–65, but the book also has merit for serious nonacademic readers. A wide range of students will find in these documents a useful, objective account of Utah’s role in the Civil War. Alford’s sense of balance is a good one to have alongside other recent narrative accounts by other historians who view Brigham Young’s leadership during both the Utah War and the national fratricide that soon followed in terms of conspiracy theories and unpatriotic motives.

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    Years after the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844, Amanda Benton Smith, a resident of Carthage, Illinois, and non–Latter-day Saint, recorded an account of the events of that day. Twenty-eight years old and a mother of six, Amanda was the wife of Carthage Grey captain Robert F. Smith—the militia officer responsible for protecting the Latter-day Saint prisoners in Carthage jail and defending the town. In her reminiscence, Amanda describes learning of the Smiths’ deaths and draws a vivid picture of the vacant city as local citizens fled to the countryside in anticipation of the Latter-day Saints’ retaliation, which never came. This account, reproduced in full in this article, presents an alternative viewpoint articulated with courage and even a little humor. If accurate, her sketch also suggests that the leader of the Carthage Greys may not have been complicit in the attack on the jail.

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    This article presents the text of a recently located revelation from Brigham Young: “The word of the Lord that was revealed to his people, by his servant the Prophet seer and Revelator, President Brigham Young, February 1874” (spelling modernized). This revelation, commanding the Saints to live the united order, is all the more remarkable since Brigham Young dictated so few revelations in the voice of the Lord while he was a prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blythe examines the historical context of this revelation and explains why Young was often hesitant to place revelations in the language of the Lord and even more hesitant to place them in writing.

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    The bell that hung briefly in the first Nauvoo Temple was removed when the Saints left and carried to Winter Quarters and then to Utah. During the harsh winter of 1849—1850, the bell cracked and could not be repaired; it was most likely destroyed in an attempt to recast it. The bell that was installed on Temple Square in 1939 and labeled as the “Nauvoo Bell” was not the temple bell but was instead a bell purchased by Michael Hummer that had hung in a church in Iowa City. Hummer’s bell has a fascinating history of it’s own. This article traces the history of both bells by looking at foundry records, steamship bells, journals, newspapers, and the Temple Square bell itself.

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    Volume four of the Revelations and Translations series presents for the first time a transcription and complete photographic reproduction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ holdings of all the manuscripts, grammars, lexical aids, and other resources that were produced in the process of creating the book of Abraham. The publication of these materials comes at a timely moment for the Church and scholars working on the book of Abraham. The internal dynamics that are obvious in the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay on the book of Abraham are less determinative for this publication; the essay includes the claims that some translations “were not based on any known physical records” and that Latter-day Saint and other Egyptologists “agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham,” but it offers no cogent explanation of how this could occur. The publication of the grammar and alphabet materials alongside the text of the book of Abraham, however, represents a process by which Smith explored an unfamiliar language and sought to interpret it even though the language remained unknown to him. For decades, the grammar and alphabet have remained largely on the sidelines, as unwanted byproducts that were potentially produced by scribes who worked on their own. Now, these products are situated within Joseph Smith’s translation process without discrimination, and that will prove to be one of the most important contributions of this new volume.

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    The question at the heart of the exchange between Korihor and Alma in the Book of Mormon concerns knowledge, what Alma calls the real. This essay probes Korihor’s appraisal of the Nephite’s Christian devotion, sorting out the basic stakes of his argument, and then looks at how Alma slowly and belatedly develops a full response to Korihor. Deviating from traditional interpretations of the parable of the seed of faith, Spencer illustrates that Alma effectively displaces knowledge as a core value, arguing that faith not only is not lesser than knowledge but also goes beyond knowledge and produces something of infinitely more value. Although one can know the truth of Christ and know it perfectly, faith continues beyond knowledge because faith aims not at acquiring knowledge, but at eternal life. 

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    While not described as such, Martyrs in Mexico is a continuation of the story that author F. LaMond Tullis gave us in Mormons in Mexico, a classic work, first published in 1987, detailing the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country just south of the United States. Martyrs in Mexico, however, has a narrower scope, focusing on one community—San Marcos, Hidalgo—from which would come well-known individuals of the Church in Mexico. Why did Tullis choose San Marcos? The obvious answer is that this community holds an important place in Church lore. San Marcos was the place of one of the Church’s most remembered (though not necessarily among American Saints) martyrdoms: that of Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales, who were killed by a firing squad of Mexican revolutionaries for, the story goes, refusing to renounce their faith. The value of Martyrs in Mexico is that it tells more than has been told before about Rafael Monroy’s life and family and how they became a dynastic family in the Church in Mexico. It also tells us more about Vicente Morales, who has been the forgotten man in this story of martyrdom.

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    This essay begins with the author’s twenty-six-hour drive from Tucson, Arizona, to Everett, Washington, seven years after he had come out to his parents that he was gay. He was miserable, and his life had become unmanageable. His parents assured him that they would love and accept him, no matter what he decided to do. During his visit in his parents’ home, he arrived at the decision that he would drink his own bitter cup and remain faithful to the covenants he had made. He makes clear in the essay that this is his own decision, not one he is recommending to anyone else. “I am not able to choose whether to have opposite-sex attractions, but I do have a multitude of other choices. As a gay Latter-day Saint, the choice I make again and again is to seek out God’s will for me and then to do it.”

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    In her thought-provoking book, On Fire in Baltimore: Black Mormon Women and Conversion in a Raging City, Laura Rutter Strickling captures the complex conversion narratives of fifteen Latter-day Saint women who found space for themselves within a “historically White church”. The book provides powerful accounts of individual spiritual journeys while also grappling with the racial tensions that implicitly and explicitly influence black and white interaction within and without The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Strickling has written a compelling book that encourages readers to consider the forgotten and the overlooked in order to understand religious belief, practice, and experience within the Church of Jesus Christ. Even though Strickling focuses more on sharing the stories of why these women chose to become Latter-day Saints than she does on interpreting and analyzing the historical meaning and significance of these stories, her work does, both implicitly and explicitly, pose the question: what does it mean to be a Latter-day Saint?

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    When the author’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, he came face to face with his failure as a husband to be her full partner. “The simultaneous, stark revelation of her mortality and my personal failure left me wanting to sit alone in a room and cry my way through the smothering chaos rather than accept the painful transformation that beckoned. But there was no time to stare, heartbroken, at my pitiful soul, dithering about whether I could be remade, whether we could be made whole. I would have to man up. I would need to keep house.” Hereafter follows an account of the author’s adventures in learning to cook and even to bake, as well as his observations on the Last Supper, the sacrament bread, and the priesthood. After being called to serve in an elders quorum presidency, he learned, with his wife’s tutoring, how to bake what he calls the cookies of the priesthood, to share with his quorum members.

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    The Next Mormons is a mixed-methods work (that is, it includes both representative statistics as well as interviews) on the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of millennial members of The Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States. Written by well-known religious journalist Jana Riess, with assistance from Benjamin Knoll, a political science academic, the book is built around the results of their Next Mormons Survey. On the whole, the book is an enjoyable read, reflecting Reiss’s skill as a journalist. The book was clearly written to be accessible, with little reference to major theories in the field of sociology or religion. In a time when Latter-day Saint studies is being covered in a myriad of fields and new Church history books are being published by the dozens every year, the social science of the subject—which is arguably more relevant to the day-to-day lived experience of Latter-day Saints than the history—has remained surprisingly fallow in comparison. Here Riess has taken a large and substantive step into this field.

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    "On a cold, blustery day in 1839 in Commerce, Illinois, a small skiff appeared on the Mississippi River. As rain poured from the sky, a woman huddled in the vessel, trying to protect a two-month-old baby in her arms. She was trying to reach Commerce from Montrose, Iowa, hoping to procure a few potatoes and some flour for her six children. The woman was Mary Ann Angell Young, wife of Brigham Young, who was serving a mission in England. Her plight illustrates the difficulties of the wives of early missionaries in the Church, who were often left to fend for themselves and their children when their husbands left to serve missions. This article details some of the challenges these women faced, as well as later policy changes that helped alleviate the suffering of those left behind when their husbands and fathers served missions for the Church."

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    The Creator Praises Birds
    A poem by J.S. Absher

    Vent and crissum,
    lores and crest and comb: I
    made them all—the
    nares, nape, those
    horny bill plates—I in
    feathered trochees
    made them: peacock,
    sparrow, tufted titmouse,
    flitting jenny
    filled with joy of
    beaking worm, of strut and
    glide, of piping
    double on their
    syrinx. Praise how flock and
    murmuration
    call out warning,
    call to fly or roost or
    call for pleasure:
    See me! Hear me!
    Pur-ty! Pur-ty! Pur-ty!
    Cheer up! Pibbity!

    Praise the brave-heart
    tender fledgling, wobbly
    winging over
    houses, over
    pavement, risking all to
    climb the air by
    beating wind I
    too created, rising
    heavenward in joy.

    This poem won first place in the 2018 Clinton F. Larson Poetry Contest sponsored by BYU Studies.

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    The oil painting Ed’s Slot, Provo River is 34" × 40" on linen canvas and was completed in 1994.I had painted a few fly-fishing paintings prior to this one. I was interested in capturing the brilliant light of sunset as it shines up Provo Canyon at the height of autumn color. I asked my friend Sean, who fishes the river a lot, if he would model for the painting. He eagerly agreed and then bought the original painting. I wanted my painting to be authentic, so Sean taught me a little bit about currents and the textures they make on the river and where to cast a line.

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    “The figure of a well-known and beloved fisherman is missing from the Provo River. When I turn off of U.S. Highway 189 in Provo Canyon, Utah, and cross the bridge to enter Vivian Park, I look upstream and downstream for him, but he isn’t there.” The missing fisherman is President Thomas S. Monson, who passed away in 2018. This reminiscence by his son tells of an avid and successful fisherman who also devoted his life to being a fisher of men. This essay chronicles the adventures of Tom Monson fishing the Provo River, as well as the influence he had on this son and many others who happened to meet him while he was engaged in his favorite pastime.

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    This poem won honorable mention in the 2018 Clinton F. Larson Poetry Contest sponsored by BYU Studies.

    I hear the coal train’s organ note in the distance,
    remember the two pigeons
    circling together and pecking the open ground
    between ties near the tracks.
    They were smoke-purple birds, white-winged.
    And even if a train by some surprise could pass over them
    violently vibrating their walls on either side,
    they would be safe in the center from every moving part,
    not just the unearthly noise of torqueing iron axle.
    These birds probably have learned by now
    that after its spray-painted flanks clunk and clunk and rail away,
    it’s all just the sound of commuters’ engines again
    and a slightly stronger morning sun.

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    In September 1923, all the missionaries of the Eastern States Mission gathered in Palmyra, New York, for a conference commemorating one hundred years since Joseph Smith had a vision of Moroni and first saw the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon came. Before that date, the elders of the mission had spent the summer doing “country work”: preaching in rural areas without prearranged lodging, patterned after the ministries in the New Testament. The conference was held under the direction of mission president B. H. Roberts and was attended by President Heber J. Grant, other Church leaders, and local members of the Church. This article tells this history and tells how this event reinforced the Church’s emphasis on its founding story, reaffirming the importance of the Book of Mormon.

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    A message from BYU Studies editor-in-chief Steven C. Harper, welcoming listeners to our new audio series.

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