Women | BYU Studies


Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry

Editor Jill Mulvay Derr, Editor Karen L. Davidson,
Hymns by Eliza R. Snow—such as "O My Father," "Behold the Great Redeemer Die," and "How Great the Wisdom and the Love"—evoke powerful religious imagery. In her hymns and in her hundreds of other poems, Snow captured nineteenth-century Mormonism, where revelation and history intersected and Latter-day Saints labored for the meeting of heaven and earth they named Zion. Snow's poems convey many... Read more

Give It All Up and Follow Your Lord: Mormon Female Religiosity, 1831-1843

Women constituted a significant portion of the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during its first decade of existence. However, little historical analysis exists to document the contribution and experience of these women as a whole. Janiece Johnson's work examines the religious experience of some of those early Mormon women through the documentary editing and analysis of nineteen letters written between 1831 and 1843.


Roots and Wings

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Tryed and Purified as Gold: Mormon Women's "Lives"

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Spirit Babies and Divine Embodiment: PBEs, First Vision Accounts, Bible Scholarship, and the Experience-Centered Approach to Mormon Folklore

Eric A. Eliason, a BYU Professor of English who specializes in folklore, explores the phenomenon of prebirth experiences (encounters with spirit children not yet born) and how this folk tradition is deeply enmeshed with official LDS doctrines. Encounters with spiritual beings are reported more frequently in the general population than the more academically respectable mystic or transcendent... Read more

Introduction to the Journal of Emma Lorena Barrows Brown

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Persons for All Seasons: Women in Mormon History

Throughout Mormon history women members have perceived themselves as having a triple identity: They are daughters—individual children of God responsible for making choices and actualizing potential. They are also mothers—partners in the bearing and rearing of the spirit children of God. And third, they are sisters—essential contributors to the Kingdom of God upon earth. While at any moment all... Read more

Emma Lorena Barrows Brown Journal, January 1878-September 1879

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Reading Habits of Church-Active LDS Women

Reading research about members of the LDS church is scarce. While scattered and fragmentary data exist from unpublished studies, little has been made available to public view. These studies cover diverse subjects such as reading skills of missionaries, readability levels of Church materials and scripture, description-evaluations of Church literacy projects, family scripture reading practices,... Read more

The Lion and the Lioness: Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow

He was born in 1801, she in 1804. He was a man known for his humor and gruffness, she a woman known for her sobriety and refinement. He preached unforgettable sermons, though he never learned to spell. She wrote reams of poetry and songs. He provided her a home as one of his wives for thirty years, but she never took his name. Both he and she were passionately devoted to the Prophet Joseph Smith... Read more

Poetry and the Private Lives: Newspaper Verse on the Mormon Frontier

The Exponent published for forty-two years, from 1872 until 1914 when it was replaced by the Relief Society Magazine, official publication of the women's organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amidst a variety of feature and news articles-some local, some lifted, some polemic, and many feminist—there was from the outset poetry. In the tradition of the newspaper in the... Read more

Reading Competency in the Book of Mormon: Abish and Other Model Readers

Michael J. Call draws from the work of such reception theorists as Gerald Prince, who propose that embedded in every narrative are examples of the very act in which the actual reader is engaged at every moment of the reading process, that is, the assimilation and interpretation of observed phenomena. Call proposes that, among others, the story of Abish, servant of King Lamoni's wife, offers such... Read more

Mormon Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain

In the two hundred or more diaries and personal histories of the Latter-day Saint women who lived at least several years in Britain before their migration to the United States or Canada very few said much about their life in Britain. Most of them began their life stories by saying, "I was born at such and such a place; my parents were so and so; we were introduced to Mormonism by the elders in... Read more

Wise or Foolish: Women in Mormon Biblical Narrative Art

Images that are seen as officially endorsed by the LDS Church can affect the way members interpret scriptural stories or historical Church events. For example, LDS artwork often portrays biblical women as simplified, didactic figures. With particular focus on depictions of Mary and Martha, this essay examines the limited instances of groups of women in common LDS biblical narrative art to... Read more

Give Up All and Follow Your Lord: Testimony and Exhortation in Early Mormon Women's Letters, 1831–1839

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. Women composed a significant portion of the early converts who would follow Joseph Smith over hundreds of miles and through the fires of persecution. Lucy Mack Smith, Rebecca Williams, Phebe Peck, and Melissa Dodge represent well the dedication and testimony of such early... Read more

The Significance of "O My Father" in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in two expanded Gospel Topics. ( Topic 1 , Topic 2 ) 'O My Father' is primarily a hymn of orientation. It speaks of place, habitation, sphere, wandering, residing, and dwelling. Eliza R. Snow's first-person declaration of her relationship to God through primeval past, earthly present, and eternal future becomes the... Read more

Native Women on the Utah Frontier

When white Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah, they encountered Shoshoni, Ute, and Paiute natives. This article draws upon Mormon records as well as interviews of natives who knew the old ways. Family and social structure was fluid; native childhood looked permissive to the Mormons. Women had some say in choosing a marriage partner. The article looks at lifestyle during stages of life, marriage,... Read more

Emma and Eliza and the Stairs

Several elements in various combinations comprise one of the most oft-told tales of Mormon biography history. The characters involved are Joseph Smith, his wife Emma Hale Smith, and a plural wife, usually Eliza Roxcy Snow. The place is invariably Nauvoo, the scene either the Homestead residence of the Smiths or the later roomier Mansion House. The time, if specified, is either very early morning... Read more

Be It unto Me

A woman shares her thoughts about having a child despite health challenges and comes to accept whatever happens as a blessing. She considers how Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks the angel one question about the mechanics of it all, and then responds without any evidence of hesitation, "Be it unto me, according to thy word." Read more

The 1890s Mormon Culture of Letters and the Post-Manifesto Marriage Crisis: A New Approach to Home Literature

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. In 1890, Mormon polygamy officially came to an end. This upheaval in the community led to the creation of a distinctive culture of letters, known then and now as Home Literature. It was written primarily for young women but by older women, particularly Susa Young Gates,... Read more

Sisters under the Skin: Utah's Mormon and Non-Mormon Women and Their Publications

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"Provoking the Brethren to Good Works": Susa Young Gates, the Relief Society and Genealogy

Around the year 1918 Susa Young Gates, one of the Latter-day Saint Church's most influential women and one sometimes jokingly referred to as the "thirteenth apostle," was preparing a history of Latter-day Saint women. One chapter indicated that despite male leadership in the Genealogical Society of Utah, it was the women who were most responsible for making genealogy catch on within the Church,... Read more

But Then Face to Face: Culture and Doctrine in Eight Pregnancy Narratives

These pregnancy narratives tell of pregnancy and motherhood as experienced by eight Mormon women. The women, between the ages of twenty-two and seventy, share their feelings about the challenges and blessings of pregnancy. Themes of augmented empowerment during pregnancy, greater agency, increased charity, and transcended stereotypes are present in each narrative. The women reported varying... Read more

Autobiography of Jane Elizabeth Manning James

The short autobiography of Jane Manning James gives us a snapshot of the incredible life of one of the first black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During her nearly seven decades of Church membership, Jane Manning James lived in the homes of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, survived the 1850 cricket crisis, and was baptized for ancestors in the Salt Lake temple after... Read more

Sweet Counsel and Seas of Tribulation: The Religious Life of the Women in Kirtland

The Mormons fused their church leadership, developed their strong sense of community, and organized their unique ecclesiastical structure while they lived in Kirtland, Ohio, from 1831 to 1838. The women worked beside the men as they struggled with preparation for Zion's Camp, built the temple, and experimented unsteadily with securing financial stability. At the same time as the temporal building... Read more

Finding Jane

Melissa Leilani Larson is the screenwriter for the 2018 film Jane and Emma, which depicts the trials and friendship of Emma Smith and Jane Manning James. In this essay, Larson details her journey in writing the film and particularly her search for inspiration as she tries to find Jane Manning James’s gravesite. Read more

Emmeline B. Wells: "Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?"

Two thousand suffragists packed DeGuiver's opera house in Atlanta, Georgia, for the annual convention of the National-American Woman's Suffrage Association on 2 February 1895. Emmeline B. Wells, delegate from Utah, had just concluded her report on the status of woman's suffrage in Utah Territory. With Utah's constitutional convention only a month away, she expressed confidence the convention... Read more

Jane and Emma

As a woman, as a person of color, and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am relieved that I can genuinely recommend Jane and Emma as a quality film—unique, significant, and relevant to the needs of our day. The strength of the film can be found in its story and content, casting and production team, soundtrack, cinematography, and driving purpose. The night of the... Read more

Jane and Emma

The new film Jane and Emma is about the friendship between Jane Manning and Emma Smith. The film is loosely historical, based on the limited writings that Jane left behind, but though some aspects of the story are imagined, the film speaks to many facts about Latter-day Saint history that we know to be true. The film openly acknowledges, for instance, the fact of Nauvoo polygamy and Joseph Smith’... Read more

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a distinguished history professor emerita from Harvard University, has recently released a long–awaited and widely acclaimed work on women and plural marriage in early Mormonism, titled A House Full of Females . She has previously published four books related to Colonial and Revolutionary America, one of which, A Midwife's Tale , won both a Bancroft and a Pulitzer Prize... Read more

Introductory Thoughts on Equality

For some people, an unbridgeable gap stands between the gospel of Jesus Christ and feminism. To them, a Christian feminist or a Mormon feminist is an oxymoron, a person who has not thought seriously about either the gospel or feminism. However, there are devoted Latter-day Saints, both women and men, who consider themselves feminists. They declare that, far from being antithetical to the gospel,... Read more

The Queen of the Night: A Mother Betrayed

It may be difficult for some to understand how any mother could sincerely sing both arias assigned to the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute . Indeed, most critics assume she is insincere, at best. In her first aria, the Queen expresses desperate suffering caused by the abduction of her daughter, Pamina. In the second, Pamina has safely returned to her mother's embrace, only to confronted with... Read more

Feminism in the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

For some people, an unbridgeable gap stands between the gospel of Jesus Christ and feminism. To them, a Christian feminist or a Mormon feminist is an oxymoron, a person who has not thought seriously about either the gospel or feminism. However, there are devoted Latter-day Saints, both women and men, who consider themselves feminists. They declare that, far from being antithetical to the gospel,... Read more

The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women

In 2014, Paula Harline released The Polygamous Wives Writing Club to wide acclaim. Considering the number of past publications on the history of Mormon polygamy, what has made Harline's publication and approach stand out, especially coming from someone who is not a professional historian? From the outset, the title of Polygamous Wives Writing Club is worthy of comment. Harline claims that the... Read more

Mormon Women in Memoir

STEPHANIE NIELSON. Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy. New York: Hyperion, 2012. Reviewed by Jacqueline S. Thursby. ELIZABETH SMART, with CHRISTOPHER STEWART. My Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. Reviewed by Rosalyn Collings Eves. JANA RIESS. Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor. Brewster... Read more

Respect for Life: Abortion in Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

While the indiscriminate taking of life is condemned by major religions and ethical systems worldwide, killing in some well defined situations is less clearly condemned. For example, most major religious traditions put killing in war in a separate category. Euthanasia, which the Netherlands legalized in 2000, is passionately debated. Probably today's most debated means of taking life is abortion... Read more

Joseph and Emma: A Slide-Film Presentation

Mormon producer Buddy Youngreen created "Joseph and Emma: A Slide-Film Presentation" for a reunion of the Joseph Smith Sr. family. The life of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith was one filled with love and admiration of each other but also tragedy and suffering. As the first Prophet and the first "Elect Lady" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph and Emma sacrificed much to... Read more

Pioneer Women of Arizona

Roberta Flake Clayton self-published Pioneer Women of Arizona in 1969 after spending thirty-three years conducting numerous interviews and cataloguing over two hundred biographical sketches of the pioneer women, both old and young, who, beginning in the nineteenth century, came to Arizona by wagon or train and settled communities such as Phoenix, Mesa, Snowflake, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Clayton... Read more

At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

At the Pulpit joins other notable recent books on Latter-day Saint women such as The First Fifty Years of Relief Society , The Witness of Women , the books in the Women of Faith series, and the long-running series of books from the BYU Women's Conference. Each of these seeks to bring the records of female Saints out of relative obscurity. Editors Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook help move this... Read more

Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball's Martyrdom Letters

Vilate Kimball's letters provide a detailed view of the emotional and confused atmosphere in Nauvoo during the two weeks leading up to the murders, as well as give an insight into the impact on the city of the event itself. Heber C. Kimball's journal tell how much Vilate's letters meant to him. In 1844, after concluding to become a candidate for President of the United States, Joseph Smith sent... Read more