Framing the American Narrative as a Story of Diversity, Part One: The Survey

This semester I am teaching undergraduate courses in American History to 1876 as well as American Religious History (the entire sweep!). Since both classes are supposed to begin with the “origins” of America, the first few days cover much of the same material. (The third or fourth meetings diverge, of course, as the survey class…

Review: Thomas Simpson, AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN MORMONISM

In his new book, American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism (UNC Press), Thomas Simpson’s thesis is simple: in the dynamic and evolving compromise between the Mormon Church and the American nation, where the former gave up its isolationist policies and outlook in return for the former’s acceptance, universities played a central role. Young Mormon…

Mormon Studies and Edited Collections

Three of the books published this summer that I’m most excited about are edited collections on Mormon topics: Kate Holbrook and Matt Bowman’s Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (University of Utah Press), Patrick Mason’s Directions for Mormon Studies in the Twenty-First Century (University of Utah Press), and Patrick Mason and John Turner’s Out of Obscurity: Mormonism…

Fall Classes, 2016

This is my first semester here at Sam Houston State and I am quite excited to meet all my students and get to know all my new colleagues. In the meantime, I’ve been racing to finish a couple articles, revise my book manuscript based on reader reports, as well as prepare curriculum for my classes….

Review: MacKay and Frederick, JOSEPH SMITH’S SEER STONES

While an undergrad at BYU I had the privilege to work as an intern for the LDS Church’s Historic Sites Committee. For two summers I assisted them in their preparation to restore Joseph and Emma’s home in Harmony, PA. (The home was completed last year.) My primary job was to investigate the translation of the…

Junto Post: Joseph Smith’s 1844 National Convention

Over at The Junto I wrote about the 1844 National Convention planned by the Mormons for Joseph Smiths presidential campaign. This is an outgrowth of my current research on the political culture of Mormon Nauvoo, which I promise is a lot of fun. In this particular post I talk about what these conventions tell us…

Review: Jill Lepore, JOE GOULD’S TEETH

It only takes two long sittings to make it through prolific author Jill Lepore’s recent book, Joe Gould’s Teeth (Knopf, 2016). Which is fitting, because it only took Lepore a year to write it. The book is an extension of her New Yorker essay by the same name, which gives you a taste of the tale’s intrigue…

Why this Presidential Election is Not (Only) About Politics

In today’s polarized and partisan environment, it is sometimes difficult to remember that deep-rooted political debates are a natural outgrowth of democratic system. These divisions are a reflection of a healthy democracy, even if they often leads to frustration. In fact, the American government was founded on the premise of partisan debates. And unless you…

Review: Nancy Isenberg, WHITE TRASH

I’ve already mentioned White Trash twice before, but I’ve been meaning to put up a brief review as well. The book begins with the original colonizing goal of the British: to use the new American continent as a “wasteland” for unwanted people. From the very beginning, then, the idea of a degraded class inhabiting the geography…

The Pedigree of the Enlightenment

I already blogged a little about Nancy Isenberg’s excellent White Trash, and I have a semi-substantive review of it scheduled for Wednesday, but one specific point has been sticking with me since reading the book. It actually dovetails with another excellent book I read this summer, Alison Bashford and Joyce Chaplin’s The New Worlds of Thomas…

The Cyclical Nature of Mormon Persecution

I’ve been slowly making my way through Dan Vogel’s excellent 8-volume(!) annotated History of Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Smith-Pettit, 2015). This is an excellent resource for scholars of early Mormon history, as it helps peel back the layers of one of the most problematic yet significant sources in the…

Two Important Twitter Threads on Trump’s Politics and Danger

I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a presidential campaign unravel like Donald Trump’s has in the last couple days. One of the downsides of the #TwitterAge is that there is smart commentary coming fast and furiously (also dumb commentary, but ignore that), and it is hard to keep track of it. Here are two…