The Decline of Something Called “Religion”

Stories of Decline Perry Miller’s exhaustive intellectual histories of Puritan theology were published back in the 1930s and 1940s, and did a lot to revitalize and rehabilitate the Puritans (what? You didn’t know that Puritans have been rehabilitated?).  One of Miller’s primary narrative structures – one he shared, interestingly enough, with his subjects - was the declension narrative: that is, early Puritanism of the 1620s and 1630s shared, as Miller put it, “almost unbroken allegia … [Read more...]

On Mormon Marriage Anxiety

I was 27 when I got married. That was well after most of my friends, whose wedding functions I attended. It was also after two younger sisters had preceded me into marital bliss. When my marriage did occur, it happened to the relief of some distant relations and other parties who had started to worry that I was malingering in bachelorhood. And it was also something of a relief to me, who had started to believe them. For this reason I’m sympathetic about what I and many I’ve talked with perceive a … [Read more...]

Scrap It: An Historian Contemplates Her Imaginary Photo Albums

People approach personal recording keeping in different ways. Historian Rachel Cope, who clearly chose the right profession, kept her dolls as a child so future scholars could see how children’s toys changed over time. I approach record keeping by feeling bad about doing it too little.A year and a half ago, when I learned I had cancer but did not yet know the prognosis would be positive, the weight of two unfinished projects immediately settled in to haunt me. The first was my dissertation. M … [Read more...]

How Old Almanacs Help to Explain the “Nones”

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Huntington Library looking at almanacs from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Strangely, looking at them historically illuminated for me the category “nones” (people who affirm no particular religious tradition). I think of almanacs as the smart phones of an earlier era, or, more accurately, smart phones as the present-day, more interactive versions of the earlier almanacs. These old almanacs are a compact source of numerous layers of information. They g … [Read more...]

March Global Mormon Studies Madness!

 Making up for lost time, Spring 2014 will see a flurry of global Mormon studies explorations with THREE exciting conferences at Brigham Young University (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT, March 6-7), Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA, March 22), and Utah Valley University (Orem, UT, Spring 2014). The program for the "Global Crossroads" conference on March 22nd is already out and features a star-studded cast including Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Joanna Brooks, and Gina Colvin. … [Read more...]

If Your Sexual Thoughts Were Like My Asthma

When my mother was at BYU in the 70's, her bishop came into Relief Society and explained to the college-aged women that they were not dressing modestly enough. Why? Because their knee-length and calf-length skirts were baring their ankles and making it difficult for the men in their ward to control their thoughts. I'm talking about the 1970's, not the 1870's.If you're Mormon, or simply know Mormons, you've probably heard a lot about modesty and the way it's taught. And if you're like me, … [Read more...]

On the Virtues of Old People

Among Mormons, there is a classic short film produced by the LDS Church many years ago, called The Mailbox (1977). The Mailbox tells the story of Lethe, an 83-year-old widow who lives a quiet, solitary existence interrupted only by the visits of a neighborhood child—and pines for news from her children, who never write. It’s a rare example of Mormon tragedy, and even in all of its late-seventies glory, the film still packs an emotional punch today. … [Read more...]

A Song for the Body Electric

A Song for the Body ElectricWhen we moved from Boston to Salt Lake City, my husband had been working as an attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed both medical school and his residency through Harvard, and we all thought of him as a highly competent doctor. But early in his subspecialty training at the University of Utah Hospital, his colleagues stumped him. They asked him to interpret a chest x-ray that presented a condition he had never yet come across — strange … [Read more...]


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