I’m working on a book project that I’ve tentatively titled Adam and Eve in America: The Genesis of Mormon Identity. Hopefully I’ll finish that sometime soon.
A collection of my essays came out in 2013 from Kofford Books. Here’s the cover:
My article called “‘Redeemed from the Curse Placed upon Her’: Dialogic Discourse on Eve in the Woman’s Exponent” appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Mormon History. The essay explores the dialogue that women had about gender roles during the Victorian era and early twentieth century in the pages of the Woman’s Exponent. While today there is a universal agreement that Eve did the right thing and we speak of her with rhetorical zeal as “the crowning of [God’s] glorious work” and “His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final work before He rested from His labors.”
However, in the nineteenth century, priesthood leaders took a much less positive view of Eve. While they agreed that she did the right thing, most felt that she did it for the wrong reasons. James E. Talmage captures the nineteenth-century Mormon priesthood leaders’ position on Eve in his 1899 book The Articles of Faith: “our first parents are entitled to our deepest gratitude for their legacy to posterity—the means of winning title to glory exaltation, and eternal lives.” However, Talmage stressed, while Eve “fulfill[ed] the foreordained purposes of God . . . she did not partake of the forbidden fruit with that object in view, but with the intent to violate the Divine command, being deceived by the sophistries of the serpent-fiend.”[i]
To discover what women were saying, my research assistant, Emily Simmons, and I spent hours going through the Woman’s Exponent–a publication put out by LDS women, primarily for LDS women, but with a goal of correcting East-coast prejudices about polygamy and to lobby for women’s rights. Women’s rights and polygamy may seem like strange bedfellows, but these LDS women saw polygamy as creating the most egalitarian homes possible. When I explored women’s views within the Exponent, I discovered a respectful dialogue that demonstrated quite a large realm of disagreement.
Among these women, a dialogue took place about the status of Eve that reflected their own questioning about the status of women, both in the world and in the Church. Some reflected the views of Priesthood leaders and saw Eve as duped, others saw her as taking a bold step toward human progression. Some saw her as a temptress, while others saw her as a goddess. Nevertheless, they most unanimously believed they inherited Eve’s curse and sought ways to rid themselves from its consequences.
That this discussion has relevance to our times, one only need look at one of their greatest concerns: That women might start wearing pants!
[i] James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith (1899; reprint, Salt Lake: Signature, 2003), 72-73.
My article “‘One Soul Shall Not Be Lost’: The War in Heaven in Mormon Thought” appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of the Journal of Mormon History. In the essay I look at the war in heaven from five different angles:
First, I examine the historical antecedents of the war in heaven, its origins and evolution of the narrative in Western religious traditions. Second, I explore the development of the narrative in Mormon thought and its literal level of interpretation. Third, I discuss ways Mormon use the war in heaven to convey a moral message. Fourth, I examine in some detail the ways Mormons employ the narrative as an allegory to explain current events, illustrating the Mormon worldview engaging in increasing conflicts about agency. Finally, I conclude with a brief look at how the narrative is used to portray future prophetic events of Church history.
It’s a fun exploration of how scripture can be used in so many different ways.