I’m excited to introduce a pair of amazing historians: Dr Richard Bushman, and his wife, Dr. Claudia Bushman. We’ll learn more about their backgrounds in Mormon history. Claudia is the incoming president of the Mormon History Association meetings coming up next month in Logan, Utah. She’ll give us a preview of the conference.
Mormon History Association
Claudia: About the Mormon History Association, I can say a number of things. I think, this it the 57th or the 67th year. I think it’s the 57th year of this operation. I mean, it’s been going on for a long time. Leonard Arrington started it with a number of people, Richard was one of them. But, of course, in those days, it was not considered suitable that people like me, females, would go to such a thing. So, I stayed home, but heard all about it. It was gathering people who were doing Mormon history, and also people who were interested in Mormon history. We’ve had this annual conference ever since. This year, seeing as the President has something to say about it, we’re including quite a bit of our cultural history, as well as our religious and political and other kinds of history. So, we’re opening with a concert, which will be very nice, choral, String Quartet, the music of Leroy Robertson. Then, we will also have art exhibitions, several, and we will also have quite a few panels that talk about arts, and that’s read very broadly, written things, painted things, created things in many other ways. So, anyway, that’s my great contribution is that I said, “Well, if I’m going to be president, we have to do some cultural history, as well. It’s going to be great.
GT: Nice. Now, remind us, for those people who don’t know, when is it and where is it?
Claudia: This is going to be at Logan, Utah, which has been wanting the Mormon History Association to come back for some time. They have a lot of fans there, and it will be in June, from the evening of June 2, to June 6. That will include an after-conference tour, as well as all the events that are taking place at Utah State University, which is a very ideal location for us with all those classrooms. We have more panel discussions this year, more speeches than have ever been on the program before. So, we’re growing in lots of ways.
GT: Do you have to be a member of the Mormon History Association to attend?
Claudia: Yes, you have to join up to attend, and you have to pay a membership fee and a conference fee. But, it’s well worth it, of course.
GT: I think you can actually attend and not be a member, but it makes sense to become a member, because it’s just the same price, basically.
Claudia: This is a group that thinking people and just people, in general, really enjoy being part of and come back year after year.
GT: It’s my favorite conference. I always rank Mormon History Association, I put that as number one. I put John Whitmer as a close second, and then Sunstone kind of a distant third. But, I love them all. So, this is fantastic. Can you give us a preview of the conference and what people should have to look forward to?
Richard: One of the speakers at lunch is Laurel Ulrich, who you may know, is a very eminent Latter-day Saint historian, and she’s begun working on her upbringing in a small Idaho town. She is going to talk at lunch about her life growing up as a girl in Idaho. Jared Farmer is also going to speak. He’s the one who wrote the book about Mount Timpanogos on Zions Mount. He’s a marvelous ecological historian. Then, we have a distinguished lecturer from Yale who’s coming in to give a talk on a short history of the Mormon smile.
GT: The Mormon smile? That’ll be interesting.
Are you going to attend? If you’ve attended, what are your thoughts?
Dr. Claudia Bushman helped re-start a Mormon women’s publication called Exponent II. She will talk about how she did that as a busy graduate student, mother, and how Church leaders felt about the Equal Rights Amendment.
Claudia: He said, “Well, why don’t you start a newspaper?” This was not a completely new idea, because we were all aware of the Women’s Exponent, which we had copied some ideas from. So, the next big meeting, I said, “Don’t you think we ought to have a newspaper?” Some of the people who loved to do projects by this time said, “That’s great. Let’s do it.” We even had a person that was primed to be the editor, because she had worked on a newspaper for a few summers. That was big experience, as far as we we’re concerned. She was president of our Relief Society and had a baby. She said, “Well, I’ll just have to talk to Bishop to see if he’ll release me from the Relief Society.” But he wouldn’t do it. So, he wouldn’t let her out of it. So, when she came back to the meeting, she said, “I can’t do it. The bishop won’t let me out, so I just can’t be the editor.” Somebody turned to me and said, Well, you’ll just have to do it.” So, I said, “Well, can’t it wait until I’ve done this and this and this? I was in graduate school and various things. They said, “No, we’ve got to start right now,” and so we did. We started a newspaper, just our little housewives’ group. We had a very small amount of money. Actually, Leonard Arrington had been encouraging us doing all kinds of things. He had even given us a little bit of money to pay some of our library fees, for doing one thing or another. So, we decided we would start this newspaper, and using this grant from the Church, we sent the first issue out free to everybody we knew. We knew it had to be cheap, because we were all poor. So, we did it on newsprint. It was a pretty good little paper. It was not bad.
GT: What year was this, approximately?
Claudia: It was 1971. We sent out stacks to everybody that we knew. It had to be cheap, as I said, because we were poor. So, we printed on newsprint. We decided we’d sell subscriptions for $5 a year, and we’d send it out to your buddies, give this out to your friends for free, and then tell them to subscribe. By the end of the year, we had 500 subscriptions.
Claudia: We were in business, and it was great. People loved it. We never thought we could do a thing like that. But, of course, you start to do it, you can do it. It was before the good days of what you can do on a computer these days. We pasted up. It was typed by somebody who used her husband’s office typewriter after hours. Every time she made a mistake, she’d started a new line over. So, we had the whole thing in ribbons, pasted up.
GT: Oh my goodness.
Claudia: It was wonderful. We had a great time. People started taking us seriously. It was really nifty. It’s still in business, more than 40 years later. How about that?
She shares more on the history and what they did. What are your thoughts on Exponent II?
Saints Volume 3 is coming out soon, part of the first update of Church history in almost 100 years. But did you know that back in the 1970s, Dr. Richard Bushman was part of a project to update Church history? The project was scuttled, and Richard gives more details on that project.
Richard: Yes, I was involved. We dreamed up the idea of having a new comprehensive History of the Church, which had been published in its finished form in 1930. [The year] 1980 was approaching. So, that would be the 150th anniversary. So, it seemed likely that a new comprehensive history would be suitable, especially because there are so many young historians coming along a lot of new information. So, Leonard asked me to do the first volume, which was history of Joseph Smith’s life up to 1830. So, I produced that and got it in in time for the deadline. Milt Backman had submitted his volume, which was on the Kirtland period. His went through and was going to be published. Mine got approval from the Church Historian and in his staff.
Richard: But, somewhere along the line, someone decided this was not suitable. I mean, the whole project. So, I went with Leonard once when I was in Salt Lake to Deseret Book, where he got the news for the first time that the project was being cancelled. This was difficult because we had all received a substantial advance and everyone was laboring away, and to have this project scuttled really broke Leonard’s heart. I never felt as bad about it as he did, because a series like that leads to a lot of complications. You’re in the situation, where if the Church reads, a manuscript and doesn’t like it, and wants to have it changed, they then come off as censors, you know, they’re dictating to the authors what they should write. That’s uncomfortable for the authors, and it’s uncomfortable for the Church, and it’s unseemly. On the other hand, if they just let the authors do whatever they want, then who knows what you will get? So, it’s almost a very difficult situation, and I don’t like to be in that situation. I want to write what I want to write. So, I felt okay about canceling the series.
Richard: We all went off and got our books published by other presses. I went to University of Illinois Press. They, at first, were hesitant to publish it, because it struck them as very much an apologetic work. So, they were unsure. Johns Hopkins had turned it down for that reason. But, the University of Illinois finally sent the manuscript off to, I think it was George Marsden, some eminent scholar. He wrote back, he says, “Well, if we publish books from Marxist point of view, from a gay point of view, why not from a Mormon point of view?” I came under the weirdos category of authors. Anyway, the book got published.
GT: What was the name of the book?
Richard: Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism.
Richard: That was 1984.
GT: So, 1984, at the time, it was seen as a too apologetic. I know you have another book, Rough Stone Rolling, that I think gets labeled as both too apologetic and too critical. How much of the first book that was too apologetic is in Rough Stone Rolling, would you say?
Richard: The interesting thing about it is that there were parts of that book that were a little disturbing to people. One was that I talked about how the Smith family were money diggers, which the Church had always denied.
GT: The church probably didn’t like that back in the 70s, right?
Richard: They were uneasy about it. That may have been why they didn’t publish it, under Leonard Arrington’s Church History Office.
Were you aware of this scuttled history? What do you think of Saints? Is it better than the last 1930 official history the Church released?
“The Saints” is better than the 1930 version of Church history, and the Bushman’s efforts generally are better than previous efforts at Church history. Having said that, I find Richard Bushman to be a disappointing and tragic character. I’m no physiologist but he seems torn between two worlds. On one hand, he wants to tell a more open and honest story. On the other hand, he is virtually on the Church’s payroll and is no longer in a position in which he can treat its history objectively.
Back in 2016 (I believe) he said “the historical narrative the LDS Church has been teaching for decades is not true”. I appreciate his honesty yet I can’t quite reconcile that statement with his partnership with Church leadership. I’m trying not to judge and I don’t really expect a 90-year-old man to start a revolution. But he appears to be very conflicted to say the least.
From your comment, it appears you are an armchair psychologist. Real pyschologists would not post such an unethical comment without examining the so-called patient in question.
“he is virtually on the Church’s payroll.” This is grossly false.
As for your comment “the historical narrative the LDS Church has been teaching for decades is not true,” Richard discussed that exact quote and it will be posted next week here. He says that critics (like yourself) mis-use that quote all the time and he resents it. See https://youtu.be/9i2O-iXpHIM
I think Bushman is right about the 16-volume series that was initiated under Leonard Arrington. Better that the volumes came out as stand-alone volumes published by independent presses rather than as part of an official or semi-official series published by Deseret or the Church. And most of the volumes were, in fact, eventually published. The Church at least deserves some credit for initially supporting the idea and, of course, for funding it (the authors were allowed to keep their advances, I believe). Bushman’s Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, was a real step forward: a candid history (troubling facts not excised or ignored) from a mainstream LDS historian.
Confusion about Bushman’s “dominant narrative” comment is understandable. Bushman’s answer was in response to an audience question: “do you see room within Mormonism for several different or multiple narratives of a religious experience?” Bushman’s answer (and I’m digesting it a bit) was that the “dominant narrative” (aka the “orthodox narrative”) needed to be updated to “absorb all this new information” that LDS historians were producing. There is nothing objectionable about that. Of course historians understand that any history of this or that needs to be updated and revised every few years to take account of new information and also to take account of new historical perspectives that we bring to our study of the past. The Arrington project to issue a new church history series was intended to do exactly that.
More interesting is that the actual question asked by the audience member was not really addressed: Can we have several different narratives of LDS history? No doubt “A woman’s history of the LDS Church” or “An African-American’s history of the LDS Church” or “A Native American’s history of the LDS Church” would look and sound much different than the orthodox LDS narrative, which is something like “A white, middle-class view of LDS history, as edited and approved by its old, white, male leaders.” What is surprising is that the new Saints volumes actually try to do this to a certain extent by including stories related by people at the margins of LDS history as well as in the mainstream. The Church deserves more credit than it is getting.
I have to admit that I just don’t trust what the Church produces for its history.
Saints is an improvement from what used to be, but that’s not saying much. I don’t see it as a source that non-Mormon historians would consult at all to inform themselves of history. Of course, it is a source that non-Mormon historians would consult to inform themselves of how believers are presenting Mormon history, but that’s a different question. That it is whitewashed and sugarcoated to shelter believers from the more damning aspects of Mormon history and favors explanations of Mormonism and Mormon history as this unquestionably holy endeavor are immediately apparent to even the most casual of historians of Mormonism and those interested in Mormon history. Saints spends several pages addressing how Joseph Smith carried the Golden Plates through the woods several miles and fended off robbers as if that actually happened and was even remotely possible. It can be derived from Joseph Smith’s description of the plates that they had to have weighed at least 40 pounds (according to apologist explanations too, higher estimates are over 100 pounds). That Smith could carry something that heavy, and awkward, running from assailants on uneven terrain through the woods on a gimpy leg for some 2 or 3 miles is preposterous. Tall tale, period.
Bushman is a great historian. Of that I have no doubt. But he has long walked a fine line and has long felt pressure from his believing community to validate their beliefs. Fact is, he couldn’t have gotten where he is nor achieved the status he achieved without appearing as a believer (and I think he genuinely is one). He deserves credit for bringing to light many unflattering truths about Mormonism and publishing about Mormonism in secular academic presses. But throughout Rough Stone Rolling he can come off a bit rosy in his explanations of the Mormon past all the while presenting evidence that I think your average non-Mormon historian would interpret more dismissively. I think Dan Vogel’s history of Joseph Smith is more fair and true to form.
I agree with josh h that money and status has colored and compromised Bushman’s approach to Mormon history. By contrast, Vogel is a salt-of-the-earth historian if I’ve ever seen one. In a Mormon stories podcast Vogel talked about he bags groceries to get health insurance. Bushman does care about what leading believing figures say about him and shapes his narrative in part in order to avoid offending them. Vogel, on the other hand, has long been dismissed and insulted by believers and he still writes regardless.
Rick B: I have read from various sources (including right here on Wheat & Tares I believe) that the Bushmans have participated in firesides and other Church-sponsored events at the invitation of the Church. This is what I meant by “virtually on the Church’s payroll”. Am I wrong about this participation / partnership with the Church by the Bushmans? I don’t think I was “grossly false” in my assertion at all. Now, if I had said “the Bushmans are literally on the Church’s payroll” you’d have a point.
“money and status has colored and compromised Bushman’s approach to Mormon history.”
I just don’t understand how anyone can believe this statement. Please justify. What money and status?
I remind everyone that Bushman is Harvard trained Ph.D. Following a brief stint teaching at BYU, he taught for about a dozen years at 3 well-renown eastern institutions including Boston University, Delaware State University, and Columbia University (Ivy Leaage school.) They are the ones who gave him the majority of his money and status. Bushman’s non-LDS histories are welcomed by colleagues and he uses the same techniques. He paid his dues and uses the best historical techniques.
As for Dan Vogel, I really like him. His approach was that he enjoyed doing history and he wasn’t interested in the trappings of a masters degree or Ph.D. Originally he wanted to be a high school history teacher, but he understood that he LOVED doing research. He wanted a job that didn’t require much mental work so he could really focus his energies on historical research. Hence he became a stocker in a grocery store to pay the bills and get insurance so he could devote his full time to research. Plus his wife, as a teacher, had good insurance benefits.
I can respect both Vogel & Bushman. I don’t understand the need to break into camps and disparage the other. Both are remarkable historians. Both are quite personable (I probably get along better with Vogel because we’re closer in age), but I have found both to be enjoyable, remarkable historians, and there is absolutely no need to discredit either one of them. I greatly respect both of them.
I deeply respect the work of Richard and Claudia. But I think you were wrong for deleting josh h’s comment. The Bushman’s can certainly handle the criticism, even if it is unwarranted. And deleting is a dangerous business. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Bushman’s. They have been an important force in how the Church has evolved.
Josh. Payroll means you get paid. Firesides are not paid. There is no way Bushman can be considered a payroll employee unless you count blessings in heaven as some sort of payroll. I still find “virtually on the Church’s payroll” a wholly innacurate statement.
Heck, John Hamer has been PAID by the LDS Church for the amazing maps and graphics he produces. He is “literally on the Church’s payroll.” Do you find him “to be a disappointing and tragic character?” Do you think John Hamer “is no longer in a position in which he can treat its history objectively?”
I mean that’s the sort of polemics I despise. Attack Bushman’s work. Fine. But cut the ad hominems and guilt by association. I hate it when Church members disparage Vogel’s fine work, and I hate it when critics disparage Bushman. Both men should be treated with much more respect by those who disagree with them. They are both remarkable historians who are unfairly disparaged.
(And Oh, by the say, Bushman did admit he should have handled Joseph’s polygamy better in Rough Stone Rolling. I’ll take that as a fair critique, but everything else about his “lack of objectivity” is bad faith arguments and guilt by association. It needs to stop, just as orthodox need to quit attacking Vogel for his lack of Ph.D. These arguments are the definition of ad hominem.)
I never deleted Josh H’s comments.
Correct: Rick B did NOT cancel or delete me.
This is so funny. The main criticism of my post is that I said “virtually on the Church’s payroll”. So let me just fix this by rephrasing: I think that because the Bushmans work so closely with the Church (firesides, etc.) and have a strong relationship with LDS leaders, it’s probably more difficult to deal with Church history objectively than if those activities and relationships didn’t exist. OK?
I adore the Bushmans. I appreciate all their hard work. Of course there is some personal bias in their works just as there is personal bias in mine. And while I ultimately came to a different conclusion than they have, I respect them nonetheless. Every time I hear them speak, they strike me as genuinely good and kind.
The hard part isn’t the Bushmans themselves. It’s how members weaponize the Bushmans. I’ve been told many times by well-meaning people that the Bushmans are extremely educated and know more than I do and they still believe so what’s my problem? There’s the rub (which I’ll repeat, is not in the least the Bushman’s fault whatsoever).
Josh, I appreciate the revision. It is MUCH better.
However, it still suffers from tribalism. Is there ANY faithful scholar for whom you have respect? If not, you are a partisan. I have tried REALLY hard to avoid partisanship. Your sentiment, while improved, is just as bad as the orthodox writing off Vogel or Tanner or Southerton or any other person because these people aren’t in the proper tribe.
I try to get all sides here. I try to talk to everyone. I don’t write off anybody for not being “faithful enough” or being “too faithful.” I respect both faithful and critical scholars. If you don’t, you’re a partisan, and I care little what you have to say.
I think it is instructive here to give a few quotes from Bushman, to refute the notion that “the Bushmans work so closely with the Church (firesides, etc.)” that they can’t do “Church history objectively.”
During this interview, Bushman gave Fawn Brodie quite a compliment. Can you imagine ANY Church leaders saying what Bushman said?
I’d love to hear any GA say that in General Conference, or any public setting for that matter.
Concerning “Rough Stone Rolling,” Bushman said,
So yeah, he has access to GA’s that you and I don’t have access to. But “some people really didn’t like it,” and the book “was shocking to people,” and “it really was disruptive. So, it’s had a checkered history.” Some even “left the Church because of the book.” So how on earth can anyone justify that a book which causes people to leave the church is “too apologetic?”
As I stated in my question leading up to his answer, “Can you talk a little bit about some of the critical reception? It seems like some people love it. Some people call it an anti-Mormon book. It was sold at Deseret Book. Can you talk about all the different receptions it’s had? ”
The fact that it is seen both as too apologetic and too critical I think shows how balanced the book really is. And people who won’t pay attention to the “too critical” portions just show their own personal bias and partisanship.
Chadwick, I understand the Bushmans are weaponized by members. But so is Vogel, Southerton, Tanner, etc. People (especially in social media) don’t argue well. I’m trying to have better conversations, but it’s hard because people love to weaponize their favorite scholars. And the scholars usually have little to do with the weaponization.
I just want everyone to know I defend Bushman, Vogel, Hales, Tanner, Perego, and Southerton with equal vigor from bad faith, ad hominem attacks. I honestly respect each and every one of them, and they have all been incredibly kind to me, whether I agree with their conclusions or not. And I think all of them have good points and bad points, TBH.
I think this quote from Bushman bears repeating.
“CES was opposed to it” doesn’t sound like an apologetic book to me.
Let me just say, I appreciate the Bushman’s work.
The fact is, history is messy—whether it is U.S., world or church history.
The problem I see is that church leaders claim divine inspiration and guidance—to the point that they don’t(rarely)make/acknowledge “mistakes.” Or, if there are “mistakes” it is because they are mortal. (Of course). But they rarely, if ever, set the record straight.
The church sets a high bar for truth claims but rarely/never acknowledges they failed.
If one claims the highest standard of truth—one ought to live up to it, including acknowledging when there are mistakes and errors in judgment.
I’m personally very grateful for The Exponent II and I think Claudia and everyone who had a hand in putting it together totally rock. As a straight, white, cishetero Mormon man, that blog has given me plenty of opportunities to consider perspectives different from my own and puncture some of the myths and expectations that I absorbed growing up.
Rough Stone Rolling helped me stay in the church at one point in my life and it helped me exit at another. I think any efforts to be more transparent, more honest, and to confront the ambiguities and messiness of church history are praiseworthy even if they’re conflicted or even half-hearted (though I don’t think I would describe RSR that way). So I’m grateful to both of these people. Power couple.
I had a SP that refused to read Rough Stone Rolling. He said he didn’t want to know those things about JS, and the book had anti-Mormon stuff in it about Joseph.
Rick B, to clarify what I meant by “money and status.” Clearly Bushman is an accomplished historian outside the topic of Mormonism. But Mormonism has given him an extra boost and extra standing. Were he a non-believer or ex-believer, I can’t imagine that Rough Stone Rolling and other books on Mormonism would have been so promoted. If anything, the church community (including BYU and Deseret Book) wouldn’t have promoted his books. At worst, apologists would have written endless screeds against whatever he said. But he has risen to his position of respect in the Mormon community because he has treated thorny issues somewhat softer than others. With his position of respect among believing Mormons, he has been enabled to go on speaking tours, chair Mormon Studies at Claremont, sell more books, etc. Imagine if he had come out earlier in his life as a non-believer. He would have been ostracized by the believing intellectual community. His books on Mormonism wouldn’t have sold as well. Even worse, what if he had come out as a non-believer just before writing Rough Stone Rolling? He could have suffered damaged relationships in his family, lost friends he had had for decades. As he has accumulated status in Mormonism, the costs of saying something the believing community doesn’t like have risen.
Bushman and Vogel are of course both fine historians that we should consult when trying to inform ourselves of Mormon history. I simply think Vogel writes better history on the topic of Mormonism than Bushman.
I think maybe your comment was directed to me, not Claudia Bushman =). Or perhaps not.
Otherwise I just wanted to acknowledge that I agree with your comment and the work you do to give these researchers a platform for us to learn about them and their work.
Ah, you’re right Chadwick. Sorry about that. Reading too fast I guess! (I’ll fix it.)
John, you are welcome to like Dan Vogel better than Bushman. I have great respect for both men. However, it seems to me that your critiques could just as easily be said by an orthodox member. For example,
I mean there is nothing there that a Vogel critic hasn’t said. It’s a polemical argument, not a factual one.
“Faithful history” is an oxymoron. There’s no other way to slice that cheese. That said, I’m sure there’s a tie-in with crocs & 7-11s. Waiting…
“Faithful history” is an oxymoron. There’s no other way to slice that cheese. That said, I’m sure there’s a tie-in with crocs & 7-11s. Waiting…
Rick B, I fail to see how the same could be said for Vogel. The believing Mormon community has a university (a half a dozen universities), access to good money (indirectly) from the church to study Mormonism, a vast network of intellectual believers who are well connected to money and the privileged, and an audience of millions of believers, many of whom actively seek out literature that confirms preexisting belief biases. The non-believing and ex-believing world of Mormonism has very shaky infrastructure at best. There is a reason that Bushman has a comfy retirement package and esteem from the world of Mormonism and Vogel doesn’t. Nevermind the fact that people of reputation and status in Mormonism have much higher costs imposed on them than non-Mormons and ex-Mormons who join or rejoin. Ex-Mormons and non-Mormons don’t have hundreds/thousands of buildings that their members meet in weekly to reaffirm belief. They don’t have an organization with $100 billion+ to support them. They don’t have a social structure built around them that subjects them to myriad litmus tests of belief and activity in the organization. They don’t have any leadership infrastructure or hierarchy. They either aren’t married to spouses and have kids or parents who have been conditioned for decades to feel shame for believing the wrong things and to react very strongly and negatively to loved ones who doubt or reject traditional beliefs, or they’ve already been subjected to shame, ostracism, and divorce (or have gone through the process with believing loved ones and have come out socially intact) and nothing more to lose by expressing skepticism in traditional Mormon beliefs.
I simply think that the tendency for objectivity towards Mormonism is greater among those who have never been members. Between ex-Mormons and believing Mormons, I think the former is a bit more objective. The pressure system of Mormon culture has long skewed and continues to skew the views and approaches of the latter who tend to self-censor because of fear about how believing friends, family, and colleagues might react if they say or write something that could be construed as too critical or too doubting. Sure, the believing intellectuals can be impressive scholars, but on the number of controversial, litmus-test issues, their ability to be objective just seems compromised. And that is the sense I get from Bushman. Amazing historian from whom we all have much to learn. But I don’t think he quite passes the test when it comes to the controversial issues. Consider what he has to say about seer stones in By Common Consent blog in 2015 (https://bycommonconsent.com/2015/08/05/on-seerstones/):
“Why then does the picture of a brown, striated stone trouble us? I think because it crosses a boundary we had held on to between religion and superstition. We have known about the gold plates and the angel and the Urim and Thummim long enough to assimilate them into respectable religion. Those are the ways of God. On the other side of the boundary are witchcraft and spells and tarot cards. Those are silly superstitions that the benighted believe in. We want none of that….Seerstones don’t trouble me. I rather like them. They are part of Mormon materiality. They suggest there is a technology of revelation, somewhat resembling ipads, that assist us in getting divine intelligence.”
Sorry, Richard. I have long admired your work. You are one of the greats on Mormon history (and American history, early work on Connecticut was pure genius) and will and should go down in history as one of the greats. But on seerstones and superstition, in the eternal words of Joe Biden, come on, man! How can you denounce tarot cards as baseless superstition and then in the same breath endorse seerstones as “technology of revelation” like they’re some sort of nineteenth-century ipad? They are two kinds of hokum cut from the same cloth. I attribute this attitude to the weird social dynamics of Mormon culture and the unique pressure it puts its believing intellectuals under.
We’re getting into persecution complexes now. Certainly Mormons have been persecuted and critics have been ostracized. But this is not really the focus I want in this conversation. This is sidetracking the issue and trying to change the focus into tribalism, which I’m trying to avoid. Mormons and critics have been treated badly, and I’m not here to validate one group’s persecution as more valid than the other.
If you don’t like Bushman’s response about seer stones, that’s fine. At least it is a substantive disagreement. Complaining about which group is persecuted more is polemics and I’m not interested in those conversations. There are other groups that focus on tribalism for that, and social media is tearing us apart because too many focus on partisanship and break into tribes. I think that’s frankly a bad thing.
Hmm, Rick B, I think we’re talking past other here. But clearly about a dozen or so readers here are catching my drift. Thanks for sharing these informative interviews, regardless.