Review: Northey, et. al., “Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing”

Title: Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing
Authors: Margot Northey, Bradford A. Anderson, Joel N. Lohr
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Genre: Religion/Research
Year: 2011
Pages: 240
Binding: Paperback
ISBN13: 9780195439526
Price: $19.95

Had I never hopped into post-secondary education, this book would give me a good sense of the practical things I was missing out on. The operative word in the title Making Sense in Religious Studies is “in,” rather than “of.” Like the other volumes in Oxford University Press’s “Making Sense” series, this book is more pedagogical than theoretical. In addition to being concise and inexpensive, each book in the series provides students with “clear, concise, and readable guidelines” which are narrow enough to capture the essence of a particular focus of study, but broad enough to improve a student’s general academic performance (vii). This volume covers “subject-specific” and “big-picture” aspects of undergraduate education in religious studies (vii). Continue reading “Review: Northey, et. al., “Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing””

“Train up a child in the way s/he should go”: a book on undergrad research in religious studies

Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies is a collection of essays from sixteen faculty members trying to formulate better approaches for undergraduate research in Religious Studies. I’m pretty sure it is the first book which tackles the idea of directed undergrad research specifically in the field of religious studies. Interestingly, they drew on earlier efforts to design useful undergraduate research programs, specifically the “apprenticeship model of education” first defined  in the field of chemistry (3). But Religious Studies isn’t a hard science, so there’s plenty of room for disagreement about how an apprenticeship model should work.

The main objective, according to the authors, is to help certain undergrads conduct a specific inquiry or investigation which makes “an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline” (6). Needless to say, they had difficulty defining exactly what might constitute such a contribution! Part II of the book examines a few ways undergraduates might contribute by exploring archival material, doing fieldwork (ethnography, etc.) and working with texts.

But Part I is what really caught my attention. Continue reading ““Train up a child in the way s/he should go”: a book on undergrad research in religious studies”

the mARTyrdom of joseph smith

June 27, 1844 marked the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Artist Andrew Knaupp’s depictions of this event are my favorite, though you won’t see them in official church publications. For instance, here’s one of Joseph firing his weapon:

Andrew also includes youtube video commentary of his pieces:


I’ve written elsewhere about complaints regarding the historical accuracy of church art. I appreciate Knaupp’s attention to detail, and his somewhat unique style. I also thought Seth Adam Smith did a nice job on the video about this paintings, so I highlight it here. See Ardis’s careful response to another of Smith’s videos here.

See Knaupp’s entire painting series on the martyrdom here. In case you’re wondering, this one’s my favorite:

Praise to the man!

Book Review: Schweizer, “Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism”

Title: Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism
Author: Bernard Schweizer
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Genre: Religion
Year: 2010
Pages: 246
ISBN13: 978-0-19-975138-9
Binding: Hardcover
Price: $29.95

In the face of inexplicable and extreme personal suffering, the biblical Job refuses to turn on the God who gave him life: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). His property and children are destroyed, his body is inflicted with sores. Job’s wife appears and insists that Job ought to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). She isn’t given a name and she’s never mentioned in the Bible again, but she’s the prototypical adherent of what author and associate professor of English Bernard Schweizer calls “misotheism.” She is “ready to curse God in open defiance and willing to be damned rather than acquiesce in divine caprice” (29). She believes in God yet denounces him. Continue reading “Book Review: Schweizer, “Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism””

“Sounds like Satan’s plan!”

From the recent Newsweek coverage of us Mormons:

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sees an even deeper connection between his faith and his economic and political views. According to Mormon tradition, God and Satan fought a “war in heaven” over the question of moral agency, with God on the side of personal liberty and Satan seeking to enslave mankind. Flake acknowledges that the theme of freedom—and the threat of losing it—runs through much of Mormonism, and “that kind of fits my philosophy.” (Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared, “I am a Democrat because I’m a Mormon, not in spite of it,” his is a minority view among members of the faith.)

Continue reading ““Sounds like Satan’s plan!””

I’m pitching the Whipple biography with all my might

Title: “Swell Suffering”: A Biography of Maureen Whipple
Author: Veda Tebbs Hale
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Genre: Biography
Year: 2011
Pages: 456
ISBN13: 9781589581241
Binding: Paperback
Price: $31.95

Yes, I’m cross-posting this book review from, my old haunt, my book review depository. I’d like to add one comment in this version of the review. I failed to mention that this book has one pretty serious, in my view glaring, error. Basically it’s this: Whipple deserves a hardcover!!! Look, I understand some of the financial considerations, yes, and I love that Kofford Books is putting this puppy out there in any form. But it’s too good for a floppy paperback! Maybe they could work out a deal with Curt Bench and do another run, this time in hardcover, and package it with Whipple’s novel, The Giant Joshua. Get it done! And with that, my review.

One of the most significant conversations in the life of Mormon author Maurine Whipple took place between herself and a Bishop. It wasn’t a Mormon bishop, though, it was John Peale Bishop, a nationally-recognized poet and talent scout. During the 1937 Rocky Mountain Writers’ Conference the two found themselves talking about life and literature on the steps of a Boulder, Colorado frat house. Maurine poured her heart out. “She had lost at least two jobs, created and lost two more, been married, divorced, suffered rape and an abortion, and plunged into six romantic relationships” (97, I wish Tebbs had explored the legal and medical ramifications of an abortion in this time period). This, in addition to other difficulties including resentment towards her father borne of a difficult childhood in St. George, Utah, led Bishop to exclaim: “My God! What swell suffering! Great literature is born from suffering like that!” (1).
Continue reading “I’m pitching the Whipple biography with all my might”

Manifesto Against “TBM”

This post isn’t a direct response to Chris’s or Enoch’s posts, but I want to touch on some of the same issues which I’ve been mulling over for the past year or so. Especially the label “TBM.” Joanna Brooks used it in her recent RD column:

“Romney is what many Mormons call a TBM–or “true-believing Mormon”—an orthodox believer and devout practitioner of the faith.”1

Contrary to Brooks, I don’t know that “many Mormons” would use that label at all. I suspect that not one in ten Mormons, active or otherwise, have even heard of it. I’m personally not a fan of it, and this manifesto is an attempt to explain why.

And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites…yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads (Alma 3:4, 13).

Come on, folks. Don’t make me crack out The Sneetches!
Continue reading “Manifesto Against “TBM””

Mormons in the National Jukebox

From NPR:

[Yesterday] the Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment announced the launch of what’s being billed as “the largest collection of historical recordings ever made publicly available online.”

The new website provides access to more than 10-thousand historical recordings for free on a streaming-only basis – no downloads. It covers the first quarter of the twentieth century and includes music, poetry, political speeches and other spoken word recordings. Right now, it only includes recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company, which Sony controls.

I first started in on the negro spirituals, but decided to give “mormon” a try. It takes us to a song by Evan Stephens called “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy.” It was recorded Sept. 17, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey. The recording is not the Tabernacle Choir, however, it is a mixed quarter including Elsie Baker. The notes from the Library of Congress listing say:

Evan Stephens was the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Disc label notes: “Words from the scripture — Evan Stephens. Favorite Latter-Day Saints anthem as sung in Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Authorized version.”

This is interesting, it seems there was a recording made of this same song featuring the entire choir in early September 1920 in Salt Lake. This recording was made in September 1923 in Jersey on a different label, which explains why it is in the collection and the former recordings are not.

The other song is “O My Father.” The disc label says “Favorite Latter-Day Saints anthem as sung in Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Authorized version.” The lead vocal is a baritone.


Check out Ardis’s post on Stephens for some additional information on these recordings.