The Beautiful Mind and Life of Jen Lindell


by Edward J. Blum

You’ve never heard of her, but you would have. She had earned a doctoral fellowship to the Religious Studies department at the University of Pennsylvania and in the fall would have begun her apprenticeship under Anthea Butler and Sarah Barringer Gordon. She had just finished a Master’s Thesis on Mormon-Indian interactions beginning with the initial publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 and ending with the Mountain Meadow Massacre of 1857. She was my star student who taught me so much about race and religion, helped with my own projects even amid her own routine trips to the hospital, and died far too earlier

.Jen Lindell wrote a Master’s Thesis that easily could have been expanded into an award-winning dissertation. Her broad interest was in the dynamic ways religion influenced the lives of everyday people and on how religious ideas influenced racial perceptions and vise-versa. She fixated on early Mormons and their conceptions of and interactions with Native Americans. She wanted to understand how white people who weren’t considered white by others (in large part because of their distinct faith) at first reached out to non-white people (Native Americans) as potential brothers and sisters, but then years later treated those people with disdain and violence. Lindell refused to take a “top down” approach – which would focus principally on Joseph Smith and Bringham Young – and instead looked to the laity. Reading deeply and widely through diaries, letters, memoirs, and local newspapers, she found epic encounters and love and betrayal, missions and murder, friendship and violence.

Soon, Lindell’s thesis will be deposited in the San Diego State University library and will be available online. I hope scholars interested in Mormonism and race will check it out. She’s got some rich material and fascinating insights. Even more, anyone who reads it will get to know in a small way the brilliant mind that I had the pleasure of learning from for a season. We miss you, Jen, and we’re so glad we got to be a part of your beautiful life.


Christopher at: June 5, 2011 at 7:20 PM said...

Thanks for this, Ed. I recognize Jen's name from the Mormon History Association's conference program, but knew/know nothing of her beyond that. Thanks for the touching tribute--It sounds like she completed some fascinating (and important) work.

Patrick Mason at: June 7, 2011 at 7:34 AM said...

Nice tribute Ed. I met Jen at a conference I helped organize at Claremont Graduate University this past March, where she shared some of her research on Mormons and Indians. After only an hour talking together, I very much shared your sentiments about her bright future. We're publishing the papers from that conference, and will be including Jen's paper, so at least a little piece of her will live on in that collection.

Anonymous at: June 7, 2011 at 9:41 AM said...

Dear Ed,
thanks for this moving tribute to Jen. I did not know her, but your tribute sparks my interest in the work that she did. So sorry to her about her tragic and untimely death. So glad that you honored her in this way.

Curtis J. Evans

Good Wine at: January 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM said...

Hello Ed,
I have just finished reading the paper Jen wrote. I am sorry for your loss. I am writing this comment to ask that you contact me I request your assistance in writing a paper (I need to finish this to finish my own degree though just a BA). I reside in san diego county and would love be able to speak with you, as i believe you could assist me greatly in this endeavor. Please email me


Steven Gutwein

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