Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012



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 Paul Harvey

This semester I am using Jared Farmer's wonderfully entertaining  book On Zion's Mount for an M.A. class in the history of the American West. We've posted about that work previously, here and here. Religion Dispatches covered the work more extensively here. , and Juvenile Instructor (somewhat more critically) here

As John Turner posted Sunday (just as I was writing this -- great minds think alike), Farmer has has spent the summer (unbeknownst to me) putting together this excellent e-book -- an illustrated e-book, is how I would describe it -- Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012 -- on Mormonism, anti-Mormonism, and the media, from the 1830s to the present. He describes it as aimed at general readers and journalists, but scholars will find plenty here to enjoy.

You can read John's post from Sunday for more, but 
I asked Matt Bowman, who just blogged for us on Stephen Covey, to take a look at the new e-book and provide some thoughts. Here is what he wrote -- some good suggestions here for you scholars in the field:

1) The material culture of Mormonism is a field white and ready to harvest.   There's not been a lot done on it (one exception being The Color of Christ's attention to representations of Jesus, and another being at over at George Mason University Jenny Reeder is prepping a material history of the Relief Society for her dissertation) and ever a cursory glance through this thing shows how fruitful the study of images might be.  

2) One obvious possibility is how much images can contribute to ideas about race.  Farmer spends a lot of time here, both on how Mormons related to Native Americans but also on how other Americans understood Mormons to be in the process of creating their own degenerate race, made of equal parts polygamy and political tyranny.  The comparison to brutish images of Irish Catholics seems appropriate here.

3) It's also fascinating to watch the ways in which Mormons have represented themselves.  I was thrilled to see Farmer devote time to a pressing question that sometimes receives attention in the hallways of the Mormon HIstory Association annual meeting: the many weighty meanings of Mormon facial hair.  From nineteenth century Biblical beards signifying patriarchal authority to twentieth century respectable clean-shavenness, the presence or absence of facial hair in Mormon media is only one striking illustration of Mormonism's careful attention to its own image.  Farmer provides many more.

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