People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture
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In People of Paradox, Terryl Givens traces the rise and development of Mormon culture from the days of Joseph Smith in upstate New York, through Brigham Young's founding of the Territory of Deseret on the shores of Great Salt Lake, to the spread of the Latter-Day Saints around the globe.
Throughout the last century and a half, Givens notes, distinctive traditions have emerged among the Latter-Day Saints, shaped by dynamic tensions--or paradoxes--that give Mormon cultural expression much of its vitality. Here is a religion shaped by a rigid authoritarian hierarchy and radical individualism; by prophetic certainty and a celebration of learning and intellectual investigation; by existence in exile and a yearning for integration and acceptance by the larger world. Givens divides Mormon history into two periods, separated by the renunciation of polygamy in 1890. In each, he explores the life of the mind, the emphasis on education, the importance of architecture and urban planning (so apparent in Salt Lake City and Mormon temples around the world), and Mormon accomplishments in music and dance, theater, film, literature, and the visual arts. He situates such cultural practices in the context of the society of the larger nation and, in more recent years, the world. Today, he observes, only fourteen percent of Mormon believers live in the United States.
Mormonism has never been more prominent in public life. But there is a rich inner life beneath the public surface, one deftly captured in this sympathetic, nuanced account by a leading authority on Mormon history and thought.
any comparable group of individuals in American history. Joseph Smith laid the foundations, and for the balance of Mormonism’s ﬁrst halfcentury, Brigham Young shaped the Mormon experience. It is on those twin pillars that the Mormon intellectual and cultural heritage rests. This book is an exploration of the Mormon cultural identity that Smith and, to a lesser extent, Young founded. What such a study might entail is by no means self-evident. ‘‘[N]othing is more indeterminate,’’ wrote the great
in mormon cultural origins society that offered both temptation and promise. Once again, the challenge would be to exploit the accoutrements of that host culture without suffering contamination or loss of mission and identity in the process. The difﬁculty in ‘‘spoiling the Egyptians’’ has ever been the same: to turn the plundered riches into temple adornments rather than golden calves. Part II The Varieties of Mormon Cultural Expression Beginnings (1830–1890): The Dancing Puritans There is
Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and W. W. Phelps. Their work on the ﬁrst edition of Joseph’s collected revelations was nearly complete when a Missouri mob destroyed Phelps’s press in July 1833. Printing operations moved to Kirtland, where Mormon publications were coming off the press months later. The Evening and the Morning Star, as its ﬁrst issue had stated, was produced ‘‘not only . . . to bring the Revelations and Comons and Commandments of God which have been, but
buildings acquired classically styled cornices or other architectural adornments to provide minimal marks of distinction from secular structures.33 As both human and monetary resources increased, so did the quality of meetinghouses throughout Utah. Most were of one-story rectangular design, but a more elaborate two-story design, called podium base or split level, also appeared.34 It is in the omnipresent meetinghouses that soon dotted the Salt Lake Valley that Mormon architecture of the sacred
Bacon had put the case with none to dissent, ‘‘Poesy was ever thought to have some participation of divineness.’’ And, perhaps most important for its more general popularity, poetry chapter 9 ‘‘novels rather than nothing’’ v 167 was a form whose brevity and apparent simplicity could delude the dilettante into a feeling of cheerful competence in its execution (then as now). And so it is not surprising that the ﬁrst forays into creative writing by Mormons were in the ﬁeld of poetry. It was, in