Annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture – Richard V. Francaviglia

Sponsored by:
Special Collections & Archives; Merrill-Cazier Library; The Leonard J. Arrington Lecture and Archives Foundation; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Utah State University

The lecture is free and open to the public. Call 435-797-2663 with questions.

Dr. Richard V. Francaviglia presents:

“’Like the Hajis of Meccah and Jerusalem’ — Orientalism and the Mormon Experience”

Throughout their history, the Latter-day Saints have been compared to peoples of the Middle East, a region that was also called the “Near East” and sometimes simply “the Orient” in the 1800s. Like many Americans in the early 1800s, the Mormons were well aware of — and fascinated by — the Orient. In the 1830s, Mormon prophet Joseph Smith purchased ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and translated them into the Book of Abraham. Because Smith became a prophet in post-Biblical times, he was often compared to Islam’s prophet Mohammed. The Mormons’ belief that they were the true Israelites further linked their new American faith to the ancient Near East. So, too, did the Mormons’ interpretation of Native Americans as “Lamanites” (or Lost Tribes of Israel). The Mormon belief that repositioned important Biblical locations onto American soil (for example, the Garden of Eden) was also a factor. Within a few years of the Mormons’ 1847 arrival in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, Utah was popularly considered the New Zion or New Jerusalem. As Mormon historian Leonard Arrington noted, Brigham Young was portrayed as the “American Moses” who had led the Mormon “Exodus” to this new Promised Land. Associating the Mormons with the Orient was controversial and lasted a long time. It provided ammunition to those who argued that Mormons were strange or even dangerous, and yet it also helped generate interest in the Mormon faith. The process was mutual, for the Mormons were not only given an Oriental identity by others, but willingly adopted it themselves. Using a wide range of sources, this presentation explores how and why the Latter-day Saints were “Orientalized” to become a distinctive and exotic people on the American frontier.

Dr. Francaviglia is a historian and geographer interested in how cultural attitudes shape the American West. Among his ten books are three — The Mormon Landscape (1979), Believing in Place (2003), and Go East, Young Man: Imagining the American West as the Orient (2011) — that address the important role played by religion. Although he is Professor Emeritus (University of Texas at Arlington), he now lives in Salem, Oregon, where he actively conducts research for his consulting company (Geo-Graphic Designs) and recently began teaching courses in Religious Studies at Willamette University. All college students are invited to participate in a writing competition in conjunction with this lecture. Cash awards will be given.


Thursday, September 15, 2011, at 7 pm

Logan LDS Institute Cultural Center
600 Darwin Avenue
Logan, Utah

Free parking tokens for the Aggie Terrace Parking Garage will be made available for those who attend.

16th Annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture

Sixteenth Annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture

Sponsored by:

Special Collections & Archives; Merrill-Cazier Library; The Leonard J. Arrington Lecture and Archives Foundation; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Utah State University

The lecture is free and open to the public. Call 435-797-2663 with questions.

Susan Arrington Madsen and Carl Arrington Present

“A Paper Mountain: The Extraordinary Diary of Leonard James Arrington”

The people of the Great Basin Kingdom are not often likely to witness a scholar, father, friend, mentor and Latter-day Saint of the stature of Leonard James Arrington. Along the way, Leonard Arrington was writing about all of these experiences in a diary—a diary that would eventually occupy 26 linear feet on the shelf at USU Special Collections. The record includes some 60,000 pages – roughly two pages per day for all of his eighty-three years until his death in 1999. The diary reveals in gritty detail not just his adventures as a church historian, but the history of many Cache Valley characters. It also provides a treasure-trove of information on his personal trials, triumphs, and disappointments, along with his joys as a friend, father, and scholar. This presentation provides a sampler of stories, hidden deeds, private opinions about public controversies, and insights into a man who was hailed variously as a genius, a dangerous menace, a valiant friend, and a wise father.

Susan Arrington Madsen grew up in Logan where she graduated from Utah State University with a degree in journalism. During her years at USU, she was awarded an internship with the LDS Church Magazines, wrote for the USU student newspaper as a senior staff writer, and wrote more than 40 articles for Collier’s Encyclopedia Yearbooks. Susan currently lives in Hyde Park, Utah.

Carl Arrington, the second son (middle child) of Leonard and Grace Arrington, was born in Logan, Utah, in 1951. He grew up in Cache Valley attending Adams Elementary, Logan Junior High, Logan High, and Utah State University. Carl currently works as a freelance writer and media consultant. He lives in New York City.

All college students are invited to participate in a writing competition in conjunction with this lecture. Cash awards will be given.


Thursday, September 23, 2010, at 7 pm
Logan LDS Tabernacle
50 N. Main, Logan, Utah

(see attached flyer)

MSSA visits BCC

Michael McBride arranged for a panel of MSSA members to answer questions on By Common Consent, one of the most widely read Mormon-oriented blogs.  You can see the first part of this discussion here.

Mormon Media Studies Interest Group Listserve


The Mormon Media Studies Interest Group was formed 26 February 2009 by a group of faculty members in the Department of Communications at Brigham Young University. The group’s e-mail distribution list was launched 9 March 2009. It moved to a listserve format on 28 April 2009.

The group recognizes the centrality of the media to the Mormon experience, historically and in the present, and acknowledges the unique contribution that can be made to Mormon studies by focusing on media from a wide range of academic perspectives.

Specific objectives of the group include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. to create a global community of scholars and professionals who have an interest in Mormon Media Studies, including: contemporary and historical media coverage and representation of Mormons and the LDS Church; Mormon media history; the intersection between media and Mormon culture; the embrace and use of media technologies by the LDS Church and its members; Mormon –produced messaging and public relations; the Mormon blogosphere, etc.;
  2. to facilitate communication among those who are interested in participating in an on-going conversation about Mormons and the media, and to share information and current events about this topic, including related academic research;
  3. to encourage scholarship in the field of Mormon Media Studies; to generate research questions; to facilitate collaboration among group members; and to identify outlets (refereed journals and conventions) for publication and presentation of scholarship relating to this topic.

The interest group is just in its beginning stages. As we find our way, we may expand beyond the listserve format to a blog or some other means of communication.
If you are interested in participating in this community of scholars, we welcome you. Also, if you know of others who might be interested, please invite them first to assess their interest. To be added to the list, newcomers should send an e-mail to Sherry Baker ( with an indication of name and e-mail contact information.

Mormon Studies Fellowship at the University of Utah

The Tanner Humanities Center is pleased to announce it has been awarded a grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation for $36,000 to establish the Eccles Fellowship in Mormon Studies.  The award has been designated to support two doctoral students in researching and writing their dissertations ($18,000 stipend for each), one in 2009 and one in 2010. This fellowship targets Ph.D. candidates across the United States and the world who are researching the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its members, and Mormon culture in the fields of History, Anthropology, Sociology, Education, Economics, Business, Political Science, Religion, or Literature. Through publications, work in the classroom, and in public forums, these future academics, writers, and teachers will have an impact on the study of Mormonism and on students and the general population.

This fellowship is the first in the United States and the world to focus specifically on Mormon Studies.  In offering this opportunity at the University of Utah, the Center recognizes the important and unrivaled archival resources for research located in Salt Lake City and Utah.  It also begins to redress the imbalance of opportunities facing those who choose to study Mormonism as opposed to Judaism, Catholicism, or Islam.  This fellowship will also enhance the recent trend that seeks to raise Mormon Studies to a new standard of academic excellence.

For application forms and requirements please visit

For more information, see the Salt Lake Tribune’s article on the fellowship.