Assessing the Digital History in Mormon History

To what level has Digital History become a part of the Mormon History field? One would think that since my area of studies are Digital History and Mormon History, I would already have a firm grasp of the degree to which Digital History has taken hold in Mormon History. However, this is not the case. As part of the practicum assignment for my Clio Wired class, I have done a somewhat cursory investigation into the presence of Digital History in Mormon History. While my search results have returned resources that I was aware of, others came as a surprise.

The largest Digital History presence for Mormon History comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself. The Church has its own history department. The home page gives you a brief overview of various resources available through the website. Under their “Research” tab you can find a webpage of Online Resources. The Church has brought together a multitude of links both created by the Church History Department, Brigham Young University, as well as other colleges, organizations and libraries. One of the links takes you to Signature Books Library which has available, online, some books on Mormon History as well as assorted digitized (some transcribed) newspapers. Also available through the Church history website is the library catalog which is great if you can actually visit the library (the catalog is online whereas most of the documents are not.) However, both the Signature Books Library and the Church History website are great resources.

A great blog focused on Mormon History is the Juvenile Instructor. This blog is run by a group of academics/historians that “seek to situate the study of Mormonism within wider frameworks, including American religious history, western history, gender history, and, on occasion, the history of the Republic of South Africa.” They provide great articles with reference to both contemporary issues and use of primary source documents. Also included on the Juvenile Instructor is a list of other history blogs, Mormon History blogs,¬† and US Religious History blogs.

My Google searches brought up a site that I was unaware of. Historyofmormonism.com operates more as an exhibit space. Under its “Purpose of this site” section it states, “This Mormon history website aims to share that history with the world…[the] site includes a detailed history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is properly known, from its founding… up to the current time.” It is well managed and even is open to submissions from the public of relevant images and content. While providing a few transcribed primary documents (no digitized original copies available), the sites overall aim is to present to the readers the history of the LDS church (though they admit they are not endorsed by the Church itself.)

Another great resource for Mormon History is Mormon Places. This website is run by one of my former Geography professors at BYU, Brandon Plewe. It provides an interactive map of Mormon history. The map contains over 2,000 places of interest (settlements, congregations, cemeteries, buildings etc.) as points, lines or polygons that can be clicked on for further information. Also, as stated on the welcome page, the goal is to crowd source the information of the various sites. In this way, he hopes to collaborate a better understanding of Mormonism’s (Latter-day Saint) history.

There are also resources available that were primarily print in nature but have been digitized or transcribed. The Journal of Mormon History¬† can be accessed through JSTOR or through membership in the Mormon History Association and is a perfect example of a print resource made available through the web. There is a also webpage dedicated to the Journal of Discourses by various Mormon leaders spanning 1851-1886. They offer transcribed copies of these sermons in webpage format. Included in with these sites would be the Harold B. Lee Library’s assorted digital collections. These collections range from a nineteenth century Newspaper index to assorted town histories and the like.

In this brief overview, it becomes apparent that there are a multitude of resources available in various mediums. While there appears to be many blogs/discussion sites on Mormon History, online archives and repositories are lacking. With this only being my first year in my MA/PhD program, I am still figuring out both the field of Mormon History as well as Digital History. I am excited to make contributions and participate in open dialogue. If I missed anything important, I apologize and please let me know.

As a caveat: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons can be a polarizing topic. Searching the internet can provide a multitude of Mormon histories sites that do no provide an unbiased history (to be fair you can find those for and against the church providing “doctored” histories.) In this way, Mormon History even more so is in need of a stronger digital presence that provides well written, primary source based research.

Assessing the Digital History in Mormon History
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