March 5, 2010

Arrington Winners and a Discussion on "Utah in the Twentieth Century"

The winners of the 2009 Leonard J. Arrington Writing Awards were announced on Thursday, March 4, at Utah State University's Merrill-Cazier Library Spring Lecture. Barbara James Brown was awarded $1,000 for first place. I received the second place prize of $500 for my entry, "The Logic of Religious Studies and Kathleen Flake." Third place, $250, went to Audrey McConkie Merket.

For the Spring Lecture, historians Brian Q. Cannon and Jessie L. Embry discussed their recently-published book, Utah in the Twentieth Century, a collection of essays on, you guessed it, Utah in the twentieth century. The following are my notes, which have been edited for clarity. This is not a transcript 

Brian Q. Cannon-
Why a book focused on the 20th century? When we think of Utah history, many of us tend to think of the 19th century. Beyond 1890 Utah history and western history become less exotic. One historian (S. George Ellsworth) says people believe the state’s history after 1920 holds little uniqueness, and by implication, less intrinsic appeal. Instead, we think about the exotic and romantic developments of the 19th century. The pioneers started this narrative with their exploits and triumphs and their descendents continued it. We have a state holiday, Pioneer Day parades, etc. (Showed some pictures from a Pioneer Day parade in the 1950s). Our fascination with 19th century Utah doesn’t mean historians have entirely neglected the 20th century, but many history teachers have a harder time getting into it, and we haven’t studied it as carefully as we should, which was a key objective of this book.

The book is divided into four sections, Jessie Embry will talk about the first two and I about the latter.

Jessie L. Embry-
The first section talks about how Utah images have changed. Most of our mental images of the19th century are somewhat incorrect. For instance, there was more than one tree, and there was grass, [laughter]. But the pioneers wanted to emphasize the desert as blossoming as a rose. The first chapter answers question of how that changed. There were many parts of the desert that didn't blossom as the rose, like Blue Valley, where dams broke, crops didn’t grow, though a few still struggled there they didn’t find much success.

Not only did the land not produce, but Utah was also a cultural desert in first decades of the 20th century. Over time the desert attracted people who were interested in travel, prompted by the discovery of red rock country. The Utah government sponsored tourism slogans and emphasized the beauty of south, but many believed these canyons, etc. were in Arizona. Visitors first came on the railroad, but increased largely after WWII, coming in cars, to visit red rock and then on to various Mormon sites.

This era brought on the rise of new industries, including motels for visitors. This is discussed in a chapter called “Selling Sleep.” The era after WWII was the golden age of motels. Fold-out maps, travel guides, postcards, are rich sources for history. Local culture was introduced to travelers seeking unique experiences throughout the US. These small motels were the kind of places my family stayed as we criss-crossed the country. My father would look for the vacancy sign, check out the room, perhaps to see if it was clean enough, then we would all cram into one room.

There was the Spiking Tourist Lodge in SLC. Bob’s Zion Hotel, the Temple City Motel, and the Covered Wagon Motel. St. George had motels like the Coral Hills. In SLC the Lakehills motel became Dream Hill motel. These places have been in decline. In 2006 a woman was murdered in room 26 at 1865 north temple as part of drug deal gone bad. Nevertheless, an online review of the place a few months earlier still had a rave reaction: “My wife and I had a splendid second honeymoon at this motel. The people seem to know each other...EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT!" in all caps. The author of this essay, however, nevertheless hired a graduate student to stay in them! I don't mind them, they are generally clean, with a TV and a telephone with free local calls! [laughter] Though my friends at WSU say don’t stay at local motels here in Ogden, so I stay at the Marriott. But they charge for local calls! [laughter].So tourism is one way Utah invites the nation and world to come.

The second essay deals with national experiences in the 20th century and how Utah responded to them. Brigham Young's 19th century hope for Utah was that the early Mormons were to be self-sufficient and produce their own goods, like the sugar beet industry. Early in the 20th century many continued the beets, only market them to other places. The section discusses when the US congress passed tariff acts, and Reed Smoot's support for sugar tariff. Matt Godfrey's essay looks at the battle over tariff reductions and the Utah-Idaho Sugar companies. A descendant of Reed Smoot came home from school one afternoon and asked "did grandpa really cause the great depression?" [laughter] Well, his work had an impact.

The section also discusses Heber J. Grant and J. Reuben Clark who did not approve of the dole system, but wished to improve the welfare system of the Church. In this section are discussions of interaction between LDS leaders and the government. For example, when Ronald Reagan proposed the underground missile defense system in Utah, the desert might have blossomed with MX’s in late 1970. This time, non-LDS voices helped convince LDS leaders to oppose, which may have helped convince Reagan to stop the plan.

The nation united in times of war. Known as the "greatest generation," many were fighting in WWII, many others helped the cause by raising crops, rationing sugar and producing war materials. Women went to work to help produce weapons and were praised for their efforts. In Utah, women got jobs at arms plants and rural Utah also benefited. An essay talks about the parachute plants in Manti. The workers took great pride in their work, saw themselves as doing their part of winning war. Some said jobs saved my sanity. They took jobs seriously. One woman watched closely for bad stitches to avoid soldiers being killed because of shoddy work. "Our parachutes are safe, we've inspected them til they've worn out." [laughter].  Some women would put notes in with parachutes noting the care they took in crafting them, etc. "I made this parachute so you can arrive safely." Sometimes the men wrote back. "You'll be pleased to know that so-and-so soldier successfully landed with parachute 123712-f." etc. [laughter].

Brian Q. Cannon- 
Moving on to the next two sections of the book. The first deals with politics and participation. The mid twentieth century was a time for legal equality and campaigns for constitutional rights. We often think of the women's and civil rights movement in America from the 1950s onwards. These movements played a role in Utah history, but not in a typical way.

Take civil rights alone, for instance. The KKK had 5,000 members in Utah during the teens and twenties, and actively worked to discourage settlement and intermarriage by immigrants from Europe. The Salt Lake Theater celebrated the debut of the film "Birth of a Nation." In terms of civil rights, Utah was home to the denial of civil rights for Japanese Americans who were relocated to Topaz camp in central Utah. Japanese were subjected to racial epithets, threats of attack, expulsion from schools, etc. Latinos and Latin Americans were restricted from living in certain neighborhoods. In 1964 Utah was one of only three states outside of the south that did not positively prohibit public discrimination. (Utah, Arizona and Nevada).

Also, the rights of polygamists, gays and lesbians, people who lost jobs as a result of sexual orientation. There are lots of stories throughout the 20th century of margin groups struggling for civil rights. Some of these things have resonance even today.

McCormick and Sillitoe's essay deals with the SLC attempt to restrict free speech rights of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. Local chapter 69. Their article describes ways the SLC government tried to restrict what could be done in terms of protests. The protesters had to obtain permits, they were restricted to certain areas for street meetings--to the red light district of Salt Lake, essentially. This tremendously limited the opportunity of IWW to promulgate their cause. A group of IWW protesters tried to defy this ordinance and a some deputies and irate citizens basically created a riot, abused them, and were allowed to go scott free while the IWW faced trial for trying to protest out of the approved area.

Embry's chapter focuses on local government impact on Utahns lives, using Provo as an example. She charts changes in the structure of Provo’s government over the course of 20th century from a strong mayoral role to a council managing structure to various commissions. National forces and trends contributed, and this chapter highlights the important role of local politics and personalities.

Another chapter covers Utah's denial of the vote to American Indians on reservations in the 1950s. The Utah legislature, shortly after statehood, prevented military reserves or Indian reserves from voting. In the 30s the state's attorney general decided so much had changed that this rule was obsolete, so it wasn't enforced but remained on the books. In the 50s another attorney general determined it was constitutional and should be enforced. This was related to the refusal of full-blooded Ute Indians to go through the process of citizenship, Many leaders in Utah believed Indians were unwilling to accept full obligation of citizenship, including taxes, etc. so they should be forbidden right to vote. Which they were in the 1950 election. But when the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge, Utah lawmakers and governor said they supported the repeal of this law. What was striking to me when I worked on this paper was the lack of attention this received in Utah press in terms of reporters commentary and letters to editor; it seemed a non-issue. The civil rights movement was not large  in Utah in mid 1950s.

The article I really want to highlight is the one by Roberts and Hinton on partisanship and ideology in Utah. Over the last two decades of 20th century especially. It makes use of interesting data from BYU-collected exit polls. These included questions about the degree to which religious affiliation governed political position.
The paper used other measures and data from public opinion polls, CBS news and New York Times surveys to compute measures of partisanship and ideology by state. These track issues over a few decades, and the responses show that Utah was the most conservative state from about 1976 to 1988 and Idaho the second most. In state partisanship over those years, Utah and Idaho ranked as most conservative in the 70s and 80s. The paper employs a technique devised by political scientist Austin Ranney, tracking competitiveness of parties in states, the degree to which one party dominates, etc. In terms of party control, Maryland and Arkansas most heavily democrat, while Utah and South Dakota were most heavily republican in the 70s and 80s. States in the rural west made up 6 out of 8 most republican states. Utah was the most republican state in that era.

It is interesting to look at stances LDS leadership took on issues like liquor by the drink, abortion, gay marriage, etc. The conclusion is that stances taken by the LDS church helped encourage Utahns on conservatism. But some elements of conservatism can't easily be contributed to the LDS church, like guns and hunting. A strong right to bear arms place. This seems to stem not from religious orientation but from western tradition of gun toting cowboys romanticized into self-reliant individuals, the masculine hunter culture. Growing up in 70s I remember receiving a Monday off for the deer hunt each year into the 1980s. Especially in southern Utah and rural areas the tradition is still strong. Perhaps many Utahns rationalized these outings as a family outing aspect, given that LDS leaders like Spencer W. Kimball spoke out against killing the little birds. The chapter also discusses white flight from California in 70s which may have contributed to Utah conservatism, and the Reagan revolution in the 80s that Utah was part of. Overall, a historically conservative moralistic state, and 2002 exit poll affirms this, a major factor is the dominant religion. But Utah is changing somewhat. Salt Lake county is more democratic and liberal. But Utah is still not diverse and especially in rural areas the Mormon church dominates.

The next section talks about growth over the 20th century and its challenges. How did state and federal government and residents deal with population increase? Increase put demands on resources like water, land, etc. Utah's population multiplied by 8 times over the 20th century. There was a tremendous era of growth in the first decade of 20th, with new smelters, mines, dry farming boom, etc. In the 40s and 50s, influence of WWII and the cold war included defense installations. 1970s, grew by 38%, a mini baby boom. In the 90s, grew by 30%, an influx of Latino residents in the 90s that contributed to tremendous growth in that decade.

One challenge this growth posed for Utah is addressed in the chapter by James B. Allen, discussing education. The ongoing issue is how to fund education for all these children. Uutah has one of youngest populations in the US. In 1990 the proportion of children in population was 35%. Jim explores problems associated with how to fund, different alternatives proposed, and some political infighting, particularly with J. Bracken Lee, whose reputation as governor was as ruthlessly cutting budgets. Regardless of the decisions, leaders have encountered resistence no matter what.

The 2nd challenge of growth is water. Eastman discusses the history of federal water projects, designed to take water from Colorado river and tributaries and divert it to the Wasatch Front. Jordanelle dam, the crown jewel of projects. By the 90s environmentalists were able to influence the appropriations process,. The chapter praises Wayne Owens for his role in bringing diverse people together, water conservationists, environmentalists, and he brokered a compromise for wetlands, that many Utahans could live with.

Doug Alder's chapter juxtaposes growth of Cache county with Washington county, two areas he lived in and knows well. Who in 1960 would have imagined that Washington county, then one fourth the size of Cache, would grow large enough to rival it by the close of the 20th century. Discusses reasons for the growth.

The last essay in the section is Jedediah Rogers on development versus preservation of land. He points out that by the 1960s many Americans including Utahans concluded that the US Forest Service and B. of Land Management didn't provide adequate protection for natural resources and wilderness. Growth in urban populations explains the wilderness act of 1964.12 years later, congress said Bureau of Land Management was to survey its lands for wilderness areas. Lots of concerns among Utahans with restrictions imposed by these and other federal laws, Utahans questioned the rights of the federal government to do this. The "Sagebrush Rebellion." Orrin Hatch praised it as a second "American revolution," calling opponents "dandelion pickers" and a "cult of toadstool worshipers." Some Utah environmentalists attacked greedy motives of the rebels, calling it the "sagebrush ripoff." It is regrettable that the two sides couldn't get past rhetoric to propose a solution together. Utah governor Scott Matheson was cautious but interested in rebellion. Senate Bill 5 was to cede land from federal government to the state. This made public enemies of employees of BLM. SB5 passed in the house and senate. Gov. asked a committee to see how much state would have to spend to govern the land, said state could do it, has budget. The recommendation failed to note some important contradictory views but on the strength of the report, Governor signed the bill after they repealed a provision of jailing federal employees who tried to enforce their ownership. Jedediah takes issue with Matheson's view of the situation as important for public involvement, etc. and doesn’t see as rosy a picture. Instead he sees a lot of angry people and angry rhetoric with few solutions.

The most visible controversy involved lands in the Moab area. A canyon was designated as part of wilderness study area, this disallowed motor vehicles. But the county announced it was going to upgrade road up the canyon with bulldozers anyway on July 4 ,1980. There was talk of the cancerous growth of federal bureaucracy. They bulldozed the road and found out they actually missed boundary, so they sent another crew to complete the work. BLM ordered the county to restore the road within 10 days or be billed for federal employees to do it. County commissioners facing lawsuits backed down. BLM soon cut that canyon from its protected area, but then the Sierra club complained and it was put back. BLM re-stationed a controversial director of BLM into the Moab area, a hated man there by rebels. Environmental organizations including the Sierra club and wilderness associations discredited the sagebrush rebels. Coverage in press on the rebels was overwhelmingly negative. It all ended quite quickly and not in the expected way. Reagan was elected and appointed James Watt director, who said he was in favor of the rebels but later came up with a compromise to work around them The "good neighbor policy," a four-prong strategy for multiple use while retaining federal ownership. The rebellion collapsed. Besides, the new administration was favorable to their interests anyway.

Conclusion, both sides had plenty of contradictions and inconsistencies in their rhetoric. The fed government said it was safeguarding the place from ruin, but pushed for devastating projects like missile projects and toxic waste dumps. The rebels said the feds would lock up the land from access, but that’s exactly what would happen if it became privatized as they wanted. Plus they enjoyed subsidies and government funds. Few if any attempts were made to work together by either side. They mostly postured, protested and used rhetorical flairs. Consequently, they helped polarize, fracture, alienate, and entrench, but not bring together.

We've given you a taste of the new book and the variety of the topics discussed. Hopefully this gives an idea of the ways Utah changed over the course of the 20th century. An interesting question is whether Utah was more American in 2000 than in 1900, and whether a reversal occurred mid-century where the Mormon church reasserted political and economic power in 60s and 70s, thus influencing less separation of church and state than in 1900.

Question and Answer-

Q- What prompted the project?

A- We are both 20th century historians, and few have done much work in this area. We saw a need for a book like this and wanted to encourage, promote and showcase scholarship of the 20th century. We need this stuff for history classes. There are 16 essays in book, some involved in the seminar that resulted in this book didn’t finish their papers. We sent out a call for papers but primarily people tied to Utah responded.

Q-During research what did you find most interesting that you didn’t kknow.

A- [Embry] I knew about the federal governments involvement in Utah, and there were some attempts made to eliminate my article on local politics, but I learned how much local politics affect our lives. Local government makes major differences.

[Cannon]- I have a greater recognition on the civil rights issue, and now will devote more attention to such an important theme.

Q- When teaching students on issues regarding race and so forth, do you sense much discomfort, much pushback? What is response?

A- [Cannon] These issues are important because they allow us to hold up a mirror to ourselves, and these issues still surround us. It is important to talk about. Lewsis’s essay brought out the most comments from my students because De Voto came out so strongly against Utah and it raised the defensive pro-Utah sense in some of my students. Overall it helps people to define themselves when they have someone taking such a contrarian position, they have to ask themselves what are the grounds for the opposition views and my views? [Embry]- Yes, there's nothing like a good "us or them" argument to get things moving [laughter].

Q- Have many of the students heard of Topaz?

A- [Cannon] Many students hadn’t heard about it. They usually know about relocation camps, but are surprised at the location in Utah. In teaching at BYU some of the students are surprised that the LDS church didn’t take some sort of stance against relocation at the time. There were other groups, like the more liberal Protestant denominations and Quakers who were more ready at the time to take a stance.

March 4, 2010

Bushman- "Joseph Smith and the Routinization of Charisma"

Richard Bushman, 26 February 2010
Richard Bushman said he was pleased to see the topic of the 2010 Church History Symposium, which dealt with the organization of the LDS Church. He said his profound admiration for Joseph Smith's organizational sense grew while writing Rough Stone Rolling. He called the topic "rich" and noted the potential for a flurry of new scholarship on the subject. The following are my paraphrased notes from his paper, "Joseph Smith and the Routinization of Charisma." Jared T. took excellent notes which are available at Juvenile Instructor. I put these together on Friday without reading Jared's notes. Do some King Follett-like comparisons!

I think most people who have lived a Mormon life have seen church government as a marvel, perhaps even a miracle. How can things function so well without professionalization? How can so many wards release bishops every five years and find others to take on the job? Why do we work so hard in our church jobs? We trust our leaders with our money, time and confidential problems. The organization works well more often than not, we can move from ward to ward and the system is much the same. How can we account for the success of this lay-led church which seems to run against expectations?

The Church's organization has been compared to other organizations. When I was growing up, it was compared to the German army [laughter]. Meaning it was the epitome of efficiency. It may have been efficient, but it was far more voluntary and far less well-trained.

Is it a monarchy with a king? The comparison doesn’t seem quite right when the church is run by a man with the American title of "president."

Alternatively, the church has an American democracy background. Does its lay leadership look like a democracy? What is this church?

German sociologist Max Weber tried to categorize forms of organizational legitimacy. His question was: why is it that people submit to a government as if the government had a right to rule over and command us? What gives it that legitimacy? His category of "Charismatic authority," a divine gift, applies best to the Church. Weber defined charisma as a certain quality of individual personality which sets a person apart from ordinary men. That person is treated as if endowed with superhuman or exceptional powers or qualities. This description seems to fit Joseph Smith to a 'T.' Why did converts consider his authority legitimate? Joseph Smith governed by virtue of his divine gift.

Weber considered this type the least stable of the three major types in his 1922 theory of social and economic organization. In addition to charismatic, there were “Traditional” like a monarchy, where authority descends by right, And “Rational, Bureaucratic.” Think of modern businesses or governments. Charisma is fragile in comparison, it falters if the divine gifts are brought into question, and after the charismatic leader dies a struggle may ensue among successors. Typically, the charismatic leader collect followers but doesn't form an organization. His successors then have to devise another foundation for authority.

The followers must routinize the charisma, and change the organization based on the divine gift to one based on routines of accepting who has authority. Movements must turn supernatural powers into accepted roles for leaders and followers, becoming a bureaucratic, or rational government. Under the bureaucratic govt, authority comes with the office, not with personal gifts. In order to last, charisma must evolve into the bureaucratic, according to Weber, or the movement will disintegrate.

This theory has been applied to Joseph Smith who was a charismatic leader of the first order. What about the evolution of authority after Joseph Smith? It is commonly said that it was routinized, and Brigham Young is assigned the role of performing that act. Joseph led by prophetic gifts, Brigham by administrative genius. He took the pulsing, energetic, but chaotic young Church and made it into smoothly-run corporate body with well-defined offices; a bureaucratic government. That is the thesis some have followed.

This account of administrative development overlooks Joseph Smith’s preoccupation with organization almost from the beginning. He didn’t just institute a movement, but organized a church with officers of which he was one.

The revelation given at the time of organization, Doctrine and Covenants section 20, said more about offices than doctrines. The element of organization was one of Joseph Smith's major achievements. He thought of himself as an organization man. Section 90 says “And this shall be your business and mission in all your lives, to preside in council, and set in order all the affairs of this church and kingdom.” He was called to occupy an office. His titles reflect the combination:  "thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet," the charismatic, and "an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church," the bureaucratic (D&C 21:1).

Bushman presents his paper on Joseph Smith and charisma
Church organizational positions were all in place by the time Joseph Smith died. Brigham Young didn’t have to invent the office of apostle that enabled him to take leadership, the Quorum of the Twelve was already organized nine years before Joseph Smith died. Joseph beieved Church organization was his mission, he was restoring the order of heaven in ancient councils.

A most startling feature of organization was the merger of charisma and bureaucracy in contradistinction with Weber’s categories. Joseph Smith assigned charismatic gifts to an office rather than keeping them to himself. He was appointed, called to be a seer, translator and prophet in the records of the church, and what is more bureaucratic than minutes? [laughter]

When he claimed authority in the Sept. 1830 conflict with Hyrum Page, the main argument was that these things were not appointed to Page. The wild eruption of prophecy from whoever was not Joseph Smith's way. All things must be done in order. Another revelation said "For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead" (D&C 28:7).

The gifts were not personally invested in him; they resided in the office by appointment. This was a revolutionary transformation. The record of the conference noted: "Brother Joseph smith jr. was appointed by the voice of the conference to receive and write revelations & commandments for this church" (Far West Record, 26 Sept. 1830, microfilm of holograph, Church Historical Dept. Archives, p. 2; see RSR p. 121).

I hope you can appreciate the marvel of that! Joseph Smith effectively bureaucratized charisma and centralized revelations in the Church. By this practice he also democratized the spiritual gifts. While he seemed to claim a monopoly in the Page incident he also wanted to spread charisma widely. Every priesthood holder was instructed: "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation" (D&C 68:4).

The founding minutes of the first high council meeting in the Church said it was the privilege of each presiding authority to seek revelation to govern. When problems of interpretation arose, the president was to inquire and obtain the mind of Lord. Revelation went with the office.

Joseph Smith admonished the Twelve to keep careful minutes since their decisions will appear in the records of heaven and remain doctrine. Revelation is promised to holders of virtually every office in Church. In modern practice 13-year-old Deacon's Quorum presidents are enjoined to seek revelation in their callings. This makes exceptional powers common. Every leader at every level is to seek the revelatory gift.

Joseph's organization laid the groundwork for Brigham Young's success. In the 1844 crisis he did not have to claim prophetic gifts to undergird his claim to leadership, he based them on the keys of apostleship from Joseph Smith. He could not have gained the loyalty of the people if Joseph Smith had not created the office. One of my favorite pieces of art in Rough Stone Rolling is a needlework piece depicting Joseph Smith's legacy as understood by ordinary Mormons. In the center is the Temple. Around the borders are the names of the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young at the top center. That is what this particular seamstress counted as Joseph Smith's legacy, the Temple and the Apostles.

Brigham Young set his leadership apart from Joseph Smith's. [Brigham speaking in the third person]: "A person was mentioned to-day who did not believe that Brigham Young was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. I wish to ask every member of this whole community, if they ever heard him profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as Joseph Smith was? He professed to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, called and sent of God to save Israel" [JD 6:319-320].

Brigham said he held an office, not based upon personal prophetic gifts. Over and over he insisted he was not the successor as a "prophet," but the Mormon people insisted he was a prophet. Heber C. Kimball praised him as the "living oracle," and "mouthpiece of almighty." He said "brother Brigham is our President—the legal successor of Joseph Smith, and God speaks through him as he spoke through brother Joseph" [JD 8:274].

church members today expect the same of Bishops in every ward. Every officer including themselves are to partake of the charisma. Charisma  was not replaced by but was invested into a bureaucracy from the beginning. It formed a seemingly contradictory structure: a charismatic bureaucracy.

This peculiar construction recasts the problem of power that has so vexed church leaders from the beginning. Viewed from the stance of modern democracy, charismatic leadership grants too much power to a central figure. Within a few years of the organization of the Church Joseph Smith was accused of authoritarian control. He was called a tyrant, pope, and king in 1834 [HC 2:144–146]. From the view of American democracy, such a stance seems justified. There is an unchecked power in charisma. Who can restrain the leader since the legitimacy of the movement is vested in his gifts? It rules out criticism of the leader's power. Neither followers or lieutenants can criticize without undermining entire movement, destroying the foundation of the enterprise.

In milder forms, the problem afflicts all revealed religions in this country. The faith of every believer in the Bible carries the potential for civil disobedience. The word of God against the voice of people. Charles Finney stated no human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God. Godly principles outrank every human practice and democratic law. This is a truism for believers in revealed religion. Loyalty to faith trumps other loyalties. "Vox populi, vox dei," the voice of people is the voice of God, is blasphemous. Prophets are the voice of God. This pits two fundamental founding documents of American culture against each other. Who rules? The people or the God of the prophets? The Constitution versus the Bible.

The problem has beset American politics and jurisprudence since the beginning but has troubled no other group as much as the Mormons. In the committee hearings during the Reed Smoot controversy when they debated the seating of a Mormon apostle, the issue was persued relentlessly. Revelation, or the law of the land: which is binding? Suppose a revelation is received and confirmed but comes in conflict with the law of the land. Which is binding? How can you pledge allegiance to revelation and law of land, what do you do if they conflict? People feared Church president Joseph F. Smith would dictate Smoot’s votes in Washington. The logic of revelation requires submission by the believer. The question has been posed to Mitt Romney. Would policies be dictated from Salt Lake City?

Underlying these accusations and criticisms of church authoritarianism is the single most striking opposition between church and democratic political cultures: their contrasting attitudes about power. The views are almost polar opposites. Power in democratic discourse is expanding, seeking domination. The challenge is how to regulate power. A democratic government seeks to contain power. The Bill of Rights, checks and balances, freedom of speech and the press are democratic treasures because they constrain power. Perhaps democracy’s greatest virtue is its ability to contain power.

In the church by contrast, power is trusted, even beloved in the person of the president. He wants to maximize this power. People want to obey him reverently, they feel blessed by the guidance and direction he can give. What could be better for their lives and children? They are scarcely conscious of abuses. Problems are seen as occasional anomalies to be corrected, not as the inevitable outcome of power. No one talks of checks and balances in the Church. Power is redemptive not aggressive. The word "rights” never appears. The absence of restraints troubles democratic critics of Mormonism, who see a threatening and unchecked power.

Why not demand detailed finances? campaign or lobby for changes in policy? inexplicable that Mormons comfortably reside in two opposing realms, church and democracy. Mormons are aware of problems of govt power, most follow conservative, libertarian, Mormonism doesn’t numb then to dangers of concentrated authority in state. yet these same people exhort to follow the prophet, they don’t criticize for financial disclosure or ask for greater voice. they happily embrace policies and accept assignments. bestow a degree of confidence on church givt they would never give to state govt. how do Mormons reconcile these opposed attitudes?

If asked about this, Mormons refer to checks that are there, such as the sustaining vote. In an annual conference members sustain the leaders, and approval is sought at every level. No person is to be ordained to any office in a regularly organized branch without a vote. Is that not democratic? We all know this is a ritual without teeth [laughter]. The names are selected in advance, there is no debate, no campaigning, no examination qualifications. There is not advance knowledge of who will be proposed, and the vote is usually unanimous. This is not an election, but community support for those who are called to lead them. We're saying we’re behind all of you, we trust you. If it turned into election this would be a sign of community decay. There are some checkslike bringing the church president to court if needed, but this is limited.

I would argue that the preeminent check on church power is charisma itself. Paradoxically, the factor that seems to underlie authoritarianism in the church is the chief restraint on power. Leaders are believed to act according to the mind of God. That is the source of their legitimacy. They receive a call from heaven, they see their authority as godly and therefore it must be exercised in godly manner. This self-conception gives scripture the potency they wouldn’t command. Joseph Smith's letter from Liberty Jail has surprising practical impact:

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.Hence many are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile" [D&C 121:39-42].

This passage frustrates a modern reader in search of a theory of government. It opens with a theory of human nature we recognize, with unrighteous dominion. This is the premise of James Madison's Federalist nmber 10, interest will prevail. What is Joseph Smith’s answer to Madison's issues on the republic? To our dismay, Smith lapses into sentimental comments about the priesthood ruling by meekness. What good is that? It outlines precisely the rare virtues that are unreliable in leaders. How can such sentiments regulate what the Mormon scriptures say is the very nature of humans?

What critics fail to recognize is the constraining effect of "moral terms of power." All power operates within a moral framework, that is, a sense of what values legitimize authority. The King must be the protector of his people or they turn against him as George III learned. The Democratic Politician must use power for the good of the people, or resign or be voted out. The CEO must serve the interest of the shareholders, as executives who fail to improve stock prices know too well.

The moral terms of power constrain the leaders in any organization. In the Church, the bishop is an emissary of God with high moral terms, people expect it of him as anyone in that office knows. They may not state this vocally but the Stake President does, and the bishop knows too. "I'm not worthy" is the standard response to the call. This is because the moral demands are higher than most feel they can meet. The demands operate in a bishops mind without a word being uttered. The congregation expects him to visit, council, inspire their young children. The implicit moral demands are immense, and everyone, most of all the bishop, knows this. If he falls he will have failed as surely as the CEO whose stock drops. These expectations act as a far more powerful check on authority than any constitutional check. Just compare the operation of the Church to the regular government and see its effectiveness.

The secret ingredient is the expectation that leaders and people both feel. They are called of God and receive the gifts attached to their offices. Newly ordained leaders assume a bishoply manner, members speak of the mantle of the office, though no one can explain exactly how the change comes about. In actuality, the change comes about by group wisdom. They know in their bones that only leadership based on righteousness will work.

Charisma, the gift of divine power, saturating the organization thus makes the ethos. Joseph Smith didn’t know the sociology behind this, he only knew he had the command from God to form the church this way. He had confidence in his own gifts and wanted to share them, to grant to all the power to speak for God, and even to see God as he had. He knows he imposed the obligation of godly behavior on those who assumed office. A bold organizational move that has passed the test of time. Thank you.

March 1, 2010

Hicks- "How to make (and unmake) a Mormon Hymnbook"

The following are my paraphrased notes of Michael Hicks's 2010 Church History Symposium presentation, "How to make (and unmake) a Mormon Hymnbook." I checked them against a recording to ensure clarity. I also typed out some of the examples from his provided handout. Hicks's book Mormonism and Music: A History is one of the most fun Mormon history books I've ever read. Much of the information from this presentation can be found in chapter eight,"Modern Hymnody and the Church Music Committee." Hicks's handout can be downloaded here. Notes from other presentations are available at Juvenile Instructor. Notes for John Welch's are here.

The hymn book holds odd place in the Mormon canon. In some ways it's a standard work, containing the authorized sacred words and music used in virtually all church meetings throughout the the world. Unlike scripture, it can change massively from one generation to the next. Even the means by which it changes can vary over time, from the one man or woman hymnbook compilers of the early church, to the bureaucratic committees of our day. The only constant is that the making of a new book is always also the unmaking of its forerunner. In the case of our current book, it was the unmaking not only of the 1950 edition, but of an aborted 1970s edition, whose history reveals some chronic tensions among aesthetic, populist, and pragmatic ideals in a growing church.

For most of the 19th century, ambitious individuals or ad hoc committees produced hymnbooks for the general church. The best known of these was the British text-only pocketbook that went through 25 editions from 1840 to 1912.

In 1889, Wilford Woodruff authorized a committee of well-trained British musicians to publish the Latter-day Saint Psalmody. The first complete book of 4-part musical settings to every text in that small British hymnal.

Other less high-minded hymnbooks, if I can say that, with printed music soon competed with the Psalmody for Church use. Especially Songs of Zion, and the Deseret Sunday School Songbook, 1908, 1909.

In 1920, the First Presidency created a General Music Committee, a group that within seven years had produced a more modern hymnal to replace the Psalmody, Latter-day Saint Hymns.

In 1948 Hymns: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the official hymnbook, which was revised in 1950. This is the old blue book, they look the same, they are quite different inside. That 1950 edition was the first to do away with all other adult hymnbooks in the church. And for the first time in church history it had a preface written by the First Presidency as a kind of imprimatur.

In Oct. 1972 new president Harold B. Lee called O. Leslie Stone as asst. to 12. In December made him managing director of huge new "Church Music Department." The dept. had nine specialized areas, one led by Merrill Bradshaw was 4 member composition committee, to solicit new music for use by auxiliaries (as approved by the new correlation department of course).

In December 1973, First Presidency told Stone to make guidelines and preparations for new hymnal. Bradshaw had definite ideas, he wanted them to review about 10,000 hymns, new and old, choose 500 to appeal to an international church, and have a new edition published by fall 1975.

Committee members brought up problems he hadn't thought of. For example: the racks on backs of pews were sized for books of 400 or fewer hymns, so it had to be shorter than 500. The timetable was questionable. They would have to coordinate with Deseret Book to make sure the current stock of hymn books depleted first. What to call it? Bradshaw favored "Hymnal." But should it be Hymn book? Hymnbook? One or two words? What about "Songs of Praise"? A title other denominations had adopted to allow for a wider spectrum of music.

Bradshaw gave the committee an ambitious flowchart of how the new book would progress. [Hicks provided a handout of the complex flowchart.] Three divisions: Policy Decisions, Product Preparations, Content Preparation. It listed who would need to approve the hymnal among General Authorities, etc. As they proceeded, momentum gathered, but 8 days later Pres. Lee died. Stone wrote to get project re-approved by President Kimball.

Meanwhile Church Music Executive Committee chairman, Harold Goodman, said their mission was to delete all present and past hymns and put back in only those which can be "justified." To be justified meant meeting one or more of six criteria: 1- Musical quality, 2- Doctrinal value and poetry of the text. 3- Appropriateness 4- Usefulness for services. 5- Traditional popularity among the Saints. 6- Insistence of GA that a hymn must be included.

With these criteria in mind, the "Hymnbook Task Committee" began a four-fold process: 1-Review all current hymns. 2- Review all hymns from earlier LDS hymnbooks. 3- Review selections from Protestant hymnbooks. 4- Solicit new hymns in the Ensign, Church News, and even direct mailings to solicit new texts and tunes from poets and composers. As process unfolded, the committee decided not only what to include, but also whether and how to revise the chosen hymns. Most common revision: lower the keys to foster the standard practice in Protestantism, that everyone sings the melody in unison.

Whatever urgency the committee felt was tempered by the viscosity of working within the larger system.  In April 1974, advisers Mark E. Peterson and Boyd K. Packer approved the committees fundamental document: "Specifications and Guidelines for the Preparation of a New Hymnbook," only after 5 drafts in as many months. The committee was meeting 3-4 hours every two weeks.

Hymn reviews were both thorough and severe. For example, out of the first 130 songs in the 1909 Deseret Sunday School book they thought only 7 were worth including, and all seven needed revision. They discussed questions of overall content. Would the book be an all-international book? They decided they should choose a core of hymns to be included in all hymnbooks and let regional committees chose local ones to add. What about patriotic songs like "Battle Hymn of the Republic" or "America the Beautiful"? First Presidency said that all  American patriotic songs should be out. Questions of format. The separation of choral and congregational hymns into sections was out. Each hymn headed by title, instead of first lines. Hymns would be grouped in sections by theme like the first LDS hymnbook. The book would include more elaborate set of indices and cross references

After a year of reviewing, they realized fall 1975 would not be a good deadline. They voted to meet once a month now instead of twice. They voted to delete much of the 1950 hymnbook contents, including old Christian favorites like "Nearer My God to Thee," "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," "Jesus Lover of My Soul" and "Behold a Royal Army." Also LDS hymns like "Who's on Lord's Side, Who?", "Reverently and Meekly Now," "I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly," and "Let Us Sing With One Accord."

Ex. 2 on handout is an excerpt from a 1975 draft of "Proposed Disposition of the Materials in the Present Hymnbook." It is a chart with a list of hymns, whether to keep or delete them, and a comments section with explanations. Some are simple, saying "beloved," or "good hymn." For deleted items, more detailed comments are sometimes listed. For "Jesus Lover of My Soul," for instance, it says "Bad doctrine to hide from life's ills; Lover has taken on bad connotations now."

In Oct. 1975 the Twelve asked for a list of hymns the committee planned to delete. Bradshaw agreed, but insisted their list come with detailed explanation of their decisions. They gave fourteen criteria for deleting hymns [Handout, Ex. 3]:

1. Their texts were "unsuitable"
2. The hymns had a "Protestant flavor" or "revivalist style"
3. They were "dated"
4. They were national anthems, state songs, etc.
5. They were too difficult or awkward to sing
6. They were militaristic
7. They were little used
8. They had "excessive sentimentality"
9. They were "musically inappropriate," "incompetent," or in a "frivolous style"
10. The music or text had "uncomfortable associations" (e.g. with love songs)
11. Another setting of the same tune was better (e.g., "O My Father")
12. The hymn was guilty of "preachiness" or "moralizing flavor"
13. A better hymn with the same message was available
14. Words and text were poorly matched

Many of these likely seemed fair, but others must have seemed harsh or elitist to some church leaders.  The committee's internal reports were even more harsh, including adjectives like gloomy, pompous, choppy, racist, chauvinistic, pantheistic. But some of their reports to the Twelve were still quite blunt. More than one hymn was called “musically embarrassing to the church.” They called Who's on Lords Side, Who: “amateurish, jingoist, and self-congratulatory, with music that sounds like a cheap London dance hall tune.” But he committee suggested that some hymns thought to have historical value could be published in separate book to "tell things about our past."

With so many hymns out the committee hoped to put 175 new hymns in without increasing the length of the book. By mid-1975 they'd gathered more than 3,000 potential new hymns and 2,000 more new texts that could be set to music. These included Protestant favorites, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas songs, international and overtly ethnic hymns like the so-called Omaha Tribal Prayer, and newly written LDS texts and tunes, especially sacrament hymns, and others on LDS themes like Priesthood, prophets, fast day, tithing, genealogy and so on.

For months they discussed things even as some General Authorities made occasional requests, including Thomas S. Monson asking for "How Great Thou Art." Another year passed, summer of 1976 still not a first draft completed. New questions kept coming: Who would help translate the hymn texts? Could core hymns have the same numbers in all international printings? Elder Packer requested, but they said it wouldn't work if the book was divided into theme sections, including local additions.). Copyrights? Royalties? Proofing, editing? Typeface, fonts, paper thickness (a problem with the 1948 hymnal, which broke the bindings). What about color of cover, a big discussions! If they were going to lower keys, how low and on which? Revise texts, which lines and how? Should hymns be sung in first person singular or plural? Topical sections titles? Field test new hymns? How? How would they introduce it to the General Authorities for review, and then to the Church at large?

Slow pace of the committee also resulted from knots in the administrative process. These led the committee to compose a list of six questions regarding "Authority and Protocol." [Ex. 4 on handout]:
The Hymnbook Task Committee's list of questions about authority and protocol, 12 September 1976:

1. What kind of direct communication should exist between this committee and Elder Stone, managing director of the Church Music Department? Does Elder Stone understand our rationale and all of our activities?

2. On a specialized project such as the hymnbook, should the 'expert,' who has been selected because of his expertise with hymns and music, be allowed to sit and communicate with those higher up in the administration?

3. Exactly what authority does this committee have in relation to decisions made on the new hymnbook? What responsibility?

4. What is the role of this committee in the new hymnbook project? Will the committee be able to defend their work and rationale to those in decision-making positions.

5. What is the role of this committee in relation to Correlation and the new hymnbook? Deseret Press and the new hymnbook? Editing Department and the new hymnbook?

6. Concerning our role with Correlation, how will they react to our suggested Protestant hymns being included in the new hymnbook?
Perhaps predictably, some GA's as well as the Correlation Committee wanted to overturn some of the decisions.  For instance, Ezra Taft Benson lobbied hard to get the patriotic songs back in. In Oct. 1976, the committee learned that 11 hymns they voted to delete were back in and 3 they voted to keep were deleted. They developed three designated ways to respond: 1. Acquiesce, let the rulings stand without argument. 2- Fuss, let the brethren know why they disagreed but eventually acquiesce if compromises could be made. 3- Fight, strongly disagree and be prepared to back up the disagreement with specific reasons and rationale. Acquiesce on 4, fuss on 4 and fight on 6.

As 1977 opened the committee met a new obstacle. In Feb. the First Presidency divided the Church General Melchezidek Priesthood Executive Committee into two smaller committees, one of which, the Priesthood Executive Committee, was headed by Gordon B. Hinckley. It had three subcommittees. One was headed by Dean L. Larsen to oversee church publications including music. Elder Hinckley directed Larsen to find out the current status of the hymnbook development. Michael Moody prepared a ten point memo "Why a New Hymnbook?" They included charts showing old hymns to discard, and ones to revise, as well as new hymns. The project was scrapped in April 1977 for an "entirely different direction."

The project lay fallow for a year and a half, then the 12 reauthorized and reactivated the task committee. They were to provide an answer to 31 questions from the 12. For example, Number of verses for each hymn? No more than four. Chord symbols with the hymns? No, encourages people to get by without adequate musical training. Color? Several would be best to allow wards and stakes to adapt to color schemes in buildings. Larger issues, such as what values should rule in hymn selection? The reply was emphatic: "Every compromise with excellence will return to haunt us a thousand times." Within weeks the committee returned with the same recommendations as before, received no written reply, and were all released.

For the next five years nothing happened with a new hymnbook. The Church publication committee focused on new LDS editions of scriptures. The new LDS edition of the Bible in 1979, triple combination in 1982. In 1983, scriptures now done, the First Presidency told Moody to revive the hymnbook project and complete something of a revision of the 1950 edition. He was not to work with the previous committee members, only the current advisers in Church Music Department. Nevertheless, he held to some of the values of the previous committee, as seen in the 1985 edition. Field-testing hymns became the dominant decider. Singability and popularity trumped artistic or academic standards. Many hymns the earlier committee cut came back. The patriotic songs, for instance. The international breadth fell far short of the earlier committee's ideals. They had even suggested including some international parts in different languages in the English edition to highlight the global Church, but this did not occur.

The new hymnbook came off the presses in 1985, the sesquicentennial of the first LDS hymnbook. This began a period of adjustment as many lamented losses, and found fresh gems. The Ensign had a cover article [see here]. Perhaps the most telling statement came from the committee's GA adviser, Hugh Pinnock, which bespoke its populism: "I told the committee that they had only one disability: they knew too much about music."

Behind the scenes, Moody wrote a letter of thanks and consolation to Merrill Bradshaw. Moody said he had never been told why the earlier version was scrapped, but that the timing of this version was right. "Too many factors fell into place." Bradshaw replied to praise Moody’s success and said "Knowing a little of the pressures, politics and emotions involved in getting such a project approved and published, I consider the final product to be little short of a miracle."

Pressures, politics and emotions; all are necessary but not sufficient to complete a new hymnbook. To dismantle a standard work, even a hymnbook, and construct new one in its place, requires the wrenching of a whole culture of worship. And to attempt that, is to confront fundamental questions of human experience: what to salvage and what to throw away. Those questions can cut especially deep where the demands of religion and the pleasures of music are concerned.

The chairman of the Church Music Committee in the 1930s, explaining the choices that shaped the 1948 hymnbook, wrote that to be criticized for their choices "goes without saying." "It is a long way, I fear, from the dignity of the great English hymns to the triviality of some of the music we sing. And it may be that our people will never as a whole find the same appeal in them that we musicians do."

So their task in unmaking an old hymnbook and making a new one was to "step forward without being altogether too drastic, because we cannot make transitions to a higher plane of expression very fast in a democratic body of people.” But even a slow transition to a higher plane of expression is a miracle worth its share of acquiescing, fussing, and even a little fighting.

Q: When did the Church move away from the text-only hymnals?

A: We had the text-only hymnals up until 1889, though there were some individually made hymnals that had them that way. But then we had the Psalmody, which was made for choirs, and that's where we began to really get the notion of singing the parts. The choir book became the congregational book, and the other books since then have been the same. Other churches had the same sort of situation with independent then codified books.

Q: Any sense of discouragement for singing in parts now? You said they lowered keys so we sing the melody, is that the intention?

A: That was the intention for doing that, some people thought it was to simplify the keys, but in some cases it actually made them more difficult. For example, "I Stand All Amazed" went from b flat to a flat, which is not easier for the accompanist. That was the intention. A brief anecdote from Robert Cundik[?] who has a lot of experience and influence in Church music, really made a push a few years ago to have the First Presidency or at least the Twelve say they'd like the hymns to be sung in unison. Now this is coming from an organist, of course, organists like to play around with the chords. But eventually a field test was done here in BYU stakes several years ago. He hoped they would say this is much better. Well, they love to sing in parts. This would be the worst group to try and have sing in unison, young students which includes music majors, they want to sing in parts. They have tunnel sings and so forth. The polling was very negative and gave the thumbs down to this. I don't think it will ever happen in an official way but that was the original concept.

Q: When they decided on hymns that were "not sung often," how did they work that out, it wasn't an international committee?

A: It seems to have been purely anecdotal. I had an experience with "If You Could Hie to Kolob," which the 1985 committee viewed as an artistic success because they got rid of the old setting for the current one. But the BYU student wards and stakes love it. But we sang it in my home stake a little while ago and the former bishop said "I've never heard that before." Wasn't exactly true, but he was saying how rare it was. So he would say "Oh, they never sing that," but the students would say "we sing it all the time." They said this all the time, by the way, about Come Thou Fount. Come Thou Fount will be back in the hymnbook, I bet you. You may not even be aware it's not in there, but that was really the one that I noticed first being absent in the 1985 hymnbook, I love it and it wasn't there. And one of the reasons was they said it was rarely sung. And I don't know whether that was true in their experience, and we didn't sing it too much but it will be back because of Mack Wilberg's arrangement, as you know. I predict it will be back, I probably won't have a say in it, but...

Q: When will a new hymnbook come, it's quite outdated.

A: haha, well there was this notion that we've got to have new hymnbooks to respond to the needs of the growing church and the advancing church over time. And that seems to be gone, that idea now is really...First of all, David Warner says as of a couple years ago, he's the head of the Church Music Department now, or Division I think it's called, he says "Oh, we have no plans at all, in that. We're just trying to still get the translations done of the 1985 hymnbook, that's not done for all the languages." And this process of creating full hymnbooks as opposed to the short ones that just have selected hymns in various languages, that's still going on so that's what they see as their task. The 1970s to 80s really signaled a change because they said we need to bring this up to date, new things, and create new things. There are a lot of great new hymns in the 1985 book, that were written sometimes for that book. That sort of creative mandate I don't see right now. But like I say they're still trying to deal with the dissemination of the one that we got 25 years ago. So no plans they say, but I get asked this semi-monthly, as if I'd know.