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“‘a very poor place for our doctrine’: religion and race in the 1853 mormon mission to jamaica,” Religion & American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 31:2 (Summer 2021): 262-95.
This article examines the first Mormon mission to Jamaica in January 1853. The missionaries, facing opposition from both black and white Jamaicans, returned to the United States after only a month on the island, having made just four converts. Latter-day Saints did not return to Jamaica for another 125 years. Drawing on the missionaries’ personal papers, church archives, local newspaper reports, and governmental records, I argue that the 1853 mission played a crucial role in shaping nineteenth-century Mormonism’s racial theology, including the “temple and priesthood ban” that restricted priesthood ordination and temple worship for black men and women. While historians have rightly noted the role twentieth-century missions to regions of the African Diaspora played in ending the ban, studies of the racial restriction’s early scope have been discussed in almost exclusively American contexts. The mission to Jamaica, precisely because of its failure, helped shape the ban’s implementation and theological justifications. Failing to make any inroads, the elders concluded that both Jamaica and its inhabitants were cursed and not worthy of the missionaries’ time, which anticipated later decisions to prioritize preaching to whites and to scale back and ultimately abandon efforts to proselytize people of African descent.
“Freeborn Garrettson’s Revolution: Religion and the American War for Independence,” in Benjamin E. Park, ed., A Companion to American Religious History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2021): 71-86.
This article uses the experiences of eighteenth-century itinerant Methodist preacher Freeborn Garrettson as a window onto religion and the American Revolution, highlighting several recent historiographical themes in scholarship on the subject, including the nature of loyalty during the conflict, the reshaping of religious institutions amidst the Revolutionary War, and the mass conversion of black women and men to evangelical Christian churches throughout the Atlantic world.
METHODISM, SLAVERY, AND FREEDOM IN THE REVOLUTIONARY ATLANTIC WORLD
Book-length manuscript in preparation to submit to an academic press.
MISSIONARY INTERESTS: PROTESTANT AND MORMON MISSIONS IN THE NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURIES
Co-edited collection of essays, based on the proceedings of a 2019 symposium held at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.