Research update on Mormon healing

By: J. Stapley - April 19, 2008

As some know, Kris and I have worked together for the past couple of years doing research on Mormon healing. Our earliest work has focused on the liturgical aspects of Mormon healing, but we intend to eventually get to medical science as well. We recently found out that our paper, “‘They Shall Be Made Whole’: A History of Baptism for Health,” has been accepted by the Journal of Mormon History. We also just finished up our next paper, “The Forms and the Power: The Development of Mormon Ritual Healing to 1847” and are looking forward to seeing what the editors say about it. I think they are both exciting papers, but now it is on to the next thing.

Our last paper on the development of the Mormon healing liturgy to 1847 set the foundation for much of the rest of our work. It includes the various rituals that Mormons have used for healing throughout its existence and, most importantly for our next manuscript, contextualizes and narrates the beginning of female ritual healing in Mormonism. Our next paper will continue that history to the end of the practice in the mid-twentieth century. We have loads of previously unpublished source materials and are excited to get cracking.

Female Ritual Healing in MormonismThe way Kris and I typically do things is to gather our source material in a “source file.” These files include the text of the reference organized chronologically. Each reference is numbered and includes full bibliographic citation. We read over these source files separately and then together (which is where a lot of great ideas come to fruition) and then we sketch an outline and divvy up writing duties.

I just finished updating our source file on female ritual healing (it is a monster). Instead of printing it out and having it spirally bound, I thought I would just upload it to a print-on-demand service and have it hard bound (it didn’t cost too much more than having it done at Kinko’s). The only 8.5×11 hardback that the service I used offers is what is called “casewrap binding.” This is frequently the binding of textbooks and is full color. So, quick in dirty, I wallowed in my Mormon history geekery. I could have done a better job if I had spent more time on it, but I wanted to get that thing ordered.

We still have at least one more trip to the archives before we finish this manuscript. And we have a long list of materials that we will be begging for at the Church History Department.

Those that thought the history of Mormon healing was already written are in for some surprises.


  1. This looks really interesting

    Comment by JennyW — 4/19/2008 @ 12:56 pm

  2. Congrats on the article getting accepted by JMH, J, and good luck with all the other research. Having read at least some of your stuff, I’m excited to see the results of the rest.

    Comment by Christopher — 4/19/2008 @ 1:11 pm

  3. J, this looks fantastic. I can’t wait to see the finished products.

    Comment by Ben — 4/19/2008 @ 2:24 pm

  4. I’m happy for you both. This is great.

    Comment by Mark IV — 4/19/2008 @ 3:06 pm

  5. I appreciate the comments, folks. This has been fun.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 4/19/2008 @ 3:27 pm

  6. Add me to the list of those eagerly waiting to read the next installments in your ongoing study.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — 4/19/2008 @ 3:27 pm

  7. Keep on trucking! Congrats.

    Comment by Jared T. — 4/19/2008 @ 4:13 pm

  8. That does sound fun. Congratulations.

    Comment by Jared* — 4/19/2008 @ 6:09 pm

  9. Indeed, y’all are doing some exciting work.

    Comment by David G. — 4/19/2008 @ 9:53 pm

  10. Good work, J. and Kris!

    Comment by Justin — 4/21/2008 @ 9:17 am

  11. I wonder if this would be something my wife would be interested in reading.

    I’m particularly interested in what you might come up with when you get into “the medical science as well” part of it. Do you mean you would be writing about LDS women and what they’ve done as physicians?

    Comment by danithew — 4/25/2008 @ 5:58 am

  12. We briefly mention botanic medicine in our recent manuscript, but yeah, a lot is to be done in future work. We intend to look at both men and women. If she is interested, you might check out:

    Lester E. Bush Jr., Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense and Scripture (New York: Crossroad, 1993).

    Comment by J. Stapley — 4/25/2008 @ 9:10 am

  13. This is good news. Thanks for the update.

    Comment by BHodges — 5/5/2008 @ 11:24 am

  14. added your blog to my site aggregator. Could you please help to attract new users to the Mormon Blogosphere aggregator? I enjoy reading your historical posts.

    Copy and paste the following code into your HTML/JavaScript widget, then take out the # signs:


    Dr. B.

    Comment by Dr. B. — 5/17/2008 @ 4:01 am

  15. J: I found a really great article in the Liahona: The Elders’ Journal 6, no. 35 (Feb 13, 1909): 844-846, on “Administering to the Sick.” It is in response to a question regarding the proper use of consecrated oil. It covers the ground: addresses ingesting oil, using it topically on afflicted areas, who can bless, what they should say, how much to use, etc. You are probably already aware of it (I found it on Googlebooks; stumbled onto it while looking for something else) but thought I’d bring it to you attention in case you haven’t seen it. If you don’t have this source already and can’t find it online, I’d be happy to send you a copy, if you’re interested.

    Comment by stan — 3/17/2009 @ 9:36 pm

  16. Thanks for think of me, Stan! I’m just about to do another one of these update posts. I did have this reference (it is wonderful isn’t it?). BYU recently digitized the full run and I glutted myself on it for a while. Come to find out, it has proven an incredibly important source for explaining the shifts in Mormon healing during the first decades of the twentieth century. I imagine that there are a lot of other topics waiting to be elucidated in its pages.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/17/2009 @ 9:44 pm

  17. please tell me were I can get this book!!

    Comment by penny mandeville — 5/11/2009 @ 10:00 pm

  18. J – This sounds fascinating. I’d love to find out more/read the actual finished work, if available.


    Comment by Amber — 11/1/2009 @ 4:00 am

  19. Amber, we recently published a history of the development of Mormon healing to 1847:

    Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, “The Forms and the Power: The Development of Mormon Ritual Healing to 1847,” Journal of Mormon History 35 (Summer 2009): 42-87.

    Our massive paper on female ritual healing should be done by the end of the year, and hopefully published sometime next year.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 11/1/2009 @ 11:34 am

  20. This topic facinates me! Thank you for posting on it. I’m hoping that the Holistic LDS Living conference in June will touch on this.

    Comment by Penelope — 4/4/2010 @ 11:27 pm

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