Chelsey Faloona and her SURE Award

20 Jul
Faloona at BYU

From left to right: Jesus, Chelsey, and her Mom

UHPer Chelsey Faloona won one of the UHP SURE Awards this year, and she’s already putting it to good use!  She’s using the funds to travel to BYU in Utah to study Mormon history, and has already had a pretty interesting and enlightening experience.  Keep reading to hear her full story

My SURE award enabled me to travel to Utah to study Mormon history. Specifically, I accessed the Special Collections at the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University to study Reed Smoot, a senator and Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church). He was elected to the US Senate in 1903, amid renewed controversy about the practice of plural marriage (polygamy) within the LDS Church as well as general anti-Mormon sentiment. As an Apostle, a high-ranking Church official in line to the Church Presidency, he was burdened with defending not only his reputation, but also that of his Church. Most Americans and senators agreed that Smoot should be removed from the Senate because of his Church affiliation. This long and heated Senate hearing determining Smoot’s right to keep his seat caught my interest as a case study of intolerance in the early 20th century. I therefore used my SURE grant to fly to Utah and explore their archives.

My first day on the BYU campus I attempted to fit in with the students. The University has a strict dress code (skirts below the knees, sleeves, no facial piercings, no form-fitting clothing, etc.) which I sought to follow. Once at the library I was told that the Special Collections were closed for weekly devotional. Little did I know that every Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m. the University shuts down so students can attend a religious meeting. Since I couldn’t begin my research, I decided to tag along. I had never attended any LDS functions before, so I was quite nervous. I sat next to a girl who filled me in on what to expect. We began by singing four verses of America the Beautiful (I only knew of one), then with an opening prayer, followed by a lecture on passages from the Book of Mormon. The meeting then closed with a prayer, and everyone went on with their days. I was amazed by the sense of community at devotional. All the students seemed to take it seriously and participated whole-heartedly.

After devotional, I commenced my research. The documents pertaining to Reed Smoot were exceptionally well catalogued and I spent a total of about ten hours over two days pouring over them. To touch actual correspondence and photographs from over one hundred years ago was incredible. I felt I got a better impression of the time and Smoot himself. Now that I have returned from my trip, I am excitedly writing up my findings and placing them in context with Mormon history. I am utilizing writing from correspondence in the archives to illustrate religious intolerance on a personal level with Reed Smoot. In doing so, I intend to illustrate the deep and devastating effects of bigotry that extend throughout Mormon history in an accessible way. I hope to include a concluding segment on the recent Broadway hit “Book of Mormon” to conclude that Mormons are slowly being perceived as less alien to American culture, though they are still far from widely accepted. I am very grateful for the generosity of the Sigelmans as well as for the help of Professor Hoyt-O’Connor and the exceptionally helpful Catherine Chandler of the UHP.

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One Response to “Chelsey Faloona and her SURE Award”

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  1. Get up to $500 to studywhat you’d like [SURE Award] « theUHP Blog - November 29, 2011

    […] to buy high tech equipment to turn algae into biofuel for their class project.  Others — like Chelsey Faloona – used the money to travel for her research.  The possibilities are endless, but the […]

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