The Last Memory : Joseph F. Smith and Lieux de Mémoire in Late Nineteenth-Century Mormonism
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
Taysom explores how Joseph F. Smith served as a "site of memory" for late nineteenth-century Mormons and how his own memorial experiences shaped first his personal sense of reality and then the wider Mormon collective memory. The vast majority of the memories shared by Smith were deeply traumatic, not only for him but also for the community of which he was the living symbol. Moreover, Taysom examines Smith's worldview by applying theoretical templates from memory studies to the historical data dealing with his life. Although space allows for close reading of only a few pieces of data, these are sufficient to suggest that remembering and creating memory affected Smith and the Church as a whole in complex and fascinating ways. His early traumas shaped his overall sense of his own past and, by virtue of his position as a living link to Smith, the past of Mormonism at large. Memory becomes increasingly important to everyone as they age, but Smith's memory was appropriated by Mormons who longed to touch the experiences of the earliest days and who needed to be close, both physically and memorially, to the blood of "the martyrs." This appropriation placed great pressure on Smith to perform, as memory, the history of persecution and martyrdom that had come to define the Mormon experience in the nineteenth century.