Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
Jeannie Banks Thomas
Jeannie Banks Thomas
This thesis illustrates the widespread and dynamic nature of early Mormon women’s use of peepstones in Utah, stretching from Mormons’ arrival in Utah in the mid nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. While many scholars have looked at seer stones in the context of Joseph Smith’s life, seer stones and peepstones were used by men, women, and children, decades after Smith’s death. This thesis considers the material context of peepstones in Utah, how the objects connected to people and their placemaking, and how new materialism and early Mormon theology contextualize magical objects such as peepstones. In that context, the thesis closely examines the stories about the “Logan peepstone woman,” Elvine Petersen, who was locally well-known during her life for her ability to give advice and counsel using peepstones and coffee grounds. While many scholars in the twentieth century briefly noted the existence of the peepstone woman in Logan, no previous scholarship has identified her as Elvine Petersen or contextualized her biography with the body of local folklore about her peepstone activities. This thesis is reflexive in its attempt to study a woman who left no sources of her own behind, and whose life has only been framed by other voices, but who gathered enough attention to generate a robust body of local and family folklore. This thesis also considers Petersen’s peepstone use in the larger context of Mormonism in the twentieth century. While previous scholars marked that peepstones practices seem to have ended near the turn of the century, Petersen’s life expands and complicates this timeline. Lastly, this thesis examines the larger community contexts of Mormon women’s divination in Utah. Like Elvine Petersen in Logan, many other Mormon women across Utah practiced divination for their communities. Mormon men and women went to peepstone women and other diviners for a variety of reasons, but these reasons generally were connected to gendered concerns. This thesis considers how these diviner women functioned in their Mormon community contexts, arguing that divination and revelation are social, community-based practices.
Tullis, Millie, "Mormon Women's Peepstones: Divination, Revelation, Gender and Power in Utah" (2023). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 8775.
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