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Mapping Elections and Mormonism

“Maps are powerful tools”, said John Hamer at the 2011 John Whitmer Historical Association meetings. His remarks have be published in the latest issue of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal (Fall/Winter 2012). He goes on to say

Beyond their capacity to dazzle, maps allow historians to organize information in a completely different way than traditional narrative text.  As a result, maps give historians the potential to discover and relate connections that might otherwise be overlooked.

Fig 1.9C: Results of 2008 U.S. Presidential election by county

As with any powerful tool, however, maps can also be dangerous…maps reflect the biases of their makers.

Depending on how their information is arrayed, graphs, and charts can be used to illustrative opposite conclusions.  Maps are no different.  Consider, for example four separate maps of the US presidential elections.  A simple area map (fig 1.9A) shows the land area of the US almost evenly divided between Barack Obama and John McCain.  However, because McCain’s states were relatively under populated for their size, they yielded far fewer electors.

Fig 1.9B: Results of the 2008 US Presidential election by elector

A map showing electoral votes (fig 1.9B) illustrates much more clearly a landslide in favor in Obama’s favor.  Even more pronounced is a map showing the winner of each county (fig 1.9c).  Again, because McCain performed especially well in large and largely empty rural counties, Obama’s support appears restricted to tiny enclaves.  However, when mapped by relative population (fig 1.9D), it once again becomes clear that the counties that went for Obama were much more populous than those who supported McCain.

Will we see similar maps this year?  (Note, I didn’t list all the maps Hamer referenced, but I thought these most illustrated his point.)

John Hamer is the Mormon Mapmaker Extraordinaire.    Not only does he create maps for many Mormon publications, but he designs covers of books.  I especially liked his cover of his own book, Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism. It shows an astonishing number of branches of Mormonism that most of us are unfamiliar with.  In this latest article in the Journal, he has a constellation of Mormonism.  I wish it was in color, but here is his rendition of the Constellation of Mormonism.  (Note the LDS Church is huge, like Jupiter.)

Constellation of Mormonism (click to enlarge)

I also enjoyed what he wrote about temples, and how he displayed information about them.

One final example in this category are diagrams I created to help explain the evolution of temple practices in Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) (figs. 1.29A-B).  Members of the LDS church have come to associate “temple work” solely with Nauvoo-era practices such as baptisms for the dead, sealing and the endowment ritual.  As a result they have almost no context for understanding the Kirtland Temple, which includes no space for any of these functions. The diagrams attempt to show Kirtland-era temple practices had physical space in the Nauvoo Temple and even in the Salt Lake Temple, but are not continued in most newer LDS temples (such as the Columbus Ohio Temple).  By contrast, the Community of Christ Temple in Independence takes its inspiration from Kirtland, avoiding Nauvoo-era innovations.  In the composite picture, we see that both successor churches have retained different elements from their early heritage.

(click to enlarge)

I do think the LDS really have a poor understanding of the Kirtland Temple, and we would have a hard time reconciling the fact that Joseph Smith charged admission for non-members to see Egyptian mummies in the Kirtland Temple.  Such a concept would seem strange to modern Mormons.  John Hamer and Barbara Walden gave a fascinating history of the Kirtland Temple.

I thought John gave some interesting maps and diagrams of the missionary journeys of early Mormons as well, noting that (for example) Joseph Smith never lived in Independence, despite it being the proposed site of the New Jerusalem.

(click to enlarge)

I also liked his portrayal of the 1835 Mormon Hierarchy vs the 1847 Hierarchy.  What do you make of John’s discussion of maps and diagrams with relation to elections and early Mormonism?

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