The Spring issue of the Journal of Mormon History arrived just as I was making some final plans for the annual Mormon History Association conference in Springfield, Il later this month. Reading it heightened the anticipation for the conference.
The first article in the issue is Philip Jenkins’ 2008 Tanner Lecture (an honorary lecture held at each MHA conference where they bring in a scholar outside of Mormon history to lecture on Mormon related topics). Kevin’s excellent notes are available here; having read many Tanner Lectures, I was surprised with the cogency and perspicacity of Jenkins. He lectured on the LDS Church in Africa and made some quite astonishing observations. This should be not just a must read for students of Mormon history, but also church leaders and lay members.
This year’s Tanner Lecture, by Walter T. K. Nugent from Notre Dame, is entitled “The Mormons and America’s Empires.” Sounds interesting.
The next article in the journal was written by emeritus General Authority John K. Carmack and was based on his presentation at last year’s MHA in California. His paper traces the growth of the Church in California as being the precedent on which all post-gathering Church growth can be modeled.
Also from a previous year’s presentation at the Wyoming MHA (2006 if I remember right), Karen Ann Griggs has an article about the 1857 handcart missionaries. This little known group of missionaries left Utah to go East by handcart and Griggs’ exhaustive search through primary sources resulted in quite a nice narrative.
The other article in this issue is by Kenneth L. Cannon II and recounts a quite devastating episode when two prominent Utah families melted down in the 1880’s during a tragic tale of marriage, infidelity, and religious and secular politics. I was discomforted by the whole thing. This isn’t to say that the article isn’t important; it is. You just start to suffer with those that suffer. The reconciliation at the end was deeply moving to me.
There are also some really solid book reviews.
As mentioned, the next MHA conference is in three weeks and there will surely be some excellent publications stemming from it (here is the preliminary schedule that is simply bursting with Mormon history goodness – I have to sacrifice during each session). The following are some of the many sessions that I am particularly excited about:
- The opening plenary session, “Introducing ‘The Book of Commandments and Revelations,’
A Major New Documentary Discovery” with rock stars Robin Jensen et al., will surely be amazing. This is a discussion of one of the documents to be published in the forthcoming Revelations volume of the Joseph Smith Papers this year.
- “From Proselytizing to Permanence on the Periphery: Mormonism in the American South” is a session that includes two of the JI wunderkinds, Chris and Edje, along with BCC favorite Mark Brown. The ever illustrious Ardis will be responding.
- At the same time as the American South papers, Holbrook, JI Taysom and BCC Sam will be presenting papers on “Words of Wisdom, Bodies of Power: Sacred Diet among Mormons and Shakers.” Curse you conference organizers for confounding my schedule!
- “Nineteenth-Century Mormon Thought and Its American Theological Context.” JI Ben and Jordan work through some of our theological history. I dare them to say “viviparous spirit birth.”
- “New Insights and Interpretations of Nauvoo Polygamy” with George D. Smith, Don Bradley, and Brian Hales should be…exciting.
- Competing with Nauvoo Polygamy is “Life and Death in Nauvoo,” with a bang up roster of Jeff Johnson, Alex Smith and Mark Staker. Note that a third group composed of certain impressive scholars speaking on early Mormon ritual are also competing during this time slot. Again, curses.
- “Using the Joseph Smith Papers” includes Esplin, Elder Jensen and Mark Ashurst-McGee, which should be very interesting.
As always, I am looking forward to the Women’s History Breakfast on Saturday morning (even though it is at 6:30 am). And the book sales are fabulous. My favorite part is chatting up friends and colleagues, though. I look forward to the many meals and evenings conversing with really, really, smart people that share a love of our shared history. Party. On.
It isn’t too late to consider joining us. I agree that Springfield isn’t necessarily the most convenient locale (hello planners – Seattle I rich in Mormon heritage); but consider coming out for what will assuredly be a good time had by all.