This year’s conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA) is exciting for me. It’s special in general because 2010 marks the sesquicentennial of the 1860 meeting in Amboy, Illinois, where Emma Smith and her son Joseph III affiliated with the “new organization” of Midwestern Mormons — a reorganization that ultimately became the Community of Christ. But it’s also special for me personally. Although I’ve had a hand in JWHA’s programs since 2004, this is the first year I’ve served as chair of the program committee and put the whole thing together.
I can say that I’m pleased with the results, and I’m very happy to announce our complete preliminary program, which is online here.
Although we’re commemorating the anniversary of the Reorganization, the program is filled with presentations that will be of interest to people with an LDS background. Here’s just a few highlights:
• Linda King Newell, co-author of Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, will kick-off the conference with our annual Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture, entitled: “Emma’s Legacy: Life after Joseph.”
• An all-star panel of scholars, consisting of Newell Bringhurst, Todd Compton, Brian Hales, Craig Foster, and Linda King Newell will debate their “Differing Perspectives on Joseph Smith Jr. and Polygamy.”
• Todd Compton will tackle another thorny question in his own presentation, “The Big Fan: Joseph Smith and the Missouri Danites.”
• Don Bradley will present new insights to an old mystery with “The Lost Book of Lehi: Reconstructing the Contents of the 116 Pages.”
• Christopher Blythe and Christine Blythe will look at angels and apparitions in the early church with presentations entitled, “‘Joseph [Smith] Being Dead Yet Speaketh’: Apparitions of the Prophet-Martyr,” and “Joseph Smith’s Angelic Visitations and Descriptive Rhetoric,” respectively.
• Erin B. Jennings and Connell O’Donovan have done incredible new research into William Smith — Joseph Smith Jr.’s only surviving brother after 1844. Like Joseph, William condemned the practice in public, embraced the practice in secret with dozens of women, and got himself into serious trouble as a consequence.
• Alex Baugh and Brian Hales will look at the LDS/RLDS clashes in Utah Territory.
• Bob Anderson, author of Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, will present on the topic of “The Adam-God Doctrine and Persistence of Polygamy.”
• George Smith, author of Nauvoo Polygamy, will consider “How Brigham Young Failed to Reunite ‘Joseph’s Church’ with ‘Emma’s Church.’”
• Mike Reed has a comparison of “Mormon Attitudes toward the Cross” across the Restoration, which will look at differences between the LDS, Community of Christ, and Strangite practices.
In addition, we’ll have presentations relating to many of the diverse expressions of Mormonism. Kyle Walker will present on the Williamites. Jean Addams and Paul Savage will present on the Hedrickites. Jay Burton will present on the Rigdonites. And, of course, there will be a host of sessions on the Josephites, as we commemorate the anniversary of the Reorganization.
Finally, I’m excited to add that my mother, Ginger Hamer, coming to her first JWHA ever, will present on “An LDS Outpost in the Mission Field: The Old Aurora Branch, 1932-65.” As the LDS returned to the Midwest in the early 20th century, my great grandfather was branch president of an early outpost in Illinois for decades. This is a fascinating case study for the development of the modern LDS Church.
All in all, I think this is a pretty exciting line-up; it’s hard to pick out even handful of highlights, so take a look at the whole program. When you do, consider coming this year. I think it’s the perfect time to experience your first JWHA (or to re-experience JWHA all over again). If you decide to go, you can register online here.
REGISTRATION DETAILS: The conference will be held Sept. 23-26 in Amboy and Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is about an hour west of Chicago O’Hare airport and shuttles are available from O’Hare and Midway Airports.