It just so happens that this week, in Sacramento, is the 2008 Mormon History Association annual conference. A number of regulars will be attending and/or presenting. Should be great fun (let’s hope we have no emergency kidney stone passings). MHA also produces the Journal of Mormon History, in all its chromofenestrative glory. The Spring 2008 issue brings us back to last year’s MHA conference in Salt Lake, as several of the papers were delivered there.
1. William Deverell, “Thoughts from the Farther West: Mormons, California, and the Civil War.”
Deverell delivered this paper as last year’s Tanner Lecture – the annual presentation on Mormon history by prominent nonMormon historians. Deverall hails from USC and offers a well written call to arms for inclusion of Mormon history in the broader history of the West and of the US. So tired are we of the donut hole. Well worth the read.
20. Marlin K. Jensen, “LDS Church History: Past, Present, and Future.”
Elder Jensen is the Church Historian and delivered this paper at one of last year’s luncheons. I missed it, so was glad that the JMH reprinted it. I did, however, attend the session right after that included presentations by folks from the History Dept (here is some of the discussion surrounding the presentations), which covered some of the similar topics, including a somewhat controversial new mission statement. I called the History Dept. when I wrote the previous post to which I linked and asked for a copy of the new mission statement. They weren’t ready to circulate it, but it is included in Jensen’s paper. Jensen walks us through the various Church Historians and offices which they used. He doesn’t really acknowledge any of the controversial aspects of certain changes, but he does offer an excellent brief chronological history of the historians. The last section of Jensen’s paper treats the new History Library – I am encouraged, but still worry for the deprofessionalization of the Archives. Since this paper was given, the First Presidency has separated the Family History and Church History Departments, which development is not covered in this publication.
43. Carol Freeman Braby, “Hannah S. Jenkins: RLDS Missionary Wife in Palestine, 1911-1920.”
This is an interesting history of RLDS Missionaries. After a brief introduction to early Mormon attention to Palestine, Braby shifts to the story of George Adams, a fairly prominent Mormon who joined Strang and tried to fulfill his previous calling to minister in Palestine by establishing a colony of 157 people in Jaffa. A few survivors of the colony persisted into the twentieth century and established contact with the RLDS Church. The prominent missionary couple that ultimately established residency in Palistine was split when Rees, the husband was imprisoned during the First World War as a suspected spy, and Hannah Jenkins survived only to leave in 1920. Some really fascinating info here.
73. Gary James Bergera, “Ezra Taft Benson’s 1946 Mission to Europe.”
Many of us are familiar with Elder Benson’s post-war welfare mission to Europe. Bergera provides a wonderfully insightful and sympathetic view into this period of one of twentieth-centuries most important Mormons. I was deeply moved by Bergera’s treatment which synthesized extant documents, previously published biographies and Benson’s diary. Is Bergera doing a Benson bio?
113. Darrell E. Jones, “The St. George Temple Tower: Evolution of a Design.”
Have you heard the tale that Brigham Young hated the St. George Temple tower and posthumously struck it down by lightening? I had, though I can’t figure out from where I had heard it. Jones’ short article reviews the extant documentation on the tower and suggests the source of the rumor. Great fun.
130. William Shepard, “The Concept of a ‘Rejected Gospel’ in Mormon History, Part 1.”
Bill Shepard is, no doubt, a fine historian. But this paper lacks a coherent structure and rambles over what is basically a comparison of Utah Mormon and Strangite reactions to persecution. It would have been better had he set it up that way. Instead, we have non sequiturs about oaths of vengeance, non representative examples of fundamentalist teaching, and fifty pages of wandering prose. Part 2?
182. Erin B. Jennings, “The Consequential Counselor: Restoring the Root(s) of Jesse Gause.”
Remember Jesse Gause (pronounced like “laws”), one of Joseph’s first First Counselors? Didn’t think so. And, consequently, Jennings’ paper serves an excellent purpose. She uses several recently available documents to shed additional light on the life of the forgotten counselor. She makes the provocative claim that much of early Mormonism’s communitarianism can be traced to Gause’s former Shakerism.
228. Michael H. Madsen, “The Sanctification of Mormonism’s Historical Geography.”
In this article, Madsen distills his dissertation, “Mormon Meccas: The Spiritual Transformation of Mormon Historical Sites from Points of Interest to Sacred Space” (Syracuse University, 2003), into a potent spirits of timely and relevant research. Madsen draws on the historical record, but his own field notes, collected on site at various Mormon historical destinations, are dazzling. The evident evolution of Church policy and discourse is a striking illustration of the growing chasm between the modern Church and McConkieism of yesteryear.
256. John C. Thomas reviews Matthew Bolton’s Apostle of the Poor: The Life and Work of Missionary and Humanitarian Charles D. Neff. Positive review. Wanted more comparison to the Utah Church…not sure how applicable that is. Neff was a prominent liberalizer in the twentieth-century RLDS Church.
260. David J. Howlett reviews Matthew S. McBride’s A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple. Positive review. Some critique of McBride’s analysis (or lack thereof), but a solid and helpful volume.
265. Irene M. Bates reviews H. Michael Marquardt’s Early Patriarchal Blessings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Very positive review. Effusive, though doesn’t mention some of the concerns brought up in comments in Sam’s review.