Spring JMH and MHA 2009

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.


  1. Kristine says:

    “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.”

    Bless your geeky, geeky heart, J. Can’t wait to see you :)

  2. Jealous.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    And let’s not forget session 5D on Saturday, which features Kris Wright, J. Stapley, and Kathleen Flake.

  4. That Nauvoo Polygamy session sounds like a hoot…

  5. J: What are some of the solid reviews in the new JMH?

    (looks like it came during my limbo week of moving, so it may be a while before I can track mine down.)

  6. Steve G. says:

    Will any of these sessions be filmed or available across the internet?

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Steve G., IIRC after the conference the MHA will make available a cd with all the sessions on it. So that might be a solution both for those unable to attend and for those forced into a Sophie’s Choice during particular concurrent sessions. Although for me a lot of the fun is actually being there in person.

  8. I can’t wait either.

    Ben, the book reviews include Paulos reviewing Godfrey’s Religion, Politics, and Sugar. Edward Leo Lyman reviews MMM and Radke-Moss reviews an old dissy reprint on suffragists and polygamy. There is also reviews of The Sisterhood and The Mormon Trail Revisited.

    I also just added another session on the JSP to the original post that I wanted to highlight.

  9. Some years they also have made each session available for purchase by download.

  10. Thanks for giving our session some love, J.

    And the most recent JMH does look like a solid issue. Glad to see my uncle Ken getting some positive feedback on his important research.

  11. BTW, here are my picks for the annual awards. I have no inside scoop. These are just my poorly thought-out guesses:

    Best Book: MMM by Walker, Turley and Leonard.

    Best First Book: Jared Farmer’s On Zion’s Mount. If his volume on Lake Powell disqualifies him, then House of Mourning: A Biocultural History of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    Best Documentary: JSP, J1 (I’m not sure how others will be able to compete in the next 20 years. Perhaps they will exclude them?). The Martineau diaries published by RSC would otherwise be a good candidate. At Sword’s Point would be a good pick, but I believe the editor is one of the awards judges.

    Best Biography: Mormonism’s Last Colonizer by William Smart.

    Best Article & Talmage Excellent Articles (three total and this is a total crap-shoot): One of Bergera’s Ezra Taft Benson articles. Lisle Brown on the Endowment House. Jeffrey Walker’s article on property rights in MO. Maybe a certain paper on baptism for health (grin).

    Best Graduate Paper: Stephen J. Fleming, “The Religious Heritage of the British Northwest and the Rise of Mormonism.”

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Everyone fill your brackets out now.

  13. My guesses, are really close to yours, J. I really thought Mackinnon’s book was first rate, and it would be a shame if he is on the awards committee because it was one of the best documentary books I have read in a long time–and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t generally like Utah history.

    Also, I’ll vote for fellow JIer David as best thesis, and for another fellow JIer Matt B for a three-peat in best graduate paper.

  14. I forgot the thesis and dissy awards. Agreed, David has that one. And what was Matt’s paper? Did I miss it?

  15. J: Since it doesn’t have to be published papers, I’m sure Matt turned in something, and whatever it is, it has a good chance. (I think I heard he had been working on something on liturgy)

  16. Bill MacKinnon isn’t on the awards committee (he’s no longer on the MHA Board, although I understand he’s up for election — a shoe-in, naturally! — for president-elect at the Springfield meeting), so At Sword’s Point should be eligible for an award. Much as I admire both JSP J1 and MMM, you’ll probably understand if I say I’m pulling for ASP!

    Bill is also speaking at the luncheon meeting on the 22nd, on “Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Mormon Problem: The 1857 Springfield Debate.” I’m privy to the text of that talk and recommend it — you won’t even mind the hotel food they serve, with a talk like that to listen to.

  17. Ardis, you are right. I just checked, and I have no idea why I thought he was a awards chair. That is some stiff competition in the documentary category.

  18. Isn’t 2008 the year of Matt’s Fides et Historia paper? Fleming’s paper was very good, as was the health baptism piece.
    Did Ardis have a piece this year? What about Kevin’s MiH paper?

  19. I thought the Fides et Historia paper was the one he already got one the previous years’ awards for. But realizing that they don’t have to be published opens it up wider than I could comfortably even guess. I’m sure there are many that I over-looked!

  20. Not me, smb. I’m too lazy ever to finish anything.

  21. Wish I could be there. Hope to get a hold whatever I can afterwards.