MHA Springfield 2009 Open Thread

After spending a couple of days in Nauvoo with friends, I am now checked into the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center. In a few minutes I’ll be joining an old friend for dinner; we’ll probably miss the opening reception, but the opening plenary address is at 8:00 p.m. in the ballroom.

As I was walking in, I saw Molly B., who was on her way to tour the Abraham Lincoln home (I’ve been through it twice; it’s a good tour). I also saw Glen Leonard and his wife wandering around, and said “hi” to Ron Romig. Most of the sessions will be held on the lower level of the conference facility next door, so I went over there just to get my bearings so I won’t get lost tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss Friday morning’s activities, as I have a Dialogue board meeting and then I’m committed to sit at the Dialogue table in the exhibition area after that. So I hope people will report on both the plenary session and whatever they attended for the following concurrent session.

OK, let’s have a good conference, and everyone please feel free to post your notes and observations here. I’m positive that our readers who are unable to attend this year will deeply appreciate it.


  1. Thanks, Kevin. Post away, everybody, for the good of us who can’t be there this year.

  2. Kevin,

    Will you also be tweeting?

  3. Steve Evans says:

    We’ll have some highlights via twitter, but not many.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    No, sorry, I’m afraid I’m too behind the times to tweet. I don’t have a smart phone, but just a very basic model.

    This evening Richard Carwardine of Oxford gave the lecture (in honor of Jan Shipps) on religion in antebellum America. Its relevance to Mormonism was tangential (he acknowledged he knows very little about Mormonism), but it was interesting nonetheless. He talked first about how the pluralistic religious forces in America threatened to tear it apart, and then second how those same forces tended to an equilibrium that pulled it together, and finally he talked about how those forces sustained Lincoln and the union during the war itself. I have to admit, though, that I had a hard time keeping awake for it, as I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep and was really tired. So I’m going to hit the hay now and try to remedy that.

    I don’t know how much I’ll get to post, since the actual sessions are next door from the hotel and it will be difficult to run up to my room in between sessions as I normally try to do. We’ll see how it goes.

  5. I am so very jealous of everyone there.

  6. Kevin,

    Most guys I know would be thrilled to have any kind of model, even a basic one.

  7. Kevin,

    Thanks for doing this and I hope you have an enjoyable conference.

  8. >I had a hard time keeping awake

    Ol’ Lars Glenson has been vindicated.

  9. Lars Glenson says:

    Preach on, Limey-affirmative-action-boy.

    Maybe, Kevin Barney, you should take something to read during these lectures, just like you read Sunstone during SACRAMENT MEETING. What a joke.

    Does Glen Leonard’s wife have a name, by the way? And did Ron Romig say “hi” back?

    Who the HELL are these people?

    Love the way that a MORMON history conference has a speaker who knows nothing about MORMONISM. Sad attempt to lend his Oxford credentials to your ASS of a conference.

  10. Steve Evans says:

    Lars, please be respectful of our commenters and permas. We try to be civil around here.

  11. (managed to get bluetooth/blackberry to work with laptop)

    Great speech by a law professor about a hidden Appalachian branch in the early 20th century, tucked away near Buena Vista, VA.

    the BCR talk was well attended and though I missed it, it sounds like the main thing is the revelation on Pure Language that we knew about by reputation since the 1850s but not by its actual contents. A fascinating revelation.

    The conference center looks like a high school that has lost its accreditation, though.

  12. Researcher says:

    Well, hopefully one of these days the MHA will hold the annual conference in Philadelphia. Plenty of nice convention facilities. And cheesesteaks. And at least one Mormon history site.

  13. I can vouch for the cheesesteaks. And the Mormon history site, having visited there with Researcher just this past Monday.

    The paper about the Appalachian branch sounds like it would be high on my interest list. Here’s hoping it will be published soon.

    More! More!

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    While I was sitting at the Dialogue table in the exhibition area, Ron Huggins and his wife came by with Sandra Tanner. I chatted with Ron a little bit and was glad to learn that he had landed on his feet after the Salt Lake Theological Seminary closed; he’s now at a seminary in Kansas City. I introduced myself to Sandra.

    Then not two minutes later Lawrence Foster stopped by, who had published a Dialogue article critical of the Tanners. Only at MHA.

    At lunch I sat with Bill Russell. The lunch time speech by Byron Andreason was interesting, all about connections between Mormons (and Joseph Smith) with Springfield.

    Off to the next concurrent sessions…

  15. Randy B. says:

    Please tell me someone is going to post the award winners tonight!

  16. Nameless says:

    Researcher…don’t forget the Masonic Temple in your tour of Philly historic sites. It has a nice little LDS display.

  17. Great speech by a law professor about a hidden Appalachian branch in the early 20th century, tucked away near Buena Vista, VA.

    Sounds like a follow-up to R.K. Bailey’s 2004 article, “Lost Tribes: Indian Mormons in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.”

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    We have awards:

    Awards of Excellence:

    Samuel Brown, “The Translator and the Ghostwriter: Joseph Smith and W.W. Phelps.” [Great article, btw!]

    Matthew Bowman, “The Crisis of Mormon Christology: History, Progress and Protestantism.” [The Matt Bowman domination continues!]

    Dissertation award:

    Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Zion Rising: Joseph Smith’s Early Social and Political Thought.”

    Two Best Theses:

    Samuel A. Smith, “The Wasp in the Beehive: Non-Mormon Presence in the 1880’s Utah.”

    Zachary Ray Jones, “Mormon Proselytizing in Russian Finland, 1860-1924.”

    Best Graduate Paper:

    Matthew Bowman, “Liturgy as History: An Approach to Mormon Worship, 1830-2008.” [Third year in a row for Matt!]

    Undergrad Paper:

    Benjamin E. Park, “Build, Therefore, Your Won World’: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joseph Smith, and American Antebellum Thought.”

    Special Citations to Lavina et al. for the JMH. Her gift was a lifetime subscription to the JMH, natch. Also to Newell Bringhurst, as MHA Historian.

    Thomas L. Kane Award to Anne M. Burke (Justice on the Illinois Supreme Court) and Represntative Daniel J. Burke (her brother-in-law) for their work on the General Assembly Resolution expressing regret that the Mormons were driven out of Illinois. This was a great, well deserved award, and I was psyched that they were there in person to accept it.

    Arrington Award:

    Edward Leo Lyman

    Best Book:

    Massacre at MM

    Best First Book:

    William P. MacKinnon, At Sword’s Point

    Best Bio:

    Gary Topping, Leonard J. Arrington: A Historian’s Life

    William B. Smart, Mormonism’s Last Colonizer

    Best Doc

    The JSP, natch

    International award:

    Mark L. Grover, A Land of Promise and Prophecy: Elder A. Theodore Tuttle in South America

    Family and Community:

    Wendel Walton and Hilary Hendricks, The Family of John Birch & Ann Craven in the Nineteenth Century

    T. Edgar Lyon best article

    J. Spencer Fluhman, “An American Mahomet,’ Joseph Smith, Muhammad, and the Problems of Prophets in Antebellum America.”

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    This afternoon I attended the session on mobs.

    John Kimball Alexander talked about tarring and feathering as ritual violence. Although the tarring part is attested from ancient Greece (because of the effect it has removing the skin), it became a popular remedy during the American Revolution. Carried overtones of patriotism. When they got worried that foreign countries would object to the violence, they would tar and feather horses, wagons and buildings! The 1832 tarring and feathering of Joseph and Sidney in Hiram was an afterthought, when the poisoning and castrating options didn’t work. Tarring and feathering was considered a warning–if the immoral behavior was changed, the victim could reenter the community.

    Deborah Marsh did a socioeconomic profile of 89 of the more than 200 participants in the Carthage mob. She found that in general they were older than average, married, professionals, at least second generation Americans. In other words, they weren’t young rabble rousers, but established men of the community. The motives for the mobbers were complex and varied.

    Breck England basically objected to revisionist accounts of the expulsion from Nauvoo.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Brian Cannon talked about the Carthage Jail in Mormon memory. A couple of points I found particularly interesting. I have long been under the impression that it was Spencer W. Kimball that requested that the glass over the Hyrum Smith blood stain be removed. But apparently, it was Dr. LeRoy Kimball who made that request. Kimball was president of both the mission and Nauvoo Restoration. So when some folks talked about “President Kimball” doing this, others assumed they meant Spencer, not LeRoy. So that cleared up a misconception I had had for a long time.

    Also, I have popularized the idea that the bloodstain on the floor was not really a bloodstain, based on a conversation I had once with Don Enders. Based on my blog post, Brian talked to Don about it, and now he’s in a “not sure” place. The evidence that I found compelling, which is that the floor had been replaced since the floorboards were cut with a circular saw that didn’t exist when the jail was first built, applies only to the floor of the dungeion cell next door, not the bedroom. And the blood stain was observed early in the history of the jail, and consistently thereafter. They had people try to establish whether it was really blood or not, and experts couldn’t say for sure either way. So I think we’re back to a “not sure, but possible” position on whether the blood stain on the bedroom floor is really Hyrum’s. (I had asked Don because I was embroiled in an internet debate where I had taken the position in the affirmative, so I feel a little bit of vindication with this latest information.)

    Brian said that everyone always wants to know about the blood. One time an exasperated senior missionary, asked the question one too many times, exclaimed in frustration: “Where’s the blood? Where’s the blood? Where’s the blood? If I hear that question one more time, I”m taking my wife and driving back home to Idaho!”

    When I was in Nauvoo I met and talked to Curtis Weber. He gave a detailed examination of whether Joseph and Hyrum were buried under the right headstones, or whether, as has been argued, their corpses were misidentified in 1928 and they were inadvertently switched. Using some pretty detailed forensics (particular advances were eye alignment and tissue depth), he concluded that they are in the correct position as identified by the headstones.

    Then we had a showing of Nobody Knows, hosted by Darius and Margaret, which earned a thunderous standing ovation. This was my third viewing of it, and i was very happy to be able to see it again.

    That’s it for today…

  21. I can honestly say that my favorite highlight so far is sharing a table full of remarkable people at the awards banquet, including BCC’s own Kevin Barney and John Hamer.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Ben, we had a great table last night. And I was very excited for your win! Congratulations.

  23. Joe Geisner says:

    Thank you Kevin for the wonderful updates.

    Your comment about Breck England is curious. Who and what revisionist history is he talking about?

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    The session on the history of Nauvoo development was interesting to me. The tension between LDS and RLDS actually had its beginnings in 1903 with the LDS acquisition of the birthplace in Sharon, VT and the death place in Carthage. RLDS were very concerned with LDS interpretation of these sites. Whose interpretation of JS would prevail? Would he be the monogamist visionary, or the polygamist who introduced temple rites? That was the key question that stirred tensions between the two groups.

    This LDS movement spurred the RLDS to gain control of the JS sites in Nauvoo, which they did in the early years of the 20th century. For at least the first three decades and beyond of the 20th century, the RLDS were winning the battle of Nauvoo. Acquisitions were 1909-1917. In 1918 tours begin. 1939-1940 additional improvements.

    LDS come late to the party; in 1937 acquire part of the temple lot on the bluff. RLDS spend $50,000 upgrading their properties in the 1950s. In 1951 LDS put an information bureau on the temple lot–the first LDS interpretation of Nauvoo.

    IL creates Nauvoo State Park in 1950. The IL General Assembly adopted a resolution encouraging the LDS and RLDS to cooperate to rebuild the Nauvoo temple!!! Clearly they had no concept of the religioius differences between the two groups, at the center of which was the temple itself. RLDS were against a reconstituted temple; felt it would give the LDS the advantage. LDS claimed no intention to build a temple on the site.

    In 1932 the LDS, with RLDS permission, had placed a plaque honoring the RS at the site of the JS Red Brick Store (not yet rebuilt). 20 years later the RLDS asked the LDS to take it down–reflects rising tensions, and the fact that the red brick store was the site of the initial endowments in Nauvoo.

    LDS put up a billboard outside of town advertising Nauvoo. Would have been innocuous, but included a silhoette of BY in addition to JS. BY house one of the first restored by LDS.

    In the early 60s, within the space of about three years LDS began to dominate in Nauvoo. Partly greater financial resources. Partly federal government added to the national historic register, and emphasized its importance for Americans generally as telling the story of westward migration. Privileged the LDS story over the RLDS one. Since then a massive restoration project.

    In Q&A pointed out that the initial model for Nauvoo Restoration Inc. was Williamsburg. Historical accuracy was the goal. But when DOM died and JFS took over, he stacked the board with apostles and the goal changed to one of proselyting. When the Church built numerous missionary buildings on the flats in faux-federalist style, but with garages and things, without any attempt at preserving on-site archaelogical resources, people in the history division wrote several anguished letters to the president of the Church begging him to put a stop to it. But the development was already too far along to halt.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    The idea that the expulsion from Nauvoo did not have religious motives.

  26. Kevin: thanks for the notes on the nauvoo restoration development–all new stuff that I had never heard of, and makes me wish I would have gone.

  27. Wright, Stapley, and Flake just delivered a magnificent trio of papers.
    Wright pursues a history of sacred/holy/consecrated olive oil.
    Stapley demonstrates the history of male:female collaborative healing, which was practiced well into the 20th century
    Flake does a great job of showing how the ritual meaning of marriage shifted from 1835 to 1842. Wonderful language about how priesthood in this new form of marriage was transferred to both men and women as they became integrated into the heaven family.
    Maffly-Kipp is also doing a great job as the respondent to these papers.

    And this was competing with other fantastic sessions. strong day.

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Over lunch, MHA President-Elect Bill MacKinnon gave a terrific and very accessible talk about a “debate” of sorts between Douglas and Lincoln having to do with the Mormons in 1857, one year in advance of their famous series of debates.

    On June 12, 1857, Douglas made a speech in the Old State Capitol, on three subjects: 1. Kansas, 2, Dred Scott, and 3. Utah. He avoided mentioning polygamy, focusing on Mormon disloyalty, as:

    1. 9/10 were aliens who refused to become naturalized.

    2. Mormons recognized only BY and his government, to the exclusion of the U.S.

    3. Mormons were forming alliances with the Indians.

    His solution? Remove BY, repeal the territorial enactment so the place will revert to a primitive condition, replace BY with true men, investigate crimes, use military to support with military force.

    A mistake: he invited anyone else with a better idea to present it. And Lincoln was in the audience. He held his own counsel that day, but would present a different view, turning this into a sort of proto-debate.

    Douglas was not present when Lincoln gave his rebuttal. Argued that Doublas’ doctrine of self-determination for the territories was a pretense to allow slavery. Otherwise, why not allow it to operate in Utah? Polygamy was not against the constitution nor any federal law. Why no popular sovereignty there?

    Mormon reaction was scathing towards Douglas; ignored Lincoln.

    In an April 1860 speech, Lincoln indirectly defended Utah.

  29. Susan W H says:

    My husband and I were at that table with the remarkable people that Ben mentions and it was a highlight of the day. I had a chance to meet Matt Grow at breakfast today and compliment him on his work on Thomas Kane–he and Ron Walker read great papers on Brigham Young and Kane yesterday. Today William MacKinnon’s luncheon talk on Douglas, Lincoln and the Mormon problem was outstanding.

    I am annoyed that I can’t be in two or three places at once–I would have liked to have heard many more papers, and am disappointed that the conference was not recorded this year. I appreciate the exhibitors and have a new pile of books to ship back home.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    The polygamy session was very interesting. First George D. Smith gave some basic chronological background on Mormon polygamy.

    Then Don Bradley summarized some of his research into the Andrew Jenson papers. Jenson’s published lists suggested 27 wives. His papers supported a list of 13 from Melissa Lott, 13 from Eliza R. Snow, 5 miscellaneous ones from elsewhere in his papers, for a total support for 31 of the 33 wives on Compton’s list. (Hales’ personal list stands at 34.) Pretty good support for Compton.

    The Jenson papers seem to help resolve a half-dozen difficult issues involving polygamy. One is the Fanny Alger relationship; Eliza R. Snow knew Fanny well and lived in the Smith house at the same time with her in Ohio; it is highly doubtful she would have included Fanny on her list if she were not confident it was a marriage.

    Also, there is the Sylvia Sessions issue, and the need to distinguish between ritual polyandry and sexual polyandry. Evidence from the Jenson file suggests that the Sessions marriage was not truly polyandrous, as Sylvia considered herself divorced from her prior husband when she was sealed to Joseph.

    The Q&A was pretty fiery, with Lawrence Foster loudly insisting on his theory of proxy husbands, and refusing to stop already.

    Anyway, I thought the new research on the Jenson collection was very interesting and holds the promise of solving a number of riddles regarding polygamy.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    The Mormon Enigma retrospective was terrific. Linda King Newell gave a very intimate recounting of the whole process of her and Val deciding to write the book and going about the process, and all of the troubles they experienced along the way. I was enjoying her tale so much that I didn’t want to bother taking notes, so I didn’t. But it was excellent.

    I did note that for a Mormon history book, sales have been fantastic. 30,000 hardback, 13,000 paperback, almost another 1,000 sold each year.

    Also, she told a story of a woman looking at her book in a bookstore, getting a puzzled look on her face, and asking “What’s a Mormon emema?”

    Well, that’s about it. Tonight is the final banquet, where Kathryn Daynes will give her farewell speech, then there is a reception after. Tomorrow morning there will be a devotional at the historic Presbyterian Church, and then I’ll drive home. As always, I’ve had a terrific time.

  32. Thanks for the great reporting, Kevin. Your presence is always one of the highlights of MHA.

  33. Nick Literski says:

    Did anyone attend the paper this morning on Wilford Wood and the Nauvoo Masonic Hall? Having already done some significant research on that subject, I’m interested in what the speaker had to say about it.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    That wasn’t one I went to. Perhaps one of the Juvenile Instructor guys will post notes for that session over there at JI.

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    btw, Kathryn’s presidential address this evening was terrific. It was “Render unto Caesar” and was about the challenges facing 19th century polygamists. It was a detailed examination of the ambiguities and subsequent binds polygamists found themselves in in trying to abide by the federal law.

  36. Sorry I missed it. Sounds like it was great. I’m not at all surprised that Matt Bowman is cleaning house. I’m jealous of his intellect.

  37. Great summaries, Kevin. I put up brief summaries in highlight format on my post about the conference.

    Nick, I went to the session on the Wilfred Wood. He went over the acquisition history (Mulch -> Wood -> Church -> Mulch -> Nauvoo Restoration, Inc) and the artifacts found in the box in the cornerstone.

  38. Wow, I haven’t heard about the Mormon Enigma book in ages. I remember reading it as a teenager (my mom had a copy) and being really frustrated by it. I felt like the authors just dumped any info they could find onto the papers without clarifying anything or putting it into perspective. I will have to read it again as an adult and see how it feels now.

  39. pages not papers. sigh.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    My feeling is that it’s a good book, but not for the faint o fheart. Linda said that when Val was drafting the polygamy chapter, she would write a paragraph, go throw up, lay on the floor until her strength returned, and repeat.

    That part of the book is especially jarring because it actually looks at polygamy from a woman’s perspective, not a man’s.

  41. Brent Metcalfe says:

    Hi Sam (post #11),

    What do you mean by a “revelation on Pure Language”? (I’m wondering if you’re obliquely referring to the so-called Canadian copyright revelation.) I’m interested in your elaboration.

    My best,

  42. Sam is talking about the “Ahman” revelation that Pratt talks about.

  43. Brent Metcalfe says:

    Many thanks, Jon.

    I assume you’re referring to comments such as those in JoD 18:343?

    Kind regards,


  44. Actually, a number of volumes earlier, though surprising the same pages – JoD 2:342-3. This is one of the big surprises, a previously non-extant revelation.

  45. Brent Metcalfe says:

    Thanks again, Jon. I’ll be interested in comparing Pratt’s recollection to the manuscript evidence.

    All the best,


  46. search “BCR” at JI from a couple months back.

  47. Brent Metcalfe says:

    Got it. Thanks, Sam.


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