MHA 2010 Independence Open Thread

I’ve set my alarm for 5:00 a.m., should be on the road by 6:00, and have about an 8-hour drive to the conference hotel. I’m looking forward to the road trip. With my iPod I won’t be limited to country music, but basically have my entire music collection to choose from. When I get there I’ll check in to the hotel, check my work e-mail, pick up my registration materials, and maybe walk around and check out the water park and fitness center. Then a number of us are getting together for some good ol’ Kansas City barbecue (I usually skip the opening reception in favor of dinner with friends). After that is the opening plenary session, and we’re off to the races–two full days of Mormon history action.

I know it’s a little bit early, but I wanted to go ahead and open up this thread for discussion of all things MHA over the next few days. Feel free to start with your travel stories (hopefully not travails) as we trek to Zion for the gathering.

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  1. I’m already here soaking in the city. I couldn’t believe how far away Independence is from the airport. David Howlett was kind enough to take me around with him today to various duties, including a cool banquet at the Harvest Hills community that John Hamer blogged about a while ago:

    It is even cooler in person.

  2. I’m excited to hear more about the conference. Keep us updated!

  3. reed russell says:

    Looking forward to seeing you again, Kevin. Have a safe trip.

    BTW – my personal favorite is KC Masterpiece – but all the joints are great.

  4. Unfortunately I’m not able to go. I’ve been down and out with the flu this week, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be letting up anything soon. Wish I’d bought trip insurance…

  5. Really glad you’re doing this. Have they announced yet where the 2011 MHA will be held?

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh man, Chris, that totally bites! I was hoping you’d get past the flu in time.

    Margaret, IIRC next year it’s in Saint George.

    Well, I’m off!

  7. Mark Brown says:

    See you in Zion!

    I will be arriving by handcart, consequently I expect to be hungry. Save some barbecue for me.

  8. Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

  9. john willis says:

    You must go to Arthur Bryants while you are there. This is the place for real K.C. Barbecue

  10. aloof observer says:

    I second that. Arthur Bryants is a must.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Did you know that rest areas in Iowa have free wifi? I’m sitting at one now.

  12. Don’t turn on the webcam.

  13. I knew that, Kevin. The rest areas in Minnesota and Iowa along I-35 are great. The ones in Kansas are acceptable albeit cookie cutter (along the turnpike). Then you get to Oklahoma and Texas…

  14. Sunny, ftw.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    OK, I made it to the hotel. Man, it’s hot here!

  16. J. Stapley says:

    Due to an unfortunate kidney stone incedent, the plenary speaker couldn’t make it so Hamer is stepping in to save the day.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    A group of us including BCCers J. Stapley, Mark Brown, myself, and the entire Kramer clan, the JI crew, and the Jensens went out for a barbecue dinner.

    Then was the opening plenary. Steven Veazey, President of the CoC, gave the official welcome message. He talked about how when he was made president, GBH sent him a personal note saying he would like to meet with him. The entire CoC 1P went, and they had a good meeting. GBH thanked the CoC for creating such a wonderful experience for our people when they visit the Kirtland temple. And he commented on how wonderful it is that there are better feelings and more cooperation between our people these days. I was sitting with Mike Reed, DKL and Mark Brown, and Mark leaned over and said a lot of that is due to MHA, and I certainly agree. By including people from whatever persuasion and working together and meeting and socializing annually, everyone became friends and stopped demonizing each other. It has had a great leavening influence on our respective peoples.

    Jon Taylor of the University of Central Missouri spoke next, comparing and contrasting three episodes of displacement in Independence: the Mormons in 1833, blacks from urban renewal, and battles over land use between the Harry Truman landmark commission and a local Baptist Church.

    Then, as J. notes, the other speaker wasn’t able to attend due to a kidney stone attack. I can relate, because I missed the last Chicago regional Sunstone conference and the MHA in SLC due to kidney stone attacks.

    So on very late notice our BCC colleague John Hamer spoke. He talked about the various Mormon schisms and their history vis-a-vis Independence. His presentation was peppered with his inimitable slides, which were absolutely terrific. I recognized some of them from what he did at Miller-Eccles, so it is not as if he did all of this ex nihilo, but I’m sure he had some frantic repurposiing to do during the day today. This isn’t exactly like a last minute call to speak in sacrament meeting; this is the opening plenary in the Grand Ballroom before hundreds of people. Afterwards, DKL leaned over and said he hit a home run, with which I heartily concurred.

    So BCC’s secret campaign to take over all of Mormon studies proceeds apace!

  18. It’s been wonderful so far. The BBQ that Kevin mentioned was lots of fun and we had some great discussions–the best part of MHA.

    And no question about it: Hamer rocks.

    Can’t wait for the sessions tomorrow.

  19. reed russell says:

    DKL, that’s technically a “walk off home run.”

    BTW – this was very quick from the DesNews –

  20. I’d chew off my own arm to be there. It’s like being stuck cleaning the cinders when everyone else has gone to the ball.

    Keep the updates coming.

  21. Wow, St. George next year? That’s just a hop and a skip from socal. I am so there.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gave this morning’s plenary address on the Wilford Woodruff diary. It’s not just a great Mormon diary, but a great Ameri”can one, especially in the way it recounts in detail his varoius travels. Her focus is on the visual, material quality of the journal–as an object. Here she focuses in particular on a 2-page spread from 1838.

    He had baptized his family members and organized a little branch in his home town. The journal account of this is in very small writing–the paper is only 4 x 6-3/4″, but is packed with more than 800 words in such a tiny space. (She needed a magnifying glass to read it.) He obviously used both a straight edge and a magnifying glass.

    The first page was an account of the baptism with a decorative arch design, and the second listed those baptized within a decorative concentricl circle design. He believed he was creating scripture; his first journal titled “The First Book of Willford.” [He originally used two L’s, later dropped one for the spelling we know today.] Archives in heaven amalgamated with a record made here on earth.

    Some of his possible influences: monument at Bunker Hill, grave markers, chair designs. But these don’t fully explain.

    JS had promised that if he lived his life by faith, he would bring his relatives into the kingdom of God. So this was a fulfillment of a spiritual promise and prophecy.

    How did he learn such ornamentation? Had spent time at a New England academy in his home town of Farmington, Conn. One can see similar designs in the calligraphy handbooks of the time.

    Family records on the wall showed similar ornamentation, curvature.

    Need to pay attention not only to those listed as baptized but those not included.

    When he tried to convert his family, at first it didn’t go well. Breakthrough came with younger sister, by now a young school teacher.

    Showed how other family records often used this arch and circle ornamentation.

    Similar arch motif in the Kirtland temple, where instead of family it surrounds the priesthood.

    Early Mormon marriages more egalitarian; rejected hierarchy, so husband and wife recited the same marriage vows. (I had never heard that before.)

    How did he find the time? It’s clear he often created drafts, and then polished later. She actually was able to read a draft the Church happens to have for these pages–it was a total mess.

    His cursive not very legible; he did much better with Roman print, and over time he tended to use that instead. He learned shorthand, so some material written that way.

    A similar circular ornament placed in an album he gave his wife on the day of their daughter’s birth.

    They began to travel to MO, when in Indiana he learned his brother had died. Then they got word JS in jail, Saints leaving the state, So instead of coming to MO they met the Saints at Commerce. Afterwards while on a mission his 2-year old daughter died.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Curses! I was looking forward to going to see Sam, J. Stapley and Kathleen present, but a work emergency came up and I”ve been in my hotel room on a conference call all this time. I just achieved my freedom as the session would have been ending. Ah, well, it’s on to lunch in a half hour.

  24. It’s too bad, Kevin; it was a spectacular session. All three papers were wonderful and informative.

  25. Are there any plans for a new edition of Woodruff’s Journals (perhaps available for purchase by individual volumes) to be printed? Our of print Signature Typescript Edition aside, It would be a fantastic project for the Church Historian’s Press treatment…

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Becky Savage of the CoC 1P was our lunch speaker. This is the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women.

    She was born in Guatemala to missionary parents, her father being a regional 70 and later an apostle. She always wanted to serve, and so went into nursing as a way to express that. Adopted two mixed race girls with dark skin; learned about hate in the world.

    She celebrated when her own mother was ordained. Didn’t really think about it for herself; she already had her way to serve in her profession.

    1991 ordained as an elder; later as a HP. Each time she felt God calling her. Some men refused to take the sacrament from her, or would get up and leave if she spoke at the podium. It was tough early on.

    Moved to Florida. Health care becoming more of a drain; had to cut staff from 38 to 19. While vacationing in Blue Ridge Mtns. heard a voice say “The time is now.” So she applied for a position as an appointee, began working full time for the church in Fla. Worked there for four years, then as Director of Leadership Development in Independence. Attended seminary while here.

    Jan. 2007 Pres. Veazey asked her for an appt. He called her to 1P. She exclaimed “Are you sure?” Told her husband, and he said “I know.” He had sent their daughters letters several months earlier with instructions not to open until conference, telling them that he had come to understand she would be called into 1P. She had to rely on faith for the call; hasn’t always been easy.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 25, Rick Turley addressed that. JSP made possible by a substantial outside donation. If someone will make a donation like that, they’ll gladly look into it.

    Which is to say, I believe, the answer is no, at least at this time.

  28. Kevin: Thanks. I think the CHP is a fantastic opportunity, and look forward to seeing what else may come from it.

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    I attended a session on polygamy with Jessie Embry as chair. Newell Bringhurst talked about Sec. 132, and then about the struggles within the RLDS to come to grips with JS and polygamy.

    Craig Foster talked about media stereotypes of polygamy, both long ago and today. Three points: the men are lascivious, the women are in it agains their will, or conversely, the women are wantonly sexual.

    Richard Howard talked about the RLDS experience dealing with polygamy in places like East India and Africa, and how controversial it was given the self-identity the RLDS had for standing absolutely against polygamy.

    Kathryn Danes then added comments. One thing she mentioned was the ubiquitous point that celestial marriage = plural marriage. She sees it as more nuanced, that there’s this big thing called eternal marriage of which plural marriage is a part. The tendency to equate is because so often celestial marriage was used as a synechdoche for the whole.

    Best line of the session was from Dick Howard: “Very few RLDS until about 25 minutes ago accepted Joseph Smith’s involvement with polygamy.”

  30. W. V. Smith says:

    How about a short review on “Sam, J. Stapley and Kathleen” anyone?

  31. Susan W H says:

    Thanks so much for these reports–your audience out here does appreciate your taking the time to write them up.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    I just came back from the MMM session, with a joint paper by Sally Gordon and Jan Shipps, and responses by Richard Bushman and Mark Silk. It ostensibly was about seeing the Massacre as an event in religious history.

    I’ve gotta be honest about that one; I didn’t get it. I kind of thought it already was an event in religious history. A lot of what they recited just seemed like plain common sense to me. They seemed to be going in a lot of different directions without a clear thesis statement of what they were trying to accomplish.

    Several people were saying what a landmark presentation this was, absolutely seminal. I guess that just goes to show I’m not an historian, because I didn’t see it that way.

    One thing that bugged me was that they seemed to lionize Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets and denigrate Massacre at Mountain Meadows due to its Church sponsorship. But the three authors I thought did a phenomenal job; they’ve presented on the project every year at MHA for years, they’ve given people every opportunity to take their shots at it. I think they’ve got the goods, and I thought Jan and Sally really missed the pitch on that argument. And I guess it wasn’t just me, because Richard Bushman noted the same thing and made a (much more eloquent) comment along the lines of my complaint. So I feel like I’m in pretty good company on that at least.

    I thought the best line of the presentation came from Bushman, who in the context of discussion of collective guilt said “Most nations are founded on some sort of crime.” I never thought about it that way before, but how true!

    We’ve got an unusually long gap until the awards banquet; it doesn’t start until 7:15.

  33. Kevin Barney says:


    Leonard Arrington: Richard and Claudia Bushman

    Best Book: Matt Grow

    First Book: Megan Sanborn Jones

    Best Biography: Polly Aird

    Best Documentary: Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lyn Davidson

    And Rick Turley and Ron Walker

    International: Roger Minert

    Community History: Richard C. Roberts

    Best article: Sam Brown

    Kane Award: Senator Kt Bond

    Dissertation: Jonathan Moyer

    Article Awards of Excellence: Matt Grow

    Ed Leo Lyman

    Morris Thurston

    Thesis: Debra Marsh

    Caye Wycoff

    Best Grad Paper: Matt Bowman [to much laughter!]

    Best Undergrad Paper: Joseph T. Antley

    Certificate of Merit: Chad Thompson

    Special Citation: Missouri State Archives

  34. Bill, the adoption session was a brief overview of work the three of us are doing on adoption theology. Jonathan and I are working on a pair of essays (I’m doing pre-1844 and he’s doing post-1844) exploring adoption theology and rituals, and Kathleen is working on a book project about ways early LDS understood, shaped, and created gender within their theology and rituals. Greg Prince provided insightful commentary. The following paragraphs don’t do justice to the talks which don’t do justice to the papers. The good news is that we’re all working on getting these into print soonish.

    I traced the development of the understanding of Saviors on Mount Zion through evangelism and patriarchal blessings through to the divine anthropology, focusing on this image of the Saints as bringing salvation through the creation of sacerdotal relationships.
    J described some of the complexities of adoption after Smith died, emphasizing the nature of the success crisis (biological vs. ecclesiastical families) and the ongoing tension between these poles throughout the Utah period. He had great case studies and vignettes as well as his signature data charts.
    Kathleen talked a lot about sealing as sealing unto eternal life/salvation and the requirement, generally observed, of being adopted to a couple rather than an individual. She was working on helping people see ways in which adoption represented a kind of salvation mediated by family that did not privilege the male figure as much as has been thought.

    Was great to see Kevin and many others. Always a stimulating reunion at these meetings, even if the venues are sometimes unpleasant. (Today K turned to me and said “I think God was inspired to have the Saints driven from Missouri because it’s barely May and this muggy heat is unbearable.”)

  35. reed russell says:

    Sam, I enjoyed the session immensely and ten extra points for the terrific graphics. I look forward to the final piece.

    And a big congratulations on your award tonight. That was indeed one fine article.

  36. Thanks for the summary, Sam. Looking forward to reading. Congrats on the award!

  37. >>Best Grad Paper: Matt Bowman.

    I knew he was to blame for my humiliating defeat! (Since it couldn’t possibly be due to any shortcoming of my own!) ;)

  38. Sorry I am missing this. I’m finding that flying standby on Memorial Day weekend doesn’t work. arg.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    Tanner lecture by Catherine Breckus, U of Chicago Divinity School. Mormon Women and the Problem of Agency.

    Historians haven’t escaped 19th century antipolygamy literature, idea of the degraded poly. wife. Non-LDS think not worth studying–no agency. Mormons defend, sometimes exaggerate agency, the image of the fierce poly. matriarch. Why so little impact in historical scholarship?

    Mormon women of the time had a robust sense of their ability to affect events. But when Mormons began to publish history, rarely included women. Tullidge’s 1877 Women of Mormondom an exception.

    Early 20th century, simply wanted to counter stereotypes. Women’s religious devotion taken for granted. Assumed, not questiones as to whyu.

    1970s sees beginnings of modern study of LDS women; has exploded since. Despite impressive scholarship, not integrated into either women’s history or American religious history. Non-LDS quite unaware all this activity is taking place.

    Many specialists in Mormon history separate women’s experiences rather than portraying them as primary actors in events. Mormon Experience devotes a chapter to women; inadvertently removes them from the main action. (Not Arrington’s intent.)

    Choice to ignore women related to assumptions about agency. An agent acts or exerts power; can make something happen Today focus is on those who fight against an establishment: emancipation, resistance. That is seen as agency. Hard to imagine women who accepted religious structures as agents. A feminist bent. Mormon historians try to fit into the emancipationist paradigm. Incomplete. Sometimes exaggerate women’s agency (esp. in recent studies of polygamy). Clear women not forced into polygamy, but ignores structural constraints on women’s agency. A limited matrix.

    19th century LDS women don’t use later emancipatory language. A sacrifice, trial, school, self-denial. Redemptive power of suffering.

    Historians struggle to find the right tone It’s as if there are only two boxes, oppressive or liberating, and you’re only allowed to check one.


    1. Agency includes reproduction of social structures as well as challenge of them.

    2. Reconsider association of agency with freedom and emancipation. Historians find it hard to write about conservative women.

    3. Rethink close association between agency and intentionality. Change can come from the bottom up.

    4. Agency relational and social as well as individual.

    5. Agency exists on a continuum.

    6. Always shaped by cultural norms and social constraints.

    7. Takes place within structures as well as against them.

  40. Kevin Barney says:


    Vickie talked about marriage in the Book of the Law of the Lord. Strang originally anti-polygamy, but changed in 1849 when took a plural wife. Never explained about face. Polygamy contemplated and regulated in the Book of the Law. Only about 20 polygamous families out of the 1000-1500 on Beaver Island.

    Marriage considered generally indissolvable and eternal. Encouraged young; ideal was for boys to marry asap after 16. Father’s blessing no longer needed once they hit 23. Daughters also marry young; no longer need father’s blessing at 20.

    Incest forbidden. Strang seemed to have ideas about breeding to improve the race. Played a role in his ideas about polygamy. Women should be able to seek out the best men; should be able to propose marriage. Denied that polygamy licensed lust. If desire is for variety, polygamy way too expensive an option for that.

    Strang himself violated the Book of the Law in various respects on these matters.

    Strangite polygamy died out quickly; no longer have the priesthood authority to sanction it..

    John talked about post Strang history. He and Mike have attempted to map out all marriage relationships to the present. Terrific research. John focused on the Granny Flanders kin group–only case of post-Strang polygamy. Schism over whether JS III the de facto president of the Church. Many came into the RLDS.

    Mike brought the story from 1935 to present. Transition to a family church has allowed it to survive to this day, albeit small in numbers. But that also means that church conflict becomes family conflict. 5 established branches. Main active branch now in Voree.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    At lunch, Claudia Bushman had four of her students read excerpts from the oral interviews she has collected from Mormon women. She has 65 so far, averaging 20 single-spaced pages, about 1200 pages in all, or the equivalent of about six books. The stories they recounted in these excerpts were wonderful; it seems like a great project.

  42. laurenlou says:

    #41–it is a great project! Everyone reading this who is at the conference should come to our full presentation at 4! :-)

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Christopher Blythe on the Council of 50. No minutes, but can look at memoirs. Usually looked at from a Utah perspective, but about half the council didn’t go west, and so can look at it from their perspective.

    Important force in the succession. Didn’t fly as the succession option itself, but every other succession option sought an alliance with a 50 insider.

    During three months JS met with the Council, can reconstruct its business as follows:

    – candidacy for U.S. President
    – immigration to Texas
    – proselyting Native Americans
    – seeking redress for wrongs

    Joseph seemed to have come to a policy that in the future there would not be a single gathering place, but there would instead be multiple gatherings. So Lyman Wight was to check out Texas, SR to check out Pittsburgh.

    BY diplomatically ratified this idea, but made it clear that they were not to try to draw off people with them. But they didn’t see it that way.

    Rigdon actually published his kingdom minutes from Pittsburgh; gave up on the idea of secrecy.

    Adam Jortner on the Spaulding manuscript. Basic idea is to look at it for what it is. Created from 1809-1811. Reflects Jeffersonian ideals about family, reason, civilization.

    I was interested in the paper on groups that accept the BoM but reject JS, but apparently the author wasn’t able to make it. Nor was Matt Bowman, as Jared read his responsive comments. I think Matt was trying to fly standby and having no luck. It sucks to be a grad student sometimes!

  44. Kevin Barney says:

    On the way to the 4:00 session I ran into Rosalynde Welch in the hallway. Her husband was off chasing the munchkins so she could play academic for awhile. So I appreciated being able to say “hi” to her.

    I was going to go see the session with Lavina Fielding Anderson on JS Sr.’s patriarchal blessings, LaJean Carruth on BY on the MIssouri Conflict, and Gary Bergera on ethical issues in polygamy, comments from J. Stapley. I came down the elevator with Paul Hoskisson, who likewise was going to that session. But when I got there there wasn’t a single seat to be had, and there was already overflow into the hallway.

    So per laurenlou’s invitation above I went to Claudia’s session with the women’s issues reading theater. And it was very good; I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad they gave us a preview at lunch, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have grasped what they were doing and I likely would have gone to a different session.

    Well, it’s almost over. At 7:00 is the Presidential Banquet, with Ron Romig on Alexander Hale Smith, immediately followed by a closing reception. Then tomorrow morning I drive home.

    As usual I’ve had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the conference.

  45. Glad to see you Kevin. You’re a highlight of MHA every year.

  46. Wow, it’s been a great conference. Great seeing everyone. It seems like after 2 presentations and commenting on some others, you’d get to Saturday night and it’d be over. But tomorrow, I’m getting on the bus for Adam-ondi-Ahman and talking about the Missouri Mormon War for 6 hours. :P Hopefully I’ll be recharged come morning.

  47. Fantastic conference. It was good to see so many great people, including you Kevin.

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