An Exciting John Whitmer Conference

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.

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  1. Vickie Speek says:

    Looks great, John! It’s going to be a wonderful conference.

  2. Will recordings be available?

  3. Sounds spectacular, John. And how exciting to have your mom contributing as well. Should be a stellar event.

  4. Thanks, Vickie (1).

    I should point out that Vickie Speek will be giving a presentation about how Mormons in the Nauvoo period made money to help finance the trek West by working on the I&M Canal, which runs near the conference venue.

    Aaron (2). Recordings? Yes. Available? Maybe, maybe not.

    We’ve recorded every session of JWHA since 2006. However, while these files are archived, they have never been edited and made available to the public, because the association has lacked a volunteer to take charge of the project. So you can roll the dice and hope this will be the year that changes; otherwise, you’ll have to show up in person.

  5. Great work. Who are the Blythes? I’ve been assigned to write on martyrdom well after 19th century and it sounds like they may have some important insights. Sorry my schedule won’t let me attend.

  6. Sam (5): The Blythes are graduate students in Mormon studies at USU and they tend to have important insights. I can put you in touch with them.

    Thanks, Tracy (3): I’m really excited my mother presenting at the conference. She’s a writer/researcher who recently retired from being senior editor of a museum services company. I posted previously about her biography of my grandparents here. She also wrote an oral history of my great grandparents who ran the LDS Aurora (Illinois) Branch, from which I quoted in my post about how an RLDS elder converted my great grandparents to the LDS Church. (There’s a picture in that post of her holding me in 1972.)

  7. Korey Horr says:

    Rockford, Illinois! Wow, are all JWHA conferences this close to where I live? I’ve never been to a Mormon studies conference before, primarily due to travel and lodging expenses. But I’ll definitely consider registering for this one.

    John, you mentioned that the Blythes are students in Mormon studies at USU. I didn’t realize that universities offered degrees in this field! Do you happen to know of any other schools that offer undergraduate or graduate degrees in Mormon studies off the top of your head?

  8. Korey (7): JWHA is always in the Midwest. Next year we’re in Nauvoo and the year after that we’re back to Jackson County, Missouri.

    Off the top of my head, there are Mormon Studies programs at USU and Clairmont Graduate University. I think they’re both Master’s programs, but someone can correct me. I’m not sure they exist any where else yet (even BYU?).

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Reasons I’ll be attending:

    1. John is like King Midas; everything he touches turns to gold. This preliminary program bears that out.

    2. Lots of interesting sessions (indeed, it’s going to be hard to choose among the concurrent offerings!).

    3. I’ve only been to one JWHA conference before, when they held it at Nauvoo, but I had a wonderful time at that one and have meant to get back.

    4. Rockford is right in my back yard, so I’m excited about how convenient the location is for me.

    5. I’m very interested in your mom’s presentation. My family moved to the little branch in DeKalb in 1965, just at the end of the period your mom is covering, and Aurora is close by, so this research is going to hit close to home.

    6. In general I just love going to Mormon conferences, especially to see old friends and make new ones.

    I hope many of you will plan on joining us!

  10. This looks absolutely terrific, John; I really wish I could attend. I really enjoyed the JWHA conferences I’ve been to in the past.

  11. Kevin (9): It’ll be great to have you back to a JWHA for any reason, but I definitely agree with #6, and if people haven’t had the experience, they really ought to find out what it’s like.

    On the Aurora Branch and DeKalb: My great grandparents (Jim & Myrtle Greer) subsequently were branch leaders in Rochelle — so they were all around you. My Grandpa Erekson, branch president in Aurora after your family moved to DeKalb, was one of the main builders on the Naperville Stake Center, which is where I was blessed. (You may know that I was born in Aurora, Illinois, in 1970.) Your family may also know my uncle Tom and aunt Terry Erekson who lived in Sycamore during the late 1970s and early 80s. Also, in the Chicagoland stakes are other uncles and aunts: Erek & Lenore Erekson, and Matt & Barb Erekson from LaGrange.

  12. 6. In general I just love going to Mormon conferences, especially to see old friends and make new ones.

    I assume you include Ward, Stake, and General conferences in this statement of love, Kevin? Right?!?

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Holy hell, Tom Erekson is your uncle? He was my seminary teacher for my freshman year of high school. I can still remember him teaching us the difference between the words apocrypha and apocalypse. (I learned more that year than in the next three combined.) Although he was a Democrat, which seemed to be quite a scandalous thing. A great guy, and a great teacher. You just got elevated from friend to honorary cousin.

    Scott, that’s a good one!

  14. Kevin (13): That’s so cool — small world. Yes, that’s him; he inherited his politics from Grandpa Greer who was an old New Deal Democrat (he’d voted for Hoover and vowed never again). When I used to go to extended family Thanksgivings, Tom and I were allies in the inevitable (and mostly fun) political debates. Although Tom is more of an old labor Democrat and I’m a new Democrat, that’s still a team against my other uncles who formed a crowd of Rush Limbaugh and/or Ezra Taft Benson -style Republicans.

    You may not know that Tom is now Dean of the College of Business and Technology at Western Illinois University. This reminds me that we should try to get him and Terry to come up for the conference.

  15. This looks great, John, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it. Hopefully folks around the bloggernacle who attend will do a couple of write-ups of interesting sessions, etc. (It seems like DKL usually does one for MHA and JWHA when he attends).

    Re: Chris Blythe. As I understand it, he’s headed off to FSU this fall to start work on a PhD in religious studies.

  16. According to his bio in the Sunstone Program, it looks like Brother Blythe is working on an MA in history at USU. There is not a seperate Mormon Studies degree.

    Program looks awesome. I was looking at the Community of Christ website the other day trying to find out more about their new D & C section 164. I left it up on the computer and it is making my wife nervous. She thinks I am considering converting to CofC.

  17. Korey Horr says:

    Chris H. (16): I feel your pain. I just ordered a used triple combination so I could have a physical copy of LDS scriptures that I could annotate, and now my parents are convinced that I’m about to convert to Mormonism. Of course, I can’t really blame them. After all, my suggestion of Nauvoo as a summer vacation destination probably didn’t help my case very much…

  18. It sounds wonderful. Connell O’Donovan is one of the most generous people I know–and man, does he have some CoC info for you! Turns out Jane Manning James’s mother and siblings joined the RLDS Church after Jane went west with the Brigham Young group. Connell is an incredible researcher, and I wish I could be there to support him. My travel is full until next year. So much I wish I could do.

  19. Second that about Connell.

  20. Sounds like a great program.

  21. Aaron R. says:

    Another Mormon studies conference I can’t attend. The motivation to move to the US is steadily increasing.

    Good luck with this John.

  22. Korey (17), I’m a nonmember who has a shelf full of books about Mormonism and has dragged my husband on a weekend trip to Nauvoo (making him listen to Mormon Stories podcasts and the BCC Zeitcast on the drive there), so I can definitely relate.

    Now I just have to convince him to go to Rockford. It always feels good to live in Missouri when these JWHA meeting announcements come out!

  23. John,

    I’d be interested in formatting/editing the audio archives for JWHA as a volunteer. We could work something out I’m sure even though I live in Utah currently and soon Seattle for grad school.

    Let me know: todd.d.robbins at gmail

  24. Margaret and WVS (18&19): I’ll third that. Connell is an absolutely remarkable researcher. I’m very excited to hear more about this Jane Manning James’ descendant news.

    Thanks, all.

    Tod (23): I’ll write ye. This could be your lucky year, Aaron (2).

  25. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    My wife thought it very strange when the book “More Wives Than One” arrived by my order in our mail.

  26. John,

    I’m sure there is probably more editing work than 1 person can handle. I’d be interested in editing some audio as well. It sounds really interesting.

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