I first attended the annual conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association years ago when it was held at Nauvoo. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had a great time. Fond memories include seeing Jan Shipps and Liz (the UoI press person) walking from the temple and picking them up and giving them a ride to the Joseph Smith History Center, and sitting through a terrific presentation on the Nauvoo Charter in the upper bedroom of the Nauvoo House where Emma died. For whatever reason, I hadn’t made it back, until this year’s edition that just concluded in Rockford, Illinois.
On Thursday I took an early train from work in Chicago (the 2:30 p.m.), got to my car at 3:30, and then hopped onto I-90 for the drive to Rockford. It was only a little over an hour’s drive away for me, which was one of the reasons I decided I could go (for me conferences get harder to attend later in the calendar year due to work flow at the office). I got a little bit lost trying to find the hotel (Cliffbreakers), but I quickly righted the ship and found it. My room was nice and convenient to the meeting rooms. One of the nice things about JWHA is that it is always smaller than MHA and therefore more of an intimate setting.
I ran into Vicki Speek and Mike Reed in the lobby, and they said they were going with a group to a restaurant that Bill Shephard had picked out. But we got lost, and Mark Scherer needed to go to the business meeting, so we went back to a Chinese buffet by the hotel, which was very good. Linda Newell opened the conference by talking about Emma’s life after Joseph, which was very interesting.
Friday morning I started by attending a session where BCC perma John Hamer did a sort of CoC 101. It was a very graphic-rich presentation, which everyone appreciated. I had seen some of those slides before, but seeing the whole presentation really put the various expressions of Mormonism into a meaningful context for me.
Next I saw my old friend Todd Compton talk about Danites in Missouri. He is editing Leland Gentry’s manuscript on Missouri (Fire and Sword or something like that) and adding notes at the end of each chapter to bring it up to date, and this presentation was based on his Danites note. A good survey of the scholarship.
John Hamer’s mother, Ginger, then gave a history of the LDS branch in Aurora, IL, 1932-65. This was very meaningful to me because I first moved to northern Illinois myself in 1965. (Ginger’s brother Tom was my first seminary teacher, and he was great. I still recall learning the difference between the words apocrypha and apocalypse in that class.)
Next was a session on women’s roles in the LDS and CoC traditions, put together by Mary Ellen Robertson. It featured two younger and two older women, one of each from each tradition. This would be a rather depressing session for the LDS women, I imagine…
I missed the next session to catch up on work e-mail.
I was going to attend a session on the Missouri Mormon experience, but apparently it didn’t exist, so I went to one by the Lancaster brothers on the history of their family in the CoC.
DKL was there, and we sat together at the awards banquet that evening.
Saturday morning I went to a session on Richard Moore’s book comparing LDS to CoC, with a review of Lavina’s read, Steve Shields and Bill Russell commenting in person, and Richard responding.
Jill Brim, whom I just met for the first time the previous weekend at her home in Wheaton, gave a presentation on the Red brick Store, which was based on her graduate work at the University of Chicago.
Next was a session I chaired, on the RLDS missionary journeys to Utah dealing with the topic of polygamy. Brian Hales gave a terrific presentation, largely focused on the 1869 affidavit books Joseph F. Smith prepared as evidence that Joseph Smith really did initiate the practice to show to his cousins when they came. Knowledge of these books was lost after the visits until Danel Bachman came upon them again in 1975. Two of the 40 affidavits in the books were given by my GGG grandfather Thomas Grover, so I asked Don Bradley and he sent me the transcriptions, which I shared with my extended family (they were thrilled). Alex Baugh then presented on JS III’s 1876 visit to SLC, and he was top notch.
Then we had a bus tour to Amboy. The bus was really nice. The location of the reorganization on April 6, 1860 is memorialized on a plaque along a long row of bars, so Hamer kept joking we were going to go on a pub crawl. While we were driving, Hamer and others would share background on the Mormon developments in the area, and we also saw an old Mormon cemetery nearby.
I need to go to church, but that’s the gist of what I experienced. I really love how our LDS cousins can get together in the history context and enjoy each other’s company and learn from one another.