BCC Zeitcast 64: Morris Thurston & The Miller Eccles Study Group

In this two part episode, Scott B. interviews Morris Thurston, a supporter and participants in several areas of Mormon Studies. The interview covers a range of topics, including Thurston’s early experiences in Mormon Studies, later experiences with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and the history of the Miller Eccles Studies Group, which has been holding monthly lectures and meetings in Southern California for over 30 years.

Part 1: Part 2:

Links for your convenience:

1. Morris Thurston’s personal website
2. Miller Eccles Study Group website
3. The Boggs Shooting and Attempted Extradition: Joseph Smith’s Most Famous Case (abstract only–$2 fee for full text)

Content Guide:
Part 1 Start – 13:15 – Thurston’s personal background, experiences as a student at BYU, and growing interest in Mormon Studies
Part 1 13:15 – 19:35 – Experiences with Joseph Smith Papers Project
Part 1 19:40 – 30:30 – Formation & History of the Miller Eccles Study Group & Letter from Leonard Arrington
Part 1 30:30 – End – Richard Bushman’s presentation at MESG

Part 2 0:30 – 3:25 – Greg Prince’s Presentation at MESG
Part 2 7:10 – 14:40Daniel Walker Howe’s presentation at MESG
Part 2 17:00 – 21:50 – Brad Walker’s Presentation at MESG
Part 2 22:10 – End – On “accusations” of being an intellectual

If you have problems with the audio player, then you can download part 1 here and part 2 here. Subscribe to the BCC Zeitcast in iTunes or through our dedicated podcast RSS feed. (And don’t forget to leave a review in iTunes!)


  1. Mark Brown says:

    This is some fantastic work Scott. Thank you for doing it so well.

    Thanks also to Morris and for the contributions he has made. The church is enriched because of his efforts.

  2. Thanks, Scott and Morris. That was enjoyable. Although a lot of what goes on in the Bloggernacle is Mormonish conversation rather than anything that could be classed as “learning more about the church,” the same drive that keeps bringing people back to your study group is a large part of what keeps us coming back to the blogs, I think.

    *Sigh.* I cringe whenever I hear Miller-Eccles mentioned. They invited me to speak about ten years ago, quite an honor for someone as new in Mormon Studies as I was then. I gave them the only truly bad presentation I have ever made, before or since — awful, weak, stinkeroo, humiliating, shameful. In my defense, I had no experience then in dealing with hecklers; today I would have no trouble retaking control. (In the group’s defense, heckling is not a regular part of the experience. In this case, it was the combination of my topic and the hyper-inflated ego of an atrociously bad scholar who fancied himself the expert and constantly interrupted.) Someday, I’d like to speak again and redeem myself, at least in my own memory.

  3. Downloading it now. Thanks, Scott.

  4. Since this podcast has several different topics and is a bit longer than most Zeitcasts, I added a content guide to the post for those who are interested in hearing particular parts of the interview.

  5. Thanks Mark, Ardis, & Chris. And a great thanks again to Morris Thurston for being kind enough to meet with me and participate in this podcast.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Outstanding Zeitcast, guys! (I just finished listening.)

  7. Just listening through. Regarding the JSPP, it was my understanding that the legal documents will all likely be published online, but that a hard copy volume might be a “best of.” Is that no longer the case?

  8. That Arrington letter is great!

  9. “Adam and the Dinosaurs” isn’t just a great band name anymore…

  10. You are a model interviewer, Scott, and this is a great interview. Thanks to you and Morris.

  11. Oh, and that was an awesome story about Howe.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    Scott is our very own Piers Morgan.

  13. What can I say, Ben? Interviewing models is a passion for me!

  14. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    I was wrong about Morris and hereby repent. Good one, thanks Scott.

  15. Very interesting. Loved it. Thanks to Scott and Morris.

  16. Thanks for your kind comments.

    Ardis – I wasn’t involved with MESG when you presented, but I, for one, would enjoy hearing again from the blogger nonpareil.

    Jonathan – the decision concerning exactly how the JSP legal papers will be published has been in flux. Last I heard they were thinking that only the most important legal papers would comprise one published volume of the JSP; the others would be available online, either on the JSP site or at BYU. We never expected, by the way, that every single (and often boring) legal document would be published in hard copy; however, originally we were thinking that there would be three hard copy legal volumes (New York-Ohio; Missouri and Illinois-Iowa); now only one.

  17. Armand Mauss says:

    Yes, indeed, a great interview. Congratulations to both. Morris did a great job of conveying the spirit and “flavor” of the M-E Group. I don’t know how Ruth and I would survive without that monthly “supplement” to our church meetings! The socializing afterward is one of the great “extras” to our meetings, made all the sweeter by Dawn’s extraordinary collection of goodies. Oh – and yes, by all means, let’s give Ardis another chance! I wasn’t there for the disaster she talked about, and I doubt that many others were, so she can come to us without anything to “live down” except her own haunting recollections! Cheer up, Ardis! All such speakers (like old professors) have learned that there IS life after debacles! We’d love to have you speak to the MESG again. Just pick a few topics that you feel especially interested in and let us negotiate both a topic and a time with you. I think we have lots of openings during the second half of this year.

  18. I can relate to Morris, especially his interests in the “Blacks and the Piesthood” topic and Rough Stone Rolling. It just hapens that I’m reading Leister Bush’s 1973 article from Dialogue, “Mormonism and the Negro Doctrine” ar the moment and re-reaing RSR. I enjoy reding several books at the same time. I also enjoyed listening to Morris over at Mormon Stories Podcast, where he spoke about his opposition to the Church’s stance on Prop 8. He forced me to re-think some issues and although I didn’t agree with all his points of logic, I enjoyed his reasoned and balanced approach.

  19. I remember well Ardis’s presentation at the MESG meeting. After reading her earlier great blogs, Steve Eccles and I invited her to speak, and we both thought her presentation was successful. I’m surprised you judged herself so harshly. I agree with Armand and hope we can have you back soon!

  20. Wayne Ford says:

    Thank you, Morris and Dawn, for hosting the MillerEccles lectures. My wife, Jerri and I thoroughly enjoy these talks; and have learned much in the way of the history of the church; and gained intimate and very interesting insite as to the extraordinary events and hardships endured by Joseph Smith and the early church members.
    I recently read Rough Stone Rolling, and am anxious to attend the upcoming talk by Bro. R. Bushman.
    It was interesting to hear you mention the reticence of some members to attend these lectures — because of their belief that there could be some mis-information presented which might conflict with church doctrine. I have also encountered this thinking. However, I have never experienced anything of the sort at these lectures — they have only served to increase my testimony and appreciation for those who have sacrificed so much.
    Wayne Ford

  21. Steve Eccles says:

    I am the “Eccles” in the Miller-Eccles Study Group, and moved to Texas in 2002. Thanks to Russ Frandsen and all the other directors, including Morris, the group has gotten better and better. If anyone is interested, I have held a few meetings in the Dallas area. You can reach me through the Miller-Eccles Study Group website.

  22. I just got around to listening to this. I’m glad I listen. Excellent work.

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