MHA St. George 2011 Open Thread

I just checked into my room here at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. George, which is the hotel closest to the Dixie Center, where the conference will be held.

I had to get up at 4:45 to catch my flight. I walk into Terminal 2 at O’Hare, and it’s a madhouse, with a huge line at Delta, the carrier I would be taking. I start to panic a little bit, because if I have to wait in that line, I’ll never make my flight. I find the self-serve kiosks, and the first two I try don’t work; the second one tells me to see an agent. Uh oh. I kind of stand there for a minute, pondering how I can cut into the line, when I decide to try one more kiosk, and this one works and I get my boarding passes.

The flight into SLC was uneventful, and the flight to St. George was better than I thought it would be. (Patrick Mason was on my flight!) Except the conference program gave the address for the old airport, not the new one. So my son had to find the new airport, since it clearly wasn’t operational. (I texted him that I had landed, and he’s thinking, uh, no you didn’t.) But all’s well that end’s well. We’re here.

In a little while we’re going to go check out the Dixie Center and get registered. Then at some point I want to use the pool; it has been too long a winter and spring not to. We’re thinking of catching a show later. And if the timing works, we’ll join some friends for dinner.

Then it will be off to the races: two full days of Mormon history action.

According to one of the MHA newsletters, the Dixie Center is equipped with wifi, so maybe I’ll schlep my laptop and do some near-real time updates.

Anyway, it’s on, so those of you who are here and participating please chime in with your experiences, notes on sessions, cool people you got to talk to, basically anything and everything related to the conference.


  1. im interested to see what george miller has to say

  2. Hmmm. The online program still says that _I Am Jane_ is an abbreviated production. Nope. It’s the full thing, complete with a 15-person cast. I wonder what I could’ve said in my proposal that made it sound like it was an abbreviation. I called it “minimalist.” It is–just suggestions of costumes/set. But not abbreviated. And it’s not me doing a one-woman reading. Really re-thinking how I should’ve worded the proposal. For future reference. (Not that I’ll ever do the play again. Too many headaches. This is my last round with it.)

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I noticed that, too, Margaret.

    My son and I went to see Hangover 2, then played around in the hotel pool, which for me was a real treat coming as I did from Chicago. Just ran into Jonathan Stapley and Kris Wright in the hallway, and I saw Gary Bergera getting off the elevator. The forces are gathering…

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    A group of 12 of us just had dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Much geeky Mormon conversation was had–it was great.

  5. I was premature in complaining about the description of _I Am Jane_. The final program describes it fine. Afraid I was just tired and on edge when I wrote that comment. Many apologies. The MHA folks have been wonderful–and absolutely NOT the cause of any headaches.
    The bloggers who had a Vietnamese dinner missed a beautiful concert in the St. George tabernacle, followed by a dutch oven cobbler. The weather is splendid. And so many dear friends and even heroes here. It is lovely. Very eager to hear Paul Reeve tomorrow. He is such a fine researcher. There are so many presentations to choose from, so many friends. What a weekend!

  6. It would be really great to be there.

  7. Marjorie Conder says:

    I thought I would make it this year, but the “forces” conspired against me. :-(

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    My son’s comment as we left the dinner last night (which included such folks as J. Stapley, Kris W., Kristine, Brad and Tracey, Sam and Kate, Chris J., Elizabeth, etc.) was something to the effect that if you could shoe horn all of those people into one ward, it would be the coolest possible ward, or something like that. I think he was impressed not by how smart everyone was, which was pretty much a given, but by how unimpressed everyone was with their own intelligence, how they had a full range of passions (he especially liked how passionate Brad was about things like smoking meats, hot sauces, salsas, all things that he too enjoys and could relate to), how they freely and easily talked about anything under the sun, including even earthy subjects, and how no one had a stick up his butt. (He just now amended his first comment by adding “of course it would probably also be the black sheep ward”…)

  9. Yeah, the meals are always the best part of MHA, especially the traditional Thursday night dinner with bloggernacle/JSP folk. Last year’s dinner at a KC BBQ place even had good enough food to match the company!

    Oh, and thanks for doing this again, Kevin. I usually enjoy participating in these threads while/after attending because it helps me formulate ideas and reflections I’ve had over the weekend, but this year I have even more gratitude since the thread *is* my MHA experience this year.

    I eagerly await the updates once the sessions begin.

  10. Excellent fun so far. And Kevin’s son is a great sport. Paul Reeve is opening up with an intro to southern Utah history and conference theme. He is always great, but the mayor in his intro took a bit too long, I think.

    I am gearing up for my first major disappoint next: will I attend Fleming with response by Sam or Ryan Tobler with response by Christopher Jones or women’s material culture with Kate Holbrook? So not fair.

  11. Jealous.

  12. Paul gave a splendid plenary talk. I’m enjoying a session on Early Mormon Theology, but it’s making me miss Kate on Table Tableaux and Josh Probert on material culture in SL temple and many other great sessions. (Of course Kate’s deficient husband told her her talk was tomorrow so she could work on her slide deck all day today, only to discover by accident that she’s speaking this morning.)

    So far, the standing-room-only session I’m in has had a highly informative review of early Mormon vs. early Protestant pneumatology and a fun treatment of Smith’s use of the KJV. Next up is Fleming on Neoplatonic theurgy in early Mormonism–the Chair couldn’t read his scrawl and initially thought the topic was “Napoleon and early Mormonism,” which I thought sounded like it might be quite productive.

    Vietnamese was great fun. I love cabbage. I had no idea the Moravians were so imaginative in their visual imagery.

    And Kevin, I’ve been in wards that have had this vibe before. They’re great fun.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Paul Reeve opening plenary was on From Cotton to Cosmopolitan: Local, National and Global Transformations in Utah’s Dixie. (I sat with Todd Compton, Margaret and Darius, and Kris.)

    Cotton mission predated St. George (Fort Harmony 1852. Proved cotton could grow there–have to irrigate. Total production in 1860 155 bales.

    100s called to the mission. Very, very difficult life there; had a bad rep. Many didn’t go, others went and then left. BY put cotton mission on par with a proselyting mission. Civil war–wanted self-sufficiency in commodoties. Also tobacco, wine, brandy, rum.

    St. George temple 1877–first for proxy endowments.

    Seed cotton couldn’t be traded locally; no one could use it. Had to be sent back east, sold for $1/pound (sent about 78,000 pounds). Need to build factories to gin the cotton. First one built 1866, but now Civil War over and prices for cotton drop.

    Always a tension between planting cotton and actual food that could feed their families.

    1862 Santa Clara flood. Tenneys–woman in labor in a wagon box, threatened by flood. So a group of men physically carry the box to higher ground, with her giving birth inside. She gave birth to a boy, whom she named “Marvelous Flood Tenney.”

    Lots of preaching encouraging settlers not to abandon the mission. Some stayed no matter what; others requested and were granted releases, and still others simply left. Now they have the opposite problem; can’t keep people away, very rapid growth rates.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Sam, the story of the JS Papyri is often sort of traced to Napoleon and his expedition to Egypt, so there’s a connection there. And the student ward at the University of Illinois I attended while in law school sort of had that vibe, and yeah, it was fantastic!

  15. Fleming is very usefully reviewing the scholarly work on “magic”. I’m excited by his interest in taking a fresh look at Neoplatonism and early Mormonism.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Ken Driggs on the 1944 polygamy raids (predates 1953 Short Creek). At time about 2500 people at war with the mother church. Accepted 13 AoF, United Order, Celestial Marriage. JRC assigned by HJG to police growing fundamentalists. Special missionaries to conduct surveillance called, info shared with government and used for the raid. A gathering storm; fundamentalists knew it was coming and LDS behind it.

    50 men and women arrested by heavily armed FBI and police. LDS immediately announces approval. $200,000 collected so everyone bailed out. UT allowed federal prosecutions to go first. Feds indict 20 people. Predictions that this would halt polygamy (obviously not true).

    2 weeks after arrests went to trial; extremely unusual. Defendants opted for a bench trial, stipulated facts; issue was whether there was a crime. Argued Truth Magazine was obscene, kidnapping of an underage girl, and the Mann Act (transportation of women for purposes of prostitution).

    Argued LDS grand jury biased. No debauchery–religious doctrine. Intrusion into states’ affairs (family law). Guilty verdicts on 8 men and 1 woman. Sentences 1 to 4 years.

    Truth magazine case gets carved out. New federal judge appointed. He’s disgusted by the charge, grants motion to quash. Mere advocacy of polygamy does not equal obscenity. Feds appeal; ACLU gets involved.

    Later that year a state conspiracy trial. 31 convicted, 1-year sentences.

    3 cases go to US Supreme Court. Kidnapping case involved 14 or 15 year old houskeeper and 70-year old widower. He taught her principles of his religion, she accepted and they were married. Ruled no coercion. Mann Act convictions affirmed–polygamy deemed immoral (not the law today).

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Craig Foster talked about the 2008 Yearning for Zion Texas raid as an echo of 1953 Short Creek. Role of media; initially very negative, using stereotypes, but over time as they pursued the story, in both cases they eventually turned public opinion against the raids. Newell is talking about the raids and FLDS engagement or not with the outside world.

  18. Susan W H says:

    Thanks so much Kevin, smb and others who give us a taste of the sessions. I’m sorry I missed attending (again) this year.

  19. Fleming spent some productive time with theurgy, a topic Kathleen Flake is pursuing last I heard. I’m hopeful that good stuff will come of theurgy (Divine work). I personally think the mystery religions are pretty dang cool (a precedent for the NP version of theurgy).

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Just came from the luncheon. I sat with BYU ancient scripture guys Paul Hoskisson, Brian Hauglid and newbie Lincoln Blumell, and enjoyed getting caught up on all the Ancient Scripture gossip. Bruce Hafen gave the luncheon speech, and it was top notch, all about the sacrifices the early settlers in St. George faced and how it developed their character. (His ancestors were among the 30 who were called there having just come from Switzerland–what a contrast!) And I didn’t know that Bruce Hafen and Marlin Jensen were mission companions in Germany…

  21. Christopher Jones chaired an excellent panel. Josh Probert had a great presentation on the furnishing of the SL Temple, including some fun pictures and really fresh analysis. Jenny Reader presented (by proxy) on the material culture of the RS primarily by looking at RS buildings and granaries. Ryan presented on Baptism for the Dead as lived religion. Splendid stuff.

  22. Just announced: the CHL is now online:

    Serious win.

  23. Awesome. They are uploading Selected Collections as well.

  24. What did Tobler have to say? Sounds like a great session.

  25. This is all great stuff; much appreciated, and keep it coming.

  26. SelCol available “before the end of the year”
    o/w first major effort is scanning public domain published books.
    Rick is explaining that some of the “access restricted” documents are actual issues with permissions for documents from thousands of different repositories.
    Also doing a lot of scanning for family history records from Granite Mountain.

  27. Sounds like initial scans will be from microfilm, but users can request new scans from originals if there are problems.

  28. I am enjoying a presentation on syncretism and placement program and navajo teachings sat at luncheon with andy skinner brent top and corey maxwell of deseret books talked briefly to DMB and a couple of other mormon studies friends but have not seen most of the other commenter/bloggernacle rockstars yet this is my first time at mha ( I got in so late last night that I didn’t make the first timers breakfast)

  29. for the KEP geeks, it looks like there will be a presentation sorting out the Masonic ciphers that Will Schryver identified in some of the grammar documents. Clinton Bartholomew is doing the presenting. (eager to see how the Masonic cipher entries actually decode). it’s this afternoon.

    I requested that they digitize and semi-automate the process of obtaining image permissions for publication. They are taking it under advisement. I hope they do.

  30. Histories 1 & 2 reportedly scheduled for 2012, with Journals 2 coming out fall 2011.

  31. sounds like JSP website will be releasing a) material before final publication, and b) more extensive documents than those being published in the JSP. Scholars will possibly need to be careful about citing interim content as it may change for the final publication.

  32. Wow. Sounds like lots of great news. This is stupendous. I’ve been searching the link J gave and it has tons of goodies.

  33. Kristine says:

    smb (24)–You and Ryan need to talk. Ask him about the wooden font.

  34. Can one of you introduce me? I’d love to hear his stories.

    and the JSP website looks to be well tricked out.

  35. Ryan and I are sitting behind you right now, Sam. Come up after this session ends and I’ll introduce you.

  36. Kristine says:

    I’m in the session on women’s oral histories from the Claremont project. The stuff on Prop. 8 was interesting. On the whole, I wish there were fewer quotations from the histories and more analysis and some theoretical framing. (I’m pretty sure this is evidence of a serious personality defect.)

  37. On the whole, I wish there were fewer quotations from the histories and more analysis and some theoretical framing. (I’m pretty sure this is evidence of a serious personality defect.)

    Perhaps, but one that several of us also suffer from. :)

  38. Kristine says:

    OK, it just got awesome–one woman’s (who was not specifically identified, although her name may rhyme with Nadia Smushman) instructions for reading the Book of Mormon in the bathtub.

  39. Kristine,
    I felt the same way at Claremont at the last conference. I really like it, but I feel like they keep presenting the same material over and over at different venues with lots of quotes and not enough analysis.

  40. Met Kevin Barney just before the lunch for the first time in real life. I attended the Dixie Mission diaries session this morning, with Morris Thurston on the “oldest living Mormon “, Edson Barney, one of his ancestors. Todd Compton, who is working on a new bio of Jacob Hamblin had some interesting evidence that perhaps Hamblin was somewhat at odds over the years with Brigham Young over the treatment of the Indians, Southern Paiutes specifically. And Polly Aird gave a great, somewhat contrary presentation about George Hicks and the Cotton Mission.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    I was in the Church History Dept. session with just about everyone else. Very helpful overview of the new catalog website and the JSP website. They even handed out buttons with the url of the catalog website (I’m wearing mine right now). Room was packed. Our boys in SLC did a great job.

  42. Having such a large crowd is great, but I was only twenty minutes ealy for the 3:30 session of my first choice and found it already full. Second choice was also full, so now I am in “Reading andd Writing Sothern Utah History” which still looks good.

  43. Mormon esoterica session, starting with Oliver’s rod of nature.
    second talk will be work on KEP with the Masonic ciphers, and third is to be a treatment of Masonry and Nauvoo temple liturgy. this last presenter is apparently just due to start a PhD at GTU/UCBerkeley and has a forthcoming book from JWHA Books on the departure of the crucifix from Mormon practice.

  44. Bartholomew had some fun facts to chew on. The devil will be in the details and the proof of the pudding in the eating, but I’m excited to see how the details sort out. Basically invokes Brooke’s argument about George Oliver’s 1823 Antiquities, the Jupiter talisman, and the KEP documents to try to puzzle through the meaning of the Masonic cipher letters in the KEP/Specimen of Pure Language document. It will be worth seeing it fully published to be able to decide the actual merits of the argument, but I’m definitely intrigued.

  45. Maybe this needs to become my yearly Mo Studies conference. Where will it be in 2012

  46. Chris H: the exotic Calgary, of all places.

    And MHA is indeed THE mormon studies conference to attend.

  47. Calgary should make it a nice, intimate conference. They can be a little overcrowded when they’re too easy to reach by too many people (anywhere in Utah), and also when they’re in some highly favored Mormon tourist destination (too many otherwise uninvolved people like to use MHA as a tour arranger). Calgary should be just right.

  48. That is right on Ardis. I’m only attending this one because it’s less than five miles away from my apartment. Due to budget constraints my attendence is limited to ones at which I’m presenting and then ones that are really close if I’m not.

    Though I enjoyed the two sessions on the Civil War and 19th Century Military history a great deal.

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    I tried to take some notes on Clinton’s presentation, but it was pretty much impossible. He’s going to publish it in the JWHA journal, so I’ll be interested to see the full printed version. Here’s what I got:

    Three related docs:

    Sample of Pure Language

    Specimen of Pure Language

    Egyptian Alphabet (from KEP)

    Sample has Awman as God, etc.

    Specimen a revision. God is ahman. Each item is preceded by a glyph in this one.

    In EA, same five glyphs appear in same order in EA. (Mentions Will’s presentation from last summer’s FAIR Conference.)

    Adamic language echoes Masonic sources. Mentions three, but especially George Oliver 1823 The Antiquities of Free-Masonry. Idea is that there is Speculative Masonry, and in contrast Spurious Masonry.

    In Speculative Masonry (the good kind), masonry received by Adam directly from God, passed down through his descendants to King Solomon. Modeled on priesthood: Prophet, Priest, King. As to language, there was a pure Adamic language. Adamic was oral; Enoch added written form. Alphabetic, pictographic, intuitively understood. Related to Hebrew and Chinese.

    Spurious Masonry counterfeit: from Satan to Cain to Lamech to Ham to Pharaoh to Mysteries. Stolen from Shem. Idolatry; might is right; sons of men; designed to accumulate power. Language corrupted by migration/Babel. Not alphabetic; pictographic; encrypted. Deals with invented alphabets.

    Leads to idea that Egyptian will share many characteristics with Adamic and Hebrew.

    What did Enochian look like? Related to Royal Arch Ciphers. Jupiter talisman, magical papyri. Henry Cornelius Agrippa–claimed to be one of the key founders of Masonry in Europe.

    AIQ BKR cipher looks like Royal Arch, but uses Hebrew letters.

    One letter key: using just the first letters of a phrase as a code.

    Joseph knew about these things before becoming a Mason.

    Ciphers can be combined into a combined cipher symbol.

    In the five elements of the Specimen of Pure Language, the first three represent the three levels of the Celestial Kingdom, the fourth the Terrestrial, and the fifth the Telestial.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike Reed argued that there is more Masonic parallel to the Endowment than commonly understood. Mormons assume that the whole Adam bit is unrelated to Masonry, as Adam not a part of regular masonic ritual. But there were several masonic christianizers at the time, the most prominent being a man with the odd name Salem Town. His lectures compiled as A System of Speculative Masonry. Interprets the degrees as representing the Fall and Redempiton of Adam. Argues that Joseph participated in the christianization movement.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    There was a nine-minute teaser for a documentary film project on Juanita Brooks. It was quite good.

    Next up: the awards banquet.

  52. I think most think the Royal Arch cipher was based on the AIQ BKR cipher which is from Kabbalism.

  53. I don’t know how all of you submit these reviews during sessions–it’s just go, go go. Well, on second thought, maybe I do…probably would have been better served leaving comments here than attending to an unfortunate lambasting of Jed and Richard earlier this afternoon.

    Clinton Bartholomew’s paper was simply amazing (or was it the delivery that left listeners wanting much, much more?). There was an unexpected apparent consensus between the presenters in the Masonry session. United front or no, Sam’s question during the Q&A deftly identified the interpretive elephant in the room. (Sorry to leave that in a tantalizingly amorphous way for those who weren’t in attendance–I’ll leave any desired explanation to Sam).

  54. Tyler Peck says:

    Having not been able to make into the packed esoterica session I was most impressed with “writing and reading southern Utah history”. From the Tom Kimball to Patrick Mason’s comments to the limited audience interaction there was nothing more that you could have asked for. I really want to see some more of what Brandon Metcalf produces. Curt Bench is truly an MHA treasure. Thanks to Benchmark for holding it down year after year.

  55. Have seen three BCC bloggers–with delight. Paul Reeve’s plenary session was wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions of the Indian Placement Program and a narrative by the last Miss BYU Indian about the history of the pageant and its educational aims. Fascinating. It is always so hard to choose what to attend. Every session looks fascinating.

  56. The “Reading and Writing Southern Utah History” session was teriffic. Curt Bench couldn’t get through all of his presentation on Juanita Brooks, but it reflected his perspective as a collector, reader, and bookseller, an obvious appreciation of Brooks’ work, and a lot of good humor. Brandan Metcalfe’s paper on James Bleak’s history of the Southern Utah mission also introduced me to this 2000 page work that I had not previously known about.

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    Awards time. Out of sheer laziness I’ll just type abbreviated indications of the publications.

    International Article: Mark Grover’s Helvecio Martins piece.

    Mormon Women’s History: David Hall on the decline of organized women’s activism in the Relief Society.

    Dissertation: Matt Rasmussen: Mormonism and the Making of a Lancashire Zion. (He just took at Institute gig at SVU.

    Theses: Jill Crandell on Garden Grove and Scott Thomas on Vigilantism.

    Graduate Paper: Jared Tamez on Colonizing Mexican Mormons.

    Undergrad paper: Justin Bray on individual sacrament cups.

    Special citations: Evans family, Steve and Ben Pratt, Juanita Brooks famly, Robert Parrot, Carma deJong Anderson.

    Leonard Arrington award: Carol Cornwall Anderson.

    Book: Mark Staker’s Kirtland.

    First Book: Ben Pykles on Excavating Nauvoo.

    Documentary: Edward Leo Lyman, Diaries of Abraham Cannon.

    International History: Ray Kuehne’s East Germany book.

    Family History: Leslie Huber, The Journey Takers.

    Best Article: David Hall, Decline of organized women’s activism again.

    Excellence: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “An American Album, 1857.” and Ben Park on Early Theologies of Embodiment (bonus for a Dialogue publication!)

  58. Kevin Barney says:

    Personal to Ben Park: I assume they gave you notice that you won, but in case they didn’t, let me be the first to wish you congratulations! And congratulations also to fellow nacler Jared Tamez.

  59. Kevin Barney says:

    Juvenile Instructor has a less lazy recitation of the awards if anyone wants more exquisite detail…

  60. Kevin, thank you for the report, and just to be a tiny bit snarky:
    Carol is wonderful woman, but there’s no way Gordon Madsen is going to give her to Richard Lloyd–much as they like each other.

    (apologies in advance, and eds, if Kevin’s post is edited, please delete this one as well. Ta.)

  61. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Alex, I have no idea how my fingers managed to type Anderson instead of Madsen. I’m leaving the mistake up because it’s too funny.

  62. Congratulations to fellow JIer Jared! He makes it the fifth year in a row that a JI blogger (Matt B, Stan, and now Jared) has won the best graduate student paper award.

    And thanks for the congrats, Kevin. I’ll credit the award to the fact that many of titans of Mormon history and the ‘nacle (like Sam, J Stapley, Kris, and Matt Bowman), didn’t publish anything last year!

  63. If anyone wants to see a review of Staker’s and Ulrich’s fantastic work, which were actually deserving of their awards, see here and here. If you want to see some fascinating posts on Jared’s thesis (which I imagine his paper was drawn from), see here and here.

  64. Congrats Ben and Jared!!

  65. #53 – Okay, can someone please spill about the interpretive elephant?

  66. George Miller says:

    “Okay, can someone please spill about the interpretive elephant?”
    Sure I would be happy to elaborate. Sam Brown asked an excellent question concerning the presentation. While I can’t remember the exact wording, he suggested that Freemasonry had accumulated bits and pieces of so many traditions that he believed one could find anything in Masonry. He then suggested, in essence, that since anything could be found in Masonry, then how do you show one particular idea came from Masonry. The response was that if Joseph Smith’s revelations contain multiple ideas all coming from a single available Masonic sources, then the likely hood increases.

    While that was the response at the conference, I would suggest that Sam Brown’s question is, in and of itself, somewhat misguided. Freemasonry has a long history and has evolved overtime. Brown is correct that many Masonic authors have drawn from various esoteric traditions to fill out their own framework of Masonry. This has led many scholars outside of Masonry to seriously misinterpret Masonic tradition and its content. Scholars within the Masonic tradition would call into question Sam Brown’s conception of Freemasonry, noting that Masonic self conceptions of their own content have changed over time and that if you look specifically at Freemasonry from 1790-1870 that its content is actually quite finite.

  67. Sorry for the delay. I just noticed this. To my eye one central difficulty that confronts the interpreter of Mormon Masonry (or Masonic Mormonism) is that both were totalizing idea systems, eager to seize truth wherever they found it, so as they appropriate different types of images it will be tempting to see connections where lineal connections may not in fact exist. This problem may become particularly acute when the observer is also a Mason, which brings subtle but important assumptions about the integrity of the Masonic tradition that I don’t think are persuasive to the outside observer. I want to be very polite and appropriate on this point, as I know that many people have very strong opinions on this subject. As one might expect, I find the account in #66 inaccurate, and the broad consensus of the Masonry session at MHA to have been somewhat overstated and insufficiently rigorous (I should be explicit that I was pleased with the presenters and intrigued by some of their hypotheses and wish them all the best as they develop their arguments to a more rigorous state in anticipation of publication). Although I treat Nauvoo Masonry in broad terms in the death book, particularly as it relates to Mormon liturgy, I will tackle the topic a bit more rigorously in the translation book. To that end I am starting to chew on writing a “Prologomenon to the Study of Mormon Masonry” to try to draw attention to some of the problems with the way the topic has been pursued. My main advice to younger historians now is to ignore current devotional approaches to the topic, as I think they simultaneously raise the stakes and cloud the thinking for the historian. I confess that I am most closely allied with religious history approaches and that my recommendation is affected by that alliance, but I think that this subfield needs to take a deep breath and mostly ignore developments after about 1850 to try to get a handle on how various ideas worked, in what networks of meaning they existed, and how participants took ahold of them. I know that this is difficult and that much of what makes this an attractive topic is the almost guaranteed interest on the part of modern observers, but I think we’ll make more strides when we step back from the current devotional-polemical models.[1] By way of example, I think Mike Reed has great promise but don’t think his considerable insight should be framed as a response to a devotional claim that Smith’s liturgy couldn’t be Masonic because it’s Christian while Masonry is non-denominational. I wanted to hear from his bright young scholar what two nearly simultaneous Christianizations of Masonry or elements of Masonry meant, what did they tell us about the British vs. the American experience, the anti-Protestant Mormons vs. the high-church Anglican, how do we navigate the relationships between liturgy and paraliturgical writings in Mormonism vs. the Christian Masonic movement, how do antecedent esoteric systems (and parallel belief systems in the mainstream) inform or situate this process?
    By way of brief but explicit engagement of #66, the multiplicity of ritual forms may have been somewhat less in the period under consideration, but the writing about the meaning, implications, and contexts of those ritual forms remains multifarious throughout the period, with various authors explicitly engaging huge swaths of esoteric and biblical religion in their attempts to propagate, interpret, and expand Masonry as they understood it.

    [1] I believe that devotional accounts should be written and enjoyed by Latter-day Saints. I’m arguing that everyone will be better off if those devotional treatments can be based in more rigorous reports of the witness of the primary documents. I think the two projects need to be separated for the historians to write good history and the devoted to write good devotion.

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