MHA SLC 2019

It’s that time of year again–time for some serious Mormon History Association action at the Sheraton on Fifth South in Salt Lake City. For those who are participating in the conference, please post your notes, comments and observations here. Those who are unable to be there in person will greatly appreciate whatever nuggets you are able to share.

In the past I’ve posted comments on the sessions I have attended. I intend to do that again this year, but for various reasons I’m going to bring my iPad rather than my Macbook. I can’t type anywhere near as efficiently on the pad as I can on the laptop, so my comments will probably be shorter with a fair amount of typos; my apologies in advance for that.

Since I’ll be traveling today and then taking my son and DIL out for dinner this evening, I probably won’t start with much blog commentary until tomorrow.

The conference program is available here:

Click to access Program-Summaries.pdf






  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Testing 1234 testing. (
    Just making sure my WordPress login is working so I don’t have to manually enter my email and name with every commen.

  2. Very cool, Kevin. Love that you do this. Thanks.

    Friday’s “Century of Black Mormons” session with Paul Reeve and Ardis Parshall sounds really good, as do the “Author Meets Critics” sessions.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Arrived safely and went by the Sheraton to register. Got a hug from EmJen, had a good talk with Jared Riddick, said hi to Paul Reeve. Poor Barbara Jones Brown seemed frazzled; I’m sure she had a very long day.

    Question for anyone who knows—where is the special Jane and Emma event Saturday night? The program mentions it but doesn’t give a location.

    I just went through the program and made my preliminary session picks. That was absolutely brutal; too much good stuff to choose from.

  4. Miranda says:

    An excellent tour of Utah suffrage sites with BetterDays2020 today:
    Stop by their display tomorrow afternoon.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Opening plenary, David Walker, Mormons and other western wonders: tourist interests in the railroad age. Paul Reeve ran into David in church history library a year ago, which is how this came about. His book forthcoming later this year, on Mormons and railroad.

    Indigenous peoples generally written out of railroad tourism. But these things were said in their guidebooks. These were Mormon lands in those books. Both indigenous and colonial. Railroading as a Mormon enterprise and a Mormon making enterprise.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    1888 guidebook. Concern about negative references; Mormons were good customers, didn’t want to offend. Remove references to barbarism. Corporate friendship between Mormons and railroads.

    “First whistle of a train in SLC will be the death knell of Mormonism.” Didn’t happen.

    BY a major contractor for rail lines, donated lands, created close ties and investments.

    Why defend Mormons in 1880s? New and intense anti-Mormon legislation (Edmunds-Tucker, raids). Feared any disinclination to invest in west.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Railroad officials were a likely lobby for Mormonism.

    RR officials tried to thread needle between Mormons and antagonists. Needed religious curiosities to be both visible and visitable.

    Sometimes they invented Mormon sites. Pulpit rock. BY preached from it in his first sermon addressed to the pioneers, thus is almost the right place. Never actually stopped there, just a rock, but made for a good story. Enhance Mormon connections to land.

    Pushed comparisons with holy land, Jews and Muslims, holy and exotic. Mormons were who they were because of where they were. RRs structured and mediated expectations.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    An impactful tour for many; an impactful industry for all.

    Guidebooks could be heavy handed. Consider the canals. Avenues for reflection and memory. Compared to the Jordan. The canals a metaphor for Mormonism itself.

    Left room for natively Mormon commentary on site.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Shoshones and others tried to get in on the action. Held a free pow wow, but then charged an exit fee(!) RRs much more invested with Mormons than actual NAs. An ironic turn against the death knell thesis. Tourism and RRs powerful forces in Mormon history.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Brooke LeFevre, antimormonism in Iowa territory. Keokuk, Montrose and Fort Madison were hotbeds. Mormons accused of thieving in the area. Vigilance society organized in Keokuk. Courts too slow,rarely convicted anyone. Offered to buy Mormons out of town; Mormons refused. But two days later they accepted and were bought out. Belief JS behind attempt to murder Boggs.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Lots of Iowa saints had problems among themselves; didn’t help any. Alcohol an issue at Montrose. Several incidents took place there. Robberies charged to Mormons. Land tract swindling.

    A treaty entered into, helped with problems.

    Martyrdom described as a wonderful event.

    Need more research on connections between Iowa and Warsaw anti-Mormonism.

  12. Keep it coming, Kevin! Enjoy your notes. Thank you.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Sorry, I had a work issue I needed to take care of. I’m now at the Century of Black Mormons session. With digital projects, special concerns.

    Uses Omeka S, open source software.

    Seems like a single web page but more complex. Sources from different digital libraries.

    Time is biggest ingredient.

    Paul already had a local database. Had to figure out how to translate to web. Hierarchical webpages.

    Need to split project out into component parts and tasks.

    Articulate workflow. Document every step. Test, make sure others can replicate.

    Two types of docs: individuals and source documents.

    Had to customize to add fields like gender and birthdate.

    Were able to provide a zoom function.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Digitalizing past Mormons. A storytelling project. But media matters. Words are the meat of the project, but tech can muddy that. How to frame the story.

    Each digital biography is a building block. One way to get us through names. How to funnel user to them? Who? Alphabetical list of everyone in database. Some records had evidence of baptism but no name, so used descriptors like sailor.

    Where? Uses digital maps meant for journalism. Each node represents a baptismal location. Shows a snapshot of geographical location. Map is static, doesn’t show migrations. Doesn’t changing nature of borders, etc.

    When? By date of baptism. Makes sense because of linear progression. But can artificially create connection. Might be, but requires research.

    How many? Doesn’t directly relate to names. Gender disparity, priesthood ordinations, etc. like a sociogram. Family connections and social interactions.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Our beloved Ardis now up. Membership records have varied, never asked for race. A detective story.

    Some were well known, there had to find more sources.

    Were slaves brought bona fide members of church?

    Third group: dumb luck. She just stumbled on some.

    Descendants knew of a black ancestor.

    Case study. Watch for signs of racism. Use of word “colored” as a notation was common among clerks. MP didn’t want to teach, because people were turned off by blacks in congregations.

    A photo she found of Elijah Banks.

    Combined different types of records. Used standard genealogical methods not related to church membership.

    Francis Hood. She found a letter from the missionary who baptized her.

    Francis was endowed posthumously by people who didn’t realize she was black. And ordained to the priesthood,not realizing she was a woman!

    She showed a picture of her sister for a sense of what she looked like (no picture of her exists).

    This project requires every bit of her historical research.

    (Personal to Ardis: the black man sitting next to me nodded with approval throughout your presentation, so I think you can count that as a seal of approval.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Robert Burch offered comments. Promise of faith. Jane Manning walked for that promise. Started with interest, moved to isolation, now striving for integration in the church. Changing image of what an original Latter-day Saint looked like. Understanding based in fact and data can make room for divine providence of the Lord.

  17. Excellent! Love the commentary.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Adam-God session so much demand they had to change rooms.

    Did BY really teach Adam-God as shiw. In shorthand records? He did. (Laughter.)

    Spoke without preparation,

    Adam and Eve titles given to first man and woman on a world. Partake of fruit until become mortal.

    Large portions of shorthand were never transcribed.

    Some differences in JD don’t change meaning. But others change the content.

    Necessity of fall, he would have partaken of the fruit had he been there.

    Majority of changes in JD additions, not just editorial,

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Much of shorthand not transcribed by Watt or other original note taker, but by others or not at all.

    BY’s teachings on Eve. Adam and Eve gave birth to spirit children.

    Eve one of Adam’s wives. Could only take one to this world. She is called Eve because she is the mother of all living. Other wives would be other wives. Eve an earthly title; didn’t know her name before.

    Fall always a part of God’s plan. Was necessary that sin should enter the world.

    Fall essential to man’s progress. Satan also essential to tempt Eve.

    Transcribers often changed Young’s words in transcription.

    We would not have had a world without Eve.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Stapley now up. BY concocted an Adam and Eve for his time. Start right—go back to Nauvoo.

    Cosmos comprised angels, heavens, a new cosmology. King Follet Discourse. Serves a pivotal role. God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. Well established teaching of Nauvoo era.

    All humans in image of God. Jesus did what the fsther did before him.

    No contemporaneous evidence he taught the female corollary, but can infer he did privately.

    People essentially ignored them.

    Gendered dyad at hand: procreative biology.

    Pratt and Young disagreed with each othe, but both disagreed with Smith that God couldn’t create spirits. They both taught viviparous spirit birth.

    He avoids term Adam-God, never used at time, ignored the female side of this.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    What were details of Young’s garden cosmology?

    Significant departure fro teachings of Bible and Smith, baby stories. Sexual procreation fundamental law of cosmos. Born in same way anyone else. Resurrected beings from another planet.

    Bom teaches we become children of a God through his mediation. Young in contrast naturalistic. Colonized earth with plants from another world. Adam and Eve become of this earth by eating and eating. Renders them forgetful.

    Shook off dust of this earth and returned to their habitation without dying.

    Extends to nativity sexually with Mary. Eternal sex.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Young got lots of pushback. At one point God was nonexistent. God his father before him. Young claimed he received this cosmology by revelation. He kept such claims private.

    He also taught different narratives and contradicted himself.

    AG persisted for 40 years. Aspects of it remain today (spirit birth).

    Why did BY depart from Smith so radically from Smith and in such an irritating manner.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Response. Importance of LaJean’s work. Eve to Adam: “I see things different. Will you not take a little?”

    Fortunate fall had unfortunate consequences for Eve. She asks about why that should have been. BY viewed Eve prior to fall differently from cursed women. Became institutionalized.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    BY.did not teach intelligences. An infinite chain of being.

    Joseph taught aGod on a planet also.

    Connection to PM makes sense.

    BY made a place for PM (one of his wives) but also companionate marriage (Eve only).

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Q&A . Does this reflect BY’s pragmatic bent?

    Good shorthand records from 1852 to 1868. Most of what he says is practical.

    Oreon Pratt when asked if BY right said when he’s being practical he’s alway’s on the money.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Why did BY have a poor record on women in light of this? She suspects it is culture.

    We have the temple liturgy, which he is deeply involved in.

    He never said women should be subservient because of Eve. Never.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    When BY uses God, can’t necessarily substitute Adam. Jonathan disagrees.

    Orson not making arguments about JS, but about scripture.

    Was Garden literal or metaphorical? Yes.

    Spirits can be destroyed and recycled. LaJean disagrees.

  28. back to 1:32 pm- Do you know what website they used to create the story map? Is there a way for us to plot family information on a map?

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    Mormon theologians have spent too much time on spirit birth.

    Watt made so many changes he changed BY’s personality.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    The map feature was just a regular feature of the open source software they used. My impression is tha feature is very basic and they aren’t really thrilled with it. I think they’re hoping to update it eventually with something better.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    We have awards! I assume the JI will post the winners.

    I’m hanging around so I can view the showing of the Jane and Emma film.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Anthea Butler plenary on church from 1950-70, post-war issues unde4 DOM. 1951 he becomes president. Why talk about him? Intrigued her. Extensive diaries. Great challenges.

    She is interested in “no”, people who say no to the modern world. And interested in race. 3 things. 1. Engaging modern world, outreach rivaling move of evangelicals. 2. Mormons becoming more white. 3. Modernism presents serious challenge on topic of revelation. Revelation being eroded by modern world.

    Comparison with Billy Graham. DOM claims political neutrality, but everyone knows a staunch Republican. Closeness to Eisenhower, Nixon. But gracious to Kennedy’s. Church not a backwater, interacting with presidents.

    Very concerned with threat of communism. Invited visits from FBI.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Internal conversation about communism very important. Also concerned with influence of Catholic Church (going through same kind of upheaval).

    Shows pic of Cleon Skousen. Didn’t know of until Wednesday. Teaching at BYU. Convinced of a vast communist conspiracy. McKay and Benson embrace much of this. Robert Welch, founder of John Birch Society in 1958.

    Dilemma. How much will we let outside groups talk to church? ETB pushing for it.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Communism linked to civil rights movement. How do we deal with African Americans?

    ETB wants permission to run for President, not given.

    Romney also wants to run. Michigan has large black population. What to say?

    McKay very worried about inter-marriage.

    Unbaltized Nigerian Mormons become a big problem.

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    How do we deal with theologically?

    Contraception issues. How to stop people from using.

    How to deal with people who no longer want to be sealed.

    What do you do about working women? Issues of divorce. Adoption. Can’t adopt black children.

    Fear of change. Holding the line, but the line is beginning to break.

    Race an undercurrent to all of this. It changes everything.

    Interracial marriage.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    People are what make up the church. Love can trump everything.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    Mormonism in a secular age. Will stretch our notion of what history is. Metatime.

    Miranda Wilcox, two Lds paradigms: apostasy and restoration and family welding links.

    Devaluing others in past to legitimize present. Roberts and others used secular ecclesiastical history to prove current Mormon ideas. He Talmage and Smith.

    Apostasy and restoration narrative firmly rooted by 1930s. Tended to fray relations with other churches.

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    Family history metaphor of welding link. 1893-4 SL temple, need for genealogical resources.

    Susa Young Gates also promoted genealogical society. LDS felt affinity with other genealogists.

    Influence of eugenics. Susa Young Gates inspired by this. Write a racial history book. Supported idea of believing blood. Widtsoe also praised. A eugenics society formed.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    Rosalynde. Puritanism the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy. Mostly false.

    Christian s set up straw man of hedonism. Distinction between hedonism and true happiness doesn’t really hold.

    Happiness design of our existence; least controversial thing JS ever said.

    Question of timeframe. Promise of happiness in afterlife.

    Where is locus of good, in this world or beyond.

    What about lds tradition? Affirms value of happiness. BoM a case study of happiness in modernity.

    Personal pleasure, communal, salvation in heaven,

    Examples in Nephite preaching dwell on happiness.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Wickedness never was happiness. Supports creedal xianity.

    Alma defends God from charges of cruelty.

    Life is life. Any heavenly happiness a restoration of this life, not a new reward.

    Future happiness only available in the present,

    The mystery of resurrection.

    Judgment bar of Christ leads to restoration.

    Moroni in Mormon 8-9. Discussion of resurrection, judgment and restoration of happiness. Rebuke to secular modernity.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    Sam Briwn in translation. JS used word translation which we put in scare quotes. What do we do with the t word?

    Xenoglossia. Not convinced Smith endorsed this model. Fundamentally secular. What if words are more than words! A glossolalia model. Traces of Edenic divine language.

    Babel a dominant theme for Smith, imprisoned by language.

    Edenic language real and powerful for the Saints. Par5 of Nauvoo temple liturgy.

    Glossalalia practiced by early saints.

    Language is unstable.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    Translation of human beings bodily. Not merely linguistic.

    Carrying from one place/time to another.

  43. Nearing the end of a session that began with two papers about women’s affairs broadly, and ended with two papers detailing the lives of three individual women. We can’t really tell those broad stories well without the deep dives into individual lives. Bravo James Parry and Grant Emery!

  44. The church in most areas is NOT bearing fruits! We still are not UNITED, as we should, most members are active in the church and not the gospel, we have classes among ourselves, riches, learned etc! Eg, you cant be an Apostle, if you are not a learned, or African or more than 40 years old or rich or not having experience as a Bishop or Stake President or Mission President! (Was Joseph Smith not 14yrs old? or Samuel, or David or Moroni etc when the Lord called them? Not that I am looking for power, but like Moroni, to pull it down! ) No wonder in Mormon 8, Moroni wonders why we are ‘polluting the holy church of God!

    If you check out, the new temples say in Italy, Rome Its so glamorous and incredible, but the Durban Temple! The attitude is still there of treating African people so down and less! One wonders what the faithful saints in Durban did to get some small tiny temple! Is there some changes with the Lord that He now is ‘a respector of persons?

    If we are not one, we cannot be the Lords people!

    Zion is a Kingdom, We should preach the Kingdom of God, as Christ did! Most of what is happening is like Pharisees and Sadducee and Scribes!

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve given up on the live blogging, it’s just too hard. But I’ll tell you a bit about the pokygamy session chaired by Brian Hales ai just came out of.

    Darcee Barnes talked about a case where Grover Cleveland pardoned a polygamist. There was sort of a profile for a successful pardon. First it was essential to have support from gentile businessmen. Also, the older the better (this guy was of the advanced age of 55, so that helped!)

    Dick Bennett talked about the British Columbia rulings on polygamy, in connection with which he testified three times (on the history of LDS polygamy and in particular it’s cessation).

    Philippe Meek gave a. Excellent overview of US law regarding g polygamy. One thing that comes out of this that it’s hard to allow polyamory but disallow polygamy in a consistently principled way.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    Last night I saw a showing of the Jane and Emma movie (which I quite enjoyed), this was useful preparation, because this afternoon I went to a session on Quincy’s on Jane Manning James. I5 dawned on me during the session that I didn’t have a copy, so I went to benchmark but 4they were sold out, so I bought one for them to ship to me. Then there was a panel of participants in making the film led by Blair Hodges, which was really good.

    Then finally Paul gave his presidential address about how the Great Impeacher tried to apply southern reconstruction to the Mormons in Utah. His idea was to reduce Utah to a small sliver of its territory and parcel out the rest to its surrounding stat and territories (Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming). Didn’t work.

    Fellow BCC blogger Jared gave a great pictorial overview of Rochester, site of next year’s conference,


  47. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for this hard work, Kevin. It was a wonderful conference.

  48. Jacob H. says:

    I always enjoy the fragmented recaps. thanks for making these memories public

  49. New Iconoclast says:

    Some of those session choices – especially the slot with the Adam-God session – were almost impossible to make. I really wanted to be in several places at a time, more than once.

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