Conference/Presentation Reports

Dreaming up a DH Research Agenda for Mormon Studies

By April 2, 2013

On my spring break I took a one-day “staycation” to Day 1 of a local gathering of digital humanities scholars, hosted by the smart folks at Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks (, tweeting at @NUlabTMN). It was one of the best conferences I’ve been to – seemed like mainly literary scholars but also historians, librarians, and coders, and it involved a good blend of showcasing completely awesome ongoing initiatives, asking big existential questions about knowledge production, and teaching hands-on skills. Myself, I learned a bit about network analysis using Gephi (no relation to Nephi) and how to georeference a high-resolution historical map image using ArcGIS. I felt like a boss (as my students would say) by the day’s end.

And it got me thinking.

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Claremont Conference, March 15-16: “Beyond the Mormon Moment: Directions for Mormon Studies in the New Century”

By February 15, 2013

“Beyond the Mormon Moment: Directions for Mormon Studies in the New Century”

A Conference in Honor of the Career of Armand Mauss

Claremont School of Arts & Humanities

Department of Religion

March 15-16, 2013 

Conference Schedule 

All sessions will be held in Albrecht Auditorium at 925 N. Dartmouth Avenue.

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The Burden of Church History and its implications for Mormon History

By January 8, 2013

For those unable to attend this year’s annual American Historical Association held in New Orleans last week, Twitter is a godsend, and on Saturday night, the site was all abuzz as Laurie Maffly-Kipp, professor of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, delivered the presidential address at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History.[1] Entitled “The Burden of Church History,” Maffly-Kipp’s address was a call to members of the ASCH to not abandon church history as the field of American religious history moves further away from institutional histories in pursuit of histories that analyze spirituality and deconstruct the meaning of religion.[2] I’ve yet to read the entire address, but Elesha Coffman has posted a helpful summary and insightful response at Religion in American History that I encourage all to read.

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Lecture Report: Janet Bennion and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on “The Faces of Eve: Varieties of Mormon Feminism”

By November 3, 2012

On Thursday, October 25, Janet Bennion, Professor of Anthropology at Lyndon State College in Vermont, delivered a lecture, “The Faces of Eve: Varieties of Mormon Feminism,” at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University. Professor Bennion is an expert on the contemporary practice of polygamy among Mormon fundamentalists, and the author of several books on the subject. Bennion’s lecture focused on her most recent book, Polygamy in Primetime: Media, Gender, and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism, which she presented as a synthesis of her more than twenty years of research among polygamous groups in North America. Her goal, she said, was to produce a readable work that would educate the general public about these groups, as well as better preparing law enforcement officials to deal with them—and thus to avoid another event like the ill-managed 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas.

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Pragmatism and Progress: An Overview of LDS Sister Missionary Service in the Twentieth Century

By October 8, 2012

President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement in  General Conference on Saturday, October 6, 2012, that young women can now serve missions at age 19 is no less than revolutionary.  This move might seem like a pragmatic attempt to boost global missionary efforts.  However, a brief historical overview of the last century’s changes for sister missionaries provides some useful context for how remarkable this  policy really is.

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Nate’s Notes: The 2012 Church History Symposium

By September 15, 2012

So these have been a long time coming, and I’m sure I have forgotten a number of highlights I didn’t get a chance to jot down during the presentations I attended.  The 2012 Church History Symposium was held March 2 and 3, jointly hosted by the Church History Department and BYU’s Religious Studies Center and themed on the life and times of Joseph F. Smith.  The RSC is planning on publishing selected speeches from the symposium sometime in early 2013, and has pledged to post video proceedings on their website (they have only M. Russell Ballard’s keynote address available currently)—but in the meantime I thought it would be good to have some discussion on the conference here at the good ol’ JI blog.

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Martha Hughes Cannon: Physician – Plural Wife – Politician

By September 13, 2012

The Mormon Women’s History Initiative

invites you to an evening of insights into the KUED documentary film

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CFP: Faith & Knowledge Conference, 2013

By August 30, 2012


FEBRUARY 22–23, 2013

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Women and the LDS Church Conference report, Part II

By August 27, 2012

Continuing discussion of Women and the LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Aug 24-25, 2012 Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah and the LDS Church History Library
Organizers – Kate Holbrook and Matt Bowman

The perfect cap to my summer, which included more writing about Mormon women and their history than was usual for me, was attending both days of the “Women and the LDS Church Conference.” On a personal note, it gathered many scholars I either knew or wanted to know, including nearly a quorum of the JI permabloggers, and I was thirsty to be part of the conversation and soak up some Western sunshine. The conference featured incredibly high-quality presentations and honest but never rancorous audience participation, and a warm Salt Lake welcome both at the gorgeous City Library and in the sandstone brick building of the Fort Douglas Officers Club on the University of Utah campus. Like a pilgrim to Lourdes, I came away with a vial of sustaining water. I hope we will be talking and thinking about what happened at this conference for a very long time.

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O Canada!

By July 10, 2012

In keeping with a family tradition that we began last year in St. George, Utah, we turned MHA (the Mormon History Association annual meeting), which was held in Calgary this year, into an excuse for a very big (9,000+-mile) family road trip this year. In preparation for our border-crossing, I read a short story by author and English professor Thomas King titled “Borders” (if you haven’t read it, check it out). It is a story about a Blackfoot woman and her son (told from the perspective of the adolescent son) who get stranded at the U.S.-Canadian border–in Blackfoot Territory–when the mother insists that her nationality is Blackfoot and refuses to specify whether she is from the Canadian or American side: she is from the Blackfoot side. The two are on their way to Salt Lake City to visit the woman’s daughter who had previously moved there, convinced by a friend that it is the greatest place on earth, which the daughter reiterates in her postcards and travel brochures sent home (though, upon their arrival, she admits that she is thinking of returning home). Though never directly or explicitly so, the story is an excellent study in the complex mingling of Canadian-American-Blackfoot-Mormon identities that combine and comingle for several individuals in the area often referred to, among others things, as southern Alberta.

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2012 MHA Award Winners

By June 30, 2012

Highest MHA award

Leonard J. Arrington Award

William G. Hartley—citation attached

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Juvenile Instructor Heads to Calgary: MHA 2012 Paper Abstracts

By June 25, 2012

As the Mormon History Association’s annual conference is next week (info here), and since a number of JI contributors are presenting, we thought it time to continue our tradition of providing paper abstracts. Below you will find the names, paper titles, and summaries of all JIers participating next week. (A full program is found here.) And make sure to tweet/follow the proceedings at #mha2012.

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Reminder: 47th Annual MHA Conference in Calgary next week

By June 20, 2012

Just a reminder to our readers that next weekend (June 28-July 1) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the Mormon History Association will be holding its annual conference. There’s a number of fantastic panels, papers, and sessions dealing with a whole range of fascinating topics. A number of JIers are on top to present, as are many friends of JI. It should be a great conference and I hope to see many of you there. Be sure and introduce yourself if you’re a reader and we’ve never met.

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Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp on the Lead-up to the Mormon Moment, and the Danforth Center for Religion and Politics

By April 24, 2012

Many of you may have already seen this, but it is worth repeating for those who either need a reminder or missed the announcement when it first hit the interwebz. As part of the lecture series for the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics, based at the Washington University of St. Louis and ably led by the esteemed scholar R. Marie Griffeth, Laurie Maffly-Kipp delivered a brilliant presentation titled, “The Long Approach to the Mormon Moment: The Building of an American Church.” Maffly-Kipp needs no introduction in these circles–I’m sure we are all fans of her work, and I doubt I need to assure the presentation’s brilliance. But it is indeed brilliant.

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Mormons and Politics at Columbia

By February 4, 2012

On the fifteenth floor in a Columbia University building overlooking a majestic New York City skyline, some of the most well known scholars of Mormonism (–and me–) gathered to present papers on the role of Mormonism and American politics during this so-called “Mormon Moment.” Professors and students from Columbia and other NYC-area universities, a handful of LDS missionaries (including a JIer’s parents!) and reps from local and international news outlets, braved unreliable elevators to bring the large lecture hall to capacity on both days of the conference.

According to co-organizer, Jana Riess, Columbia’s Institute for Religion, Culture & Public Life had hoped to hold such an event for years. And with Romney’s train to the nomination in Tampa back on track—CNN just flashed that Romney won the Nevada Caucuses by twenty-three points—timing could not have been better. Dr. Riess, her co-organizer and former doctoral advisor, Randall Balmer, as well as the Institute’s staff, deserve heaps of praise for a smoothly run and stimulating event, the fruits of which will most certainly be enjoyed throughout this election season and beyond.

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“Mormon Women and Modernity” at AAR San Francisco

By November 19, 2011

It’s a gorgeous sunny day in San Francisco – where’s that fabled fog?? I’m sporting the already-ubiquitous free red tote bag and lanyard as I stroll between the hotels in and around Union Square downtown. This my first AAR/SBL and yes — it is a BIG conference. I’m being remarkably restrained in the book exhibit although there’s lots to drool over (I was tweeting some of the more notable titles, feel free to follow my conference tweets @tonahangen, and the conference hashtag is #sblaar).

Saturday morning I headed over to the session sponsored by the Mormon Studies Consultation. Colleen McDannell was presiding (really, that’s the way it’s printed in the AAR program) over a session on “Mormon Women and Modernity.”

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Joseph Smith’s Politics, part 2

By November 16, 2011

 Continued from part 1

The Saints soon shifted the focus of their attention to government at the state level. Acting on perceived signals from the governor’s office of his willingness to provide them with a militia escort to reoccupy their lands—but not to protect them once there—Joseph Smith raised a security force. In the summer of 1834, over two hundred Mormon men gathered from Kirtland and other eastern congregations to march to Missouri. However, news of the Mormon army reached Missouri before the army itself. Seized with war hysteria, the Jackson citizenry prepared to hold the county or die fighting. Smith aborted the venture when his army reached Zion’s exiles in neighboring Clay County and learned that state support for the reoccupation had evaporated. Several months later, however, the state legislature found a new solution to the “Mormon problem” in the creation of Caldwell County. It was commonly understood that Caldwell had been set aside for Mormon settlement.  

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Two Queries

By November 16, 2011

I’m surfacing from a very busy semester to ask two things:

–when did the term “FLDS” develop? I have my ideas and some initial research but if anyone has insight on that, I’d be grateful for input.

–who’s going to be at AAR/SBL in San Franciso this weekend and would there be interest in organizing an informal JI meetup?

This is my first time at AAR – I’m looking forward to it. I will be speaking in a panel sponsored by the History of Christianity Section on Monday morning on the state of the field of fundamentalism (Session A21-104), and among other things I’m musing about the emergence of the FLDS wing of Mormonism’s house–or at least the emergence of CALLING it that, and about what that might say about the changing meanings for the term “fundamentalism.” My fellow panelists are Matthew Sutton, David Harrington Watt, Randall Stephens, and Mary Beth Mathews.

FYI, the Mormon Studies Consultation panel will be on Saturday morning at 9, with Colleen McDannell at the helm, on “Mormon Women and Modernity” (Session A19-130). It sounds like it angles towards sociology rather than history, but should be interesting to attend. The contributors and papers:

Ann Duncan (Goucher College) “The Mommy Wars, Mormonism and the ‘Choices’ of American Motherhood”
Jennifer Meredith (U of U) “Western Pioneer Mythos in the Negotiation of Mormon Feminism and Faith”
Jill Peterfeso (U North Carolina) “Scripting, Performing, Testifying: Giving Faithful ‘Seximony’ Through the Mormon Vagina Monologues
Doe Daughtry (Arizona State) “‘Further Light and Knowledge’: Ways of Knowing in Mormonism and the New Spirituality”

Respondant is R. Marie Griffith from Harvard, and James M.McLachlan and Grant Underwood will be on hand for the business meeting.

Are other JI contributors, readers & fans going to be attending AAR? Maybe we could all have a breakfast or lunch together at some point over the weekend.

Joseph Smith’s Politics, part 1

By November 15, 2011

Friend of the blog Mark Ashurst-McGee has agreed to share with us his 2010 AHA paper, which provides an overview of the arguments in Mark’s award-winning dissertation on Joseph Smith’s political thought. For those who don’t know Mark’s work, you should stop what you’re doing and start catching up now. He’s currently working as an editor on the Joseph Smith Papers. I’ve broken the paper into two parts. For full documentation, see the dissertation, “Zion Rising: Joseph Smith’s Early Social and Political Thought” (ASU, 2008) –DG

I would like to speak to the fundamental impulse within Mormonism to withdraw from the wider society into a sectarian “Zion”—as Joseph Smith called it—as well as the paradoxical necessity of political involvement to protect this separatist project.

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Scholarship as “Intellectual Kinship”: Richard Bushman’s Vision for the Academic Community

By September 5, 2011

In order for the “Mormon Moment” (however you define it) to be successful, there must be able explicators. In the last half-dozen years, there have been few better faces of Mormonism than Richard Bushman. (See, for instance, the recent write-up here.) Whether the topic is Joseph Smith, religious fanaticism, or even the “Book of Mormon” musical, Bushman has been a go-to voice for reporters, and his insights are often poignant and insightful. He is the perfect blend of approachability, reasonable credentials (many of the highest academic awards, prestigious chair at an Ivy League institution), and brilliance. What makes him so likable in the public sphere is not just what he says, but how he says it.

Importantly, that is also one of the things that makes him so likable in academia.

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