Articles by

J Stuart

The Mechanics of Applying to MHA: The CFP, Writing Abstracts, and Forming Panels

By October 13, 2019

It’s hard to believe that we are only a few weeks away from the Mormon History Association conference deadline! Anne Berryhill, our committee, and I are anxiously awaiting when we get to look at proposals and fully plan out the 2020 conference. I suspect that I’m preaching to the choir when I tell blog readers that MHA is one of the best conferences out there. It’s well-attended, features fantastic scholarship, and I always walk away feeling academically rejuvenated. As Ben once wrote, one of the best things about MHA is that people show up to panels. Many conferences have low session turnout, but that’s an exception rather than the rule at MHA. I remember the first time I presented at a national conference of another organization and feeling disappointed that only a dozen people attended my paper. Accordingly, the Q&A portions are also rich and engaging (although, like all conferences, there can be some wacky questions!).

So how do you get to the point where you’re presenting at MHA? How do you submit a paper proposal? And, ideally, how do you submit a panel proposal? Like many things in academia, folks are often told to do something but specific processes are not fully explained. In this post, I hope to make the process less opaque. I will explain why you should submit to the MHA Annual Conference, how to “read” a Call for Papers, how to write a good abstract, how to write a paper proposal, and how to write a panel proposal. The process isn’t complicated, but I remember well not feeling confident about sending in a proposal.

Important Consideration

This is important to put at the beginning of the post: not everyone is accepted to every conference to which they apply. I remember receiving a rejection letter from MHA and wondering if that was the end of my academic career. Thankfully, wise mentors like Ken Alford and Spencer Fluhman told me that receiving a rejection is a part of the process. Sometimes a proposal doesn’t “fit” with the program. “Fit” is a nebulous term, but it’s a complicated process to balance a conference lineup with a variety of topics, themes, formats, and so on. A rejection says nothing about your intellectual capabilities or your place in the field of Mormon history. Everyone from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to the least-experienced undergraduate will face rejection in their scholarly career.

Why Should I Submit to the Mormon History Association Conference?

Conference participation is the lowest bar-to-entry into the scholarly world (Ardis Parshall has written about MHA being “academic vs. scholarly” here). There is room for dozens of speakers at MHA’s annual conference, for instance, versus roughly 20 articles published per year in the Journal of Mormon History. Conferences give you a chance to show off your research, meet with others who are interested in Mormon history, and make connections with others.

MHA is the friendliest conference I’ve ever attended. It’s a collegial environment with smart people who know the field. You couldn’t ask for a better place to receive feedback on your work and sharpen your future research and writing questions.

How Do I “Read” the Call for Papers?

First, take a look at the Call for Papers or CFP. You can pull out important information from a relatively short document (most important details in bold).

  • “The 55th Annual Conference of the Mormon History Association will be held June 4-7, 2020, in Rochester/Palmyra, New York.”
    • Make sure you can attend the conference!
  • “The 2020 conference theme, “Visions, Restoration, and Movements” commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mormonism’s birth in upstate New York. Joseph Smith’s religious movement has grown from a fledgling frontier faith to a diverse set of religious and cultural traditions functioning across the globe.
    • Having a paper that addresses the theme in some way, and/or that addresses the 200th anniversary will fit in with the conference committee’s vision for the program.
  • The Rochester/Palmyra conference will be an opportunity to walk where Joseph Smith, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and other such luminaries walked, a place to be reminded of the visions, visionaries, and movements that came out of western New York in the 19th century.
    • Papers that address secondary themes like suffrage and abolition are likely to score well when the program committee reads your abstract.
  • Though the program committee will consider individual papers, it will give preference to proposals for complete sessions, whose participants reflect MHA’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.
    • It’s easier to be accepted as a panel than as individual papers. Having women, people of color, and folks from disparate institutions reflects well on your panel for several reasons. First, it shows that you worked to find a panel that fits well together. Second, the panel will address different topics or themes according to different researcher’s questions.
  • Please send 1) a 300-word abstract for each paper or presentation and 2) a one-page CV for each presenter, including email contact information. Full session proposals should include the session title and a 150-word abstract outlining the session’s theme, along with a confirmed chair and/or commentator, if applicable. Previously published papers are not eligible for presentation at MHA.  Limited financial assistance for travel and lodging at the conference is available to volunteers, and to some student and international presenters. Those who wish to apply for this funding may do so upon acceptance of their proposed presentation.
  • The deadline for proposals is November 1, 2019. Send proposals to program co-chairs Joseph Stuart and Anne Berryhill at Acknowledgment of receipt will be sent immediately. Notification of acceptance/rejection will be made by January 15, 2020.
    • Make sure you follow directions! Write your abstract(s), include a CV, and list chairs and commentators.
    • If applicable, be sure to apply for travel funding if your paper/panel is accepted (the program committee and MHA’s executive director won’t know how funding will work until after the committee is set).
    • Hit your deadlines!
    • Don’t expect to hear back from MHA until January 15, 2020. If you haven’t heard by January 16, 2020, THEN send a note to the panel co-chairs’ email.

How Do I Write a Quality Abstract?

Using the information above, you can now craft your abstract, meaning your proposal with tentative ideas about your findings. You don’t have to have your paper complete before submitting; you’ll have time to write it afterward. Still, you should have a solid hypothesis for what you expect to find in your archival research and perusal of the secondary literature.

Remember that you only have 20 minutes to present. Focus in one a single idea that you hope to develop and explain to your audience. Here’s one way to go about it (and here’s an example of mine from a previous MHA conference):

  • Set the scene (who, what, when, where, why)
  • Briefly explain what others have said about your topic (if they have said anything)
  • “Based on [primary sources, data, etc.]” or “through an analysis of [events, persons, ideas]” I will show [argument].
  • Ask a friend, mentor, or colleague to take a look at your proposal to make sure that it’s clear and concise.

How Do I Submit a Paper Proposal?

Write your abstract and send to by 11:59 PM on November 1, 2019. You’ll receive confirmation that the committee received it—if you haven’t received one send a follow up!

How Do I Form a Panel?

This can be especially daunting for new scholars or those who haven’t previously attended MHA. You can find those who have published in your area of interest at using a search term like “Japan” or “Book of Mormon” or “Civil War.” You can also consult or to find others to team up with. Finally, this Google Doc lists the names of those looking for panelists with their topics and how many panelists they need and has their best mode of contact included.

Most people are flattered to be asked to join a panel. If they are rude then you didn’t want to present with them, anyway.

How Do I Submit a Panel Proposal?

Compile abstracts, cvs, and other relevant information and send to by 11:59 PM on November 1, 2019. You’ll receive confirmation that the committee received it—if you haven’t received one send a follow up. Also, be sure to actually contact your chair or commentator and confirm they can take on the role. Don’t put people forward for work they haven’t agreed to do!

Other Resources to Consult:

North Carolina State’s “Tips for Writing Conference Proposals

Ben P’s “Proposing Panels for MHA’s Annual Conference: A Few Thoughts

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Mormon Pacific Historical Society Conferences

By October 11, 2019

The 2019 conference of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society will focus on the history of the building of temples in the Pacific by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, starting with the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1919–100 years ago.  Approximately 30 presentations–5 choices per hour to choose from!  Registration begins at 8 A.M. on November 16, 2019, in the Heber J. Grant Building.

CALL FOR APPLICANTS—2020 Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar

By October 9, 2019

The 7th Annual Summer Seminar on Latter-day Saint Theology
“A Wrestle Before God: Reading Enos 1”
Université Bordeaux Montaigne, Bordeaux, France
June 22–July 4, 2020

Sponsored by the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar in partnership with The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and the Wheatley Institution

In the summer of 2020, the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Enos 1. The seminar will be hosted by the Université Bordeaux Montaigne in Bordeaux, France, from June 22 through July 4, 2020. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1250 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar.

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Church History Library Digital Asset Processing Internship

By October 8, 2019


Posting Dates: 10/07/2019 – 10/21/2019

Job Family: Human Resources

Department: Church History Department


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Library has established a process to digitize, describe, and provide online access to as many of its holdings as possible. Using metadata from paper and electronic indices, spreadsheets, and other files, we are attempting to identify people, places and events in the over twelve million pages of digitized published materials and archival collections. The Library is seeking a part-time (28 hrs/wk) intern to help transform and create this metadata, and to train volunteers involved in the digital asset identification process. We invite students or recent (within last 12 months) college graduates with career goals in the field of metadata and/or digital asset management to apply for this 1-year, paid internship.


  • Learn how to use the Church History Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
  • Train volunteers how to use the Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
  • Assign and review volunteer metadata enrichment work.
  • Reconcile and resolve problems or exceptions encountered in this process.
  • Create and enhance training documentation for metadata projects.
  • Consult on improving metadata enrichment tools and processes.
  • Normalize and transform existing metadata in spreadsheets and other electronic documents.
  • Participate with other library, archival, and product management professionals in improving library services.
  • Improve professional skills relating to library, archives, and digital asset management.
  • Improve personal knowledge of Church history.

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September 26, 2019: Lecture at the Assembly Hall

By September 23, 2019

Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers Project for sharing this event! You can sign up for the JSPP newsletter HERE.

Date: September 26, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Assembly Hall (50 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah) 

The Church History Department invites you to attend a special lecture entitled “Joseph Smith, The Leader.” The lecture will explore the leadership positions that Joseph Smith held in Nauvoo in 1842. The presenters, Elizabeth A. Kuehn and Alex D. Smith, will draw on examples and insights from the latest volume of The Joseph Smith PapersDocuments, Volume 9, and the forthcoming Documents, Volume 10, which will be published in spring 2020.

Joseph Smith’s leadership was a central factor in developing the Latter-day Saint community of Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1842, Smith took on new civic, ecclesiastical, and financial responsibilities in addition to those he already held. These roles ranged from becoming the city’s mayor and judge over the local courts to editing the Church’s newspaper the Times and Seasons and helping to establish the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. The lecture will highlight these responsibilities, their significance, and how Joseph Smith’s involvement provides insights into his character and leadership style.

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News from the Mormon History Association

By September 17, 2019

Here are a few highlights from the Mormon History Association’s newsletter, which you you should receive with your MHA membership.

NEW JMH EDITORS: Christopher James Blythe and Jessie L. Embry have been appointed as co-editors of the Journal of Mormon History. From the newsletter, ” As co-editors, Jessie and Chris are committed to improving the scholarly profile of the JMH. While the journal will continue to be comprised of traditional historical articles, they will expand the journal’s vision to include articles on the Mormon past from a wider range of methodologies and perspectives. They look forward to special issues devoted to a particular theme and genre, as well as new sections of the journal devoted to the analysis of historical documents, visual and material culture, and field notes. They invite and seek contributions from both seasoned and emerging scholars, including those of underrepresented groups. Do not be surprised if you hear from them in the coming months! The next four years promise great things for the JMH.”

NEW BOARD MEMBERS: “During the business luncheon, MHA members elected five new board members, including Jenny Lund as President-Elect, Sara Patterson as Liaison Chair, David Simmons as Financial Chair, and Charlotte Hansen Terry as Student Representative. One of the most exciting changes announced was the addition of a Global Outreach Chair to the MHA board. Vinna Chintaram was elected to fill this important new role. We look forward to exciting things to come from this new position.” 

FUNDRAISING FOR A JAN SHIPPS AWARD: MHA is thrilled to announce that we are raising funds to endow an article award in honor of Jan Shipps. A decades-long member of MHA and the first woman to serve as MHA President, Shipps is known to many in the organization as a friend and mentor. A pioneer of academic Mormon history, over many years her articles pushed the field in new and important directions. We feel it worthwhile to prominently feature her name when recognizing our best scholarship. An endowed award in her name will assure that MHA continues to promote and highlight the finest academic work on a yearly basis. We are pleased to report that $2,600 was raised when we announced the award at the 2019 MHA conference, and thank those who so generously donated. Please help us reach the endowment goal of $10,000. Donations may be made through MHA’s website or by mailing a check to MHA, P.O. Box 980398, Park City, Utah 84098 (write “Jan Shipps Article Award” on the memo line). For more information, or to assist in fundraising efforts for the endowment, please contact MHA Executive Director Barbara Jones Brown at

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MHA 2020 Networking Materials

By September 1, 2019

MHA submissions are due on November 1, 2019! If you’re looking for co-panelists, feel free to use this Google doc, where you can list what you’re interested in, how many panelists you need, and any other information you’d like to include. We hope that this will be used in conjunction with Women in Mormon Studies and Global Mormon Studies. If you have other organizations whose membership might be helpful for forming panels, comment on this post and I’ll add it!

Anne Berryhill and I are also happy to put folks in touch with one another and to speak about proposed panels. Our emails are available in the CFP.

2019 Book of Mormon Studies Conference Schedule

By August 27, 2019

We are pleased to share details from the Third Annual Book of Mormon Studies Conference. If you’re in or near Utah State University you should consider going!

Friday, October 11

Plenary Session: Book Reviews
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Details forthcoming

Concurrent Sessions
10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Room 1

Elizabeth Fenton (University of Vermont), “Readymade Books and the Preservation of the Sacred in the Book of Mormon and the Early Church”

Joseph M. Spencer (Brigham Young University), “‘Virgins, Harlots, Brides, and Queens: Women in the Prophetic Texts of First Nephi”

Kimberly M. Berkey (Loyola University), “‘Here Is My Daughter a Maiden’: Daughters in Judges and the Book of Mormon”

Room 2

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Job Ad at the CHL: Global History

By June 28, 2019

UNITED STATES |  UT-Salt Lake City

ID 237835, Type: Regular Full-Time


Posting Dates: 06/28/2019 – 07/12/2019

Job Family: Library, Research&Preservation

Department: Church History Department


The Church History Department announces an opening for a historian/writer with an emphasis on the global history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Duties will include researching and writing, in collaboration with others, histories of the global Church for both scholarly and member audiences.


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Roundtable on Quincy Newell’s *Your Sister in the Gospel*: Scholarly Humility and Scholarly Innovation

By June 23, 2019

This is the first post in a roundtable on Quincy D. Newell’s Your Sister in the Gospel: The Life of Jane Manning James, a Nineteenth-Century Black Mormon (Oxford University Press, 2019). Look for more posts in the coming week!

Quincy Newell’s biography of Jane Manning James is a concise, informative study of one of the best-known Latter-day Saints of African descent. It is not the first study, nor the last, to examine Jane’s life and faith.[i] Born a free woman in Connecticut and buried a free woman in Salt Lake City, Jane James’ experiences are a crucial part of any study of Mormonism and people of African descent. Newell notes in the introduction that Jane’s life is “comparatively well-documented…she left multiple accounts narrating her personal history, some of which were published during her lifetime, and she appears in many other sources, including other people’s diaries, meeting minutes, and church and government records” (1). Despite the presence of these sources, many parts of Jane’s life remain mysterious to historians.

For all the words left behind by Jane, or about Jane, two words repeatedly used by Newell stick out to me.



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