Conference on Mormonism in Latin America and the Borderlands + 100th Anniversary Commemoration of Mormon Exodus in El Paso, July 28, 2012

By May 11, 2012

There are three exciting events happening in El Paso, Texas this summer, July 28, 2012. A little over a year ago I found myself thinking about the impending 100th anniversary of what has become known as the Mormon Exodus in 1912 which saw several thousand Euro-American Mormons from northern Mexico colonies leave their homes and take a train first to El Paso (where some remained) and then on to other areas of the country in response to their concern for their personal safety during the Mexican Revolution. Though some returned shortly after (and two of these colonies remain to the present), for the families of many such as George Romney (Mitt’s father), this migration represented the end of a decades-old sojourn in Mexico. 

Through a series of circumstances, I found out that BYU Professor of Religion Fred Woods had been thinking along the same lines. He formed a plan and with the support of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and other groups and individuals, Fred has organized what is sure to be an excellent evening event to mark the occasion. In addition, Fred has taken the lead in filming for a 30 minute documentary about the Exodus which will premier during the evening commemoration. President Henry B. Eyring, a descendant of Mormon colonists, is among the many descendants and scholars interviewed for the documentary. Finally, through the kind cooperation of the El Paso Museum of History, a small exhibit on the Colonies and the Exodus has been planned and the ribbon cutting will occur the morning of the 28th.

Not wanting to let the opportunity pass, I organized an academic conference on the same day which will draw scholars from around the country to discuss Mormonism in Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. I’m pleased with how the program is taking shape and I hope it will serve to bring attention to an area of Mormon history (just one of many) that deserves greater focus. So, here is the tentative schedule and description of everything going on July 28, 2012 in El Paso:

1) Ribbon Cutting for the museum exhibit entitled: Finding Refuge in El Paso

9:00 am

El Paso Museum of History
510 N. Santa Fe Street  El Paso, TX

2) Conference on Mormonism in Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

El Paso Public Library Auditorium (Just next door to the El Paso Museum of History)
501 N. Oregon El Paso, TX

10:00-12:00 Presentations

12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

1:30-5:00 Presentations

Presenters and Working Paper Titles/Topics:

Fred Woods- Finding Refuge in El Paso: the 1912 Mormon Exodus from Mexico

Mike Mullen- The History of Mormons in El Paso after the Exodus

Mike Landon- Fruits of the Mormon Exodus: The History of the El Paso Douglas Street Chapel

Daniel Herman- The Mormon Legacy of Arizona?s Rim County War

John Glasier- Accommodating the Voice, Struggle, and Identity of US Latinos within Latter Day Saintism?s Larger Narrative: Exploring the Community of Christ?s Experience

Barbara Morgan- Academia Juarez and Bilingual Education in Mexico

Ed Jeter- The Central States Mission: A Transnational, Mormon Space, 1885-1915

Barbara Jones Brown- ?A Very Pitiable Sight?: Mexican Revolution, Mormon Exodus, and the Break-up of Polygamous Families

Cathy Ellis- A Miner?s Wife: Roberta Flake Clayton in Mexico and El Paso

Mark Grover- Zion, Lamanites, Outposts, and Converts: The Image of Latin America in the Church

Leticia Alvarado- Brown Mormonisms: Empowered Ambivalent Belonging

3) Finding Refuge in El Paso: A Centennial Commemoration of the 1912 Mormon Exodus from Mexico

6:30 pm-9:00pm
El Paso Union Depot
700 W. San Francisco Ave.
El Paso, Texas

In 1912, in response to events of the Mexican Revolution, approximately 4,500 Mormons left their homes in several colonies in northern Chihuahua and Sonora, initially seeking refuge in El Paso. This commemorative event will focus on their journey and the role El Pasonans played in offering them assistance. El Paso mayor John Cook, Fort Bliss commander Major General Dana Pitard, and other city dignitaries will participate in the program, which will also include remarks from Richard E. Turley Jr., a descendant of Mormon colonists and the assistant historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The program will also feature the premier of a 30 minute historical documentary about the exodus, remarks by BYU professor Fred E. Woods about the making of the film, entertainment by the Fort Bliss Band and a Latter-day Saint combined choir as well as light refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.

Finally, for hotel accommodations, I recommend the Double Tree by Hilton which is across the street from both the Library and the Museum and just a few blocks from the Union Depot. This location also features a free airport shuttle. You can arrange for an airport pick up upon arrival and it runs from the hotel to the airport every hour on the hour. I strongly encourage any looking to make reservations to do so soon.

Double Tree by Hilton
600 N. El Paso Street
El Paso, Texas 79901

Hotel Website

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Well done Jared.

    Comment by the narrator — May 11, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

  2. Kudos to you, Jared, for putting this together. Looking forward to it!

    Comment by Barbara Jones Brown — May 11, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  3. Congrats and well done, Jared. I’m thrilled to see so many people working on relevant topics.

    Comment by Christopher — May 11, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  4. Thanks, Narrator, Barbara, and Chris. It’ll be some time before the academic study of Mormonism in the field of Latin American history approaches the type of attention that the study of Mormonism in US history has achieved, particularly in the last few decades, but with the good work of the folks presenting here, others also doing work in this area who were unable to present, the type of work the Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons is doing (going on to their fourth year of conferencing), along with the efforts of other non-US-focused groups such as those behind the International Journal of Mormon Studies, I have hopes for some excellent strides in the study of the history of Mormonism in Latin America in the coming decade.

    I also hope that in the mean time, those looking to organize conferences, groups, and publications about Mormonism, Mormon women, etc., will not overlook opportunities to be inclusive of studies of non-U.S. Mormons and Mormonism in locales beyond U.S. boundaries.

    Comment by Jared T — May 12, 2012 @ 12:14 am

  5. Congrats, Jared. Sounds like a great event.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 12, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  6. Wow, surprised to see my father on the list of presenters. (BTW, the last name is Mullen, not Mullin). I’ll have to see if can manage a trip home for the weekend.

    Comment by Ryan Mullen — May 12, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  7. Ah! I’ve made the change, thanks Ryan. Hope you can make it.

    Comment by Jared T — May 12, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  8. UPDATE: Moving forward, will be the go-to place for further information with thanks to Keith Erekson for designing and hosting the site.

    Comment by Jared T — May 12, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

  9. This sounds like an excellent conference. Hope the word gets out to everyone! Looking forward to attending. Please keep us informed of further plans, etc. THANK YOU for all you are doing!

    Comment by Virginia H. Romney — May 14, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

  10. Mi padre Leo Leroy Judd era hecho en Mexico y nacio en Los Estados .His mother left mexico & the revolution about August 1912 & dad was born in Canutillo by El Paso January 13th in 1913 . Do the math !!!! LRJ

    Comment by Lee Roy Judd — May 15, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  11. My grandmother, Nelle SPilsbury Hatch, was a historian on Mexico Colonies. She told me several times how the El Pasoans were most gracious and opened up the city to these colony refugees.All my ancestors were recipients and I thank El Paso for their kindness. Looking forward to attending

    Comment by Gerald Hatch — May 15, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  12. Lee Roy, that must have been a hard trip for your grandmother! Thank you for sharing, and I hope you can make it to the events.

    Gerald, I just bought Nelle’s book on Academia Juarez and look forward to taking a look. The museum exhibit, documentary, and the evening commemoration program that Fred Woods organized will have a great deal to say about the assistance that El Pasoans rendered to the colonists. As one example, Fred located a newspaper report of the song list that the Fort Bliss Band played to entertain the colonists in their camps. He has arranged for today’s Ft. Bliss band to play some of those same songs at the evening event, which should be a treat. Thank you for your interest, and please help us spread the word.

    Comment by Jared T. — May 15, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  13. Thanks Jared for putting this together. It sounds like you have a great program planned. Wish I could be there, especially to hear the presentations! Currently serving a mission in the Church History Library in SLC. Will there be copies of the presentation material available for purchase? Thanks again. Animo Amigo!!

    Comment by LaVon B. Whetten — May 15, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

  14. Thank you, LaVon! (and seeing your comment reminds me I still need to review your book! I haven’t forgotten, forgive me the delay) Wow, I didn’t know you were up there. If we make it up there this summer, I’ll try to say hello. You’ve probably met Mike Landon, but if you haven’t, you need to.

    I think that most if not all of these presentations will find their way into print at some point (that will just depend on whether the papers get fleshed out and through the revision process, which doesn’t always happen), but that will take time. I’ll be sure to keep sending updates on that via this blog.

    Comment by Jared T — May 15, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

  15. Just curious why apparently no living relatives from down home in Colonias Juarez/Dublan who actually have life histories, journals, etc., were not invited to speak or share at this event? Am I missing something perhaps?

    Comment by Jeff Romney — May 17, 2012 @ 12:53 am

  16. Jeff, the conference I organized was not by invitation, but by submission and I posted a call for papers for the conference back last August which was open to anyone interested in submitting a proposal for consideration. I would have loved to have had wider participation, but I regret that it is not always possible to get the news in the hands of all interested parties.

    I can only speak to the conference at the library as I did not have a significant role in planning the evening event at the Union Depot.

    Thank you for your interest.

    Comment by Jared T — May 17, 2012 @ 1:09 am

  17. Congratulations, Jared.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — May 17, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  18. For Immediate Release:

    Finding Refuge in El Paso: The 1912 Mormon Exodus From Mexico ,by Dr. Fred E. Woods. (DVD to be released in July 2012) and the book, forthcoming in November 2012

    Finding Refuge in El Paso, by author Fred E. Woods, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the exodus from the Mormon colonies in Mexico where Latter-day Saints had been dwelling for over a quarter of a century. El Paso, Texas–situated on the southern border of the United States and the northern border of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua–played a pivotal role as a refuge for the displaced Saints during the Mexican Revolution.

    Finding Refuge in El Paso uses an abundance of primary sources to capture the inspiring story of the Exodus, augmented by interviews from two dozen historians and storytellers, men and women of varied faiths?creating a balanced, riveting documentary. Interviewees include Luciele Romney (relative of Mitt Romney), several historians specializing in the Mexican Revolution and railroad transportation, Mormon historian Richard E. Turley Jr. (Assistant LDS Church Historian), John Cook (El Paso?s mayor), as well as General Dana Pittard, Commanding Officer of Fort Bliss.

    Included are scores of images taken by the LDS photographer who was called to document the Exodus. His 88-year-old son showed Professor Woods the camera used by his father to capture these images in 1912. In addition, arrangements are being made with the National Archives to use some of their footage of the Mexican Revolution from the early 20th century. Further, there are dozens of audio tapes made from oral history interviews with the Mormon refugees, many of which date from over 50 years ago. Their voices will be matched with images to produce a dvd documentary (co-produced with film maker, Martin L. Andersen), which is included in the book.

    You can see a short video of the film by going to YouTube. The URL link is

    Author Bio:
    Fred E. Woods served a mission to Adelaide, Australia, from 1977 to 1979. He later earned a PhD in Middle East Studies from the University of Utah with an emphasis in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Woods is a professor at Brigham Young University in the department of Church History and Doctrine. Professor Woods has lectured at many universities in America and internationally and held a Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding from 2005 to 2010. He is the author or coauthor of ten books and scores of articles. He is married to the former JoAnna Merrill, and they are the parents of five children and four granddaughters.

    For more information, contact Cedar Fort.

    Rodney Fife
    Marketing Publicist
    Cedar Fort Publishing

    Comment by Rodney Fife — May 24, 2012 @ 11:18 am


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