MHA Paper Proposal Networking Thread

By October 30, 2017

The deadline for the Mormon History Association’s annual conference in Boise, ID is coming up in about two weeks on Wednesday November 15th. The deadline is significantly later than usual so I trust that most of you are prepared and have already submitted. If not, no worries! There is still time.

The call for papers says:

While Idaho provides a rich tableau for the study of Mormonism in the context of the state’s history as a multiracial, multi-ethic, and multireligious place, we also seek papers and panels that address the theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” from any vantage point in the Mormon past. In addition to papers and panels that address the conference theme, the program committee also welcomes proposals on any topic in Mormon history.

In other words, Idaho is a fascinating place to explore the evocative theme of “Homelands and Bordered Lands” BUT the conference organizers will also welcome proposals on any area in Mormon history.

At MHA, as with other conferences, proposals for panels (consisting of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator) are much likelier to be accepted than individual papers. The first reason for this is that the program committee is made up of volunteers and shuffling all the papers to fit into cohesive panels would takes a lot of work. Secondly, unified panels enable both the audience and commentator to draw thematic threads throughout the presentations. Individual papers will still be considered but organizing a panel will significantly improve your chances.

I also want to draw your attention to the following part of the call for papers: “We encourage people to organize roundtables, ‘cafés’ in which participants are arranged in small groups to discuss a topic, pre-circulated papers, and so forth.” In other words, a good panel proposal does not have to consist of a chair, three presenters, and a commentator. You could propose a roundtable on professional development issue or under-explored methodology that is relevant to Mormon History. For other ideas look here.

What does a compelling abstract look like? A few years ago JI contributor Ben wrote a post where he summarized what conference organizers look for in a proposal. Y’all should read the whole post, but let me liberally quote some of the most important points.

  • When providing a description of your proposed paper, be as specific as you can about your topic, your approach, and your potential findings. It is not reasonable for you to have your entire paper written at this time – heaven knows we all submit paper proposals as a way to jump-start future research – but it is pretty obvious when a proposal is written without much thought. As a program committee, we want to know that you have given the topic serious thought, that you are familiar with the sources you will consult, and that this is something that will turn out to be a fine finished product. Put simply, your paper proposal should not be something you write on a whim an hour before you submit it, perhaps with a bit of academic jargon thrown in, but should rather be a reflection of your engagement with, knowledge of, and excitement for your topic.
  • Both the paper and panel proposal should cover what makes your submission relevant. What will be new in these presentations? What stories are you telling that have previously been ignored? How are they filling a space in the field previously overlooked? We sometimes like to cover the same stories, arguments, and theories again and again, so it is crucial to show what is going to be novel and important in these new presentations.
  • In putting together your panels, try your best to be as diverse as possible. This diversity includes not only demographic background, though that is always important, but also institutional or occupational backgrounds. For example, a panel on a particular person or event could include papers from an academic professor, a public history employee, as well as an interested observer. And it is always to crucial to ask if your panel could benefit from a different gender or racial perspective, a sensitivity that MHA has recently tried to address more frequently.

In an effort to help you through the difficult task of organizing a panel we want you to use the comment section of this post to network and find fellow panelists. Please summarize your idea for your paper. If others have similar ideas they can get in touch via the JI moderators.

Happy writing everyone!

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I am a little behind, thanks to a new baby currently occupying my time, but want to put together a paper on (foreign) missions as liminal spaces/borderlands. I’m not a historian, so it’ll be a cultural studies paper, but I’ve successfully submitted interdisciplinary panels in the past. If anyone’s interested, let me know!

    Comment by Saskia — October 30, 2017 @ 11:31 am

  2. Anyone interested in historic fashion or anything clothing related?

    Comment by Michelle Hill — October 30, 2017 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Hello,
    We are looking for a third member for a panel proposal on the boundaries of Mormon

    Comment by Alan J Clark — October 30, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

  4. Hello,
    We are looking for a third member for a panel proposal on the boundaries of Mormon spirituality. If you are interested, let me know. Thanks.

    Comment by Alan J Clark — October 30, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Is anyone else planning on speaking on Idaho history? Law or politics? I will be proposing to speak on Mormons and the judiciary in Southeastern Idaho 1884-1890. The “test oath years.” Focusing on Judge Morgan, Hays, and Berry and how they interacted with the Mormons.

    Comment by John Dinger — October 30, 2017 @ 2:52 pm

  6. Anyone studying mid-20th Century Mormon women? Or Mormon women and education, both formal and informal?

    Comment by Janika Dillon — October 30, 2017 @ 4:39 pm

  7. Janika, I am looking at 1970s Mormon motherhood rhetorics through talks/articles in the Ensign and in the Exponent II. Would that fit with your panel on mid20th century Mormon women?

    Comment by Emily January Petersen — October 30, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

  8. I am working on a paper that discusses Mormon feminism and faith at the crossing of LDS Mormonism and Community of Christ. It hits on a few topics that I’ve seen mentioned above.

    Comment by Nancy Ross — October 30, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

  9. #4 John: I am proposing a behind the scenes look at Mormon activities in Idaho politics 1880-1890 featuring William Budge and others. The test oath was one area of concern, as were efforts to support Mormon friendly politicians, and undermine the test oath. I think we could make two parts of a panel.

    Comment by Susan — October 31, 2017 @ 1:33 pm

  10. I do have a last name: Susan Howard. Otherwise #8 Susan

    Comment by Susan Howard — October 31, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

  11. #8 Susan: That sounds fantastic as I will be talking about the same things, but from the perspective of the Judges. Including William Budge’s meeting with Judge Berry.

    Do you know how to get a hold of me? Could you PM me on Facebook, or should I leave my email in these comments?

    Comment by John Dinger — October 31, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

  12. John, sounds good! Just email me at swhoward dot

    Comment by Susan Howard — October 31, 2017 @ 1:51 pm

  13. Forgive me–Halloween has me distracted. That should be swhoward @ Not dot

    Comment by Susan — October 31, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

  14. Looking for a third person to fill a panel on the failure of the Teton Dam (June 1976) in eastern Idaho and the LDS Church’s response to the disaster.

    Comment by Dylan McDonald — November 2, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

  15. #4 John Dinger and #8 Susan. I would love to be involved in a panel on law and politics. John, I sent you an email.

    Brian Craig

    Comment by Brian Craig — November 4, 2017 @ 4:48 am

  16. I’m proposing a paper on David O. McKay’s views on Genesis and evolution, through reading the books and articles he recommended, since he otherwise did not leave an extensive paper trail. Anyone else on the science/religion interface in LDS history?

    Comment by Ben S — November 4, 2017 @ 9:37 am

  17. #14 Brian, sounds good. Looking forward to learning more about your proposal.

    Comment by Susan Howard — November 4, 2017 @ 11:49 am

  18. Dylan McDonald, I would be interested in joining your panel on the Teton Dam. I am working on a paper comparing the life course of the Teton Dam and a mill dam in Wallingford, CT that was originally constructed by the Oneida Community, and also failed in the 1970s. It would be a comparative paper. Feel free to contact me at

    Comment by Erik Freeman — November 8, 2017 @ 7:45 pm

  19. I guess my comment didn’t go through from a couple weeks ago. Is anyone interested in a panel on women’s clothing or other material culture topics?

    Comment by Michelle Hill — November 10, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

  20. Janika Dillon: This is so last minute, but if you are still looking for a third paper for a session, I would be willing to do a 20th century woman writer (Arizona). Cathy Ellis

    Comment by Catherine H. Ellis — November 15, 2017 @ 10:32 am

  21. Ben S, I’m proposing a paper on the politics of evolution in the formation of Church academies, and how this influenced/determined the reception of pro-evolution views from certain BY(A/U) profs.

    Comment by Ian McLaughlin — November 15, 2017 @ 11:49 am

  22. Probably too late to find a third and throw together a panel. Good to know, though!

    Comment by Ben S — November 15, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

  23. Yeah. I can mention our compatibility in my submission. Not a pre-formed panel, but better than going completely solo, I think.

    Comment by Ian McLaughlin — November 15, 2017 @ 3:58 pm


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