Mormonism at the American Society of Church History’s Winter Meeting

By August 9, 2011

A couple of days ago, I received via email a link to an early draft of the lineup for the American Society of Church History’s Winter Meeting (held in conjunction with AHA’s annual meeting, Jan. 5-8, 2012 in Chicago). The program draft can be viewed in its entirety here, but I thought I’d highlight a few papers and sessions that might be of interest to JI’s readers (relevant papers and sessions in blue), followed by my own brief commentary on each:

Violence and Religion: Nineteenth-Century Massacres in the American West

Thursday, January 5, 2012: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM

Westin Chicago River North, Promenade Ballroom B

Chair: Patricia Nelson Limerick, University of Colorado Boulder and vice president, AHA Teaching Division


Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania—The Sins of the Fathers: The Mountain Meadows Massacre as a Religious Event 

Jennifer Graber, College of Wooster—“The Indians Have No West Point”: The Meanings of Frontier Violence among Missionaries to the Lakota

Comment: Patricia Nelson Limerick, University of Colorado Boulder and vice president, AHA Teaching Division; Edward T. Linenthal, Indiana University

My sense is that this is a more polished and developed version of the paper presented by Shipps and Gordon at MHA in 2010. Even if it is the same paper, pairing it alongside research on frontier violence among other missionaries and Native Americans in the 19th century west may bring to light new ways of thinking about MMM. That Patricia Limerick, one of the most distinguished historians of the American West, is similarly encouraging.

A Place for Grace: Religion and Contests of Identity in the Mississippi River Valley, 1812?45

Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM

Westin Chicago River North, Jackson Park Room

Chair: Amanda Porterfield, Florida State University


Alice Croxall, University of Delaware—Not Just “A Lamp to Their Feet”: Identity and Christian Print in the Mississippi Valley in the 1810s

Brian Franklin, Texas A&M University—“Electricity to the Churches of the East”: Home Missions and the Mississippi Valley, 1814?45

Seth Perry, University of Chicago—“Go Down into Jordan: No, Mississippi”: Mormon Nauvoo and the Rhetoric of Place

Comment: Amanda Porterfield, Florida State University

Seth Perry is a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School whose dissertation examines religious texts and religious authority in the early American republic. I don’t know Seth personally, but he’s become an increasingly active voice in commenting on Mormonism in the public sphere over the last few years, writing and presenting on everything from studying Mormonism as an outsider to the Book of Mormon musical. As in the case of the other session, it’s encouraging to see papers on Mormonism as part of panels that bring that research into comparative perspective.

Teaching Mormonism in the Digital Age

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM

Westin Chicago River North, Promenade Ballroom A

Co-Sponsor(s): Mormon History Association

Chair: Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis


Kathleen Flake, Vanderbilt University—Gendering the Study of Mormonism

Patrick Mason, Claremont Graduate University—What the “Bloggernacle” Means for Mormon Studies

Jonathan Moore, Denison University—Big Love, Big Problem? The Pitfalls of Popular Culture in Teaching about Mormons

Peter J. Thuesen, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis—“A Bible! A Bible! We Have Got a Bible”: The Challenges of Teaching the Book of Mormon

Comment: The Audience

This one promises to be a popular session, and features a number of interesting perspectives. I’m especially interested in what Kathleen Flake has to say about gender and (as I imagine all readers of this blog are) Pat Mason’s thoughts on the bloggernacle and its place in Mormon Studies. And the insights of Moore and Thuesen are sure to be equally significant. It’s pretty incredible to realize that a panel on teaching Mormonism features presentations from professors at schools all over the country (and none from institutions in Utah).

There are, of course, a number of other interesting sessions on various other topics, and I encourage anyone interested to take a look at the program and try and make it to the conference. We’ll do our best to have someone in attendance to report on the sessions.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Awesome. Thanks for the heads-up, Chris. If we find a sponsor, I’d be glad to fly from the UK to cover the proceedings…

    Comment by Ben Park — August 9, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

  2. who are moore and thuesen? sounds like fun.

    Comment by smb — August 9, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  3. Thanks, Chris. Looks interesting.

    Comment by WVS — August 10, 2011 @ 10:41 am

  4. @SMB–Moore is a religious studies scholar (American religious history) who studied at the University of Chicago and teaches a class at Denison on Mormons. I met him at the Kirtland Temple last spring where he was leading a group of students who had come for a tour (it happened to be the weekend for the 175th anniversary of the dedication). Thuesen has written a well-received cultural history of the Bible in America, though I do not know him personally.

    Comment by David Howlett — August 10, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  5. Thuesen has also written a really interesting book, a history of the idea of predestination in the US (Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine (OUP, 2009).) I’d be fascinated to see how that might influence his pedagogy for Mormonism.

    Comment by Ryan T. — August 10, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  6. There are a couple of presentations on Mormonism at the Pacific meeting of the AHA this weekend. I’m trying to see if I can make it over…

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 10, 2011 @ 7:07 pm


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