“Mormons and American Life”: IUPUI’s All-Star Conference

By March 18, 2008

From H-Religion: 

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis will sponsor a conference entitled:

“Mormons and American Life”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

IUPUI Campus Center, Room CE405420

University Blvd.Indianapolis, IN

The conference is free and open to the public, but seating is limited,so please call 274-8409 or email raac@iupui.edu to reserve a seat.

Speakers and Presentation Descriptions:

1. Jan Shipps: “Reality History: Chronicling Convert Expectations and What Mormonism Delivered”

At key points across time, Mormon missionaries emphasized different parts of the Mormon gospel. The way they delivered the Mormon message also changed dramatically. This session will look at several of those key points, surveying what the people who joined the Mormon movement thought they were joining and comparing those expectations to the actuality converts found when they “gathered” with the LDS community in Kirtland, Nauvoo, the Kingdom in the “tops of the mountains” and, as in the past half-century, when they became members of local Mormon wards.

2. J. Spencer Fluhman: “Unmasking the American Religion: Early Anti-Mormonism and the Problem of Pluralism”

Americans have been simultaneously fascinated with and repulsed by Mormonism since 1830. This session traces the ways antagonists decried early Mormonism and argues that their critiques tellus much about changing perceptions of religion’s relationship to the Republic.

3. Kathleen Flake: “Early American Priests and Priestesses: Gendered Office, Council and Kinship in Early Mormonism”

If Mormonism was, as Emerson quipped, the “after clap of Puritanism,”its particular sound was John Winthrop’s worst, antinomian nightmare. This session seeks to answer the question how did a movement that purposefully set about making every member a prophet and prophetess sustain any order, much less secure the cooperation of thousands? Whether Joseph Smith avoided the atomizing of his movement into a thousand prophet-led pieces by creating three overlapping charismatic orders within the church, each order constituting a source of sacerdotal and social authority and a means of regulating the same, will be discussed. Particular attention will be paid to Smith’s integration of women into these simultaneously liberating and constraining offices, councils, and familial kinships.

4. William Deverell: “West of Deseret: California, Mormonism, and the Coming of the Civil War”

This session explores national and regional controversies over Mormonism in the far West in the midst of rising sectional antagonism in the late 1850s. Pro-slavery sympathizers in the South”played the Mormon card” in their attempts both to divert attention from the slavery issue and discredit abolitionists and abolitionist sentiment. In the West, fears of Mormon territorial,theocratic, and economic expansion fueled debates about the future of California and that new state’s relationship to the Great Basin and Deseret.

5. Sarah Gordon and Kathryn Daynes: “Convictions: Prosecutors,Defendants, and Marriage(s) in Territorial Utah”

This session excavates the surprising and previously unknown course of criminal law in the mid-1880s, revealing how prosecutors and judges attempted to craft a compromise in the “Raid” against Mormon polygamists. Over the course of multiple trials and appeals, Mormon defendant Joseph Clark of Provo first made new law, and then endured its undoing at the hands of the Utah Supreme Court. This process widened the gap between the Mormons and federal officials in other important cases,convincing the Saints that they had once again been the victims of double dealing. Yet Clark’s story also reveals considerable doubt and disagreement among territorial officials, and a desire to reach a compromise that would reduce the strain on Mormon families as well as federal budgets.


Philip Goff Director, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture Professor, Religious Studies and American Studies Co-Editor, Religion & American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis425 University Blvd., CA 417Indianapolis, IN 46202-5140Phone 317-274-8409; Fax 317-278-3354

Email: pgoff@iupui.eduhttp://www.iupui.edu/~raac/

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. Wow. THanks for passing this along. I live close enough I might have to check it out. Anyone else planning to attend?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 18, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

  2. Wow. Wish I was in Indiana that weekend.

    Comment by Ben — March 18, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  3. I might go up. Was this thing advertised or was it organized without an open call for papers? I ask because I didn’t know anything about it until just now.

    Comment by SC Taysom — March 18, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  4. Huh, I may have to gather up a few of my friends and go, since I’m only an hour or so away. Thanks for the announcement.

    Comment by kristine N — March 18, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  5. Looks fantastic. This seems like an excellent conference all around–solid mix of believing Mormons and non-LDS scholars, every presenter a respected scholar, and every topic interesting, new, and relevant.

    Comment by Christopher — March 18, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  6. Steve, I suspect that if you haven’t heard of it, then few people have. My guess is that it was a handpicked crowd.

    Comment by David G. — March 18, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  7. Makes me wish I was still at Purdue.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 18, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

  8. Wow sounds interesting. Wish I was there… sigh

    Comment by JonW — March 18, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  9. I wish I could attend! I feel a little jealous of anybody who gets to go.

    Comment by Jody — March 19, 2008 @ 12:56 am


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