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

By September 1, 2015

MHAWe are one month away from the deadline for MHA’s call for papers, so I thought this was as good a time as any to talk about the conference in general and conference papers in particular. I hope every reader of JI has had the privilege to attend MHA’s annual conference. It truly is a phenomenal time, with a mixture of solid papers and warm comraderie. It is quite unlike most historical conferences I attend where few people actually attend sessions and most people remain in the halls, at restaurants, and doing anything but hearing papers. There is certainly plenty of socializing and networking at MHA, but the thing that sets it apart is people actually care about the sessions, papers, and presenters. It’s refreshing, honestly. There are at times poorly-attended sessions, but more often than not the rooms are mostly filled, and not too infrequently they are overflowing with more anxious attendees than there are chairs. This is one of the conference’s great strengths.

Part of that virtue stems from the fact that MHA is a complex blend of different types of people, all tenuously united in their interest in Mormon history, broadly defined. This mixture includes ivory tower-based academics, devoted amateurs, eager revisionists, and committed Mormons who wish to expand their knowledge of their faith’s tradition. Some people fit into several of these categories; others probably believe they don’t fit in any of them, but should be characterized as something else entirely. The tension between some of these segments sometimes bubble to the surface, as MHA hardly ever matches the personal expectations of each individual member. Indeed, if the organization were to cater only to one group, it would alienate many others. For an especially helpful perspective on this issue, see Ardis Parshall’s smart post on the need for MHA to be “scholarly” instead of academic. In general, I fully agree with her argument and see it as crucial for MHA’s continued success.

I fear no MHA paper will ever top David Walker's presentation on Mormon professional wrestlers.

I fear no MHA paper will ever top David Walker’s presentation on Mormon professional wrestlers.

I have the great privilege, along with Melissa Inouye and the rest of the program committee, of helping organize MHA’s conference next year, which will take place June 9-12 in Snowbird, Utah. The theme for the conference is “Practice,” and the call for papers is found here. Since we are just about a month away from the deadline for submissions, I thought I would offer a few suggestions for prospective presenters. Most of these come from previous program chairs who offered their advice and passed on their wisdom from past submission seasons. In talking to the great people who previously looked over MHA conference submissions, most expressed regret that the mechanics of a conference proposal weren’t more widely known. Indeed, given the makeup of MHA’s membership, it is unfair to expect people to know much about the unwritten order of things prevalent in scholarly conferences.

Note that these are merely a small number of ideas, and they are not, unless otherwise specified, hard and fast rules. Submissions may diverge from these guidelines and still be accepted; other submissions might follow these guidelines perfectly and still be rejected. But I hope that these tips might prove helpful in making proposals more competetive.

  1. First, and most importantly, a panel proposal has a much stronger chance at getting accepted than a single paper proposal. This is true for any scholarly conference, and it has become especially true at MHA in recent years. There are several reasons for this, but I’ll outline only a couple: first, it makes for a more cohesive session when all the papers are centered around a shared theme, so that the panel makes a stronger and more cogent point (this especially helps the responder, who will be much more able to tie the papers’ message together in her/his remarks); second, it makes things easier on the program committee, because it is quite difficult to group independent papers together in a way that makes sense. Sometimes, a committee is forced to choose three papers that work well together instead of another paper that might have been better overall yet is not a match with other potential co-panelists. And overall, it is much easier to judge the quality of a proposed panel than it is to compare individual paper submissions. So while individual papers will always be considered, submitting as a complete panel will substantially increase your odds of acceptance.
  2. Now, I know that this is difficult. I have firsthand experience that it can be tough to get two other papers, a chair, and a respondent. You might be new to the field and not know other people, you might be working on a particular topic that does not connect well with many other historians, or you might be someone generally not comfortable reaching out to people. I’d love to hear brainstorming on how to help alleviate this problem. Should program co-chairs keep a list of potential topics with names of people who are interested in submitting papers, and then serve as matchmakers for people who email in saying they are looking for other co-panelists? Should there be a message board where people can post their panel ideas and others can join in? (The Society for US Intellectual History, for instance, always keeps a running thread going for this very purpose.) For the time being, please feel free to use the comments below to try and find co-panelists, if you so choose.
  3. In putting together your complete panels, make sure you have actually contacted your proposed chair/commenter. This might not seem to be specified, but several former program co-chairs said they’d receive panel proposals that would just mention people they’d like to serve as chair or commenter. That isn’t how these things work, so please make sure everyone on your proposal is on board. And further, make sure each person is only proposing one paper for the conference; while it is okay for a person to deliver a paper on one panel and serve as a chair on another, it is not okay for a person to propose papers on two different panels.
  4. 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.
  5. Building on top of point #4, 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.
  6. 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.
  7. We are also very interested in considering proposals that break the traditional three-papers-and-a-commenter structure. Now I’m one of those that still very much appreciates that approach, but I think it’s safe to say that it can often get a bit tired. Last year at AAR, Steve Harper and Anne Taves did a very effective presentation that was a scripted dialogue dissecting Joseph Smith’s earliest First Vision accounts, and they would go back and forth pushing each other on particular questions or issues. (The printed version of their presentation will appear in Mormon Studies Review later this year.) The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic always have a Pecha-Kucha session where presenters have to cover 20 slides in 20 seconds each, a fun way that keeps the presenters efficient and nimble. These are just two examples, and we’d love to hear others. If you have an especially innovative idea, contact Melissa or I prior to submission so we can talk it through.
  8. This may seem common sense, but it still needs to be said: if you submit a panel and are accepted, it is expected that you will show up, barring extreme cases and emergencies. Please make sure you do not have scheduled events (graduations, etc.) that will keep you from participating. Every single past program chair said they were amazed at the sheer number of presenters pulling out a few weeks before the conference.
  9. Finally, and this doesn’t have so much to do with preparing your submission, but if your proposal is not accepted, please don’t take it personally. MHA’s annual conference has received more and more submissions over the last few years, which puts a lot of pressure on the program committee. While there was once a time when, if you put together a competent proposal, you could just assume it would be accepted; however, we are now near the point where there are more people rejected than accepted.

I think that’s all I have. What suggestions would you like to share? What have you seen works well at conferences, and what doesn’t? What has been your experience with both submitting panels/papers or working on a program committee, either for MHA or some other organization?

Article filed under Announcements and Events Conference/Presentation Reports Mormon History Association


  1. I think a message board of some kind could be very helpful in the future to put people in touch who might want to propose a panel together. This could be a board only accessible on the MHA website *after* members login. So you have to be a current member of MHA to post. Some broad categories could be created – 19th century, 20th century, etc.

    Message boards are a scary proposition sometimes because they are notoriously difficult to moderate, but I’d hope MHAers could behave themselves.

    Comment by John Hatch — September 1, 2015 @ 10:23 am

  2. Thanks for the list, Ben. I remember my first time applying to MHA and having no idea how to propose a panel or paper. Very helpful.

    Comment by J Stuart — September 1, 2015 @ 10:42 am

  3. Thanks, Ben. This is helpful. I recall a few years ago some discussion of setting up an H-Mormon listserv through H-Net. That seems to have stalled, but maybe it’s worth revisiting.

    Comment by David G. — September 1, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  4. I’d like to address point 1, the necessity for submitting panels rather than individual papers.

    This has become a major problem for me in the past 5 or 6 years. I work alone, and usually on topics that others haven’t yet discovered or that are of interesting in one paper but don’t need treatment by three papers at the same conference. So my proposals get turned down now, year after year. One program chair had the decency to tell me in so many words that the rejection had absolutely nothing to do with the quality and interest of the proposal and everything to do with not having anything to match it with.

    So instead of a novel topic, MHA had yet another session on polygamy. *yawn*

    Why does a session absolutely have to have a unified theme? Why not have a session or two that are called “samplers” or “potpourri” or something else that suggests a collection of unique topics? If the papers themselves are well done, the element of quirkiness or one-of-a-kindness or I-never-thought-of-that could add quite a lot to an MHA conference.

    I have a topic to propose that has literally never been on anyone’s radar. It involves an event resulting in a collection of government documents that were classified in 1912 and only opened in 2012, and I’m the first one to think to go looking for them. It’s possible that I might scratch around and find two other presenters who are interested in government affairs or that have a biographical or geographical link to something in my paper, but such faint connections are NOT going to illuminate any other paper in the session.

    So I’ll propose a single paper, expecting it to be rejected because it’s more important to have three people speaking about aspects of the same issue than to have something entirely new.

    I’ve become so cynical about MHA. :\

    Comment by Ardis — September 1, 2015 @ 11:27 am

  5. Ardis: many thanks for your comments. I tried to mention in point #2 that I *sincerely* sympathize with that perspective, and I do note that we will still be accepting some single papers. And I also note that many single papers rejected are due to fit rather than quality. But I also tried to point out why it is much easier, and in some ways, preferable, to accept panel proposals. (It is incredibly difficult to match dozens of single papers together, for instance.) I like your idea of having a samplers or popourri session—those are the type of innovating framing I hoped for in point #7, and will certainly be a point of focus for our committee. And I completely agree with your bewilderment at the same issues being addressed over and over again, as I mentioned in 5. (And to be honest, I, too, had polygamy on my mind when I wrote that.)

    I sincerely hope you do propose something, and I look forward to reading it.

    Comment by Ben P — September 1, 2015 @ 11:36 am

  6. Helpful stuff, Ben. Thanks.

    Comment by Jeff T — September 1, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

  7. Great info, Ben. Thanks! In keeping with the invitation to post for co-panelists:

    I am considering submitting my research on mental illness discourse from church authorities over the last forty years, particularly the ideological shift represented in the language of President Holland’s 2013 conference talk. I know Prof. Woodger published an excellent piece in 2008 on George Albert Smith and mental illness, and I will reach out to her to see if there are some updates or related research that might be good for a panel.

    But also wanted to put the idea out here to see if anyone is doing something related. Possible connections could be if your research deals with another contemporary social issue with historical roots, or if you have something related to Pres. Holland’s talks or “landmark” official statements in other categories, or if you are doing a mental health historical study on a person or specific situation. . . just free thinking here. There could also be a methodological connection if you are doing some kind of language analysis in historical and cultural context.

    Anybody doing something relevant and interested in putting together a panel? If so, please post here or contact me at

    Thanks. Looking forward to a great conference!

    Comment by Heather S — September 1, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

  8. Oh, I like the idea of a sampler session, with maybe slightly shorter papers, but more of them, thus hopefully also ensuring that people stay and listen to all of them, instead of leaving after the paper of their choice has been presented.

    I’m also on board with the message board idea–if MHA wants more diversity, making sure you don’t necessarily have to be an insider already would be a good idea.

    Comment by Saskia — September 1, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  9. Ardis,

    If you are turned down by MHA, please consider presenting a proposal to Sunstone. Also, consider contacting one of the local bookstores to ask if it would allow you to present independently. I did both in the wake of my full-panel rejection for MHA’s 2015 Provo conference, and each alternative venue proved to be a gratifying experience that took some of the sting off of the rebuff by MHA’s program committee.

    My complete panel met the requirements that Ben suggested for cohesiveness (point #1) and diversity of commentators (point #6). For reasons I will not discuss here, the program committee (which I consulted afterward) did not consider my proposal sufficiently meritorious to award a session. But I was determined to present my work by alternative means.

    I contacted Pioneer Book, two blocks away from the conference center, which scheduled me into a slot two hours prior to the MHA kickoff session on Thursday evening. My publisher contracted local media and we hit pay dirt when the Provo Herald called to say it would be sending a reporter. I created a Facebook event page and promoted it through various social media groups pertaining to Mormon history. Then I created an Evite page and laboriously entered email addresses of MHA members which I mined from the association’s membership web page. I printed fliers and scattered them around the lobby of the Provo Hilton.

    The result was an overflow crowd upstairs at Pioneer Book. Two retired BYU professors, experts in my field (one who had been proposed to comment at the rejected panel), attended and a lively post-presentation discussion resulted. The Herald’s article reached an audience that probably would not have attended MHA.

    Then, I rewrote my rejected MHA proposal, strengthened the panel, and fired it off to Sunstone, which enthusiastically accepted it. I bought a half-page ad in the program and my publisher contributed funds to have a flier inserted into the tote bag given each registrant. The Sunstone crew stuffed the flier into each program, which made it hard for the attendees to avoid knowing about my session.

    The result was an author meets critics panel that featured three Ph.D’s, a Juris Doctor, and the a fellow of the Utah State Historical Society. An overflow crowd packed the conference room. Then, during the question and answer session that followed, the granddaughter of one historical actor in my book, a Berlin mission president during the Nazi epoch, took the microphone and thanked me for setting the truth straight about the actions of her collaborationist relative–which had been sanitized and filtered through subsequent family lore.

    Ardis, there are venues for presenting Mormon history other than the MHA. Try Sunstone. Try John Whitmer. The MHA rejection really stung, but it just fueled my determination to present my research to diverse audiences. The disappointing facet is that the CES instructors, BYU faculty, and Church Historical Department employees who won’t go to Sunstone missed out. But maybe that was the intent. Do you think?

    David Conley Nelson, Ph.D.
    Author: Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany

    Comment by David Conley Nelson — September 1, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

  10. David: thank you for an overview of your successful self-marketing–if only everyone had that energy and initiative (and resources!). As I mentioned in my last point, it is easy to take a panel rejection personally, but I assure you that there are many wonderful panels and papers rejected due to logistics limitations. I know the program committee last year took their task very seriously, and I doubt that their decisions were based on the reasons hinted at in your last paragraph. I heard good things about your event at Pioneer Books, so I’m glad things worked out.

    As you note, there are a plethora of opportunities to present one’s work nowadays, including JWHA and Sunstone, each with its own niche and core audience. MHA, as perhaps the most potent blend of academic and amateur, faithful and revisionist, has a particular dynamic that presents both the pitfalls hinted at in your (and Ardis’s) comment, but also the potential for the wonderful conferences that come out as a result.

    Comment by Ben P — September 1, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

  11. No.

    MHA is my organization, and as cynical as I may be over some of its more political aspects, no other organization suits my purposes for speaking so well as MHA does. I do, after all, have my blog as a decent platform if all I wanted was to put my finds out there; and I am a Mormon historian — MHA is the sole venue for the specialist intersection of those primary identities, and Sunstone and John Whitmer, meritorious as they may be for their peculiar audiences, do not serve my needs.

    So MHA is my organization, and I won’t abandon it, or those who are like me in wanting the kind of scholarly, relevant, and interesting Mormon history that should be the hallmark of MHA. My stuff belongs at MHA. It’s only the straitjacketed academic view that sessions must have a strained common theme that shuts me out. That can change. MHA didn’t use to be so rigid, and it can go back to its more generalist roots if program committees redevelop a sense of creativity and imagination and see beyond the standard three-paper session focused narrowly on a single subject.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 1, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

  12. I’ve been at a different conference that includes quick rounds (more papers in the time slot or roundtable style) on topics like government, culture, etc (aka really broad themes). Heck, something like government could be both internal church governance and relationships with the state. I’m sure there could even be a traditional 3-paper panel with that as a theme.

    One thing that’s not clear to me about MHA is the degree to which it wants presenters who are more on the fringe, by which I mean Mormon history is a part, but not the focus of their work. I mean, I know the typical answer is, “of course we want those folks too” but I find that often takes effort and creative thinking to reach out to people who include but don’t focus on Mormons (or any other group). At the same time, I’ve often found panels that bring the center and periphery, so to speak, together, can be quite productive and exciting.

    Comment by SZ — September 1, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

  13. SZ: great suggestions! To address your second paragraph, I think the biggest issue is proving its relevance to the MHA community. As anyone will tell you, I love to focus on peripheries and bringing Mormonism into broader contexts, but for this venue it is most crucial that the work fits within MHA’s general audience and tradition.

    Comment by Ben P — September 1, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

  14. Ardis and Ben,

    Thank you for your responses. Ardis: I wasn’t suggesting that you abandon MHA. I was merely presenting Sunstone and John Whitmer as alternatives to getting your work out there if MHA cannot accommodate you. Yes, you have a widely read and well-respected historical blog. But you can’t get the instantaneous feedback, and in my opinion the joy one receives for spontaneous audience reaction (tone and facial expressions) from the Internet. So, yes, give MHA first priority be I urge you to be open to alternatives.

    Ben, my last paragraph does indeed reflect my skepticism about what I’ve seen at MHA recently. I presented at the year 2000 conference (winning the best graduate student paper, BTW). But the last three conferences I’ve attended, in Layton, San Antonio, and Provo, did not hold true to the diversity of thought that I have seen at earlier meetings.

    That is, of course, my opinion. Others’ mileage may vary.

    Room for revisionists? I’ve seen Sandra Tanner at MHA as a spectator (we were part of the tiny group at the coffee table)! But would the program committee really give one of her proposals a fair chance? Or would there be too much political pressure? Everything I seen about the new MHA exudes an emphasis on style (no newsprint in the program brochure in Provo; full color throughout), and renewed orthodoxy.

    I’m not posting her to belittle MHA. Instead, my biggest regret is the segmentation of the Mormon historical community. Traditional LDS are most comfortable at MHA. Liberals attend Sunstone. John Whitmer is a wonderful venue for not only early restoration studies, but also the numerous break-off groups in the Latter Day Saint movement who are often representative there.

    This year’s Sunstone had triple the attendance of last year’s. That’s understandable; it was a significant year for progressive Mormons: Ordain Women, marriage equality, Free BYU, and the Boy Scouts, among others. But Sunstone continues to be hindered by decades old decrees and pronouncements, e.g., “Alternative Voices” (1979) and “Statement on Symposia” (1981) that keep a significant segment of the potential attendees away.

    So, if there are any members of the MHA program committee reading this, I challenge you, this year, to make a difference by approving panels and papers that might get under the skin of orthodoxy. For example, every other year or so at Sunstone, there is a delegation from the Centennial Park polygamous group from down on the Arizona strip. Now, that would shake ’em up at MHA, wouldn’t it?

    Comment by David Conley Nelson — September 1, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

  15. Best of luck, Ben. I’m sure pulling together a conference like MHA is a sisyphean task even under the best of circumstances. The transparency your posts shows serves an invaluable purpose in helping people to understand better just what’s involved and just how challenging it can be.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — September 1, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

  16. David: as you note, there are different perspectives on the direction MHA is going. Ardis, for instance, thinks it’s becoming too academic. You think it’s becoming to orthodox. I think that MHA, more than other organization, places the most emphasis on scholarly quality. Knowing most of the previous co-chairs, I sincerely think they’d consider any proposal, no matter where they stand on a faithful/revisionist spectrum, based on the merits of their submission. My committee and I hope to do the same. Looking at past programs, I think they feature the most academics, the most public historians, as well as a strong mix of amateur scholars. (And I say this as someone who has enjoyed Sunstone in the past, and usually attends JWHA–including the meeting in a few weeks.) It’s not an objective science, of course, and we have our own biases. MHA has its struggles, but I honestly don’t think being orthodox is one of them.

    Thanks, Gary.

    Comment by Ben P — September 1, 2015 @ 5:11 pm

  17. David, Sunstone is overwhelmingly about social issues, especially up-to-the-minute social issues. Not history.

    John Whitmer is history, but of a different era and of of a much more general nature than the history I do. Too little overlap to be of useful to me.

    MHA is my organization, and that ownership has something but not a great deal to do with orthodoxy. Your comments here, though, have a great deal to do with being unorthodox. Your repeated “counsel” that I take my ball and play elsewhere leaves me feeling much the same way I do whenever any other ex-Mormon invites me to leave the Church after I express any discomfort about any trivial thing. Please, if you’re going to continue your criticism in this vein, don’t do it in my name. You don’t speak for me. I have a specific request for MHA to relax their recent emphasis on full one-themed panels, and I don’t particularly appreciate your hijacking my plea and turning it into a whiny complaint about your persecution for unorthodoxy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 1, 2015 @ 5:49 pm

  18. Just a note that Heather S.’s comment above was caught in spam and is now freed. Make sure to go read it and share with any friends working on disability studies!

    Comment by Ben P — September 1, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

  19. I’m not an historian, but I do consider myself a (very) interested stakeholder. I try to go to MHA every year, although I missed both Layton and Provo due to conflicts, and I certainly hope to make it to Snowbird. When I go to conferences, I actually prefer not to have to give a presentation, so that I can just relax and concentrate more on the sessions I attend.

    I’ve only made a proposal once, which was indeed turned down. But I made it as an individual paper and not as part of a panel, even though I was fully aware of Suggestion No. 1 above. I definitely did not take the rejection personally. Maybe I’ll propose again some day, but given my experience I would probably only bother if I were able to do it as part of a panel so as to goose up the chances of acceptance.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — September 1, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

  20. Ardis: I had not intention of offending you. I did not “counsel” you to do anything (you used quotes.) I only urged you (and others, by extension) to look for other alternatives if your first choice becomes unavailable. That’s hardly asking you to take your ball and play somewhere else, at least in my opinion. Nor do I feel that I am hijacking your arguments, making mine in your name, or doing anything that can be reasonably compared to urigng you to leaving the church.

    Comment by David Conley Nelson — September 1, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

  21. Ben, Is there any possibility that MHA might be able to increase the total # of panels, esp. at Utah-based conferences?

    One of the nice things about MHA is that the panels tend to be well-attended. I wonder if they aren’t well attended enough to add a few more.

    It wouldn’t solve the acceptance rate you mention, but perhaps mitigate it slightly.

    Comment by John Turner — September 1, 2015 @ 10:22 pm

  22. Hi John: I know MHA has considered it in the past, but the costs to rent another room has been generally regarded as too expensive compared to the potential increased attendance. The #s games with these convention centers are quite fraught.

    Comment by Ben P — September 2, 2015 @ 6:06 am

  23. A solution that works well at other academic conferences is to have panel organizers publish their calls for papers 1-3 months before abstracts have to be submitted. That gives people time to read through the list of panels, find ones that sound like promising targets, and contact the panel organizers. Sometimes the panel organizers already have three papers, but often they’re looking to fill a panel. In addition, there are often CFPs for panels on “Recent research in Mormon Studies” or “New resources for Mormon History” that could fit a wide variety of abstracts. People can still organize complete panels if they want, but this takes some of the burden off of people who just want to present a paper without getting four other people to sign up. Of the conferences I present at, I much prefer those with a central list of CFPs.

    Comment by D. Martin — September 2, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

  24. As someone who has had a solo paper proposal turned down by MHA, I can sympathize a bit with others who have felt that sting. But, having also served on the other side of the equation on a program committee, I also know from firsthand experience that grouping disparate solo submissions is quite a task for busy professionals who have multiple demands on their time and aren’t really getting compensated for their service to the association. In general, I have had nothing but positive experiences at MHA. I enjoy the papers and the camaraderie with friends and colleagues. As Ben (and Ardis) have noted, it’s the most academic of all the Mormon studies conferences, which, depending on your point of view, can be either a good or a bad thing. But I think the MHA had done a good job over the years welcoming folks from all stripes (see the recent article in JMH on the improved relations between LDS and RLDS/CoC folks) and making space for people with differing educational backgrounds. I suspect that that will ultimately continue in the future, since let’s be honest, the MHA needs to keep a broad base and appeal to survive and even thrive.

    Comment by David G. — September 2, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  25. Hi Ben, thanks for the tips. When you mentioned contacting you about an innovative idea, would that be to the submission email or is there another way to make sure you’d see it sooner?

    Comment by Kelly — September 8, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  26. Kelly: go ahead and send it to me at benjamin.e.park AT

    Comment by Ben P — September 8, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

  27. Thank you to the authors of this post for their great organizing advice.

    I’d love to use this post to try and organize a panel. I’m largely a scholar of antebellum evangelicalism, having completed a dissertation on antebellum evangelical attitudes toward Mormonism. I’d love to try and put together a panel; my paper would largely be on how evangelical depictions of Mormon religious practice influence evangelical religious practice.

    If interested, feel free to contact me at:

    nhwiewora [at]

    Comment by Nate W — September 11, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

  28. I would like to get a panel together that could talk about material culture and/or self-reliance in the 19th century church. My paper discusses topics of clothing and self-reliance. I’m a first time submitter so any suggestions would be great. Please email me at

    Comment by Michelle Hill — September 21, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  29. I have tried and failed to find anyone with whom to cobble together a panel. Because MHA’s preference for full panels is so strong and so exclusive, it seems pointless to submit a proposal for an orphan paper.

    But I’m sure there will be plenty of room for more tired discussion of polygamy. There’s always room for that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 24, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

  30. I would love to see a panel by Ardis on the process of writing and publishing “She Shall Be an Ensign.” I’d go even if it were just her, but it might be interesting to pair with other authors and/or other publishing venues (scholarly vs popular press, etc).

    Just throwing my little dream out into the void since I’ve got no way myself of making this happen. 🙂

    Comment by sar — September 25, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

  31. Just going by Kevin’s summary at BCC, this sounded like a great meeting. I wish I could have gone.

    Ardis, I’m extremely sympathetic to your position, however I suspect the reason topics like polygamy or Book of Mormon translation get picked for panels is that they attract an audience who are more superficially involved in the history. I’ve no idea what you’ve proposed in the past, but I bet making a proposal that looks good on a press release to garner interest helps.

    I’m not at all qualified to speak about MHA, since I’ve only managed to go once. (Maybe once my kids get older that can change) Just speaking more as an outsider who always reads the reports on the conference with great interest.

    One topic I know I’d be interested in that’s related to what you do at your blog are the evolution of manuals. I think the posts I love the most are ones that show old priesthood or relief society manuals and how different they are from today. Often far more intellectually demanding. I bet you could crouch that sort of a panel topic in a fashion to garner a lot of public interest. Just a suggestion of perhaps little worth by an outsider.

    Comment by Clark — September 28, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  32. Whoops typo. Kevin’s report was of the JWHA not MHA. Didn’t mean to imply it was MHA. Just that for those of us not able to attend easily the press release of panels often is the deciding factor of whether we attend – even for meetings close by to us.

    Comment by Clark — September 28, 2015 @ 11:12 am


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