The Lost Notes From the 2009 Mormon History Association Conference

By June 2, 2009

Due to a user error, these few notes from the MHA Conference were not posted with the rest last week:


Ruth Knight Bailey, Ardis Smith, and Stirling Adams
These three paper collectively further our understanding of the complex subject of Mormonism and race, though each in a unique way.
Ruth Bailey examined a small community of Indians in rural Virginia that were converted to Mormonism by Southern States missionaries in the late 19th century. When Mormon Elder stopped visiting the Indians in 1912, the community (though without any ordained priesthood holders) continued to operate a makeshift Sunday School and worship services until Elders returned 20 years later. Furthermore, developments in science (eugenics) and Virginia laws (which in 1924, recognized only two races??whites,? or those of ?pure Caucasian descent? or those with less than 1/16 Indian blood; and ?Negroes? which included those previously identified as ?mulattos? and Indians). Thus the right to Mormon priesthood was raised with these Indian converts, who went to great lengths to trace their genealogy and prove their lack of African ancestry.
Ardis Smith?s paper, portions of which have been posted here at the JI, explored BYU student reactions to the Civil Rights movement as revealed in the school?s newspaper, the Daily Universe, from 1954-68. Ardis?s paper is especially important in that it expands our understanding of how Mormons approach race by focusing on a key demographic previously ignored?teenagers and college-aged students. What is now needed is a comparative study contrasting their reactions with how other Latter-day Saints viewed race and the black civil rights struggle in 20th century America.
Stirling Adams?s paper contextualized Bruce R. McConkie?s controversial book, Mormon Doctrine. Adams?s demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, the revised version of MD published today still has many entries that repeat and affirm racial folklore?.. Especially interesting was Adams?s situating of McConkie?s views on race not only within the context of developing Mormon ideas and attitudes toward race (for example, Joseph Fielding Smith?s), but also contemporary Christian thinkers (like Bob Jones), United States law, and social constructions of race in America.

Session 3A
Lawrence Foster
?Was Early Mormon Millennialism Politically Revolutionary? A Comparison with Two Other Mid-Nineteenth Century Millennial Movements.?
Dr. Foster decided to mix things up a bit this year by talking comparatively about the Mormons, the Oneida Colony, and?not the Shakers but the Taiping Rebellion, and not about sexuality?though that was included?but millenarianism. He made the insightful comment at the conclusion of his paper that Mormonism?s defeat in 1890 ironically provided it with its greatest success.
Reid Neilson
?Before the White City: Exhibiting Mormonism in America, 1830-1890?
Mormon participation in the 1893 Chicago World?s Fair (not in the World Parliament of Religions but the Columbian Exposition) marked a transition in Mormonism.


  1. Thanks, guys. Does anyone know if/where Sterling’s going to publish his research?

    Comment by David G. — June 2, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  2. Thanks for getting these up, Jared.

    Comment by Christopher — June 2, 2009 @ 9:22 am


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