I submitted the following abstract in response to MHA?s call for papers for the 2011 conference, underway as we speak. I was pleased to receive notice that my proposal had been accepted, but in the time between submission and acceptance, circumstances had changed. My family was now expecting a new arrival, due May 23, 2011 (he arrived a week early?welcome, Hyrum!). Since the due date was the very week of MHA, I declined acceptance, and I?m jealously following reports of those who are attending. Here is the abstract:
Born at Toms River, New Jersey in 1852, Anthony W. Ivins was less than ten years old when he became among the first Mormon settlers of the area now known as St. George. From 1861-1895, Ivins became one of the city?s most prominent and respected citizens, holding office as county sheriff, city council member, city attorney, county assessor & collector, prosecuting attorney, mayor of St. George, and special agent to the Shiviwits Indians, member of the Territorial Legislature and the Utah state constitutional convention. It has been widely postulated that Ivins was positioned to be the leading democratic party candidate during the first governor?s election in 1896 before being called to head the Mormon colonies in Mexico. Despite his many accomplishments, but little has been written on Ivins. Ron Walker?s 2000 Juanita Brooks lecture (later published in BYU Studies 40:1) uses Ivins early life (to his first mission in 1876) to illuminate St. George?s formative years. I expand on this by analyzing Ivins? post mission years in St. George and the light this sheds on the place of St. George in the Mormon Corridor. Though a far-flung outpost by any standard, St. George held great influence socially and politically. In the process, I will also briefly discuss the forthcoming publication of the Anthony W. Ivins journals which I am editing.
Part of my desire to present this was to stake a greater public claim to my long-time work in editing the Anthony W. Ivins journals. In late 2005 as a mid-level undergraduate, and after a number of changes to my major, I settled on a path to a degree in history. Optimistically, I started feeling around for a major project to work on and started settling on the Anthony W. Ivins journals which I would edit and publish. As a busy undergrad (with one then two kids and a full course load), I chipped away slowly at the project. Being very new to the world of Mormon history, documentary editing and in publishing in general, and very green about the politics and interests involved, I began talking about my effort with a party which quickly became interested in my effort. I was naïve, inexperienced, easily manipulated, and hardly knew anyone in the Mormon history community except for a relatively small segment. As my professional goals matured and my associations expanded, I felt publishing with this party was not what I wanted. After making that decision apparent in 2007, that party, feeling convinced that I would not finish the project due to my busy schedule, began working with another who expressed interest in editing those diaries. When I was alerted to it, I expressed that I intended to continue my effort. Since then, I have been optimistic that I would be able to finish and publish with an academic press before this other effort preempted me. I have continued to optimistically make slow progress as I went through a demanding MA program and now beginning an even more demanding PhD program and (now) 3 kids. With this summer looming, I had high hopes of making good progress on the project and bringing it near completion. However, it has come to my attention that this other effort has advanced to a significant stage. I find myself faced with the choices of spending a significant amount of a busy summer working to complete my project, knowing that an alternate effort is at an advanced stage, or in letting it go and focusing on other things. I have decided, with much regret, to pursue other projects.
I won’t lie, I’ve felt a range of emotions, most not positive, throughout this situation. At least at present, the best I can muster is a feeling of emptiness and ambiguity, wishing neither well nor ill: a big “whatever.”
But I do take some consolation in what I take away from all this and the lessons learned. I’m a little wiser and there is most certainly a silver lining–I remember a conversation in the early stages of my Ivins project with JIer David G. about my interests in research. He expressed a hope that I would find an interest in Mormonism in Latin America. At the time, I dismissed the idea. However, Ivins? place on the first LDS mission to Mexico in the 1870s, his subsequent mission to Mexico City in the 1880s, and his presidency over the Mormon Colonies in the late 1890s and early 1900s all found prominent expression in Ivins’ diaries. In the early stages I knew next to nothing about the first two Mexican missions. I dug deeper in order to understand the context Ivins was working in and to be better equipped to edit those portions of the journals. I gradually came to an even greater interest in the history of Mormonism in Mexico specifically and in Latin America in general, and my research interests have since turned in those directions, borne me fruit, and profoundly affected my direction and goals as a scholar. I owe that to my work on the Ivins journals. Though I leave the effort behind with a heavy heart, I take heart in the journey and where it?s led me.