Explore this year’s theme Our Stories Fashion Order out of Chaos through the variety of presentation opportunities.
Session 201 (Panel, 8:00 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Whence the Vision? Tracing the Rise and Fall of the First Vision in the Community of Christ by Keith J. Wilson and Katy Pratt Sumsion
Abstract: Most observers of the beginnings of Mormonism, view the First Vision which young Joseph Smith received in 1820 as the wellspring of this religious movement. However, up until the death of Joseph Smith, this event was seldom mentioned as the impetus for the Restoration. Historians have shown that it was not until the late 19th Century before the Vision became institutionalized in the LDS and the RLDS churches. Since then it has become the seminal theophany for the LDS faithful. But the trajectory has been different for the RLDS/Community of Christ followers with few if any references to it in today’s church materials. This presentation will chronical historically the rise and decline of the vision in the narrative of the Community of Christ.
Biographical Sketch: Keith J. Wilson is an associate professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University where he regularly teaches Book of Mormon, New Testament, and Old Testament courses. He recently returned from a teaching assignment at the BYU Jerusalem Center.
Professor Wilson was born in Ridgecrest, California and received a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Utah. His research focus is institutional change and he is currently researching/writing about the fundamental changes in the RLDS Church over the past 60 years.
Katy Pratt Sumsion is a senior, majoring in English at Brigham Young University. She was born in Omaha, Nebraska and researches with Professor Wilson. She has been integral to this study
Title: Flat Earthers, Anglo-Israelism, and the Golden Plates: Cautionary Tales of Ripping Up a Sect’s Problematic Roots (RS) by John Hamer
Abstract: The city of Zion, Illinois, was built by members of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church. The church owned all of the industry and property in the city, which was centered on a lot where a great temple was planned. In the early 20th century, the church’s general overseer Wilbur Glenn Voliva gained international notoriety by promoting his Flat-Earth doctrine, which was taught as fact in Zion’s schools. After Voliva’s death in 1942, his successor rejected Flat-Eartherism and much of the church’s other problematic doctrines. Many members left the sect, which ultimately renamed itself “Christ Community Church.”
Biographical Sketch: John C. Hamer is a past president and lifetime member of the John Whitmer Historical Association. Co-editor of Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism and co-author of Community of Christ: An Illustrated History, John’s research and writing focuses on the many diverse expressions in the Latter Day Saint movement. John serves as a Seventy in Community of Christ and as pastor of the downtown Toronto congregation. His history, theology, and philosophy lectures are streamed live every Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm Eastern on Facebook
and at CentrePlace.ca.
Title: Frederick Douglass & Joseph Smith III: The Memoir Revisited by Kevin W. Bryant
Abstract: Frederick Douglass considered Rochester home. A world traveler, he was a featured speaker at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In attendance at this Exposition was Joseph Smith III. In his Memoirs, Smith described an encounter with Douglass. Smith’s depiction of Douglass includes many observations that are unique compared to existing Douglass material, writings, and accounts. This research will examine the narrative of the meeting and reconsider it against Douglass’s own patterns, movements, and accounts. Joseph Smith III believes he met Frederick Douglass. If it was Douglass, this account layers a new dynamic for Douglassonian scholars to consider. If it wasn’t Douglass, what other questions about the Memoir and its stories must be asked?
Biographical Sketch: Kevin Bryant is a Park Ranger at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park. He earned a Master’s degree in American History while working at the Joseph Smith Historic Site, and has previously worked for Community of Christ. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.
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Session 211: (9:30 a.m., Friday September 27)
Title: Expanding Understanding of the Community of Zion (RS) by Laurie Due
Abstract: This paper will focus on the definition of Zion as a function of upholding the worth of all persons. Understanding “worth of all persons” includes exploring the evolution of equal rights movements within the Community of Christ, such as the introduction of women into the priesthood and the exploration of the membership’s understanding of homosexuality and its effect on the priesthood. With these topics as the basis for understanding the church’s evolving theology concerning “worth of all persons” in Zion, this paper will explore the responsibility of the church to be vocal and active in matters of human rights. Exploring the Community of Christ’s history, dating back to its LDS heritage, this paper examines the church’s internal struggle with overcoming inequality and suffering. Examining how the church has found equal representation of voices within its membership through open and constant dialogue sets an example that should be followed throughout our future as we come to better understand not only the Community of Christ membership, but the world in which it works for peace. Such knowledge should not be acquired passively, but through active seeking with the determination to create a lasting and evolving peace. Throughout the history of humanity, stories have been shared with the intent to teach lessons for survival. Now it’s not our own survival that matters, but that of others.
Biographical Sketch: Laurie Due is a senior at Graceland University. Initially majoring in psychology and minoring in communication, she stumbled upon a passion for studying religion, and is close to completing an additional minor in religion and philosophy. She is also beginning Graceland’s Seminary program as a CEU student, continuing as a graduate student following the completion of her bachelor’s in psychology in the spring of 2020. Legally blind, her academic aspirations are driven by a desire to incite a change in how people see each other.
Title: The Millennial Generation in the Restoration: A Comparative Study (RS) by Katherine Pollock
Abstract: The Millennial Generation, ages 23 to 38 in 2019, seems to be one of the most studied generations of all time. What does research tell us concerning the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of millennials in Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? This presentation compares survey research done on both churches: Community of Christ’s Vision Project initiative “Dialogues with the First Presidency” and Jana Riess’ recent book The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church (2018). “Dialogues with the First Presidency” is the largest survey of Community of Christ young adults done in the recent decade. Collected between 2009 – 2011, the First Presidency and other church leaders met with nearly 1,000 young adults around the church in over 30 locations. They asked questions about the mission of Community of Christ in today’s world, what young adults are seeking in a faith community, and how young adults can serve. The Next Mormons, collected in 2016, is an online public opinion survey of 1,156 current and 540 former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 130 questions about a variety of beliefs and practices. Historical as well as bringing in social science, a brief history of Community of Christ’s young adult ministries (2000-2015) and programs and a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ singles/student wards and other programs are included. Current events dealing with young adults in both churches will conclude the presentation.
Biographical Sketch: Katherine Pollock is a Senior at Missouri State University’s Department of Religious Studies in Springfield, Missouri. She has spent the last four summers at Community of Christ’s historic sites internship program. Her latest accomplishments include researching for busy historians, conducting oral histories and surveying over 500 summer visitors at the Kirtland Temple. She also works at her university’s student food pantry, volunteers at a local Pentecostal archive, and helps coordinate campus interfaith events. She plans on pursuing graduate work after completing a B.S. in Religious Studies.
Session 212 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: The Mendon, NY, Branch by Robert Wilcox Cook
Abstract: The Mendon, NY, branch of the Mormon church started about 1832 a few miles south of Rochester. One of the places they met was the Tomlinson Inn, which still exists today. The branch is best known for two early members, Brigham Young and Heber Kimball, although many other future leaders of the church joined there.
One of the lesser known members was a widow, Mary Wilcox, who heard Joseph Smith preach and joined the church at Mendon along with all her children, three boys and two girls. Mary and all but one of her children moved to Kirtland, along with most members of the Mendon Branch. The stories of Mary’s family offers insight into a broad range of church history. After Joseph’s death Mary’s children split between the LDS and RLDS churches.
Biographical sketch: Robert Cook was born in Providence, RI, the offspring of the marriage of a fifth generation Southwestern Iowa descendant of the original church to a Cape Cod fishing and cranberry growing family. He is retired from a career working and teaching in computer science disciples as well as patent law. His interest in church and family history took him to Nauvoo, where he is the Mission Center President of the Community of Christ, Cedar Valley Nauvoo Mission Center.
Title: Doubting Thomas: A Look at the Burdick Clan of New York and Their Different Paths in the Restoration by Daniel Kelty
Abstract: Robert Burdick set the pattern of public service and religious freedom in 17th century Rhode Island.
The Burdick/Winters families gathered to Kirtland in 1833. Alden was the first seventy. Rebecca and Hiram Winters were caretakers of the Kirtland Temple. Thomas became the church recorder in 1836, and Kirtland bishop in 1841.
Cousins from Allegany County, NY, followed Alpheus Cutler and settled Clitherall, Minnesota. Carey’s children married Whitings and Andersons. Nettie married Frances Lewis Whiting, president of the Cutlerites. Jackson married Buckley B. Anderson’s daughter, Zina Jerusha. Their stories have been saved by relatives who are current members of JWHA.
Biographical Sketch: Daniel Kelty is historian for the Headwaters Mission Center, Community of Christ, Minnesota. He attended high school across the street from the Thomas Burdick homestead in San Gabriel, Ca. He served as pastor to the Frazee congregation where he knew many of the grand children of the Burdick/Whiting/Anderson clan. He has two papers published in the JWHA Journal. Now retired, he serves on the JWHA board.
Session 213 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Unchurched and Destitute:” Evangelical Resistance to the Restoration Movement by Jill Brim
Abstract: The Second Great Awakening spawned several New York missionary societies, with the goal “to preach the gospel, establish churches, and support ministry among the unchurched and destitute.” So why did these societies consider Joseph Smith and his following, ”a great design of Satan?” From society histories, and period correspondence, research reveals that New York Evangelical Societies were convinced that the Restoration movement and Romanists were not only a threat to Christian purity, but to the secure fabric of the United States.
Biographical Sketch: Jill Brim teaches U.S. History and Humanities on the faculty of Dixie State University. She holds a B.A. from BYU and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. She is President-Elect of the John Whitmer Historical Association. She also serves on the BYU College of Humanities Leadership Council.
Title: Pamphlet Wars: Brighamites vs. Reorganites, Religions in Conflict by Greg Brim
Abstract: During the 20th Century (1901 – 1986) a large number of pamphlets written by both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints disputed each other’s theology, historicity and logic.
Topics in hot contention were:
• Blood Atonement;
• Common Consent;
• Joseph Smith’s involvement in Polygamy;
• Nature of God;
• Proper use of temples;
• Salvation for the dead;
• Succession in the Presidency;
This presentation will survey these arguments, the pamphlet authors, the tone of the pamphlets, and focus on the nature of conflict between two faiths. What do we learn and what does this tell us about religious conflicts in general? These disagreements mattered back then. Do they matter now?
Biographical Sketch: Greg Brim graduated in Mathematics and Philosophy from Brigham Young University. He has a lifelong interest in the philosophy of Mormonism. He served as Director and Senior Vice President for a global investment bank before his retirement in 2015.
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Session 214 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: The Untold Story of the Acquisition of the Original Temple Lot: Independence, Jackson County by R. Jean Addams
Abstract: The story of the December 1831 acquisition of the Millennial Temple Lot, preceded by the dedication of that “spot for the temple” in early August 1831, has been, often misunderstood or misconstrued as imparted in the oft recited early Mormon Missouri experience. Indeed it has, heretofore, been a story only partly told. Upon Smith’s arrival in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, in July 1831, the Lord designated where the “temple” was to be located. This article will discuss the necessary and essential property access and financial arrangement between Joseph Smith and/or Edward Partridge and local tradesman and postmaster Jones H. Flournoy before the dedication could have realistically taken place. Furthermore, the reason for the necessary four months delay between the dedication of the Temple Lot and the acquisition of a odd-shaped 63.27 acre parcel (of which the Temple Lot was the key portion) will be explained.
Additionally, this paper will review the virtually unknown fact that a two-story brick building was included in the Flournoy to Partridge purchase. The structure became a meeting place for worship and other gatherings for the growing Mormon population in Jackson County between 1832 and 1833 when the Church was forced out of the county by the local early settlers.
Finally, an examination of what transpired over the next 157 years to this original structure that was situated on the Temple Lot Property will be detailed, including the relocation and continued use of the upper level of said building until 1971. Also, the recovery of a brick from the lower level of the original building recovered at the time of the 1990 excavation for the Community of Christ Temple
will be discussed.
Biographical Sketch: R. Jean Addams is a lifetime Mormon History enthusiast and independent historian. He and his wife Liz reside in Woodinville, Washington. He holds a BS in Accounting and an MBA from the University of Utah and is retired. Addams has presented and published several articles dealing with the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and more recently the Redemption of Zion. His first book Upon the Temple Lot: The Church of Christ’s Quest to Build the House of the Lord, (Independence: John Whitmer Books) was published in late 2011. Addams is past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association, a member of the Mormon H istory Association, and a member of the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation.
Title: The Clay and Ray Counties’ Mormon Removal Committees, and, the 1835 Clay County Missouri Memorial to Congress, Calling for a Military Road through to Clay County by Mark Goodmansen
Abstract: In my last presentation, I introduced my “Follow the Money Approach” documenting the massive economic trade from Santa Fe and Indian tribal relocations, and how the local merchants feared the Mormons would monopolize this trade. This paper adds more to that story and includes the Clay County merchants who also feared the Mormons. I will be focusing on the Clay County Memorial of 1835 submitted to Congress calling for a unique military road, expected to provide more economic benefits unless the Mormons took control through outbidding them. Consistent with this year’s theme this message “sets my heart on fire!“. I feel passionately about the injustices to the Saints based on greed, and believe this event was the underlying reason the citizens of Clay, Ray and Jackson Counties met in mass meetings to call for the prompt removal of Mormons in 1836.
Primary Source Documents:
1. 24th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Report 22; “Memorial From the Citizens of Clay County,
Missouri” (Congressional Series No. 280)
2. Original 1836 maps of the Western Territory in my possession
3. Other Congressional and Missouri State Legislative Documents
Biographical Sketch: Mark Goodmansen resides in South Jordan, Utah. He graduated cum laude at the University of Utah in accounting, became a certified public accountant, and served as a business and marketing executive for various companies until retiring. Author of: Conspiracy at Carthage–The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith published by Cedar Fort Publishing in 2016; Previously Presented: “Francis Scott Key’s Visit to Nauvoo in 1841 and Its Impact On the Saints in the Region” at the 2017 JWHA Conference, “The Independence Missouri Merchants Versus The Saints of the New Jerusalem” at the 2018 JWHA Convention, and, I presented at this year’s Mormon History Association Conference, June, in Salt Lake City.
Session 221 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: From Burned Over to the Mansion, Architecture Influences Thinking by Paul DeBarthe
Abstract: Comparison of the houses in which young Joseph Smith matured with the last of his residences offers an interesting corollary with his thinking. Simple “open” house constructions accommodate him and his thinking until Nauvoo, where the Mansion House with its formalized distinctions represents the categorical separations of a bureaucrat running for President of the United States of America.
Biographical Sketch: Paul DeBarthe serves as the archaeologist at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo where Idignauvoo.com records many of his discoveries. Excavations in preparation for the reconstruction of the Mansion Hotel reveal substantial quantities of materials authenticating this attachment to Joseph Smith’s last residence. As a member of JWHA, Paul encourages interaction between the archaeologists who find the facts to keep historians honest and the historians who magnify those facts to a larger world.
Title: An Untold Drama Within a Drama: Female Religious Devotion in the Early Church as Expressed in the Life of Katharine Smith Salisbury by Kyle Walker
Abstract: As one of the earliest female converts in the Church of Christ, and as a member of Mormonism’s founding family, Katharine Smith Salisbury was eyewitness to the Church’s earliest events. Joining the Church of Christ in New York, she followed the Saints to Ohio, Missouri, and finally to Illinois. Later in life, she linked herself with the RLDS Church, where she spent the final thirty years of her life advocating for Joseph Smith III’s leadership. This paper will highlight Katharine’s private and public religious practice during the years 1830-1850. Some of her writings about early Mormonism during the time when she affiliated with the RLDS Church will also be highlighted.
Biographical Sketch: Kyle R. Walker is a faculty member at BYU-Idaho, and has a PhD. In Marriage and Family Therapy from Brigham Young University. He is the author of two books on the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family. In 2016 he won the best biography award from the John Whitmer Historical Association for his publication William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet, published by Greg Kofford Books. He is the author of numerous publications on early Mormon history, and has served as a board member for the John Whitmer Historical Association since 2016.
Session 222 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Remembering a Forgotten Prophet: Historiographical Reflections on William Bickerton and American Religious History by Daniel P. Stone
Abstract: The life of the nineteenth-century American prophet, William Bickerton, was not explored comprehensively until 2017-2018 — two centuries after his birth. His life offers new and exciting perspectives for the historiographies of American revivalism, Christian Restorationism, millennialism, and Mormonism (topics at the forefront of this year’s JWHA conference). Bickerton promoted unique Christian Restorationist, revivalist, and millennialist beliefs during the antebellum period, Civil War, Reconstruction, and afterward, and fostered progressive theological innovations within the Latter Day Saint movement. Also, the most fruitful approach to Bickerton’s religious movement is to begin with the man himself. He was not only the leader, but the prophet, who motivated his people with exceptional visionary power.
Biographical Sketch: Daniel P. Stone holds a PhD in American religious history from Manchester Metropolitan University in England. He is the author of William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet (Signature Books) and has taught history courses at the University of Detroit Mercy and Florida Atlantic University. Currently, he works as a research archivist for a private library/archive in Detroit, Michigan.
Title: Planted and Fertile: The Far-Reaching Impact of the Burned Over District on Bickertonites, Community of Christ and Latter-day Saint Women by Barbara Morgan Gardner
Abstract: The burned over district, with its social radicalism, provided a fertile ground for women’s suffrage and rights as the early church commenced and continued through the establishment of the women’s relief society in Nauvoo. Although various church organizations have formed from this early establishment, this paper will look at fundamental teachings, policies and practices, in some ways similar and otherwise vastly different, regarding women in three main religious organizations: The Bickertonites, Community of Christ, and The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research for this paper will include current published teachings from each of these religious organizations, interviews of current female members in each Church, and archival material from each organization.
Biographical Sketch: Barbara Morgan Gardner is an associate professor of Church history and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. Her research interests focus primarily on women in religious leadership and Latter-day Saint history, international education, most specifically Latin America, and religious pedagogy. Barbara received her Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology. Her master’s degree is in Educational Leadership and Foundations with an emphasis in international education development. She completed post-doctoral work at Harvard University. She serves as the chaplain-at-large in higher education for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She also serves on the BYU Interfaith Outreach Council, with her primary focus on Latter-day Saint, Community of Christ, Bickertonites, Restorationist groups, etc. . . , as well as those of the Jewish faith. She was born and raised in Salem, OR, served a Spanish speaking mission in L.A. California, visitors’ center, and currently resides in Highland, UT. Barbara is married to Dustin Gardner.
Session 223 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: From Humble Beginnings to International Renown: Richard L. Evans—the Man and the Message by Lloyd D. Newell
Abstract: Richard L. Evans was a General Authority of the LDS Church for more than half his life and a well-known public figure who shaped perception of the Church. He was also the announcer, writer, and producer of Music and the Spoken Word for four decades. This presentation will give an overview of Evans’ remarkable life—his early tragic experiences that shaped his outlook, his work as an editor, columnist and broadcaster, his civic involvement that took him around the world. He became a famous man and is still remembered today, but few know of his humble, even inauspicious beginnings.
Biographical Sketch: Lloyd D. Newell is a professor in the Church History & Doctrine Department of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. He is the author of more than a dozen books and numerous articles. He has held the Moral Education Professorship at BYU and has been associated faculty in the BYU School of Family Life.
Title: Rochester, New York: The Latter-day Saints and the Reshaping of American Theatre History in the Crucible of the Burned-Over District by Lee Krahenbühl, PhD.
Abstract: The “Burned-over District” is a point of origin for many strands of the Latter-day Saints movement. How that movement contributed to American theatre history is a fascinating story that has, until now, been little studied. Influential but now-neglected 19th-century personalities active in the District included tragedian and Rigdonite evangelist Thomas A. Lyne, accidental father of professional theatre and elocution among the Latter-day Saints; Jared W. Carter, Jr., son of the Danite co-founder; his wife, Carrie Lyne Carter; and their son, Melodrama mogul Lincoln J. Carter, so named because he was born (in Rochester, New York) on the day of the president’s assassination.
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Lee Krahenbühl, a member of the John Whitmer Historical Association, has taught Theatre History and World Religions at the college and university levels since 1989. He is at work on a manuscript entitled ‘Joseph’s Actor’: Rediscovering the Life and Career of the Eminent Tragedian Thomas A. Lyne (1806-1890), Accidental Father of Theatre & Elocution Among the Latter-day Saints, the first of a projected trilogy of books on the intersection of 19th-century American theatre and spirituality. Dr. Krahenbühl is second vice-president of the Maryland Communication Association; past Associate Professor of Communication, Speech/Theatre, and Religious Studies at Mercy College of Ohio; and Visiting Senior Lecturer in the School of Design at Stevenson University. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his family.
Session 224 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: The Neurotheology of a Tragically Flawed Prophet, Stanley M. King of Canada: Are “Kitchen Table” Prophets Dangerous? Does the Bible Justify Polygamy? Do Sheep “Graze” in Our Brains? by William D. Russell and Bruce L. Taylor
Abstract: This paper explores schisms of the Community of Christ, with a focus on the Church of Jesus Christ Restored that broke away from the Community of Christ in Ontario in the late 1960s. The founder and prophet, Stanley M. King, and First Counselor, Bruce Swackhammer, believed that the Community of Christ (RLDS) had fallen into apostasy and away from the traditional beliefs of Joseph Smith Jr.
1. The dangers of belief in a true church;
2. The dangers of “kitchen table” theologians;
3. Whether “sheep” graze in our brains;
4. Whether polygamous prophets suffer from sex addiction;
5. Sex and polygamy, especially group sex, from a woman’s perspective;
6. The dangers of absolute authority, power, and control; and
7. Why Restoration studies require more biblical and neurological scholarship.
Biographical Sketch: William D. Russell is professor emeritus of American history and politics at Graceland University. He is past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association, and has published widely in Mormon Studies.
Bruce L. Taylor is an Individual, Couple, and Family Counselor in private practice in Guelph, Ontario. He was raised in the Community of Christ and is a member of the United Church of Canada. He has taught International Politics, Development Economics, and World Religions at six universities, and served in Africa and Asia in famine and civil war situations with the International Red Cross, and Mennonite Central Committee. He holds the degrees of BA in Political Science, BEd in Education, MA in Political Economy, and MDiv in Theology from the University of Toronto.
Session 241 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Nauvoo Camp and the Rise of Organized Youth Camping in Community of Christ by Stephen K. Smith
Abstract: This presentation explores the early history of youth camping in the RLDS/Community of Christ. The first young peoples camp was held at the Joseph Smith Historic Site (JSHS) in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1928. It was a project of the church’s department of Recreation and Expression, which had been created to provide wholesome leisure activities for members of the church in response to the social changes arising from WWI. Over the next twelve years the camping program experienced and had to overcome three major crises; the Great Depression, a public health crisis, and a bureaucratic struggle over control.
Biographical Sketch: Stephen Smith (Steve), b 1942, is married to Joanie Neill Smith and resides in Seattle, Washington. He is a member of the Community of Christ and a retired teacher and school law attorney. He grew up in Nauvoo and remains involved with the JSHS there. His parents began the Nauvoo Mill & Bakery. Stephen served for two years at Liberty Hall Historic Site in Lamoni, Iowa.
Title: Why Did the RLDS Youth Programs Disappear after a Half Century of Success? by Sherry Mesle-Morain
Abstract: Carl Mesle was professionally trained in youth work when in 1947 he was asked to assume responsibility for the RLDS youth programs in Independence, Missouri, which included Boy Scouts, Skylarks, Orioles, and Zion’s League. After serving three years as Center Stake Youth Director, he was made responsible for the church’s world-wide youth programs and camping programs. By the 1980’s most of these activities had disappeared. Why were all these vital youth programs which had nurtured two generations of young people, allowed to die? This paper will describe the growth of the church’s youth programs and why they were so effective under Carl Mesle’s leadership, and will then explore actions taken by church leadership that allowed these programs to fade away.
Biographical Sketch: Before and after raising two children, Sherry spent most of her work life in higher education, most recently as Director of Financial Aid Services at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, her city of residence. Her undergraduate degree is from Tufts University in Medford, MA, and her most recent graduate degree, a Masters in Social Work, is from Smith College School for Social Work, also in Massachusetts. Though not a trained historian, she is a past president of JWHA. Her first paper given at the 2015 JWHA conference was a history of The Mite Society, the longest continuously-running quilting society in Iowa. Her presidential address explored her father’s time as Pastor of the Stone Church from 1970-1979, “Carl Mesle: Pastor in a Time of Turmoil.” She is an active volunteer in the Lamoni community.
Session 242 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: The Palmyra Revival of 1824-25, From Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist Records: Its Impact on the Restoration Movement by H. Michael Marquardt
Abstract: This paper will explore the interest that the Joseph Smith Sr. family had in religion. Special attention will be given to Lucy Mack Smith’s history as the revival she explained occurred after the death of her son Alvin. While the Palmyra revival was a small part of the Great Awakening in western New York it is of significance to learn when it occurred. Some membership figures will be presented from the records of the churches. Newspapers mentioned that the revival was in progress during 1824-25 in Palmyra. What occurred has importance to those in the Restoration movement.
Biographical Sketch: H. Michael Marquardt is an independent historian and research consultant. He is on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. He is the compiler of Early Patriarchal Blessings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Smith Pettit Foundation, 2007); Later Patriarchal Blessings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Smith Pettit Foundation, 2012); author of Joseph Smith’s 1828–1843 Revelations (Xulon Press, 2013) and co-author with William Shepard of Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve (Signature Books, 2014).
Title: Jesse Townsend’s Presbyterianism: Calvinism and the Development of Joseph Smith’s Restorationist Theology by James R. W. MacDonald
Abstract: When Joseph Smith returned from his first theophany, he records that his mother questioned him and he replied, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” This paper will examine 1814-1820 sermons of Presbyterian minister and Palmyra resident, Jesse Townsend. Townsend served as the pastor of the Western Presbyterian Church in Palmyra between 1817 and 1820. Eight Townsend sermons have recently come to light. What was 19th century Presbyterianism like in Palmyra and what might Joseph Smith have heard preached there?
Biographical Sketch: James received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Lethbridge in 2005 and followed that with a Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta. He has worked reference services, systems, and digital initiatives in academic libraries in Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. Since April 2018, he now leads the reference and consultation services team at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City.
Session 243 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: How the Erie Canal Corridor Became the Burned Over District: Rochester and the Advent of Mormonism by Bruce W. Worthen
Abstract: Mormonism grew out of the distinct conditions in western New York where expensive and unreliable means of transportation made settlements from Utica to Rochester land-locked communities that the market economy had passed by. Starting in 1819 however the Great Western Canal radically transformed the political, economic, and religious practices of this sparsely populated and isolated backcountry. Rochester soon became the fastest growing city in America that rivaled the great port cities of the Atlantic. This presentation will examine how the attempts of business owners to use institutional religion to control workers during this chaotic period sparked nearby Palmyra’s restoration movement.
Rationale: The Great Western Canal transformed Rochester from a subsistence farming community into a dynamic manufacturing and transportation hub. While the explosion in market goods brought prosperity to the region – it also brought turmoil. Property owners no longer held the reins of social order. Workers, fueled by the unrestricted availability of alcohol, became unruly and unreliable. When business owners attempted to control them by requiring church membership to remain employed, some rebelled feeling that such organizations were run by corrupt outsiders. They embraced Joseph Smith’s restoration of Christian Charismatic traditions as the best path to both social reform and eternal salvation.
Biographical Sketch: Bruce Worthen is an independent researcher who holds a PhD in American History from the University of Utah. He is revising his doctoral dissertation into a book entitled Out of the West: John M. Bernhisel and the Rise and Fall of Mormon Nationalism. It discusses how the theopolitical government of the Latter-day Saints shaped the American nation-state that emerged from the nineteenth century.
Title: Burned Over, Burned Again, YET Never Burned Out: 4 Perspectives on The Continuing Conversion Catastrophe by Russell L. Osmond, PhD.
Abstract: 200 years past, Eric Hoffer’s “True Believers” found permanent and repetitive
“purchase” along the fertile banks of what became The Erie Canal (before, during, and after its construction). The Fires of Faith (and subsequent “conversion”) simply would not stop Re-Kindling! Multiple Movements still pulsing energetically today sprung up here. This paper explores 4 Contrasting Views of Why…PLUS Draws Relevant Links to Today’s Polarized US Milieu/Melee. Lastly…the session gently invites each attendee to personally ponder their own “burnings within” by providing a method to answer “What’s in MY Conversion Wallet?”
Biographical Sketch: Russ Osmond’s PhD Dissertation at Syracuse University In 1979 contained an in-depth literature review of “Why Men Rebel” (and Convert). It developed a quantitative model for the analysis of how to identify who might most lean toward becoming a terrorist (aka “True Believer”). My advisor, Dr Michael Barkun, published the classic studies of Millenarianism Conversions across the centuries of Western Civilization.
Session 244 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Joseph Smith’s Courting: Plural Marriage in Nauvoo, 1842-1843 by Susan Staker
Abstract: Generally Joseph Smith’s secret marriages are told in retrospect. He publicly denies the practice and extracts promises not to tell. A handful of remarkable texts survive in Joseph’s voice (dictated by Joseph or in his own hand) and stage his “courting” 1842-1843. Failure with Nancy Rigdon, success with Sarah Ann Whitney, and a last stand with Emma. How these texts survive is as much the story as their content–from scandalous expose to a family cache, not destroyed as commanded. Along this arc, I trace Joseph’s language of happiness/desire/the body and of obedience (with rewards and punishments)—familiar sentiments becoming extravagant and dangerous and staged with sacred ritual. (Thanks to Kelly McAfee for sketches and dolls of Joseph and his wives.)
Biographical Sketch: Susan Staker lives on Whidbey Island in Washington State, where she reads, writes, gardens, rides the ferry, and walks her dog. In past lives, she did editorial work for Adobe Systems, Signature Books, and Sunstone Magazine and studied narrative theory at the University of Utah. She is finishing a book-length project, titled: “A Book of Joseph.” For more, see https://susanstaker.academia.edu.
Title: ‘Playing Smash’ with the Wight Family in Centerville, New York by Christine Cox
Abstract: In 1842, Lyman and Harriet Wight departed Nauvoo, travelled through Illinois and Ohio to New York anxious to teach about 200 family members residing in Centerville. He wrote, “It is the most pleasant time I ever knew to travel to preach the gospel -I am fully in the faith that I shall play smash with them at this place.” _1 The immediate and long-term impact this visit had on Lyman and extended family members is examined in this presentation.
1 Wight, Lyman, “Dayton, Ohio, October 8th 1842,” _Times and Seasons, v. 4, no. 1 (November 15, 1842) p. 15.
Biographical Sketch: Christine Cox has been employed at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City for 45 years. She began working there while completing her bachelor’s degree in social sciences and then continued on earning her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science several years later. She has worked in the library in many areas including acquisitions, cataloging, and reference. As library advanced and grew, she was a key contributor in development and design of library catalog systems as well as the design and building of the present library facility. Most of her library career has been in supervisory and management positions including the role of Library Director for nearly 20 years. She presently manages the Visitor and Consultation Services functions at the Church History Library where she and other staff interact with public and researchers educating and guiding them through the vast resources in the library. She has participated in researching and writing Church History articles and books and has presented at numerous library and Church History conferences throughout her career.
Session 251 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Liberty Jail: Myths and Misconceptions by Alex Baugh
Abstract: During the winter months of 1838–39, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRae were incarcerated in the Clay County Liberty Jail for acts of treason against the state of Missouri. And although the prison experience of the Mormon leaders has been examined and discussed by scholars and non-scholars alike, some incorrect interpretations and inferences have been made. In this paper, using a variety of primary sources, I will discuss several aspects of the Liberty Jail and the experiences of the Mormon prisoners that have not as yet been examined in full, or which have not been correctly analyzed. Among the questions that will be addressed include the following: What do we know about the physical characteristics of the Liberty Jail? Where did the prisoners spend most of their time during their incarceration? Did the prisoners ever leave the jail during their imprisonment? Were other prisoners incarcerated in the jail with the Mormon leaders? Were the prisoners fed human flesh? Who visited the Mormon leaders during their time in the jail? Answers to these and other relevant questions will not only provide additional insight into the experiences of the Mormon leaders in Liberty Jail, but it is also expected that certain myths and misconceptions associated with the prisoners will be resolved.
Biographical Sketch: Alexander L. Baugh (email@example.com) is a professor and chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU where he has been a full-time faculty member since 1995. He received his BS from Utah State University, and his MA and PhD degrees from Brigham Young University. He specializes in researching and writing about the Missouri period of early LDS Church history (1831–1839). He is the author, editor, or co-editor of ten books, including three volumes of the Document series of The Joseph Smith Papers (Documents, volumes 4, 5, and 6).
In addition, he has published over eighty historical journal articles, essays, and book chapters. He is a member of the Mormon History Association and the John Whitmer Historical Association, having served as president of that organization in 2006–2007. He is also the past editor of Mormon Historical Studies, and past co-director of research for the BYU Religious Studies Center.
Title: The Rush to Publish D&C 76 (RS) by Blair Burt Bryant, EdD
Abstract: In November of 1831, a church Conference commissioned publication of A Book of Commandments (BOC) by W.W. Phelps, who was to go to Cincinnati, purchase a press, and take it to Independence where he would build a printing plant, with revelations to be provided by John Whitmer from Kirtland. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to obtain paper and take it to Independence in April 1832. When Joseph and Sidney received a vision about salvation in Feb,1832, they deemed it imperative to be in the BOC. Priorities shifted, and multiple people traveled many miles between Kirtland and Independence.
Biographical Sketch: Bryant is an Elder in the Community of Christ. He is 87 years old and is a student of Restoration Theology. He has published a book on translation of the Caractors (Anthon) Transcript and has made prior JWHA presentations on that material. He possesses an AA degree in Chemistry from Graceland College (1952); an AB degree in Chemistry from the University of Missouri, Columbia (1954); an EdM in Guidance and Counseling from Boston University (1972); and an EdD in Education from the University of Southern California (1980).
He served the US Army as a civilian educator (teacher, course developer, and staff officer), serving more than 38 years before he retired in 1991, with 17 years of that being in over-seas locations in Germany and South Korea. He enjoys life in retirement and his hobbies are witnessing for Jesus, studying Restoration history, and Particle Physics. He has always been fascinated by the description of the hereafter as depicted in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and, has studied the handwritten facsimile images in the Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations, Facsimile Edition. He also believes that due to punctuation/printing errors made during original publication in The Evening and the Morning Star in 1832, that current interpretations of two areas of Section 76 are incorrect and one is at odds with John the Revelator’s vision in Rev 21, but this presentation will not include those debatable areas.
Session 252 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Forerunner or Revisionist? The Puzzle of Solomon Chamberlin by Johnny Stephenson
Abstract: This presentation discusses the life and impact of Solomon Chamberlin, his life and early visions, as well as his interaction with the Smith family at the time of the Book of Mormon printing. It will also cover his work as an early missionary and what happened to him in Missouri, Nauvoo and Utah Territory. His story is fascinating. He published a pamphlet in 1829, and later changed that story to match up with his Mormon conversion shortly afterwards. His conversion to Christianity is certainly due to the intense religious environment of the Second Great Awakening, and his move into the heart of the burned over district led him to the Mormons. I have identified many of the people mentioned in the 29 pamphlet, and discovered his daybook (with Mike Marquardt) from the Pilgrimsport Tavern he ran in Lyons, NY.
Biographical Sketch: Johnny Stephenson (mormonitemusings.com) is an independent historian and researcher of Mormon History. In 2012 he discovered and was the first to publish about an unknown photo (taken by Jacob Hicks) of the Book of Mormon “Caractors” sometimes misidentified as the “Anthon Transcript” (and once possessed by John and David Whitmer). His four part series on the Joseph Smith “Caractors” is being expanded for publication as a book, which will include new material on the Kinderhook Plates. Johnny has published in the John Whitmer Historical Journal (with Mike Marquardt) and is currently writing about the History of Joseph Smith’s Spiritual Wife Doctrine for Signature Books.
Title: Joseph Smith, Consecration & Stewardship by Dr. Warner Woodworth
Abstract: My paper will center on the Prophet Joseph’s revelatory views of uniting his people, reducing inequality, empowering the poor, creating jobs, and establishing Zion. Indeed he sought to “revolutionize the whole world.” He taught a religion of restoration that would unite the spiritual and temporal, bringing social-economic justice to all believers. My paper will seek to articulate Joseph’s visions, values and hopes for the future as he designed and rolled out attempts to build a utopia. The paper will conclude with applications and implications for an ideal society today.
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Warner Woodworth is a social entrepreneur and Professor Emeritus at the Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University where he has taught about Worker Cooperatives, Microcredit, and Social Entrepreneurship. Author of 10 books and over 200 articles, he holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of Michigan. He has helped found and/or served on the boards of some 41 NGOs and projects. He has been honored with the Faculty Pioneer Award from the Aspen Institute in NYC, Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Award at Oxford University, and was the first Peter Drucker Visiting Scholar at the Drucker School, Claremont University in LA, among other recognitions.
Session 253 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Overall Title: The Influence of Entheogens and Hermetics in the Burned Over District by Bryce K. Blankenagel and Brian W. Kassenbrock
Title: Emma Smith’s Herbcraft: Evidence Supporting the Smith-Entheogen Theory by Bryce K. Blankenagel
Abstract: Robert T. Beckstead, Noconi & Blankenagel have contributed to the Joseph Smith-entheogen theory, which posits that psychoactive plant medicines influenced early Mormon spiritualism. The discovery of a letter by Emma Smith, which contains a “gymson” recipe, proves her familiarity with Datura, which would have provided Joseph with the herbcraft necessary to employ this psychedelic medicine in religious ceremonies and could have helped catalyze theophany and spiritual experiences for the early Mormons. “Folk medicine” was prevalent in Methodism, to which the Hale family were adherents, and was often passed from mother to daughter, providing the pathway for Emma to obtain the knowledge to manipulate Datura properly.
Biographical Sketch: Bryce Blankenagel has hosted Naked Mormonism, My Book of Mormon and Glass Box Podcasts. He has presented or published on “Life of Frederick G. Williams,” “Mormon Satan, Brother of Jesus,” “By His Own Hand, the Best-Worst Mormon Scripture,” “Sidney Rigdon, Forgotten Hero of Mormonism,” “Revelation Through Hallucination: A Treatise on the Smith-Entheogen Theory,” “D&C Cover-to-Cover Inside and Out,” “The Demise of Joseph Smith,” “My Brother is a Mormon,” and “Proper Channels.” He has been an invited guest speaker on Cognitive Dissonance, Scathing Atheist, Opening Arguments, Reason Revolution, The NonSequitur Show and many other podcasts. He has attended Sunstone, ReasonCon, Mythinformation and QED in Manchester England.
Title: The Influence of Hermetic Elements in the Burned Over District by Brian W. Kassenbrock
Abstract: In early nineteenth century America, people cherished their talismans, seer stones, occult literature and astrology. Joseph worked as a treasure hunter in his early years and is said to have outgrown this. Nevertheless, his masterpiece, The Book of Mormon integrates Hermetic wisdom into early Mormon spirituality. The seven rulers of the heavens, the Hermetic unity of heaven and earth, the four elements, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the philosopher’s stone, the world of the visible and the invisible and the organic unity of nature play a strong role in I and III Nephi, and elsewhere in the work.
Biographical Sketch: Brian Kassenbrock taught science in the New York City schools. He has been active in many civic associations and organizations. He studied at Fordham, City University of New York and NYU. He studied for several years in Germany and matriculated in literature, linguistics and medieval studies at Würzburg University. He earned his doctorate at NYU with a focus on romantic literature and its relationship to chaos and hermeticism. He became interested in Mormon Studies while visiting friends in Pocatello, Idaho and has since devoted himself to writing and presenting on matters in this field.
Session 254 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 27)
Title: Death to Seducers! Examples of Mormon-led Extra-legal Justice in Historical Context by Craig L. Foster
Abstract: Some people have suggested there was an overwhelming culture of violence within early Mormonism that stood out from normal 19th century American culture. Examples of this purported culture of violence were incidences of extra-legal justice that included mob action and even castration. This paper will look at these events in Mormon history and place them within a larger historical context. Were such extra-legal forms of punishment for crimes such as adultery, incest, and seduction normal or abnormal in 19th century America? And what forms of punishment did such extra-legal action involve? By better understanding typical extra-legal justice in 19th century America, what light can be shed on the tarring & feathering and attempted castration of Joseph Smith in Hiram, Ohio and how does this relate to later Mormon-led extra-legal justice?
Biographical Sketch: Craig L. Foster is a research specialist at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He has presented at numerous conferences, seminars, symposia, and workshops on a wide variety of topics in restoration history, family history and genealogy. He has authored a number of articles, as well as authored Penny Tracts and Polemics (2002) and A Different God? Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon Question (2008). He coauthored The Mormon Quest for the Presidency (2008, 2012) and co-edited the three volume The Persistence of Polygamy series. His latest book is a coauthored work, American Polygamy: A History of Fundamentalist Mormon Faith (Forthcoming 2019).
Title: He beheld the prince of darkness: The Second Great Awakening, Diabolism, and Joseph Smith by Steven Hepworth
Abstract: Satan experienced a revival during the Second Great Awakening. Various religious groups, including the Latter-day Saints, became preoccupied with the Devil and deception in the nineteenth century. Joseph Smith’s religious project included expanding the ontological and scriptural history of the Devil. Satan played a central role in the formation of Joseph Smith’s prophetic identity and his early religious experience in New York. Smith’s first theophany, the translation process and narrative of The Book of Mormon, and his early revelations all dealt with the power and wiles of the Devil. My paper will contextualize and explore Satan in early Latter-day Saint history.
Biographical Sketch: Steven Hepworth is a Church History Specialist in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church History Library. He specializes in making 19th and 20th century collections accessible to the public. He received a MA in history from Utah State University in 2019.