Panel 201 (8:00 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Restoration(s); Scholars in Dialogue from Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Casey Paul Griffiths, Scott Esplin, Matthew Frizzell, Alonzo L Gaskill, MacLane Heward, David Howlett, Taunalyn Ford, Katherine Hill, Lachlan Mackay, Barbara Morgan Gardner
Abstract: This new book contains reflections from two groups of scholars who both trace their beginnings to the early Saints who built the Kirtland Temple. They come from the two largest branches of the Restoration Movement, Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have often found themselves on the opposite sides of many issues. They may both be part of the same original family, but, like many families, regretfully divided with contention and bad feelings. The conversation between the scholars from both movements began tentatively in 2016. We both carried many misunderstandings and misconceptions into our first conversations. Over time we gradually grew to respect each other, and even became comfortable enough to engage in some good-natured teasing in our fellowship together. This book is filled with honest, frank conversations but also collegiality and friendship. This dialogue is about bringing together informed scholars from the two churches working together, with good will, to accurately understand each other.
Biographical Sketch: Casey Paul Griffiths is an associate professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. David Howlett is a visiting assistant professor of religion at Smith College, Taunalyn Ford is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Barbara Morgan Gardner is an Associate Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. Alonzo Gaskill is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. MacLane Heward is an instructor at the Orem, Utah Institute of Religion. Katherine Hill serves an editor for Restoration Studies. Scott C. Esplin is the dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. Matthew J. Frizzell is the adjunct instructor and former dean of the Community of Christ Seminary. Lachlan Mackay is member of Community of Christ’s Council of Twelve and manages the historic sites for Community of Christ.
Breakout 211 (9:30 a.m., Friday September 16)
Title: “‘A Flickering Flame’: Exploring the Challenges and Possibilities of Reimagining British Mormon Heritage” by Naomi Krüger
Abstract: In 1987, speaking at the LDS sesquicentennial celebrations in London, Ezra Taft Benson shared his appreciation of early British Saints. He stated that “before the gospel could shine forth its resplendent light, a flickering flame of religious and political freedom had to commence somewhere.”
This paper will draw on my experience growing up in Preston, Lancashire—the complex intersection of pride in this heritage combined with a growing awareness of how difficult it was to access. I will consider the “heroic missionary” narratives I heard almost exclusively at times of testimony and commemoration, and how they were eclipsed by the correlated stories provided in lesson manuals.
As part of this exploration, I will draw on my own research as a writer currently completing a historical novel set in Nauvoo and Preston in 1842. I will use archival research as well as debates around the challenges and possibilities of historical fiction to examine some of the frames and perspectives of those heritage narratives, drawing attention to historical evidence that signals the presence of untold stories. What role (if any) can fiction play in expanding, questioning, and reclaiming existing narratives of faith, sacrifice and emigration?
Biographical Sketch: Naomi Krüger is a senior lecturer in literature and creative writing at the University of Central Lancashire (Preston, UK). Her debut novel, May, was published in 2018 by Seren and highly commended in the Yeovil Novel Prize. In 2021 she was awarded an Eccles Centre Fellowship at the British Library to explore transatlantic connections of faith, conversion, and emigration in early Mormonism. She has an MA and PhD from Lancaster University, and current research interests include representations of faith in fiction, the ethical and aesthetic challenges writing of historical fiction, and the intersection of creative and critical writing.
Title: “Reorganized Latter Day Saints in London, England: A 60 Year Overview” by Peter A. Judd
Abstract: This presentation will cover the sixty-year period between 1886, when the first RLDS congregation in London was organized, and 1926, when the last congregation there closed. Key events will be described along with leaders who were instrumental in establishing and maintaining the work. Meeting places will be highlighted, including members’ homes, rented halls, and the two church properties owned by the church at different times. The challenges facing the church and the strategies used to expand the membership will be described.
Biographical Sketch: Peter Judd retired in 2005 after thirty-four years as a full-time minister for Community of Christ. After working in the areas of Christian education and worship resources, he served as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles and of the First Presidency.
A native of Enfield, England, he holds a BA in religion and business administration from Graceland College, a MA in economics from the University of Kansas, and a MDiv and a DMin of ministry from Saint Paul School of Theology. Peter is the author or coauthor of ten books as well as articles, pamphlets, study resources, and other publications for the church.
In retirement Peter works on projects for the church’s international headquarters including editing books for church publication and conducting oral histories of retired general officers. Peter served as JWHA president for the 2016–17 year and is on the editorial board of JWHA Books. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife, Kris.
Breakout 212 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Eldridge Cleaver and W. Cleon Skousen: Mormonism’s Right Wing Odd Couple” by Newell G. Bringhurst
Abstract: Eldridge Cleaver, a one-time Black Panther and author of a best-selling memoir, Soul on Ice, was the most famous African American to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the immediate aftermath of that denomination’s lifting of its long-standing black priesthood-temple ban in 1978.
Cleaver’s decision to join the church garnered national media attention. His actual baptism took place in December 1983 some three years after his initial contact with Mormonism. Although Cleaver’s subsequent activity waned in later years, he remained a member of record, and, in fact, professed a continuing belief in many the church’s basic tenets up until the time of his death on May 1, 1998.
This presentation focuses on Cleaver’s involvement with the church as it relates to his life-long odyssey as a religious seeker. Cleaver, came of age in a family in which religion played a central role. Both of his grandfathers were Baptist ministers and his mother a woman of deep religious faith. Eldridge, himself, despite his protracted criminal activity, resulting in his incarceration in a series of correctional institutions over the course of his teenage and young adult years, embarked on a lifelong journey as a religious seeker. Later in life he confessed, “I like to study religion… I’ve been a Moonie, a Black Muslim, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Seventh-day Adventist” as well as a Latter-day Saint.
In chronicling Cleaver’s life-long spiritual quest, this paper will draw from the former Black Panther’s numerous writings, both published and unpublished. Further information is drawn from the Eldridge Cleaver Papers contained in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley and also the Kathleen Cleaver Papers (Eldridge’s ex-wife) contained in the Special Collections at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Biographical Sketch: Newell G. Bringhurst (born April 3, 1942) is an American historian and author of books and essays. Most of his writings have been about Mormonism— particularly topics and figures of controversy, such as blacks and the priesthood, Fawn Brodie, polygamy, and schisms within the LDS movement Bringhurst taught history and political science for thirty-five years at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California, and is now a professor emeritus.
Title: “A Tale of Two Religions: LDS and RLDS Responses to Civil Rights” by Matthew L. Harris
Abstract: In 1956, only two months after Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery Bus boycott in Alabama, the RLDS Church released a seminal statement affirming support for racial equality. The RLDS First Presidency declared, “the gospel is for all mankind. It knows no distinction of race or color.” The governing leaders further urged RLDS members to evangelize among black people, asserting that they could achieve priesthood ordination and “function freely according to their gifts and callings.” The RLDS Church had permitted black priesthood ordination since 1865.
The LDS Church, in contrast, had denied blacks the priesthood since 1852 and discouraged LDS missionaries from proselytizing among them. In addition, LDS Church leaders opposed Brown v. the Board of Education, the historic 1954 Supreme Court case that desegregated public schools. Leaders feared that if racial barriers were eliminated it would lead to interracial marriage. They also refused to discuss Martin Luther King Jr. or endorse the cause that he led. Such silence reflected their anxiety about expressing public opposition to King’s agenda because they feared that it would invite scrutiny of the church’s priesthood ban.
This paper will explore how these two Restoration religions responded to the turbulent civil rights years of the 1950s and 1960s. I will argue that both traditions faced internal pressure from within their respective church bodies that both shaped and governed how they viewed racial equality. In narrating this important and arresting story, I draw on published and unpublished documents from both the RLDS and LDS traditions. These documents repose at various archives in Utah and Missouri.
Biographical Sketch: Matthew L. Harris is a professor of history and director of legal studies at Colorado State University-Pueblo..
Breakout 213 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “From RLDS to Community of Christ—A Personal Journey” by David Wilson
Abstract: I was born in 1960 and baptized at eight years old. I was at least a fourth-generation member of the church on both sides of my family. Church was always a big part of my life. As I was growing up, I remember feeling fortunate to belong to God’s “true church.” As our understanding of truth began to change, my ability to accept change was helped by people in my life and events that occurred.
One thing that affects my story is that my parents left the church over women in the priesthood as well as other issues. This changed the dynamics of our relationship. My life and ability to accept change was also affected by my experience in community theatre, a diverse community. This opened my mind to new realities. The last sixty plus years of life in Community of Christ has been a journey of personal growth.
Biographical Sketch: David Wilson is a retired IT systems developer from Marathon Petroleum. He is a lifelong member of Community of Christ with Restoration ties that go back at least four generations on each side of his family. He holds the office of elder and is completing his MA degree in religion from Graceland University. He has three children, a stepson Xanthe, daughter Zara, and son Zedric.
Title: “The Role of Reason in the Transformation of the RLDS Church to ‘Community of Christ’” by William D. Russell
Abstract: Considering the issues that caused a schism between conservative and ecumenical RLDS members over the last half century, this presentation will discuss ten issues in which the traditional RLDS doctrines were not reasonable. This presentation will briefly explore the background and importance of each of these issues.
Biographical Sketch: William Russell is a professor emeritus from Graceland University and one of the founders of the John Whitmer Historical Association.
Panel 214 (9:30 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “By Study and Faith—Community Christ Seminary at Graceland University turns 20” by Dr. Don H. Compier, Dr. Stassi D. Cramm, Dr. Matthew J Frizzell, Rev. Dr. Zac Harmon-McLaughlin, Maclane E. Heward
Abstract: The purpose of the panel is to unite the living deans of the Community of Christ Seminary to tell the story of its development and its relationship to Graceland University, its students, and the church. The emergence of the seminary and its model for theological education reflect Community of Christ’s unique response to the Restoration in the context of other Restoration movements and Protestantism.
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Don H. Compier, Dr. Stassi D. Cramm, Dr. Matthew J Frizzell, Rev. Dr. Zac Harmon-McLaughlin, Maclane E. Heward all served as dean of the Community of Christ Seminary at Graceland University.
Breakout 221 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Joseph Smith and the Historical Arc of Plural Marriage: 1829 to 1844” by Brian C. Hales
Abstract: Polygamy is always controversial, and gaps, ambiguities, and contradictions in the historical record may prevent definitive conclusions. With that in mind, this expansion on my 2013 JWHA presentation begins with Joseph Smith’s earliest encounters with plural marriage and follows a chronological arc that includes reported angelic visitations, a relationship with Fanny Alger, and Nauvoo teachings and practices. It summarizes John C. Bennett’s intersection with polygamy, sealings to legally married women, plural unions with teenagers, questions about sexuality, and a July 12, 1843 revelation.
Biographical Sketch: Brian C. Hales is the author of seven books dealing with Mormon polygamy—most notably the three-volume Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He works as a semi-retired anesthesiologist and has served as president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Utah Medical Association.
Breakout 222 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Reconstructing the Strangite Colony on Beaver Island, 1846–1849” by Vickie Speek
Abstract: This presentation will give attendees a better understanding of how people lived and worked on Beaver Island during the time period when the Strangite colony existed there.
Biographical Sketch: Vickie Speek is the author of the award-winning book God Has Made Us A Kingdom: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons (Signature Books, 2006), as well as several other academically and privately published books. She has presented several times at JWHA conferences, and had many articles, especially about the Strangites, published in the John Whitmer Historical Journal. She is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter now living in southwest Florida.
Title: “In Love and Union”: The Published Writings of Mr. Charles J. Douglass, Secret Plural Wife of a Mormon King” by Kyle Beshears
Abstract: James Strang’s church was nearing crisis when his sixteen-year-old nephew and secretary, Charles Douglass, published a series of essays for the church’s newspaper. That winter 1849, rumors swirled that Strang—an anti-polygamist alternative among competing Mormon prophets—had secretly taken a second wife. To calm the church, Charles drew on wisdom beyond his years by calling for the Saints to abhor the rumors, sustain their prophet, and seek to live “in love and union.” But by the following spring, the rumors would prove true. In fact, Charles himself was at the center of them. He was no prophet’s nephew; instead, “Charles” was a young woman in disguise, Elvira Field, the first plural wife of Strang.
Little has been written about Elvira, let alone her writings. Her essays were bold: biblical exposition that prophesied an imminent kingdom, critical commentary on American social systems that foreshadowed Marxist socioeconomics, and yearning for the restoration of an ancient secret society once lead by Melchizedek, all written while pretending to be a teenage boy so that she might be with her married lover, a Mormon prophet. This paper will explore Field’s writings to offer greater insight into her thought and personality.
Biographical Sketch: Kyle Beshears, adjunct professor, University of Mobile.
Breakout 223 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Dialogue Toward Social Justice: Bill Russell’s Advocacy” by Katherine Hill, Cynthia Gardner
Abstract: Bill Russell has advocated for social justice all of his life. He draws attention to issues through his writing and then enters into extended dialogue with dissenting voices. This technique has led to friendships and supported structural changes in Community of Christ through changes in attitudes of members. This paper particularly focuses on the issues of race and homosexuality.
Biographical Sketch: This is not Cynthia and Katherine’s first time to collaborate on research. When Katherine was three-years-old, she joined Cynthia’s research team for her MSE project. Since then, they have each earned another master’s degree—a MA in religion from Graceland University’s Seminary for Cynthia and a MS in history from Georgia Southern University for Katherine. They connected with Bill through GALA, and Katherine served as his student assistant for three years at Graceland University.
Title: “RLDS Young Adults on Mission: Older Youth Service Corps, 1964–1973” by Katherine Pollock
Abstract: In the 1960s the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints created a service program for youth adults taking them on missions across the United States and internationally. The program, Older Youth Service Corps (OYSC), was successful with RLDS young adults and growing, but suddenly faded away after a decade. This presentation traces the history of Older Youth Service Corps from its inception to its disappearance, highlights several youth adult missions taken during the 60s and 70s, gives statistics about youth adult participation, and gives the finding of a questionnaire of several former OYSC participates. Lastly, this presentation shows the program’s legacy looking at the relationship between Older Youth Service Corps and the second iteration of young adult missions, World Service Corps (1999–2018).
Biographical Sketch: Katherine Pollock is a graduate student at the University of Missouri.
Breakout 224 (11:15 a.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “A Conversation between Sandra Tanner and Ronald V. Huggins, author of Signature Press’ Lighthouse: Jerald and Sandra Tanner Beloved and Despised Critics of Mormonism (2022)” by Sandra Tanner, Ronald Huggins
Abstract: The Tanners are best known as critics of Mormonism, but they are so much more. They have been involved in one way or another in nearly every major development in Mormon history for more than six decades. They are perhaps best known for publicly disputing the authenticity of Mark Hofmann’s forged Salamander Letter months before both the experts and the LDS Church declared it authentic. But this was only one contribution among many, some with ramifications far beyond Mormonism. They’re efforts have led to accusations of their being Communist agitators, to having an FBI file compiled about them, to ending up in court a number of times, once being sued for one million dollar by the LDS Church in a case that drew national attention due to its implications for the freedom of the internet, and on another occasion in a case that took the Tanners all the way to the US Supreme Court. Come join us as Sandra Tanner and Ron Huggins have a conversation about Signature Press’ new biography of the Tanners and about highlights of the Tanners’ long career.
Biographical Sketch: Sandra Tanner and her husband Jerald founded and operated Modern Microfilm Company/Utah Lighthouse Ministries and Bookstore on West Temple in Salt Lake City for more than half a century.
Ronald V. Huggins taught several years at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto/Toronto School of Theology, and his writings have appeared in such places as the Journal of Biblical Literature, the Revue de Qumrân, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Phanês: Journal of Jung History, and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. He and his wife, Marguerite, live in Salt Lake City.
Breakout 241 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Priesthood Ontology and the Endowment” by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Dan Belnap
Abstract: This session will examine Latter-day Saint priesthood and its underlying ontology from 1831 to 1835 paying close attention to ritual and scriptural exegesis.
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Michael Hubbard MacKay is an associate professor of religion in the Department of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. He is a former historian/writer for the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Dr. Dan Belnap Received a BA in international relations and MA in ancient Near Eastern studies from Brigham Young University; also an MA and a PhD in Northwest Semitics from the University of Chicago. He worked as a part-time instructor before becoming an assistant professor in 2007 and advancing to the rank of professor in 2020.
Title: “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents: An Introduction” by Todd M. Compton
Abstract: In this session, Todd Compton will introduce In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents, recently published. In this book, many documents written by the women of In Sacred Loneliness: the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (1997) are presented in totality, instead of by excerpts. These documents are fascinating, sometimes reflecting daily life, sometimes dramatic and deeply moving. One recurring pattern in this book is Latter Day Saints who did not end up in Utah, but instead stayed in the Midwest, or moved to California.
Biographical Sketch: Todd Compton is the author of the prize-winning books, In Sacred Loneliness: the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (1997) and A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary (2013), as well as books about the Beatles and ancient Greek scapegoats. He is currently working on a biography of Navajo leader Totsohnii Hastiin. He lives in the California Bay area with his wife and two children.
Breakout 242 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Latter Day Saints, Old Testament Christianity and the Puritan Influence on America” by Scott A. Roberson
Abstract: What cultural consensus of values existed from the late seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century? We know during the religious turmoil of the “burned over district” in up-state New York in the 1820’s that conflicts in the prevailing social and cultural values were changing and being challenged. What I plan to consider is this cultural influence on the Smith family and Joseph Smith Jr from the New England culture and values that propelled the new church in the direction of Old Testament understandings and values. First I will look at the Puritan influence on New England where the Smith family had roots, then will consider some of the early OT influences on the early church. Last I will suggest possible reasons that Joseph’s decisions leaned toward OT understandings and ideas of Christianity.
Biographical Sketch: Scott A. Roberson graduated from University of Missouri at Columbia with a degree in biology in 1975 and from UMKC School of Dentistry in 1979 and started practice in Independence Missouri.
Title: “Independence, Jackson County, Missouri: Its Significance to the Restoration” by R. Jean Addams
Abstract: In September 1830, Smith received revelation regarding city Zion. In June of 1831, he was told that the next conference of the church was to be held in western Missouri. In mid- July, after he arrived in Independence, Smith was told that Independence was “the center-place” of the future city of the New Jerusalem and that a “spot for the temple is lying westward upon a lot not far from the court-house.” On August 3, 1831, the “spot for a temple” was dedicated. The following December, Edward Partridge purchased 63 1/4 acres of land from Jones Flournoy for the church which encompassed this “spot”.
The Saints were forcefully driven from Jackson County in November 1833. When an organized effort in 1834 failed in its outward objective to reclaim their property, Smith was told to “wait for a little season” for the “Redemption of Zion.” This did not occur in Smith’s short lifetime. However, the various “Expressions” that developed after his martyrdom did not lose sight of this expectation to “Redeem Zion.”
The “return” began with the Church of Christ in 1867, when they established headquarters in Independence and acquired 2 ½ acres of temple property and erected a chapel in 1889. The RLDS Church transferred headquarters to Independence in 1920 and began re-acquiring temple property. This temple, in which we are gathered, was dedicated in 1994 on a portion of that temple property. The LDS Church re-established a presence in Independence in 1904 when they re-acquired 20 acres of temple property and eventually dedicated a Visitors’ Center on a portion of that property in 1971. These three “Expressions” now own the 63 1/4 acres purchased in 1831.
Biographical Sketch: R. Jean Addams is a lifetime Mormon history enthusiast, independent historian, and author. He and his wife Liz reside in Woodinville, Washington. He recently completed his twentieth year as a volunteer Institute of Religion instructor. He holds a BS in Accounting, an MBA from the University of Utah, and is happily retired. Addams has presented and published several articles dealing with the “Redemption of Zion” and the “Church of Christ (Temple Lot).” His most recent articles include: “Zion’s Printing & Publishing Company: From the Redemption of Zion to Corporation,” (Journal of Mormon History, April 2020); “The Return of the LDS Church (1900-1907) to Jackson County and the Redemption of Zion,” (John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Fall/Winter 2018); “The History and Acquisition of the Original Temple Lot Property in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri,” (Mormon Historical Studies, Spring 2019); and “A Contest for Sacred Space,” in The Ancient Order of Things: Essays on the Mormon Temple (Signature Books, 2019). He is the author of Upon the Temple Lot: The Church of Christ’s Quest to Build the House of the Lord (John Whitmer Books, 2010). Addams is a past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association, and a member of the Mormon History Association, the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, and the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation. His interests, besides family, include fishing and skiing.
Breakout 243 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Book of Mormon Perspectives in Restoration History” by Paul DeBarthe
Abstract: Fascinating differences have grown from the commonality of belief in the Book of Mormon. We have had the Land of Nephi presented in; Peru, Guatemala, Georgia, the Malay Peninsula and in Joseph Smith’s head. I find that presenters deliver impassioned cases for their differing perspectives, yet, when put on the spot to identify the central message of the book, a remarkable convergence occurs. This can also be seen as we review presentations from outside the movement; Christopher Thomas—A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon, or Steven Pynakker—“An Evangelical defense of the Book of Mormon.” With now approaching a hundred presentations from which to draw, representing Community of Christ, LDS, Restorationist, Monongahela, ex-Mormon and other Christian viewpoints, the Book of Mormon as a significant legacy approached in a multitude of ways merits inclusion in the conference.
Biographical Sketch: Paul DeBarthe is the host of the Book of Mormon Perspectives Forum.
Title: “The Lost Ten Tribes and Latter-day Identities” by Ryan Combs
Abstract: The 10th Article of Faith states “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.” Patriarchal/Evangelist Blessings often include a declaration of tribal lineage. Joseph Smith believed he was a literal descendant of Joseph in Egypt. Similar identity claims are made by a variety of groups from British Israelism to Black Hebrew Israelites. I will review the history and legends of the Ten Tribes and explore plausible heredity claims through linguistics, genetics, and statistics.
Biographical Sketch: Ryan Combs is church history specialist at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City.
Breakout 244 (3:00 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store” by Jill T. Brim
Abstract: Joseph Smith’s store was open for business in 1842, providing food and dry goods for his Nauvoo clientele, many of whom had suffered in the name of the church in Missouri. After twenty-four years of research, Jill Brim will offer a wide-ranging description of the building’s construction, shop keeping, mischief-making, record-keeping, gatherings, and later restoration. The centrality of the Red Brick Store in Joseph Smith’s governance of his followers is recounted in detail.
Biographical Sketch: Jill Brim serves as the Immediate Past President of the John Whitmer Historical Association. She has taught US History and Humanities classes at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Utah Tech University in St. George, Utah. Jill received her BA from Brigham Young University in English and her MS from the University of Chicago in social sciences, focusing on American religious history. Born in Chicago, and first visiting Nauvoo in 1969, Jill had a fascination with a small sign posted by a foundation stating, “Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store.”
Title: “Sewing Covenants: The Relief Society and Temple Garments” by Hanna Seariac
Abstract: William Clayton recorded in a December 1845 journal entry that women were busy overseeing washings and anointings as well as making garments. While some have written about the history of temple garments, less attention has been paid to women’s influence in their creation. Exploring temple garments from this lens opens up a myriad of historical and theological questions that have remained largely unexplored. Temple garments are the material symbol of religious covenant. Relief Society sisters having an integral role in constructing these garments offers a new perspective on women’s autonomy and authority in the early temple. Contextualizing the sewing of garments with women’s rich history of creating clothing and textiles as well as juxtaposing their creation of garments with their own words about their experiences in the temple elucidates women’s relationship to the temple in the early church.
Biographical Sketch: Hanna Seariac holds a MA from Brigham Young University. She is an editorial member of the In-Depth National team at Deseret News and previously worked as a research assistant for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, BYU Ancient Scripture, and BYU Religious Education.
Breakout 251 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “Emma, Bertha, and Ada: ‘Be of good comfort. Yours in Bonds, Joseph Smith’” by Wendy Eaton
Abstract: Much has been written about the remarkable leadership of Joseph Smith III, first president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Arguably much of his leadership benefitted from the support he had from his family, particularly three of the women who knew him best, Emma, Bertha, and Ada, his three wives.
Unlike the confusion surrounding his father’s marriages, Joseph Smith III was not married to these three at once, but separately. He first married Emmeline Griswold, but was left widowed after twelve-and-a-half years of marriage. He then married Bertha Madison, who died after nearly twenty-seven years of marriage, Bertha’s death left Joseph a widow once more. A year and a half later, Joseph married for a third time, Ada Rachel Clark.
These three women are far more than an argument that Joseph Smith III abhorred plural marriage. They each had distinguishing traits that brought joy to the Smith households. It is long past time that Emma, Bertha, and Ada had their stories shared.
Biographical Sketch: Wendy Eaton serves as an administrative assistant for Joseph Smith Historic Site and Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation. Wendy has been a guest on Project Zion Podcast’s history series, “Cuppa Joe.” This paper started as her three-part “Wives of Joseph Smith III” for the podcast.
Title: “When Israel A. Smith Declined BYU’s Invite to the 1954 Dedication of Lucy Mack Smith Hall: Matriarchal Memory Signaling Patriarchal Priesthood” by Makoto Hunter
Abstract: In 1954, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ flagship university, BYU, dedicated a new dormitory named after Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, founding prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement. As part of inviting Lucy’s descendants to the event, BYU sent an invitation to Israel A. Smith, her great-grandson and president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, another church descended from Joseph’s restoration.
Israel declined the invitation, but for unclear reasons Joseph Fielding Smith, a Latter-day Saint apostle who was also Lucy’s great-grandson, became involved. The resulting correspondence was brief but revealing; each Smith believed their cousin’s church dishonored “Grandmother Smith.” Left unspoken was the two churches’ ongoing contest over the Smith family legacy—and, by proxy, over what each perceived to be legitimate prophetic succession. To Israel, BYU’s Lucy Mack Smith Hall was a bold attempt by the Utah church to claim Joseph’s mother for themselves. Better understanding this unknown episode reveals how the contest over the Smith legacy transcended space to reach back into time, reminding us of when these sister churches were much more at odds and casting into relief how much has changed since.
Biographical Sketch: Makoto Hunter is a student at Brigham Young University.
Panel 252 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “RLDS Feminist Networks” by David Howlett
Abstract: RLDS feminism grew out of the consciousness raising groups of Second Wave feminists in the 1960s and 70s. Much like the more secular feminists of their time, RLDS feminists in the 1970s used the technologies that were available to them: phone trees, newsletters, retreats, and reading lists to build a vibrant networked community and educate members on issues relating to women and feminist analysis. This network was an important part of internal advocacy efforts that resulted in the acceptance of section 156 of the Doctrine and Covenants at the 1984 World Conference and the ordination of women beginning in 1985. We would like to dig deeper into this topic by answering the two questions: 1) what did the RLDS feminist network look like in the 1970s and 80s? and 2) What was the role of the RLDS feminist networks in advocating for women’s ordination? Using oral histories, periodicals, and archival materials, we apply both historical analysis and sociological network theory to analyze these questions.
Biographical Sketch: David Howlett is a visiting assistant professor of religion at Smith College. He is the author of Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space (University of Illinois Press, 2014) and co-author of Mormonism: The Basics (Routledge, 2017). Born in Independence, Missouri, David serves as one of the world church historians for Community of Christ and is the president elect of the Mormon History Association. David lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts with his wife, the Rev. Anna Woofenden, and their toddler daughter, Jarena.
Breakout 253 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 16)
Title: “My Journey with Journey” by Mark Scherer
Abstract: This paper presents the motivation for providing a comprehensive telling of The Journey of a People, the story of the Community of Christ from its earliest Restoration beginnings to the final release of volume three. Included is the philosophical approach that guided the project. Working within an institutional organization appropriately dedicated to faith promotion while remaining true to sound historical practices presented a significant challenge. The success of the project teetered on a creative interpretation of “faith promotion.” Other challenges centered on interpreting with integrity controversial historical episodes, meeting deadlines, placing attribution, writing at appropriate reading levels, observing publication dates, and book releases, all within the context of a denominational bureaucracy that understood very little of professional historical methodology.
As author I encountered the dilemma of any historian crafting book-length treatments: what stories would appear in its pages and those that would end up on the cutting room floor. Resolution shaped the unique personality of each volume.
My name is on the front cover of each volume, but the successful completion of this project relied heavily on the personal commitments and talents of many people working toward a common goal. Each contributor will be identified. Together our efforts made the Journey trilogy what it is today.
Biographical Sketch: Mark Scherer is the former church historian for Community of Christ.
Title: “My Old Old Path to Become a Community of Christ Historian” by Daniel Kelty
Abstract: My road to becoming a Community of Christ historian came through a promise of my parents to pay for our first year of college wherever we wanted to go. I went to Bemidji State College, Minnesota. My major, Trans-Mississippi West allowed me to write about Mormon “Penny Dredfuls” like A Study in Scarlet. Things changed when Blynn Anderson, grandson of Alpheus Cutler, showed me Alpheus’s sword, and a gift replica of the 1830 Book of Mormon.
September 1972, was when I began my work on a master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Using tools available: books, microfilm and fiche, and research libraries, plus Dick Howard, I wrote “Wear Broadcloth history of Detroit International Stake in 1979.” “Now in this moment,” I am writing a history of the Restoration Movement in Minnesota with the World Wide Web and Rachel Killebrew.
Biographical Sketch: Dan Kelty is the historian for Headwaters Mission Center, Community of Christ. He has been a member of JWHA for over fifteen years. He has two published articles in the JWHA Journal.
Breakout 254 (4:45 p.m., Friday, September 16) (RS)
Title: “Gnostic Mormonism: The History and Scriptures of Three Gnostic Branches of the Latter Day Saint Movement” by Mike LeCheminant
Abstract: This presentation will discuss three groups with roots in the Restoration Movement which have incorporated aspects of Gnostic Christianity into their teachings. These groups are the Gnostic Temple of the Pearl, the Order of Nazorean Essenes, and the True Gnostic Church. The presentation will discuss the history of the founders and key individuals involved in these movements, as well as their doctrines, practices, and scriptures, and they will be compared and contrasted with other groups in the Latter Day Saint tradition.
Biographical Sketch: Mike LeCheminant earned a BA from Brigham Young University and a DMD from the University of Louisville. He then completed a general dental residency at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton and an endodontics residency at the University of Southern California. He is now in private practice in Houston, Texas, specializing in root canals. He has seven children and six dogs.
“Enduring Principles in Community of Christ” by Matthew Frizzell CANCELLED
Abstract: This paper explores the development and impact of the Enduring Principles in Community of Christ. The Enduring Principles as filling the purpose of the next “Epitome of Faith” for Community of Christ as it continues to let its Restoration identity be reformed by global influences and cultural diversity.
Biographical Sketch: Matthew Frizzell is the former dean of the seminary at Graceland University.