Keynote 301 (8:00 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “Joseph Smith’s Presidential Campaign and the Quest for Religious Freedom” by Spencer W. McBride

Abstract: When Joseph Smith ran for president of the United States in 1844, the central plank of his campaign platform was empowering the federal government to protect religious minorities when states failed to do so. He arrived at this position after years of unsuccessfully petitioning the federal government for redress and reparations for the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri. Smith’s petitioning efforts and longshot presidential bid illuminate the legal and political obstacles to universal religious freedom in nineteenth-century America, including the states’ rights doctrine. The federal government’s failure to provide redress for the Mormons’ lost property—and protection against further persecution—was not merely the product of presidential and congressional prejudice or indifference. It arose from the prevailing constitutional interpretation of the day and explicit legal precedence from US Supreme Court decisions such as Barron v. Baltimore (1833) that maintained that the Bill of Rights did not apply to the individual states. While Joseph Smith was not a legal scholar, his position as the leader of a persecuted religious minority group led him to the vanguard of those calling for constitutional reforms that would empower the federal government to protect minorities. This address reveals how Smith arrived at his bold vision for universal religious freedom in the United States and where his ideas fit in the larger context of the American polity at that time.

Biographical Sketch: Spencer W. McBride is the associate managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers. He earned a PhD in history from Louisiana State University and is the author of multiple books on religion and American politics, including Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America (University of Virginia Press, 2017) and Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Breakout 311 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “‘Passing White’ before the Lord: African Americans and temple endowments before 1978” by Melvin C. Johnson

 Abstract: The priesthood bans against African American members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receiving temple blessings, particularly the endowment and priesthood ordination, were not universally enforced as previously often thought. This presentation examines a number of exceptions for ordinations and endowments before 1978, with explorations of two families. One man “passed” as white, while the woman (recognized as “black”) was permitted to receive her endowment with her husband.

Biographical Sketch: Melvin C. Johnson, a retired college instructor, is an independent historian, researcher, writer, and presenter who has published books and articles on the intersection of pan-Mormonism and the American West.

Title: “Foragers to Farmers: Shoshone Converts Who Helped Build the Logan Temple” by Devan Jensen

Abstract: This presentation features C. C. A. Christensen’s recently discovered 1871 panorama used to teach the Shoshone and other Utah tribes; it is among the oldest extant portrayals of Book of Mormon scenes. Euro-American settlers’ occupation of lands the Shoshone used for hunting and gathering—together along with attempts to suppress the Mexican trade—disrupted the Shoshone economy and society. Federal Indian Agent Garland Hurt began three Indian farms that lasted several years. Tension between settlers and the Shoshone resulted in the Walker War, the Bear River Massacre, and the Blackhawk War. In 1880, church leaders purchased a 1,700-acre farm south of Portage from the Brigham City Cooperative. Many Shoshones settled in the community, named after Chief Washakie, and they helped construct the Logan Temple.

Biographical Sketch: Devan Jensen ( is the executive editor at Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center.

Breakout 312 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “‘Comparative Perspectives on the Lord’s Supper: Delivering the Sacrament Prayers and Kneeling” by David W. Grua

Abstract: The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was included in the Articles and Covenants, the first liturgical guide of the Church of Christ.  How the liturgy was employed, however, took decades to formalize.  Differences in how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized tradition adjudicated the forms and theologized their meaning illustrate important distinctions between the traditions but also highlight areas of ambiguity in the documentary record.  Using a catalogue of sources, we approach practice, and moments of transition that elucidate how believers approached the liturgy, and their sacred texts. Specific focuses of the presentation will be on the delivery of the sacrament prayers and the posture of prayer during the blessing of the emblems.

Biographical Sketch: David W. Grua is a historian in the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since 2014, he has worked for the Joseph Smith Papers Project and he is the lead historian of the Native American Latter-day Saints Biographical Database. He holds a PhD in American history from Texas Christian University and is the author of Surviving Wounded Knee: The Lakotas and the Politics of Memory.

Title: “‘Receive a Blessing’: The Global History of Women and Medicine in the Early Latter-Day Saint Movement” by Robyn Shahan Spears

Abstract: Joining the early Latter-day Saint movement in vastly different nations, Ann Dawson of England and Telii of French Polynesia rose above religious and hierarchical tensions to bless the sick by implementing healing power. Healing power promotes the religious conception of

blessing the sick through prayer, the laying on of hands, and anointing with consecrated oil while also espousing treatment by trusted medicine. These pioneers—the first female converts in each of their respective nations—embraced new beliefs notwithstanding herculean challenges such as legal threats, class conflict, religious prejudice, and gendered tension. This scholarship encompasses comparative religious studies, global studies, and gender studies as it traces the international diaspora of the practice of women’s blessings of healing. While scholars Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright have published recent historiography concerning Latter-day Saint women and healing, their story is largely confined to the United States. This new global research broadens the narrative by exploring women’s blessings of healing in other parts of the world.

Biographical Sketch: Robyn Shahan Spears is a graduate assistant in arts, sciences, and history at the University of Arkansas.

Breakout 313 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “Turning Type into Pi: The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in Historical Context” by Craig L. Foster

Abstract: Declared a public nuisance, copies of the first and only issue of the newspaper were gathered, the type was scattered in the street, and all was destroyed. Reaction to the destruction of the press was significant at the time and over the years people have written critically about the event. Was the destruction of the press out of the ordinary for the time? If so, how? If not, why not? This paper will discuss these questions, placing the event in historical and social context.

Biographical Sketch: Craig L. Foster earned a MA and MLIS at Brigham Young University. He is also an accredited genealogist and works as a research consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He has published articles about different aspects of Latter-day Saint history. He is the author of two books, co-author of another and co-editor of a three-volume series discussing the history and theology of plural marriage. Foster is also on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.

Title: “Another Smith Killed Near Carthage, Illinois? The 1880 Murder of Alvin Salisbury” by Kyle R. Walker

Abstract: After the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the summer of 1844, Katharine Smith Salisbury settled her family on the eastern edge of Hancock County, Illinois. She lived near Fountain Green for the remainder of her life, very near some of those who had marched to Carthage Jail in June 1844 and had successfully driven out the Mormons from their community. Once locals learned of her identity and connection to Mormonism’s founder, it led to untold hardships for her and her children. As her children matured, they clashed with neighbors over both religion and politics, eventually culminating in the brutal murder of Katharine’s second eldest son, Alvin, at a political rally held in Fountain Green, Illinois in the fall of 1880.

Biographical Sketch: Kyle R. Walker received his PhD in marriage and family therapy from Brigham Young University. He is the author or editor of three books (William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet, United by Faith: The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, and The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family: A Family Process Analysis of a Nineteenth-Century Household), as well as numerous articles on Mormon history. He currently is a faculty member at BYU-Idaho, where he works in the counseling center.

Breakout 314 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “Laying the Foundation of Zion: Joseph Smith’s 1831 Mission to Western Missouri” by Alex Baugh 

Abstract: This paper and presentation examine the events associated with the period of June–August 1831 during which time Joseph Smith and over two dozen elders, in addition to some sixty members of the Colesville/Thompson branch, made an eight hundred-mile journey to Jackson County, Missouri, on the western border of the United States to identify and lay the foundation of Zion. It was during this time that Smith received eleven revelations associated with the establishment of Zion in Jackson County with Independence designated as the “center place” (see CofC D&C 52-62, LDS 52-62). Following the arrival of the Colesville/Thompson branch during the last week of July, the land of Zion was officially dedicated (August 2), a site for the temple was chosen (August 3), and a conference of the church was held in Kaw Township (August 4). It was also during this time that Bishop Edward Partridge purchased four land parcels from the federal government totaling 357 acres, on behalf of the church. Partridge was assisted in his leadership role as bishop in Zion, by his counselors Isaac Morley and John Corrill, along with an agent, Sidney Gilbert. These, and other lesser-known events, will be examined and explained in their historical context and setting.

Biographical Sketch: Alexander L. Baugh is a professor and former chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, 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 church history (1831–39). He is the author, editor, or coeditor of twelve books, including three volumes of the Document series of the Joseph Smith Papers (Documents, volumes 4, 5, and 6). In addition, he has published more than 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 the latter organization in 2006–7. He is also the past editor of Mormon Historical Studies and past codirector of research for the BYU Religious Studies Center. He is married to the former Susan Johnson, and they are the parents of five children. He and his wife reside in Highland, Utah.

Title: “Doctrine and Covenants 135 and the John Taylor Authorship Tradition” by Michael J. Burnham

Abstract: Doctrine and Covenants 135 was first published in the 1844 D&C as an announcement of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The initial announcement contained no attribution for its authorship, and that section heading remained unattributed through successive editions of the D&C until, in 1981, a change was made to the heading which stated that John Taylor was the author. In the 2013 D&C, that attribution was removed. As one explores the history of the attribution to Taylor leading up to 1981, one sees a trail of undocumented statements that created a tradition ascribing total authorship to him. This study illustrates and follows the formation, growth, and perpetuation of that tradition—a tradition fraught with uncited comments, quotations, misquotations, and ambiguities. Though the author of section 135 is still unknown, understanding the muddled journey of the Taylor-attribution over the past one hundred years helps clarify what is known, and what is not, concerning the authorship of this modern scripture.

Biographical Sketch: Michael J. Burnham is a graduate student in religious education at BYU and a seminary teacher in Tooele, Utah for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife Madeline Williams Burnham are the proud parents of two sons. 

Plenary 302 (11:15 a.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “Hidden Things Shall Come to Light: The Visual Image of Joseph Smith Jr.” by Lachlan Mackay, Ronald E. Romig

Abstract: Ron Romig and Lach Mackay explore the visual image of Joseph Smith Jr., including the recently discovered Smith/Larsen daguerreotype, and discuss questions raised following its release and ongoing research efforts.

Biographical Sketch: Born and raised in Jackson County, Missouri, Lach Mackay spent fifteen years in Kirtland, Ohio, and has now called Nauvoo, Illinois, home for fifteen years. A member of Community of Christ’s Council of Twelve, he oversees the Northeast USA Mission Field and leads the church’s historic sites and church history team.

Biographical Sketch: Before his 2017 retirement from Community of Christ, Ron Romig was church archivist from 1987 to 2009. Thereafter, Ron was part of the Church Historian and Kirtland Temple Visitor Center support teams. As an extension of career experiences, Ron collaborates with Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation and JWHA Books to produce resources and publications for sale in site stores. He is a past president of JWHA and Mormon Historical Association, having served as a council member and program chair.

Keynote 331: Presidential Banquet & Address (6:30 p.m., Saturday, September 17)

Title: “Mr. Smith Goes to Salt Lake City: Fred M. in Utah 1904–1906” by Christin Mackay

Abstract:  In February 1904, Frederick Madison Smith accepts an invitation from President Joseph F. Smith to attend a family reunion in Salt Lake City honoring the 104th anniversary of Hyrum Smith’s birth.  While becoming acquainted with his Utah cousins Fred M. is invited to speak in the Tabernacle.  The next year, Fred M., his wife Ruth, and young daughter Alice move to Salt Lake City to live among the Latter-day Saints from May 1905 until March 1906.  Ruth called their time in Utah “various and curious.”  While spending time with cousins by day, Fred was studying in the evening how best to convince them the “Josephites” were the “true church.”   Much of the drama of Fred’s visit played out in the RLDS favoring the Salt Lake Tribune vs. the LDS Deseret News and Joseph Fielding Smith.

Biographical Sketch: Christin Mackay is the director of the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, Illinois.  She has served JWHA as journal book review editor, board member, treasurer and now president.  She was published in Ancient Order of Things: Essays on the Mormon Temple (Signature Books 2019).  Along with her husband Lachlan, Christin won the JWHA Best Article Award for “A Time of Transition:  The Kirtland Temple 1838-80” (JWHA Journal 18 1998: 133-48).  Since she was a college student, Christin has lived on the Restoration Trail, from Lamoni, Iowa where she graduated from Graceland University with a BA in history, to Kirtland, Ohio and the Kirtland Temple, to Nauvoo, Illinois and the Joseph Smith Historic Site.

Hymn Fest (9:00 a.m., Sunday, September 18)

Title: “Singing Our Restoration Legacy” by John-Charles Duffy

Abstract: This hymn fest celebrates spiritual values of the Latter Day Saint tradition as they have been taught, transmitted, and rearticulated over generations through song. We’ll sing hymns–or adapted versions of hymns–composed in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries by Latter Day Saints connected with multiple branches of the tradition, including LDS, RLDS, Strangite, and Bickertonite. The first portion of the hymn fest will feature 19th-century songs that highlight different images of the Restoration: an angelic message, a feast for the poor, a modern-day house of the Lord, God’s peaceable kingdom on earth. The second portion of the hymn fest will show how the Restoration’s meaning has been understood and expressed in the late 20th and 21st centuries. We’ll conclude with a tribute to one of JWHA’s founders, Barb Howard, and a look toward the future

Biographical Sketch: John-Charles Duffy teaches about religion in US society for the Department of Comparative Religion at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). His most recent professional project is, an online collection of resources for teaching about intersections between religion and imperialism in US history. He serves on Community of Christ’s Church History and Sacred Story Team. Since 2015, he has spent part of each summer at the Joseph Smith Historic Site, in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he teaches a course in early Latter Day Saint history for the site’s interns and organizes the memorial service held every June 27 at the gravesites of Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma Smith. He created this hymn fest in summer 2022, while in historic Nauvoo.