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


Biographical Sketch: Associate managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers, he earned a doctorate 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: “Restoration Temples, Race, and Gender.” by Melvin C. Johnson

 Abstract: Those of African-American descent performed Restoration priesthood ordinances and endowments in Kirtland and Nauvoo. Thereafter, none occurred at the Wightite temple in Zodiac, Texas; Nauvoo; or, in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, officially before 1978. Jane James Manning was permitted to be sealed as a ‘servitor’ to the Joseph Smith family in the Salt Lake City temple in 1894. Factually, however, members forbidden by race lineage did enter the “temple of the Lord” and receive their endowments before 1978. Most did so by “passing white” (accepted as Caucasian by church priesthood authorities), but some were knowingly permitted to receive priesthood blessings, including endowments. The study of individual patriarchal blessings led to conclusions that permitted entrance and blessings for at least one African-American woman. This article examines the history of race and lineage of African Americans and Restoration priesthood and temple blessings prior to 1978.

Biographical Sketch: Melvin C. Johnson is an independent historian and retired college professor, writer, and speaker who pursues subjects dealing with the East Texas mill town culture, the Texas Hill country before and in the Civil War, and the intersection of Western America and Mormonism. His work won the Smith-Pettit Best Book Award (2007) for Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Village in Antebellum Texas and the Greg Kofford Best Theological Article (2017) for “John Hawley: Mormon Ulysses His LDS Mission to Iowa and Eventual RLDS Conversion,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. He and Halli, his wife, live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Tyler, Texas.

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

Abstract: This presentation features an 1871 panorama used to teach the Shoshones and Utes; it is among the oldest extant portrayals of Book of Mormon scenes. Euro-American settlers’ occupation of lands the Utes used for hunting and gathering—together along with attempts to suppress the Mexican trade—disrupted the Ute economy and society. Federal Indian agent Garland Hurt began three Indian farms that lasted several years. Tension between settlers and the Shoshones and Utes 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, along with the unfinished Samaria Canal. 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: “To Administer Bread and Wine”: Liturgical Divergence Between the Saints by David W. Grua, Jonathan Stapley

Abstract: The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was included in 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 catalog of sources, we approach practice, and moments of transition that elucidate how believers approached the liturgy, and their sacred texts. Specific focus of the presentation will be on the posture of prayer and the distribution of the elements.

Biographical Sketch: David W. Grua is a historian and documentary editor with the Joseph Smith Papers in the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jonathan Stapley is an award-winning historian and scientist. An active participant in the field of Mormon studies, he is also the Chief Technology Officer for a bio-renewables company. His new book is called The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Ritual (Oxford University Press).

Title: “Bless the Sick: The Global History of Women and Healing in the Early Latter-day Saint Movement” by Robyn 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 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: “The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in Historical and Cultural 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)



Biographical Sketch:

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

Title: Embargoed Paper


Biographical Sketch:

Keynote 331: Presidential Banquet & Address (6:00 p.m., Saturday, September 17)

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


Biographical Sketch: Christin 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 B.A. in History, to Kirtland, Ohio and the Kirtland Temple, to Nauvoo, Illinois and the Joseph Smith Historic Site.