Plenary 201 (8:30 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: The Peacemaker Epic: An Iroquois Influence on Joseph Smith? by Dr. Thomas W. Murphy
Abstract: In his 1945 article, “The Mormon Migration into Texas” in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly 49(2): 238, historian C. Stanley Banks makes the first known historical reference to an oral tradition of Iroquois (Haudensoaunee) influence on Joseph Smith in his production of the Book of Mormon. Later versions of an oral tradition perpetuated by the Haudenosaunee themselves attribute neophytes of Handsome Lake with tutoring Joseph Smith on the basics of their oral Gaiwí:yo (Good Message, Gospel) for incorporation into a written scripture for settlers. This presentation employs the literary record of Haudenosaunee oral tradition to consider whether or not Joseph Smith’s account of Jesus in the Book of Mormon might have been influenced by the epic of a Peacemaker who travels across the saltwater, is murdered, and returns wounded and disillusioned to Turtle Island (North America). How has the Peacemaker epic changed over time? How do versions potentially available to Joseph Smith in the 1820s compare with those of the 1940s? The results of this investigation include some unexpected surprises with important implications for how Restoration communities might read the Book of Mormon.
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Thomas W. Murphy has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington. He recently retired from Edmonds College in Lynnwood, Washington where he chaired the Anthropology Department and taught since 1998. In 2004, Dr. Murphy spoke on “Sin, Skin, and Seed: Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon” at the JWHA Spring Banquet. In 2011, he was selected as the Washington State Conservation Educator of the Year for his collaborative work with Coast Salish tribes in Washington and British Columbia. He is currently an affiliate faculty in Canadian Studies at the University of Washington and President Elect of the Mormon Social Science Association. His research focuses on environmental anthropology, Indigenous Mormonisms, and Native Americans and the Book of Mormon.
Session 211: (10:00 a.m., Friday September 22)
Title: Emma and Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, Ohio, Home: A Restoration Tale from Ohio’s Dust by Mark L. Staker
Abstract: In 2012 the Community of Christ made the difficult, even heart-wrenching decision to sell some long-held property to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The transaction included two homes in Kirtland, Ohio, believed to have been owned by Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother William Smith. In April of that year, I was asked to investigate the homes and their history. And the transfer in ownership of those homes along with some additional properties was publicly announced on May 5, 2012. Research has continued since then. By drawing on a wide array of specialists, we know one of the structures was built in the fall of 1833 for Emma and Joseph Smith Jr. and their family. The other was built in late 1836 for Lucy and Joseph Smith Sr. We know more about the original buildings, the yards surrounding them, and outbuildings associated with them. One of the homes was restored during 2022-2023 and opened to the public a month before our meeting. The other site will be marked and interpreted. This paper explores the history and nature of the buildings and how they help us understand 1830s Kirtland better.
Biographical Sketch: Mark Staker is a Master Curator in the Historic Sites Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the recipient of the John Whitmer Historical Association’s best book award for Hearken O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations from Greg Kofford Books and a nomination for the association’s best book award with Don Enders for Joseph and Lucy Smith’s Tunbridge Farm: An Archaeological and Landscape Study from John Whitmer Books. He has also been recognized for his articles on Emma Hale and her family. Mark holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Anthropology and did his fieldwork in the Republic of Suriname looking at the interaction between religion and healing. Mark has done extensive research at Eastfield Village in New York on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century New England material culture
Title: Parley P. Pratt Papers: The Early Years Lorain County, Ohio 1826-1830 by Robert Steven Pratt
Abstract: The first volume of the Parley Papers is being published soon. I will present the first eight items which include documents back as far as 19 February 1827 Lorain county Ohio , Tax Records, Deeds Revelation and Covenants and the 26 November 1830 Amherst Letter “Beware of Impostors” . Parley arrived in Lorain County due to a desire to preach to the Indians. In October 1826 he left Ira Pratt’s house in Sodus, New York and traveled to Rochester then Buffalo and arranged a working passage to Detroit by boat. However, a large gale on Lake Erie forced disembarkment at Erie, Pennsylvania and then by stage coach on muddy roads through Cleveland and Elyria and eventually stopping in Black River townships. Here he met Harry Redington, Chileab Smith, Stanton Sholes, Lucy Halsey (third cousin of Thankful Halsey), Josiah Harris and others. Staying in Chileab Smith’s Tavern and procuring provisions he retired two miles from the Smith property into the area called Russia Township owned by Titus Street and Samuel Hughes. He built a small dwelling obtaining any provisions from local merchants. He ventured to Black River to witness a Land Transaction on 19 February 1827 where Chileab Smith distributed to his son David. He then bargained for his land, cleared it and built a small log house. He then journeyed to Columbia County New York and married Thankful Halsey on September 9, 1827 In October Parley, Thankful and his two younger brothers Orson and Nelson journeyed back to Loraine county. He built a frame house, planted an orchard and crops, and procured three cows. Thankful taught a school near the Tift settlement. The 1829 and 1830 tax records show that Parley was in Russia 5 on Lot 15 just south of Amherst with prominent neighbors of Thomas Delano Boynton, Elias Peabody, Jared Dowd, Daniel Axtell, Dorcas Tift and her Sons. The 1830 Census shows 216 inhabitants. Parley was partially converted to the Campbell/Scott/Rigdon doctrines in 1829 and expounded them to his neighbors. In 1830 he and Thankful decided to leave and return to their hometown. In preparation to leave I believe he made an arrangement with Stanton Shoals to buy the property for $100 which transaction was complete 21 July 1830. He and Thankful left in August 1830 and during the journey Parley leaves the boat in Newark meets with Collin Wells the Son-in Law of Uncle Ira Pratt and Dennis Hamblin in Sodus. Dennis shows him the Book of Mormon. He goes to Palmyra meets Hyrum Smith and is baptized by Oliver Cowdery on September 1 1830 in Fayette. Returning to Canaan and baptizing his brother Orson he then returns to Fayette as a Missionary with Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson and Peter Whitmer Jr to Ohio. Parley helped bring Sidney Rigdon and his group as well as his neighbors in Lorain county including Warren Smith, Sylvester Smith, Royal Barney, John E. Page, Simon D Carter, Philo Dibble, Ann Barnes Smith Haun’s Mill fame, and others. His arrest in Amherst for debt I believe stems from the land sale to Shoals. Elias Peabody who was a constable under Harry Redington conveyed him to the Webb Tavern South Amherst and eventually to Jail and Court in Elyria but Parley escaped.
Biographical Sketch: Robert Steven Pratt is an Independent Historian and retired Comptroller and Resource Manager for the U.S. Army and has had a forty-three year career with the U. S. government in Utah, Europe, and Texas. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University in U.S. history and holds a master’s of business administration from Boston University and a graduate fellowship in government studies from Harvard University. Classical Guitarist studied with Fabio Shiro Monteire in Karlsruhe, Germany. He has written many articles on U.S./Mormon history and resource management including “ Eleanor McLean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt “ in BYU Studies 1975 and “The Family Life of Parley P. Pratt A Case Study of Mormon Plural Marriage” in Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism, Arthur H. Clark, Norman Oklahoma, 2011. Jared Pratt Family Historian. Began in 1972 to assemble the Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt papers by persuading the Pratt family members to donate documents to various archives and have been working on those documents in cooperation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints archives to have the Parley P. Pratt letters and other documents published. Was pleased to be researching in the Archives when Joseph Fielding Smith was the historian and through the Leonard Arrington times, who was a great friend and mentor , and with Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin and Matt Grow up until today which is over 50 years. Expecting that the Parley P. Pratt papers first volume will be published soon.
Session 212 (10:00 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Panel Session Title: Evangelism and Church Planting by Maclane Elon Heward, Cade H. Alvey, Taunalyn Ford, and Nicole Issac
Title: “For the Express Purpose”: Power, Conflict, and Positioning in the Apostolic Quorum During their First Mission (1835) by Maclane Elon Heward
Abstract: Conflict arose during the first mission of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 when Warren Cowdery wrote a letter accusing the Twelve of not teaching the church membership about the necessity of gathering money to build the Kirtland temple. This paper will discuss this mission, the conflict which arose and the placement of the Twelve in the hierarchal structures of the church.
Biographical Sketch: Maclane Elon Heward is a religious historian who is interested in what evangelism and evangelistic structures reveal about the religions, cultures and societies that support them. He currently resides in Cedar Hills Utah with his wife Maria and their 5 children.
Title: “To the Joy of the Little Flock”: Joseph Smith’s Prophecy of Enoch and Vision for Zion as Motive for Evangelism by Cade H. Alvey
Abstract: In Terryl Givens’ monograph, Feeding the Flock, he states that the creation of Zion stemming from the prophecy of Enoch was Joseph Smith’s “true prophetic task.” The revelation of the “prophecy of Enoch” marked a theological and practical paradigm shift in Smith’s teachings and the direction of the church. Prior to this vision, the Smith’s use of the word Zion was similar to his American contemporaries. However, after the vision of Enoch, Smith began to employ the term more specifically to refer to a place and people prepared to receive the Savior into their midst. By August 1831, the land of Zion had become “the most important temporal object in view.” For Smith, the creation and redemption of Zion became a paramount ideal for the future of the Church. This paper aims to explore the reception, understanding, and impact of the vision of Enoch on the Church and Smith illuminating a powerful motive for evangelizing the nascent faith.
Biographical Sketch: Cade H. Alvey is a student of philosophy and finance at Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he loves to study religious philosophy and history. Cade recently returned from serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in West Texas, where he discovered a newfound appreciation for Mormon Studies and the importance of interfaith dialogue.
Title: Restoration Tales from South Asian Trails by Taunalyn Ford and Nicole Issac
Abstract: As the birthplace of several of the world’s major religions and hundreds of minor ones, understanding the beginnings of Mormonism in India is fascinating. Despite having such a complex social structure and linguistic landscape, India has exported more beginnings than it has imported and yet somehow, the Community of Christ as well as Mormonism has made its way there. Eliza Kent in her book titled “Converting Women” talks about the emergence of a “discourse of respectability” among people in South India as being transformative in converting men and particularly women in India into the Christian faith. In my paper, I seek to analyze a series of nested beginnings of Christianity in India. I will do so via a top down analysis approach starting with Christianity in India as my lowest resolution point. Then transition into a mid level resolution analysis of the beginnings of Mormonism in India. Alongside that, I will also briefly talk about the beginnings of the Community of Christ Church in India. Finally, I will have my highest resolution analysis focus on particular lived experiences of a few members, missionaries and leaders in both restoration churches.
Biographical Sketch: Taunalyn Ford is a global women’s history specialist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She received her BA and MA degrees at Brigham Young University and her PhD in History of Christianity and Religions of North America at Claremont Graduate University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU where she also teaches World Religions.
Biographical Sketch: Nicole Issac is a recent graduate from Brigham Young University with her BS in Public Health. She is working with Dr. Taunalyn Ford on the history of Latter-day Saints in India. Having grown up and served in India, she is passionate about better understanding and writing about Indian Latter-day Saint history.
Session 213 (10:00 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: “Organize Yourselves According to the Laws of Man”: Legal Recognition and Incorporation of the Church by Mark Tensmeyer
Abstract: This paper will briefly introduce and explain what it means for a church to organize, obtain legal recognition, incorporate and alternatives to incorporation There was a great deal of regional variance in what forms of incorporation and legal recognition were available for churches in the 19th century. This paper will follow the Church from its organization in 1830 and the moves from New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Utah and review what legal methods were available in each region and how the Church availed itself of those means. Subtopics will include the April 6, 1830 organization, the 1839 proposal to the Illinois legislature to incorporate the Church, and the role of the “Trustee” in the Succession Crisis. This paper will also discuss the effects and consequences these measures had including how the Church held property and relations with the government.
Biographical Sketch: Mark Tensmeyer grew up in the Dallas area and served a mission in Montana and Wyoming. He received his bachelor’s degree in Communication from BYU-Idaho and his Juris Doctorate from Florida State University. A member of the Texas Bar, he lives in San Antonio, TX. His credits for Mormon History include book reviews for the JWHA and AML and an essay in an upcoming compilation from Signature Books on early plural marriage.
Title: The Mormon Identity: The Crucible of Early Church Opposition by Jared Lambert
Abstract: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long and complicated history, marked by periods of growth and prosperity as well as persecution and ostracization. One key factor that has influenced this history is the presence of anti-Mormon sentiment, and its affects both within and outside of the Church. In his book The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South, Patrick Q. Mason explores the role of anti-Mormonism in shaping the history and identity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, highlighting the ways in which this opposition has both hindered and galvanized the faith. This presentation of my paper will build upon Mason’s work by examining the broader historical context of anti-Mormonism and its impact on its theology, culture, and politics. Specifically, it will explore how anti-Mormon rhetoric and actions have shaped the Church’s understanding of itself as a persecuted minority, as well as how it has influenced key doctrines such as the concept of Zion and the idea of a “chosen people”. The presentation will also consider the ways in which the Church has responded to anti-Mormonism over time, including strategies for survival and resistance. To contextualize Mason’s work, the presentation will draw on other related works in the field, such as Jan Shipps’ Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition and J. Spencer Fluhman’s A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America. Overall, this presentation aims to deepen our understanding of the complex relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its detractors, and to shed light on the ways in which anti-Mormonism has shaped the Church’s history and identity.
Biographical Sketch: Jared Lambert, a devoted husband and loving father of four, has embarked on an extraordinary academic journey. It began with dual degrees in Business and Chinese from BYU Idaho, followed by degrees in Middle Eastern Studies, History, and a Masters in International Affairs & Global Enterprise from the University of Utah. A linguist in the US Army, his military service amplified his cross-cultural communication skills. As a Supervising Linguist at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he intertwined linguistic expertise with spiritual dedication. Alongside his pursuit of a PhD in theological history, Lambert exemplifies the fusion of education, linguistics, spirituality, and familial devotion in fostering global understanding.
Session 214 (10:00 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: A Tale of Two Brothers: The Hawley Family in Texas, at Utah’s Mountain Meadows Massacre, and in Various Restorationist Movements by Barbara Jones Brown
Abstract: Brothers John and William Hawley, along with the rest of their family, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1833 in Missouri. After Joseph Smith’s assassination, many of the Hawleys followed apostle Lyman Wight to Texas in 1845. John and William later decided to join the Utah church in 1856, where Brigham Young quickly sent them to help settle the southern Utah community of Washington. The two brothers arrived in Washington, a short distance from the Mountain Meadows, a few months before William joined other Mormon militiamen in perpetrating the massacre of a California-bound wagon train there on September 11, 1857. This paper will explore the differences between how the two brothers viewed the massacre–from William’s participation in it to John’s condemning it. John eventually returned to the midwest to join the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, while William remained in the Utah church. The presentation will be based on my newly published research in Vengeance is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath (2023), and on Melvin Johnson’s biography Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley.
Biographical Sketch: Barbara Jones Brown is the director of Signature Books. Previously she was the executive director of the Mormon History Association, historical director of Better Days 2020, and content editor of the award-winning Massacre at Mountain Meadows (2008). She is co-author of the book’s sequel, Vengeance Is Mine, The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath (May 2023). Brown earned a Master’s degree in American history from the University of Utah and a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Brigham Young University. Besides her family, her passions in life include skiing, any sport in the ocean, and yes, archival research.
Session 221 (11:45 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: “Come back again brother Lyman and dwell in Zion”: Wilford Woodruff and Lyman Wight’s Correspondence, 1857-1858 by Alex Baugh
Abstract: On 7 April 1856, Wilford Woodruff was appointed Assistant Church Historian. In that capacity he worked on revising Joseph Smith’s history (often referred to as the Manuscript History of the Church), which he and other clerks completed in August of that year. Thereafter, Woodruff began working on the history of Brigham Young’s presidency and writing biographies of each of the men of who had been called as members the Quorum of the Twelve. In his efforts to compose biographies of all the men who had been called to the apostleship, on 1 July 1857, Woodruff wrote a letter to Lyman Wight, then living in a settlement known as Mountain Valley in Bandera County, Texas on the Medina River. (Note: The location of the community was covered by the waters of the Medina Lake Dam (constructed in 1911–1912) and no longer exists.) Wight was ordained a member of the Twelve on 8 April 1841, but he had been excommunicated by the First Presidency and the Twelve on 3 December 1848, and he had not been in communication with Church leaders for over a decade. In spite of this estrangement, Woodruff requested Wight provide him with biographical and historical information about his life so that he could write an accurate biography of him. Wight received Woodruff’s letter on 12 August 1857, and wrote back to Woodruff two weeks later. Included in the letter was a 12-page biographical sketch of his life. The military activities associated with the Utah War in 1857–1858, interrupted mail service to and from Utah, so it was not until 30 June 1858, ten months after Wight had written to Woodruff that he received Wight’s letter and his accompanying autobiography. Woodruff immediately replied with another letter of his own, but unbeknown to him, Wight had died on 31 March 1858 and never received the letter. The originals of the two letters Woodruff sent to Wight are not extant, but copies of the originals were made at the time Woodruff drafted them and are archived in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Significantly, Wight’s original letter and his autobiographical sketch exist, and are also housed in the Church History Library collection. In this paper/presentation I will provide the historical context for the exchange of correspondence between Wilford Woodruff and Lyman Wight, noting the particular contributions each make to our understanding of the reasons why Wight remained separated from the main body of the Church, and Woodruff’s attempt to show Wight where he erred in his judgment regarding the authority of Brigham Young and the Twelve. In addition, in the autobiographical sketch he supplied to Woodruff, Wight makes frequent mention of a number of first-hand accounts early events of the Church in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois that are not recorded or reported elsewhere, some of which are taken from his journal which no longer exists.
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.
Session 222 (11:45 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: “The golden harp”: Scandinavian poetry in Bikuben, 1876-1935 by Michelle Graabek
Abstract: “Come sons and daughters of the North, and on the golden harp play” begins a poem published in the first edition of Bikuben in August 1876. Bikuben was a Danish-Norwegian newspaper published twice a month from August 1st 1876 until October 3rd 1935, for the Scandinavian Latter-day Saints in Utah. On April 10th 1878 John Taylor wrote to the editors of Bikuben, “It would afford us much pleasure to observe that the brethren and sisters from Scandinavia of literary ability were contributing occasional articles to strengthen and enliven and diversify the contents of its columns.” Bikuben was to the Scandinavian Latter-day Saint immigrants an important source of maintaining Scandinavian languages and culture. Poetry was one of the forms of literature often featured in Bikuben, through which they evoked their unique experiences. However, this rich source of material has been underutilised by historians, and the contributions of Scandinavian immigrants to Latter-day Saint literature is not recognised. In this paper I will explore some of the Scandinavian poets and poetry featured in Bikuben in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Biographical Sketch: Michelle Graabek earned a doctoral degree from the European University Institute in the department of History & Civilization. Her key research interest lies in cultural identity and community among migrant groups, women’s religious history and transnational history. Her current research focuses on culture and community among Danish Latter-day Saint immigrant women in Utah during the late nineteenth century. Michelle Graabek has a BA in Archaeology from the University of Reading, and an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies from University College London, where she developed her research interests and interdisciplinary research skills. Prior to starting her PhD Michelle worked in education and event program management at historic buildings and museums in England.
Title: Mormon Women and Reproductive Medicine in Late-Nineteenth-Century Utah by Brook R. LeFevre
Abstract: The nineteenth century saw significant changes to medicine, including the medicalization of reproduction, which understood pregnancy and childbirth in increasingly medicalized terms. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Latter-day Saints’ relationship to medicine also shifted dramatically. Many, including an unusual number of women, travelled east for medical training, and the number of professional medical institutions and private practices increased, particularly during the 1870s and 1880s. These brought new treatments and ideas about women’s reproductive health. This paper interrogates questions about the relationship of nineteenth-century Utah Mormons to reproductive medicine. These include: How did the medicalization of reproduction influence medicine in Utah? How did Mormon theology and the practice of polygamy shape Mormon women’s relationship to reproductive medicine? I argue that while Mormon theology and polygamy contributed to Mormon women’s motivation to seek medical treatment, they typically thought about their reproductive abilities in ways very similar to other white nineteenth-century American women. Thus, they easily integrated these new ideas and procedures. I use records from physicians and medical institutions as well as the private writings of women who sought medical treatment to understand how the medicalization of reproduction impacted Latter-day Saint women during the late-nineteenth century.
Biographical Sketch: Brooke R. LeFevre is a doctoral candidate in Baylor University’s Department of History. She is interested in the intersection of women, religion, and medicine during the nineteenth century, focusing primarily on the United States. Specifically, she is interested in women’s infertility and the medicalization of reproduction. She is also interested in Mormon history.
Session 223 (11:45 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Session Title: Cultural Origins of Mormon Racial Practices and Policies by Matthew Harris and Samuel Prose
Title: “We Must Purge Ourselves of Prejudice”: Hugh B. Brown’s Views on Race, Priesthood, and Civil Rights by Matthew L. Harris
Abstract: In a much-heralded interview in 1987, Hugh B. Brown’s grandson Edwin Firmage made a startling claim. He said that his grandfather “never believed” that denying the priesthood to people of Black African descent “had the slightest doctrinal justification.” Firmage’s explosive comment didn’t go unnoticed by careful observers, who admired the late apostle’s liberal views. What Firmage didn’t note in the interview, or explain adequately, is how Brown came to believe that the church’s priesthood and temple ban lacked doctrinal certainty. Indeed, for Brown, there was nothing in the Mormon canon that was racially exclusive, and though he believed that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were prophets, he sharply disagreed with their views on race and lineage. In Brown’s reading of scripture, “all men have a right to equal consideration as human beings, regardless of race,” and thus the iconoclastic Mormon leader spent much of his time in church leadership advocating for racial equality, both in the church and outside of it. In the early 1960s, for example, Brown urged the church leadership to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the same time, he pleaded with President McKay to lift the priesthood and temple ban claiming that it didn’t require a revelation since it wasn’t rooted in scripture. Importantly, Brown was one of the few general church officers of his era to find meaning and substance in a little-known scripture that wouldn’t be prominent in the church until years after his death. Brown claimed that “All Are Alike Unto God” (LDS Book of Mormon; 2 Nephi 26:33), which he interpreted to mean that the church’s policies banning Black men and women from the priesthood and temple violated sacred scripture. In addition, he believed that 2 Nephi 26:33 governed racial equality in both law and practice—meaning that Jim Crow laws also violated sacred scripture. In this presentation, I flesh out Brown’s views on race, priesthood, and civil rights, paying particular attention to how the Mormon apostle read scripture. Part of my presentation will focus on the turbulent events of the post-WWII years, when the civil rights movement forced Brown to read scripture in a new light. The other part will focus on Brown’s persistent pleading to church leaders to lift the ban because he deemed it incongruent with the Mormon canon. This presentation draws on Hugh B. Brown’s private papers—a rich and voluminous record never before utilized by scholars.
Biographical Sketch: Matthew L. Harris is a professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he teaches and researches on race and religion, civil rights, and legal history. He is the author and/or editor of numerous books and articles, including Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right (University of Utah Press, 2020) and The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History (University of Illinois Press, 2015). He is currently writing a book on Black people and Mormons since World War II in which he explores the backstory to how the priesthood and temple ban was lifted. Harris is also on the Editorial Board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.
Title: A Comparative Study of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young Regarding African American Mormons by Samuel (Sam) Prose
Abstract: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had starkly different views about Black people. Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in 1830, not only allowed Black men into the lay Mormon priesthood, but he also permitted them access to limited temple rituals. Smith also interpreted scripture to mean that Latter-day Saints had a prophetic mandate to redeem and cleanse Black people of their divine curse—meaning that, if they repented of their sins, they could return to their pre-cursed state of whiteness. Most critically, Smith derived these views from not only sacred scripture but he also believed that environmental conditions made them a fallen race. For Smith, antebellum slave culture had profoundly affected the intellectual and physical condition of Black people, which provided another reason for them to be redeemed. In contrast, Brigham Young offered a less inclusive vision for Black people, having established a priesthood and temple ban in 1852. This draconian policy barred anyone with African ancestry from full participation in the church. Moreover, Young told New York Tribune editor Horace Greely that slavery was “divine” and justified it by claiming that Black people were born with mental and physical attributes that made them inferior to Caucasians. Here Young drew on 19th century pseudo-science literature, which would later become prominent in the early 20th century eugenics movement in the United States and Europe. The upshot is that Young appealed to “science” to offer a counterpoint to Smith, who asserted that environmental conditions accounted for the plight of those in chattel bondage. Drawing on the papers of Joseph Smith and the writings of Brigham Young, this paper will highlight the ways in which their views of Black people converged and the ways in which they differed. It will also note their influence on Mormon racial theology—an influence that extended well into the 20th century affecting such leaders as Hugh B. Brown.
Biographical Sketch: Samuel Prose is an independent scholar, writer, and researcher specializing in the American West. A retired Brooklyn, New York, police officer, he earned a Master’s degree in history at Texas Tech University after he finished his career in law enforcement. Prose is also an avid reader of Mormon history, with interests in Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the Nauvoo period, and the Mormon colonization of the American West.
Session 224 (11:45 a.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: Critics Meet Author: Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration (with book signing) by Nick Literski with comment by Jason R. Smith, and Lance Kennedy
Abstract: While no one thing can entirely explain the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the historical influence of Freemasonry on this religious tradition cannot be refuted. Those who study Mormonism have been aware of the impact that Freemasonry had on the founding prophet Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period, but his involvement in Freemasonry was arguably earlier and broader than many modern historians have admitted. The fact that the most obvious vestiges of Freemasonry are evident only in the more esoteric aspects of the Mormon faith has made it difficult to recognize, let alone fully grasp, the relevant issues. Even those with both Mormon and Masonic experience may not be versed in the nineteenth-century versions of Masonry’s rituals, legends, and practices. Without this specialized background, it is easy to miss the Masonic significance of numerous early Mormon ordinances, scripture, and doctrines. Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration offers a fresh perspective on the Masonic thread present in Mormonism from its earliest days. Smith’s firsthand knowledge of and experience with both Masonry and anti-Masonic currents contributed to the theology, structure, culture, tradition, history, literature, and ritual of the religion he founded.
Biographical Sketch: Nick Literski (they/them) is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and a professional spiritual guide. Dr. Literski’s research interests include spirituality, Paleolithic cave art, ceremonial magic, Mormon history, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Nick’s work has been published in the FARMS Review of Books on The Book of Mormon, as well as multiple scholarly journals and anthologies in the field of depth psychology. Their recent co-authored book, Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration, was published by Greg Kofford Books in 2022. Dr. Literski has previously presented on topics related to Mormon history, Freemasonry, and ceremonial magic at conferences of the John Whitmer Historical Association, the Mormon History Association, and Sunstone, as well as various podcasts.
Biographical Sketch: Jason R. Smith is a Past Master of Duncan #60 and the Oklahoma Lodge of Research. He is a member of the Scottish and York Rites as well as other Masonic groups and serves on several committees of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, as well as the Oklahoma Grand Lodge Museum & Library Board. Jason is currently pursuing an MA in Religious Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and has been a frequent presenter at JWHA meetings and contributor to JWHA publications and podcasts. Currently, he serves on the JWHA board. Jason For his day job, he works in the automation technology field and lives in Duncan, Oklahoma with his wife Amanda and too many dogs.
Biographical Sketch: Lance L. Kennedy, JD, is a former federal and Texas prosecutor now in private legal practice. Lance holds a juris doctor from Southern Methodist University, a master’s degree in international relations from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include comparative religion, Western Esotericism, and Freemasonry. He is a 32nd-degree Freemason, a member of The Harvard Lodge (Grand Lodge of Massachusetts), and a full member of the Texas Lodge of Research. The Grand Master of Texas will install him as the charter master of Centennial Lodge No. 500 in August 2023. Lance joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2007 and served as a branch president in West Texas. He is co-authoring a book with Dr. Nick Literski on Joseph Smith’s involvement with ceremonial magic
Biographical Sketch: Makoto Hunter is a graduate student in American history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Studying and writing on religion, sexuality, and the carceral state in America, she currently researches the federal policing of women’s bodies in the Progressive Era, the place of late-nineteenth-century antipolygamy enforcement in the histories of sexuality and crime, and romance literature among Latter-day Saints. Portions of her work can be found online in the Intermountain Histories public history project and the 2023 Association for Mormon Letters virtual conference recordings.
Session 241 (2:45 p.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: “Where Did All the Word Come From?” Investigating Joseph Smith’s Oral Performance that Produced the Book of Mormon by Brian C. Hales
Abstract: For three months of 1829, Joseph Smith dictated 269,320 words to his scribes, later published as the 1830 Book of Mormon. This recitation has been described as “one of the longest recorded oral performances in the history of the United States.” It could be argued that as a Mormon Studies topic, Smith’s oral performance has yet to be fully investigated with documentary and literary transparency. Applying social scientific principles, like historical inquiry, creative writing, composition and rhetoric, extemporaneous speaking, and cognitive neuroscience, can predict the oratory and composition abilities Smith demonstrated as he spoke the word stream. This presentation will examine the text and dictation process to identify the skills he consistently manifested as the author of the Book of Mormon.
Biographical Sketch: Brian C. Hales is the author or co-author of seven books dealing with plural marriage—most notably the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013) He and his wife Laura are the current webmasters of JosephSmithsPolygamy.org. Presently, Brian is working on two book-length manuscripts dealing with Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking and the authorship of the Book of Mormon. He served a mission to Venezuela for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for fourteen years. Brian is also past president of the Utah Medical Association (2013) and the John Whitmer Historical Association (2015).
Title: Making the Book of Mormon ‘Real’: Actualized Imaginaries and the Mormon Transformation of the American Past by Jaxon Washburn
Abstract: Critical to the narrative story of The Book of Mormon is its description of multiple transcontinental migrations by Hebraic peoples from ancient Southwest Asia to the Western hemisphere, with the orientation of the work being “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” In terms of both its narrative framing and imagined audience, The Book of Mormon exists within a wider literary corpus espousing variations of the Hebraic Indian theory, itself a major iteration of the lost tribes mythology generated at the nexus of European contact with indigenous American peoples. Not without thematic interlocutors in this regard, The Book of Mormon entered the religious milieu of Jacksonian America to the company of other published works seeking to identify Native peoples with Hebraic origins. Notably, it is after the Mormon scripture’s publication that the popularity of the Hebraic Indian theory sharply declined in Western popular discourse; its inability to maintain persuasive salience over time partially driving its demise. This paper attempts to explore this observed disparity between The Book of Mormon and other related literatures through applying religious anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann’s theoretical frame of “real-making” as its guiding methodology, seeking to identify factors present in the text which strengthen the endurance and dynamism of its own reception. In this, it is argued that The Book of Mormon exhibits unique narrative, textual, and religious qualities which significantly aid in its capacity for real-making, thereby helping to explain its historical persistence as the dominant vehicle of the Hebraic Indian theory relative to other literary works.
Biographical Sketch: Jaxon Washburn earned a masters of theological studies degree at the Harvard Divinity School with special interests in Armenian religious history, Mormon studies, and interfaith activism. While at Harvard, he has worked as a research associate with the Pluralism Project, seeking to illuminate and make accessible high-quality information about the broader religious landscape. He received bachelors degrees in religious studies and history from Arizona State University, during which he served a Latter-day Saint mission in Armenia—an experience that deeply influenced the course of his academic development.
Session 242 (2:45 p.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: A History of the Smith-Rigdon Movement in Texas—From a Texan’s Perspective by Michael LeCheminant
Abstract: This presentation will offer a history of the beginnings and growth of each of the branches of the Latter Day Saint movement that are located in Texas. It begins with Joseph Smith Jr.’s negotiations with Sam Houston to purchase land in Texas and Lyman Wight’s establishment of colonies at Zodiak and Mormon Mill and continues with the early LDS settlements of Kelsey, Enoch, Williamson, Odomville, and Joyze. The town of Gilmer will be discussed, which has a high concentration of LDS members, as well as the towns of Hearne and Marlin, home to some of the first RLDS members in Texas. In addition to outlining the growth of the LDS Church and Community of Christ, other denominations with a presence in Texas will be mentioned, including the Restoration Branches, the Remnant Church, the Remnant Movement (Snufferite), the Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). The 1988 murders of four Texans which were ordered by Ervil LeBaron, prophet of the Church of the First Born of the Lamb of God, will be discussed, as well as the 2008 raid of the FLDS temple at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in El Dorado, which led to the arrest of Warren Jeffs. Jeffs dictated the book “Jesus Christ Message to All Nations” from his prison cell, and it is the only book of Mormon scripture written in Texas.
Biographical Sketch: Michael LeCheminant earned a BS from Brigham Young University and a DMD from the University of Louisville. He then completed a general practice 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.
Title: From the Dust of Texas to the Great Waters of Michigan: Bishop George Miller’s Search for Joseph Smith’s Successor by Vickie Cleverley Speek
Abstract: George Miller, the “Good Samaritan,” who saved the lives of thousands of Saints kicked out of Missouri in 1838-39, joined Joseph Smith’s church and became devoted to the prophet. When Smith was murdered in 1844, Miller did not like Brigham Young but still traveled west, staying ahead of Young and the other companies headed for the Rocky Mountains. Miller soon renounced Young’s leadership all together to follow Apostle Lyman Wight to Texas. After driving their oxen and wagons south nearly one thousand miles from northern Nebraska to near Fredericksburg, Texas, Miller and his family decided they did not like Lyman Wight’s leadership either. This paper will relate the Miller company’s journey to Texas, their attempts to get along with Wight, and the dreams and letters from James J. Strang that led to the Millerites packing up again and journeying 1,700 miles north to a new home on Beaver Island, Michigan.
Biographical Sketch: Vickie Cleverley Speek is an award-winning writer and editor now living in southwest Florida. She is the author of God Has Made Us A Kingdom: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons (Signature Books, 2006), and The Amazing Jimmi Mayes: Sideman to the Stars (University Presses of Mississippi, 2014). Vickie is also the former editor of John Whitmer Books and the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.
Session 243 (2:45 p.m., Friday, September 22)
Panel Title: A Product Manager, a Reference Librarian, and an Archivist Walk into a Bar: How to Use the Church History Catalog to Research the Wider Latter Day Saint Tradition by David R.Taylor, Jay Burton, and W. Tyson Thorpe
Panel Abstract: The archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold many records of great value to those researching and writing about the greater Latter Day Saint tradition. This panel will present how to effectively use the Church History Catalog to find records online and highlight a handful of key collections. Then we will discuss how to work with our team of Reference Consultants and Archivists to help you in your research. We will also present three short case studies from our own research using collections available through the Church History Library: (1) John Taylor (not the apostle), a Latter Day Saint seeker’s journey through three branches of the restoration; (2) Sidney Rigdon’s “new Bible” and the incarnation of scripture; (3) On the reception of Joseph Smith’s “uncanonized” revelations in the Latter Day Saint Tradition
Title: John Taylor: A Man of Conviction by David R. Taylor
Biographical Sketch: David R. Taylor is the Product Manager for the Church History Catalog. He received a BA in Latin American Studies from BYU and holds master’s degrees in public Affairs (MPA) and Information Science (MIS) from Indiana University. As an amateur historian, his research interests include the Latter Day Saint experience during the Nauvoo era and early Latter-day Saint settlements in Utah and Arizona.
Title: Sidney Rigdon’s “New Bible” and the Incarnation of Scripture by Jay Burton
Biographical Sketch: Jay Burton is an archivist in the Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a researcher Jay focuses on Latter Day Saint schism, particularly the followers of Sidney Rigdon. He is an editor of the recently published book Open Canon: Scriptures of the Latter Day Saint Tradition. Past JWHA presentations include: Sidney Rigdon as Prophet Seer and Revelator: an introduction to the revelation books of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion (2010), Finding a Home for the Children of Zion: Sidney Rigdon’s Zion 1856-1876 (2012), Scriptures of Mormonisms Project (2012), A Prophetess in Zion: Phebe Rigdon’s role in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion (2016).
Title: Navigating the Church History Library Collections by W. Tyson Thorpe
Biographical Sketch: Tyson Thorpe has a bachelor’s degree in history and a masters in library and information science. He has been a reference librarian at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, for just over ten years. His research interests lie in Church periodicals and mission organizations, though his work forces him to dabble in a variety of topics..
Session 244 (2:45 p.m., Friday, September 22)
Title: Profiles of Earliest Black Members 1830-1852 by Rick C. Bennett
Abstract: Rick will give brief biographies of well and lesser known early black Mormons including Black Pete, Elijah Able, Joseph Ball, Jane Manning James, Isaac James, Warner McCary, Walker Lewis, Enoch Lewis, and others. Several of these men held priesthood, and Elijah Able even participated in the Kirtland endowment. Rick will also highlight reasons why Brigham Young changed his mind on black ordination.
Biographical Sketch: Rick Bennett is the friendly, independent historian at the heart of Gospel Tangents Podcast: The Best Source for Mormon History, Science, and Theology. When he isn’t interviewing LDS scholars, Restoration prophets, and other Mormon experts, he is teaching math and statistics at Utah Valley University. He also freelances in the network television/cable T.V. industries as a sports statistician. Rick holds a Master of statistics degree from the University of Utah, and has worked as a research biostatistician in the fields of dermatology and traumatic brain injuries.
Title: From a More Exalted Sphere: Latter-day Saint Pioneers in Space by Tyler J. Andersen
Abstract: The pioneer identity is a common theme in Restoration history and literature, and yet this motif rarely extends beyond the 19th century in the collective consciousness of the Latter-day Saint tradition. Don L. Lind (1930 – 2022), Richard A. Searfoss (1956 – 2018), and U.S. Sen. Jake Garn (1932 – present), exemplify Mormon pioneering of a far different sort, as the only three Latter-day Saints to venture into space. While the spaceflights of Lind, Garn, and Searfoss captured the imaginations of an earlier generation, their unique Mormon contributions have been examined from primarily devotional perspectives. This paper proposes an updated critical examination of their stories, which have been largely bypassed by Mormon history writers and researchers. Drawing on autobiographies, recorded interviews, and NASA oral histories, this paper traces the key events that placed these three individuals into space. Furthermore, it explores how their identities as Latter-day Saints presented challenges and opportunities as they trained at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and participated in five Space Shuttle missions. Lastly, it examines the significant efforts of these three astronauts to actively proselytize the message of the Restoration to a global audience.
Biographical Sketch: Tyler J. Andersen is an Instructor of Speech at Tarrant County College and a Remote Adjunct Instructor of Communication for Brigham Young University-Idaho. He holds a BS in Communication from Brigham Young University-Idaho and an MA in Rhetorical Studies from Idaho State University. His primary interests involve rhetorical analyses of key figures in Latter-day Saint history, the American Civil War, and the Space Race. He is also a member of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities and a supporter of Miller-Eccles Study Group Texas. He lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with his wife and four children.