Last summer I was strolling along a beach in Northern California, searching for seashells with my family, when I received a notification on my phone. I was informed that the newest issue of the journal of the John Whitmer Historical Association would feature an article announcing the most convincing argument yet for the discovery an actual daguerreotype of Joseph Smith, Jr. It was pretty astounding to see something as surprising as this coming on a mundane notification on my phone! Finding a possible photo of Joseph Smith in a dusty old trunk in the attic was literally the example I used in my classes to speculate about what the next major discovery in Restoration history might be. And this was actually how the daguerreotype was found!
The discovery of the daguerreotype by Dan Larsen, and the subsequent investigation by JWHA members Ron Romig and Lachlan Mackay were only one of the remarkable events of our story this year. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary by returning home to Independence and convening in the beautiful Community of Christ temple. For me, the most memorable moment of the year came when I was shuttling a group of young students around Independence as we scrambled to prepare for the presidential banquet.
All of these events illustrate that there are new frontiers left for us to explore in Restoration history. We hold the great honor of telling, interpreting, and participating in this wonderful story. The events of this year demonstrate that there are new discoveries all around us waiting to be made, new perspectives to be gained, and new insights to share with the people we hold dear. As historians we know the challenges in predicting the future. Who is to say whether the discovery of a daguerreotype of Joseph Smith, or the emergence of a new historian into our ranks will yield a greater impact on the story we are part of?
The new year before us has just as much potential for remarkable research and discovery as the one just ending. As we prepare for another remarkable conference, this time in the hill country of Texas, I hope each of us approaches the future with optimism. I also hope we keep in mind those young scholars we can mentor and guide into making the discoveries that will shape the perspectives of tomorrow. Let’s seek out new voices and new perspectives to add to the richness of our story. We all know that even if history is the study of the past, it has always been about how we can make the future better.
Here is to another remarkable year in the John Whitmer Historical Association!
Casey Griffiths, JWHA President