Meeting together in person to exchange ideas, you ask? Haven’t you heard of the “internets” John Hamer? Hasn’t the awesome nature of the MormonMatters Blog made attending a Mormon studies conference IRL (in real life) as obsolete as reading a printed book?!
As incredible as online connections can be, you can’t imagine the fun you’re missing at a real life Mormon studies conference until you’ve been to one in person. I went to my first Mormon History Association conference in May of 2003 and I got hooked. Like the guy in the old Gillette commercials, “I love these things so much, I bought the company” — or my case with JWHA, it might be phrased: “I got roped into being responsible for the association.”
This year I’m planning to attend half a dozen of these conferences and I want to make the plug for two that I will be participating in this April.
First up: The MORMON STUDIES CONFERENCE at Utah Valley University (fka UVSC), April 1, in Orem, Utah. The topic: “Restoration Christianity: Commonality and Divergence in the Latter Day Saint Movement.”
This is going to be a fun little conference. Yours truly will be kicking it off with an overview of the whole Latter Day Saint movement — I’ve put together dozens of charts that I’ll use to explain how the hundreds of different Mormon churches connect historically. That should sell you right there, but wait — there’s more! Grant Underwood and Sally Barringer Gorden are joined by Steve Shields, author of Divergent Paths of the Restoration, Vickie Speek, author of the new book on the Strangites, Jean Addams, expert on the Temple Lot church, and Michael Van Wagenen, author of a book on the Wightites. Also presenting will be President Frederick N. Larsen, a great great grandson of Joseph Smith Jr. and Prophet of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you want to talk about this topic and you live in Utah, you’re not going to get a better chance than this conference!
Next up: The RESTORATION STUDIES SYMPOSIUM in Independence, Missouri, April 11-13. For those of us in the Midwest, Mormon Studies can often seem far away. Here’s your chance to attend a great conference that’s in driving distance.
The Symposium is going to be little larger than the UVSC conference. Starting on Friday evening with a screening of “A Mormon President,” the opening address will be the President Wallace B. Smith, the great grandson of Joseph Smith and Prophet Emeritus of the Community of Christ. Smith will give his personal reflections on the transformation of the Reorganized Church in his lifetime. There will be a host of exciting sessions all day Saturday, concluding with an address Jan Shipps — whom I consider a mentor. Jan will share insights from her upcoming book, which synthesizes a lifetime of observations about the changes in Mormonism since World War II. I think this will be her most important book and you won’t want to miss her preview.
Sunday morning will include an insider’s tour of the Community of Christ Temple complex in Independence. At the tour’s end, church Archivist Ron Romig will open the vaults and display a number of treasures, including David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery’s seerstones, the Anthon transcript, King James J. Strang’s sceptor, and much, much more!
If you can come to either or both of these, I’m very sure you won’t regret it. The best part of the experience is getting to meet all of these personalities in Mormon studies and sharing ideas with them directly. Hope to see you there.