Jan 012013



American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism


DATE: February 9 (Fullerton) and February 10 (La Canada – Flintridge).

(Please note the new location for the Fullerton meeting at the Fairway Village Clubhouse — seeVenues and Directionslink for specifics.)

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

For our February 2018 Miller-Eccles meeting, we are pleased to have Dr. Thomas W. Simpson, who is an instructor in religion, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy and the author of American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism 1867-1940, which won the Mormon History Association’s “Best Book” award for 2016.

THE TOPIC: In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, college-age Latter-day Saints began undertaking a remarkable intellectual pilgrimage from Utah to the nation’s elite universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Chicago, and Stanford. Thomas W. Simpson chronicles the academic migration of hundreds of LDS students from the 1860s through the late 1930s, when church authority J. Reuben Clark Jr., himself a product of the Columbia University Law School, gave a reactionary speech about young Mormons’ search for intellectual cultivation. Clark’s leadership helped to set conservative parameters that in large part came to characterize Mormon intellectual life.

At the outset, Mormon women and men were purposefully dispatched to such universities to “gather the world’s knowledge to Zion.” Simpson, drawing on unpublished diaries, among other materials, shows how LDS students commonly described American universities as egalitarian spaces that fostered a personally transformative sense of freedom to explore provisional reconciliations of Mormon and American identities and religious and scientific perspectives. On campus, Simpson argues, Mormon separatism died and a new, modern Mormonism was born: a Mormonism at home in the United States but at odds with itself. Fierce battles among Mormon scholars and church leaders ensued over scientific thought, progressivism, and the historicity of Mormonism’s sacred past. The scars and controversy, Simpson concludes, linger.

THE SPEAKER: Thomas W. Simpson is an instructor in religion, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy. Born and raised in Olean, New York, he earned a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in modern U.S. religious and Mormon history. From 2002 to 2004, he directed Emory University’s “Journeys of Reconciliation” program, an interdisciplinary travel program focused on religion, conflict, and peacebuilding. His book, American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940 (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), won the Mormon History Association’s best book award.  His literary essays about postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina have been featured in the Canadian literary magazine Numéro Cinq. Dr. Simpson lives in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Posted by Kathy McFarlane

Jana Reiss – April 6-7, 2018

 Posted by at 8:31 am
Jan 012013



Millennial Mormons:

The Rising Generation of Latter-day Saints


DATE: April 6 (Fullerton*) and April 7 (La Canada – Flintridge).

(Please note the new location for the Fullerton meeting at the Fairway Village Clubhouse — see “Venues and Directions” link for specifics.)

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are thrilled to have as our April 2018 speaker, Dr. Jana Riess, author of a forthcoming book titled Millennial Mormons: The Rising Generation of Latter-day Saints (Oxford University Press 2019), which is based on extensive surveying conducted by Jana and Benjamin Knoll.

THE TOPIC: How do young adult Mormons — the “Millennials” — differ politically from older Mormons, and how do they relate to authority? Research from the Next Mormons Survey (2016) indicates that young Mormons are less likely to vote Republican or adopt conservative positions than older Mormons, but more likely to do so than non-Mormons their own age. They also show a somewhat weakened relationship to institutional authority and obedience than older Mormons, but are more responsive to authority than non-Mormon Millennials. Jana will discuss how Mormon Millennials are caught between competing ideals and what that means for the future practice of Mormonism. They’re part of a generation that is the least religious in modern recorded history, but they’re part of a religion that is demanding and rigorous. How they will reconcile these competing ideals tells us a good deal about where Mormonism might be heading into the 21st century.

THE SPEAKER: Before writing The Next Mormons, Jana Riess has authored a number of other books, including Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor, which was selected as one of the top ten religion books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. She is a senior columnist for Religion News Service and is often quoted in national news and magazine articles on Mormon issues. Although she was never able to climb the rope in gym class, she has a Doctorate in American religious history from Columbia University.

Jana lives in Cincinnati with her husband and daughter, who are both Episcopalians, and together they navigate the waters of being a Mormopalian family. This means that they light Advent candles early and often, but hide any evidence wine that is ever used in cooking. Jana is obsessed with travel and also loves reading, yoga, dogs, and did we mention travel? She is a Relief Society teacher in her ward and will be undertaking a new calling as stake self-reliance facilitator in the Cincinnati Ohio stake.

Jan 012013



Religion, Violence, and Peace:

A Latter Day Saint View


DATE: January 19 (Fullerton*) and January 20 (La Canada – Flintridge).

(Please note the new location for the Fullerton meeting — see “Venues and Directions” link.)

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are honored to have as our January 2018 Miller Eccles speaker, Dr. Patrick Q. Mason, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. The title of Patrick’s presentation is “Religion, Violence, and Peace: A Latter-day Saint View,” a subject close to his heart.

THE TOPIC: For more than a decade, the bestselling book on Mormonism has been Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.  Krakauer suggests that Mormonism offers an excellent case study for telling “a story of violent faith.”  It is true that Mormonism — like virtually every other religious tradition — has a history of violence, both perpetrated and received.  How do we understand the propensity of religious believers to commit violence, and how do we harness the power of religion in the service of peace and justice?  Looking at a number of case studies, but focusing especially on Mormonism, this presentation will consider the complicated relationship of religion, violence, and peace, and offer suggestions as to how Mormonism might trade its violent past for a more peaceful future.

THE SPEAKER: Patrick Mason is Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Claremont Graduate University.  He is the author or editor of several books,
including What Is Mormonism? A Student’s Introduction (Routledge, 2017); Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (Maxwell Institute/Deseret Book, 2015); and The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (Oxford, 2011).  He has recently completed a book manuscript entitled The Battles of Zion: Mormonism and Violence, and is in the final stages of another
book, co-authored with David Pulsipher, tentatively titled Weapons of Peace: A Mormon Theology of Nonviolence.  Mason earned his BA in History at Brigham Young University, and his MA in International Peace Studies and PhD in History from the University of Notre Dame.  Prior to joining the faculty at Claremont Graduate University, he taught at the University of Notre Dame and American University in Cairo.  He currently serves as president of the Mormon History Association, and is past board chair of the Dialogue Foundation, which publishes Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.  He has been featured in numerous national media outlets for his expertise on Mormonism. Patrick and his wife Melissa live with their four children in Claremont.


Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


The Mormon Hierarchy

Wealth and Corporate Power


DATE:  November 10 (Fullerton) and 11 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our September 2017 Miller Eccles speaker, renowned LDS historian Dr. D. Michael Quinn, author of the just-released book titled The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power. The first two volumes of Dr. Quinn’s best-selling Mormon Hierarchy series were titled Origins of Power (1994) and Extensions of Power (1997). Now, after 20 years, the long-anticipated third volume of the trilogy, Wealth & Corporate Power, has arrived. Always an entertaining and well-informed speaker, Dr. Quinn’s presentation promises to be one you won’t want to miss.

THE TOPIC: Early in the twentieth century, it was possible for Latter-day Saints to engage in commercial activities primarily with businesses managed by their leaders or owned and controlled by the Church itself. For example, one could purchase engagement rings from Daynes Jewelry, honeymoon at the Hotel Utah, and venture off on the Union Pacific Railroad, all partially owned and run by apostles.

Families could buy clothes at Knight Woolen Mills. The husband might work at Big Indian Copper or Bullion-Beck, Gold Chain, or Iron King mining companies. The wife could shop at Utah Cereal Food and buy sugar supplied by Amalgamated or U and I Sugar, beef from Nevada Land and Livestock, and vegetables from the Growers Market. They might take their groceries home in parcels from Utah Bag Co. They probably read the Deseret News at home under a lamp plugged into a Utah Power and Light circuit. They could take out a loan from Zion’s Co-operative and insurance from Utah Home and Fire, all affiliated with the Church or its apostles.

The apostles had a long history of community involvement in financial enterprises to the benefit of the general membership and their own economic advantage. Later in the 20th century, however, the Church went through a period of financial struggle, leading to changes in the way the Church raised money and the way it conducted its business.

In his presentation, Dr. Quinn will discuss what he has learned in his many years of research into LDS Church finances during the period 1830 to 2010.

Wealth and Corporate Power has already garnered a couple of articles in the Salt Lake Tribune. Peggy Fletcher Stack has a good, in-depth article titled “Historian digs into the hidden world of Mormon finances, shows how church went from losing money to making money — lots of it.” Nate Carlisle has a follow-up article titled “Records reveal how money from Utah and U.S. Mormons props up LDS operations overseas.”

THE SPEAKER: D. Michael Quinn is a former professor of history at Brigham Young University. His accolades include the Samuel F. Bemis, the George W. Egleston, and the Frederick W. Beinecke prizes; Best Book and Best Article awards from the Mormon History Association; “Outstanding Teacher” by vote of graduating BYU seniors; and invitations to lecture at the University of Paris’s Foundation de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and other similar venues. He is the author of J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years; Early Mormonism and the Magic World View; The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power; The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. He is the editor of The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past and a contributing author to American National Biography; Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History; Fundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education; Reader’s Encyclopedia of the American West; Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past; and Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism. His research honorariums include grants from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, Yale University, and others.

Last year the Mormon History Association awarded Dr. Quinn the Arrington Award “for distinguished and outstanding service to Mormon history.”

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013
  Two Historians Probe the Utah War
and the Mountain Meadows Tragedy:
 Discoveries and Surprises Along the Way


DATE: October 20 (Fullerton) and October 21 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to announce that two eminent historians, Richard E. Turley Jr. and William P. MacKinnon, will be our October presenters.

Rick Turley was formerly Assistant Church Historian and is currently managing director of the Public Affairs Department of the Church. Bill MacKinnon is an independent, award winning historian of the American West, who was recently president of the Mormon History Association. They will share new insights from their research on the Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

THE TOPIC: Over the decades, Richard Turley and William MacKinnon have researched and written extensively about Utah’s long, contentious territorial period. They approach the subject from quite different  religious, educational, military, professional, geographical, and even generational backgrounds. Despite (or perhaps because of) such differences, these two historians are close personal friends and respectful colleagues, whose work has been enriched by the informal and stimulating exchange of discoveries and ideas over more than twenty years. Rick and Bill have often shared a platform to discuss their findings and to learn from audiences in such varied settings as the LDS stake center in Norman, Oklahoma  and  annual conferences of the Mormon History Association in many parts of the country. They now look forward to meeting again with members of the Miller Eccles Study Group and continuing this dialogue in Southern California.

During the October 20 and 21 sessions, Rick and Bill will share vignettes about the ways in which their views of the Utah War and its principal atrocity, the Mountain Meadows massacre, have changed since they began their examination of these inter-related subjects in the late 1990s and 1950s, respectively, and the surprises they (and their readers) have encountered along the way. Many of these stories are rooted in the discoveries associated with MacKinnon’s two-volume At Sword’s Point: A Documentary History of the Utah War and  Turley’s collaboration with Glen Leonard and the late Ron Walker on Massacre at Mountain Meadows. However, much of what Rick and Bill will share also flows from their subsequent work on these subjects — some of it as-yet unpublished — and will be discussed publicly for the first time at these meetings. The intent and format of the sessions will enable maximum opportunity for audience questions and interactions, so attendees are urged to come to Fullerton and La Canada Flintridge with any queries for which they have been seeking answers.

THE SPEAKERS: Richard E. Turley Jr. was named as the new managing director of the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 26, 2016. Prior to his appointment, he served for eight years as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder. He also served for eight years as managing director of the Family and Church History Department.

Turley received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University, where he was a Spencer W. Kimball Scholar. He later graduated from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, where he served as executive editor of the law review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He also received the Hugh B. Brown Barrister’s Award, presented each year to the graduating student who demonstrates the highest standards of classroom performance.

He is a member of the editorial board for The Joseph Smith Papers and general editor of The Journals of George Q. Cannon series. His book Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992) is an oft-cited history of the famous Hofmann forgery-murder case of the 1980s. Along with Ronald W. Walker and Glen M. Leonard, he authored Massacre at Mountain Meadows, was published in 2008 by Oxford University Press.

William P. (Bill) MacKinnon is an independent historian residing in Montecito, California, who returns for his second presentation for the Miller Eccles Study Group. Since 1963 he has published articles, essays, and book chapters about Utah’s long, often-contentious territorial period in more than thirty historical journals and monographs. In 2008 and 2016, the University of Oklahoma Press’ Arthur H. Clark imprint published his two-volume documentary History of the Utah War of 1857-1859, At Sword’s Point. The Utah State Historical Society recognized each of these volumes as the year’s best documentary history, as have other scholarly organizations.

MacKinnon is a former president of the Mormon History Association, chairman of the Yale Library Associates, sheriff (presiding officer) of the Santa Barbara Corral of the Westerners, chairman of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and vice president of General Motors Corporation. He is currently a fellow and honorary life member of the Utah State Historical Society and president of MacKinnon Associates, a management consulting firm. MacKinnon is an alumnus of Yale College (B.A. Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (M.B.A.), and a veteran of the United States Air Force.

Posted by: Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


“One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly”

Better Understanding Our Relationship to God Through Telling Our Story


DATE: September 15 (Fullerton) and 16 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our September 2017 Miller Eccles speaker, Ashley Mae Hoiland, author and illustrator of One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly, the latest book in the Maxwell Institute Living Faith Series. A distinguished author and artist, Ashley will discuss writing our life stories, whether in episodes, journals or complete memoirs, and will explain how this process can provide spiritual growth and fulfillment and bring us closer to God.

THE TOPIC: Mormons are a record-keeping people. But while much of our writing has been focused on the product of that writing and the impact it may have on future generations (e.g. “we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 2 Nephi 25:26), there is much more to be said about the value of the process of writing itself.

In her recent book, One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly, Ashley Mae Hoiland explores how writing can be both an act of devotion and a process whereby we seek the spiritual and sacred in our own lives. In this presentation, Ashmae will share some of the original poetry, essays, and artwork included in the book, and she will encourage those in attendance to consider how the expectations of our writing imposed by pre-conceived notions of orthodoxy may interfere with the process of honest writing, and how honest, complex and nuanced representations of our personal faith can help us find a deeper relationship with the divine. 

THE SPEAKER: Ashley Mae Hoiland received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She is the author and illustrator of One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly, the latest book in the Maxwell Institute Living Faith Series and the first book written by a woman in the series. She has written and illustrated several children’s books, founded “We Brave Women,” an initiative to educate people about brave women around the world, and run two successful Kickstarter campaigns. She served a mission in Uruguay.  She was the recent keynote speaker for her Stake Women’s Conference. She has three small children and currently lives in Palo Alto, California where her husband, Carl is pursuing a PhD in geology at Stanford University.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013

Standing Apart:

Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy


DATE: June 16 (Fullerton) and June 17 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to announce, as our June 2017 presenters, Miranda Wilcox and John D. Young, co-editors of the award-winning essay collection, Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy, published by Oxford University Press.

THE TOPIC: We owe a great debt to dedicated record keepers and scribes since the time of Jesus through whom we have the New Testament, yet we also lost “many plain and precious” parts of the Gospel. How did this happen? What pearls of great price can we find from the second and third centuries? What happened after Paul wrote his letters? What happened after the Gospels were composed (between about 70 AD to 100 AD)? The “apostasy” has been fundamental to the Church since Joseph Smith’s First Vision. How do we understand it today?

The authors of this anthology require us to rethink everything we thought we knew about the “Great Apostasy,” dating back to James E. Talmage’s time. That apostasy is a crucial predicate to Joseph Smith’s claim of the need for a restoration, so perhaps we will need to rethink what we thought we knew about that as well. Are we ready?
Miranda Wilcox is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University where she teaches medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of religious and textual culture in early medieval Europe. She has published articles about metaphor, biblical epic poetry, and the practice of professing the faith in Anglo-Saxon England. She also writes about connections between the Middle Ages and Mormonism. In the winter and spring of 2016 she was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York, and in the summer and fall she co-directed study abroad programs at BYU’s London Center.

Miranda grew up in Covina, California. She received a BA in English from BYU and a MMS and PhD in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame. She and John were classmates at Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. She loves spending time with her niece and nephews. She enjoys playing the organ and often accompanies her wards and stakes. Currently she serves as a counselor in her ward’s Relief Society presidency.

John Young is associate professor of history at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. While he specializes in the history of medieval Europe, he also teaches courses in ancient history, early modern European history, and all historical layers of African history. His research focuses on the cultural and religious history of the high Middle Ages, with particular emphasis on monasticism, Jewish-Christian relations, and church reform. In addition to his work on Standing Apart, he is co-editor of Preaching and New Worlds, forthcoming from Routledge Press. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Würzburg in Germany and is a research fellow at the Forschungsstelle für vergleichende Ordensgeschichte (Research Center for the Comparative History of Religious Orders) at the University of Dresden.

John grew up in southeast Idaho. He received a BA in history from BYU, a diploma in Jewish Studies from the University of Oxford, and an MMS and PhD in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife Alicia have seven wonderful children. He currently serves as a counselor in his ward bishopric.

Posted by: Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


Insights From a Church Historian


DATE:  April 14 (Fullerton) and April 15 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased and honored to have as our April 2017 Miller Eccles guest, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, First Council of Seventy Emeritus and former LDS Church Historian

THE TOPIC: Elder Jensen served as Church Historian during a key period for that office–from 2005 to 2012. It was during this time that the Joseph Smith Papers Project took off and it has been producing important new volumes almost every year for the past decade. In addition, the new Church History Library was constructed and the History Department expanded and moved into modern new quarters. The scholars and researchers who had been at Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at BYU were brought back to Salt Lake. The Church Historian’s Press was launched as the publisher of the Joseph Smith Papers, as well as selected other important Church history volumes.

Elder Jensen has been lauded as one of the most important moving forces behind the new openness in Church History. During his tenure, thousands of important historical documents have been digitized and made available to researchers. The Church began to direct more focus on its international history and historians were called to individual areas and countries to collect oral histories as a means of preserving these important stories. A number of new essays on difficult historical topics were issued by the Church during this period and Elder Jensen’s Historical Department was key in researching and overseeing the writing of those essays for approval by the brethren. This will be our chance to meet this outstanding Church leader and ask our own questions about the many projects that were under his direction.

THE SPEAKER: Marlin K. Jensen was born, and has lived most of his life, in Huntsville, Utah. He served a mission in West Germany, then received his B.A. in German from BYU. He went on to obtain a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Utah, graduating first in his class. He was called as a bishop at age 28 to preside over the same Huntsville ward where his father and grandfather had previously served in the same calling. In 1989, Elder Jensen became a member of the First Quorum of Seventy at the age of 46. He served for a time as executive director of the Church’s Priesthood Department. In 2004 he became executive director of the Church History Department and one year later he was called as Church Historian and Recorder. After retiring from his History Department position in 2012, Elder Jensen became a member of the University of Utah Board of Regents.

Prior to his calling as a general authority, Elder Jensen practiced law, specializing in business and estate planning. However, his real love is farming, and he oversees a family ranching enterprise. He is married to the former Kathleen Bushnell and they are the parents of eight children and some 25 grandchildren.

Posted by Morris Thurston