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 During his tenure, thousands of important historical documents have been digitized and made available to researchers.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

Jan 012013


Trials of a Female Utah Supreme Court Justice


DATE:  March 17 (Villa Park*) and March 18 (La Canada – Flintridge).

*The Friday meeting featuring Justice Durham will be at the Thurston home, 9752 Crestview Circle, Villa Park. The Saturday meeting will be at the Frandsen home, as usual.

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased and honored to have as our March 2017 Miller Eccles speaker, Christine M. Durham, who was the first-ever female Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court

THE TOPIC: Christine Durham graduated from law school in 1971, when fewer than two percent of lawyers in the United States were female. She has spent a large part of her professional and personal life working on gender equality and trying to address the damage done in society by stereotypes and biases. As a Mormon woman, she has also dealt with stereotyping and bias based on religion, from outsiders, and occasionally on gender and ideology, from insiders. These challenges have motivated many national, local, and personal activities over the years addressing gender fairness, particularly in the law and the courts. Most recently, she has focused on the effects of implicit bias on our gender and racial divisions in this country, and how this can also affect our religious experience. She will discuss her own history and experience in the context of evolving understanding about how we make choices, and what we need to make better ones.

THE SPEAKER: Justice Christine Durham has been on the Utah Supreme Court since 1982, and served as Chief Justice and Chair of the Utah Judicial Council from 2002 to 2012. She previously served on the state trial court after a number of years in private practice. She received her A.B. with honors from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Duke University, where she is an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees. She has served as president of the Conference of Chief Justices of the United States, and also as president of the American Bar Association’s Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the entity that accredits American law schools. She is also a past president of the National Association of Women Judges, and was that organization’s Honoree of the Year in 1997. She was an adjunct professor for many years at the University of Utah College of Law, teaching state constitutional law, and served for twelve years on the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission. She has received honorary degrees from four Utah universities and has been recognized nationally for her work in judicial education and efforts to improve the administration of justice. In 2007 she received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence; in 2008 she received the “Transparent Courthouse” Award for contributions to judicial accountability and administration from the Institute for the Advancement of the Legal System at the University of Denver.

Justice Durham has been married for 50 years to George (they met as college freshmen in Cambridge, MA). Her husband is a retired pediatrician now serving as a Stake Patriarch in Salt Lake City. They have five children and seven fabulous grandchildren. Christine has been a teacher and leader in the Young Women’s program, Sunday School and Relief Society, where she is currently assigned.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


A House Full of Females

Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870


DATE:  February 17 (Villa Park*) and February 18 (La Canada – Flintridge).

*Please note that due to the unavailability of the Fullerton Institute on February 17, the Friday meeting will be at the Thurston home, 9752 Crestview Circle, Villa Park.

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased and privileged to have as our February 2017 Miller Eccles speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Harvard University professor, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who will speak about her forthcoming book A House Full of Females – Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835 -1870. 

ulrichcoverTHE TOPIC: In January 1870, three or four thousand Latter-day Saint women gathered in the old tabernacle in Salt Lake City to protest federal anti-polygamy legislation pending in Congress.  To the astonishment of outsiders, the Utah Territorial Legislature soon granted women the vote, an action that eventually brought them into the most radical wing of the national women’s rights movements. Then, as now, observers asked how women could simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights while defending marital practices that to most people seemed relentlessly patriarchal.

At one level, the answer is obvious. Their own community was threatened. By standing up as women, they defended their homes and their religious identity. But that explanation is too simple. By the time the Mormons arrived in Utah in 1847, female as well as male leaders knew how to circulate petitions, sign affidavits, lobby public officials, and employ the power of the press. The activism of Mormon women emerged from religious passion, from a yearning for millennial justice, from the experience of being hounded and driven from place to place, and from the frustration of vainly petitioning judges, governors, and presidents for redress.  But it also developed out of struggles within their own communities to rebuild the Female Relief Society, which was founded in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842 and dissolved by Brigham Young in 1845. As their own writings attest, female leaders endured both the condescension and open opposition from church leaders.

A House Full of Females explores the complex interplay between outside opposition to plural marriage and the gender politics of early Mormonism.

laurel-thatcher-ulrichTHE SPEAKER: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University. She is author of A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812,  which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991, and many other publications in early American history and women’s history. One of these, Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007), derives its title from a phrase she made famous. Born in Idaho, she was educated at the University of Utah, Simmons College, and the University of New Hampshire, where she completed her Ph.D. while she and her husband, Gael Ulrich, raised their five children.  She is past President of the American Historical Association and the Mormon History Association, and is currently serving as Regional Church History Consultant as well as Gospel Doctrine teacher.

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in January 2017.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


Colliding Views and Hostile Crowds:

Pursuing the Indian Student Placement Program

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

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our Miller Eccles speaker Dr. Matthew Garrrett, Professor of History at Bakersfield College and winner of the 2015 Juanita Brooks Prize in Mormon Studies. Dr. Garrett will speak about his research of the Indian Student Placement Program sponsored by the Church and documented in his recent book, Making Lamanites: Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000, published by The University of Utah Press.

THE TOPIC: Dr. Garrett will trace his adventures as a Native American history scholar meandering into the world of Mormon Studies, with special attention paid to the various perspectives and conflicts of both his own personal academic journey as well as those of the LDS Indian program he studied. From 1970s era protests over colonization, to conflicting views of Indian participants and church administrators, Professor Garrett will survey some of the past disputes that ultimately led to internal acrimony that destabilized, eroded, and finally terminated the LDS Indian programs. In navigating these controversial positions Professor Garrett seeks to contextualize and acknowledge the authenticity of conflicting perspectives and experiences that characterize Mormon-Indian relations and policy.

THE SPEAKER: Matthew Garrett is a Professor of History at Bakersfield College and the winner of the 2015 Juanita Brooks Prize in Mormon Studies for his monograph Making Lamanites: Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000. He has authored several articles in Native American history and currently serves on editorial boards for the Journal of Mormon Studies and the Bakersfield College student journal Roughneck Review.

Dr. Garrett completed his undergraduate education at Brigham Young University where he first flirted with topics of Native American and Mormon history. During graduate study at the University of Nebraska he fully focused on Native American history and anthropology, including four semesters of Omaha language; he contributed to an Omaha language lexicon and an autochthonous garden. In 2006, Professor Garrett received Arizona State University’s prestigious University Graduate Scholar Grant to complete his PhD there in Native American history; there he also taught courses on United States and Native American history. For several years he also edited H-AmIndian, an academic listserv that provides online resources and moderates forums for Native American studies professors.

Dr. Garrett now teaches United States and Native American history at Bakersfield College. Current research projects center in both Native American and Mormon history. He is a lifetime member of the LDS Church and has held various callings therein; he currently serves as gospel doctrine instructor. He is also a devoted husband to an impressive musician scholar. Together they are the proud parents of three precious little girls, one of whom was adopted through the LDS Family Services that once also managed the Indian Placement Program he has studied.

Jan 012013


A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon:

A Literary and Theological Introduction


DATE: November 11 (Fullerton) and November 12 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are privileged to have as our November 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, John Christopher Thomas, who will be speaking on his new book A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon: A Literary and Theological Introduction, published by CPT Press. Dr. Thomas (PhD, University of Sheffield) is Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University, in Bangor, Wales, UK. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Chris Thomas BookTHE TOPIC: Most of us who attend the Miller Eccles Study Group have studied the Book of Mormon in a variety of circumstances. Perhaps we first read it while attending Seminary or Institute; perhaps we served a mission and used its contents in our proselytizing efforts. Most likely we have studied it every four years in Gospel Doctrine class and, of course, we have heard familiar passages lifted from it in Sacrament Meeting sermons, Priesthood and Relief Society lessons and General Conference talks. What we likely never have done is to view the Book of Mormon through the lenses of a Pentecostal theologian and scholar. In this lecture, New Testament scholar, John Christopher Thomas, offers a constructive, critical overview of his own reading of the Book of Mormon that focuses on some issues that often have been under-represented in the literature currently available.

Dr. Thomas will discuss the structure of the Book of Mormon as a groundwork for its interpretation; explore some of the major theological emphases that emerge from the book; provide a sampling of the book’s reception amongst followers and opponents alike; outline its impact in the areas of music and art, and even look at its disastrous interpretations. He will place the Book of Mormon and Pentecostalism into dialogue through historical analyses and theological comparisons. Finally, issues of origins will be explored by examining the earliest story of the book’s origins, identifying the major complications with this standard story, and proposing a taxonomy of various reading strategies in the light of these complications.

IMG_0897THE SPEAKER: Dr John Christopher Thomas was educated at Lee College (BA), Church of God School of Theology (MA), Ashland Theological Seminary (MDiv), Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM), and the University of Sheffield (PhD). Professor Thomas has been honored for his work in New Testament scholarship by election into membership of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and his appointment as the Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee.  He also serves as the Director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University in Bangor, Wales.

Professor Thomas has published articles in several leading international journals devoted to study of the New Testament. He has authored a major study entitled Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community, published a collection of his essays for the church, Ministry and Theology: Studies for the Church and Its Leaders, written a significant monograph on healing entitled The Devil, Disease, and Deliverance: Origins of Illness in New Testament Thought, authored a brief study on John 13-17 entitled He Loved Them until the End: The Farewell Materials in the Gospel according to John, written a commentary on 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, published a collection of his studies in The Spirit of the New Testament, recently completed a major commentary on the Book of Revelation entitled, The Apocalypse: A Literary and Theological Commentary, together with Professor Frank D. Macchia he has authored Revelation in the Two Horizons Series.

Professor Thomas serves as editor of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology (Brill), the Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series (Deo), and serves as General Editor of the Pentecostal Commentary Series (Deo).  Along with his colleague Lee Roy Martin, he is a founding publisher and editor of CPT Press. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Strongly committed to parish ministry, he has served as Associate Pastor of the Woodward Church of God in Athens, Tennessee since 1981.  Professor Thomas has been a Guest Lecturer or Visiting Lecturer at a variety of educational institutions on five continents.  He was named Alumnus of the Year by Ashland Theological Seminary (1992) and by the Church of God Theological Seminary (2004).  Dr Thomas served as the President of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (1997-98).

He is married to Barbara and they have two daughters, Paige Thomas Scaperoth and Lori Thomas Brown, two sons-in-law, David Alan Scaperoth and Chad J. Brown, and one granddaughter, Madeline Danielle Scaperoth.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


The Minutes of the Nauvoo-Era Council of Fifty

New Insights From Recently Released Documents


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

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are delighted to have as our October 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Dr. Matthew J. Grow, Director of Publications at the Church History Department. Dr. Grow will speak about one of the most anticipated volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers Project, The Minutes of the Council of Fifty, March 1844–January 1846. Scheduled to be released shortly before Dr. Grow’s presentation, these minutes have hitherto been restricted and unavailable to researchers. This promises to be a groundbreaking presentation.

Joseph Smith Administrative RecordsTHE TOPIC: On March 11, 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the government of the literal kingdom of God on earth. Known both as the Council of the Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty, the council operated under Smith’s leadership until his murder less than four months later. Under Brigham Young’s leadership, the council continued to meet in Nauvoo from February 1845 to January 1846. In September 2016, the minutes of the council, which have never been publicly available, will be published as the latest volume in The Joseph Smith Papers. This landmark book contains hundreds of pages of hitherto unknown statements by Smith, Young, and other early Latter-day Saints.

The Council of Fifty played a major role in managing Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign, exploring possible future settlement sites, and in planning the migration of the Latter-day Saints to the American West. The minutes provide an unparalleled view of decision making at the center of what participants viewed as the nascent kingdom of God on earth. They thus shed new light on the development of Latter-day Saint beliefs and on the history of Nauvoo and the church during this critical era, while also providing new perspectives on American religious history, political culture, and western migration in the nineteenth century.

THE SPEAKER: Grows_Matthew1Matthew J. Grow is Director of Publications at the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He leads a team of forty historians, editors, and web specialists creating historical publications for academic and popular audiences. Along with Ron Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit Dirkmaat, and Jeff Mahas, he prepared the minutes of the Council of Fifty for publication. His newest book is The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (co-editors Jill Derr, Carol Madsen and Kate Holbrook; Church Historian’s Press, 2016). In 2015, he authored The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane (co-author Ronald W. Walker, Oxford University Press). Grow is also the author of biographies of Parley P. Pratt (along with Terryl Givens; Oxford University Press, 2011) and Thomas L. Kane (Yale University Press, 2009), both of which received the Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association.

Previously, Dr. Grow was an assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He received his PhD in American history from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife Alyssa live with their four children in Sandy, Utah.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


 Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History


DATE:  June 24 (Fullerton) and June 25 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are thrilled to have as our May 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Gregory A. Prince, who will be speaking on his forthcoming book, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History, published by the University of Utah Press, to be released May 30, 2016. Dr. Prince earned doctorate degrees in dentistry and pathology from UCLA. A prodigious student of Mormon history, he is also a prolific author of numerous articles and books on Mormon topics.

THE TOPIC: Leonard Arrington is considered by many the foremost twentieth-century historian of Mormonism. But Arrington’s career was not without controversy. A new in-depth look at this respected historian and gives readers insight into the workings of the LDS Church in the late twentieth century. In 1972, Arrington was asked to serve as the official church historian, thereby becoming the first—and thus far the only—professional historian to hold that title. While the output of and from that division moved Mormon studies to a new level, the shift of historiography from faith promotion to scholarly research and professional analysis was unacceptable to some powerful senior apostles. In 1980 the History Division was disassembled and moved to Brigham Young University, where Arrington’s broad influence on Mormon history remained strong. This biography is the first to draw upon the remarkable Arrington diaries (over 20,000 pages) and it is supplemented by Prince’s interviews of more than 100 people who knew or worked with Arrington. The book provides background to continuing LDS struggles with member scholars, while illuminating the life of one dedicated historian.

THE SPEAKER:  Greg Prince was born and raised in Los Angeles. He served a mission to Brazil and then attended UCLA for six years, earning doctorate degrees in dentistry and pathology. He moved to Maryland in 1975 to work at the National Institutes of Health, and over a four-decade career in biomedical research, co-founded a company that pioneered the prevention of RSV pneumonia in high-risk infants. He has published more than 150 scientific papers, and, importantly for us, also published several books on Mormon history, including the remarkable David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, which won the Mormon History Association’s Best Biography award in 2006.

Dr. Prince is often quoted in national news articles and has appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts in which he has addressed issues involving current topics in the Mormon world.

Dr. Prince is currently serving as the Interfaith Liaison in the Washington, DC Stake.  He and his wife, JaLynn Rasmussen Prince, are the parents of three children, the youngest of whom (Madison) is autistic.  JaLynn and Greg now spend their time heading the Madison House Autism Foundation (madisonhouseautism.org), through which they hope to address national issues facing autistic adults and their families.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Boyd J. Petersen – May 13-14, 2016

 Posted by at 7:26 am
Jan 012013


Landing Instructions:
How to Navigate (or Help Someone Navigating) a Faith Crisis


DATE:  May 13 (Fullerton) and May 14 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are very pleased to have as our May 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Boyd J. Petersen, who is the Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University and the newly appointed editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. He is also a prolific essayist who will draw from his book of essays titled Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Family and Culture.

Boyd PetersenTHE TOPIC: Experiencing a faith crisis is a lot like experiencing turbulence on a airplane: one minute everything is fine, then things get bumpy, everything starts shaking; you’re diving, then climbing, bouncing back and forth; you feel helpless and out of control. Worst of all, unlike on a plane where seated next to you are fellow passengers white knuckledly gripping their seats like you are, in a faith crisis you often feel like you’re all alone. Usually airplane turbulence passes and things go back to normal. Conversely, after a faith crisis things typically don’t go back to what they were like before. You will likely never be the same. Going through this transformation—or watching someone you love go through it—isn’t easy, but it can lead to a deeper faith, a richer life, and greater communion with your traveling companions.

Dead Wood and Rushing WaterTHE SPEAKER:  Boyd Petersen has a B.A. from Brigham Young University, an M.A. from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Utah. His biography of Hugh Nibley received the 2003 Best Biography Award from the Mormon History Association.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Dr. Petersen has twice run for the Utah State House Assembly as a Democrat in a Utah Valley district that is overwhelmingly Republican.

Dr. Petersen is married to the former Zina Nibley, who teaches early British literature and language at BYU and is a daughter of Hugh Nibley. They have four children, Mary, Christian, Nathaniel and Andrew. The Petersen’s live in Orem, Utah. He is currently serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher.

Posted by Scott Volmar