Morris Thurston is a retired lawyer, historian, writer and lecturer who administers the Miller Eccles Study Group website.

Jan 012013


DATES: September 19 (Villa Park) and September 20 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our September 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, Professor Adam S. Miller, one of the rising stars of Mormon philosophy, who will speak on his recent book, Letters to a Young Mormon, published by BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Adam wrote the book as a way of expressing his Mormon philosophy in a style that would make sense to young adults, but it would be a mistake to conclude the essays are simple minded—they are sophisticated, insightful pieces that will resonate with Mormons whether they are 17 or 71.


Miller - Letters to a Young MormonAdam Miller spends his days teaching philosophy to students at Collin College in McKinney, Texas, but the most important lessons he’s prepared have been for his own children. He distilled many of those lessons into his new book, Letters to a Young Mormon. Miller’s letters are meant for a young Mormon who is familiar with Mormon life but green in their faith. In simple but profound prose, Miller addresses the real beauty and real costs of trying to live a Mormon life in the twenty-first century. He encourages Mormons young and old to live in a way that refuses to abandon either life or Mormonism and he explores what it means to be, as a Mormon, free, ambitious, repentant, faithful, informed, prayerful, selfless, hungry, chaste, and sealed. Letters to a Young Mormon is unlike anything ever written for a young Latter-day Saint audience.


Miller, Adam SAdam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He and his wife, Gwen Miller, have three children. He received an MA and PhD in philosophy from Villanova University as well as a BA in Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University. He is the editor of An Experiment on the Word (Salt Press, 2011) and the author of Badiou, Marion, and St Paul: Immanent Grace (Continuum, 2008), Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Kofford, 2012), Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology (Fordham University Press, 2013), and Letters to a Young Mormon (Maxwell Institute, 2014). He is the co-editor, with Joseph Spencer, of the book series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture, published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and serves as the current director of the Mormon Theology Seminar. He was named “Best Essayist” in 2011 by the Association for Mormon Letters.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


the pretty clearly troubled but not even  close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary

DATES: October 24 (Villa Park) and October 25 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our October 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, BYU Professor Craig Harline, whose primary field is European religious history. Dr. Harline has published a number of historically-based books that have been popular with readers and are held in high regard by critics (see below). Most recently he has turned his narrative skills to writing a memoir of his mission to Belgium in the 1970s (due in bookstores and online on August 30). Craig’s presentation, which will be based on his memoir, promises to be humorous and profound, an insightful counterpoint to the image of LDS missionaries as presented in much of the popular media. It will resonate not only with those who have served Mormon missions, or whose friends or family members are or were Mormon missionaries, but also with other-believers, which is why it is being released by Eerdmans, a well-known publisher of Christian books. You may find it interesting to browse on Craig’s website for more information.

THE TOPIC:  The publisher’s synopsis: When Craig Harline set off on his two-year Mormon mission to Belgium in the 1970s, he had big dreams of doing miracles, converting the masses, and coming home a hero. What he found instead was a lot of rain and cold, one-sentence conversations with irritated people, and silly squabbles with fellow missionaries. From being kicked—literally—out of someone’s home to getting into arguments about what God really wanted from Donny Osmond, Harline faced a range of experiences that nothing, including his own missionary training, had prepared him for. He also found a wealth of friendships with fellow Mormons as well as unconverted locals and, along the way, discovered insights that would shape the rest of his life. Harline’s witty and thought-provoking spiritual memoir tells the story of his coming-of-age on his mission, taking readers beyond the stereotypical white shirts and nametags to reveal just how unpredictable, funny, and poignant the missionary life can be.  

THE SPEAKER: Craig Harline writes and teaches about religious life in western Europe during the Reformation, but he is interested in religion of all shapes and sizes and times. Grants from assorted agencies and BYU don’t quite allow him to say that he divides his time between Provo and Paris, but they do allow him to do research just about every year in archives and libraries in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, England, and Sweden, resulting in books that are meant as much for general readers and students as scholars, and that try to make really old history relevant to modern minds. He has lectured at numerous universities in the US and Europe, and his books have been featured on The Today Show, Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, National Public Radio, and dozens of radio and television programs in the US and western Europe. They’ve also been universally acclaimed, and include Conversions (selected as a Top Ten Book in Religion by Publishers Weekly for 2011), Sunday (listed among the Top Five Books on Sunday and the Sabbath by Christianity Today), Miracles at the Jesus Oak (named a Top Ten Book in Religion for 2003 by Booklist), and A Bishop’s Tale (An Editor’s Choice Book at for 2000).

Born and raised in California, Craig earned his Ph.D. in European History from Rutgers University. He has been a professor at BYU for over twenty years and has also been a visiting professor and research fellow in Belgium. He is married to Paula Kelly Harline, whose book, The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women, was recently published by Oxford University Press. Craig and Paula are the parents of Andrew, Jonny, and Kate.

Posted by Morris Thurston

May 16-17, 2014 — Valerie Hudson

 Posted by at 7:14 am
Jan 012013


How Gender Treatment Affects Political Stability

DATES: May 16 (Villa Park) and May 17 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our May 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, Texas A&M Professor Valerie Hudson, whose remarkable book, Sex & World Peace, published by Columbia University Press, has received international acclaim and is changing the way we think about the relationship between gender treatment and political unrest.


Sex and World PeaceSex and World Peace (co-authored by Valerie Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli and Chad Emmett), unsettles a variety of assumptions in political and security discourse, demonstrating that the security of women is a vital factor in the security of the state and its incidence of conflict and war. Much of the data underlying Dr. Hudson’s research comes from the WomanStats Project, a research and database project housed at BYU that “seeks to collect detailed statistical data on the status of women around the world, and to connect that data with data on the security of states.” This database has the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women in the world.

Here are some excerpts from the many rave reviews Dr. Hudson’s book has received:

  • “An eye-opening contribution to our understanding of the powerful misogynist forces that still contribute to violence and war. This volume should be required reading for all students of international relations and those who make policy.” (Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood)
  • “Sex and World Peace should be on top of every introductory International Relations reading list.” (Sara E. Davies International Affairs)
  • “[A] pioneering and readable book…. Highly recommended.” (Choice)


Hudson, Valerie 2Valerie M. Hudson is professor and George H.W. Bush Chair at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is the author or editor of several books, including, with Andrea Den Boer, Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, which won the American Association of Publishers Award for Best Book in Political Science and the Otis Dudley Duncan Award for Best Book in Social Demography. She was named one of Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009.

Prior to coming to Texas A&M, Dr. Hudson was a professor of political science at Brigham Young University for 24 years and served as Associate Director of the Kennedy Center for International Studies there.

Dr. Hudson joined the Church in 1971, receiving her bachelor’s degree from BYU and her master’s and Ph.D. from Ohio State University. She is married to artist and landscape architect David Cassler and they are the parents of eight children.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


Growth of the Church — Facts and Myths

DATES: April 11 (Villa Park) and April 12 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our April 2014 Miller Eccles speakers, Dr. David Stewart and Matthew Martinich, authors of a new Church almanac that provides an in-depth look at membership, retention, activity and much more. David and Matt’s work was profiled recently in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune that can be found here.


Reaching the NationsChances are we’ve all heard someone say, “We are the fastest growing church in the world; sometime during this century we’ll be bigger than the Catholics.” Indeed, some 30 years ago, renown non-Mormon sociologist Rodney Stark published a groundbreaking article called “The Rise of a New World Faith” in which he suggested the conceivable possibility that there could be more than 265 million Mormons by 2080 and that our numbers could rival other world faiths such as Islam, Buddhism, historic Christianity, and Hinduism. In 2001 the U.S. News and World Report ran a cover story about “The Mormon Moment” in which it stated, “By almost any measure, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the world’s richest and fastest-growing religious movements.” Other publications have made similar observations.

What are the facts surrounding Church expansion? Are we growing faster than any other religion? Where is this growth occurring? Where is it not? What are the reasons for growth or stagnation, as the case may be? What are the results of various programs the Church has undertaken to stimulate growth?

Dr. David Stewart, who served a mission in Russia, and Matthew Martinich, who served in South Korea, have made it their mission to investigate and analyze the growth of the Church and to determine where the truths and myths are. Their work culminated this year in the publication of their Church almanac, Reaching the Nations, a prodigious two-volume work based on careful analysis of official reports, as well as thousands of unofficial reports from members and leaders throughout the globe.


Stewart, David (1)

David G. Stewart, Jr., MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Las Vegas, Nevada who was named as one of Las Vegas’s top doctors each year from 2010 through 2013. David is fluent in several languages has conducted research and published papers on culture, church growth, and mission outreach in over thirty-five countries. He has also written on the sociology of religion and is author of Law of the Harvest: Practical Principles of Effective Missionary Work and coauthor of Reaching the Nations: International Church Growth Almanac, as well as various articles and book chapters.

Martinich, Matt 1 (1)Matthew Martinich, MA, is a behavioral psychotherapist and clinical psychology doctoral student in Colorado Springs, Colorado who provides treatment to families court ordered for mental health services due to child abuse and neglect findings. He has conducted extensive research within the past seven years examining how contextual factors and LDS missionary tactics have influenced growth rates in the LDS Church.  He maintains a blog called “LDS Church Growth” that provides updates on growth and missionary developments worldwide.  Matt is coauthor of Reaching the Nations: International Church Growth Almananc and has written hundreds of case studies and other articles that summarize, analyze, and predict LDS growth trends.

Posted by Morris Thurston

March 14-15, 2014 — Brandon Plewe

 Posted by at 7:12 am
Jan 012013


Cartographical Depictions of LDS History

DATES: March 14 (Villa Park) and March 15 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our March 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, BYU Professor Brandon Plewe, whose book, Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History, received the 2013 Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association. I have a copy of the book and it is a remarkable achievement. For those of you who enjoy cartographical depictions of history (and who doesn’t?), Brandon’s presentation will be a treat.


Plewe, Mapping Mormonism (1)Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History, brings together contributions from sixty experts in the fields of geography, history, Mormon history, and economics to produce the most monumental work of its kind. Among those contributing authors are many past Miller Eccles presenters, including S. Kent Brown, Richard Turley, Gregory Prince, Reid Neilson, Ronald Esplin, Mark Staker, Donald Enders, Alexander Baugh, Richard Bennett, Jill Mulvay Derr, William Hartley, Thomas Alexander and Kenneth Godfrey.

More than an atlas, the book also includes hundreds of timelines and charts, along with carefully researched descriptions, that track the Mormon movement from its humble beginnings to its worldwide expansion.

A work of this magnitude rarely comes along. Five years in the making and updated right before going to press, Mapping Mormonism is proving to be a landmark reference work in Mormon studies. Brandon’s presentation will draw on the most interesting of the book’s maps and charts and will discuss how they came to be and what we learn from them.


Plewe, BrandonBrandon Plewe is is assistant professor of Geography at Brigham Young University. After a bachelor’s degree in Cartography and Mathematics from Brigham Young University, he earned his masters and PhD degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. A cartographer at heart, his career has focused on historical geographic information systems (GIS) and historical cartography, with an emphasis on representing the spatial history of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brandon and his wife Jamie have five children.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013
Barlow, Mormons and the Bible (1)


DATES: February 21 (Villa Park) and February 22 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our February 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, Professor Philip Barlow, head of the Mormon Studies Program at Utah State University, whose recently re-issued book, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion, published by Oxford University Press, is considered a Mormon classic. Another timely presentation as we begin the study of the Bible in Gospel Doctrine class.


Barlow, Mormons and the Bible (1)

“The Joseph Smith in our heads is too small!” That is an astounding claim, given the international derision and devotion he has inspired among millions. Yet the scope, nature, and radicalism of his prophetic project is more vast and more radical than his followers or critics generally grasp. He was correct in more ways than he may have intended when he said, “No man knows my history.”

When Dr. Barlow published the first edition Mormons and the Bible two decades ago, he argued that scrutiny of Joseph’s complex relationship with the Bible held promise of illuminating crucial aspects of the mystery of the Mormon prophet.  He still believes that, but in recent years he has come to judge Joseph’s intention and method as more expansive than formerly comprehended.  Dr. Barlow will discuss several layers of Joseph’s interactions with the Bible that he has come to see differently than he formerly did.

There are many great reviews of Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible, including these:

“One of the most interesting books I have read on Mormonism in recent years….This is a persuasive and well-written book that offers a fresh approach to understanding the saints within a larger context of American religion.”–American Historical Review

“An important seminal work, among the five or six most significant works examining Mormonism’s rich and varied past to appear over the course of the past 20 years. As such, it is highly recommended as essential reading for all students of Mormon studies and the American West generally.”– Journal of the West


Barlow, PhilPhilip L. Barlow is Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University. He earned a B. A. from Weber State College and an M.T.S. and Ph.D. (1988, with an emphasis on Religion and American Culture and on the History of Christianity) from Harvard University. At Utah State he has taught courses in Religious Studies, Mormonism, American religion, and explorations of religion in relation to suffering, time, silence, and film.

His books include The Oxford Handbook to Mormonism (co-edited with Terryl Givens, forthcoming, 2013), The New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (OUP 2000, co-authored with Edwin Scott Gaustad), Religion and Public Life in the Midwest: America’s Common Denominator? (2004, co-edited with Mark Silk). A Thoughtful Faith (1986, editor). He is past president of the Mormon History Association.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


Genesis through Deuteronomy

DATES: January 17 (Villa Park) and January 18 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our January 2014 Miller Eccles speaker, Professor David Bokovoy of the University of Utah, whose new book, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis — Deuteronomy, will be available in November 2013. This timely presentation will be a great way to kick off the year of Old Testament study in your Gospel Doctrine class.

THE TOPIC: Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament

For the last two centuries, biblical scholars have made discoveries and insights about the Old Testament that have greatly changed the way in which the authorship of these ancient scriptures have been understood. In the first of three volumes spanning the entire Hebrew Bible, David Bokovoy dives into the Penateuch, showing how and why textual criticism has led biblical scholars today to understand the first five books of the Bible as an amalgamation of multiple texts into a single, though often complicated narrative; and he discusses what implications those have for Latter-day Saint understandings of the Bible and modern scripture.


Bokovoy, David (1)David Bokovoy holds a PhD in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East and an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies both from Brandeis University. He received his BA from Brigham Young University, majoring in History and minoring in Near Eastern Studies. In addition to his work in Mormon studies, David has published articles on the Hebrew Bible in a variety of academic venues including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum, Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, and the FARMS Review. He is the co-author of the book Testaments: Links Between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible.

The father of four children Kate, Rebekah, Joshua, and Madelyn, David is married to the former Carolyn Bird. He currently teaches courses in Bible and Mormon Studies at the University of Utah.

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


Mormons and Humor?

DATES: November 15 (Villa Park) and November 16 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are excited to have as our November 2013 Miller Eccles speaker, Salt Lake Tribune humorist, Robert Kirby. Most of our group will be familiar with Robert’s sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always insightful tri-weekly columns for the Tribune.

Wake Me for the Resurrection (1)THE TOPIC:

Mormons and humor—two topics that sometimes don’t seem to go together. However, through the years, Robert Kirby has managed to help us see our quirks and foibles in a humorous light. Who can forget his “13 Particles of Faith?” Or his fascinating commentary on Elder Holland’s conference talk, “Lord, I Believe.”

Just a sample of the titles of Kirby’s books (many of which he has co-authored with the Tribune’s award-winning political cartoonist, Pat Bagley) will raise your spirits:

  • Wake Me for the Resurrection
  • Sunday of the Living Dead
  • Kirby Soup for the Soul
  • Family Home Screaming

Come to our November meetings and prepare to smile a lot.

 Kirby, RobertTHE SPEAKER:

[Kirby's Own Bio]  Salt Lake Tribune humor columnist Robert Kirby was raised in a military family. Following an LDS mission to South America, Kirby became a police officer. He left law enforcement in 1989 to pursue the idiotic notion of becoming a writer.

Robert has written for the Tribune since 1994. His culture column appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, where it is closely followed by world leaders with nothing better to do. He is the author of nine books, including the popular “Sunday of the Living Dead.”

The recipient of a number of literary awards, Kirby is most proud of being named grand marshal of the 2010 Green River Melon Days Parade. He lives in Herriman, Utah, with one wife, three married daughters, and eight grandkids. There was a cat but it died.

Posted by Morris Thurston