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

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?
THE SPEAKERS:
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

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