Saturday, 11 June 2016 Today, I got to witness some fine scholarship and a few really well-executed presentations. But, after two and a half days of conference/hotel food, it’s ok that things have come to an end.From Grant Wacker, Duke University, we learned about approaches to historic biography.
I learned about an element of the Utah War from Kenneth Alford, BYU, that I was completely unfamiliar with. When Johnson’s Army cantered into Salt Lake City, they found the streets deserted. Alford illuminated what this strategic move south was like for the territory’s residents from the words of women’s diary entries. Fascinating!
I enjoyed my sack lunch in the company of Megan McShane of the Church History Library, where I have done much of my research. The more we talked about my experiences, the more familiar my work sounded to her. She opened up her laptop and found a recent e-mail from me and we realized we knew each other as virtual patron and employee. So funny. We took a picture together to celebrate the connection!
My favorite session of the week was four papers by Jeremy Chatelain, Andrew Hedges, Gerrit Dirkmaat, and Andrew Reed. They shared research techniques involving historic newspapers that brought surprising and useful results. The findings shared in the second half of the session emphasized the importance of getting chronology right before attempting to understand historic attitudes or events. It was amazing.
My session was last. It was nice to finally meet my co-presenter with whom I have only communicated via e-mail.
Matthew McBride’s work centered on the changing role of female missionaries in the first half of the LDS Church’s history. He did this by reading women’s diaries and statements made about them by their contemporaries. Oh, the patience of women. It knows no end.
Time for “After the Call to Zion: Missionary Experiences in Great Britain.” The premise of my presentation was to explore what it was like for American LDS missionaries to serve in Great Britain (1898-1924) after the Church softened its policy requiring British converts to emigrate to Utah. These “After the Call” missionaries were expected to teach investigators as well as build up permanent branches of the church, locate meeting places, etc., when over half of the converts baptized in the previous century had left for the United States! It was like starting over, except now they were doing it against the backdrop of a well-established British press publishing anti-Mormon articles, movie houses promoting wildly fictionalized anti-Mormon dramas, and anti-LDS novels being sold on every corner.
Before we knew it, the session was over and I had to put away my stories for now. A few people seemed to enjoy it and I thank the people who came to listen. I didn’t stay for the final dinner and party but went and had a nice dinner and stroll with a good friend.
The post-conference field sessions continue for a couple more days, but this researcher has two more days scheduled at the Church History Library. Monday, I have a collection waiting for me that I pre-ordered last week. It is coming out of cold storage. I cannot wait to experience that!
I also am thankful to the eleven friends who came to my home before my trip to listen to me practice. Really helpful.