The Mormon History Association annual conference took place in Provo, Utah, June 4 to 7, 2015. Acquisitions editor Dawn Durante attended and shares her impressions.
In 1965, the Mormon History Association (MHA) was founded under the leadership of historian and UIP author Leonard J. Arrington at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). Initially an affiliate of AHA, the organization transitioned to being independent, and each year MHA members come together to study and understand all aspects of Mormon history. This year, members also commemorated their own history at the fiftieth annual MHA meeting.
The conference, which took place in picturesque Provo, UT, kicked off with a reception, complete with a commemorative ice sculpture and retrospective display. Hosted by current MHA President Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, an American history and women’s history scholar, the reception honored some of the founding members of the MHA who were in attendance. Merriment was encouraged in the form of games: a high-tech interactive dance video game was juxtaposed by traditional pioneer wooden board games placed throughout the area. The following night featured ice cream sundaes at a Gold and Green Ball, which is traditionally an annual LDS social event. Throughout the meeting, there was reflection on the changes that have taken place within Mormon history studies over the years. It is an exciting time in the field: there is still much work to be done in purely historical studies, there is a great deal of interest in Mormon women’s history and Mormon feminist studies, and there is growing interest in Mormonism in international contexts.
UIP began attending and exhibiting at MHA in the early eighties under the editorship of Liz Dulany, whose influence is still strongly felt among the MHA community. Acquiring some of the seminal texts in Mormon history, Liz also worked closely with American history scholar Jan Shipps, who is a renowned Mormon studies scholar, a UIP author, and a past president of the MHA. As one of the first university presses to publish seriously in Mormon studies, UIP was a participant in the MHA meetings for decades. After circumstances led to missing the meeting for the last few years, UIP was delighted to return to the flagship meeting for one of its publishing strengths.
And the timing couldn’t have been better! In addition to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, UIP was happy to celebrate some recent Mormon’s studies titles. Christine Talbot’s A Foreign Kingdom: Mormons and Polygamy in American Political Culture, 1852-1890 was extremely well-received. There was a giveaway for the forthcoming The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History, edited by Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst, which received overwhelming interest. Michael Hicks generously signed copies of his new book The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography. Last but not least, UIP could not be more delighted that the year of their return to MHA coincided with author David Howlett receiving the MHA’s First Book Award for his book Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Sacred Space. Howlett was recognized at the MHA’s award ceremony, where David was greeted with much applause and congratulations.
The conference ended with a festive Presidential Banquet, where President Laurel Ulrich gave a much-anticipated closing talk. As much as the fiftieth anniversary of MHA was a celebration of its history and accomplishments, attendees also recognized all the opportunities for its future, and there is much to look forward to next year when the MHA will meet in Snowbird, UT.