Highlights from Upcoming Papers of the 2015 Mormon History Association Conference

MHA

The latest conference of the Mormon History Association is happening this weekend in Provo, Utah, of all places. Here are some mind-blowing highlights of some of the papers you would be witness to if you were fortunate enough to attend:

“Mormon History, June 5, 10:59 a.m., 2015: Hyper-Recentography and the Study of Mormon Pasts”

Abstract: Utilizing a new method of historiography known as “Hyper-Recentography,” this paper analyzes what happened in Mormon history literally just a few seconds ago. As such, a fuller abstract cannot be given, since the author will not know what will have happened until he begins his presentation. However, the paper will also explore the potential of a controversial new methodology formulated by Professor of Modern History Kal Griggs at Princeton University known as “Nano-History,” which studies history mere microseconds into the past, almost precisely as events are occurring. The hope is that this new–though admittedly largely untested method of historiography–will bridge the gap of the seconds of yesteryear and offer a glimpse into the future of historical studies, maybe literally.

“Churches Gonna Church: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ Churches Church”

Abstract: Until recently little was known about the Church of Jesus Christ Churches Church (CJCCC),  a branch of the Mammalianites, which were a branch of the Church of the Lastborn at the Firstday, which evolved from the Church of All Truth Everywhere (Argonite), which assumed the corporate identity of Holy Messiah Apostolic Brotherhood Church of the Restored Convention of the School of the United Order of New Covenants of Prophets when it folded after all its members were killed in a tragic sheep shearing incident. However, recently unearthed documents at the library of the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, have brought to life the fascinating account of a Latter-day Saint sect whose primary purpose is to break off into additional sects. In fact, the baptism of a new member is the ritual founding of another sect, and members of CJCCC are referred to as “sectarians.” It is considered an affront God–whom, they teach, is constantly restoring or initiating new churches all the time all over the universe–if the Church of Jesus Christ Churches Church goes more than two Sabbaths without dividing, and traditionally members of this fascinating sect ritually venerate their prophet as “fallen” or “damned.” Paradoxically, its central function of constantly dividing itself almost guarantees the CJCCC’s continued survival, particularly in the age of the “nones.”

” ‘There’s Just No @!#$% Way’: The First and Last Year of the 1987 Mormon Nunavut Colony”

Abstract: It’s commonly believed that Mormon leaders stopped sending families to colonize outlying regions long ago. However, this is far from the case, as experienced by the unfortunate Devin Christensen family and their disastrous attempt to colonize the Nunavut Territory of Upper Canada. Sent by mandate of the First Presidency, the confused Christensen family, of Springville, Utah, consisting of Devin Christensen, his wife, Teresa, and their four children, traveled to one of the most remote areas on earth, located a mere five hundred miles from the North Pole. Barely surviving the initial journey (which, among other things, included semi-taming a small herd of reindeer to take them part of the way), the Christensen’s arrived in the Nunavut Territory to find that people already lived there (though the town they settled only had 5 inhabitants). Surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, and with temperatures hovering constantly at 40 below, the Christensens barely endured long months of total darkness, constant hunger, battles with strange creatures they took to calling “Snake Panthers,” and frequent hallucinations among their children of finding Santa Town at the North Pole, after 10 months Devin Christensen famously sent the First Presidency a telegram with just one sentence: “There’s Just No @!#$% Way.” Sadly, the family was never heard from again, though Teresa’s journal was eventually discovered in a library in Ottawa.

“Magna?”

Abstract: This paper explores the history of Magna, Utah, with the purpose to discover why Magna ever existed and continues to exist. With early awful neighborhoods like “Japtown” and “Snaketown,” and terrible smells that continue to plague the town, it’s a mystery that anyone arrived, thought it should be colonized, and proceeded to inhabit it, much less that others would have the same idea and join that first person. I mean, really? There are nearly 30,000 people there. Thirty. Thousand. And people have lived there almost from the first moment that pioneers settled Utah. So it could have been totally abandoned at any time but it wasn’t. Seriously, I don’t think there was ever a Native American population there. That should have been a huge warning sign. Nothing even really grows there. The earth itself is trying to rid itself of the place and there are tens of thousands of people stubbornly refusing to leave. I just don’t get it.

“Enduring Matter(s): The Orson Pratt Academy, 1853-1861”

Abstract: Among the many early educational institutions of the Latter-day Saint movement, perhaps the Orson Pratt Academy is the least understood, and certainly not widely known. Founded and attended solely by Pratt in 1851, and reluctantly opened to additional students in 1853, Pratt was the sole instructor of a variety of subjects, from math to chemistry, to theology, to hylozoic horticulture, and its premiere student, graduating summa cum laude in 1854. Students spent weeks with no sleep in order to discover how to communicate with their own cells, and learned how to ritually seal themselves to a variety of vegetative and geological formations. Pratt was the founder of The Panpsychist, a school newsletter devoted to his study of the ways in which matter behaves passive aggressively when it cannot manipulate space-time to behave as it wants. His quarterly journal, Reason’s Stare, contained fascinating articles on the polygamous nature of the fabric of reality itself, and he initiated the first game of “Caneswitch,” in which participants would hit one another with canes until only one conscious person remained. Somehow Brigham Young never knew of the existence of the Orson Pratt Academy and it was closed the minute he learned of it, but its legacy of shock-inducing speculation about the nature of reality lives on in the off-book ramblings of seminary and institute teachers everywhere.

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