Taking Mormon History into All the World

D. Brent Smith

D. Brent Smith, "Taking Mormon History into All the World," Religious Educator 17, no. 3 (2016): 170–87.

D. Brent Smith (brentsmith727@gmail.com) presented the original version of this article as a paper at the June 2015 Mormon History Association (MHA) conference in Provo, Utah. A longtime MHA member, at the time he was Director, International and Interagency Affairs, of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Environmental Satellite and Information Service.

GlobeThe Mormon pavilions' outreach materials declared the Latter-day Saint Church to be "A Church for All the World."

The Mormon History Association (MHA) has sought, per its vision statement, to be “the preeminent catalyst worldwide for encouraging the scholarly study and appreciation of the Mormon past.”[1] In connection with the MHA’s fiftieth anniversary and the 2015 MHA Conference in Provo, I surveyed the degree to which MHA, as well as other scholarly and even social media organizations that are engaged in the study and writing of Mormon history, have achieved a broad and integrated global focus. While much progress can be noted, I suggest that more should be attempted with regard to broader international participation and engagement. My suggestions reflect my own involvement in international Mormonism as well as my career focus on building international partnerships and engaging individuals from many nations in effective global undertakings.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, MHA president from 2014 to 2015, addressed members in her initial president’s message, identifying her commitment “to help MHA move forward in new ways,” one of which was expanding “engagement beyond conventional Mormon culture areas, and [creating] new ways of presenting and disseminating the best work in our field.”

“It is time,” she stated, “for MHA to internationalize our meetings and our scholarship. To do that we need your ideas, your scholarship, and yes, your financial support.”[2]

Fifty years ago, when MHA was founded,[3] the highly successful 1964–65 New York World’s Fair had just ended. At this fair, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mounted a distinctive pavilion that attracted six million visitors. Besides the Mormon pavilion’s theme of “Man’s Search for Happiness,” outreach materials, prepared for distribution and subsequently translated into many languages, the pavilion declared the Latter-day Saint Church to be “A Church for All the World.”[4] With over two million global members by 1965, the Church had an increasing international presence and a readiness to establish stakes and build temples in the world abroad. It was poised for a period of remarkable growth in developing countries—particularly in the Americas and the Philippines, and then in Africa following the 1978 priesthood revelation. As documented in a 2015 study which utilized 2011 statistics, 55 percent of the more than fourteen million Church members lived outside of the US and Canada, with 48 percent of all stakes located in international areas, compared to less than 3 percent of stakes fifty years ago.[5]

A Global Aspect to Mormon History from the Outset

From its beginnings, Mormonism was intended to be global, with its initial foray into the world in the 1840s. Indeed, Joseph Smith famously declared that “the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”[6] Missionaries were initially dispatched to Canada, the British Isles, and the European continent, with Orson Hyde sent on to Palestine. By the 1850s, missionaries had been sent to open up work in Chile, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hawaii, India, Italy, Malta, Scandinavia, South Africa, the South Pacific, and Switzerland, with further expansion in the 1870s to additional countries like Mexico. Missionary efforts were stepped up in the 1890s and saw further expansion in the early decades of the twentieth century to the Orient and South America, with broad expansion after World War II, except on the African Continent.[7] Despite migrations to Utah and the Mountain West, Latter-day Saint converts retained a sufficient presence, particularly in Britain and the Northern European countries, to warrant the publication of Church-related international publications, such as the Millennial Star beginning in 1840 in England, and the launching of Scandinavian, German, and Dutch periodicals that continued local publication up until the late 1960s.[8]

Given the active involvement of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ historians in the Mormon History Association, I include a focus on the Community of Christ’s role in international Mormonism and, in particular, the activities of the related John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA). From its outset, the Community of Christ likewise established a global presence, initially in Europe, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and Australia, and also more recently in Africa and India.[9]

So, besides the history associated with the Restoration and, in the LDS case, the westward trek and establishment of a Great Basin kingdom, there has been a global aspect to Mormon history going back to the Nauvoo period and accelerating to the present day. The opening of distant areas to missionary work, with either migration to the United States or continued local development, has been variously chronicled in diaries, oral histories, and local records that the LDS Church History Department and its Community of Christ counterpart are gathering and cataloging, motivated to fulfill a scriptural charge to collect and preserve accounts and records.[10] We have many fine biographies and historical accounts by MHA members that address the global and regional aspects of Mormon history as it has unfolded, and MHA sessions over the years have addressed these aspects.

Questions Regarding the Degree of International Involvement in Mormon History

Those who attended the 2014 MHA Conference in San Antonio witnessed the eloquent Tanner Lecture presentation by Professor Jehu Hanciles, professor of global Christianity at Emory University and a native of Sierra Leone.[11] Addressing what he termed the impacts of “localization” and of “multidirectional transformation” on a twenty-first-century global Christianity that is increasingly non-Western, Professor Hanciles suggested that there seem to be limitations to Mormonism’s ability to adapt to these two developments that might call into question what he terms “doctrinal fidelity.” “But,” he continues, “faithfulness to core doctrine need not come at the expense of authentic representation or diversity of expression.”[12] Professor Hanciles then caught the attention of MHA participants by pointing out the disparity between an increasingly global and multiracial LDS Church and the lack of non-US, non-Western, and non-white voices in the San Antonio MHA gathering. Audience comments and discussion at the Tanner Lecture confirmed that this was indeed a critically important issue for MHA, with then MHA president Richard E. Bennett noting, in closing the session, that the MHA Board had indeed given thought over the past year as to what could be done to achieve greater diversity and international participation within MHA. A posting about Professor Hanciles’s Tanner Lecture by Joseph Stuart, a Juvenile Instructor blogger, with follow-up comments by Saskia Tielens, among others, touched upon the issue and suggested the need for a “concrete plan [that] should be carried out to ensure that MHA not only thrives in the next fifty years, but has membership that reflects the racial diversity of Mormonism and those who are interested in Mormon history.”[13]

Living in Germany for several years as a child, serving a LDS mission there, and then returning for graduate study, I gained an appreciation for the rich and unique German contributions to Mormon history, including the special situations of German Church members in both postwar Germanys that have been celebrated in moving accounts by President Thomas S. Monson and in oral histories collected by the Church History Department.[14] Some years ago, a colleague and I wrote an extended memorandum focused on cross-cultural issues the Church was facing in Germany.[15]

In the mid-1990s, as LDS stakes and local units throughout the world were considering how they might celebrate the 150th anniversary of the trek of the Mormon pioneers to Utah, I, together with Bruce Van Orden and Everett Smith, collected and published a collection of thirteen international LDS pioneering accounts, past and current; we selected the title Pioneers in Every Land.[16] I am pleased to note that there has been a much greater effort within Mormondom to identify and celebrate pioneers wherever they are. “Pioneers in Every Land” is now a featured part of the Church History section on LDS.org, and it is the subtitle for featured Ensign and Liahona articles on the history of the Church in various countries, written by local Church history advisers.[17] It was also the title of a 2015 Church History Library monthly series of ten lectures in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

In the emerging field of what is called Mormon studies, a distinction is often made between the “center”—or what I will call “hub”—and the “periphery.”[18] In the LDS case, stakes and temples are now in most areas of the globe, and the blessings of the Internet bring general conference to the LDS global population. The hub remains paramount—in Salt Lake City for the Latter-day Saints and in Independence for the Community of Christ—but with increasing focus on the periphery. In the LDS case, there have been some back-and-forth developments. Locally developed Church magazines were consolidated in the late 1960s with termination of the Millennial Star in the UK as well as other local European LDS publications, in connection with the publication of the Ensign magazine and its companion, the Liahona, which is published in other languages. At that period of time, it was standard practice for Ensign or Church News staff specialists to go out into the world and write what Melissa Inouye has termed “fill-in-the-blank” feature articles about the opening of missionary work, expansion, challenges, and current status of the Church in countries of the world.[19] With renewed focus on the periphery, a series of Church area conferences were held over the course of several years, beginning in 1971. Area Presidencies were established in 1984 with Area Offices also set up. In the Community of Christ case, apostles have been assigned to each of the church’s global regions. For many years now, leaders from the periphery have been called to the governing councils of both the LDS Church and the Community of Christ. Within the last couple of years, we have seen additional recognition of the importance of the periphery in the February 2014 creation of a truly international LDS Young Women’s General Board (women from Brazil, Peru, Japan, South Africa, and New York City, in addition to four from Utah) and the practice, beginning with the October 2014 LDS general conference, of having non-English speakers give addresses in their native tongues.

At the 2012 Calgary MHA, the LDS Church History Department reported on its initiation, in early 2010, of a process to decentralize the collection by preserving and sharing Church history with local areas, coupled with the calling of now more than 220 area, country, and regional Church history advisers to conduct this work under the direction of Area Presidencies.[20] These Church history advisers are certainly in a position to incorporate elements of the diversity sought by Professor Hanciles in the histories they gather and share. The 2015 MHA Conference included two panels comprised of such Church history advisers and specialists from global regions and countries who participated on-site at the 2015 MHA.

International Engagement in Mormon History–Related Organizations

Noting this positive evidence of a greater international focus in these recent developments within the LDS Church and Community of Christ (particularly the decentralization of LDS Church History Department activities), I now turn to my review of how MHA, JWHA, and a number of other organizations and groups are engaging in the study of Mormon history internationally.

The South German Mission Foundation, with support from former South German missionaries and others, obtained donations and arranged for the translation of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism into German for placement on the Internet.[21] And since 2011, Ulrich Rueckauer, Church history adviser for Germany, Austria, and German-speaking Switzerland, has authored some 200 issues of a newsletter, Kirchengeschichte im deutschen Sprachraum, that he distributes to over 700 recipients online with likely much broader distribution through electronic sharing and often placement on meetinghouse bulletin boards. He is in the process of collecting oral histories and developing a blog. He initiated contact to propose collaboration with counterpart LDS history advisers in other European countries, but so far there has not been much interest in explicit cooperation.[22]

Melissa Inouye and others launched an International Mormon Studies Book Project, also obtaining Church History Department approval to provide complete sets of Joseph Smith Papers volumes. The cost of shipping books to universities has, according to Inouye, proven to be so great that other alternatives are being explored, such as paying for library online access to digital acquisitions. Initial shipments were sent to the Institut Francais pour la Recherche sur le Mormonisme at the University of Bordeaux, France, and the University of Queensland in Australia. Inouye reports that one intended recipient of a set of Joseph Smith Papers volumes, a university in New Zealand, turned it down when they found out it was coming from the Mormons.[23]

Mormon studies associations have also been organized in Europe and in Brazil. In addition, there is a Mormon Pacific Historical Society. The European Mormon Studies Association (EMSA) is, according to its constitution,[24] “a scholarly organization that supports the academic study of the Mormon experience in Europe and Mormonism in general by Europeans.” It holds meetings in Europe at a time and place selected by its executive board. The association sponsors an online journal, the International Journal of Mormon Studies, with David M. Morris as publisher and editor. The intent has been to publish one volume a year filled with scholarly articles as well as book reviews. Volume 1 appeared in 2008; Volume 6, dated 2013, is the most recent online version. In accessing its website, I noted that the most recent EMSA conference was held 13–14 December 2013, in connection with the BYU London Centre. EMSA was founded in 2006 and held its previous conferences in Worcester, UK (2007); Turku, Finland (2008); Torino, Italy (2009); Tilburg, Netherlands (2010); and University of Durham, UK (2011). A cursory review of conference programs and journal volumes shows that participation has come from both European and US scholars of Mormon studies.[25]

The Brazilian Association for Mormon Studies (ABEM) holds annual Brazilian Mormon studies conferences. The initial ABEM conference was held 23 January 2010, in São Paulo. ABEM has a blog titled Vozes Mórmons.[26]

The Mormon Pacific Historical Society engages in research on LDS Church history in the Pacific Basin area and holds annual educational conferences and workshops, teaching historical gathering and recording skills. It met in October 2015 in Hawaii. [27]

A “Global Crossroads: Mormonism and Asia in the Twenty-First Century” conference was hosted on 22 March 2014 at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Organized by Elizabeth Heath and Brittany Chapman of the LDS Church History Department, it featured Melissa Inouye, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, and Joanna Brooks, among others. A video of the proceedings was recorded for online viewing.[28]

The Mormon Scholars Foundation, sponsor of the summer seminars that either Richard Bushman or Terryl Givens has led for several summers, has been a key catalyst in the development and mentoring of young scholars, many of whom are making solid contributions in the field of Mormon history and participating in MHA. With their focus on fostering long-term, peer-to-peer and mentor-to-peer relationships, Bushman and Givens have set their sights on including non-US participants in the summer seminars and in developing and maintaining connections with international colleagues. Givens, for instance, was on the dissertation committee of Mauro Properzi, an Italian scholar who studied at the University of Durham in Mormon Studies and now teaches at BYU. He reports that there have been a “sprinkling” of European participants in the summer seminar over past years, some of whom were instrumental in helping form the European Mormon Studies Association. He expected that the 2015 summer seminar would include participants from Holland, Italy, and Scotland.[29]

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship has, according to its public communications specialist, Blair Hodges, “not yet made it a main priority to facilitate greater international outreach or connection in Mormon studies.” It works with international scholars in its Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, but finds with respect to Mormon studies that “the field is still rather U.S.-centric.” In its 2015 volume, the newly “rebooted” Mormon Studies Review features a roundtable of “scholars writing on the topic of Lived Mormonism with attention directly paid to the international scene.” Melissa Inouye has been added as a Mormon Studies Review associate editor and, according to Hodges, she has some ideas of how to increase international involvement not just in the journal but in research efforts more generally.[30]

Certainly, the development and increasing number of Mormon-related blogs have led to increased exposure and discussion of Mormon history topics and issues, providing potential opportunities for engagement of non-US participants. In my quick survey of listings of authors and contributors of several of these blogs, I was able to identify only a few, mostly European, non-US bloggers. In correspondence with Christopher Jones, he has identified two non-US bloggers who blog with him at Juvenile Instructor, as well as other young international scholars, some of whom are non-Mormons, who blog elsewhere or are actively engaged in Mormon studies.[31]

All of these developments are encouraging in terms of expanding the international focus among specialists in Mormon history, particularly the development of regional associations. Let’s now turn to developments with respect to the two Mormon history associations: first, the Community of Christ–oriented John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA), and second, the MHA.

JWHA, as surveyed, has eleven non-US members who receive its journal and newsletter, six of whom are Canadian, with one each from Australia, India, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. Four Canadians attended its 2013 annual meeting, and three attended the 2014 meeting. Queried as to whether JWHA leadership has made plans or discussed the possibility of global outreach efforts like regional (outside the US) meetings, webinars, or forms of distance participation for those who can’t travel to annual meetings, the JWHA executive director responded that no specific discussions have yet taken place.[32]

Focusing now on MHA, it has, as already noted, included papers on international Mormon history topics in its conferences over the years, most of which have been presented by American MHA regulars. Think of the wealth of expertise with respect to Mormon history in specific regions and countries among current historians who have had on-the-ground experience and key contacts in specific geographical areas. Think, for instance, of Mark Grover and LaMond Tullis with respect to Brazil and Mexico, and Kahlile Mehr with respect to Eastern Europe. MHA has met on four occasions outside of the United States, working with local organizing committees to organize meetings in Oxford, UK, in 1987; in Kingston, Canada, in 1995; in Aarlborg and Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000; and in Calgary, Canada, in 2012. With the early 2015 resignation of MHA’s executive directors, I was unable, in preparation for my 2015 MHA presentation, to obtain figures with regard to non-US MHA membership and non-US Journal of Mormon History subscriptions. Though MHA’s historian, Jeffery Johnson, did not have a breakdown of non-US and US participants for the two European conferences, it is significant, according to his figures, that MHA attendance actually increased at its 1987 conference in the UK to 762 participants, as compared to 642 attendees the year before in Salt Lake, and 720 the year after in Logan. Some 624 participants were at the 2000 conference in Denmark, compared to 678 the year before in Ogden, and 823 the year after in Cedar City.[33] The MHA includes specific Best International Article or Best International Book awards in its bestowal of annual awards. It is indeed significant that the 2015 Leonard J. Arrington Award was bestowed on Néstor Curbelo, the LDS South American South Area history adviser, who has written histories of the Church in Argentina, his native Uruguay, and other South American countries.

Increasing its focus on international Mormon history and non-US participation at its conferences, in connection with the “preeminent catalyst worldwide” clause in the MHA mission statement, has indeed been a topic of emphasis in MHA Board discussions as evidenced in the invitation to Jehu Hanciles to present the 2014 Tanner Lecture. The fruits of this focus are evident in the fact, as reported by MHA membership chair Barbara Brown, that more than thirty historians from outside the US planned to come to the 2015 MHA, with the 2015 program “showing perhaps the widest diversity of cultures ever represented at MHA.”[34] This was indeed a remarkable achievement. It remains to be seen if this level of international participation can be sustained in future MHA conferences.

The combination of travel, lodging, and registration expenses makes participation in MHA as well as JWHA conferences expensive for many non-North American attendees, particularly those from developing countries. The fact that English is the established and expected language for these conferences is also challenging for non-English speakers. An increasing percentage of individuals, particularly in developed countries, do have some working knowledge of English, and in the case of those associated with both churches, also have a motivation to connect with English source material. Christopher Jones notes that “the few international scholars working in Mormon studies are a predominantly English-speaking bunch. Very, very few are involved from Latin America, Asia and other non-English speaking parts of the globe.” [35]

Noting the generally positive, though somewhat limited, developments in the organizations I surveyed for this paper, let me suggest there are yet many more challenges to address, notably the need for MHA and other Mormon history-related activities to connect to more non-Western and racially diverse participants, as suggested by Professor Hanciles—at least reflecting the diverse memberships of the Latter-day Saint and Community of Christ churches. Certainly the LDS Church History Department is encountering and dealing with this challenge in identifying and working with its Church history advisers in the many developing countries within the global LDS population.

Church Pavilion at World's FairAt the highly successful 1964-65 New York World's Fair, the Church mounted a distinctive pavilion that attracted six million visitors.

Potentially Applicable Models for International Outreach and Participation

Focused efforts in today’s world to broaden international outreach as well as major advances in communications technology are having a key impact in enabling enhanced participation, spurring international partnerships, and effectively including individuals from many nations (and particularly developing countries) in ongoing and new international efforts. I share my experience in two such efforts with the intent of demonstrating how they might be directly applicable to MHA, JWHA, the Mormon Scholars Foundation, and the blogs and other activities I surveyed that would benefit from a more diverse and international approach in their focus on Mormon history.

I have worked in international affairs for the Satellite and Information Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and participated on a frequent basis in Internet web conferencing with counterparts in other organizations, including many from developing countries. A working group I served on organized the November 2015 annual ministerial meeting of a ninety-seven-nation environmental organization that was hosted in Mexico. Bridging many time zones, our working group met virtually at least monthly through a GoToMeeting web conference, after having gotten together for an initial three- to four-day meeting in January 2015 that, of course, required travel on our part. We collaborated via email and subgroup web conferences, finalizing our documents and other products with the larger group in our monthly web conference. We interacted through discussion, recognizing each other’s faces via the webcams, in this way and through email, building the personal relationships that are so important to collaboration.

In another situation, I cochaired the environmental subcommittee of an international federation dealing with space and related applications: NASA and NOAA are the US member agencies involved along with many foreign space agencies and space industrial organizations. All members are assessed prorated annual fees; all individuals involved also pay registration fees for the annual congress. Young professionals (up to age 35) and students pay reduced fees, with several receiving stipends from various sources to cover transportation and lodging. The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs and certain space agencies provide funds to cover travel, lodging, and registration stipends for a number of attendees from developing countries who participate in a special three-day workshop that precedes the annual congress and then stay on for the congress itself. Officers in the federation as well as various space organization leaders make workshop presentations and interact with the participants from developing countries. Similarly, they connect with both young professionals and students in special seminar panels and networking activities that the congress arranges for both these groups—essentially providing a mentoring role. Participants in the developing-country workshop, the young professionals, and students are encouraged to propose and present a paper in a congress technical session. As you might imagine, those who participate in this special manner are highly motivated to participate in the federation and its congresses and to pursue professional opportunities in space-related fields. They benefit from long-term contact with those who mentor them.

The young professionals and students, with the superior IT skills their generation possesses, have added a new dimension to the activities of the congress and the federation itself. As a pilot activity, the young professionals convinced congress officials to allow the addition of a few virtual forums on key topics of interest so that certain congress sessions could be broadcast worldwide as webinars. They are set up through advance registration to include young professionals who could not attend the congress. The federation’s young professionals, in coordination with a federation officer, have sponsored additional webinars throughout the year. Using webcams, participants connect via local, toll-free numbers or use Skype or VOIP. Presentations and charts can be displayed. Such events can be videotaped and made available via YouTube or an organizational website. Donor organizations initially covered the GoToMeeting webinar access costs for the young professionals organization (on the order of a few hundred dollars per year), but the federation has now agreed to cover the annual costs.

English is the working language of both the Environmental Plenary and the Space Congress, which is an initial challenge for those with limited English proficiency. This challenge is largely overcome through their sustained involvement. In both of the organizations I identified, there has been successful integration: new nations and new participants (notably those from developing countries) in the case of the environmental organization and young professionals and students in the case of the space federation. Key features of this enhanced integration are the use of web conferencing to enable more frequent collaborative interactions, outreach efforts through webinar technology to attract and maintain contact with participants, provision of donor support and reductions in participation fees that attract new entrants, and the willingness of experienced nations and individuals to welcome and actively mentor newcomers to the organization.

Specific Suggestions to Broaden Mormon History Outreach and Participation

The international collaboration examples I have cited are directly applicable to spur the somewhat underdeveloped international outreach efforts currently found in MHA, JWHA, and some of the other surveyed organizations. With respect to web-based technology, the LDS Church has embraced the Internet age, making the commitment and investment to be able to provide global coverage of its general conferences as well as video transcripts. The Church History Department employs web-based technology in its training of Church history advisers.

Video transcripts of the 6­­­­–7 March 2014 BYU Church History Symposium on “The Worldwide Church: The Global Reach of Mormonism,” featuring keynote addresses by Terryl Givens and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, are accessible online, and a selection of symposium proceedings was published by the BYU Religious Studies Center in 2016.[36] The BYU Management Society organized a free webinar in February 2015 with some 340 participants from around the world. The technology is available to be utilized. I suggest that the two Mormon history associations, the Mormon Scholars Foundation, and other organizations consider the webinar approach in organizing participatory Mormon history activities to benefit global audiences.

Holding future MHA and JWHA meetings at non-US sites are admittedly challenging decisions for their respective boards, but it is a decision that MHA has already taken on four occasions. In today’s world, there are at least three interim options that might be considered as a decided way forward to enhance international outreach and participation: (1) organizing adjunct or splinter MHA and JWHA sessions or other joint activities to coincide with conferences of other organizations, such as the European, Brazilian, or Pacific Historical organizations; (2) examining prospects for distance participation in MHA or JWHA meeting sessions via streaming video or webinar technology (here the issue of registration fees might have to be addressed); and (3) employing distance participation technology to link a US-located MHA or JWHA conference with an MHA- or JWHA-organized conference segment—a lecture or special session—at a foreign location, one that might, for example, be celebrating a Mormon history-related anniversary or might be able to attract a sizable local participation. A well-known example of this option was the staging of a linked session of the April 1980 LDS general conference from Fayette, New York, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Church.

Furthering the collection and placement of Mormon history materials—probably in digital format—should be encouraged. It will be a challenge to capture and share the wealth of material that is coming forward and to provide translations, as necessary. The Joseph Smith Papers project in Spring 2015 produced material for non-English-speaking audiences, translating and releasing all four of the Joseph Smith First Vision accounts in ten languages. Mormon-related blogs could, of course, be at the forefront in expanding outreach and participation opportunities with respect to Mormon history. An untapped resource would seem to be the reservoir of returned missionaries with foreign living and language experience who, similar to what the South German Mission Foundation has accomplished, might step up to address the need to help organize and provide source materials and better integrative opportunities for those on the periphery; Russia is an area that might particularly benefit from such focus at the present time.

The mentoring efforts of the Mormon Scholars Foundation deserve special mention. Besides the provision of donor funds to enable participation in seminars and conferences, it is above all the attention and engagement of mentors like Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens that help motivate and shape lifelong professional commitments, as is seen in the cadre of graduates of their summer seminars and the impact they are having in MHA and in religious studies venues. This type of mentoring needs to be extended to individual participants from the developing areas on the periphery of Mormondom to foster their engagement in Mormon history. Those of us conversant with Mormon history need to step up to serve as “nursing fathers and nursing mothers” (as in 2 Nephi 10:9) in encouraging the development of those who have contributions yet to be made in this field. Reaffirming the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, to internationalize MHA and Mormon history, our ideas, our scholarship, and yes, our financial support, are all needed.

Taking the study of Mormon history into all the world is a work in progress. Broader involvement of international participants engaged in the making of this history is imperative. Communication advances and social media tools should be utilized. Those who heard Professor Hanciles’s eloquent presentation at the 2014 San Antonio MHA Conference understood that we need to do more. What will the next fifty years bring? Hopefully, a more globally inclusive Mormon history that lives up to Joseph Smith’s vision of penetrating every continent, visiting every clime, sweeping every country, and sounding in every ear.


[1] The complete text of the MHA vision statement is as follows: “The Mormon History Association seeks to be the preeminent worldwide catalyst for encouraging the scholarly study and appreciation of the Mormon past.” This vision statement was originally accessed on the MHA website but is no longer included on the newly-revised MHA website. It was often cited in previous programs of annual MHA conferences, for example on page 5 of the program of the 26–29 May 2011 MHA St. George, Utah, conference. The MHA mission statement, the text of which is now subsumed in the first paragraph of the “About Us” section of the new MHA website, states in its second sentence: “We welcome all who are interested in the Mormon past, irrespective of religious affiliation, academic training or world location.”

[2] Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “President’s Message,” MHA Newsletter 49, no. 3 (Summer 2014).

[3] MHA was founded in December 1965 under the leadership of Leonard Arrington, off-line at the American Historical Association meeting in San Francisco.

[4] For background on the Mormon Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, see Brent L. Top, “Legacy of the Mormon Pavilion,” Ensign, October 1989, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1989/10/legacy-of-the-mormon-pavilion. The author visited the Mormon Pavilion at the World’s Fair and utilized “A Church for all the World” outreach materials the following year as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Germany.

[5] Michael A. Goodman, “The Worldwide Reach of Mormonism,” BYU Religious Education Review, Winter 2015, 23.

[6] This language from Joseph Smith is part of a longer paragraph relating to the growth of “the work” that is included in the so-called Wentworth Letter immediately prior to the text that has come to be known as the thirteen Articles of Faith, all of which was published under the title “Church History” in the 1 March 1842 edition of the Nauvoo newspaper, Times and Seasons. The quoted text is included in Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Histories, Volume 1, Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 500.

[7] Brandon S. Plewe, S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson, Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 2012), documents periods of LDS international growth.

[8] Brian K. Kelly, “International Magazines,” and Appendix 3, Church Periodicals, in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:167, 4:1654–59.

[9] Plewe, Brown, Cannon, and Jackson, Mapping Mormonism, also documents periods of Community of Christ international growth.

[10] There are many charges to gather and preserve historical records in Restoration scriptures: the plates of Laban, the large and small plates of Nephi, and the Jaredite records in the Book of Mormon, and the direction, for example, in Doctrine and Covenants 69:3 for “writing and making a history,” and in verse 5, that “my servants who are abroad in the earth should send forth the accounts of their stewardships to the land of Zion.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints collects annual histories from each of its stakes and has its Church history advisers conduct oral history interviews that are centrally collected in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City or in an increasing number of international records-preservation centers. The Community of Christ likewise collects and preserves historical records.

[11] Jehu J. Hanciles, “‘Would That All God’s People Were Prophets’: Mormonism and the New Shape of Global Christianity,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 2 (April 2015): 35–68.

[12] Hanciles, “‘Would That All God’s People Were Prophets,’” 57–58. Following this logic, and a premise that would require further examination, Mormonism should be able to adapt to and respect diverse cultures without compromising its basic doctrine.

[13] Joseph Stuart, “A More Diverse Mormon History Association, or How the 2014 Tanner Lecture Has Haunted Me Since June,” Juvenile Instructor (blog), 15 September 2014, http://juvenileinstructor.org/thoughts-on-growing-a-more-diverse-mormon-history-association-or-how-the-2014-tanner-lecture-has-haunted-me-since-june/. He and Saskia Tielens have been actively involved in Mormon history activities; Stuart is a graduate student at the University of Utah; Tielens is a non–Latter-day Saint scholar and was educated in the Netherlands and Germany.

[14] Thomas S. Monson, Faith Rewarded (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996); Matthew K. Heiss, “Doing the Impossible: Documenting the Worldwide Church,” in Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints, ed. Richard E. Turley Jr. and Stephen C. Harper (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 231–52.

[15] D. Brent Smith and Gregory C. Hill, “The Church in a German Cultural Setting,” (March 1974). Unpublished, extended memorandum drafted at the request of Latter-day Saint Church Commissioner of Education, Neal A. Maxwell.

[16] Bruce A. Van Orden, D. Brent Smith, and Everett Smith Jr., eds., Pioneers in Every Land: Inspirational Stories of International Pioneers Past and Present (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997).

[17] See for instance Hee-Chul Seo, “The Church in Korea—Gospel Light Shines Through Hardship,” Ensign, September 2014, 35–39.

[18] See in particular Melissa Inouye’s article, “The Oak and the Banyan: The ‘Glocalization’ of Mormon Studies,” Mormon Studies Review 1 (2014): 70–79.

[19] Inouye, “The Oak and the Banyan,” 72.

[20] Reid L. Neilson, Wayne Crosby, and Richard E. Turley Jr., “Decentralizing Church History: A Shift in Collecting, Preserving and Sharing the Mormon Past in a Global Setting” panel presentation, MHA, Calgary, 29 June 2012; see also Richard E. Turley Jr., “Collecting, Preserving, and Sharing the Global History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 1 (January 2015): 125–38.

[21] The translation has been an ongoing project for the South German Mission Foundation for several years. The completion of the translation into German and electronic publishing of the entire Encyclopedia of Mormonism was announced in South German Mission Foundation’s newsletter The New Key 8 (March 2010): 1.

[22] Ulrich Rueckauer, email messages with author, 13 April and 27 May 2015.

[23] Melissa Inouye, email messages with author, 29, 30, and 31 March 2015.

[24] “European Mormon Studies Constitution,” last modified 9 May 2012, http://euromormonstudies.wordpress.com.

[25] http://euromormonstudies.wordpress.com. Note: I obtained an email address for David M. Morris from Terryl Givens and sent a message to him on 14 April 2015, but never received a response.

[26] Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons, http://brazilianmormonstudies.com/bmsc/en/.

[27] Mormon Pacific Historical Society MPHS Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/mormonpacifichistoricalsociety.

[28] “Global Crossroads: Mormonism and Asia in the Twenty-First Century,” conference hosted by the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, https:/vimeo.com/channels/752125.

[29] Terryl Givens, email messages with author, 13 and 14 April 2015.

[30] Blair Hodges, email messages with author, 9 and 14 April 2015; see also Melissa Inouye, “Updates on the flourishing of international Mormon studies,” Neil A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (blog), 28 May 2015, http://mi.byu.edu/updates-international-mormon-studies/.

[31] Christopher Jones, email messages with author, 21 and 22 April 2015.

[32] Cheryle Grinter, email message with author, 21 and 30 April 2015.

[33] Jeffery Johnson, email messages with author, 3 and 4 May 2015.

[34] Barbara Jones Brown, email messages with author, 1 and 3 May 2015.

[35] Christopher Jones, email messages with author, 21 and 22 April 2015.

[36] “The Worldwide Church: The Global Reach of Mormonism,” 2014 BYU Church History Symposium, http://rsc.byu.edu/churchhistorysymposium/2014; see also Michael A. Goodman and Mauro Properzi, The Worldwide Church: Mormonism as a Global Religion (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016).