I’m attending the MHA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 24-27, which is a three-day academic conference where specialists in Mormon studies (including Mormons, non-Mormons, and ex-Mormons from all walks of life) present papers on the history of churches founded by Joseph Smith. The central theme of this conference will be the Utah War (aka Buchanan’s Blunder) and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

For those of you who don’t know about the Mormon Historical Association, the following is from the program of this year’s event:

The Mormon History Association (MHA) was founded under the leadership of noted historian Leonard J. Arrington in December 1965 at the American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in San Francisco. MHA was organized to promote understanding, scholarly research, and publication in the field of Mormon history. For the first seven years, until 1972, it operated as an affiliate of the American Historical Association. In 1972 it became an independent organization with annual conferences and publications. The Journal of Mormon History, the official publication of the association, began in 1974.

Those of us who are lucky enough to attend will be able to see the presentation of bloggernacle participants, including:

Good luck, everyone! (I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.)

I’ve always been a bit of a Mormon history nut — at least I have been since I had my Parley P. Pratt experience with Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, staying up all weekend to read it in one sitting. But it had never occurred to me to attend a Mormon studies conference. After all, there aren’t too many of them in my neck of the woods.

So I had been pretty excited to learn that the Library of Congress was sponsoring in May, 2005 entitled, “The Worlds of Joseph Smith.” I made my way down to DC, and I sat through both days of it. It had its high points (viz., Bushman, Barker, and Balmer), but ultimately I found it disappointing because it was too heavy-handed and too driven by the need to spin the truth about Joseph Smith rather than actually discuss it. Moreover, the format was awful. The speakers interacted not at all. Even those tasked with a “response” just read long essays. And everything ran over, so that there was barely any time to field questions from the audience. As a result of my disappointment, I almost foreswore Mormon Studies conferences altogether. (Ronan Head at BCC had a more favorable view of it than I did.)

Then, the MHA had it’s conference in Vermont that year at a resort near Joseph Smith’s birthplace. It’s rare to have major Mormon studies events this close to Boston, and at the last minute I decided to drive up and see what what was going on.

What I found at the Vermont MHA conference blew me away. It couldn’t have been more different from the Library of Congress symposium. Not only was it a lot of fun, but for the first time in my life, I felt comfortable and “at home” (so to speak) among a large group of Mormons. I was unable to make it last year due to family obligations, but I’m thrilled to be able to head out there this year.

Who else is going or will be in the northern Utah area? Perhaps a bloggernacle get together is in order.