The John Whitmer Conference (2017)

 I was privileged to be a presenter at this year’s John Whitmer Historical Association Conference, which just wrapped in Nauvoo, Illinois. I drove in from New York, and it was an exhausting drive, but when I arrived on Wednesday night, I was treated to a BBQ at the home of Joseph Johnstun in Fort Madison, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. There, I was in good company, as the Historical Luminaries Mike Marquardt, Bill & Diane Shepherd, Brent & Erin Metcalfe and Joe Geisner had already arrived. (The pulled pork was out of this world)!

Joseph Johnstun (on right)

Mulholland Street, Entering Nauvoo

84 Degrees! (And this was in the morning)

View from West End of Mulholland Street (The Temple is to the right)

Nauvoo Temple

The Conference opened for Registration on Thursday afternoon, and I got to meet some more great people. I had never been to Nauvoo, and having my own vehicle I got to drive around and see the sights. It was like going back in time.

Joseph Smith Mansion House

It was very hot! As I drove into town on Thursday , it was 84 degrees and it got much hotter as the day progressed. Storm clouds gathered in Thursday night, and there was a little rain, but it cleared up by Friday Morning which was another scorcher! On Saturday it was close to 100 degrees outside. I was sure glad I drove and when I got too hot could go sit in my SUV and blast the air and cool off! And the Visitor’s Center was air conditioned of course.

Community of Christ Visitors Center

The Outside “Tabernacle” (The Joseph Smith Homestead is in the background)

There I met the two women who were instrumental in making this Conference a success, Rachel Killebrew and Cheryle Grinter. Cheryle was very kind to me, but had a no nonsense way about her that I knew I would not want to get on the wrong side of. The Staff and volunteers there were pleasant and informative, and eager to help if you had any difficulties. And the Red Brick Store Rootbeer was tasty.

Rachel Killebrew (Awards Committee Chair) & Cheryle Grinter (Executive Director JWHA)

Shuttle to the COC Camp Nauvoo Lodge

Dr. Michael Van Wagenen gave the Richard P. Howard Lecture on Divergent Memories of the Restoration Movement at the COC Camp Nauvoo Lodge.

Bill Morain (Editor JWHAJ) & his wife Sherry Mesle-Morain (President-Elect) They are leaning forward.

Joe Geisner, jack of all knowledge

H. Michael Marquardt, Historian, Author, Researcher and friend

As I was leaving Nauvoo on Thursday night, four deer pranced across the road and I almost hit them, but since it was in town and I wasn’t going very fast, I stopped in time.

I was struck with how eerie and quiet Nauvoo is at night, (probably why it attracts the deer) and even though it’s lit up, it feels almost like a ghost town. So many of the residences are empty and silent, no Saints making these beautiful buildings their homes now.

Joseph Smith Gravesite & Homestead

Driving back to the condos where I was staying, I was struck by how dark it was on the highway and took a picture. I guess I was just in a somber mood, contemplating the historical significance of the place I had spent the day at.

The Condo where I stayed (Courtesy of Bill Shepherd, Mike Marquardt & Joe Geisner)

I was pretty beat up from my drive in on Wednesday, and so I missed the Friday morning presentations, but made it in time for the Awards Luncheon.

The Lunch Line

Friday Awards Luncheon

Presenter Meg Stout

There I finally got to meet Don Bradley who was presenting in a few hours, which I was looking forward to hearing.

Researcher, Author & Historian Don Bradley just before his presentation

I met lots of people, and had many conversations about Church History. There was a lot of time in between presentations and that was great one on one time, to have discussions with various attendees and presenters. During one break, I got to hear Brent Metcalfe’s “Caractors” Presentation he gave to a past Conference. He was nice enough to put the Power Point on his computer and take me through it. There were lots of fascinating and informative moments such as this.

Mike Riggs & Mark Staker

Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Van Orden  (The only place in town to get food, drinks & gas)

Ron & Anne Romig

I had fun tramping around with my friend Mike Marquardt, and we took some snacks and ate them by the Temple and then went to the Grove where Joseph used to preach. Mike took this picture of me hamming it up on the Stand.

 

Johnny at the Stand

So many presentations to see and you had to choose one out of many in each block, so it was kind of hard to decide. I chose Meg Stout and Don Bradley’s, and so missed Mark Staker’s presentation which I also really wanted to see. But that’s how it is.

As I was leaving Nauvoo on Friday night, four deer pranced across the road and I almost hit them, but since it was in town and I wasn’t going very fast, I stopped in time.

I was struck with how eerie and quiet Nauvoo is at night, (probably why it attracts the deer) and even though it’s lit up, it feels almost like a ghost town. So many of the residences are empty and silent, no Saints making these beautiful buildings their homes now.

Leaving Nauvoo at Night

Driving back to the condos where I was staying, I was struck by how dark it was on the highway and took a picture. I guess I was just in a somber mood, contemplating the historical significance of the place I had spent the day at.

President Peter Judd (Presidents Banquet)

Awards Luncheon

Awards Luncheon

The Richard P. Howard Lecture at Camp Nauvoo Lodge

I stayed up late Friday night to fine tune my presentation, and I followed Taunalyn Rutherford, who also presented on Emma Smith. I could not have asked for a better set up for my own presentation on Emma and the 1869 Utah Affidavits. Of course, the Auditorium was packed and I was nervous, but my Power Point saved me.

The Mansion at Night

As I walked back to my car on Saturday Night after the President’s Bauquet, Bryce Blankenagel interviewed me for a podcast about my presentation which he will be posting on his “Naked Mormonism” site.

Visiting Nauvoo is a great experience. The John Whitmer Conference was kind of a love fest, everyone was kind, smiling, and having fun. On my drive back to New York I stopped for Gas near Cleveland, Ohio and a man was in line in front of me whose car had gotten a flat on the Turnpike and he had to spend all his money to get it towed to the gas station and the tire repaired. He was just trying to get home, but had $5 and a ways to go. I was at first impatient to get waited on to be on my way, but listened as the attendant told him he had over $10 to pay in tolls. The man was distraught and didn’t know what to do. So I ponied up the money for his tolls, and he, with genuine surprise (and some feeling) thanked me and said, “God is good”. I told him that people were also good and to just pay it forward as I was doing. I guess I was still feeling the spirit of John Whitmer and that beautiful place, Nauvoo.

One thought on “The John Whitmer Conference (2017)

  1. Hello, sounds like the conference was a great experience. I wish I could have attended. Is it possible to get a copy of your presentation? Thank you very much

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