BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
LAYTON — The Mormon History Association has met all over the world, from China to Denmark, but never here in Davis County — until this year, that is.
This year’s annual conference is being held at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, beginning Thursday, June 6 and running through June 9.
Hundreds of presenters will offer insight on many aspects of the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and on issues still relevant today.
“We have professors come from all over the world,” said Bountiful resident and presenter Breck England. “ “People are very interested in Mormonism as a new religion, and that is being shown in the growth, acceptance and influence the church is seeing,” he said.
England’s presentation will be “The 1870 Pratt-Newman Debate: American Political Orthodoxy Confronts Mormon Theology.”
It examines a famous debate between LDS Apostle Orson Pratt and the chaplain of the United States Senate, John Philip Newman, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1870.
The topic of the debate was whether the Bible prohibits plural marriage. Pratt took the position it was allowed, while Newman posited it was not allowed.
Newman was a Methodist minister and was famous at the time, England said.
“He was like the Billy Graham of his time.”
The debate took place over three days and in that time 11,000 people attended part of the debate, England said.
In the end, neither side changed its point of view.
Pratt could read the Bible in Hebrew, something Newman couldn’t do.
“Mr. Newman was somewhat surprised that Orson could read the Bible in Hebrew,” England said. “Newman would bring up a point and Pratt would say, ‘That’s not what the original says.”
England’s son, Jonathan England, will speak.
England said Newman challenged Brigham Young to a debate, but the church leader asked Pratt to debate Newman.
Through the years, the conference has drawn professors from all over the world, to present and to learn from others, England said.
Among this year’s presenters are: Gina Colvin, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who will speak on “Maori and Pahenka Mormonism in New Zealand;” Benjamin E. Park, of Cambridge University in England, who will speak on “Liberal Religion and Social Reform in the Mid-19th Century: Edward Tullidge, James Gordon Bennett, and Octavius Frothingham;” and Janiece Johnson from the University of Liecester, in England, who will offer, “In Search of Reform: The Mountain Meadows Massacre Prosecution and Solving the Mormon Problem.”
Several universities now have Mormon Studies programs, including the University of Utah, Utah State University and Claremont University.
Several pre-conference and post-conference tours will be offered, including one to Antelope Island, another to the Golden Spike National Historic Site and Hill Aerospace Museum and one to polygamist homes and historic buildings in Farmington, Kaysville and Layton.
The welcoming session, Thursday, June 6 at 7 p.m., is open to the public.
Glen M. Leonard, president of the association will present “Movers and Shakers in Historic Davis County,” with J. Spencer Kinard, former voice of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as narrator and Kenneth L. Cannon II, Polly Aird and James Bergera as readers.
The Tanner Lecture will feature Leigh Eric Scmidt, the Edward Mallinckrodt University professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Mo. He will speak on “Mormons, Freethinkers, and the Limits of Toleration.”
A devotional focusing on “Reflections: Lucy Mack, Emma Hale and Joseph Smith” will close the conference.