Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830-1930

Matthew Godfrey's picture
Call for Papers
March 1, 2018 to March 2, 2018
Utah, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Business History / Studies, Economic History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

2018 Church History Symposium

Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830-1930

March 1-2, 2018

In 1958, Leonard J. Arrington published Great Basin Kingdom, a seminal study in Mormon economic history. Arrington followed this work with several other studies pertaining to the economic history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the state of Utah. Other scholars have examined in detail financial operations of the church in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, including explorations of the law of consecration (first revealed to Joseph Smith in 1831) and its implementation, enterprises such as the United Firm and the Kirtland Safety Society, and the economic impact of creating new communities throughout the Great Basin. Picking up where Arrington and others left off, there are new and exciting developments in the study of gender, society, race, and the environment that can enlighten the financial aspects of Mormon history.

The 2018 Church History Symposium will explore the intersection of finance and religion in the LDS Church between 1830 and 1930. In doing so, we hope that scholars will take a fresh look at Mormon history through the vantage point of economics and finance. We hope that this symposium will add to, complicate, or even revise portions of the standard economic history narratives mentioned above, while also exploring other areas of Mormon history through an economic and spiritual lens.

Papers could explore ways that financial records illuminate the history of the church and its members. How can such records broaden our understanding of women in the church? What was the financial impact of proselytizing missions on families? What was the financial side of plural marriage? How did economics play out in the internationalization of Mormonism, particularly in the funding of missions and temples? How did the church’s business interests in sugar, salt, cattle, and other industries impact Utah’s economy at the turn of the twentieth century? How did it impact ordinary church members, whether farmers, laborers, or financiers? How has access—or the lack thereof—to financial resources impacted members’ ability to serve in the church?

We invite proposals that explore these and similar types of questions. We especially encourage proposals from scholars engaged in cultural, intellectual, social, gender, and environmental history to examine how economics and finances broaden, deepen, and enrich our understanding of those fields. Successful proposals will include a clear argument, innovative use of primary sources, and new approaches to looking at Mormon history from a financial angle.

If you wish to be considered for participation in this symposium, please submit the following by May 1, 2017, to

  1. 300-500 word abstract for each paper;
  2. Brief biographical paragraph describing your relevant academic background.

Full session proposals should also include the session title and a 300-word session abstract.

Decisions for inclusion in the symposium will be made by July 1, 2017. A selection of the papers presented at the symposium will be published in an edited volume following the conference.

Co-chairs: Michael Hubbard MacKay (BYU) and Matthew C. Godfrey (Church History Department)

Committee members: Mary Ann Woodger (BYU) and Elizabeth Kuehn (Church History Department)

Contact Info: 

Michael Hubbard MacKay, Brigham Young University

Matthew C. Godfrey, LDS Church History Department