2018 Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference, March 22-24

For 2018, the Association for Mormon Letters will not hold its own conference, but will instead join the conference of the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, which will be held March 23-24 at Brigham Young University in Provo. MSH has kindly offered to host the AML Awards at its dinner banquet, as well as provide AML sponsored sessions during the conference.



7:30–8:30 pm
“LO(l): A Few Items of (Funny) Business” (Education in Zion Theater, JFSB)
Join us for an evening of hilarity and entertainment. Laughter guaranteed. Free and open to the public.
Featuring: Jeanine Bee, James Goldberg, Kristian Heal, Annaliese Lemmon, Laura Hilton Craner Myers, Jonathon Penny


All sessions will be held in the JFSB at Brigham Young University.

All sessions are free and open to the public. Donations from the public to support MSH, its mission, and its graduate student travel fund will be accepted at the registration table throughout the conference.


Registration (Education in Zion Theater [EIZ])


A: Satire, Cartoons, and Performance (EIZ)
“Laughing at Ourselves: The Role of the Cartoonist in Mormon Culture” • Robert Rees (Graduate Theological Union)
“Learning to Laugh at Ourselves: Finding the Humor in Anti-Mormon Media” • Julie Allen (Brigham Young University)
“On Making Mormon Comics: Satire, History, and Power” • Scott Hales (Church History Department)

B: The Politics of Humor (Dean’s Conference Room, 4010 [DCR])
Chair: TBA
“The Politics of Humor in Daniil Kharms” • Conner Bassett (University of California, Santa Cruz)
“Humoring Masculinity in Contemporary Brazilian Literature • Rex Nielson (Brigham Young University)
“Laughter and Unease” • Sarah Moore (University of Alabama, Huntsville)

10:00–10:15 BREAK

A. Explorations and Ventures in Humor (EIZ)
Chair: TBA
“A Serious and Good MSH Presentation Consisting Entirely of Jokes” • Shawn Tucker (Elon University)
“‘Become as Little Children’: Comedic Theater and Community” • Erin Kaseda (Brigham Young University)
“Seriously: A Theory of Humor” • David Paxman (Brigham Young University)
“Learning How to Laugh in the Anthropocene: Toward a Mormon Theology of Humor” • Stephen Betts (Brigham Young University)

B. Cultural Narratives (DCR)
Chair: TBA
“Mormonism in Africa” • Henry Okafor (University of Ibadan)
“Rent Clothes Make (and Unmake) the Man: What Happened to the Fathers Happens to the Sons in Biblical and Book of Mormon Narratives” • Alan Goff (Arizona State University)
“Muscular Mormonism in Modern Argentina: Missionaries and Sports, 1938–42” • Ryan Davis (Illinois State University)

11:45–1:15 LUNCH BREAK

A. Poetry (EIZ)
Chair: TBA
“The Mysterious Alissandru: Tickling the Underbelly of the Sacred” • Tyler Chadwick (Utah Valley University)
“‘Another Faith-Promoting Chiasm’: Wit and Humor in the Poetry of R. A. Christmas” • Dennis Clark
“Fickle-tions, Po-ums, and Hymn-Flam” • Jonathon Penny (RIT Dubai)

B. Scripture and Humor (DCR)
Chair: TBA
“Critical Laughter: Laughter as Religious Critique in the Gospel of Judas and in the Book of Mormon” • Adam Stokes (Trenton STEM to Civics High School)
“Laughing with the Scriptures versus Laughing at the Scriptures: Blaspheme?” • William John Silverman (Suffolk County Community College)
“Joking Jesus?” • Bruce Jorgensen (Brigham Young University)

2:45–3:00 BREAK

A. Lavina Fielding Anderson and Mormon Literature (EIZ)
Sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters
Chair: Andrew Hall
Panelists: John Bennion, Dennis Clark, Susan Elizabeth Howe, Bruce Jorgensen, , Ross Peterson, Lavina Fielding Anderson

B. The Rhetoric of Humor (DCR)
“A Rhetoric of Existential Laughter” • David Gore (University of Minnesota, Duluth)
“The Divinity of Jokes: Cervantes, Dostoevsky, and the Overlooked Holiness of Jesus’ Humor” • James Egan (Independent Scholar)
“Humor as a Rhetorical Device of Admonishing the King: A Cross-Cultural Approach” • Peter Y. H. Chen (National Taipei University, Taiwan)

4:30–4:45 BREAK

A. Robert Kirby and Mormon Humor (EIZ)
Sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters
Chair: Ed Snow
Lynne Cropper. “Laughter the Best Medicine: Mormon Humor and Catharsis”
Ed Snow. “Are Kirby and Bell Also Among the Prophets?: Biblical Humor and the Restoration of All Things”
Shawn Tucker. TBA
Respondent: Robert Kirby

B. The Visual Arts and Mormonism (DCR)
Chair: TBA
“Sacred Stones and Fleshy Tables: Litholatry and Mormonism” • Jenny Champoux (Northeastern University)
“The Changing Image of Christ in Mormon Visual Culture” • Micah Christensen (director, Zion Art Society)
“Heed the Messenger: Understanding the Prophets through Sculpture” • Abram Dorrough (independent scholar)


Banquet and AML Awards (The Skyroom Restaurant, 6th floor of the Wilkinson Center)



Business Meeting (EIZ)

8:45–9:00 BREAK

Keynote Address
“The Laughter of the Oppressed: Reading the Hidden Transcript of Resistance” • Dr. Jacqueline Bussie (Concordia College)

10:30–10:45 BREAK

A. Theoretical Considerations (EIZ)
Chair: TBA
“Laughing at Ourselves: On Comedy and Grace” • Joseph Spencer (Brigham Young University)
“Little e, Big E: Stories about Religion and Science” • Samuel Brown (University of Utah)

B. Communihahahas: Humor in/and Mormon Literature (DCR)
Chair: TBA
“Morm-splaining the Joke: Self-orientalization and the Spoiling of Mormon Stories” • Jennifer Quist (University of Alberta)
“Laughter the Best Medicine: Mormon Humor and Catharsis” • Lynne Cropper (Muscatine Community College)
“Mormons Love a Good Medley: The Flavor of the Contemporary Mormon Literary Hoax” • David Hatch (University of South Carolina)

C. Music and Mormonism (B030)
Chair: TBA
“The Implicit Mormonism in Arcade Fire” • Jacob Bender (University of Iowa)
“Paul’s Reference to Cymbals and Its Relationship to Charity and the Ancient Temple” • Glenn Webb (Dixie State University)
“An Inspired ‘Transgression’: Vanja Y. Watkins and Parallel Fifths in ‘Press Forward, Saints’” • Derek Myler (University of Utah)

12:15–2:00 LUNCH BREAK

A. The Fiction of Steven L. Peck (EIZ)
Chair: Rosalynde Welch (Independent Scholar)
“Pauline Love in Steven Peck’s ‘Bishop Johansen Rescues a Lost Soul’” • Jason Kerr (Brigham Young University)
“The Idiot’s Guide to Gilda Trillim” • Rosalynde Welch (Independent Scholar)
“Time and Eternity in Steven Peck’s A Short Stay in Hell” • Stephen Taysom (Cleveland State University)
“The Pleasant Production of Steven Peck” • Jenny Webb (Independent Scholar)

B. The Book of Mormon Musical (DCR)
Chair: Robert Rees (Graduate Theological Union)
“No Musical Knows My Book of Mormon” • Clifton H. Jolley
TBA • Ronald Q. Frederickson (Emporia State University)
“Playing Hob with Holy Things: What’s Funny and Not Funny in The Book of Mormon Musical” • Robert Rees (Graduate Theological Union)

3:30–3:45 BREAK

A. Killing Off “Footprint in the Sand”: Finding Metaphor in Mormon Poetry (EIZ)
Sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters
Chair: Melonie Cannon
Panelists: Heather Bergevin, Lisa Bickmore, Melonie Cannon, Robert Christmas, Robert Rees, Merrijane Rice, Rachel Hunt Steenblik

B. The One and the Many: Two LDS Views (DCR)
Chair: TBA
Panelists: James Faulconer, Ralph Hancock

Presenters should plan on 20 minute papers, with 30 minutes for questions and discussion at the end of each session.


Brigham Young University

Sessions will take place in the Joseph F. Smith Building (JFSB), in the Education in Zion auditorium and the Dean’s Conference room.

The banquet will take place in the BYU Skyroom Restaurant.


All those presenting a paper at the conference need to register.

Online: Register and pay the conference fee by credit card at https://commerce.cashnet.com/WEBMSH. Please register by March 1, 2018. 

By check: Checks made out to MSH may be mailed to David Paxman, 423 E 1700 N, Mapleton, UT 84664, by March 1, 2018.


Registration: All participants must register in order to present their paper.

$150 Professional/Independent Scholar (includes Friday banquet)

$125 Graduate Student (includes Friday banquet)

The conference is free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to support MSH through a small donation to help cover the conference costs. Suggested amounts: $15 for one day, $25 for both days. Donations can be made at the conference itself.

$50 additional ticket(s) for the Friday banquet (optional)

Please note: we will be accepting donations to our MSH Graduate Student Travel Fund throughout the conference at the registration table. Donations will be awarded after the conference to qualifying graduate students. Due to regulations, we cannot accept donations via the online form at this time.


– Courtyard Marriott (Provo, close enough to walk to BYU)
– 10 rooms (2 queens per room) reserved at a rate of $92 / night
– Dates: March 22-24
– Phone: 1-866-913-3773

Rooms will be held at this rate until February 22, 2018, so don’t wait too long to call to make reservations. The event is listed under “Mormon Scholars in the Humanities 2018” / BYU Conference (as the location).


For those flying into the Salt Lake City International Airport, there are a variety of transportation options available, including rental cars, taxis, shuttles, and, through public transportation, FrontRunner.


We are pleased to announce that Dr. Jacqueline Bussie of Concordia College will be joining us in 2018 to give our Keynote address.

Dr. Bussie is an author, professor, theologian, public speaker, and student of life in all its messy beauty. A graduate of Davidson College and Yale University, Jacqueline holds a PhD in Theology, Ethics and Culture from the University of Virginia. She teaches religion and theology classes at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she also serves as the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life.

Jacqueline’s first book The Laughter of the Oppressed (2007) won the national Trinity Prize. Her second book Outlaw Christian was released in 2016.


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