Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ward Conference

I was sitting our ward conference last Sunday and I began to contemplate how this modern conference would fit into the context of the dozens of historic conferences about which I had read. It started with the sustaining of the Officers of the Church. The High Councilor was reading from a list of names, as he should, and the list included not only church-wide officers, but also stake and ward leaders. As he read, I thought to myself, that list is probably going into a history archive of some sort, or at least it should. I’d love to see a collection of such lists for any of the branches I have been studying. That and maybe the minutes.

Conference minutes are one of my chief sources about what happened at the various conferences in Tennessee. But they included not only who held what positions but what songs were sung, who said the prayers, who spoke and about what did they speak. Sometimes the list even included a list of attendees. I suppose that some of this is collected today, though certainly not all of it.

There are other sources too. Journals, letters, newspaper articles, and more recorded the events where branches were formed, leaders were called, released, or whatever. Ordinary people kept records too.

At the 1787 constitutional convention one delegate kept personal notes on each of the attendees. His notes are a rare window into the men who were there.

Our minutes are not as meticulous today as they were 125 years ago when the Southern States mission was just getting started. But there were about 200 people at our ward conference this year. I wonder how many might write something about today's conference.

Will historians 125 years from now lament the lack of records kept by ordinary people today? Are there missionary journals kept today that compare to the journals stored in the church archives? Do we save, or even write letters the way we used to? Do we record our life experiences as if we were documenting history? Maybe we, as historians, should remember to take some time create the type of documents we wish someone had created for the subject we are studying.


Justin said...

In the recent past, I've thought about taking notes during sacrament meeting talks as part of a larger record (a personal record of my church experience). But my inclination to do so was overcome by the feeling that no one would want to read such a record (leaving aside my sense that the church wouldn't want it).

BruceCrow said...

It sure doesn't sound like it would be interesting to read a pile of such notes. Of course, I read blogs so who am I to judge.

If, however, I found a pile of such notes from 130 years ago written by a branch member at Cane Creek, I'd be all over them, even if they tell me nothing about the massacre. They will help me understand the people who were there.

I'll give you another example. My mother grew up in a small, largley poor ward in downtown Salt Lake City filled with widows. It was called the 6th-7th ward. Events of that ward would seem insignificant. But when she was a teenager, a very young new bishop was called. Previous to that, he had been her Sunday School teacher and she knew him pretty well. I would love to know what she thought about it at the time because his name was Tommy Monson. Instead, I have only what she can recall years later.