Arrington/Evans Symposium set for Sept. 20-21 at Utah State

Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library and Mountain West Center for Regional Studies will present “Multiple Perspectives of Faith Traditions in the West: The Arrington/Evans Symposium” on Thursday, Sept. 20, and Friday, Sept. 21, in Logan. 

The symposium represents a combining of the annual Leonard J. Arrington History Lecture with the Mountain West Center’s Evans Biography Awards.

“We felt that the 40th anniversary of LDS President Spencer Kimball’s revelation, plus the topics of the two Evans Award book winners, merited a larger discussion about faith traditions in the West, and we decided to expand the annual lecture into a two-day symposium because we feel that these themes are timely and important,” said Bradford Cole, dean of University 

The two-day event opens on Thursday with a panel discussion entitled “Mormonism, Race, Priesthood, and the Temple: The Road to 1978 and Beyond” featuring Max Mueller, Paul Reeve, LaShawn Williams and Ron Coleman. The discussion is slated to begin at 1 p.m. in Room 101 of the Merrill-Cazier Library, followed by a reception and open house at 2:30 p.m. in the Special Collections & Archives section of the Merrill-Cazier Library. During that time, the public will be able to examine artifacts from the archive collections (including diaries, interview transcripts and newspapers) that pertain to the research areas represented by the symposium’s speakers.  

Later on Thursday, the Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture will be presented by Darius Gray at 7 p.m. at the Logan Tabernacle, 50 N. Main St.

An African American convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former president of the church’s Genesis Branch, Gray’s lecture is entitled “Redeeming a People: The Critical Role of Historical Examination in Moving Cultural and Moral Trajectories.”

Gray, who joined the LDS Church in 1964, served as a counselor in the Genesis Group beginning in 1971, and as president of the support group for black Latter-day Saints from 1997 to 2003. This June marked four decades since the leadership of the LDS Church announced a revelation allowing all worthy male members to receive the priesthood, and Gray has spoken extensively during the anniversary year about his experiences as a member of the church, both before and after that historic announcement in 1978. 

“Darius is someone who fought the battle, remained true to the faith, and provided a living example of why the change was necessary,” said USU history professor Ross Peterson, a member of the Arrington Foundation board. "He had the courage to join the church in his youth and devote his life to following Christ in the most meaningful way. As a true pioneer who led the quest for equality within the church, Darius has no equal."

The evening at the Logan Tabernacle will also feature a performance by the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir. Formerly known as the Genesis Gospel Choir, the group is primarily comprised of members of the LDS Church who sing authentic gospel soul music. 

The Evans Biography Awards Presentation will take place at 10 a.m.  Friday, Sept. 21, in Room 101 of the Merrill-Cazier Library with a light continental breakfast available before the event. 

This year’s winners are Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who will receive the Evans Biography Award for “A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870,” and Rodney Frey, the Evans Handcart Award Winner for “Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographer’s Journey into Native Oral Tradition.”  Both Ulrich and Frey will speak and discuss their winning books.

Ulrich, professor of history at Harvard University, won for her expansive work on the lives and experiences of ordinary, yet powerful women who participated in polygamy in the early years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ten years in the making, Ulrich’s book pieces together their stories using rare diaries, albums, ledgers, meeting notes, letters, personal artifacts, minute books and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints.

Evelyn Funda, director of the Mountain West Center, said this year’s Evan Biography Award winner “represents the symposium’s broad question of how faith in the West is a rich subject for inquiry.” 

Frey, who holds a doctorate in anthropology and is a professor of ethnography at the University of Idaho, has spent more than 40 years interacting with the elders, participating in tribal activities, and partnering with tribal communities including the Crow, Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce and Warm Springs to learn and share the stories of Native Oral Tradition. He calls his award-winning Carry Forth the Stories an “ethnographic memoir” because it interweaves events of his own life story with the stories those garnered from interviews, oral histories, and elders to provide empathetic and professional insights into the power and value of story and storytelling.

The Evans Biography Award and the Evans Handcart Award carry cash prizes of $10,000 and $2,500 respectively, made possible through an endowment created in 1983 by the family of David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans.

Following the presentation, a panel featuring Ulrich and Frey, along with Arrington biographer Gary Bergera and Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, will discuss “Researching and Writing Challenging Topics.” 

The Arrington/Evans Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information visit

Related Links
 'Carry Forth The Stories': Ethnographer Rodney Frey On Native Oral Tradition On Access Utah, Utah Public Radio 

Contact: Trina Shelton, 435-797-2631,
Writer: Jeff Hunter, 435-797-1429,

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