This June a somewhat unusual session took place at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association in Rochester, New York—a panel called “Christian Scientists in Zion.” We reached out to the participants and asked if they’d like to reunite for an episode of Seekers and Scholars. The result is a fascinating look at the spirit of inter-religious engagement in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Church of Christ, Scientist—the Mormons and the Christian Scientists. Among the people discussed were several converts to Christian Science who came from prominent Mormon families. We’ll also hear about a Christian Scientist who helped establish progressive educational methods in Utah, as part of the emerging kindergarten movement. Through these stories, our guests explore a unique example of religious pluralism in American religious history.
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Dr. Thomas G. Alexander is Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor Emeritus of Western American History at Brigham Young University (BYU) and has written, co-written, or edited 27 books and over 150 scholarly articles. He has served as president of notable regional and national historical societies such as the Pacific coast branch of the American Historical Association, the national history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, and the Mormon History Association. Among his honors, Alexander is a fellow of the Utah State Historical Society and a recipient of the Evans Biography Award and the BYU Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lectureship, the highest honor awarded a faculty member at BYU. He has served in a number of offices in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including as bishop and stake high councilor.
Kenneth L. Cannon II is an award-winning lawyer and historian in Salt Lake City. His biography George Q. Cannon, Politician, Publisher, Apostle of Polygamy came out in August 2023, profiling a prominent Mormon church leader. Cannon first researched and published an article on Christian Scientist Bicknell Young over 40 years ago. He has published and lectured widely on legal, legal historical, and historical topics, taught as an adjunct professor at two law schools, and served as a senior Fulbright scholar at the University of Helsinki. He and his wife, Ann Edwards Cannon, live in a 125-year-old Victorian house in Salt Lake City. It was originally owned by Lucretia Heywood Kimball, a pioneer Christian Scientist in Utah.
Kristine Haglund is a freelance editor and the author of Eugene England: A Mormon Liberal, part of the series “Introductions to Mormon Thought,” published by the University of Illinois Press. From 2009 to 2015 she was the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. She has been active in the Mormon blogging community since its inception and currently blogs at By Common Consent. Haglund is Vice President of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities and serves on the board of Common Consent Press. A Southern girl who lived most of her adult life in Boston, where she raised three children, she is now trying to figure out whether her current hometown of St. Louis is in the South or the Midwest.
Dr. Michael Hamilton is Executive Manager of The Mary Baker Eddy Library. He came to the position following 10 years in the Religion and Philosophy Department at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. Prior to teaching, he served for 20 years as an active-duty US Navy chaplain, ministering to units in both the navy and marine corps. He holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research and writing focus is on American religions.