In addition to our continuing work on Season Three of History of the Saints, the production team was asked to shoot and edit a three-hour round table discussion on Habeas Corpus that took place in the Senate Hearing Room (formerly the Supreme Court Courtroom) in the Illinois Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, on April 4, 2013. The discussion consisted of two panels, one on the use of the Writ of Habeas Corpus by Joseph Smith and other members of the Mormon Church in the 1800s, and one on the use of it by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The general introduction was made by Jim Thompson, former Governor of Illinois. The moderator was Gery Chico, Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education and, among other positions, former Chief of Staff to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The first panel consisted of Reg Ankrom of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County; Thomas Campbell of the Chicago Law Firm, Baker & McKenzie and the author of Fighting Slavery in Chicago: Abolitionists, the Law of Slavery, and Lincoln; Leslie C. Griffin, the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at UNLV; Lachlan Mackay, Director of Community of Christ Historic Sites and great-great-great grandson of Joseph and Emma Smith; Hon. William Ray Price, Jr., former Missouri Supreme Court Justice; Richard E. Turley, Jr., member of the editorial board of the Joseph Smith Papers Project; and Jeffrey N. Walker, Senior Advisor for the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Panel two consisted of Jeffrey D. Colman and Thomas P. Sullivan, both partners at the law firm of Jenner and Block and both currently very active in pro bono work representing prisoners of Guantanamo Bay; Andrea D. Lyon, clinical professor of Law and director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul University; Hon. Sue E. Myerscough, United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois; and David B. Owens, a civil rights attorney at Loevy and Loevy in Chicago.
It was very interesting to see how the experiences of Joseph Smith and his use of the writ shed light on what’s happening today. It was a fascinating discussion.
Now that the holiday season is over we want to thank all of those who came out to our book signings. We really had a good time. We travelled to bookstores in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, Boise, and Meridian, Idaho and Logan, Salt Lake City, Sandy, West Jordan, Provo, and Orem, and other places in Utah, and we were treated very kindly wherever we went.
It was great fun talking to people about their own pioneer heritage. Many were able to find their ancestors listed on the roster in the back of The Remarkable Journey of the Mormon Battalion. We heard some wonderful stories of famous and not so well known pioneers alike that have been passed down from generation to generation. All in all, we were amazed at how connected all of us are. We’re glad these two books could be realized and we hope they bring great joy to everyone who got them as gifts—even if they gave them to themselves.
We’re wrapping up our ten-part series (you read right–ten parts!) on the Handcart migration into Utah. One of the episodes is about two wagon companies, Hunt and Hodgetts, but it fits in with the handcarts because they accompanied the Willie and Martin companies and suffered right along with them. Several of the historians that we interviewed have said that if it weren’t for those two wagon companies, we wouldn’t be talking about the great rescue but of the great tragedy in which most, if not all of the Willie and Martin travelers, had died. So why don’t we talk more about Hunt and Hodgetts? Mel Bashore said this in our interview with him:
“This is nothing new today, to have them be forgotten. Fifty years after those handcart companies came into the valley, the handcart company survivors, in 1906, planned to have a jubilee celebration, a 50-year celebration where those survivors would get together and remember the hardships, the suffering, and as they planned it, they sent out word in the newspapers for the handcart survivors to get in touch, and write things up, to gather for this reunion.
“Well, one of the members of one of these wagon companies wrote a letter to the organizer of this reunion, this jubilee, and said, ‘I think we’re forgetting the wagon companies.’ And suggested, ‘Why can’t those people in the Hodgetts and Hunt–there are survivors of those wagon companies who played a big part in this story–attend this jubilee celebration, too?’ And I think that did, in fact, happen. I think they included them. But for too long, these wagon companies have just been forgotten and they shouldn’t be because they were out there suffering the same conditions and for longer, even, than the handcart companies were.”
The three of us have been working very hard to get the third season up and running. It’s been a little bumpy, being preempted by the Ryder Cup and General Conference, but we’re staying on track. We’re beginning to assemble our fourth episode of the season, Handcarts Part 4, which is really starting to get into the plight of the Willie and Martin Companies. There’s so much to tell about the whole handcart episode even though it only encompassed a tiny portion of the pioneer migration. It seems to be the story that captures the heart of the members of the Church the most.
Last week we were invited to appear on the KSL Radio broadcast of “People of Faith,” with Carole Mikita, to talk about our new books, History of the Saints, and The Remarkable Journey of the Mormon Battalion. She was very kind and gracious to us and she seemed to really like the books. The show aired September 30 but it is still available on the KSL Newsradio website as a podcast.
With History of the Saints entering its third season this November, we wanted to start off telling a story that we know is close to the hearts of many Latter-day Saints: The trek of the handcart companies. The information about them is abundant and we’ve interviewed many scholars on the subject, including Alexander Baugh; Andrew D. Olson, author of The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers; Lyndia Carter; William G. Hartley; Jolene S. Allphin, Author of Tell My Story, Too-A Collection of Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Rescuers of the Willie, Martin, Hodgett and Hunt Companies, 1856; Mel Bashore; Al Christy and others. It’s probably the greatest number of interviews we have done on one subject.
These episodes of History of the Saints will cover the entire handcart movement, as well as some of the wagon companies that went with them, not just the Martin and Willie Companies. There were ten companies of about 3000 people total. That’s only around ten percent of the Mormon Migration, yet those handcart pioneers seem to occupy a special place in the hearts of many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Glenn Rawson MC’d the Covenant Communications this morning. There are a lot of exciting products coming out this fall. We heard from Film Producer Lee Groberg, Speaker Hank Smith and others. Afterwards we visited the LDS Book Buyers Convention and got to see the new History of the Saints book and the Mormon Battalion Book on the shelf. We can hardly wait until they hit the stores.
The History of the Saints team has been very busy lately. It’s a little hard to believe that we’re already one third of the way through the second season. We have conducted new interviews with some great scholars like Alex Baugh, Thomas G. Alexander, and Carol Madsen on a number of topics including Kanesville, which once was the headquarters of the church, and Oliver Cowdery’s return to the Church. The interviews are fascinating and thought-provoking. We can’t wait for you to be able to hear them.