Hundreds of historians and LDS history buffs are gathering in Sacramento this weekend for the annual Mormon History Association conference, with "Mormon Gold" as one of the themes for this year's event.
Early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were on hand 160 years ago when James Marshall discovered gold about 60 miles west of Lake Tahoe. An LDS-owned newspaper in San Francisco, the California Star, was reportedly the first to advertise the discovery, setting the stage for the gold rush that followed.
The conference will include presentation of more than 100 papers and presentation of the association's annual awards for the best new books, documentaries and other writings involving LDS history in 2007.
Several of this year's papers will focus on the history of the LDS Church in California. Latter-day Saints first arrived there in 1846 when 230 converts to the faith sailed to what is now San Francisco on the ship Brooklyn. Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote that for a time, San Francisco (formerly a Mexican province known as Yerba Buena) was "largely a Mormon town."
That same year, the U.S. Army recruited some 500 LDS men who enlisted for service in the war with Mexico. The Mormon Battalion, as they became known, marched 2,000 miles from Florence, Neb., to San Diego. By the time they arrived, the war was over and they ventured north, meeting up with fellow Latter-day Saints.
About 100 of them found employment at Sutter's Mill, where gold was discovered soon afterward.
Papers on California's LDS history include "Not Quite Zion: California's Gold Rush Saints," by professor Kenneth Owens of California State-Sacramento; "Amasa M. Lyman: Apostle in the Gold Fields," by Edward Leo Lyman, a retired professor from Victory Valley College; and "A Style of Their Own: Transforming Mormon Architecture for California," by MHA President Paul L. Anderson, curator of special exhibitions/senior designer at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.
Elder John K. Carmack, director of the LDS Church's Perpetual Education Fund and former executive director of the church's historical department, will discuss how "California Provided the Answer" at a luncheon address on Friday.
A Sunday devotional at Coloma Emmanuel Church in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park will have a reader's theater of excerpts from gold rush diaries and journals.