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Gordon receives Arrington-Prucha Prize from Western History Association for article on Mountain Meadows massacre

October 19, 2018

Sarah Barringer Gordon, the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and a Professor of History, is a recipient of the Arrington-Prucha Prize from the Western History Association for her article with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Professor Emerita of History and Religious Studies Jan Shipps, “Fatal Convergence in the Kingdom of God: The Mountain Meadows Massacre in American History.”

The article, published in the Summer 2017 issue of the Journal of the Early Republic, details the history of the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, when a group of Mormon settlers in southeastern Utah ambushed and killed a wagon train of Methodist migrants. Co-authors Gordon and Shipps examine the lives of the men at the center of the massacre, providing insight into their similarities and shared experiences, and those of Methodists and Mormons more broadly. In doing so, they provide a more balanced account of the massacre and its significance within the history of the American westward migration and the larger history of religious conflict within the United States. 

“Working on this article was both challenging and invigorating,” said Gordon. “Jan and I were dedicated both to recovering everything we could about the Methodists who were killed at Mountain Meadows, and to exploring the ways that each side was motivated by religious convictions that told them they were the true builders of the Kingdom of God in America.”

The Western History Association was founded in 1961, and its mission is to cultivate broad appreciation of the history of the “North American Wests, frontiers, homelands, and borderlands.” The WHA awards the Arrington-Prucha Prize annually for the “best article on the history of religion in the West.”  Gordon will accept the award on October 19 during the 2018 WHA Conference in San Antonio.

 “This award reflects the original and insightful contributions that Professor Gordon’s work offers to the fields of religious and legal history,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of Penn Law and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “At a time when debates about religion and public life are at the forefront of our national conversation, her scholarship and teaching provide much-needed historical context and a deeper understanding of the broader implications of these key issues.” 

Gordon is a renowned scholar in the field of religion in American public life and the law of church and state. Her latest book, Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776-1876, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press.