San Juan Mission Symposium is February 17
Feb 08, 2012 | 3083 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In connection with the Charles Redd Center’s 40th anniversary, the Escalante/Hole-in-the-Rock Heritage Center is hosting the San Juan Mission Symposium on Friday, February 17, at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held at the BYU Conference Center, 770 East University Parkway in Provo, UT.

One of the symposium’s purposes is to support efforts to rebuild Fort Bluff and the Escalante Heritage Center. The event will have some limited seating, but is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required to attend the event.

With the popularity of Gerald Lund’s book, The Undaunted, the event was planned to offer accounts of the historical San Juan Settlement. Presenters include historians Lamont J. Crabtree, David S. Carpenter and Douglas L. Major.

To register or learn more, visit or San Juan Symposium on Facebook.

Sign in and meet the authors at 6:30 p.m., with papers starting at 7 p.m.

In the fall of 1879, a group of colonizers assembled at the plateau east of the Colorado River to build at road to the San Juan River.  Because of the dramatic and unchanged geography, much as been written about the road carved to the new settlement on the banks of San Juan. What is often missed of these undaunted pioneers is their challenges they faced to stay. This Symposium will present their stories.  

Presenters include:

• Lamont J. Crabtree, the recognized expert on the expedition and trail having identified, marked and help preserved the route for over thirty years.

Painstaking personal reconnaissance of the geography coupled with written evidence has given Crabtree a remarkable insight of the San Juan Mission.

• David S. Carpenter, is a historian and author of Jens Nielson, Bishop of Bluff.  His work chronicles the history of settling and surviving on the San Juan and includes a comprehensive use of existing first person journals and correspondence with census data. 

• Douglas L. Major has presented papers on early Mormon history at many events.  His interest in the pivotal decision making processes that changes historical outcomes led him to explore why the San Juan Settlers, at the Colorado River rim, chose to willingly go forward.

 Please register for the event at

 The event is free, but seating is limited.  Symposium updates and the ability share this information with family and a friend is available on Facebook.  

Dynamics of Ecclesiastic Leadership in Mormon Colonization; the San Juan Mission’s Dance Hall Rock Decision. by Doug Major, O.D.  

The San Juan Mission highlights most of the leadership challenges colonizers faced in the Mormon expansion.  This paper describes some of the elements of the decision making process and conflict resolution in LDS community building.

On November 27, 1879, Silas S. Smith caught up with the main body of San Juan Settlers and assumed command on the bleak Escalante desert by a natural rock amphitheater named Dance Hall.

The mission was in dire straits. Hemmed in by the Kiaparowits plateau to the south, the maze canyons of the Escalante River to the north allowed one route, down a 2000 foot notch in the Colorado River Gorge apply named, Hole-in-the-Rock.

Smith quickly assigned his second in command Platte Lyman with 12 men to reconnoiter beyond the river to see if any road could be constructed.  The men returned to report that “the country so rough and broken …deep gorges all in solid rock…we gave up all idea of a road being made there.” 

Marooned by the winter snow, the majority of the company being women and children, one pioneer reported, “Before we left our homes we were told that the country had been explored, and that the road was feasible. we found someone had been mistaken.” 

Gloom and despondency pervaded the camp. Faced with the stark reality of task, the negative sentiment the pioneer practicality amazingly gave way to the decision to” go on whether we can or not.” 

The amount of unity of purpose they displayed over the next five months of impossible road building is remarkable. 

The leadership process which inspired such a group unanimity and consensus will be analyzed. 

The dynamics of the leader’s personalities involved as applied to Decision Making Theory will be investigated.  Many of these same issues of following ecclesiastic authority are still present in Mormon governance today.
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