Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

What Is the Future of Mormon Studies?

51w-R347puL._SL500_AA300_I’m heading out to California today for the Claremont Graduate School’s conference on the future of Mormon Studies, which looks ahead while also honoring the past. The event is simultaneously a lovefestschrift for retired sociologist Armand Mauss and a glimpse into the 21st century, with talks by established scholars like Richard and Claudia Bushman, Jan Shipps, and Levi Peterson, as well as rising stars like Matt Bowman and Claremont’s own Patrick Mason.

I’m giving a paper on the evolution of Mormon memoir as a genre. My talk deals with the issues of memoir as propaganda and memoir as factual autobiography. I see Mormons as espousing both of those traits, and that is not necessarily bad (at least according to George Orwell), but it’s important to examine our reasons for writing and consciously shaping our records.

In preparation for the event I’ve been reading Armand’s memoir Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to read it, particularly if you’re interested in the birth of Mormon Studies as a discipline in the late 20th century. Armand was instrumental in midwifing that discipline–and as his story shows, such advocacy was not without professional and ecclesiastical consequences.

I’ll post some notes from the conference sessions on Friday and Saturday.

P.S. Check out the new Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies. The inaugural issue is available for free here.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.


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  • Jana Riess and others are making an important contribution to our understanding of Mormon history and what it means to be a Mormon. I find that for those of us who are active, believing intellectual Mormons it is valuable to try and come to understand what the Gospel really means and to do so in conjunction with the inspiration coming to our Church leaders and most critically the personal revelation we can receive from our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. As the great scientist and believer Henry Eyring once said, “In this Church, you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!”

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

  • 1. “Great scientist…Henry Eyring”? Who is he and what made him a “great” scientist?

    2. What does the quote attributed to him even mean (“In this church, you not have to believe the truth…”)? I don’t know how that is any different from any church. Please tell me what it means.

  • Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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