Many of you may have already seen this, but it is worth repeating for those who either need a reminder or missed the announcement when it first hit the interwebz. As part of the lecture series for the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics, based at the Washington University of St. Louis and ably led by the esteemed scholar R. Marie Griffeth, Laurie Maffly-Kipp delivered a brilliant presentation titled, “The Long Approach to the Mormon Moment: The Building of an American Church.” Maffly-Kipp needs no introduction in these circles–I’m sure we are all fans of her work, and I doubt I need to assure the presentation’s brilliance. But it is indeed brilliant.
Her lecture focuses on the one hundred year buildup to the present “Mormon Moment,” focusing on the intersections between Mormonism and the American body politic. Don’t think that you already know everything she is going to say, though, because she has an admittedly revisionist approach. For instance, when looking at the “assimilation” process that took place after Mormonism renounced polygamy, she says that the general narrative–that Saints gave up their “communal” identity and focused on individual traits of distinctness–overlooks some of the broader issues taking place. Here’s a taste:
I want to suggest that this focus on individual piety and practice obscures the politics and institutional dimensions of this transition. It also short-changes the extent to which Mormon citizenship came with particular promises and perils for those outside of the church as well as those inside. Instead, it is more clarifying to see the Mormon entry into American public life in the twentieth century as a carefully orchestrated dance, a performance figured as an intricate set of actions and reactions, with each side shifting constantly its movements to take into account the others’ latest gesture.
The entire video can be found here.
I’ll also take this occasion to plug the Danforth Center and the wonderful work they are doing. A brief look at their events from the past year shows a “who’s who” in the scholarly study of religion and politics, and they have set a very high bar for the future. They also are weeks away from the first issue of the online journal Religion & Politics (including our own Max Mueller as Associate Editor), which is sure to carry fantastic material. The first issue will include essays from our own Matt Bowman, on Mormon libertarianism, as well as Max, on going to church with Tagg Romney. Make sure to go “like” their facebook pages, both for the journal and the center, so you can remain aware of exciting developments. We’ll have more on the journal next week when it launches.