Stephen C. Taysom. Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. xvi + 263 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $34.95. Cloth.
We are pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries, by Stephen C. Taysom, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Cleveland State University and Juvenile Instructor blogger. The book is the first to be published by a JI blogger, and as such, we take particular pride in announcing it’s publication and recommending it to all of our readers.
Taysom’s book, set to hit bookshelves next month (and available for pre-order at a slightly discounted price on Amazon now), is being published by Indiana University Press as part of their acclaimed Religion in North America Series, edited by Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein. It is, to my knowledge, the first book in that series on Mormonism.
But Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds is about much more than Mormonism (or Shakerism for that matter). As the editors note in the book’s foreword, “Stephen C. Taysom’s volume is a creative comparative study, an exercise in historical sociology[.] … He accepts received notions of the importance of boundary maintenance for dissenting, alternative, or ‘sectarian’ communities, but he demonstrates how the Shakers and the Mormons employed different options for defining and maintaining their boundaries” (p. ix).
While comparisons of Latter-day Saints and Shakers are certainly nothing new, much of the previous research has focused solely on the divergent marital practices and sexual arrangements of the two group. Adding to that analysis, Taysom explores the rules governing day-to-day activities in each community, their respective dietary codes, and their comparative religious experiences, revealing “the larger patterns that have characterized alternative religious communities in the past and that continue to do so in the present” (p. x).
Many of us have been anxiously awaiting the book’s publication for some time (and I imagine Steve more so than anyone else!). It stands as a significant contribution to the study of Mormonism, demonstrating both the fruitfulness of comparative work and the possibilities of interdisciplinary endeavors.
At some point in the coming weeks, we will post a Q&A with Steve about his book (as well as his other research, the forthcoming Signature Books volume on Mormon Studies he edited, and Mormon Studies in general). In anticipation of that, we invite anyone interested to leave a comment below with your question for the author.