For the next several days, the Juvenile Instructor will examine the work of the sociologist Armand Mauss, a pioneering figure in Mormon studies, under the banner of our occasional series “Reassessing the Classics.” For the next three days, several scholars will examine Mauss’s landmark 1994 book THE ANGEL AND THE BEEHIVE: THE MORMON STRUGGLE WITH ASSIMILATION (University of Illinois Press). The first of these went up Monday, October 14. Today, Jana Riess, author of many well-regarded books on Mormonism, including the important THE NEXT MORMONS: HOW MILLENNIALS ARE CHANGING THE LDS CHURCH (Oxford, 2019).
Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
unveiled the first peek at its new global youth program, which will provide
activities and instruction for Saints from ages 8 to 18. As I have been reading
about the new initiative, one thought kept going through my mind: Is this a sign of retrenchment or
The fact that this was my recurring question shows how
deeply Armand Mauss’s thesis from The Angel and the Beehive has
informed my understanding of Mormonism as a vibrant religion with a particular
genius for reinvention. And I’m not the only one. The Angel and the Beehive has for the last quarter century been the
single most defining and influential work on the social scientific study of
Mormonism, its thesis nimble enough to accommodate—nay, to expect—theological
and social change when such change has consigned other theories to the dustbin.
Mauss’s contributions to the field don’t end with his own
published work, but include his handiwork in creating avenues for scholars to
explore Mormonism as a fruitful topic for social scientific study. He was one
of the founding members of the Mormon Social Science Association, and served as its first vice-president
in the late 1970s. For the first 40 years of the MSSA’s existence, Armand has
been actively involved in presenting new research and helping to mentor young
I’ve been lucky enough to be one of those scholars. Since I
was trained as a historian and not a social scientist, it was with some
trepidation that I told Armand years ago that I was thinking about diving into
a large-scale research project about contemporary young Mormons. What became The Next Mormons was possible in no
small part because of Armand’s willing assistance with many aspects of the
project, as he offered feedback on early drafts of survey questions, donated to
the Kickstarter campaign that funded the national survey, and read and
commented on two chapters in progress.
That same generosity of spirit was also apparent when we
served together on the Dialogue
board. Armand was by that time in his late seventies and early eighties. Plenty
of other people look at retirement as a time to enjoy a long-earned respite
from work, and a chance to indulge personal interests. (Believe me, I’m not
judging.) This was not Armand’s approach. He devoted himself to the journal and
the people associated with it. I count myself as tremendously lucky that our
years on the board overlapped.
I’m greatly saddened to hear that Armand is facing the end
of his life. I will miss his keen intellect, vibrant sense of humor, and
equally vibrant Hawaiian shirts. God be with him till we meet again.
* The answer, I think, is that it is both. On the one hand,
the youth program is a turn toward insularity, as the Saints eschew non-church
programs like Scouting in favor of growing their own. On the other hand, its
hands-off approach, greater commitment to gender equality, and emphasis on
local flexibility are clear signs of assimilation, as the Church adapts itself
to meet the needs of a changing world that is no longer impressed by
standardization and uniformity.
For the next several days, the Juvenile Instructor will examine the work of the sociologist Armand Mauss, a pioneering figure in Mormon studies, under the banner of our occasional series “Reassessing the Classics.” For the next three days, several scholars will examine Mauss’s landmark 1994 book THE ANGEL AND THE BEEHIVE: THE MORMON STRUGGLE WITH ASSIMILATION (University of Illinois Press). First: Gary and Gordon Shepherd, sociologists in their own right and the authors of a number of well-regarded works in Mormon studies, including A KINGDOM TRANSFORMED: EARLY MORMONISM AND THE MODERN LDS CHURCH (2nd edition, University of Utah Press, 2015).
Armand Mauss’s The Angel and The
Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation was published in 1994 by the
University of Illinois Press. Angel
and the Beehive quickly became a landmark work in Mormon studies that
continues to be referenced by scholars of contemporary Mormonism to this day. This was Armand’s first, full-fledged
book—one that had been simmering on the backburner of his mind for 25
years. In it, Armand applied the
sociological notion of assimilation and the economics notion of retrenchment to
show how the late 20th Century LDS Church was attempting to apply
the brakes to liberalizing compromises in belief and practice that had been
made in the early and middle decades of the 20th Century.
Society at large exerts pressures on
perceived deviant groups (emerging from within or entering from outside a host
society) to conform to prevailing norms and values, compelling them towards assimilation into established society. But if such groups become totally
assimilated, they of course lose their distinctive identity and original
purpose for being. One strategy to deal with these losses is to attempt
“retrenchment”: a cut-back on compromises and perhaps even a return to original
principles. Angel and the Beehive
examined this retrenchment strategy as a response of LDS officials during the 1950s
through the 1980s to perceived liberalizing tendencies in society that seemed
to threaten basic LDS tenets if allowed to be adopted by church members. Armand proposed that church leaders were in
effect saying: “Assimilation has gone
far enough. Let’s start remembering the things that have made us a peculiar
Particular areas Armand identified
as indicators of retrenchment efforts included: (1) increased emphasis on
continuous revelation through modern prophets; (2) renewed emphasis on temples,
temple work, and genealogical research; (3) expansion and standardization of
missionary work; (4) renewed emphasis on family values; and (5) expansion of
formal religious education and indoctrination.
A large portion of his book marshalled supportive evidence for
retrenchment emphasis in these areas, some of the evidence being social science
research data drawn from a variety of sources (including my brother Gordon’s
and my content analysis of General Conference addresses over a 150-year period,
1830-1979), while other evidence was garnered from standard historical sources
and Armand’s own extensive involvement with and knowledge of relevant events.
Armand’s presentation and analysis of evidence was persuasive and impactful on
the ways that scholars viewed the dynamics of changing LDS policies.
Following publication of Angel
and the Beehive, Armand continued to think about the assimilation and
retrenchment issue for the LDS Church over succeeding years. Generally speaking, in the case of new or radical
religious organizations, complete resistance or uncompromising retreat from
changes demanded by the outside world can result in destruction of the group by
the larger society, extreme isolation, failure to attract or even maintain
members, or internal schism and division, as some group members break away to
retain their purity while others continue along the path of compromise and ultimate
Another possibility, however, is to
find an acceptable middle ground in which a certain amount of tension between
group and society continues; the group wants to maintain certain distinctions,
but not so much that the group is in danger of being suppressed into extinction
or so little that the group simply morphs into a bland version of already
existing groups in the larger world. Since
change in modern societies is axiomatic, this middle ground path must
continually be monitored and adjusted to maintain an “optimum” balance of
tension between social compromise and group distinctiveness. In a 2011 Dialogue article, Armand reconsidered
his retrenchment thesis in this light and concluded that for the previous two
decades “LDS general authorities [had] gradually introduced a series of changes
in church policy that have had the cumulative effect of pulling the pendulum of
ecclesiastical culture back somewhat from the retrenchment mode and toward
In this analysis, Armand identified
the partial reversal of retrenchment (swinging of the pendulum back to more
assimilating compromise) as occurring primarily in the areas of (1) LDS
scriptural and doctrinal understandings, (2) gender and family policies, (3) issues
of homosexuality, and (4) rapprochement with independent scholarship in Mormon
studies. Armand was careful to qualify
his observations by saying “I haven’t yet gathered the kind of systematic data
needed for reliable conclusions. Nor am
I claiming there has been a wholesale rollback of retrenchment policies, but
only some relatively modest ‘course corrections.’”
As it happened, Gordon and I were in
a position to generate empirical results that could test Armand’s new “course
correction” hypothesis as a corollary to his earlier assimilation and
retrenchment thesis. We did this by
carrying out a 30-year update (1980-2009) of our original content analysis of
General Conference addresses. In so doing, we formulated specific empirical
tests of LDS leader’s changing emphasis on themes that represented most of the
areas Armand had predicted would swing away from retrenchment concerns back
towards greater accommodation and reduction of social tension. Our results were
consistent with Armand’s expectations and thus lend some empirical support,
previously lacking, for his “course correction” hypothesis. (See the 2nd edition of our
retitled A Kingdom Transformed: Early Mormonism and the Modern LDS Church. 2016, University of Utah Press, pp.202-04;
Our own unsystematic observations of
more recent changes in LDS Church policies—during the later stage of President
Monson’s presidency and the new and current presidency of President
Nelson—indicate to us an ongoing set of pendulum swings between retrenchment
and societal accommodation, perhaps seemingly a bit more in the direction of
accommodation. This especially seems
true in such arenas as women’s’ status, rapprochement with professional
scholarship, and doctrinal/historical exposition. But policies continue to be much less
accommodating on LGBT issues and decidedly less so on insistence of
unquestioning compliance with directives claimed to be the product of current prophetic
revelation. Meanwhile, Armand, we can be
sure, continues to surveil these organizational dynamics at play within the
conceptual framework he has done so much to clarify for us.
Dr. Taylor Petrey was recently named editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. We are grateful he took time to answer our questions!
Taylor Petrey is Associate Professor and Religion and Chair of the Religion Department at Kalamazoo College.Dr. Petrey received his ThD and MTS from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity and BA from Pace University in Philosophy and Religious Studies. He teaches courses in ancient Christianity and ancient Judaism, including the sacred texts that comprise the Bible for both traditions. His teaching and research explore the use and meaning of the Bible, early Christian thought, and the history of gender, sexuality, and kinship in Christianity.
Dialogue is a hub for Mormon Studies scholarship, events, and
news. For over 50 years, Dialogue has been the premiere journal in Mormon
Studies. It has published some of the most important articles, personal essays,
poetry, fiction, and art. Dialogue has also evolved in recent years to offer
new products. We have an excellent newsletter, podcast, and social media feeds
on Facebook and Twitter. These forms of engagement give our audience more ways
to access great commentary on the past, present, and future of the LDS
It’s hard to believe that we are only a few weeks away from
the Mormon History Association conference deadline! Anne Berryhill, our
committee, and I are anxiously awaiting when we get to look at proposals and
fully plan out the 2020 conference. I suspect that I’m preaching to the choir
when I tell blog readers that MHA is one of the best conferences out there. It’s
well-attended, features fantastic scholarship, and I always walk away feeling
academically rejuvenated. As Ben once wrote, one of the best things about MHA
is that people show up to panels. Many conferences have low session turnout,
but that’s an exception rather than the rule at MHA. I remember the first time
I presented at a national conference of another organization and feeling
disappointed that only a dozen people attended my paper. Accordingly, the
Q&A portions are also rich and engaging (although, like all conferences,
there can be some wacky questions!).
So how do you get to the point where you’re presenting at MHA?
How do you submit a paper proposal? And, ideally, how do you submit a panel
proposal? Like many things in academia, folks are often told to do something
but specific processes are not fully explained. In this post, I hope to make
the process less opaque. I will explain why you should submit to the MHA Annual
Conference, how to “read” a Call for Papers, how to write a good abstract, how
to write a paper proposal, and how to write a panel proposal. The process isn’t
complicated, but I remember well not feeling confident about sending in a
This is important to put at the beginning of the post: not
everyone is accepted to every conference to which they apply. I remember
receiving a rejection letter from MHA and wondering if that was the end of my
academic career. Thankfully, wise mentors like Ken Alford and Spencer Fluhman
told me that receiving a rejection is a part of the process. Sometimes a
proposal doesn’t “fit” with the program. “Fit” is a nebulous term, but it’s a
complicated process to balance a conference lineup with a variety of topics,
themes, formats, and so on. A rejection says nothing about your intellectual capabilities
or your place in the field of Mormon history. Everyone from Laurel Thatcher
Ulrich to the least-experienced undergraduate will face rejection in their
Should I Submit to the Mormon History Association Conference?
Conference participation is the lowest bar-to-entry into the
scholarly world (Ardis Parshall has written about MHA being “academic
vs. scholarly” here). There is room for dozens of speakers at MHA’s annual
conference, for instance, versus roughly 20 articles published per year in the Journal of Mormon History. Conferences
give you a chance to show off your research, meet with others who are
interested in Mormon history, and make connections with others.
MHA is the friendliest conference I’ve ever attended. It’s a
collegial environment with smart people who know the field. You couldn’t ask
for a better place to receive feedback on your work and sharpen your future
research and writing questions.
55th Annual Conference of the Mormon History Association will be held June 4-7, 2020, in Rochester/Palmyra, New
Make sure you can
attend the conference!
conference theme, “Visions, Restoration,
and Movements” commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mormonism’s birth in upstate New
York. Joseph Smith’s religious movement has grown from a fledgling frontier
faith to a diverse set of religious and cultural traditions functioning across
Having a paper that
addresses the theme in some way, and/or that addresses the 200th
anniversary will fit in with the conference committee’s vision for the program.
Rochester/Palmyra conference will be an opportunity to walk where Joseph Smith,
Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and other such luminaries walked, a place to be reminded of the visions,
visionaries, and movements that came out of western New York in the 19th century.
Papers that address secondary themes like suffrage
and abolition are likely to score well when the program committee reads your
Though the program
committee will consider individual papers, it will give preference to proposals
for complete sessions, whose
participants reflect MHA’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.
It’s easier to be
accepted as a panel than as individual papers. Having women, people of color,
and folks from disparate institutions reflects well on your panel for several
reasons. First, it shows that you worked to find a panel that fits well
together. Second, the panel will address different topics or themes according
to different researcher’s questions.
Please send 1) a 300-word
abstract for each paper or presentation and 2) a one-page CV for each
presenter, including email contact information. Full session proposals should
include the session title and a 150-word abstract outlining the session’s
theme, along with a confirmed chair and/or commentator, if applicable.
Previously published papers are not eligible for presentation at MHA. Limited financial assistance for travel and
lodging at the conference is available to volunteers, and to some student and
international presenters. Those who wish to apply for this funding may do so upon acceptance of their proposed
The deadline for proposals is November 1, 2019. Send proposals to program co-chairs Joseph Stuart
and Anne Berryhill at email@example.com. Acknowledgment of receipt
will be sent immediately. Notification of acceptance/rejection will be made by January 15, 2020.
Make sure you follow directions! Write your
abstract(s), include a CV, and list chairs and commentators.
If applicable, be sure to apply for travel funding
if your paper/panel is accepted (the program committee and MHA’s executive
director won’t know how funding will work until after the committee is set).
Hit your deadlines!
Don’t expect to hear back from MHA until January
15, 2020. If you haven’t heard by January 16, 2020, THEN send a note to the
panel co-chairs’ email.
Do I Write a Quality Abstract?
Using the information above, you can now craft your abstract,
meaning your proposal with tentative ideas about your findings. You don’t have
to have your paper complete before submitting; you’ll have time to write it
afterward. Still, you should have a solid hypothesis for what you expect to
find in your archival research and perusal of the secondary literature.
Remember that you only have 20 minutes to present. Focus in
one a single idea that you hope to develop and explain to your audience. Here’s
one way to go about it (and here’s an example of mine from a previous MHA
Set the scene (who, what, when, where, why)
Briefly explain what others have said about your
topic (if they have said anything)
“Based on [primary sources, data, etc.]” or “through
an analysis of [events, persons, ideas]” I will show [argument].
Ask a friend, mentor, or colleague to take a look
at your proposal to make sure that it’s clear and concise.
Do I Submit a Paper Proposal?
Write your abstract and send to firstname.lastname@example.org by
11:59 PM on November 1, 2019. You’ll receive confirmation that the committee
received it—if you haven’t received one send a follow up!
Do I Form a Panel?
This can be especially daunting for new scholars or those who
haven’t previously attended MHA. You can find those who have published in your
area of interest at mormonhistory.byu.edu using a search term like “Japan” or “Book
of Mormon” or “Civil War.” You can also consult womeninmormonstudies.org or globalmormonstudies.org to find
others to team up with. Finally, this
Google Doc lists the names of those looking for panelists with their topics
and how many panelists they need and has their best mode of contact included.
Most people are flattered to be asked to join a panel.
If they are rude then you didn’t want to present with them, anyway.
Do I Submit a Panel Proposal?
Compile abstracts, cvs, and other relevant information and
send to email@example.com
by 11:59 PM on November 1, 2019. You’ll receive confirmation that the committee
received it—if you haven’t received one send a follow up. Also, be sure to actually
contact your chair or commentator and confirm they can take on the role. Don’t
put people forward for work they haven’t agreed to do!
The 2019 conference of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society will focus on the history of the building of temples in the Pacific by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, starting with the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1919–100 years ago. Approximately 30 presentations–5 choices per hour to choose from! Registration begins at 8 A.M. on November 16, 2019, in the Heber J. Grant Building.
The 7th Annual Summer Seminar on Latter-day Saint Theology “A Wrestle Before God: Reading Enos 1” Université Bordeaux Montaigne, Bordeaux, France June 22–July 4, 2020
Sponsored by the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar in partnership with The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and the Wheatley Institution
In the summer of 2020, the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Enos 1. The seminar will be hosted by the Université Bordeaux Montaigne in Bordeaux, France, from June 22 through July 4, 2020. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1250 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Library has established a process to digitize, describe, and provide online access to as many of its holdings as possible. Using metadata from paper and electronic indices, spreadsheets, and other files, we are attempting to identify people, places and events in the over twelve million pages of digitized published materials and archival collections. The Library is seeking a part-time (28 hrs/wk) intern to help transform and create this metadata, and to train volunteers involved in the digital asset identification process. We invite students or recent (within last 12 months) college graduates with career goals in the field of metadata and/or digital asset management to apply for this 1-year, paid internship.
Learn how to use the Church History Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
Train volunteers how to use the Library’s metadata enrichment tools.
Assign and review volunteer metadata enrichment work.
Reconcile and resolve problems or exceptions encountered in this process.
Create and enhance training documentation for metadata projects.
Consult on improving metadata enrichment tools and processes.
Normalize and transform existing metadata in spreadsheets and other electronic documents.
Participate with other library, archival, and product management professionals in improving library services.
Improve professional skills relating to library, archives, and digital asset management.
The history of Bishops and their responsibilities throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has yet to be written. Historicizing the shifts in responsibility at the October 2019 General Conference of the church can consequently be challenging. I’d like to focus here on one key facet of the new ecclesiology: the role of Bishoprics with young men of the church.
An excerpt from an interview with Christopher Blythe, a Research Associate at BYU’s Maxwell Institute working on a book about the cultural history of Book of Mormon geography. Blythe received his PhD in American Religious History in 2015 and has worked on the Joseph Smith Papers. He is also the associate editor for the Journal of Mormon History. For the full interview, head over to Kurt Manwaring’s site, From the Desk.
How did your understanding of Joseph Smith change during your time as a documentary editor for the Joseph Smith Papers?
My thoughts on Joseph Smith as a prophet and visionary are much the same as they have been from when I first read Joseph Fielding Smith’s Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith as a teenager. I’m enthralled and moved by Joseph’s vision for mankind and his theology of the divine.
As a documentary editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, I became acquainted with Joseph not only as a prophetic figure but as a political leader and businessman as well.
I was surprised to learn just how involved he was in real estate, local politics, and business. This can be disorienting for someone who is only aware of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry, but, for Joseph, this was all wrapped up in his vision of building the Kingdom of God on earth.
What are a few of the most pressing issues in American Religious History today?
I think matters of race have moved to the center of conversations on religious studies in the United States. There is also extensive work being done on the role of scripture in American churches, what is termed “scripturalization” – how texts or ideas become sacralized within a community. Since the 1990s, and at the center of my own research, is an ongoing effort to bring out the lived experience of ordinary believers. Religious intolerance remains a crucial discussion in American religious history as well. Increasingly we have Latter-day Saint scholars and Latter-day Saint subjects integrated into these wider studies, whether it be race, scripture, or religious prejudice.
What are two or three breathtaking documents you have personally handled in the Church History Library archives?
As a historian on the Joseph Smith Papers, we would check typescripts against the original manuscript, so I have had the opportunity to work with many documents that were handled by Joseph Smith and other early church leaders. I have a special place in my heart for a little booklet from 1840 that Wilford Woodruff used to record Joseph Smith’s teachings. He included revelations that weren’t yet canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and in a few instances, notes about more private interactions with the prophet. The document was re-discovered in the past several years in the Church’s holdings and was made available digitally about two years ago. It includes esoteric beliefs—speculative ideas—that Joseph would never discuss publicly, but which he felt comfortable discussing with his closest friends.
Tyler Balli is a master’s student in history at Virginia Tech working on a thesis project that intersects at the history of Mormonism and the history of the book. He can be contacted at tylerab AT vt.edu.
of 1877, seventeen-year-old Annie Wells confided to her diary about the
“splendid novel” she was then reading, Marquis of Lossie. She wrote, “I
never read a good novel, with out I [feel] allmost [sic] jealous of my
heroine, and even now I keep building castles in the air about this book only
putting my self in as the heroine.” She even composed a poem about her reading
Who ever read the daring deed;
Of some great hero,
Who rode upon his flashing steed
As brave as any hero
Without a thought of admiration
A longing for such a one they feel
And when they close the splendid volume
They recognize their beau-ideal
her entry, she writes, “Really not a very excellent poet am I, but then that
expresses my opinion and no one else need read it.”
Wells’s frank admissions of reading a romantic novel written by a non-Mormon, as well as her fantasies of becoming the novel’s heroine, would have alarmed many church leaders, editors, and other cultural arbiters of the day. Many of them often warned against the dangers of fiction, which could give readers “false ideas about human nature” or inspire “poor, weak-headed creatures . . . [to] assume the character of [a novel’s] heroine, until it passes from recollection, or is superseded by another heroine of a novel read subsequently,” never allowing them to develop their true selves. These are just a few of the ideas about proper or improper reading that swirled around in nineteenth-century Utah, of which ideas about fiction only composed a small part.
I’m interested in uncovering more sources like Wells’s journal. I’m currently a master’s student in history at Virginia Tech working on a thesis project that intersects at the history of Mormonism and the history of the book, and I’d greatly appreciate the help of my fellow scholars in suggesting sources.
I’m specifically interested in looking at Mormon readers from 1869 till the turn of the century: what they read (both secular and religious publications, fiction and nonfiction), how they read, their reactions to reading, how they navigated the contemporary proscriptions and prescriptions of reading, and how reading helped them make sense of the tumultuous transformations going on during this period. I’d like to look at this through the lens of gender as well.
If you have come across a primary source that sheds light on any of these topics, I would greatly appreciate you pointing me toward it. Since comments about reading material and reactions to it are often spread widely across letters, journals, or other places, I won’t be able to scan them all, and I’d greatly appreciate your help if you’ve spotted something.
 Annie Wells Cannon, journal, 1877
Jun 30–1881 Sep 4, typescript, MSS 2307, box 2, folder 7, pp. 7–8, L. Tom Perry
Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, UT.
 “What We Women Do with Our Time,” Woman’s
Exponent, February 1, 1878, 132; O. F. Whitney, “The Way to Be Great,” Contributor,
April 1880, 158–160.