Class Notes

Shipp’s last chapter looked closely at the 1916 General Conference of the LDS Church. The prophet Joseph F. Smith, nephew of Joseph Smith knew that things were greatly changing for the Church. She wrote, “this was a sermon that the Saints very much needed to hear, since the behavioral boundary that had once separated the Mormons from the outside world was being seriously eroded. The special features that had served the LDS community as distinguishing marks were either being stripped away entirely or so transformed that they no longer functioned to keep the cultural context in the which the Saints lived set clearly apart from the rest of the nation. The disappearance of plural marriage and the political kingdom was accompanied, moreover, by the normalizing of the LDS community’s political and economic structures, with the formation in Utah of regular federal, state, and local governmental units, and with the development of close financial ties and ordinary business intercourse with the nations larger business and financial community.” In other words, Mormons could no longer isolate themselves in Utah. They had to learn to live as is often taught, “in the world but not of the world.”

One note about Jan Shipps Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. As much as I enjoyed the book, I would not assign it again for this particular class. The book was written as essays for talks she gave at academic conferences for other scholars who study Mormonism and religion in general. For my students, this is an introduction class to these religions, and I found I needed to fill in too much general information. I would not use this book for beginners looking in Mormonism but is a great book for those already with knowledge of the Church looking to increase their historical understanding.

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