I’m trying my hand at live blogging the conference happening today at Claremont Graduate School, “What Is Mormon Studies? Transdisciplinary Inquiries Into an Emerging Field.”
The first speaker in this morning’s Critical Approaches to Mormon Studies session is Loyd Ericson; remarks titled” Where is the Mormon is Mormon Studies? Subject, Method, Object?”
Loyd unpacks the term Mormon–as subject and object of study and as a term whose ownership has been disputed–and outlines six groups of subjects he places under the Mormon Studies umbrella. (I summarize here)
1. Pastoral Mormons: those teaching religion to other Mormons with a theological, evangelical, testimonial bent.
2. Mormon apologists: those who do academic work and employ specific faith statements to defend or prove the Church’s truth claims.
3. Mormon, but: a believer, but not an apologist; those who don’t allow faith to impede rigorous academic work
4. Non-Mormon, but: not LDS, but not anti-Mormon; have a real interest in doing objective academic work
5. Mormon “revisionists”: may or may not be believing Mormons; engage in critical academic work on Mormonism; explicit criticisms seen as attacks on Mormonism and these scholars’ work has often been marginalized in Mormon Studies.
6. Anti-Mormons: those with an explicit, stated purpose to encourage Mormons to leave their faith.
Loyd then examined Mormonism as method–is there a uniquely Mormon method or approach to Mormon Studies? Are we doing Mormon history, or are we Mormons doing academic work in history, anthropology, theology, sociology, or other topics?
Loyd also touched on Mormon Studies as object–the topic being studied–and posed questions about who’s allowed to participate? What topics are open for inquiry, or are there off-limits areas? Is Mormon Studies open to all, including all the subjects enumerated above?
As is typical in academic inquiry, the questions outnumber the answers. We’ll spend the rest of the day exploring these issues–and still not arrive at THE definitive answers.