Redefining Kinship: Ancestor Worship In Mormon Culture

The term “ancestor worship” usually invokes images of people slaughtering a chicken on a grave, offering supplications to a sun-worn picture on a mantel, or repeatedly bowing towards a statue. Surprisingly, Mormonism exhibits some strong elements of what people might consider “ancestor worship.” From an anthropological point of view, I will explore how Mormonism challenges our traditional notions of both kinship and ancestral worship; I will also consider important ethical implications. Blurring the definition of kinship and expanding the view of ancestors by imagining all people as our brothers and sisters can help shape ethical codes by creating a level of responsibility and respect between those we don’t even know. It’s difficult to shirk responsibility and ignore other people’s needs, whether dead or alive, if we imagine them as our own siblings.

Hillary Laga