Future of Mormonism
Mormon Studies: Catching the New Wave
But what will the general landscape of Mormon studies look like over the next couple of decades? Generally speaking, I think what Brian Birch refers to as "methodological anarchy" is about as helpful a way of describing it as I'm aware of. Methodological anarchy is shorthand for the idea that a massive diversity in the kinds of scholarly inquiries should be both permitted and encouraged. I think the anarchy has already begun in a very limited way, but alongside a few new flowers that are just now coming into bloom, many more will emerge that can contribute to the project of understanding the rich tapestry of Mormonism. Indeed, in order to accomplish this, a multiplicity of methodological approaches is absolutely necessary -- e.g., ritual studies, feminism, psychology, philosophy of religion, scriptural-textual analysis, anthropology, theology, ethics, political philosophy, etc. As such, transdisciplinary work will also have an important role to play, especially as individual methodologies realize the limits of their possibilities.
In his "Undercurrents and Riptides" Bushman puts it like this, "Of course, we don't know exactly where all this will lead. This really is the first generation. It is quite likely that this will produce a new burst of scholarly literature that could be called ‘New Wave Mormon Studies' . . . I personally think we are in for a thrilling efflorescence of work in new fields, using new methods, and throwing new light on the meaning of Mormonism." On any reasonable accounting, the small ripple that began over a half a century ago has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the past decade. There will undoubtedly be unexpected and challenging currents to confront as the momentum continues, but based on the present state of affairs there is every reason to believe that this wave is far from reaching its crest.
Richard T. Livingston is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate University's School of Religion studying Philosophy of Religion and Theology. Most broadly construed, his academic interests are located in the complex interstices between religion and philosophy, theology and metaphysics, and, peripherally, their points of contact with science.