How Not To Think About Fundamentalism

One of my earliest mentors in the historical profession was a former member of Students for a Democratic Society.  He was also a remarkably dynamic teacher who enjoyed pulling reversals in the classroom: before the break, Arthur Schlesinger was the wise and normative advocate of measured reform; after the break Arthur Schlesinger was a googly-eyed plutocrat.   This was a rather blunt way to introduce us to issues of master narratives, methodology, and historiography (in addition to Schlesinger), … [Read more...]

“It’s like Methodism, only more”: Mormon Conversion and Narratives of the Great Apostasy

A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School, a middle-aged woman shared her conversion story to Mormonism. Born and raised a Methodist, she noted that she always felt like something was lacking. When she discovered Mormonism, she explained, "it was like Methodism, only more."I smiled to myself as she said this, recognizing in her own conversion narrative a common refrain that dominates the autobiographical writings of her 19th century predecessors. Among the first generation of converts to … [Read more...]

Mending a Fractured World


In his Bancroft Prize-winning book, Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers tells the story of how, following the 1970s, America's intellectual world fell apart. Ideas that were taken for granted during the mid-twentieth century, like national consensus, gender norms, racial identities, historical meaning, and market-based capitalism, fragmented into numerous directions. The social unrest of the 1960s (which challenged traditional assumptions), the end of the Cold War (which eliminated the nation's most … [Read more...]

Picketing Zion

Pants, now prayers. Some LDS feminists have raised the banner again and invited members to send letters to general authorities petitioning that women give prayers in General Conference. Once again, it’s a fairly (strategically?) trivial issue that has become symbolic in the effort to bring policy and practice in closer alignment.I’ve done some more thinking about appropriate responses to concerns with Church policies. Last time, I suggested reorienting our expectations and proactively ful … [Read more...]

Why I Pray

Last August I discovered a little cancer in my eye, ocular melanoma. For a week or so I was scanned and tested and faced the possibility of my imminent demise. Dramatic. Then I had my left eye removed, which rid me of the cancer but the wound did not heal. Months and followup surgeries later, my eye looks to be healing properly and I am cancer free.Lucky as I am, these months have given me plenty of time to ponder, to experience the shocking goodness and generosity of friends and strangers, … [Read more...]

French Polynesia and Mormonization: Rethinking Mormon Origins

On January 3, the Community of Christ’s First Presidency called Maureva M. Arnaud Tchong to serve in the Council of Twelve Apostles. The current mission center president over 60 congregations in French Polynesia, Arnaud will be the first individual of native Polynesian heritage to serve as an apostle in any church descended from Joseph Smith’s nineteenth-century Restoration movement. She will also be the first woman from outside of the United States to serve in the Community of Christ’s Council o … [Read more...]

Time Travel, American Style

In my classes, I argue that Christian worldviews, especially Protestant worldviews, have helped to shape how we in this culture experience time. The way we understand time, in turn, determines how we move through space, how we structure our daily lives, even how we develop systems of personal and cultural ethics. Usually I focus on how postmillennialism lies deep in the foundations of American culture: how the idea that we can and should work towards an ultimate perfection has become a generic … [Read more...]

Issues in Mormon Feminism

In 1993, high-ranking LDS leader Elder Boyd K. Packer famously warned that feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals were the three "dangers" to the Church.  A decade later journalist Peggy Fletcher Stack asked, "Where Have all the Mormon Feminists Gone?" (Salt Lake Trib. 10/04/2003).  Twenty years after Packer's warning, and ten years since Stack pronounced them extinct, Mormon feminists have made a roaring comeback and these days regularly make national news.  There are stars like Joanna Br … [Read more...]