Book of Mormon Conference and Memoir

Paul Harvey

The Book of Mormon Girl - Click to order a copyThis weekend appears to be the Mormon moment for academics, with the conference at Columbia previously announced, and at Chez Harvey, as reports from the conference dovetailed with getting my hot-off-the-press copy of Joanna Brooks's Book of Mormon Girl (originally available on Kindle, now available for non-e-readers like me in actual book form). And that was preceded by last week's justified excoriation (amongst friends and colleagues online) of the ludicrously sophomoric review in the New York Times of Matt Bowman's also hot-off-the-press The Mormon People.

(A quick aside to get it off my chest: Contrast Molly Worthen's extremely thoughtful and balanced review of Randall Stephens' and Karl Giberson's The Anointed, also in the NYT Sunday Book Review, with the review of Bowman's work noted above, and see how much difference it makes when the reviewer actually knows something about the subject and doesn't demand Broadway entertainment from books meant to present a balanced and thoughtful history of a complex subject).

The Mormon People CoverTweeps can follow reports from the conference at the hashtag #mapconf. Here's one I just saw, from conference organizer Jana Riess's summary of one part of Matt Bowman's presentation, from a portion of his work which examines the history and practice of "correlation" in twentieth-century Mormonism, as well as the successful incorporation of the ethos of corporate business progress and organization into the Church's doings (with Romney's career and and business success being a clear example, a point Matt develops much further in this outstanding piece for The New Republic):

Mormons retain the unadulterated confidence in organization that many Americans left in WWI & WWII & the Great Depression

The earliest more substantial report from the conference, however, comes to us via Juveniile Instructor, where Max Mueller managed to get off some pretty substantive impressions/reports from the conference before leaving JFK. You can check out his summary here. I anticipate, or at least hope for, more reflections from others in days to come. Here's one brief summary of a presentation at the conference by the sociologist David Putnam:

Mormons are a peculiar people—and are glad for it.
David Campbell, the co-author of American Grace, pulled from his survey work with Bob Putnam (and new surveys focused in particular on Mormons) to show that Mormons love being Mormons more than any other group. This “ingroup” love is so powerful that it can be compared to the “ingroup” affection among Latinos and African Americans—yes Mormons’ self-directed affection looks more like an ethnic group than a religious group.

As for Joanna's book, more to come on that front very soon! With a stack of papers to grade sitting in front of me, I of course could not resist picking up the work and just turning to a page at random, which turned out to be an account of some early educational experiences and hymns she learned in the Church, which were evidently like versions of those I got in Southern Baptist Sunday Schools, only on steroids. I found myself trying to remember if I had ever heard anything in church growing up about Mormons, and the answer was no. As far as I can remember, I was completely unaware of their existence ( except for one time when OU played BYU and my Sooners got their asses behinds kicked). The Mormon Menace that Patrick Mason so expertly traces in his recent book about anti-Mormonism in the nineteenth-century South had not made it to the Oklahoma Panhandle. But I'm guessing this would be very different nowadays. 

More to come about all this soon, here and elsewhere! Stay tuned.


John G. Turner said…
I just read an op-ed in the NYT belittling Romney for only having gained 10 or 20 converts on his mission to France.

Don't you think converting 10 or 20 people in France to Mormonism is pretty good work.
Christopher said…
Thanks for the write up, Paul.

And yes, John, Romney's # of converts is roughly 10-20 more than many Mormon missionaries in France can count at the end of their 2 years.