Mormon Media Studies Symposium 2012

We invite you to the Mormon Media Studies Symposium 2012 on November 8 – 9 at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, UT. The symposium is dedicated to fostering the academic study of all aspects of Mormons and the media, past and present. This year there will be a special focus on what has been called the ‘Mormon Moment’ and the media.

The 2012 symposium theme – “Mormon Moment(s) and the Media” – was inspired by Newsweek magazine’s June 2011 cover story, entitled: “THE MORMON MOMENT.”  The two-day conference will feature academic paper presentations and panel discussions by expert scholars and media practitioners on a wide variety of topics including: Media coverage of religion, Mormonism and Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign; the “I’m a Mormon” advertising campaign; Book of Mormon Musical; media literacy and media use in LDS families; Internet use and blogging by Mormons; LDS musicians, music, radio, and television; and much more.

The symposium is free and no pre-registration is required.  If you would like to pre-order lunch, please call (801) 422-7692.  I invite you to view the schedule here or see the attached flyer. You may also visit the symposium website for more information.

Q: Where can I find information on the vital statistics and activity rates of Mormons in the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Q:  I am trying to find vital statistics and church activity statistics for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for Utah. Does anyone have an idea where I might look?

A: We had two very helpful responses.

Armand Mauss suggested that the person asking about this information visit the new LDS Church library and archives in Salt Lake City.  While there, contacting Rick Turley would be a good idea as he would know if such information exists.  Other scholars who might have information on this would be: Tim Heaton, Tom Alexander, Bill Hartley, and Mike Quinn.

Anne Leahy did a bit of legwork to help answer the question.  She found a book titled “Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Age and Region, 1910-2000″ in the Church History Library.  She was kind enough to scan the relevant pages and send them to me digitally.  I converted the scans (pdf here) into an Excel spreadsheet, which you can download here.  The organization of the data is pretty bizarre as it includes cities, regions, counties and even some states as separate line entries.  Even so, it does provide membership information in the US from 1910-1957, when it was compiled.  To facilitate interpretation of the data, I added total LDS membership information for 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950 from the Church Almanac.  Doing so allowed me to calculate the percentage of the membership of the LDS Church that was based in the US during those years (ranges from about 85% down to 79%).

I’m unaware of any other sources specifically on the LDS Church involving membership and vital statistics information.  However, there is also some helpful information on the Census Bureau’s website.  For instance, in the Eleventh Census of the United States – 1890Vol. IX, there is a Report on the Statistics of Churches in the United States.  That report provides some information on membership data at the county and state level.  Here’s a copy of the number of denominations by county information:

This figure doesn’t indicate the total number of Mormons in Utah, but provides a sense of the number of members, roughly, in the state.

A better table is this one from that same report:

This table summarizes the number of Mormons by state.  The bulk are in Utah and the surrounding states, but it does give a pretty good estimate of the number of Mormons in the US in 1890 – 144,352.  The LDS Church reports 188,263 members that year, suggesting roughly 76% of Mormons live in the US in 1890, and 62% lived in Utah.

I checked the other censuses prior to 1900 and they do not have reports on religious affiliation.  They do, however, have information on death rates.  If you use Utah as a proxy for Mormons around that time, this may prove useful.  Each of the Censuses is available on the census bureau’s website, starting with 1850, when Mormons were beginning to locate in Utah.  See here.  Another resource that may prove useful is the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which aggregates a variety of information.  A quick perusal of some of the Abstracts prior to 1900 suggest they only have information on the population of Utah, but not on vital statistics.  Later abstracts added additional information about populations, so you may find these more useful after the turn of the century.

Mormon Media Studies Symposium

Just received an email reminder about the Mormon Media Studies Symposium:

This is a reminder that the due date for submission of proposals for the Mormon Media Studies Symposium 2012 (to be held November 8-9 at BYU) is MONDAY, JULY 9th.

The theme of the conference is “Mormon Moments and the Media.” The attached Call for Papers, Panels, and Presentations includes all details about submissions, and announces the keynote speaker, Dr. David Campbell.

Proposals should be submitted by July 9th in Word or PDF formats as an e-mail attachment to Dr. Sherry Baker at

Please forward this message, including the attached Call, to colleagues or lists who might be interested in submitting a proposal, or in attending the conference.

For further information about the symposium see:

We look forward to receiving your submissions, and hope to see you in November.

Full Announcement Here

Q: Does the LDS Church have a specific meta-theory they employ when doing research?

Q: I was wondering if the Church has a specific meta-theory they employ when doing research? Is it perhaps mostly pragmatic for the case at hand? Or that the choice of meta-theory the researchers apply is up to themselves? Or is it just implicitly positvist?

A: Armand Mauss responded:

My knowledge and experience with the Research Information Division (now very far out of date) has suggested to me that the RID staff are engaged mainly in so-called “evaluation research,” which tends to be a-theoretical, no matter which institution is doing it.  Meanwhile, on the basis of some of my own earlier experience, here is an excerpt from my forthcoming memoirs that might be relevant to the question:

A person at the managerial level in the RID once offered me a revealing anecdote, which might be apocryphal, at least in part, but nevertheless illustrative: During preparations for a major longitudinal research project on conversion and retention, the in-house research team was asked for a progress report by Elder Bruce R.McConkie, one of the most conservative apostles. After he had listened to a recital of all of the variables that were to be measured as “predictors” of an investigator’s ultimate conversion, McConkie responded (in effect), “Well, all this talk about variables that will predict conversion is very interesting, but where in the conversion process have you made room for the influence of the Holy Ghost, which Moroni teaches is the power that really does the converting?” One of the researchers might have anticipated such a question, for he quickly replied (in effect), “Moroni instructs those who receive the teachings of the Book of Mormon to seek the confirmation of the Holy Ghost after they have pondered and prayed, and what we are studying as social scientists is the process that gets investigators to the point where they are motivated to ponder and pray for divine confirmation.” This partnership between research and revelation seemed to satisfy the apostle, and it illustrates well the pragmatic Mormon approach to managing the tension between the two in Church governance more generally.

Casting Call for “Mothers and Daughters Expecting”

Members of the MSSA, I was recently contacted by the casting producer for a future Vh1 reality show about mothers and daughters who are pregnant at the same time.  Since there are slightly higher odds of this occurring among Mormons, the casting producer asked me if I would post the casting call on the MSSA website in case some members of the MSSA happen to know anyone who might fit the criteria.  Here is the casting call:

Casting Call: Vh1 & Ellen Rakieten Entertainment are casting for a new docu-series and looking for mothers and daughters who are pregnant at the same time. Vh1 is interested in documenting your lives if you find yourself and your daughter in this unique situation. If both you and your daughter are outgoing and interested in sharing your stories, please contact the casting team immediately at: Please include a brief description of why you should be part of this docu-series and what has happened in your lives since you both found out you are pregnant. Include your phone number, email address and the city/state where you live. Applicants must be 18 years or older.

bringing social science to Mormonism