About

Purpose
The Mormon Social Science Association (MSSA) exists for the purpose of promoting and sharing the scholarly study of Mormon life. Any person with an interest in the study of the social, cultural, or religious life of Mormons is eligible to join. The MSSA provides contact and association among researchers and educators working in both academic and applied settings. It is interdisciplinary and international in scope and purpose. The association participates in the annual joint meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) and the Religious Research Association (RRA). The MSSA is a registered 501c3 charitable organization (EIN 83-1188163).

Membership
The membership of MSSA includes social scientists, educators, writers, church researchers, and consultants. The association is financially supported by the annual dues of its members. Members receive the semi-annual newsletter which contains the president’s message; news of member activities, association business, and up-coming professional meetings; book reviews; and occasional bibliographical updates of Mormon research. Members also have the opportunity to vote in the bi-annual election of association officers.

Annual Meeting
MSSA holds its business meeting in conjunction with the annual meeting of SSSR/RRA. All members are invited to attend. The association also sponsors panel discussions, paper sessions, and the bi-annual Glenn M. Vernon Lecture as a part of these meetings. Minutes from the annual meeting are available here.

Glenn M. Vernon Lectures
Every two years, the association invites a distinguished scholar of Mormon studies to present the Glenn M. Vernon Lecture. The lecture honors the legacy of Glenn M. Vernon, a pioneer in Mormon studies, and the first president of the Society for the Sociological Study of Mormon Life, which later became MSSA. It is intended to be an original contribution to the study of Mormon life and an edited version of the lecture is stored in the MSSA archive.

By-Laws (2018) Revision

The By-Laws are available here and the Conflict of Interest Statement that all officers are required to sign is available here.

How to Join?
Prospective members can join MSSA by completing and mailing the membership application. For more information, please e-mail Ryan T. Cragun: ryantcragun@gmail.com.

History
The MSSA arose largely from the initiative and career of Glenn M. Vernon as an academic sociologist in Mormon studies. His work was foundational in the emergence of such studies through the disciplines of social science during the second half of the twentieth century. Most of the professional academic literature on Mormons during that period came from historians, but Vernon’s early writing and teaching on the sociology of Mormon life and culture pointed the way for later social scientists to build Mormon studies into their own work and careers. Prior to his sudden and early death in 1985, he had taught courses in Mormon Studies several times at the University of Utah, starting in 1972. For a textbook, he prepared a collection of articles published by various scholars on Mormon-related topics. His career was distinguished by his own books, articles, and teaching in various other studies as well, especially social psychology and thanatology, but he is remembered in the MSSA mainly for his pioneering of the subdiscipline of Mormon studies.

A very few papers on Mormon topics had appeared occasionally at the professional conferences in sociology, and fewer still had been published in the periodicals of sociology. During the 1950s and 1960s, such papers and articles began to appear more frequently, especially under the auspices of the Pacific Sociological Association (PSA). Then, at the 1977 PSA conference in Sacramento, Vernon organized the first session devoted entirely to papers on Mormons. In 1978, during a conference of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in San Francisco, Vernon gathered together an informal group of scholars to discuss the creation of a formal organization dedicated to sociological research on Mormons. No specific name was selected then for the organization, but the provisional leadership selected at that time included Glenn M. Vernon (University of Utah) as president, Armand L. Mauss (Washington State University) as vice-president, Marie Cornwall (LDS Research Information Division) as secretary-treasurer, and two council members: Arland Thornton (University of Michigan) and Jo Ann Menke (a student at the University of California at Los Angele). Mauss was directed to prepare a constitution which could be discussed and adopted at the spring, 1979, conference of the PSA in Anaheim, California.

The new organization was originally named the Society for the Sociological Study of Mormon Life (SSSML), suggesting a focus on Mormon culture and social organization, rather than on Mormonism as a body of religious teachings. Also, while the discipline of sociology has usually been the most prominent, scholars from sister disciplines (e. g., psychology, anthropology, economics, and political science) have always been included and their work encouraged by the organization. For the first decade of its existence, SSSML held its meetings in collaboration with the older and larger sociological societies such as the PSA (and briefly with the Society for the Study of Social Problems or SSSP), since so many members of SSSML were already attending the conferences of those organizations anyway. Meanwhile, the records and budgets of SSSML were maintained mostly in the BYU sociology department where some of the key members were based, but in later years, such records have been kept electronically on the personal computer of the secretary-treasurer and/or on the organization’s website.

Eventually, the membership of SSSML found its more natural home with the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) and the Religious Research Association (RRA). Since 1989 we have been holding our annual meetings jointly with those two larger organizations each fall and sponsoring many sessions and papers in the programs of those organizations. In 1995, the name was changed from SSSML to Mormon Social Science Association (MSSA), a name less cumbersome but also suggesting a broader disciplinary membership and focus than just sociology.