Call for Papers for MSSA Mini-Conference at UVU

Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah
March 29, 2017

In conjunction with the annual Utah Valley University Mormon Studies Conference, the Mormon Social Science Association looks forward to hosting a one-day mini-conference on the campus of Utah Valley University.
We invite and encourage a range of proposal topics relevant to the scientific study and understanding of contemporary Mormonism. Those interested in presenting a paper or organizing a panel for this conference should submit a one-page proposal which includes a tentative paper/panel title, a brief description of the focus of the presentation, your institutional affiliation, and your contact information.

Submissions Open: February 1, 2017
Submissions Close: March 1, 2017
Decision Notification: March 10, 2017

Please submit your proposals to David Knowlton at:

22nd Annual Arrington Lecture – Patty Limerick

Patricia Nelson Limerick will be giving the 22nd Annual Arrington Lecture on Thursday, September 29, 2016, at 7 p.m.  Her talk will be titled: “Hair-Raising Tales from the Department of the Interior: A Report from the Front Lines of the Battle Against Boredom”

Please see this flyer for more information.


2016 MORMON MEDIA STUDIES SYMPOSIUM: Mormonism and Global Media




Theme: Mormonism and Global Media

Conference site: BYU Hawai‘i campus in Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i

Conference date: November 3 & 4, 2016

Proposal submissions due July 1, 2016 (early submission strongly encouraged)

Symposium website:

Sponsored by Department of International Cultural Studies and the College of Language, Culture and Arts, BYU Hawai‘i

Mormonism grows in a world with a variety of religion-society and religion-media relationships. Its historical, cultural, social, and political insertions into host countries may differ significantly from place to place. Thus Mormonism’s treatment by the media, its attempts to publicize itself through the media, and its members’ use of media technologies in religiously relevant ways—to name a few types of relationships with the media—may differ significantly from U.S. Mormon-media patterns. A conference on Mormonism and media surveys the current situation, raises new questions, and encourages new conversations about a globally growing religion and the part media play in particular cultures.

Submission of Paper and Panel Proposals

Academics, professionals, and students are invited to submit competitive papers or panel proposals about any aspect of Mormons and the media. Papers and panels may be broadly interdisciplinary; international perspectives are strongly encouraged; all rigorous scholarly methodological frameworks and theories are welcome. Submissions should be either full papers (preferred; approx. 6,000–8,000 words, with 100-word abstract) or extended abstracts (approx. 500 words). Proposals for audio and/or visual presentations (including short films) with rigorous analysis are welcome. Papers recently presented or published elsewhere may be considered (please provide details).

Examples of topics include but are not limited to:

  • Analyses of media content by or about Mormons (textual, rhetorical, thematic, etc.) in various cultures
  • Mormon-produced media (contemporary, historical, international, etc.): Internet, social media, newspapers, magazines, books, television, radio, film, etc.
  • Content, producers, and effects of recent and historical depictions of Mormons in news and popular culture
  • Mormons, media & politics, U.S. and international
  • Mormon media uses and effects, including social media
  • Mormon media images and depictions (contemporary & historical)
  • Concepts of voice, identity, and community in media by or about Mormons
  • Content and effects of LDS public relations, advertising, messaging
  • Audience studies: meaning-making, effects, responses, influences, behavior and attitudinal changes
  • Institutional LDS perspectives on media: responses and effects
  • Mormons as media creators, producers, publishers, inventors, disseminators, editors, writers, etc.; or others in these categories who have produced LDS-related media or content
  • Mormon-related film, TV programming, reality show participation, etc.
  • Comparative studies (Mormons and media as compared to other religions or institutions)
  • Historical, sociological, literary, rhetorical, legal, international, psychological, etc. perspectives on Mormons and media
  • Mormon-related entertainment, theater, music, and popular culture productions

Papers presented at the symposium will be given special consideration, at authors’ discretion, for publication in the Journal of Media and Religion.

Paper, panel, and presentation proposals must be submitted by July 1, 2016 in Word or PDF format as an email attachment to Dr. Chiung Hwang Chen at or Dr. Daniel Stout at Early submission and registration are strongly encouraged. For more information, please visit the symposium website at

Ask An Expert: Is Mormonism a religious system according to Clifford Geertz?

Q: Is Mormonism a religious system according to Clifford Geertz?

A: Several members of the MSSA replied to this message.

David Knowlton, an anthropologist at Utah Valley University, wrote:

This is not a simple question, although it appears to be so.  A simple, answer, however, acknowledges the complexity while recognizing that Geertz’s focus on systems of symbols, “pervasive, long lasting moods and motivations” and “aura of facticity” were used by Douglas J. Davies in his the Mormon Culture of Salvation to great effect.

Yes, Geertz’s definition can fit Mormonism.

However, a more critical look at the definition, that takes into account problems with the notion of symbols and their formation, power, the difficulty of system, breaks in pervasiveness, and problems with perceptions of facticity as are also found in anthropological work, can also be used to make sense of Mormonism.

The question, however, asks if it is a religious system according to Geertz.  Well, that is more difficult because Geertz is focusing on system as defining religion and not religion as defining system.  Mormonism has system and it functions as a religion.  Despite the analytical concerns here, I would still argue that Geertz’s definition productively fits Mormonism.

Douglas J. Davies also wrote in to recommend that you read his book in which he engages this question at length:

Douglas J. Davies. 2000. The Mormon Culture of Salvation. New York: Routledge.

Ask An Expert: Are there mental health consequences to being LGBT in the LDS Church?

Q: “Does being LGBT in a non-affirming environment, such as the LDS Church, contribute to worse mental health outcomes and quality of life scores than an individual would have in an affirming environment?”

A: Luckily, there is a growing body of research that specifically addresses this question.  A number of articles have come out just in the last year that present the results of a survey of LGBTQ individuals who are or were members of the LDS Church.  Among the publications are a number of findings that directly address this question.

For instance, in Dehlin, Galliher, Bradshaw, and Crowell 2015, the authors note that LGB individuals fall into four categories when it comes to their relationship with religion (similar to other research on this topic):

  1. Individuals who reject their LGB identity (5.5% of their sample)
  2. Individuals who compartmentalize their sexual and religious identities (37.2% of their sample)
  3. Individuals who rejected their religious identity (53% of their sample)
  4. Individuals who integrated their religious and sexual identities (4.4% of their sample)

After categorizing the participants in their survey into these groups, they then compared these groups on a variety of measures, including some related to mental health and quality of life.  Individuals in the first two groups had the worst mental health outcomes.  Specifically, members of the first two groups had statistically significantly higher scores on internalized homophobia, identity confusion, and depression than did individuals in the other two groups.  Individuals in the last group, who were quite rare, actually fared well, but were unlikely to live in Utah and had lots of family support, allowing them to integrate their sexual and religious identities.

In another study drawing on the same data set, Crowell, Galliher, Dehlin, and Bradshaw 2015, found that more active LGB members of the LDS Church had statistically significantly higher levels of both minority stress indicators (i.e., higher levels of internalized homophobia, greater need for privacy or concealment, greater need for acceptance, greater identity confusion, greater difficulty in coming to terms with and disclosing sexual identity, and higher levels of prejudice against heterosexual individuals) as well higher levels of depression.  This research aligns with other research with similar findings outside the LDS Church (Herek, Gillis, and Cogan 2009).

In short, the existing research to date does indicate that participation in a non LGBTQ affirming, conservative, organization like the LDS Church does result in worse mental health and quality of life outcomes than does not affiliating with such an organization.


  • Crowell, K. A., Galliher, R. V., Dehlin, J., & Bradshaw, W. S. (2015). Specific Aspects of Minority Stress Associated With Depression Among LDS Affiliated Non-Heterosexual Adults. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(2), 242–267.
  • Dehlin, J. P., Galliher, R. V., Bradshaw, W. S., & Crowell, K. A. (2015). Navigating Sexual and Religious Identity Conflict: A Mormon Perspective. Identity, 15(1), 1–22.
  • Herek, G. M., Gillis, J. R., & Cogan, J. C. (2009). Internalized stigma among sexual minority adults: Insights from a social psychological perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 32–43.