MSSA One-Day Conference, April 18, 2024

Flags in front of mountains.

The Mormon Social Science Association welcomes presenters and guests to our One-Day Conference at Utah Tech University in St. George, Utah. Paper presentation sessions will be followed by Q&A conversations.

Utah Tech University Campus Map

Session 1

12:00–1:00 PM

College of Education Building (COE), room 121

Arizona Mormon Youth’s Religious Socialization and 2020 Voting Choices

No Longer a “Peculiar People”?: How Mormons differ (or don’t) from other religious groups in their knowledge and acceptance of science

Q & A conversation

Session 2

1:15–2:15 PM

College of Education Building (COE), room 121

Kenyan LDS Women and Gender Roles: Emerging Themes and Next Questions

Shame and Worthiness with Mormon Garments

Q & A conversation

5:00 PM

Dinner together – Place TBD

7:00 PM

Juanita Brooks Conference Keynote

This event will be presented by Laurie Maffly-Kipp in the Taylor Auditorium at Utah Tech University. Maffly-Kipp is the Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis.

Link to Juanita Brooks Conference Program and (Free) Registration.

Call for papers: MSSA annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, October 18-20, 2024

Our main MSSA meeting is held conjointly each year with the SSSR + RRA annual meeting.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline

Image by C. Klein from Pixabay.

The Mormon Social Science Association welcomes paper submissions for its annual meeting, held conjointly with the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion + Religious Research Association annual meeting. The event will take place at the Westin Convention Center, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from October 18 to 20, 2024.

We invite contributions on all topics relevant to the social scientific study of Mormonism, with special interest in those featuring multiculturalism, gender/sexuality, post-colonialism, generational change, and questions of disaffiliation/retention. The theme of the 2024 SSSR+RRA annual meeting is “Religion: Past, Present, and Future.”

Submissions Close: March 15, 2024

The MSSA invites proposals for:

  • Individual papers
  • Session proposals
  • Book panel proposals

Submit proposals through this link by Friday March 15th, 2024

Join the MSSA

As an interdisciplinary and international association, the MSSA promotes the social scientific study of Mormonism and facilitates communication and collaboration among researchers, educators and students. Membership is open to all. We sponsor scholarly conferences, publications, panel discussions, paper sessions,  and the biennial Glenn M. Vernon Lecture. Join us today

Call for Papers: April 18, 2024 MSSA One-Day Conference at Utah Tech University in Saint George, Utah

Photo: Utah Tech University photo database

The Mormon Social Science Association welcomes paper submissions for our One-Day Conference at Utah Tech University in St. George, Utah on Thursday, April 18, 2024. In addition to paper sessions, there is time and space for research posters from undergraduate and graduate students. Poster proposals should include a title and abstract and specify that it is a poster proposal. Title and abstract should be 150 to 250 words.

Submissions close March 19, 2024.

The MSSA invites submissions on all topics relevant to the social scientific study of Mormonism:

  • Individual Papers
  • Session Proposals
  • Panels
  • Author-Meets-Critics sessions
  • Posters

Submit proposals by March 19th through this link.

2023 SSSR + RRA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City Utah

Angel Moroni statue; engraved doorknob, Salt Lake City Mormon temple

The annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) and the Religious Research Association (RRA) will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah from October 20-22, 2023. During the event, the MSSA will host numerous sessions devoted to Mormon Studies. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Senior Religion Reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack will deliver our biennial Glenn M. Vernon Lecture.

We look forward to welcoming you to Utah!

Explore the full SSSR+RRA preliminary program.

Mormon Social Science Association Program

Friday, October 20th

1: 10 – 2:40 PM | Session C-9 SSSR – Mormonism and Disaffiliation

  • Mormonism In Extremis: Threats Along the Covenant Path
  • Beyond disenchantment and disaffiliation: Meaning-making for women after Mormonism
  • Garments and the Construction of Mormon Bodies

2:50 – 4:20 PM | Session D-10 SSSR Far-Right Conservative Mormonism in the United States

  • This is Not an Official Site”: Theological Speculation and Discussion on the LDS Freedom Forum
  • Navigating Boundaries in Mormon Spaces on Far-Right Social Media
  • Far-Right Sympathies Among US Mormons: Demographic and Ideological Factors That Predict Support for DezNat and Christian Nationalism
  • Fissures, Factions, and Fault Lines? Death Penalty Support among Latter-day Saints Reconsidered

5:00 PM | Salt Lake City Cemetery Tour – with historian Matthew Bowman. Spaces are limited; MSSA members and guests should RSVP as soon as possible.

Saturday, October 21st

9:00 – 10:30 AM | Session E-2 SSSR – Glenn M. Vernon Lecture by Peggy Fletcher Stack

  • Covering an Evolving Mormonism: A Journalist’s Barometer of Prophets, Problems, and Progress

10:40 – 12:10 | Session F-6 SSSR – On the Genesis of the Sociology of Mormonism and the University of Utah

  • Panel discussion

10:40 – 12:10 | Session F-11 SSSR – Latter-day Saint Self-Reliance and Social Justice

  • The Self-Reliance Initiative: A Method of Revelatory Liberal Capitalism
  • How Mormons Are Building Zion Among the Poor Worldwide: Sustainable Grassroots Strategies with Social Impacts
  • The LDS Self-Reliance Initiative in Peru and Utah

12:15 | MSSA Business Meeting and pizza lunch – room TBA, all members welcome

6:00 | Informal MSSA dinner – details to be announced during the business meeting, all members welcome

Sunday, October 22nd

9:00 – 10:30 | Session I-1 SSSR: Envisioning Empowerment and Oppression

  • Neophytes and Lamanites: Handsome Lake and the Book of Mormon
  • Joseph’s Adventures in Dream Land: utilizing psychobiology and ascription theory to explore visionary experiences and their contested narrative descriptions
  • Oh! slavery how I hate thee!’: Perspectives of European Latter-day Saint emigrants on American slavery

9:00 – 10:30 | Session I-10 SSSR – Latter-day Saint Sexual Minorities: When Is Religion Helpful? When Is It Harmful? How Does It Work?

  • The Various Ways Being Latter-day Saint Relates to Health for Sexual Minorities
  • How Religiousness Promotes (and Does not Promote) Flourishing among Latter-day Saint Sexual Minorities
  • Establishing the Temporal Relationship Between Religious Commitment, Sexual Identity Struggles, and Religious Struggles Among Sexual Minority Latter-day Saints

2023 Glenn M. Vernon Lecture: Peggy Fletcher Stack

This year, the Glenn M. Vernon Lecture will be given by award-winning journalist Peggy Fletcher Stack, who will reflect on over 30 years of covering Mormonism for the Salt Lake Tribune. Stack has received a lifetime achievement award from the Religion Newswriters Association as well as many other awards for specific news stories. She is the interim executive director of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ), author of the book “A World of Faiths,” and co-host of the Salt Lake Tribune’s popular “Mormon Land” podcast.

About the Vernon Lectures

Every two years, the association invites a distinguished thinker in 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.

Join the MSSA

As an interdisciplinary and international association, the MSSA promotes the social scientific study of Mormonism and facilitates communication and collaboration among researchers, educators and students. Membership is open to all. We sponsor scholarly conferences, publications, panel discussions, paper sessions,  and the biennial Glenn M. Vernon Lecture. Join us today.

Give to the MSSA

The Armand Mauss Founders’ Fund supports the costs of the Vernon Lecture, honoraria for other invited speakers, student paper awards, student travel assistance, MSSA sponsored publications and other organizational expenses deemed appropriate by the Board of Directors.

Mormon Social Science Association One-day Conference, Utah Tech University, April 15, 2023

Campus building Utah Tech University

Revived after several years of pandemic-related hiatus, our One-Day MSSA conference is hosted by Dr. Nancy Ross of Utah Tech University. The event takes place on the Utah Tech campus, in the College of Education building (COE), Room 121, on April 15th, 2023 in St. George, Utah.

Join the conversation on social media and include the hashtag: #MormonStudies

Twitter /X @MormonMSSA

Facebook: MormonMSSA


10:00 AM  Mormonism, Gender, and Power: Considering New Frontiers, Spaces, and Frameworks

“Understanding Spousal Power in Latter-day Saint Marriages”

“LDS Women in Interfaith Spaces”

“Researching Global Mormon Women: Reflections on Ethics, Methods, and Challenges”

1:00 PM Studies with Interviews

“The Hymns of Kolob: Affective Secularism and Entheogenic Spirituality”

“Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepting a transgender or gender diverse (TGD) child”

“Secret Combinations: Unique Formations within Mormon QAnon”

2:15 PM Material Culture and History

“Heterotopian Sacroscape: Cemeteries in Short Creek and Centennial Park”

“Conceptualizing Emigrant Motives Of British Latter-day Saints, 1840-60”

“Garments and Secrecy”

Review of Choosing The “Right”: The Rise and Repercussions of Republican Politics in the LDS Church By Larry Alan Brown

Choosing The “Right” ties together opinion polls, newspaper articles, and a vast array of the author’s personal experiences as a Mormon Democrat in Utah to provide a general introduction to what he convincingly portrays as a serious problem: “A preponderance of LDS Republicans believe that their choice to live a gospel life is synonymous with choosing to support a Republican political ideology” (xi-xii). After a brief, 11-page overview of the historical rise of Republican politics in the LDS Church, Brown begins to make the case, aptly citing Putnam and Campbell’s Mormon interview results from their book American Grace, that the identity label “Mormon Democrat” has become a culturally unquestioned oxymoron.

Brown is most successful at elucidating this oxymoron when he cites documented personal experiences, his own or those of others, to open an intimate window into the confusion and damage caused by Mormon prejudice towards Democrats in contemporary Utah. Chapters 3 and 4, “Can a Democrat Be a Good Mormon?” and “Alienation in the Church,” are ethnographic gems that include everything from high-ranked local church authorities deriding Obama voters from the pulpit to laity poking fun at Democrats as if doing so were an ecclesiastical norm. This last hearkens back to a poignant story in the introduction wherein the author, assumed by his coreligionists to be a fellow Republican, storms out of a Sunday worship service that has degenerated into a Democrat-bashing contest.

Having substantiated his claim that US Mormons often conflate the GOP with gospel worthiness and the Democratic party with unworthiness, Brown, in the last section of the book, elaborates on some of the indirect repercussions of these conflations. Though he does not delineate his logic explicitly, he seems to be arguing that since a majority of US Mormons think God expects them to vote Republican, and since Mormons are a majority in the state of Utah, Utah has become a state of one-party rule. He then skillfully demonstrates, in Chapter 11, how one-party rule puts unchallenged power into the hands of an increasingly unrepresentative few. This undermines healthy democratic processes in Utah as like-minded elites legislate in secret while fully expecting the public to trust they are ethical simply because they are Mormon. Chapter 11 provides an incisive examination of how unethical these Mormon government representatives can be in the state of Utah and the brazen efforts they make to keep the public uninformed about their actions.

After reading Chapter 11, I began to wonder: Is Brown really open to the possibility that one-party rule could be equally disastrous in the hands of either major US party? He seems to claim as much, yet the thrust of the book contradicts his claim and confuses the reader as to his true purpose. On the one hand, Brown appears to be saying that the danger to the LDS Church lies in its being perceived as beholden to one party over the other in the US two-party system regardless of what that one party may stand for. He even goes so far as to write that God himself “does not favor one political party or philosophy over another” (18). On the other hand, he describes in exhaustive detail in chapters 5-9 the precise mechanisms through which Republican ideology has made the poor poorer through trickledown economics and its mantra that private charities can do a better job than government safety nets. He further demonstrates in chapter 10 (The Lean and Mean Republican Government) that it is not the LDS connection to just any party that has made Utah into a mismanaged state full of suffering and poverty; it is its connection to the GOP. These arguments lead to a logical quandary. If Brown is able to simultaneously believe that (1) God has no party preference and (2) that the contemporary Republican party is largely responsible for the poverty experienced by thousands of people in the US, the logical conclusion is that he must think God does not care about the poor, else God would not let Republicans further impoverish the poor. Since it is obvious that Brown does not believe that God does not care about the poor, the book would be substantially improved if he boldly owned the conclusion that logically stems from his arguments: It is morally indefensible for a Christian who wants to alleviate poverty to vote Republican today. Brown should either make this claim from the outset (at the risk of alienating his Republican readership) or eliminate the six middle chapters designed to show that Democrats are better at resolving poverty than Republicans and replace these chapters with six that get back to the subtitle’s promise to delve into “The Rise and Repercussions of Republican Politics in the LDS Church.”

Brown does eventually come back to the “repercussions” half of this promise in an excellent section titled “Unauthorized Immigration” (pp. 184-196). This section offers a careful portrayal of how the cultural assumption under focus—to be Republican is to be a good Mormon—led Mormons in Utah and Arizona to automatically adopt an anti-immigration stance simply because the national Republican party adopted that stance as part of the politically expedient bundle of issues it used to define itself at that point in time. The deeply ironic (given the LDS Church’s own migration history) and hypocritical nature of this stance forced the LDS Church leadership to make a statement they considered to be middle-of-the-road, encouraging compassion towards unauthorized immigrants while placating their largest group of constituents (Republicans) by claiming that the US government is somehow justified in keeping immigrants out. Though this section is informative, one is still left with the nagging question, How are Mormons in the US so incredibly Republican that they would ignore some of the core teachings of the person whose name appears in bold print on their logo (e.g., “I was a stranger, and ye took me in”) before they would ignore national party leaders? Choosing the “Right” offers only a glimmer of an answer to this complex question in its short attempt at fulfilling the “rise” half the subtitle’s promise. Even so, one comes away hopeful that in a future endeavor, Brown will expand on his 11-page historical teaser and answer questions similar to the following:

How has the co-evolution of US-expansionism and the Mormons’ own Manifest Destiny in Utah influenced Mormon politics? How have the Mormons’ early use of theocracy and current use of divine calling (rather than elections) affected the membership’s expectations of representative government? How has the US-exceptionalism enshrined in Mormon holy books (replete with declarations such as those implying that Christopher Columbus was inspired by the Holy Ghost, that the US-perpetrated genocide of Native Americans was justified, and that the US Constitution is a divine document) affected the membership’s loyalty to the Republican party and the Church’s relationship to the rest of the world? How has the Republican party changed over time and how have Republicanism and Mormonism shaped each other? From the beginning of the church until the present time, in what ways are specific Church leaders (other than Ezra Benson) to blame for the continued assumption among Utah Mormons that choosing the “left” is morally wrong? How have Mormons historically separated what is political from what is moral or spiritual? How have individual Mormons historically and currently justified, in speech or writing, their choice to vote for one candidate or another?

Jason Palmer
PhD Candidate in Anthropology at The University of California Irvine