The Congregation at Duke University Chapel




presentation at Adult Forum by
Stan Thayne
Graduate Student in Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill
April 22. 2012


Stanley Thayne



Stanley Thayne


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Popular images and self images of Mormonism

Missionaries, polygamy, politics, entertainment, media, sports, Broadway, and Mormons in other unlikely places horizontal rule


photo of ~50 members of a family
National Geographic magazine cover story 'Polygamy in America'
photo of three women and a man
photo of ~20 men

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19th-Century Images

1904 cartoon 'Up-to-date Father Goose'
cartoons of men and wives
cartoon of ~dozen wives in one bed mourning the death of Brigham Young

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montage of several photos of pairs of missionaries horizontal rule

Modesty, Cleanliness, Chastity, Marriage, Family

montage of several photos of commitment to family horizontal rule an attempt at self representation/redefinition

montage of several pages of the website

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Service, Welfare, Humanitarian Aid

montage of several images of charitable organizations and works horizontal rule

Are Mormons Christian?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the name of the church horizontal rule

The “browning” of Mormonism:

A traditionally very white church goes global

photos of three families of different ethnicities horizontal rule

Mormons in Politics

Mormon Presidential candidates

  • Joseph Smith, 1844
  • Parley Christensen, 1920
  • George Romney, 1968
  • Mo Udall, 1976
  • Sonia Johnson, 1984
  • Bo Gritz, 1992
  • Orrin Hatch, 2000
cartoon of a stereotype
cover of book 'The Mormon Quest for the Presidency'

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Mormons and the GOP

_ and Mitt Romney horizontal rule

Mormon Democrats

Harry Reid horizontal rule

Famous (and infamous) Mormons, former Mormons, and rumored Mormons

montage of several celebrities horizontal rule

Unlikely Mormons (but, yes, Mormons)

photos of _, _, and Eldridge Cleaver horizontal rule

South Park and Simpsons

images from cartoon 'All About the Mormons' horizontal rule

Book of Mormon on Broadway

photo of 3 characters in a play horizontal rule

Mormon beginnings

  • Joseph Smith born in 1805 in Vermont
  • Smith family moves to Palmyra, NY, in 1816
  • Angel Moroni delivers “golden plates” and translation begins in 1827
  • Book of Mormon published in 1830
  • Church of Christ organized April 6, 1830, in upstate NY; followers dubbed “Mormonites”; in 1838 becomes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Joseph Smith, 1805-1844

painted portrait of Joseph Smith

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Book of Mormon

cover of The Book of Mormon
  • The Book of Mormon purports to be a record of a family who left Jerusalem in 600 BCE and sailed to the Americas. There they divided into two warring factions known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.
  • Eventually the Lamanites defeated their brethren and they, the Lamanites, are believed to be (among) the ancestors of the American Indians.

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mormon migrations

  • Mormon community gathers to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831; driven out of Ohio in 1838.
  • Independence, MO, identified as Zion. 1831-1833 two major centers (Kirtland and Zion); expelled from Independence in 1833; expelled from MO in 1838.
  • Nauvoo, IL, build the “City of Joseph” in 1839
  • Joseph Smith killed in 1844
  • Succession crisis and splintering of “Restoration Traditions.” LDS exodus to Great Basin (Utah)
  • Polygamy discontinued in LDS tradition in 1890 (though not fully rooted out until 1907).

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Succession Crisis

Following Joseph Smith’s death in 1844 a number of individuals arose and claimed to be the Prophet’s rightful successor, including:

  • Sidney Rigdon (member of 1st Presidency)
  • Brigham Young (president of 12 apostles)
  • James Strang
  • William Marks (Nauvoo Stake President)
  • Granville Hedrick
  • Alpheus Cutler (member of presiding high council and council of 50)
  • Joseph Smith III (years later convinced by two others to assume leadership of RLDS)

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mapping mormon migrations

map showing routes of major Mormon migrations horizontal rule

Restoration Movements

cover of book 'Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism'
        edited by Newell G. Bringhurst, John C. Hamer, John Whitmer Books, 2007

Scattering of the Saints:... at Amazon

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portrait of JS and cover of book 'Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet'
        by Roger D. Launius, University of Illinois Press, 1995

Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet at Google Books horizontal rule

The Community of Christ, formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)

  • Regards Joseph Smith III (who was 11 at the time of his father death) as Joseph Smith’s rightful successor.
  • (Re)organized in 1872.
  • HQ in Independence, Missouri
  • 250,000+ members in 50 nations
  • Current president: Stephen M. Veazey

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Community of Christ Temple, Independence, Missouri

sign titled peace with image of lion, sheep
Community of Christ logo with image of lion, sheep
photo of temple in Independence

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Gay Rights Revelation added to the Community of Christ Scriptures in a World Conference, April 2011

photo of thousands seated during a Conference horizontal rule

Community of Christ

Presidents of Seventies Priesthood Quorum

photo of ten leaders including 3 women and 2 non-whites horizontal rule

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Brigham Young (president of the Quorum of the Twelve) as Joseph Smith’s Successor
  • Exodus to Great Basin, 1846-47 and throughout 19th century
  • Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Over 14 million members worldwide
  • 52,483+ missionaries (currently serving)
  • Current President: Thomas S. Monson

horizontal rule map of exodus to Rocky Mountains horizontal rule

mormon exodus: handcarts and covered wagons

wagon train on snow
two people pulling and pushing a handcart
people and handcarts crossing a stream

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map of population density of Mormons in USA horizontal rule

LDS Temples (152 and counting)

map of Mormon temple locations in world

"Temples will dot the earth ..." - Joseph Smith horizontal rule

Salt Lake Temple, Utah

photo of Salt Lake Temple horizontal rule

LDS Quorum of 12 Apostles

photo of 12 men horizontal rule

LDS and Traditional Family Values

logo for constitutional amendment campaign
The Family - A Proclamation to the World

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The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Largest of several fundamentalist and/or polygamous Mormon groups
  • Several movements split from LDS Church in late 19th and early 20th century (after polygamy discontinued in LDS Church)
  • Gathered mainly in Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Arizona; and Eldorado, Texas; with some members in Colorado and Canada.
  • Community has been subject to numerous government raids, most recently in 2008.
  • Former leader Warren Jeffs recently convicted

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FLDS Temple and FLDS women during federal raid

photo of women in traditional long dresses
women and children being loaded onto bus
photo of FLDS temple

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Modern Revelation: opening the canon

  • Mormon Scriptures
  • “The Quad”: Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), Pearl of Great Price


  • Offices of “prophet” and “twelve apostles”
  • Priesthood organization of lay clergy that is both hierarchical and egalitarian (all male members can hold offices; top-down leadership model)
  • Organization based on a hybrid Old and New Testament model
  • “We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church…” (6th article of faith)

Emphasis on Family

  • Polygamy in LDS tradition until 1890
  • Refuted in RLDS and still practiced by fundamentalists
  • The Family: A Proclamation to the World (LDS)
  • “The family [is] the fundamental unit of society”


  • Temple ordinances designed to “seal” families
  • “Families can be together forever”
  • Ordinances such as baptism and “sealing” performed for the living and vicariously for the dead
  • Genealogy

Missionary Work

  • Early church converts were immediately called on missions (cf. itinerant model typical of second great awakening)
  • “Every member a missionary”

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