The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

Mormons: Mainstream or Margin


Mormons: Mainstream or Margin

Stanley Thayne
November 18, 2012

Mormons: Mainstream or Margin

Stanley Thayne
November 18, 2012


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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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an attempt at self representation / redefinition

montage of several pages of the website horizontal rule


montage of several photos of pairs of missionaries horizontal rule

Service, Welfare, Humanitarian Aid

montage of several images of charitable organizations and works horizontal rule

Modesty, Cleanliness, Chastity, Marriage, Family

montage of several photos of commitment to family horizontal rule

The “browning” of Mormonism:

A traditionally very white church goes global

photos of three families of different ethnicities horizontal rule

Church Hierarchy LDS Church

First Presidency (3)
Quorum of 12 Apostles
First Quorum of Seventies
Quorums of Seventies (2-7)
Area and Local Authorities
Stake/District Leaders
Ward/Branch Leaders
Quorum/Group Leaders

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LDS Quorum of 12 Apostles

photo of 12 men horizontal rule

First Quorum of Seventy

photos of 87 men horizontal rule


Relief Society (Women’s Org)
Primary (Children)
Young Men
Young Women
Sunday School

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Relief Society General Presidency

photo of 3 women horizontal rule

Primary General Presidency

photo of 3 women horizontal rule

General Sunday School Presidency

photo of 3 men horizontal rule

(for contrast) Community of Christ (RLDS)
Presidents of Seventies Priesthood Quorum

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


map of population density of Mormons in USA horizontal rule

Global demographics

map of percentage of worldwide Mormons per continent in 1980 horizontal rule

Global demographics

map of percentage of worldwide Mormons per continent in 2010 horizontal rule

The Mormon Cosmos

pre-mortal existence to ... celestial kingdom horizontal rule

The Mormon Individual: Free Agency

  • “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” (Book of Mormon)
  • “There are things to act and things to be acted upon.” (Book of Mormon)
  • “Men are ... free to choose liberty and eternal life ....” (Book of Mormon)
  • “Choose the Right” (youth slogan)
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Law of Chastity

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Agency an eternal principle

“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.”

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (1995) horizontal rule

Gender an eternal principle

“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (1995) horizontal rule

LDS and Traditional Family Values

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

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Possible implications of Premortality, body/spirit dualism, and Individual agency

  • Emphasis on personal choice and control (Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity)
  • Same-sex attraction described as something some people “struggle with” during mortality.
  • Pro-Life stance on abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to mother’s life)
  • Alignment of a lot of Mormons with GOP? (with significant exceptions, esp. in Triangle, Berkeley, Boston, NYC, etc.)

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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 horizontal rule

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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Book of Mormon Geography

image of 'Who and Where are the Lamanites?' book cover art horizontal rule