Cutting-Edge Latter-day Saint Research, January 2024

Jindra, Ines W., Jenna Thompson, and Nicholas Evans. “Experiences of leaving ‘high-cost’ religious groups and the concept of the ‘biographical trajectory’: relevance for social work.” Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought (2024): 1-26.

In this article, we make the case for the theoretical and practical usage of the concept of the “biographical trajectory” in social work practice with people who have left “high-cost” religious groups. We illustrate this through our analysis of the life stories and biogra- phical trajectories of three individuals who have disaffiliated from either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We discuss how their biographical trajectory developed during the time they were members of their specific religious group, and how they are addressing it through their disaffiliation. Implications for social work practice are discussed.

Frederick, Nicholas J., Fiona Givens, Sharon J. Harris, J. B. Haws, Benjamin Keogh, Ariel Bybee Laughton, Adam S. Miller, Jenny Reeder, T. Benjamin Spackman, and Joseph M. Spencer. Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Atonement. University of Illinois Press, 2024.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christians have always shared a fundamental belief in the connection between personal salvation and the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While having faith in and experiencing the atonement of Christ remains a core tenet for Latter-day Saints, some thinkers have in recent decades reconsidered traditional understandings of atonement.

Deidre Nicole Green and Eric D. Huntsman edit a collection that brings together multiple and diverse approaches to thinking about Latter-day Saint views on this foundational area of theology. The essayists draw on and go beyond a wide range of perspectives, classical atonement theories, and contemporary reformulations of atonement theory. The first section focuses on scriptural and historical foundations while the second concentrates on theological explorations. Together, the contributors evaluate what is efficacious and ethical in the Latter-day Saint outlook and offer ways to reconceive those views to provide a robust theological response to contemporary criticisms about atonement.

Bird, Josh. “Religious Transitions of Faith: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Sexual Abuse, Shame, and Identity (re) Formation within Mormonism.” Journal of Autoethnography 5, no. 1 (2024): 75-94.

Navigating complicated relationships with his religious upbringing and his faith-zealous father, the author of this critical autoethnography explores experiences of identity loss and reformation, sexual abuse, and shame. Raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—also known as Mormonism—the author reflects on how his own crisis of faith, and the moments of silence where answers never came, influenced his views on meaningful relationships, self-worth, and sexuality. The author ends the piece by discussing how autoethnography not only gives individuals a chance to share their stories but also creates a community where they need not navigate trauma, loss, and heartache alone.

Simon, Hemopereki. “Genealogical Violence: Mormon (Mis) Appropriation of Maori Cultural Memory through Falsification of Whakapapa.” Genealogy 8, no. 1 (2024): 12.

The study examines how members of the historically white possessive and supremacist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States (mis)appropriated Maori genealogy, known as whakapapa. The Mormon use of whakapapa to promote Mormon cultural memory and narratives perpetuates settler/invader colonialism and white supremacy, as this paper shows. The research discusses Church racism against Native Americans and Pacific Peoples. This paper uses Anthropologist Thomas Murphy’s scholarship to demonstrate how problematic the Book of Mormon’s religio-colonial identity of Lamanites is for these groups. Application of Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s white possessive doctrine and Hemopereki Simon’s adaptation to cover Church-Indigenous relations and the salvation contract is discussed. We explore collective and cultural memory, and discuss key Maori concepts like Mana, Taonga, Tapu, and Whakapapa. A brief review of LDS scholar Louis C. Midgley’s views on Church culture, including Herewini Jone’s whakapapa w?nanga, is followed by a discussion of Maori cultural considerations and issues. The paper concludes that the alteration perpetuates settler/invader colonialism and Pacific peoples’ racialization and white supremacy. Genetic science and human migration studies contradict Mormon identity narratives and suggest the BOM is spiritual rather than historical. Finally, the paper suggests promoting intercultural engagement on Mormon (mis)appropriation of taonga Maori.


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