Cutting-Edge Latter-day Saint Research, May 2024

Sorrell, Sydney A., G. Tyler Lefevor, Samuel J. Skidmore, Rachel M. Golightly, and Kyrstin NL Searle. “Understanding How Religiousness Shapes Perceptions of Compulsive Sexual Behavior.” Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy (2024): 1-16.

In the present study, we test the model of moral incongruence by examining whether moral disapproval of pornography mediates the relationship between organizational religious activity and self-reported CSB and whether the frequency of viewing pornography moderates the relationship between moral disapproval and self-reported CSB in two samples: a general population sample and a sample of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). Analyses revealed that, among both samples, frequency of pornography viewing moderated the indirect effect of organizational religious activity on perceived CSB via morally disapproving of pornography. Specifically, moral disapproval of pornography mediated the relationship between organizational religious activity and compulsive sexual behavior when participants viewed pornography approximately monthly or more (mean and +1 SD among the general population sample, +1 SD among the Latter-day Saint sample). Findings suggest that individuals who attend worship services more frequently are more likely to perceive their pornography viewing as compulsive at higher frequencies of usage – even when their frequency of pornography viewing is unlikely to be associated with actual functional impairment – and that this distress is better understood in relation to experiences of moral incongruence.

Gull, Bethany, and Ryan T. Cragun. ““I Know That Goes Against My Religion”: Explaining Intrafaith Religious Dissent in Latter-Day Saint Views on Abortion with Religious Reflexivity.” Review of Religious Research (2024): 0034673X241248462.

While there are a number of studies that note religious individuals do not adhere pre- cisely to the formal doctrines and policies of their faith, few prior studies have attempted to explain why religious individuals dissent from their religion’s official posi- tions. We draw on a religious reflexivity framework with a mixed-methods approach to data collection. The quantitative data is from a survey of Utah residents (n = 1,909) and provides a rough estimate of the percentage of Mormons who do not hew perfectly to the official position of the religion. The qualitative interviews (n = 20) illustrate that the members who hold more permissive attitudes toward abortion are aware of their dis- sent and articulate clear reasons for it. Members who hold more restrictive attitudes appear to be unaware that their views are more extreme than their religion’s teachings. Yet, both more and less restrictive groups tend to use their religion’s teachings— interpreted through varied moral systems—to justify their dissent.

Stanley, Joseph A., Josh Stevenson, and Wendy Baker-Smemoe. “The Missionary Voice: Perceptions of an emerging register.” Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 9, no. 1 (2024): 5701-5701.

Abstract. In this paper, we report on what we are calling “Missionary Voice,” or a particular way of speaking characteristic to missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first study elicits perceptions of Missionary Voice by Latter-day Saints in the Intermountain West without reference to any particular recording or person. We find a complex, multifaceted indexical field as well as potential linguistic features, uses for Missionary Voice, and speculative origins. In the second study, we play audio clips and ask listeners to identify the missionaries among them. While people did no better than chance at the task, we zero in on certain speakers and compile a tentative list of acoustic correlates of Missionary Voice. As this is the first study on the language of Latter-day Saint missionaries, we open more questions than we answer, but we hope to show that Missionary Voice is very much a part of Latter-day Saint culture.

Bruno, Cheryl L., and John S. Dinger. Come Up Hither to Zion: William Marks and the Mormon Concept of Gathering. Greg Kofford Books, 2024.

Come Up Hither to Zion: William Marks and the Mormon Concept of Gatheringdelves deep into the life of William Marks, a devoted follower of Joseph Smith and a key figure in the early history of the Latter Day Saint movement. Marks’s journey from a descendant of Puritan settlers to a fervent convert to Mormonism is a fascinating exploration of faith, community, and the quest for spiritual truth. As Marks navigates the tumultuous landscape of early Mormonism, readers are taken on a gripping journey through pivotal moments such as the banking crisis in Kirtland, the expulsion of Saints from Missouri, and the clandestine practice of plural marriage. However, Marks’s story goes beyond mere historical events; it is a testament to the enduring struggle to define one’s place within a religious tradition while attempting to balance devotion to the faith, interpersonal relationships, and personal integrity.

After the death of Joseph Smith, Marks found himself at the center of a power struggle among various groups claiming succession. His interactions with Brigham Young, James Strang, and others illuminate the diverse interpretations of Mormon doctrine and the differing visions of what Zion should be. From his involvement in defining moments in Mormonism to his break with Young and eventual ordination to the First Presidency of the Reorganized Church, Marks’s life encapsulates the challenges and complexities of early Latter Day Saint history. Through meticulous research and insightful analysis, Come Up Hither to Zion sheds light on the intricate tapestry of beliefs and practices that shaped Marks’s spiritual journey and offers a compelling exploration of the Mormon concept of gathering as both a physical and philosophical endeavor.

Bowen, Matthew L. ““That They May Once Again Be a Delightsome People”: The Concept of Again Becoming the Seed of Joseph (Words of Mormon 1: 8 and Mormon 7: 4–5).” The Interpreter. 

Abstract: In Words of Mormon 1:8, Mormon declares, “And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.” The
expression “that they may once again” plausibly reflects the Hebrew idiom wayyôsipû or
wayyôsipû ?ôd. Mormon’s apparent double-use of the wayyôsipû (?ôd) idiom in Words of
Mormon 1:8 (or some Nephite scribal equivalent), like 2 Nephi 5:2–3, recalls language in
the Joseph story (Genesis 37:5, 8). The original Lamanite covenant, as an extension of the
Abrahamic covenant, involved the complete abandonment of fraternal hatred and the
violent means through which they had given expression to it (see Alma 24:12–13; 15–18);
Mormon declared that a similar commitment would again be necessary when the
descendants of Lehi (“the remnant of this people who are spared,” Mormon 7:1) were
restored to the covenant in the future (Mormon 7:4–5). Thus, Mormon’s prayer—in the
tradition of the prayers of Nephi, Enos, and others—is that the descendants of the
Lamanites (and Nephite dissenters) would, through iterative divine action, regain their
covenant identity as the seed of Joseph and partakers of the Abrahamic covenant.

7 comments for “Cutting-Edge Latter-day Saint Research, May 2024

  1. Of course. Yeah, that one was kind of fun/unique. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but it makes complete sense.

  2. This explains a lot. I didn’t have tremendous success as a missionary, and it explains why: Instead of adopting any “missionary voice,” I attempted to convert using my regular, everyday, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard voice … Obviously, that was a no-go. Very enlightening. (Alas, if only I’d known then what I know now! ;-D)

    Warm Regards and Best Wishes,

  3. It’s just up-talking with a Utah accent. My kids who have never been to Utah picked it up on missions.

  4. Stanley, Stevenson, and Baker-Smemoe deserve credit for publishing their negative result, something that happens too rarely. But it would be nice if that negative result had affected their thinking. “[W]e hope to show that this thing we found strong evidence does not exist is very much a part of Latter-day Saint culture” indeed! Perhaps their next paper should be on soaking?

    I wish I could believe Stephen C was playing a very nerdy version of “Two Truths and a Lie” with us, where we have to pick out the silly made-up abstract out of all the real ones. But I looked up that tithing paper in the last bunch and it was horrifyingly real.

  5. In their defense they labelled the paper “*perceptions* of an emerging register,” so it might be like a paper on soaking as an urban legend as opposed to soaking as an actual cultural practice.

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