Cutting-Edge Latter-day Saint Research, June 2024

Greenhalgh, Spencer P., and Amy L. Chapman. ““Come for the Memes, Stay for Defending the Faith”: Far-Right and Anti-Feminist Red Pill Influences in the# DezNat Twitter Hashtag.” Mormon Social Science Association: 2:1.

Scholarship on the intersection of Mormonism and the internet has often fo-
cused on progressive online voices. However, in recent years, the DezNat movement has
challenged the assumption that online Mormonism necessarily trends more liberal than
the Latter-day Saint mainstream. In this study, we examine the influence of red pill commu-
nities—which include far-right and anti-feminist movements on the internet—on DezNat.
We collected 1,378 screenshots of tweets containing the #DezNat hashtag (which often
included additional data and context) and engaged in open coding of these tweets, guided
by our understanding of red pill concepts and tropes. We found considerable evidence of
far-right and anti-feminist influences on DezNat-tagged tweets, suggesting that it is disin-
genuous for DezNat defenders to describe the movement as merely about Latter-day Saint
orthodoxy. However, interpreting our findings through an affinity space framework, we
argue that it is impractical—and perhaps impossible—to definitively establish the moti-
vations of all those who participate in the movement. Rather, we suggest that the clear red
pill references by DezNat participants provide an opportunity to consider overlaps between
Mormonism, the far right, and aggressive anti-feminism—as well as the tensions between
intentional ambiguity and boundary maintenance in Latter-day Saint institutions.

Cragun, Ryan T., Rick Phillips, and Michael Nielsen. “Not Before Jesus Comes, If Ever: Mormon Views on When Women Will Receive the Priesthood.” Mormon Social Science Association. 2:37.

While there has been agitation in recent years among some members of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for women to be ordained to the priesthood,
research has established that the leaders of the religion and most members continue to
oppose the idea. Drawing on data from an online purposive sample (n=49,568), we exam-
ine how likely members of the LDS Church are to think that women will be ordained to the
priesthood and contrast that likelihood with a similar estimation of when Jesus will return
and the leadership of the LDS Church will call on some members to move to Jackson Coun-
ty, Missouri in preparation for the Second Coming. Our results suggest that the Mormons in
our sample believe that it is more likely that they will move to Missouri to greet Jesus than
that women will receive the priesthood.

LeBaron-Black, Ashley B., Heather H. Kelley, Megan Van Alfen, Julie Button, Sarah M. Coyne, and Chenae Christensen-Duerden. “Predictors of Differing Experiences with Scriptural Women and Heavenly Mother among Latter-day Saints.” Mormon Social Science Association. 2: 59.

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints avows some empowering doc-
trines related to gender (including belief in a Heavenly Mother), its members may not be
immune to the harmful effects of sexism nor uniform in their gender ideologies. With a
mixed methods approach, we explored how Latter-day Saints orient to the belief in female
deity, how individual experiences and beliefs about gender are associated with members’
religious experiences and behaviors, and whether these links depend on one’s gender. Us-
ing survey responses from a convenience sample of 1,674 adult Latter-day Saints living in
the United States, we tested a structural equation model and two moderation models. We
supplemented these analyses with qualitative data analysis of four focus groups (n=15)
of Latter-day Saints living near Utah County, Utah. On average, Latter-day Saint women
who had been the victims of repeated sexism noticed a lack of discussion about scriptural
women and Heavenly Mother at church and sought out these topics more frequently in
their personal study. Regardless of gender, the more traditional a participant’s gender ide-
ology, the more frequently they perceived that scriptural women and Heavenly Mother are
discussed at church and the less frequently they reported to have studied them on their
own time. Drawing on themes that emerged, we discuss gender inequalities in the Church,
intentional efforts to discuss and study scriptural women and Heavenly Mother, and the
impact of those stories and doctrines on members’ personal and spiritual wellbeing. A cel-
ebration of women—including feminine deity—may be a balm for the souls of Latter-day
Saints wounded by sexism.

Welch, Reed L. “Strangers and Foreigners or Fellow Citizens with the Saints? How Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Have Portrayed Immigration Over Time.” Mormon Social Science Association: 2: 91.

Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is considered a conservative reli-
gion and for decades its U.S. members have been among the most reliable supporters of
the Republican Party, the Church’s position and rhetoric in recent years and the opinions
of many of its members toward immigration clearly diverge from the Republican agenda
and the opinions of other conservative religious Americans. This study seeks to better un-
derstand Latter-day Saints’ view of immigration by evaluating how leaders of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have talked about immigration over time. To do this
it examines all addresses given in the Church’s General Conferences from 1851 to 2019.
It finds that Church leaders have consistently portrayed immigration and immigrants in
positive terms and that the support today is in line with the tone and approach that Church
leaders have exhibited in the past. Among other things, Church leaders have identified
themselves as descendants of immigrants, coupled immigration with the history of the
Church, emphasized the need to help immigrants, and used immigrants as examples of be-
havior that people should emulate. The article concludes by discussing how Church leaders
have addressed immigration in recent years when members’ opinions about immigration
are anything but uniform.

Dyer, W. Justin. “Investigating Why Latter-day Saint Adolescents Are at Lower Risk for Suicidality: Comparing Across Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities.” Mormon Social Science Association: 2: 109.

Previous research has identified Latter-day Saint adolescents at particularly low levels of
suicidality compared to adolescents of other affiliations or no affiliation. However, specific
pathways of effects remain uncertain. The current study used data from 46,823 Utah ado-
lescents collected by the Utah Department of Health to examine mediators of the relation-
ship between religious affiliation and suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and depression.
The study also examined how these mediators differed across sexual orientations and gen-
der identities. Compared to those of no religion, heterosexual Latter-day Saint and Catholic
adolescents were less likely to use drugs or alcohol, which proved to be the most promi-
nent protective factor across sexual orientations and gender identities, decreasing suicide
attempts by more than 20%. Less family conflict was also a protective factor for Latter-day
Saints and Catholics. For LGBQ adolescents, being Latter-day Saint was protective against
suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and depression through less use of drugs or alcohol and
less family conflict. Being Latter-day Saint or Catholic was also protective for LGBQ adoles-
cents given their lower likelihood of being bullied (again compared to those of no religion).

Perez, William. “Unholy Waters: The Role of Alcohol in Identity and Boundary Creation Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In Holy Waters, pp. 198-224. Routledge.

This chapter examines the role of alcohol as a boundary for inclusion and exclusion within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What was first issued as a “Word of Wisdom” in 1833 gradually increased in rigidity until abstinence from alcohol became a requirement for priesthood ordination and temple worship. As Mormonism joined the ranks of Evangelical reformers in support of Prohibition, it calcified its own ideal of a teetotalist Christian morality. This standard has persisted over time even as general resistance toward alcohol has declined. Viewing one’s individual relationship with alcohol as a test of fellowship within Mormonism has contributed to the construction of an identity for Latter-day Saints that often places them at odds with mainstream society. Interactions in which church members are lampooned for not being lax on liquor serve to reinforce their solidarity as a “peculiar people.” Ultimately, although the rejection of alcohol is only one of many factors at play in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ efforts to assert its Christianity and distance itself from religious others, its relationship with alcohol creates a key boundary in its efforts to steer “the Old Ship Zion” safely across unholy waters.

Tod, Danielle. “We/r/Tongan, not American: Variation and the social meaning of rhoticity in Tongan English.” Journal of Sociolinguistics (2024).

The current paper argues that speakers of Tongan English, an emergent variety spoken in the Kingdom of Tonga, may use rhoticity to construct a cosmopolitan and globally oriented local social identity. A variationist analysis of non- prevocalic /r/ in a corpus of 56 speakers reveals a change in progress towards rhoticity led by young females, whereas an affiliation with Liahona High School, a Mormon sec- ondary school, predicts advanced adoption of the feature. I argue that rhoticity carries a positive ideological load for younger speakers as an index of globalness, modernity and Western cultural values, whereas for Liahona-affiliated speakers, an additional indexicality of rhoticity is Mormonism. Linguistic constraints on variation mirror patterns found in previous studies on L1/L2 varieties and are thus more universal, whereas social constraints on variation are best examined through a local lens.

Sciarini, Justin, and Justin Lee. “Value Transitions During Religious Disaffiliation from the Latter-day Saints Faith.” The Journal of Religion & Society 26 (2024): 64-78.

Transitioning from a high-demand religion such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS; Mormon) is a complex process that includes many losses and personal evolutions. Among those losses is a transition from values taught by the LDS Church to personally identified values. Coupled with this, the period of emerging adulthood is generally a time of self-exploration and change. This qualitative study explores the relationship between reasons for leaving the LDS Church and subsequent value transitions among 24 emerging adults (18-29) who had transitioned or were transitioning from the Church. The findings from this study indicate a change in value priority for individuals who have left the LDS Church. Through qualitative analysis, responses show that individuals’ reasons for leaving the Church can relate to the values’ priority movements. The findings emphasize the need for mental health professionals to assist individuals in affirming and understanding their values and personal identities after disaffiliation.



6 comments for “Cutting-Edge Latter-day Saint Research, June 2024

  1. Thanks, Stephen C. Could you (or someone else) please help me understand the article on Tongan English. I’m lost.

  2. @ Mark: Jonathan will have to help us out with that one when he pops up, but *I think* it means that there’s some linguistic thing that Tongans do when they speak English that is associated with both cosmopolitanism and being Mormon. The Mormon Tongans have something in their language that sets them apart as more cosmopolitan?

    @ I’ve been thinking about doing something like that, but it’s hard because there is an embarrassment of riches some months, and then we have to pick and choose which ones make the cut for further discussion, etc. although the Mormon Social Science Association Journal consistently has some golden nuggets.

  3. Not having read the article, I thought the abstract was pretty straightforward. It seems to be saying that in Tongan English, there’s a difference developing in who preserves or drops the /r/ sounds following vowels, as indicated in the title. Some people say “we Tongan,” while others say “we’re Tongan” with an /r/ sound in “we’re.” The difference isn’t the presence of the word “are,” but the presence of the /r/ sound in words like “we’re” where the /r/ follows a vowel. So you’d see similar presence or absence of /r/ in words like for, air, fire, sure, etc. (but not in words like red or erupt where the /r/ is before or between vowels).

    The author’s thesis is that the presence of /r/ is connected to a variety of Tongan English, more common with young females, that emphasizes being part of a global cosmopolitan community rather than a local, specifically Tongan community; and that this tendency is reinforced among those associated with Liahona High School, where being part of a global religion is an additional factor strengthening this tendency.

  4. Jonathan beat me to it with his great answer about rhoticity. So I’ll just make the off-hand comment that many of the actors used to play the Tongan parts in the movie “The Other Side of Heaven” had New Zealand-ish, and therefore non-rhotic accents. Non-rhoticity is probably the norm in Tongan English, so I wonder if pronouncing the “r” the way most of us do here in the USA (aside from the traditional accents of New York City, Boston, and much of the South) by LDS high school students in Tonga might just reflect the influence of generations of missionaries from the Intermountain West and other rhotic parts of the USA and Canada.

    The impact of LDS missionaries on the pronunciation, and especially the lexicon, of young LDS people throughout the English-speaking world (and who knows, maybe the non-English speaking world too) could be an interesting area of study.

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