Friday, November 22, 2013

What is Mormon Studies? I

I published something on Mormon Studies recently. Many people did not like it. They thought I was too quick to condemn something before it had a chance to produce any fruit. Those commentators obviously have not seen some of what passes for Mormon Studies at academic gatherings. So what sorts of things can one expect of Mormon Studies judging by papers on the topic at the most prestigious organization devoted to Religious Studies in North America? Here is a typical example:
"That They Might Have Joy": Toward a Postheteronormative, Gay Mormon Heremeneutic
The gobbledygook in the subtitle probably has the reader wondering what this polysyllabic effusion means. For that we look at the published abstract:
This paper looks at the question of how a viable gay Mormon hermeneutic would read, and what it would take for it to gain force in Mormon culture, based on a brief examination of the development of anti-gay sentiments in the history of the Church, provided in the context of official statements set forth in regards to the Equal Rights Amendment and the road toward acceptance of African-American men in priesthood positions. I conclude by arguing that although a change of approach to this issue is unlikely in the near future, a healthy dose of their own "civil disobedience" may be necessary for LGBTQ Mormons, their families and sympathizers, who are willing to stick with the Church, and seek for change from within it.
Coming as it did in the Gay Men and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion, it is not surprising that the abstract reads more like a political manifesto than a work of scholarship. The author, Devan Hite, a master's student in pastoral psychotherapy at the Chicago Theological Seminary, seems to view churches as mere social clubs subject to political manipulation.

This was presented in 2011, but it is nothing new for the AAR. Six years earlier at the Gay Men's Issues in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion (which seems to be the same group) there was a paper entitled, "Why Are There So Many Gay Mormon Websites?"

You can't make this stuff up.