Lecturing about Race and Mormonism at Harvard College

I want to briefly share my fresh experience having lectured this past week on Mormonism for a Harvard College undergrad course on American religious history (led by Prof. Marie Griffith, formerly of Princeton).

Frequently in such survey courses, Mormonism is treated in one of three ways, all of which come with their own intellectual and (I’d suggest) moral problems.

1. Mormonism is handled as part of the burnt-over district family of millennial movements, without exploring the unique theological contributions the movement made or recognizing that of all these traditions (Millerites, Oneida etc.) Mormonism alone transcended its particular period of origin to become a restoration movement which lived up to its own ambitions.

2. Mormonism is covered during the “cult/sect” week and is lumped together with Branch Davidians, Scientology Moonies. Often teachers have good intentions with this week; their aim ostensibly is to convey the lesson, embodied in the axiom (sometimes attributed to Tom Wolfe) that “a cult is a religion without political power”. Yet, such lessons, which maintain the standard proximity between Mormonism and the word “cult” , often result in the perpetuation not the disassociation of Mormonism and cult (and its on the ground manifestation–polygamy) in the minds of students uninitiated in the study of religion.

Read the rest of this story at juvenileinstructor.org
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