Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mormon Studies in California

With Mitt Romney running for President and Harry Reid the top guy in the Senate, Mormons are definitely making themselves felt in the mainstream. The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter Day Saints has been with us for sometime -- it's not a new religion -- but until recently it was largely marginal to American life.
But growing up in the West, the LDS church has had at least a degree of prominence. I've had my share of Mormon friends and while I'm not at all inclined to be a Mormon, nor do I find its theology at all compelling, the people as a whole are in my experience genuinely good folk.
But, they aren't well understood. That Claremont Graduate University is launching a Mormon Studies program -- the first in California and the 2nd at a secular university -- is a good sign. That is, there is an effort underway to bring the study of Mormonism into the center of the academy. According to an LA Times report, the first person to hold the new chair (a visiting position) is Columbia University historian, Richard Bushman. Bushman is both a distinguished American historian, he is also a devout Mormon. Having written more broadly on American religious history, he is the author of two biographies of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. I read the first one, published in 1984 years ago while a graduate student.
Whatever your feelings about this religious faith, it is essential that we understand it. Hopefully, this program will be a start!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you say "understand" Mormonism what do you mean? Is the purpose to expose the doctrine and practices of Mormonism? That is, to point out its peculiar (to orthodox Christians) beliefs and history.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

No, I think it is important that we understand it as a religious community -- it's history, doctrine, practices, social dynamics. The word "expose" suggests that we shed light on deviancy. That's not the purpose here.

Anonymous said...

After I posted on this blog I went and looked-up the Disciples of Christ. I understand why you don't want to "expose" Mormonism. I'll move on!

Garth said...

I am a Mormon living in California. I think the spirit of Pastor Bob's message is one of friendship and understanding. I, for one, welcome this and heartily applaud your efforts. God bless...