Can Mormonism be described as a New Religious Movement? Is there a unified phenomenon which can be classified as Mormonism? Is Mormonism to be considered as a form of Christianity? This week, Chris is joined by Ryan Cragun – Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida – to discuss not only these conceptual issues,...

About this episode

Mormonism – or the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) – exploded onto the scene at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States of America, and has courted controversy ever since. From the recent upsurge in worldwide visibility of Mormonism due to the widespread attention given to the religious identity of Mitt Romney (the Republican Candidate in the 2012 US Presidential elections), to the huge success of the Southpark creators’ hit musical The Book of Mormon, there is no shortage of ill-informed opinion surrounding this group. Unsurprisingly, the academic study of religion has its own questions about Mormonism: can it be described as a New Religious Movement? Is there a unified phenomenon which can be classified as Mormonism? Is Mormonism to be considered as a form of Christianity? This week, Chris is joined by Ryan Cragun – Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida – to discuss not only these conceptual issues, but issues relating specifically to quantitative research, Mormon demographics, and the worldwide growth and decline of the LDS Church. You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us, ‘Like’ us on Facebook, and/or follow us on Twitter. What numbers should a quantitative scholar use when ‘counting’ Mormonism? Who does the categorization? Is Mormonism outside of the US different? In what ways? And what about Mormonism in the ‘heartland’ of Utah? These are just some of the questions which come up in the interview, and Professor Cragun provides a great introduction not only to Mormonism and quantitative research, but also to Mormon growth and decline in the context of the secularization thesis, and to the intricate relationships and correlations which can be observed between LDS membership and factors such as gender, employment, education, and ethnicity. A number of papers are referred to in this interview, including Comparing the Geographic Distributions and Growth of Mormons, Adventists, and Witnesses, The Secular Transition: The Worldwide Growth of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists, and The Price of Free Inquiry in Mormonism, all of which can be accessed on Ryan’s personal website. Ryan Cragun is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida. He is author and co-author of many peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Contemporary Relgiion, Sociology of Religion, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and more, and is the co-author (with Rick Phillips) of Could I Vote for a Mormon for President? An Election Year Guide to Mitt Romney’s Religion (2012), and author of the forthcoming What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should). This interview was recorded in the business centre at the Lord Elgin Hotel, Ottawa during the Atheist Identities: Spaces and Social Contexts Conference. We are grateful to everyone who facilitated the recording in any way.

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

From Secularisation to Religious Diversity: Understanding Religion in Europe

Response

It may be said that secularisation has made the West religiously illiterate, in that it struggles to accommodate those who do not espouse its secular values, particularly the separation of religion from the state (la laïcité).In her interview with the RSP, Grace Davie provides a survey of the history of the discipline of sociology in the study of religion, and considers the manner in which it has developed in British universities, in contrast to European models.
Modern Yoga: A Response to Bruce Sullivan on Yoga in Museums

Response

The most evocative question raised in the podcast’s conversation is whether yoga and art have something in common—a sort of contemplative aspect—that can help us understand something fundamental about the nature of the sacred. Sullivan is certainly correct in pointing out that art is not meant to be contemplated for its own sake in pre-modern India any more than in pre-modern Europe.
Sámi Shamanism – Up Close and Personal

Response

Riddu Riddu has been important for the Sámi population as a meeting place as well as for people who have lost their connection to the Sámi and wish to learn. In his RSP interview, David Gordon Wilson tells us why he started studying spiritualism and shamanism, his relation to shamanism now, and general problems one may face while studying these subjects.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Roundtable: Should Religious Studies be Multidisciplinary?

Podcast

Ninian Smart was a proponent of the idea that Religious Studies should be "poly-methodical"; but should Religious Studies as a discipline incorporate theories and methodologies from multiple other disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology or history? When RS departments have run on an interdisciplinary basis, have they been successful?
Self-immolation as a religious act: The contested martyrdom of Roger Allen LaPorte, Catholic Worker

Podcast

In this interview, postdoctoral researcher of U.S. Catholicism, Francesca Cadeddu, shares some of her reflections on Roger Allen LaPorte, whose contested martyrdom by self-immolation is the topic of her present postdoctoral project.Millions of people, most of them civilians, were killed in the Vietnam War. Almost 58,000 of the war's victims were American citizens.
Discussing Pious Fashion and Muslim Dress Beyond the Headscarf

Podcast

In this discussion, we cover some key terms from Bucar's book, such as what Pious Fashion is, why it might be defined that way, and how it helps further a conversation about Muslim women beyond the veil. We discuss the differences in performing fieldwork for this project in Iran, Indonesia, and Turkey. Connecting this research to Islamophobia and Muslim experience in America, Liz Bucar reflects on how modesty has become more mainstream.
Doing Anthropological Fieldwork

Podcast

“If we want to discover what [wo]man amounts to, we can only find it in what [wo]men are: and what [wo]men are, above all other things, is various. It is in understanding that variousness – its range, its nature, its basis, and its implications – that we shall come to construct a concept of human nature that, more than a statistical shadow, and less than a primitivists dream, ...
Lived Religion: Part 2

Podcast

In Part 2 of this week's interview, Meredith McGuire continues to speak to Martin about the multiple issues of power, normativity and embodiment of religious life that can be observed through her concept of Lived Religion. Meredith McGuire shows how Lived Religion, a concept she has coined,...
Philology and the Comparative Study of Myths

Podcast

In this week’s podcasts, Dr. Paola Corrente gives us insights in how the use of the philological approach can be beneficial for, not only providing a common and solid framework for comparative research but also, for providing more suitable ways of classification according to linguistic criteria. Her work on the “dying gods” –i.e. gods that die but come back to life– of Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, which draws on the concept formulated by James George Frazer, provides a case for this exercise.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).