AMG: The Great Mormon Novel Part 2; or, no, seriously, why does Mormonism seem so allergic to scholarship?

Okay, everyone, maybe it’s just the Molly Mormon perfectionist streak in me, but it looks like my answer to last week’s query—“Where is the Great Mormon Novel?”—missed the mark a bit, and I need to give it another go.  For here is a follow-up query sent along by Nick, our diligent but lonely young Mormon scholar in St. Louis. Grab some gorp to munch on, folks, because it’s a long one, but it is worth reading.

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my inquiry. But to tell the truth I was really less interested in the fate of the Great Mormon Novel than in hearing you talk more about the status of Mormon scholars in the humanities.  I know there are a number of influential LDS humanities scholars out there, but I still feel compelled to ask myself where humanist scholarship stands in relation to Mormon culture. As a graduate student in literature I am the perpetual outsider (my wife is also marginalized by default because she is not a “medical school widow”) in wards filled with aspiring physicians, lawyers, and businessmen (and sometimes women).  Each fall when introductions are made in priesthood, special emphasis is given to my marginal status as I am referred to as “our token humanities student” or “the English guy.” When a member of the EQ presidency realized that I wasn’t a medical student on my first Sunday here, his response to me was: “Oh. Well we do have a social work student that just moved in. Perhaps the two of you can be friends.” Periodically I am told (with kind intentions, I’m sure) that “I could never do what you do” by one of my fellow church members, but the subtext is always that “I would never want to and can’t understand why you do.” What makes literary scholarship such a strange pursuit?

This may be nothing more than my limited personal experience, having only been a member of the church since I was 18 and having only lived in Michigan, Missouri, and northern California since that time. Yet I doubt it. A few months ago our current mission president came to speak at our ward and made a point to explain why medical students and physicians eventually make excellent general authorities and church leaders. I felt sick to my stomach as I watched most of the heads in the congregation nod in agreement. What is it about our culture that glorifies these professions as more appropriate that the fabled “life of the mind?” Why must the “bookish” Mormons be isolated and few? Do we have no roles within church leadership? Is our resistance to hierarchy and willingness to deal in contradictions and ambiguities too unstable to be useful/productive?

I love what you said about our role in breaking stereotypes, but at what point should I be concerned that maybe Mormon culture isn’t a living human culture? That maybe we are just as conservative, insular, and intellectually uncurious as I fear? Perhaps it is part of the genetic makeup of literary scholars to be overly anxious about our place in the academy, our communities, our churches, and the world in general. Still, I find myself genuinely confused when I attend my church meetings and leave feeling like I don’t belong there.  Help?

Nick in the STL


Okay, Nick, you know how last week I wrote that as a literature professor I certainly “do know the loneliness of which you speak, though I do try not to worry too much about it”?  You can’t see it in this font, but the “try” in that sentence actually has sweatbeads running down its forehead.

In fact, the “try” in that sentence has a lot of sweatbeads running down its forehead and is crouching in a really difficult Bikram yoga pose they call “toe stand” where you balance your entire weight while crouching on the ball of one foot.  Toe stand requires a very meditative combination of balance, exertion, and letting go.  On a good day in yoga class, I can do it for a few seconds.  Being a bookish Ph.D. humanities type in the Mormon Church sometimes feels like trying to maintain toe stand for hours on end.

I don’t know that Mormonism is less hospitable to intellectual types than American culture in general, but it’s true that there are some specifically Mormon aspects to the loneliness you’re experiencing. Mormonism is a very young tradition, an exceedingly practical faith, with an entirely lay clergy.  Aside from other evangelical movements born out of the Second Great Awakening, we may be the only religion of our global scale that does not prescribe dedicated formal study of religious history, thought, practice, or text as a prerequisite for church leadership.  And because we view ourselves as a restoration of primitive Christian practices, we generally do not engage with the millennia of debate and scholarship through which other Christian traditions have defined themselves. All of this contributes to the practical rather than intellectual orientation of our faith.

Compounding this is the fact that the theological program of the Church in the twentieth and twenty-first century has been governed by correlation, a very sensible and practical effort to render from a very unsystematic and sometimes highly speculative century’s worth of theology a coherent system of doctrines that can be taught effectively to new members of the Church around the globe.  (For a great overview of the correlation project and its tolls on speculative theology, listen here.)

Moreover, if you trace back through Mormon history, you will find cycles of intellectual expansiveness and retrenchment reaching back into the nineteenth century.  (For one example, look up the “Godbeites.”) About twenty years ago we entered another turn of that cycle that culminated in 1993 with the firing of progressive humanities scholars from BYU, the excommunication of a number of feminists and intellectuals, and a speech by a major Church leader declaring “so-called scholars or intellectuals” one of three major dangers to the Church.  It was a difficult time for Mormon feminists and many Mormon scholars in the humanities, and it has had lasting legacies within Mormon culture and within institutional scholarship.

Now, this isn’t the whole story, but it all factors into what you are experiencing as a Mormon scholar in the humanities.  And boy, do I know it ain’t pretty.  I often hear Mormon people I love routinely associate reliance on “the arm of flesh” with scholarship and intellectual activity—and they don’t mean physics professors . . . they mean New-York- Times-reading-complexity-craving-literature-philosophy-and-history-reading- liberals-like-me-and-you.  I rarely hear Mormon people I love associate reliance on “the arm of flesh” with money or economic or social class.

What should we make of all this?  Should this, as you suggest, give us cause to wonder if there’s something wrong with Mormon culture? I can’t answer that for you, but I can share with you a couple of ways I try to keep my balance and stay in the proverbial toe stand when I’m feeling isolated among people I love.  First, during trying times (like the 1990s), it has been a consolation to me to imagine all of the members of the Mormon movement around the globe and across time, then to focus in on the small band of people like you and me, and then to realize that our worries and lonesomeness, while real and authentic to us, are a small part of a big story.  Second, it helps me to remember that Mormon tradition is young, young, young.  Oh so very young.  With many chapters left to be written—maybe even by people like us. “Hope is the memory of the future,” wrote the Catholic artist Sister Corita Kent.  I remember the future.

Okay, really, now, enough from me.   Readers, what are your hopes for the future of Mormonism?  And should bookish, scholarly types like Nick and me have reason for hope as well?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

About these ads

11 Comments

Filed under academics, intellectuals, liberals, literature, social connectedness

11 responses to “AMG: The Great Mormon Novel Part 2; or, no, seriously, why does Mormonism seem so allergic to scholarship?

  1. reb

    First off, this whole “bias towards doctors” thing has to be a complete accident of your location and ward. Even when I was doing my Ph.D. at an eastern school with a very strong medical school there was never that sort of bias or attitude. It’s your good luck (grain of salt) to have landed in such a strange ward. Someday you’ll finish your degree and move on (you will finish, yes?) and the chances are you’ll never hear that again. Most likely, I think your EQ president and others are trying to be funny; acknowledging the medical-heavy content of the ward. Laugh it off.

    There might be some “anti-intellectual” bias in the church; likely stemming from 2 Ne 9:28 (“when they are learned they think they are wise.”). Be honest – haven’t you seen that happen? Don’t you see truth in that statement? I’ve lost track of the number of academics I’ve come across who became arrogant, self-certain, dismissive jerks due to their education. While you may not consider me a member of your mormon class of intellectuals – I didn’t get a Ph.D. in literature, mine is in business (operations management, if you want to be detailed) – I do count myself as such. No matter the content of the Ph.D., it teaches you to think, to analyze, to consider all the questions of an issue from different angles, to challenge entrenched assumptions, and to think beyond. Whether you’re studying the nature of mankind through literature or some other discipline, you’re still following that rubric of intellectualism. There are people in the church (and out of it) that are threatened by that. I ignore them. Like when you try to publish something, there’s always someone that hates you and your work. Universal love and acceptance (in this life) is unattainable; ignore the haters. You could try to show them that they’re wrong, but then….well, you probably see where I’m going with that.

    By the way, I think Physics Ph.D.’s are at the greatest risk of anti-mormon intellectualism; have you read Steven Hawking? If you think you understand the workings of the universe, that’s a powerful draw to question the existence of a God.

    You have both talked about Mormon “culture” and “tradition.” Frankly, I find Mormon culture and tradition annoying and a distraction from the practice of religion. “Mormonism” is not a set of traditions and cultures, it’s a set of doctrines, ordinances, observances and covenants (with attendant organizational structure). The whole green Jello, “fark” = “fork” and myriad attendant other mormon “cultures” might be interesting anthropologically, but are absolutely irrelevant to testimony and spiritual development. If you’re an investigator in Thailand, what possible difference can it make to you that there were mormon pioneers in America? (in honor of July 24th having just passed). It’s a nice story, but it contributes essentially nothing to a deep and abiding testimony of Jesus Christ and His power to save. I love the story of Joseph Smith as a child being operated on without anesthesia; but it doesn’t have any bearing on my testimony of him as a prophet. I often find myself wishing that our church leaders would stop mentioning specific wards or leaders in Salt Lake City by name because I have no idea who they were, and it doesn’t make any difference to the global message of the gospel that we’re putting forth. I am happy when I hear about there being more members outside the U.S. than inside because now we can strip away the “culture” and focus on the religion and doctrine. By the way, I love the correlation that took place during the 20th century as it works toward that goal; separating out “culture” from “doctrine” and “practice.” How many members go to church regularly as a form of culture or social correspondence? And how damaging, overall, is it to them and to others?

    One warning I’ve learned from personal experience, as an intellectual, you do have to be careful how you phrase things, even if it seems innocent enough to you. Even with my own family members I have to be careful how I speak simply since I’m an ‘academic’ and they may see that as challenging. There’s also the question of different academic topics being more threatening than others; feminism (humanities, business, or wherever it occurs in any other discipline) is going to stir up more passions than number theory. And what do you do with your scholarship and knowledge? Are you trying to throw down what you consider to be a narrow-minded, entrenched, white male-dominated illegitimate church leadership, for example? If so, then expect to be ostracized, questioned, looked at in a funny way, and eventually excommunicated – and maybe rightly so, who knows? (By the way, I was at BYU during those days of the 1990′s. I was not in the English department – although next door in the Math department – and my wife was in the Humanities department. I’m sure we could have a long discussion about this, but reading the things that Cecilia Konchar-Farr and others wrote and said during that time, it’s no surprise they were excommunicated. IMHO, that was not scholarship and academia, but activism and incitement.) Or are you using your scholarship and knowledge to increase understanding and help others to learn to study more deeply and find new depths of personal spiritual development?

    Fight culture as the irrelevant curiosity that it is; use your talents and training to support doctrine and faith.

  2. Isaac

    Culture and tradition is the only real difference between us and others’ when dealing with truth. I agree, if we could shed the prominence of each, a bit, then we would be better off. Yet, in order to shed anything, we need humanists and literary folk to help us figure it out.
    Books; reading them one finds a source that has influenced as many, and more, as have read it. A study of popular literature, especially multi-generational, can render one empathetic to our intellectual culture. Just as those med students will be forever changed by the acquirement of their knowledge, from the classes and books, so to will other any other branch of learning. Respect ought to be given to those who can preserve a life but we are equal in value. Perhaps its a mode of coping with the rigors of study, to think of monetary and worldly acknowledgment?
    Though such pride is not unheard of, I am suprised…though if it were to happen ANYwhere, it would be in a ward where everyone is in med school. If you have a ward full of any one type of occupation, ei. farmers, military, musicians (could you imagine? eek), you would have the subject matter for a brilliant case study!
    Get a waiver from everyone and write a book ;) haha

  3. As the child of Mormon parents from Arizona and Wyoming respectively, neither of them being Utahns, I still know exactly the bias of which you speak.
    The doctor, MBA, and I would add dentist, bias is more a result of western pioneer pragmatism, tinged with mormonism.
    I would have loved to have had the courage to pursue an intellectual degree while in school. Ahh to study sociology and one day earn an honest living doing such. But oh wait, how will I ever support a family doing that?

    Those raised in the faith, males especially, are charged with the task of preparing to provide for a family as well as have spare time to serve in a calling… and ensure that our wives are able to be stay at home moms if they so choose (I added that last part). My parents, both school teachers with a love for learning, still made it seem that fulfilling this responsibilty with intellectual persuits was as practical as attempting to be a pro football player… “it may happen but the odds say otherwise”.
    Enter the practicality of being a dentist (I am not one). One can easily see supporting a family rather comfortably while working four days a week. With all those extra days off, and a family in no danger of starvation, all you have to do is not be a BAD person and you are automatically in line for a big church calling.

    Sure there may be an anti intellectual streak in the culture for all the reasons listed above, but all those doctors and business men are still thinking, smart, people. Many of those smart people may also be like me, practical to the point of shackeling themselves to a career they dislike in order to fulfill this greater sense of duty.

    It is a misguided philosophy, yet it remains.

    • RBC

      Nick, friend, we are kindred.

      I am an English professor. I earned my PhD (in rhetoric) at a prominent university with top ranking med and dental schools. If experience is any indication, then I have to take issue with reb’s notion that your observations are aberrant. Your experience is exactly consistent with what I have seen in multiple cities and at multiple universities. The quad orthodoxy of Mormon education is medicine, dentistry, law, and business – period. Venturing beyond this orthodoxy is okay – if a bit daring, as long as you remain safely within the realm of the numbers (accounting, engineering, and the sciences). What are the reasons for this orthodoxy? There are several.

      First, as noted, there is a strong and admittedly admirable pragmatic streak in the church. Our history is grounded in the exigencies of survival. Acquiring means for survival, both individually and as a people, includes securing the most gainful employment. It goes along with food storage, dietary restrictions, etc.

      Second, there is a persistent need for social acceptance and social prominence. Our cultural insecurities about our place in society have dictated our collective rush into the “professions,” whereby we prove our normalcy. Intellectuals exist – practically by definition – at the fringe, a refuge for those who are not so “normal.” Perhaps this is the reason so few of us find ourselves there. I recall M. Russell Ballard’s missionary video from the mid 1990s. We took an investigator to the missionary open house at the local church and watched it for the first time. It was nothing but a parade of rich, quasi-famous Mormon businessmen and athletes, who were used as evidence that Mormons are normal and successful. It was like watching an Amway video. Our investigator, who had advanced close to baptism, openly criticized the film and dropped us.

      Third, Joanna makes a tremendous point. We have no systemic/institutional reason for deep intellectual reflection. We do not have a designated intellectual class by virtue of our lay ministry. As a result, we as a people are not exposed to Mormon “thinkers.” To whom are we exposed, then? Well the GAs of course. And they come overwhelmingly from the professions (Holland being a notable exception – PhD American Studies from Yale). We are openly instructed to emulate these men; and so it is no surprise that our peers do just that. Indeed, I believe each of us who was raised in the church and considered a path in the humanities has experienced precisely what Brohammas describes: a kind of dissonance between what we want to do and what we assume we are expected to do as righteous men who want to be available for high callings.

      I could go on, but my larger point is this: reb is essentially wrong. As a mechanism for tolerating what bothered me in Mormon culture, I spent years trying to persuade myself that the culture and doctrine were separate. But in theory alone are they separate. When you are told to emulate the GAs, and the GAship is overwhelmingly comprised of ex doctors, lawyers, business executives, institutional administrators, and the occasional institute director, then the professional culture has just become your doctrine, has it not? When you are at a stake priesthood meeting, and a GA says that doctors and so forth make great GAs, then, again, the professional culture has just been rendered less distinguishable from the doctrine of callings. And thus, in practice, the line becomes blurry.

      reb implies a false dichotomy. He suggests that your options are A) to become as the September Six and court excommunication as an unfettered intellectual, or B) ignore the implications of culture entirely and pretend there are no systemic anxieties about the relationship between our theology and culture. In other words, we either lose our souls in our culture or we find our souls without our culture.

      reb’s arguments utterly ignore the necessity of creating a separate culture as part of vitalizing the church and securing its future. Bushman himself accepts (even celebrates) this fact as a given. The creation of a distinct culture was not an accident; it was part of the plan from Joseph and Brigham onward. This could not be more clear from a reading of even our most basic histories. We need a culture in order to cohere as a people. We are building Zion, after all, not just a personal relationship with the Lord. Any evangelical can build a personal relationship with the Lord (I am not demeaning this miraculous feat), but we must do more. We must build the people. As we do so effectively, we will more securely claim the intellectuals and artists who could make us greater if only they could see more reason to stick with us – more potential for their future as contributors to the kingdom.

      I’d like to suggest that your concerns are well founded, and that we ought to work towards a paradigm that sees culture as a means to help us find our souls. In other words, I believe a better culture will create better saints (sounds like common sense, right?). The key is to work towards this goal without violating covenants or provoking dissent, and I think it can be done. I don’t have a prescription for it just yet : – ), but I am quite heartened by Joanna’s reminders that we are a young people and there are many generations of intellectual evolution before us. Our very pragmatism suggests that as we discover the safety and promise of intellectual life, we will adopt it more willingly. That same pragmatism also suggests that as we come to realize the enormously positive impact that timeless literature, art, and thought can have on a people, we will embrace the challenge to produce them ourselves.

      Finally, I believe we are seeing indications of these developments even now. I don’t know if Brady Udall’s recently acclaimed book The Lonely Polygamist was mentioned in the “Great Mormon Novel” post, but it should have been (I haven’t read the post yet). We are also beginning to produce filmmakers, actors, and other adventurers of the mind.

      Give us time, my child. We will catch up to you yet.

      • Ralph P. Vander Heide

        Some such as you, however, do reflect as do my wife and I. We were simply born with that need. I was reared in THE church, and she grew up iin Keokuk, Iowa. near Nauvoo.. We two academics wrote “Chris and Louisa” over a period of 25 or more years. It is truly outstanding. I conitnue to say simply, “read it.” Of course, persons who write poor novels say the same. So…note just one evaluation from two authors.

        Congratulations to the two of you on an amazing book!

        One of the most striking things about your novel is just the quality of the writing. As people who has tackled writing ourselves, this is often the first thing I notice when reading a novel and yours is just beautifully written, with sentences that vary and flow and are infused with intelligence. (This was the first thing Bob mentioned about your book.)

        We also appreciated the vast amount of research that went into the book. I myself really like research (remember the good old days of card catalogs and the endless jotting of notes on note cards?), but we were both awed by the amount of material you complied and mastered. Don’t know how you did it.

        We knew very little about Mormonism before reading your book. Just the usual generalities about golden tablets and polygamy and tithing and going on missions, plus some details we’d picked up from talking to you and to our non-Mormon children’s writer friend, Ivy Ruckman, who lives in Salt Lake City. Needless to say, we were fascinated by your accounts of Joseph Smith’s outrageous political ambitions, his indulgence in polygamy, and his various criminal acts. While we were in Keokuk, the whole family crew took a jaunt over to Carthage to see the jail where The Prophet met his end. We hadn’t realized that the site was managed by Mormons and were unprepared for the young woman who sheparded us through the building, all aglow with true-believerdom. Just speaking for ourselves, we were offended by the sappy movie they showed, depicting Joseph Smith as a glorious, if misunderstood, prophet. Nary a mention of multiple wives or grandiose political ambitions, etc. It was a revelation to learn these from your book and we feel we so much better understand why the Mormons were so hated and mistrusted by so many. We were interested to learn so much about this, particularly since we do spend so much time in the Nauvoo area.

        In reading the Salt Lake part of the book, we were fascinated about the church’s official attitude towards Native Americans and blacks, and many illuminating details about polygamy (not to mention underwear).

        And then there’s Chris—we thought you balanced her rebellious attitude very well with the party line attitude of her relatives. I, however, since I take my woman’s issues very seriously, had a hard time sympathizing (this is a bit of an understatement) with Chris’s decision to join up with Mark. Of course we assume you didn’t expect the reader to approve of her decision, but rather to see the issue from another angle, and you achieved that very nicely. And great touch, rounding out the parallel stories with Mark’s murder.

        We understand from Barbara that your book is enjoying great success. You two deserve it—it’s a great achievement and we very much enjoyed reading it.

  4. From wikipedia:

    THOMAS MONSON. Navy and publishing.

    DIETER F UCHTDORF. Pilot

    HENRY B EYRING. Air Force, bachelors in physics, MBA and doctorate in business. Professor. College president.

    BOYD K PACKER. Air Force pilot. Masters in education.

    L TOM PERRY. B.S. Business. Retail.

    RUSSEL M. NELSON. Surgeon.

    DALLIN OAKS. Law. College president.

    RUSSELL BALLARD. Business. Cars.

    RICHARD G. SCOTT. Nuclear engineering

    ROBERT D HALES. Business executive.

    JEFFREY HOLLAND. BA English, masters and doctorate in american studies. College president.

    DAVID BEDNAR. Business professor. College president.

    QUENTIN L. COOK. Corporate law.

    TODD CHRISTOFFERSON. Lawyer

    NEIL ANDERSEN. MBA, business executive.

    Oh, where the bakers, the carpenters, the farmers, the mechanics, the software developers! The nurserymen, the politicians, and bankers! Where the painters! Are plumbers eschewed in the Church? Certainly, I see no postal workers there. Alas.

    Are we supposing that the church administrators should reflect a distribution of professions that match the distribution of professions among the members?

    Why should that be so?

    Perhaps a lot of these church administrators have backgrounds in administration and management precisely because so much of what they do requires mature administration skills. Just as the guy who gets called to direct the Tabernacle Choir needs mature directing skills. I don’t see too many dentists up there in that list, but I do see a lot of lawyers. I am quite happy we have lawyers in that bunch, especially after seeing how many ways the Church ran afoul of the law in the past. It makes sense to me that Hales served as presiding bishop, a calling that handles the sizeable assets of the Church.

    And yet not all are super admins. And so it’s not just a job posting. Furthermore, if you step down one level to the seventies and then stake presidents, you see a much larger representation of vocations. And bishops come from all walks of life. Our current bishop, the more regular face of authority around here, is a rancher and welder. The last mission president called from our ward (two years ago) was a coal miner.

    So I don’t know if it’s an almighty worship of the professions or simply the Lord leveraging an existing skillset.

    • RBC

      John:

      Thank you for this list. It is illuminating. But I might add that both Monson and Uchtdorf have advanced degrees in – you guessed it – business. That means that 8 of the 15 have degrees and/or substantial backgrounds in business. Now, if we add the lawyers to this list, that number goes to 11 (“but this one goes to 11″). That’s 11 of 15.

      Like you, I am comforted by the fact that we have a strong number of legal and economic minds running things. I really am. But 11 of 15? You then suggest that this proportion goes down as we get into the lower echelons of area, stake, and ward leadership. And for evidence you cite your own bishop and mission president. Naturally, not every bishop and stake pres is going to be a business exec., doctor, or lawyer. Examples of other careers are not difficult to find. My bishop is a scientific researcher at a government lab. The membership is comprised of broader demographics, so it is natural that there are fewer lawyers and doctors to go around at the local level. And still, I think you would have to admit that the professions are, from a proportional standpoint, largely overrepresented at the local leadership level. And I bet if we were to give the seventies a close look, the proportion would be especially confirmatory of a corporate tendency.

      BUT THE LARGER point is not about the professions per se. Your comment suggests that these men are picked BECAUSE of their professional background. But I am sure that you would agree that, ultimately, they were selected because of their spiritual refinement and their real world competence (without respect to their specific professional background). I mean, can’t we safely suppose that the Lord doesn’t need 11 of 15 apostles to be businessmen or lawyers?

      What I am pointing to here is a cultural assumption that permeates the church at the ground level. Men in the church overwhelmingly seek out professions that pay well and confer social respectability, for the very reasons I identified in my earlier response. This category of men produces competent leaders, to be sure. And so the Lord has only so much to choose from. It is my claim that if culturally we valued intellectual pursuits and professions (true intellectual pursuits; sorry, but this does not include business scholars) more, then more men would enter these areas of life and the Lord would have more to choose from in staffing the highest positions of leadership. That would reinforce, hypothetically, a willingness to embrace intellectual and artistic virtues more broadly. And I think we would have a better church culture as a result.

  5. You think that’s bad? Trying being a musician and a member of the Church.

  6. Aside from identifying with Nick (even though I don’t have a PhD), I just want to say that, like RBC, I have to disagree with reb. I’m only 26 and I’ve seen plenty of the doctor-bias (which of course includes other professions, too) in my life. In our last ward accountants were the dominant group, and in the ward I grew up in it was dentists and orthodontists. Members of these professions were basically the ward “elite”–something I find fairly ironic, considering.

    There’s a general sentiment among my Mormon circles of acquaintances that people are afraid to disagree with me unless they’ve “done their research.” I find this really unfair, since all I do is do MY research–I don’t like to comment on things unless I’ve read up on them. Why is this such a foreign idea? The anti-intellectual bias is not something we’re imagining, and it’s not healthy.

  7. Joe

    I can relate to Nick and others who find themselves in wards during their graduate education filled with medical, dental, and law students. I am the token archaeologist in my ward who hangs out with the token entomologist and the token Hispanic studies student. So while accounting for your ward’s location (university town) and accompanying demographic, I agree that this is definitely part of Mormon culture rather than an isolated example found in one ward. Mormon men who seek additional education beyond their undergraduate degree seek after higher paying professions that permit them to fulfill the expectations that the the church has taught them.

    What I find distracting about this focus on making money and being socially respectable is that it insinuates that there is some connection between spiritual worthiness/fitness for a calling and the professional/economic success of an individual. As we learned from the original 12 apostles, the majority fishermen, the Lord can mold individuals regardless of social class or profession into powerful instruments of God. The base requirements are individual worthiness and spiritual preparedness.

    I believe that God values all knowledge equally and that while I may not earn as much as these popular professions, I can add to the kingdom of God my unique skill set and perspective that comes from a career path not followed by many others.

    I also think that sometimes we think we need more material comforts than are actually necessary to live happy and successfully lives. The church has always encouraged us to live within our means, not to go out and seek riches (well unless you use them for good and to build up the kingdom of God).

  8. Pingback: Like A Boss: A Critique of Nibley’s “Leaders to Managers” | Worlds Without End

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s