Non-Mormons Doing Mormon Studies

How do scholars without a personal background in the LDS church navigate the waters of insider/ousiderness in Mormon Studies? How can outsiderness be an asset?

Ann Taves

Virgil Cordano Chair of Catholic Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Some people think that scholarship on Mormonism is kind of a closed world. I can understand that in a way but that hasn’t been my reaction. . . . For example, I participated in a closed workshop on Joseph Smith’s translations. There were actually only two non-Mormon scholars there. That conference I thought was a total blast because it was a closed meeting, so it was all just historians talking history at a high level and being very candid about what they thought about the sources and how to interpret them. So that was a very “insider” event, but the “insider-ness” was based on how deeply you knew the materials. It wasn’t about Mormon versus non-Mormon.

Max Mueller

Professor of Religious Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mormons have been persecuted and ridiculed and attacked, both by everyday Americans and the American government, and so even today Mormons still remain in a lot of ways wedded to that understanding of a persecuted, isolated religious minority.