By Rosemary Pollock
Why Jan Shipps Is Leading Scholar of Mormon History
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Jan Shipps is a leading scholar of Mormon
history. Her first book, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious
Tradition, is still in print after 15 years and is required reading
in some college courses. Editor Liz Dulany writes, "It will be a
popular book among Mormons and scholars in religious history, as well
as in sociology of religion and Western history." What makes Shipps
such an expert on Mormonism when she isn't a Mormon herself? She
calls herself and "inside-outsider" that allows her a sensitivity to
the LDS leadership. She has a good 40 year working relationship with
Mormon leaders and wants to keep it that way.
Recently, a delicate balancing act over Church-owned photographs of
its temples was the cause of a delay in the publication of her new
book, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints public affairs
department refused to grant permission to the University of Illinois
Press to use the Church-owned photograph of the Salt Lake City temple
on the dust jacket of Shipps' new book. She refers to it as "the
dust-jacket dust-up." "This is just one more example of the tightrope
I've been walking for 40 years." Shipps complied and publication
was delayed from November to January.
Shipps will interweave her own history of Mormon-watching with 16
essays on Mormon history and culture. More than half of the chapters
are new and some have been revised and republished. She sees the
collection as an ethnography, because "it reflects the four decades I
lived as a sojourner in Zion, going back and forth to the place the
Saints call the Promised Land."
Shipps maintains a firm affiliation with the United Methodist Church,
although her abiding passion is Mormonism.
Jan Shipps: Gentle Gentile among the Mormans
Publishers Weekly pgS15 20Nov00 A2
By Jana Riess;