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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 13Jan01

By Kent Larsen

How Can You Know So Much And Not Believe?: Jan Shipps and Mormonism

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Jan Shipps has spent 40 years studying Mormon culture and history, writing many articles and three books about Mormonism. Along with a review of her most recent book, "Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons," the Deseret News' Dennis Lythgoe also looks at Shipps and her influence on Mormonism.

Lythgoe is impressed by "Sojourner" and says that it will be "a classic to be read over and over by both LDS Church members and serious students of the LDS culture everywhere." He says Shipps approach to her subject is "so complete and so profound that both non-Mormons and inactive Mormons could very well be inspired by these chapters to make Mormonism the center of their lives." According to Lythgoe, Shipps has written possibly the best essay, found in the book, on whether Mormons are Christian. He sums-up his review by saying that "Sojourner" is "a thoroughly interesting, scholarly and eloquent treatment of a thriving American religion."

But just as interesting as his review of "Sojourner" is Lythgoe's article on Shipps herself. Shipps started studying Mormonism while attending Utah State University in Logan. There because her husband had a job with the University, Shipps chose to study history and, although she lived in Logan for only 9 months, developed a life-long interest in Mormonism.

After getting a Ph.D. in history at the University of Colorado, Shipps landed an academic appointment at Indiana University-Purdue University, where the new Religious Studies department asked her to join the department on the basis of her three articles about Mormon history. While she knew little about Religious Studies, she learned along the way. And in the process, she kept studying Mormonism, managing to get a look at it over a long time, getting a 'moving picture' view instead of the snapshot that most scholars typically took of Mormonism.

And the LDS Church's hierarchy has been greatful for her impartial, well-rounded perspective. Elder Dallin H. Oaks calls her "that celebrated Mormon-watcher," and other LDS General Authorities even call her "that beloved gentile."

This leads LDS Church members to some confusion, best expressed originally by Mormon historian Richard Poll when he asked Shipps, "How Can You Know So Much And Not Believe?" In reply, Shipps acknowledges that she loves Mormon culture and history, but she remains a confirmed Methodist. ""Mormonism," she says, "is a legitimate way to be religious - it just isn't my way."


Scholar's passion: studying LDS faith
Deseret News 7Jan01 A2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News staff writer
Years spent probing Mormonism have enriched her Methodism

Shipps' LDS essays honest, objective Deseret News 7Jan01 A2
Deseret News 7Jan01 A2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News staff writer

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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information