By Rosemary Pollock
Jan Shipps' Writes as an Outsider Looking In
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- After forty years among the Mormons, Jan Shipps,
a professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana
University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has written "Sojourner in the
Promised Land." Shipps' interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints was piqued in 1960 when she moved to Logan, Utah, with her
family for nine months. A lifelong Methodist, Shipps has been an outsider
"Sojourner in the Promise Land" is a compilation of her essays, that range
from an evaluation of the early years of hardship in The Church to a current
ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with traditional Protestant
denominations, whose congregations are dwindling. Shipps' analysis is the
sharpest as she covers the journey from the building of Zion to the current
status of Mormons in the mainstream of religious life.
Her working thesis is that the church survived since its founding in 1830
because of a belief system, an ethnicity, a culture of a "peculiar people"
that was created through revelation and the experience to survive
persecution and shared hardships. Mormons emerged from being polygamous
oddballs into the tumultuous 1960's as the media darlings of Middle America.
They were considered "neat, modest, virtuous, family-loving, conservative
and patriotic people."
Shipps claims the current changes of emphasizing the words "Jesus Christ" in
the redesigned logo, show that after more than 125 years the Church is
holding to its separateness, expanding it's sense of identity and
self-confidence. "Mormonism is a legitimate way to be a Christian; it is
just not my way of being Christian," Shipps said.
Mormons' Long, Strange Trip to the Mainstream
Los Angeles Times 17Mar01 A2
By Ralph Frammolino: Times Staff Writer