By Kent Larsen
Anthropologists Examine Issues in LDS Culture
WASHINGTON, DC -- At the centennial meeting of the American
Anthropological Association last week, for the first time one session
of the annual conference examines Mormon culture for the first time.
But the session was not for the faint of heart, examining such
difficult questions as same-sex attraction, the Mountain Meadows
Massacre, and the archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. But
session organizer David Knowlton called the session important,
saying, "All one has to do is listen to the general conference of the
church to hear the confidence, the aplomb, the assurance with which
the church presents itself to the world. They occupy and dominate an
entire region of the United States in a way no other denomination
does and that makes the Mormons somewhat unusual."
One anthropologist, the University of Maryland' Mark Leone, called
the session a unique, brave move, "It's so rare that it must be a
first. It's special. And very brave." He urged anthropologists to
study the LDS Church and Mormon culture in spite of the lack of
interest by the Church in secular scientific critiques of the
institution. "Do it right. Be decisive. Be descriptive. Publish
widely. Use the media. Be scared. And scare. We are not dealing with
a timid institution," he said.
The session included presentations by Knowlton, who looked at Mormon
men who were trying to resolve questions of sexual orientation;
Melvin Hammarberg, who examined the psychological identity battles of
LDS missionaries; Shannon Novak and Lars Rodseth, who looked at the
1999 forensic study of the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre;
and by Charles Nuckoll, who examined the argument over whether a
pre-Columbian sculpture, the Izapa Stela 5 stone found in Mexico,
illustrates the "Tree of Life" found in the Book of Mormon.
Nation's Anthropologists Evaluate LDS Culture
Salt Lake Tribune 1Dec01 N6
By Christopher Smith: Salt Lake Tribune