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Posted 18 Dec 2001   For week ended December 14, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 14Dec01

By Kent Larsen

NZ Scholar Critical of Mormons Wins Research Grant

WAIKATO, NEW ZEALAND -- A New Zealand scholar whose critical statements about Mormon history have led to clashes with Mormon students and colleagues will be coming to the United States to study Mormon History. Dr. Raymond Richards has won a $5,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fellowship for study at the Huntington Library, which he will use to study how Mormon missionaries converted New Zealand's native Maori people to Mormonism.

Richards' views have sparked criticism in the past, and led several Mormon students in 1998 to file formal harassment complaints against him with Waikato University, where he teaches. The students claimed that his practice of denigrating Mormonism in his lectures on American history. Richards had claimed that Mormonism is a cult, that Joseph Smith was a megalomaniac, and that his views are widely accepted among non-Mormon historians.

In response to the charges, Richards claimed that the Church was trying to intimidate him into silence, although local church authorities maintained they had nothing to do with the complaints. After mediation by the University, the students dropped the complaints.

Now Richards says he will look at the Huntington Library's collection of diaries and papers of the Mormon missionaries who served in New Zealand in the 1880s. He says he wants to find out "how the Maori were taken in by the obviously absurd story that they were descended from a lost tribe of Jews." He also wants to know if the missionaries taught polygamy at that time. "I want to know how the fiction took hold," Richards says.


Mormon critic wins research grant
Wellington New Zealand The Dominion (NZPA) 6Dec01 N1


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