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
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