12 Questions for . . . Armand Mauss

We are pleased to announce that Armand Mauss has agreed to be the first participant in the newest regular feature at T&S, “12 Questions.” In this feature, we will be “interviewing” some of the bright stars in the Mormon firmament. And you, dear reader, may participate by submitting the questions.

[See here and here for the questions and answers]

Brother Mauss has a BA and MA in History and Asian Studies and a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC-Berkeley. He is currently professor emeritus at Washington State University, where he has taught sociology and religious studies for over 30 years. His books include: Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Encounter the Race Issue in a Universal Church (Signature, 1984, editor, with Lester E. Bush); The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994); and All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Lineage and Race(Univ. of Illinois Press, 2003). In 1995 the Mormon History Association awarded him both the Best First Book Award (for The Angel and the Beehive) and the Arrington Award for career contributions to Mormon Studies.

Please email me with any questions you’d like us to ask Brother Mauss. The deadline for submitting questions is Monday, April 12.

21 comments for “12 Questions for . . . Armand Mauss

  1. “hat hitherto neglected topics would Mauss like to seem more scholarlly attention devoted to?”

    Not a great question, but something to get the ball rolling…

  2. Are we supposed to be posting questions here, or sending them directly to Greg?

    Aaron B

    P.S. Not sure I understand Nate’s question about the “hat.” :)

  3. Come on! You guys can do better than this!

    What does Mauss think about Douglas Davies new book _An Introduction to Mormonism_? I appreciated his earlier book on _The Mormon Culture of Salvation_(2000) and was impressed with his response to Millet (although I wish Millet had spoken less and let Davies say more)at the Yale Conference last Spring. I just picked this new one up and although I haven’t read it yet, it looks like just the sort of academic introduction to Mormonism that the academy needs. Right now Bushman’s book is used far and wide–great book, but not really an introduction to Mormonism. I’d love to hear Mauss’ evaluation of it.

  4. O.K., Melissa, if you insist…

    “In _Mormon America_, the Ostlings relate a fascinating series of incidents involving an African-American convert demanding a new “manifesto” from the 1st Presidency concering Mormonism’s historical racial theology and efforts made by Armand Mauss, among others, to simultaneously secure some sort of statement (apology? retraction?) from LDS Public Affairs on this thorny issue. I’ve always wondered — what is Mauss’ take on the Ostling’s treatment of this affair? Is there recounting accurate? What was Mauss’ role in all this precisely?”

    (I have read _All Abraham’s Children_, and I don’t recall him addressing this issue therein, but maybe I’ve just forgotten. If so, you can scratch my question, and deem me an idiot.)

    Aaron B

    P.S. I think this is just one question, so I don’t wanna hear Steve E. whining about how it’s really three!

  5. Okay, I have conference on the brain still, but a friend of mine suggested on Saturday that the reason we have conference is not really to learn about new doctrine, but to learn Mormon discourse. Many in Religious Studies have certainly used the analogy of “language games” to describe religions. To what extent is Conference a method of teaching us a certain kind of discourse—not just that we should use “thee/thou in prayer (Elder Oaks 1995?) but also a certain narrative framework, routinzed sentence structure (think President Monson) and a particular vocabulary? The theory is: One important role of General Conferencd is to teach the proper form of Mormon discourse.

    At one point on Saturday someone said that we should “heed the Spirit’s promptings.” My friend leaned over to me and said, “who uses the word ‘heed’? No one talks like that in real life.” I think there are more egregious examples of this, but this is the one that struck him. How about the construction “we are in perilous times, even the worst of times” or “Jesus Christ, even the Savior of the world” (the content is not actually from Conference, but the structure is ubiquitous)

    Part of this language is certainly King Jamesian/Scriptural in origin, but my question is to what extent does one’s Mormonness include one’s ability to speak a certain language, to participate within certain narrative forms? I think language functions as a cultural and social code in Mormonism. What does Mauss think?

  6. Ever noticed how no one just gets baptized into the Mormon Church in conference? They “enter the waters of baptism.” Reminds me of that hilarious Sugar Beet headline – “Man prays for ‘water’ instead of ‘moisture’; Church membership in doubt.”

  7. I like Melissa’s question about whether General Conference teaches the proper form of Mormon discourse! But I want to petition that it not be interpreted so narrowly as the examples she cites suggest. Using dusty phrases like “unto”, “even”, “waters of baptism” is indeed a noticeable distinction of GC language, but the form of Mormon discourse is not, I submit, primarily a matter of baroque grammar, nor a matter of intonation (my guess (partly from listening to G.W. Bush) is the intonation is mostly a matter of a certain school of coaching for broadcast to a varied audience, particularly when the speech is to be translated live).

    Could it be that the purpose of General Conference is to establish the proper form of Mormon discourse in a more substantial sense — modeling the issues to be discussed, the emphasis and urgency placed on them, and the goals we are to pursue in our discourse as a church? and the rhetorical strategies (e.g. the deployment of personal anecdotes, scriptural quotations, quotations of other texts, both Mormon and non-Mormon) — even the theological hermeneutics of Mormon discourse? (not to mention furnishing a plethora of talks to be reheated for sacrament meeting and sunday school use during the year) I’d like to hear about how GC could be argued to serve, or not, as a standard for these aspects of our discourse.

    — note appropriate use of “even” ; )

  8. Ben,

    Your comments are actually exactly what I had in mind, although my references to narrative frameworks and cultural/social codes probably got overshadowed by the semantic examples I offered. Thanks for articulating the larger issues so well.

  9. Thanks for the questions so far; keep them coming. Please send them directly to me ([email protected]), although I will of course take questions from this thread. Also, keep in mind the forum and format here: I suspect that Mauss will likely not have the time or inclination to delve into specific controversial issues or those that deserve more than 2 or 3 paragraphs of discussion.

  10. I think it might be fun to have at least some questions of a lighter nature; stuff like “How did you break into the field of Mormon studies writing”; “What do your ward members think of your LDS-celebrity status”; “What good books have you read lately”; etc.

    (Or we could just grill him about deeper issues for the whole 12 questions).

  11. He’s in my uncle’s ward–we could ask him if all the Haglunds are as brilliant as Kristine : )

  12. Just to tag along with Aaron’s question: what might be the benefits of the Church publicly clarifying its position with regard to the doctrinal foundation (or lack thereof) of the priesthood ban? Would an official public apology be meaningful?

  13. Two questions you don’t have to ask A.M.:

    1. Are all the Haglunds are as brilliant as Kristine?
    No. But a few come close.

    2. Or if they’re all as irascible . . .
    Yes. Or even moreso.


  14. Kristine asks: Would an official public apology be meaningful?

    I don’t know if he’s said it in any of his books, but he got asked during the Q&A last year after his presentation at the FAIR conference “The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics”

    I don’t think his comments made the transcript. IIRC, he doesn’t think a public apology would accomplish anything.

  15. Thanks, Ben! Always nice to be saved from looking like an idiot who can’t read…

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