206 Years ago

Just Before The birthday of Joseph Smith:

So, here’s your task, my friend, and if you fail, well, puff!  Up in smoke goes the entire world…ready?

At the age of 23, after being graduated from the New York frontier homeschool program with a certificate of having spent several years in study, and following that with a career selling gingerbread, felling trees, coopering, plowing, sowing, and sundry useful manual labors, including regular treasure digging, you will be visited by an Egypto-Hebrew-Indian spirit, who will direct you to a hole wherein is placed a stack of gold, diamond glasses, and some other treasures.  But don’t sell them, even though, you know, you might be on the verge of eviction and starvation, ok?

It would be easier if you weren’t flat broke, if you had a name or influence, some education worthy of the name, property, or friends in high places, but, we’ll, you can’t have everything, right?  What are taking with you, there?  Muscles, good looks, don’t forget the charismatic anointing by the Holy Spirit, and, yes, see there, a whole lotta guts and, yeah, well, you’ll know a bit more than anyone else.  So, you’ve got enough inside you to do some pretty cool stuff, don’t sweat the minor socioeconomicopolitical things.

The story on the gold plates is more valuable than the gold, believe me.  What’s on it?  No, not really a happy story.  On the gold plates you’ll find a record of a ruined civilation written in part by said spirit.   They sailed from, ahem, Jerusalem, and landed here in America, down south, probably.  Etcetera, and so on.  After enjoying the instruction and kingship of the resurrected Lord, this people held on for a few centuries before starting churches, and dividing into classes, and then exterminating one another for reasons not yet clear.  They do that sort of thing alot, I suppose.

Yep, that’s the story.  So you’ll have to translate their records…you don’t know Reformed Egyptian?  Hmm, well, that’s what the glasses are for.  You’ll figure it out.  Why?  Well, it’s complicated, but the Lord made some, you know how He is, some ‘incautious’ promises, fell in with a rough crowd…I know, right…yeah, so you’re going to help him make good on those promises.

Yeah, He could reneg on all of it, I mean, they’re pretty rotten down there, but you know how He is, right?  Always love this, charity that, forgive, forgive, longsuffering, kindness…Here, you’ll need alot of those things, too, I guess.  Take some more.

Anyway, believe it or not, most of your neighbors and friends and family won’t be terribly interested in your little translation project.  I know, we tried to make it as cool as possible, Indians, Wars, Gold, magic rocks, intrepid adventurings, but some mortals, well, they just lack vision.  So, you’ll get all this stuff one night, and then…no it’s not easy street from there.  You’ll walk through the night, and arrive home with said treasure, and find that there is no money for procuring a chest.  Get a nice one, about yea-high, and so wide.  Sure, get one with a lock, it can’t hurt.

So, after somehow retrieving these treasures, and avoiding all the thieves round about you, you’ll have to walk another couple miles, and dig a well, to earn a few dollars so you can put a downpayment on a chest.  And then you’ll have to walk back home.  No, it won’t be a party for you, so much as a chance to continue the education of your hands.  You know, pulling stumps, chopping wood, avoiding starvation and thieves.  It is ironic, I know, that you can’t afford a box for your gold, but that’s how we work around here.

So, you’ll start up looking over the gold plates, which your neighbors will call the Gold Bible, just to be jerks.  No, not really easy living after that.  This one guy will help you, only to end up, ahem, misplacing everything you’ve done, and then you’ll have to start over.   Oh, and he’s basically your only friend, the loser guy, but he may be in it for the money, so keep your eyes on him, OK?   Oh, right before that guy loses all your work, and your soul seems consigned to eternal flames, your first born son will live about, like, three seconds, and then die.  Pretty messed up.  And your neighbors, most of them  professing Christians, will mock your loss.  Over and over again.  You’ll see, they’ve got what will be called “issues”.

No, we’re still working on the details about housing, employment, and so on…but don’t worry, we’ll have it figured out by then, I’m almost certain.  What happens after the book is translated?  We’ll it’ll have to be published…no, probably not a run-away best seller.  Oh, yes, there’ll be plenty of “buzz” about your Gol’ Bible, but you know how that can be, mostly negative, right?  You’ll want to start a church…

I know, but all these Christians love their churches, and so we’ve got to play along.  Yep, a real church, sort of.  Right, well, you’ll be invited to remove yourself from one land, and then another, sometimes the invitations come with a bucket of tar, and chicken feathers, and so on, or a vial of poison for you to swallow, or just the usual beatings, but you’ll end up in a really great spot, near the water, neighborhood full of miasmic humors, a view of the cholera, a real gem…it’ll cost like a million dollars, too, but don’t worry about that one.  And there’s a really a solid group of fellas, you’ll see.

Well, some of them sort of have a change of heart, and seek your own life, but that’s how friends, are right?  There’s this one guy, Oh Boy, watch out…Bennett, I think.   And some others will try to undo everything we’re setting up here, and there’s no shortage of trouble to find and avoid…ladies, um, we’ll get that figured out…yeah, well, trouble.  Mostly from mortals in your church.  I know, but that is how they run things down there.  Anywhoo, that’s pretty much it…

How does it end?  Ahem.  Well.  You know how these things are.  After a life starting at zero…yeah, really less than zero, you’re right, you’ll eventually be a popular figure, something like a celebrity, a military leader, a prophet, a newspaper editor, a seer, a husband a few times over, a father, a son, a poet, a philosopher, a brother, a friend, and having sacrificed most of your basic pleasures, like food, health, and, oh yeah, one time your own people will rob you of your favorite silk ribbons, and fancy buttons…and there’s a jail called Liberty you’ll spend some time in…

Well after all these, ahem, ‘experiences,’ you’ll be locked away, betrayed, left for dead by your friends and family, and a mob, well, you know how mobs can be?  Turn on a dime, you know, well the mob…Yes, some of your own people, maybe even friends and family will be mobbing with them, well, they’ll shoot you up, as you fall from the window of the jail, and that’s pretty much it.

How does it go after that?  Oh, yeah, smooth sailing for the Mormons.  Even a musical.

What’s that?

Yeah, it does kinda suck when they abandon almost everything you taught and died for, and then make uninspired art and fake histories about you, but, well, what’re ya gonna do?  It’ll be worth it, really.  Ready?

Oh, and seriously, don’t mess this up, or poof!

…Man, I can’t believe he’s really gonna do it.

 

 

Part Seven: On Tolkien Studies And Mormon Studies

Tolkien Studies Compared To Mormon Studies

 

Well, Daymon, here we
are again.

 

Yeah.  Again.

 

I see you’ve been busy
writing this and that, Articles of Faith, Contests, and probably
god-knows-what-else.  Arguing with
apologists, which is just insane, by the way.

 

I thought you were writing all that stuff.  No?
There must be another Daymon around here, then.  A real jerk, sometimes, too.  Anyway, where were we?

 

Last time you called
amateurs maggots, I believe.

 

Ah.  Well, Farmer
Maggots.

 

Explain the difference.

 

Farmer Maggot is of the crafty old rural folk, goodhearted
and courageous.  Helps the hobbits pass
through the Shire.  But not really the
go-to guy for, say, fighting off Nazgul.

 

So, you’re saying
someone is a Nazgul?  Who?  Let’s call someone a dirty name.

 

No, I’m saying there’s a division of labor in any research
field; at least, in a functioning one: your Gandalfs, Maggotts, Aragorns, and
hobbits.  Let me draw a contrastive case.

 

Tolkien Studies, then?

 

Sure.  You be the
Mormon Studies guy, and I’ll be the Tolkien Studies guy.  MS and TS, OK?

 

Wait.  Which one am I?

 

The Mormon Studies guy.

 

But I’d rather be the
other one.

 

Next time.  Now, let
me outline what for most scholars is probably a laughable notion, maybe even
more so than Mormon Studies might be.  Ha
ha.  What does Tolkien Studies consist
of?

 

Um, nerds with fake
ears, camping out in “Rivendell”?

 

Let’s see.  You can
take a class on Tolkien and Translation at Harvard, taught by a linguistic
anthropologist. [link syllabus]

 

Maybe TT learned all
this learning there?

 

Maybe, though I don’t believe Nazgul Rhetoric was on the syllabus.  Just kidding, TT.  Anyway.
To supplement your Harvard education, assuming you have any money left,
you can also take classes on Tolkien at Bethel U, Rutgers, Atlantic Baptist,
St. Francis College, Victoria U of Wellington, U of Vermont, U of Central
Lancashire, U of Auckland, Denver U, Rice, Crichton College, and the U of
Calgary.  A very international offering,
which list would seem to compare favorably with anything offered in your field.

 

Well, we have a chair
at Utah State, and another at Claremont.
And a program at Wyoming, and sort of a program at UVU (for now), and,
well, there’s BYU.  And Mormons studying
history, religion, and so on.  CES?  And, I took a class at Penn on Mormonism.

 

Yeah, I taught it.

 

Well, you
assistant-taught it.

 

Got me.  We had four
students, three of them LDS.  Not a
promising sight.  But you guys have
things at Yale and so on, in American Religion, and American History, which
should not be ignored.

 

Yeah, I guess so.  It’s just, I’d like something focused only on
Mormons, you know?  Without all the
comparative business, reading about all those other religions, histories, and
so on.

 

Well, you have chairs.
We don’t have that in Tolkien Studies.
But what does a chair mean?

 

I think you’ve
addressed that already, so maybe we can move on?

 

If you insist.  I
suppose the truth about chairs not organically growing out of a blossoming
field is sometimes hard to bear?

 

Whatever.  Anyway, what else do you have, with all your
“fiction” escapist non-sense waste of time studies?

 

You are referring to my field, or yours?  Just kidding.
Tolkien studiesists upon graduation can obtain credit toward a masters from
the Mythgard Institute.

 

Good Lord!  Mythgard, how absurd!

 

It’s credit is good in the UK, Europe, and in the US, and it
is accredited through the U Wales Institute, Cardiff.  Now, if you prefer a more mainstream
institution, you can, like many before you, and as Mormons have long done,
conduct your graduate work at, say, Chicago, Berkeley, Harvard, or any other
program, and write your thesis or dissertation on Tolkien or his writings.  But I warn you, if you think a lit review in
Mormon Studies is a pain in the ass, wait until you see what you’ll have to
read through, the piles upon piles, if you want to get grounded in TS.

 

Well, in MS we have
the Journal of Mormon History.

 

A legitimate scholarly publication, for sure.  What else?

 

Um, a Claremont one,
tied to the graduate program.  FARMS, I
mean, Mormon Studies Review.
Dialogue.  Sunstone.  BYU Studies.
The Ensign.  Utah Historical
Quarterly, um, Book of Mormon Studies.  Some
others.  There’s some religious journals,
too.  And an online journal.  Not a blog, I mean a real online journal.

 

Wait, The Ensign?
Come on.  Those others are all
good solid places to publish, though, I don’t know about…anyway.  Let’s see, in TS you’d have, just focused on
Tolkien and his writings, to keep up with Vinya
Tengwar
and Parma Eldalamberon,
both published by the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, which also has an online
journal called Tengwestie.

 

Just a handful of
nerds calling each other Elrondos and Almarien, I bet, prancing around in
cloaks, wearing fake swords.

 

Nerds, I don’t know.
But many of the linguistic and literary articles are hard core, I mean,
serious linguistic research.  And ELF is
part of Mythopoeic Society, a legitimate scholarly circle.  But that’s not all, my dear self.  The Tolkien Society publishes Amon Hen, Mallorn, its annual proceedings, and there’s Quettar, and, of course, international conferences held at
Oxford.  And the Tolkien Studies journal published by West Virginia University
Press.  Now, in order to keep up with
just this side of TS, you’d have to be able to read from work published in
English, Spanish, Portuguese,

 

Yeah, well, MS is
global too. 

 

Let me finish: Polish, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish,
Norwegian, Finnish, Czech, Bulgarian, Chinese, Lithuanian, and, also,
Croatian.  Probably Russian, Hebrew, and
others, as T’s work has been translated into many tongues.

 

Almost as many as
Joseph Smith’s, I suppose.  Now, that’s
fine, but aren’t these all amateurs?
Don’t you hate amateurs?  I do.

 

No, I don’t.  Amateur means they have a choice to do
what they do; so they do it out of love, often.
And many of the listservs and publications are managed by sites with
.edu addresses.  So, just because one doesn’t
make money writing about Tolkienism, that doesn’t mean one doesn’t know a lot
about linguistics, literature, mythology, history, poetry, Quenya, and so on.  But that brings us to the logic of practice,
which –

 

Quenya?

 

Don’t worry about it.
Smith’s work hasn’t yet been translated into Quenya, Sindarin, or any of
the other fifteen languages Tolkien wrote about as a linguist.

 

As far as you
know.  So?

 

So, you can read parts of Genesis, and the New Testament, in
Sindarin.  [link genesis]

 

You got us there.

 

You can take classes in Sindarin, Quenya, learn the Tengwar
and Cirth, all offered for free; though, tutors are willing to take your money
to teach you, as well.

 

Priestcraft!  You guys have priestcraft!

 

They aren’t priests.
That’s a difference we might get to. Now, you guys have podcasts and
such?

 

Yeah, with thousands
of listeners.

 

That’s great.  I’ve
heard you on there; I didn’t need to buy your book after hearing it.

 

What?

 

Never mind.  TS has
Professor Corey Olsen, whose podcasts have been downloaded over a million
times.  And then

 

Wait, a million?

 

Yep.  Then there’s
middleearthnetwork.com, middleearth radio, dunedain radio, mymiddleearth.com, a
social networking site, Tolkien-gateway.net, Mythgard.org, theonering.net, all full
of user-contributed content; and many comprehensive wikis, encyclopedias, and,
of course, online games.

 

That’s not really
Tolkien Studies, though.  The games.

 

No, but pretty cool.
All your Book of Mormon derived stuff is pretty lame, cartoons, and
boardgames, dumpy action figures, living room kitsch, blatant propaganda badly
executed, most of it.  A shame what’s
been done in the name of that book.  And
that awful movie where Nephi wore a watch –

 

That was the Liahona!

 

Oh.  My point is, if
you want to see a thriving amateur driven community

 

You mean fan-driven.

 

The term can be applied to Mormon Studies, as well, you know.

 

No, we don’t have
fans.  We have Mormon Studiesists.

 

What’s the difference?

 

Well, there’s a big
difference.  I’m sure.

 

The difference is something we can bring out, maybe.  What TS doesn’t have is the requirement that
you “believe” in certain truth claims, that you don’t consume certain things,
or watch certain movies (except maybe The
Chronicles of Narnia
).  It’s a
voluntary research body, without a church.
And though there’s the Tolkien Estate, and New Line Cinema and the like,
we don’t have a corporate headquarters that generates mountains of material
designed to script our voices, and so, we don’t have a Priestly Caste
subsidized by donations.

 

We?  You’re not really in Tolkien Studies.

 

No, but we’re playing, remember?  You’re not in Mormon Studies, either.

 

Right.  I forgot.

 

Anyway.  This is an
important contrast.  Because one studies
art and the artist, and the other studies a religion comprised of humans living
and dead; a certain clarity of purpose is seen in one, absent in the other.

 

Let me guess which one.

 

No.  To study a
religion is fine, unless you allow what you are studying to define the subject
for you, without realizing how such things are actually constructed.

 

Why is that a
problem?  Jewish Studies is similar.

 

Perhaps.  But “Mormon”
is a thing created by language, without folks using that word and applying it to
people, things, ideas, and so on, there is nothing to study.

 

So?

 

So, it means that your subject is a “symbolic sign” as
Peirce would say, and that means, all that is required in order for your
subject to exist is, one, the word itself; and two, agreement between a few
people that the word stands for some other thing, a Mormon.  That’s it.
Then they all can go around sticking and unsticking that label until
they have a thing with enough material around it, that it can be subjected to
“academic” study.

 

And what comes of
that?

 

It means that all the powers of modern culture enter into
the construction of Mormon: capital, legislation, armies, social compulsion,
mass media, and so on.  What happens, as
I’ve laid out in a few other writings, is that some construction of Mormon is
taken as a subject, as “the” authentic version; and rather than explore
self-critically how that subject comes into existence as a researchable entity,
your Mormon Studies folks seem to insist that they are studying some real
thing.  And when this is done, the
creative powers are confirmed, and given translation into academia.

 

That’s too simple.

 

It’s a summary of other writings which I’m not going into
here.  Look, the Priestly Caste
constructs a subject for MS, and to oppose that construction is to offer a
challenge to priestly power, not merely to provide an alternative reading of an
identity.  Gay Studies, Women Studies,
Ethnic Studies, and so on; these wrestle with identity, for sure, and have
their heavy hitters, big funders, and so on; but they can’t really threaten a
scholar with eternal damnation for wanting to include, say, sex indeterminate
individuals in their study of “Women”.

 

That’s only if you
believe the Priestly Caste, the damnation threat, I mean.

 

And that’s the problem: that “belief” in statements not
restricted to the research corpus are allowed into the research process,
because “Mormon” is what it is: a symbolic sign.  For example, you can study Tolkien’s theory
of art without being read as proselytizing or opposing that theory, or be read
as wanting to include hobbits into the race of elves.

 

So, you can study
Joseph Smith’s theology from an objective perspective.

 

Perhaps, whatever “objective” means.  But your reading of that is informed by
nearly two centuries of discourse addressing your subject, and many many people
with an interest in your research concluding very specific things.  These people sit on boards that oversee editors
who control publication channels, presses, blogs, and so on.  They read, fund, complain, write-back, call
you names.  No new blog or journal is
free from that, unless it recognizes and explores how “Mormon” is created.

 

Not all the people.  I mean, not all the people are biased.

 

I didn’t say all the people.
But you better believe that MS is not composed of, funded by, and
addressing itself to some exclusive clique of scholars with no horses in the
race, as it were.  Anyone can say they
are concerned with only the Truth, but anyone is also free to define what they
mean by The Truth, and often what they mean is, what they’ve already worked
out.

 

It’s not all
apologetics.

 

I didn’t say that.
Apologetics is just a genre, wherein scholarly posture, style, and
conference presentations are mobilized to conceal the decontextualization of
the findings of others outside the community, all for the purpose of arriving
at conclusions already decided upon by the community one addresses.  Apologists are just doing Public Relations,
often stealing from the work of others, and translating it inside a very narrow
circle of, um, “readers”.  Not a Priestly
Caste, but servants of it, albeit often doing more damage than good.

 

What do you mean?

 

I can’t get into that right now, but let’s just say FARMS
made relevant the counter-claims of archaeologists.  Now, if you’re an eighteen year old kid, who
are you going to believe?  The guy at
Yale, with books and breadth and depth of knowledge, or your neighbor the
software salesman presenting on “symbolism” at a conference where they bear
testimony to the truth of something, before they begin presenting on that
thing?  Which sort of reader do we thereafter
retain in Mormonism?  But that’s for
later.

 

Alright.   So,
your TS has no Priestly Caste.

 

And no Correlation: no awareness or absurd imagining that
there’s some secret committee that sits around and ensures that everything said
in one venue, tv station, or kitsch-shop is all approved by the Lord.  And

 

Go on.

 

And, there is no explicit rules by which they, that
committee, conduct their work.  That is
to say, the end result is tossed around among Mormons, but how they got
there?  Not so much.  Not even the guys on the committee are
trained in any way.  That is, if you
wanted to get a Masters in Correlation, there is no curriculum.  It’s a game of guessing what other people,
Priests, might find inspirational, true, or offensive; and so, a game of
guessing how a text affects others, and how they might read into an author’s
spirituality, or some other abstract quality seemingly manifested in a
text.  That’s the paranoia that shapes so
much of your MS, though you’ll have to read my other work to flesh out the
logic, evidence, and implications.

 

I’ll get around to
it.  But I read a summary from a guy who
heard about it.  And, wait, that was my
work.  And –

 

And, what?  Tolkien
Studies is fortunate that its subject is an art, not a religion, and so the
truth claims are easily bracketed from the beginning, and the research can move
forward.  There is no wrestling with
Faith versus Scholarship, with how I can please Mammon and not displease God
simultaneously.  Just students who love
the subject, study it, and write about it.

 

You’re a
Pollyanna.  What about the money being
made?  Doesn’t that induce bias?

 

Bias?  That’s not my
favorite word.  No, it doesn’t.  Peter Jackson has an interest in a review of
his work being favorable, but not really in ensuring that proto-Quenya is
taught to seven year olds, or that scholars writing about Tolkien come to some
conclusion.  There are firewalls built
into TS, because its subject is an art.
You can believe in it, or not.  It
doesn’t really affect the scholarship, because there’s no one patrolling, and
no one to imagine is harmed, and no one to fear because they claim, or others
claim, there is an eye, lidless, wreathed in flame, o’er watching your
scholarship.

 

Huh?

 

I prefer fans to apologists covert, and to apologists proudly
out of their FAIR closet; and I think the research, that is, the Truth, prefers
fans, too.  They at least can admire,
without finding something proves their case.
Patriotism may be the refuge of scoundrels, and Faith an easy cover for
Power; but Art is the last refuge of Truth, perhaps.  And science.

 

So, that’s sort of
like what Bloom was advocating for the study of religion, I think.

 

The art thing?  Yeah,
but a little too late.  Once art takes
that step to becoming not merely representing and creating, but also concerning
itself with holding together the relationship between what is doing the
representing and what is being represented –

 

The Truth of the work

 

At that point there is no turning back.  Drama to Mysteries.  Actors to Priests.  MS is constructed in that latter dynamic; all
the chairs and graduate programs and fellowships, and journals and sincerity,
these don’t alter that fact.

 

It’s not solved by
really sincere effort?

 

No, because the problem is not that one doesn’t believe in
MS enough.  The problems are
otherwise.  And until MS arrives at a way
to construct “Mormon” independent of the cultural processes which gave rise to
Mormon Studies, and to its subject, there is a clear distinction between my
pretend field, and your pretend pretend field.

 

Cynic.

 

Ignoramus.  There is
no reason to worry about who is an elf, a hobbit, or Nazgul.  Social classifications and identity politics
have been blocked at the door of TS, and yet the requirement to classify and
construct a Mormon is at the heart of, is the first word, of your MS.

 

Um, I just think if we
really try sincerely to be objective that’s good enough.

 

Fine.  Until that hope
comes true, we can turn away from certain vulgar and foolish practices, and
give no ear to lying voices, and to those looking for servants.

 

That’s too
metaphysical for me.

 

You’re the MS, and I’m the TS.  I guess that makes sense, unfortunately.  Now, did you order that book on Sindarin
philology?

 

Which one?

 

It’s published by the University of Utah Press.

 

 

Next time, I’m going
to ask you about the division of labor, the ways in which amateur researchers
can step into the study of Mormonism, and the ways they ought not.

 

Fair enough.  I’ve put
that one off far too long.  Consider, for
your homework, which disciplines are “prodigy-rich” and which
“prodigy-poor”.  That’s an easy way into the
division of labor and logic of practice of research.

 

And you don’t mean
signs and wonders, as prodigies?

 

Huh?

Part Six: Amateurs Are Maggots?! On Mormon Studies

Part Six
of Interviews With Myself

Amateurs Are Maggots!?!  On Mormon Studies

Daymon, the basic
question I have is this: why do you hate amateurs so much?

Right. I think maybe I’ve not made myself clear on this point. The
word “amateur” is neither pejorative, as folks with advanced degrees
might have it; nor positive in evaluation. It is just a word that describes
persons who don’t make the majority of their income from the practice of
researching and writing about Mormonism. That’s it.  And so it allows the discussion of “Mormon
Studies” to be introduced to practical matters of economy and culture.  Hence we can proceed to some analysis
concerning the production of Mormon culture.

So, why do you hate
amateurs?

Jeez. I don’t hate amateurs. If I said Mormon Studies was
populated with Mormons, would that be used against me?  What if I wasn’t a Mormon? “You hate
Mormons!” I’d hear.  Identity
politics can be played in many ways.  Particularly when the identity has no
definition, but many which circulate and oppose one another:  What is a Mormon is answered differently by
different Mormons.  So there’s one
problem with Mormon Studies: it lacks a subject with definition.  That is different from, say, Women’s Studies,
African Studies, even Jewish Studies.

But they argue about definitions all the time.

Right, and that generates a lot of articles, books, and so
on.  But their subject is grounded in
something other than the act of speaking: “Mormon” identity is
speech-dependent.  It comes about by
virtue of the magic of pronouncement, either from a representative of an
institution, or from one’s own self-identification.  And how one defines “Mormon” shapes how one
reacts to “Mormon Studies,” and how one reacts then shapes where one speaks to
other “Mormons.”  The construction of
“Mormon Studies” has not resolved the basic problem that “Mormon” as a way to
classify research activities is inherently bound up with pragmatics, with ways
of speaking and the effects of speaking and writing.  Field-external sources of “power,” say, cultural
or economic capital, can then wield field-shaping influence.

Could you explain that?
“Mormon” is a speech dependent identity?

Not yet.  Later.  Look, I’m looking at what is called Mormon
Studies as an anthropologist.

Ah, so that’s, why you
hate amateurs?

Fine. Yep. I do. Just because I’m evil. If I can see past the
burning boiling hatred, I might try to explain why I think amateurs are,
potentially, a strength in the study of Mormonism.  What seems clear, however, is that Mormon
Studies was and is held to be cast in the image of academic disciplines. But
there may another way to view Mormon Studies, as something other than an
academic field.  Look to Maggot.  Farmer Maggot.

What about journals?
And endowed Chairs? And research? And people saying “Mormon” at
conferences? And, and, and –

Get a hold of yourself, there, boy-o. Anyone can start a journal,
or a blog; and a few endowed chairs do not a discipline make.  In fact, an endowed chair is often a sign of a
lack of academic credibility, and also a way to control the direction of
“Mormon Studies” from within the Ivy Tower; a sort of secular “priesthood” with
all the trappings of priestcraft, perhaps.
Buying cultural capital with economic capital, rather than acquiring it
through the traditional channels by which academic posts develop.

Whoa!  My testimony is hurting right now.  Can we stop?

What are signs of Mormon Studies are all the things which require
either little capital and lots of time, ambition, and, maybe, loneliness (e.g.,
blogs, online ‘journals’, publishing with apologetic venues); or lots of
capital and little background (e.g., funding of endowed chairs): those things
people point to as evidence of a thriving Mormon Studies, as a burgeoning
respectability within academia.  We have
long been seeking respectability, and this is merely the latest, upper-class
effort.  A sort of elite PR, let’s
say.  But I think it may be something
different from an academic discipline, like a —

Hold on.  So, you want to make it out to be like all
the other “studies”, and want to be the President of Mormon Studies,
right?

Huh? No. What I think is necessary is a Mormon Studies which is
grounded in, say, Mormonism, rather than, say, academia. Would a Mormon Studies
proponent ever present on anything driven by the methodology of
“seership”? Or would he ever claim to have seen some ancient text in
vision, and then, published on it in a bible studies journal? Or what about the
use of spirit guides to give us a new history of New Deal? Or a revelation from
Moroni regarding DNA? Never. So, what is called Mormon Studies is a
“Mormonism” rarified, bleached out, fluffy version translated into
the categories of academia.  That’s one
reason it’s like Fundamentalism.  And
like that sect, only a few benefit from the labors of many.

Who benefits from the supposed existence of Mormon Studies?  People benefiting from the claims of an
existing Mormon Studies are those who can funnel real or cultural capital, floating
around Mormonism, back their way: that is, graduate students applying for
fellowships and grants; academics looking to fluff up their cv’s, or escape the
administrative track, and a few authors. Some folks at the COB, perhaps,
looking for a little academic cover to keep them employed despite the ongoing
paranoia of too much history hurting a people’s faith.

Everyone else, maybe, is a patsy in their game: all the amateurs
whose work would be called, say, doctrinal, spiritual, or otherwise fitted into
existing genres of Mormonism, instead find their work swallowed up by the
privileged few who’d claim a Mormon Studies, and make it seem distinct from
apologetics, at least, to those who don’t like apologetics.

So, you don’t hate
amateurs?

No. I despise efforts to remake every aspect of our religion so
that it is respectable to some other power.
We’ve been at it too long, with the complicity of “leaders”
who just wanted to make it into a business. Make it evangelical, vaguely
Christian, feminist or misogynist, pro- or anti-homosexual, corporate, just a
topic for dry historical inquiry, a lame “community,” whatever; but
for god’s sake, the ambition seems to be, don’t let it be Mormonism with all
its kookiness, magic, potency, and demands for charity, honesty, humility,
sacrifice, empathy, serious and cautious working out, and immense discipline;
and truth, don’t forget.  No, this isn’t
Daymon the anthropologist, so much as Daymon the Elder’s Quorum teacher,
talking.  No, for some reason Mormonism
must be translated constantly into the categories of some other tradition: an
academic field, a political party, an economic justification for corporate
capitalism, a monstrosity of a corporation, a chance to play-act at being nice,
whatever. By dumping the term Mormon Studies onto anything of intellectual
value done by Mormons, or about Mormons, or about the products of Mormons, a
handful of folks have merely severed another part of Mormonism away, for their
own benefit and counsel.

So?

So.  Mormon Studies is in
the service of Correlation, for it provides an “outlet” for Mormons
to publish without really dealing with Correlation, all the while still under
the soft regime of Correlationistas, but with the added poison of schizophrenic
Mormon Neo-Con Liberals in Academia (I’m joking, friends!), who can say things
in the name of Mormon Studies that wouldn’t be speakable at Sunday school.  But that’s where the chairs, and journals, subtle
priestly guidance, paranoia of being outside proper speaking circles, and
highly capitalized bodies come into play, as regulators of the genre.

So, what do you think
should be done about all the amateurs? Genocide, or exile?

Look, I’m here now as an anthropologist, not a problem solver. But
maybe I can point to what I would do. Lawyers generally have done good work in
Mormonism, and I don’t mean at the COB. They’ve brought a level of rigor, a
depth of reading, a care for argument into what was previously left to guys
writing pamphlets in order to recruit plural wives, or to ex-Mormons trying to
save your souls, or to overweening “leaders” looking at a red chair,
or to a few academics who thought the Mormons quant enough to be studied in the
same way Native Americans were, in a sort of salvage ethnography. There are
some real gems of scholarship from the early 1900s, from the early 1840s, from
the early 1990s, and everywhere between. What I don’t see is why these must be
named and classified as Mormon Studies, except because it is something which
makes sense inside academia. You don’t need credentials to do good work, but
credentials help when applying for grants, fellowships, chairs, and the like;
all of which are given life through a framing of Mormon Studies, which field is
watered largely by the work of amateurs, who then are excluded from the same
fruits there cultivated.  Amateurs can
present at conferences held at BYU, UVU, Yale, and Claremont, but how many are
offered positions?  Participation is not
always Participation.

So, you don’t hate
amateurs just because they are amateurs, and the word “amateur”
doesn’t hide contempt?

Ah, at last! We can get to the starting point, at last.  There is a logic to the entry points of
Mormonism as a research subject, as a cultural field with products made by
humans.  One could go to graduate school,
and either study Mormonism from some academic perspective, or merely add to
one’s training a few excursions into Mormonism, all the while mostly working
on, say, The Meaning of X, Y, and Z in A Foreign Place or Time.  Or one can enter into the research strictly
as an amateur.  Now, amateurs can do
certain kinds of research very well, the sort that makes demands on time, for
example, by sitting in the archives or just reading everything one can
find.  Here we can begin to identity how
the matter of “genre” (by that I mean, “Mormon” is a speech-dependent thing,
just as a kind of literature is), how genre interfaces with matters of text,
economy, and the production of “knowledge” as a cultural product.  There is a logic to this practice, which I
will outline soon enough, alright?

OK.  Another promise.

I will get back to the whole baptism and Holy Ghost discussion,
eventually.  But first we will wander
over to Farmer Maggot’s Farm, which should not be confused with Maggie’s Farm.  Maggot may have something to teach us about divisions
of labor in Mormonism: specifically, how amateur and professional scholarship
can intersect, and do so without the intervention of a priestly caste, highly
capitalized chairs, and a massive corporate headquarters concerned not only
with copyright and trademark, but also what you say, how you dress, who you
touch, where you tithe, and how you read.
Perhaps Tolkien Studies and Tolkien Fanzines together more closely
approximate what is called Mormon Studies; Jewish Studies or Gender Studies may
not be the most accurate analogs of Mormon Studies.

The basic link? 

A voluntary society loosely affiliated; research that is mostly
text-corpus driven and so offering a few comparative routes of research; certain
easy entry points for research, and yet highly technical scholarship; journals;
podcasts; for-credit courses at major universities; and a membership not
determined by matters of biology, ethnicity, rituals, or even belief in the
truth or falsity of statements made “inside” the community.  Both have their Maggots and their Nazgul, as
well.  But there are telling differences.

Tolkien Studies versus
Mormon Studies?

You got it.  Grudge Match.  Next time.

On Mormon Studies, Apologetics, And Other Fundamentalisms

On Apologetics,
Mormon Studies, and Other Fundamentalisms

Part Five of Interviews with Myself

 

I want to address,
Daymon, an issue that some of your research, I think, maybe talks about, or
something.

OK.  What is that?

This Correlation
business.  It’s a good thing we have all
these  outlets now for Mormon culture,
and that with blogs, journals, and scholarly research we have a way to thrive,
faithfully, and not be reliant on those guys at Correlation.

Look, Daymon, this is the problem with scanning someone’s
research, particularly when it explores the cultural processes by which social
imaginaries are formed –

Social what?

I can’t get into it here.
But, the problem is that one can read my research from a correlated
perspective, and believe one understands it, and yet, extend the frontlines of
Correlation in the very act of misreading.
That is to say, one cannot simply announce that this text, article, or
word is now free from Correlation; or presume that one’s cultural work, because
it wasn’t run through the COB, is not itself a patchwork of Correlation.  You’re just being fooled by names for things,
and missing what they refer to.

But doesn’t that lead
to the paranoia that everything is Correlated?

It could, and sometimes should, but only if one doesn’t
really understand the dynamics by which Correlation sustains itself, and merely
sees the results and has some notion about what it is.  A lazy reading, in other words, has as its
fruits that sort of paranoia.  But an
informed reading can give one directions for escaping a seemingly
all-encompassing eye.

So, how do we get
outside Correlation?  Isn’t it proof that
we have journals, blogs, and conferences, that Mormonism is thriving as an
intellectual marketplace?

 

Is the existence of parasites, maggots, and bloating gases
evidence that a corpse is alive?  There
may be life there, but a corpse is a corpse.

What are you saying?

Let’s take the basic assertion that there is a Mormon
Studies.  Just because one has the name
of Mormon Studies, that is no reason to assume it is the same sort of thing
that other people call “X Studies”.  Anymore
than, this article is or is not Correlated, so that means I can read something
else into the text.  This is a point, an
argument even, that I made in an article posted on this site (Bananality of Mormon Studies).  Unfortunately, the post was taken over by a
proponent of Mormon Studies, who proved something: in the action of reading my
work as a way of reading my soul (the review of me/my work was titled, D.Smith
is a Sinner, though later it was admitted by the author that he hadn’t read
much of what I’d actually written).

 

Proved what?

That what folks call Mormon Studies is nothing like, say,
African or Jewish Studies.  That is, peer
reviewed by tenured or tenure-track faculty whose primary focus is the
research, its progress and regulation by factors outside the immediate sphere
of the researchers themselves.  There are
always personal politics in academia, but there is also, always, original
research.  That is, a complex interaction
of dependencies and independencies which ensure that, over time, consensus can
be used as a sign of an increase in knowledge on a subject.

Consensus is a sign?

Yes, but not always.
In Mormon Studies we have carved out many little circles for finding
consensus, and taken these as signs of increased knowledge of the subject at
hand.  But this is not the case.  For example, I recently read a blog post that
listed all the journals devoted to Mormon Studies, in one fashion or
another.   The conclusion, hastily given
and poorly thought out, was that this is a sign of a thriving intellectual
community.  Hardly so.  It could be; if there was just sooo much
research being done on a subject, that no single journal could publish all the
results.  But that isn’t the case.  What we have are hobbyists and amateurs,
pulled from a potential market of maybe a million readers, who get on a
hobby-horse, and write about it.  Mere
quantity means nothing, but a sizable market.
Their inspiration typically comes from a single journal, which is then
the target site for publication.   But
given enough people, and donors, or enough wealth aggregation, and a
potentially unlimited subject matter vaguely glossed by the phrase Mormon
Studies, given all these, one should not be surprised that many journals exist
which have as their purpose the publication of texts which contain the words
“Mormon” in them, and which have citation expectations, and a passive narrative
voice.  Merely imitating various
scholarly genres, and the market makes the self-deception possible.

So, consensus?

Yes, well, consensus within a community of scholars – a
combination of academics, professional researchers at labs, policy makers and
so on – is taken as a sign of more or less certain knowledge.  Evolution, in one form or another, for
example, cannot seriously be doubted, and even if certain soft points exist in
the overall claims of the theory, that is precisely why it is called a theory,
and not a fact.  A fact names a single
proposition which describes a simple reality, easily evidenced to the senses; a
theory names a series of related facts, and so by its nature cannot be grasped
at a glance.  So the “truth” or
validation of a theory is only the thing left over after many attempts at
breaking it, at disproving it.  The
consensus stands in where the “truth” is merely silent, and gives pointers to
new students, journalists, and the like, who’d like to start to understand the
subject.  What is missing in Mormon
Studies, among other things which would make it a legitimate scholarly
endeavor, is this arrangement that consensus induces reason to believe in a
theory, because consensus is manufacturable here, by means other than invalidation
over a long period of time.

I don’t get it.

I can’t make it much simpler for you, but I will provide
examples.  But don’t get bogged down in
what are pedagogic exemplars, and confuse them for evidence I am marshalling
for the theory.  OK?

Got it.  Not really, but go ahead.

 

Fine.  I can’t teach
you everything to be learned by cultural anthropology, but I can analyze
Mormonism, if you let me.  Look at Mormon
Fundamentalism as an example of Mormon Studies.
The same processes are at work, and indeed, the only difference is that
they called themselves Fundamentalists (on a poorly understood analogy with
Christians), rather than Scholars.  But
look at the details, and not the names.
When the imagined community of Mormons turned plural marriage into a matter,
into a sign, of belief in Mormonism in general; and then, in public, a few
speakers imagined to be “leaders” publicly renounced this relationship by which
plural marriage was a sign of authentic believers, it made it possible to form
a coherent group which could imagine itself, and I mean by that any individual
“member” could imagine the group as existing, thinking, and so on; so the group
could imagine itself within the sign-relation previously accepted by
Mormons.  But in order to maintain
consensus, and thus, oblige the imaginary as something which could passively
compel the sign-relation to continue, they had to sever certain communication
points with the other Mormons.  So they
“broke off,” physically moved away sometimes, mostly stopped reading certain
journals, paying subscription fees, and participating in the rituals.  And so, they become, over time, a place where
new consensus could be seemingly found.
That is, became a distinct culture (though actual consensus is
irrelevant; what I’m talking about is imaginable consensus, keep in mind).

OK.  How is that like Mormon Studies?

 

It isn’t like it, it is very much the exact same thing, but
from a different era.  An era which, in
fact, made possible the abuse of scholarship as a way to form “break off”
cliques, though now without the veneer of religious purposes.  Mormon Studies is merely the latest
translation of the basic process of cultural division and reformulation; the
process is the same, but the names we give it differ.  But don’t be fooled by names.  Look to what is named, and you’ll see that
Mormon Studies is a breed of Mormon Fundamentalism.

Because they break
off?

 

Not simply that.
Fundamentalism in Christianity was grounded in a way of reading the
Bible – the King James Version – which required closing communication channels
that seemed “outside” the faith: namely, the voice and writings of bible
scholars and biologists; those who questioned the referentiality of the tales
(and so, their authorship), and those who supplied new tales of origins.   And
Fundamentalism was merely a strain of Protestantism, but rather than pose a
text against the priest, they posed a text against the latest cultural
authority who spoke from a position of power, in a language difficult to
understand.  Now in Mormonism it works
rather differently, in the particulars, but the process is the same.

I’m listening.  Really, I am.

 

Sure.  Anyway.  New spaces for reading “consensus” were
generated by Mormons in the 1930s, and theses were called sects, or
religions.  New spaces were generated in
the 1960s, in part due to the low cost of paper, the ease of attending college,
a boom in young adults, and other utterly non-spiritual factors; in the 1960s
new spaces of consensus were manufactured, and these were the journals that
became the basis for people to claim the existence of Mormon Studies.  The name, like that of Fundamentalism, came
long after the cultural divisions were securely in place.  And the approach to reading, publishing, and
citing texts is very much the same in Mormon Studies.

But Mormon Studies is
different from apologetics, like FARMS.

 

Not anymore, and the fact they changed their name to Mormon
Studies Review merely gives the game away.
The name means nothing, obviously, except that most names are not owned
by some party who controls the usage.

Huh?

Nevermind.
Branding.  Anyway. The first
unofficial, seemingly scholarly routes for writing about Mormonism and reaching
some sizable public (by that I mean, consisting of persons unknown, and of too
many persons to ever really know them all; hence, generic notions stand in as
“people” or a “church” or a “community”), the first ones were vaguely
conceived; once blatantly apologetic spaces appeared, the seeming scholarly
nature of the other spaces was secured.  Like
the editorial page making objectivity a possible reading in other articles.  Just like the polygamist fundamentalist
Mormon sects made possible the seeming normalcy of non-polygamist Mormons.  Whatever the notions found outside Mormonism,
and remember that most Americans don’t distinguish polygamists from other
Mormons, whatever these views of Mormons, Mormons could conclude they were themselves
mainstream, normal, super-patriotic Americans, because at least they weren’t
like those Mormons.  Just so, Mormon Studies could posture it
wasn’t like FARMS, and when it was clear that something like Correlation
existed, now the posture is that, We Aren’t Correlated!  Funny, and foolish.

What about consensus,
then?

Each little group requires a demonized alter ego group:
membership is found in the relationship among the “members,” and also in the
reading of different groups as being distinct.
Inside each group, as most anthropologists would tell you, the
differences are almost non-existent.  Yet
each group is certain those other guys are totally different.  Consensus in Mormonism is manufacturable in
ways it isn’t inside, say, academia, in particular, in the sciences.  So we cannot read “consensus” as a sign of
anything other a seeming agreement in a small circle.  More often than not, however, consensus is
merely a fiction read from the non-public presence of dissent.  Since long before Correlation we’ve made
statements uttered in public the default for what is real, and so, a consensus
can be manufactured merely by public relations.
If one disagrees, one does so silently, or as an individual; because the
public spheres of Mormonism are not designed for individual dissent.  To dissent publicly, as an individual, is to
speak for oneself, and not for the “group”.

I see.

And so, the trend after Correlation has been to quote some public
utterance, for this is a sure way to cover one’s ass, and to indicate that one
is not speaking as an individual, but as a member of a group.  Enunciating the “mind” of the group, as it
were.  But this has nothing whatsoever to
do with the truth, so much as ability to mobilize capital which can be used to
buy or manufacture new public spheres for the manufacture of consensus.

But there’s lots of
dissent, and it isn’t all consensus in Mormonism.

 

Obviously!  But that’s
the point, is that the reality of things hardly matches up to the diagrams of
them, which images are then presupposed, acted against, and by reacting, given
life, even if founded on untruths.  Many
dissenters in Mormon Studies merely founded new public spheres, so that their
“dissenting” voices were protected by the new seeming consensus of the new
community, and thus, what was once a dissenting voice becomes another orthodoxy
in another circle.  And that is both
Fundamentalism and Mormon Studies.

What about
apologetics, though.  Doesn’t that differ
from Mormon Studies?

 

Not really.  Here’s
why.  An apologist has a stake in
research resulting in one outcome, versus another.  They hardly convince anyone other than the
already convinced ,and so, their research takes on a ritualistic feel, a sort
of cultic power, because it borrows much from the priestly circles, and not
merely by defending them.  If the
research doesn’t come out the preferred way, it doesn’t get published in the
apologist’s journal, or presented at their conferences.  That is the basic criteria, and that differs
from science.  Controversial findings are
difficult to publish in the sciences, but not if they are founded on
recognizably good methods, with good records and data, and rely on sound
reasoning.  These become championed by
increasing numbers, particular by those not at the top of the field, until the
theory is accepted.  But in apologetics,
the voices are already scripted, and there can be no negotiation, and there is
no interest in “compromise”.

And that’s
Correlation?

No.  That scripting
and silencing is merely the most obvious thing one can name Correlation, and
it’s easy, because it sounds evil to discriminate between voices.  But Correlation in Mormonism, is more
profoundly, a way of imagining consensus, of imaging reactions to a text, that
a text (or a statement, talk, or whatever) says something about the speaker,
about his or her soul, and so, every text is not merely a conglomeration of
statements about the subject at hand.   But
also, and more importantly, a sign of something about the speaker: about his or
her spirituality, obedience, or any other intangible thing referred to by
abstract nouns.  Literally, a text can be
made to index anything about the speaker, in principle.   That’s culture.  And in Mormonism this is what Correlation
does, but without giving any firm way of reading a public text as a sign of a
speaker’s qualities.

I don’t get it.

I can’t teach you everything about Correlation here.  You’ll have to read, and think, carefully on
your own.  But look at it like this.  What are the standards for getting something
“past” Correlation?

I don’t know.  Purity of doctrine, truth, and so on?

 

Not at all.  There are
no standards, except that it doesn’t contradict a Correlator’s interpretation
of his little book of official sayings, officially constructed and handed out
by Correlation.  That’s it.  It’s very vague, and badly done, and that is
the point: there are no standards, which means this.  Paranoia, imagining of what the standards
are, and so, self-Correlation is the norm.
That is, one must imagine what the text is going to say about oneself,
as read by persons both known and unknown.
Thus, the clearest way forward is to quote already published
authorities.

That’s what they do in
science.

 

Literature reviews are totally different.  That is, when done correctly, a matter of
demonstrating coverage of reading, so that one isn’t merely duplicating
previous research.  In Mormon Correlation,
citation is a way of ensuring that one is duplicating previous findings.

In Mormon Studies?

 

It depends,  sometimes
more like the scholarly method, sometimes more like the Correlation way.  Sometimes in the same journal, sometimes in
the same article or book.  That’s the
problem.  But look.  My point is that Correlation is not a word for a single bad or good thing, which can
then be removed, undone, or foisted upon someone; but rather the word merely
names a small sample of a wide phenomenon in Mormonism, which is itself
commonly found in American culture.  The
existence of the word makes it possible to imagine one is or is not
Correlated.  But the problem is this:
people, individually or collectively, are not correlated, or correlatable; only
texts are.

Doesn’t that mean by
having non-correlated channels for distributing texts, we can get beyond
correlation?

Not at all.  By text I mean, the way signs AND their
interpretation are put together; that is a text.  A fundamentalist way of reading assumes that
a text is independent of the translation of it, and so, you find
fundamentalists in every stripe are those who insist they need not defend their
reading of a text, because their reading is IN the text.

In a way, it is.

Yes, and that is why it seems true to them.  But the truth is more complex, and it is that
every interpretation is found in the text.
By definition.

So every text means
anything?

No, no, no.  By “text”
I mean the interpretation of a seemingly independent sign-configuration, to be
technical.  So, yes, all
“interpretations” are found in the text, by definition; but that merely means
that we ought to spend our time justifying our reading against another’s, and
in finding rationale for justifying such, which can be used by persons capable of
devising alternate readings of a text, or, giving alternate texts from a single page
of writings.  It should compel our
charity, not our desire for purity, orthodoxy, and so on.  But it doesn’t give reason for “anything
goes,” or “it’s just opionions.”  That simplification makes the law a matter of power, and that is just as
dangerous.  We can come to agreement
about how to read a text, and that is what academic disciplines are: lines that
describe how agreements are made concerning “texts” that range from laboratory
results to English literature and the like.
That doesn’t exist in anything called Mormon Studies, that basic
agreement about how a text is to be read, argued about, and so on.

Consensus?

When we look for consensus in that way, then we have moved
toward creating a rational, mature Mormon Studies.  That is not topical, or subject driven, or a genre imitation.   But
rather, any “study” is an exceedingly difficult achievement only a few times seen in the
history of humanity.  That science is now
so prevalent is merely a sign of the power of the truth, and not a sign of the
inevitability of consensus as a way of getting power.  Think how scarce real science was, say, two
hundred years ago.  A rare
accomplishment, just as democracy is.
Calling something democracy is no more a guarantee of democracy, than is
calling something “X studies” a sign of scholarship.

Consensus?

When, however, we demonize alternate interpretations as
evidence of perverse spirituality, or defunct souls, then we are merely looking
to break off and form our own little sect.
All of Mormon Studies, so called, is mostly Sectarianism, for that
reason.  Having a public venue for saying
the word “Mormon,” inside the confines of an imitated genre (e.g., scientific
essay, personal essay, memoire, and so on), is not a sign of the existence of
Mormon Studies.  It merely means that
there are enough people around to provide the capital required to keep the
space from collapsing (and given an ever widening gap between rich and poor,
fewer people are needed in order for a public sphere to inflate, and that is
one reason why wealth inequality is dangerous).
And enough people to seem like a community, that is, to be greater than
one’s personal sphere of friendship, to seem like it is composed of strangers,
strangers who can stand in and carry stereotypes.  Like totems, that is.  ‘We are this kind of people’ – that sort of
imagining is possible only when generic people exist, and generics can only
exist where one is not personally familiar with everyone claiming
membership.  Wards, for example, don’t
have “identities” the same way that churches, nations, and corporations
do.  Notice, also, that “corporate
culture” only became a term after corporations had branch offices, and more
employees than anyone could every know, in a lifetime.  Generic persons become the blank pages on
which consensus can be inscribed.

And that is the truth
of Mormon Studies? 

 

The truth?  No.  But, this is why the internet has boomed that
particular sect of Mormonism: because identities are utterly opaque, ambiguous,
and the number of members of a community often explicitly identified (e.g., 1456
users; 17 currently online); and start up costs are minimal.  The numbers are there, but not anything else
by which actual persons could be known.
And so, the genericizing of people, and their carrying of a stereotypes,
is ramped up like never before.  So is consensus
so much easier to imagine, as one can merely start a new blog, a new journal,
or conference, online, because the start-up costs are so little, compared to
what they were in the 1960s, or, the 1860s.

And so, consensus?

 

No longer a fair sign of anything, except the cheap start up
costs of public spheres where consensus can be postured at, and our inability
to have empathy and to understand one another.
Mormon Studies must develop around a different logic than that which
makes science something a student can step into, and be trained in, and
contribute to.  One cannot merely start
up a biology journal, and get contributors, and seem to be on the same level
as, say, Nature.  Though financial start up costs are minimal,
of course, there is vast cultural capital which must be present; think-tanks
and corporate funded “institutes” have the money, try to buy the cultural
capital, and sometimes succeed, but often at the cost of doing actual research.

You mean, the money
corrupts the research?

No, I mean, the cultural capital is at last acquired, and,
lo and behold! The journal accidentally publishes real research, despite what
the funders want, because there is an institutional framework in place that
came along with the cultural capital.
Propaganda cannot play with the sciences for very long before it becomes
either a joke or converts to doing legitimate work.  Nothing like that exists in Mormon Studies.

And so?

And that is where Mormon Studies falters: we have no way of assessing or
reading Cultural Capital, except, by and large, if something seems “authorized”
or “approved” by “the Brethren” or “The Church.”  That, my friend, the lack of cultural capital
being generated outside certain channels, and the ease with which financial
capital can be marshaled to give us new public spheres like blogs, that is why
there is no Mormon Studies.  What counts, for, say, Dialogue, is not convertable in FARMS.  There is no unifying currency.

You seem to have a
problem with amateurs.  What’s your
problem?    

 

You see, Mormon Studies thrives on amateurs, who have
hobbyhorses, and but little grasp of the process of scholarship (a grasp which
takes many years of practical labor to understand).  They provide the capital for inflating public
spheres, and the audiences for the imagining of a public where consensus can be
found.  And they inflate the number of
publications any single, new student would seemingly be required to read before
writing on a topic, without providing any institutionalized support for that
reading.  Grad School gives stipends for
students to get their feet under them, to let them read and not produce anything.  Mormon Studies lacks any institutional
support, unless you are being trained for seminary or institute, and those have
their own problems, of course.  So, as a
result of the ease with which amateurs can “enter the market,” indeed are
forced to do so as amateurs and not as professionals; and the low costs of
starting up oneself as a Mormon Scholar; there is very little direction to the
entire endeavor, very little progress that can be pointed to, and, yet, many
journals, articles, blogs, conferences, and books exist.  Hence, occupations with high wages, and some
downtime, are those most likely to produce Mormon Studies articles.

Lawyers.

And software folks.
And retired guys.  Old ladies.  Bingo.  All driven by intellectual property
litigation, copyright, IRAs, Finance, Social Security, and so on, just as the American economy
has been for three decades.  One doesn’t
find auto workers or clerks writing on the Book of Mormon, or theology, or DNA.  But one also doesn’t find many biologists
doing actual research on DNA and the Book of Mormon, so much as writing off the
cuff editorials on the subject, stuffed with enough to sound like the science
they regularly do.  And one doesn’t find
those articles being published in scientific journals, so much as in Mormon Studies
venues.  And all these amateurs inflate
the public spheres, and at a certain point the barriers for new amateurs to
enter into the sphere become too great, and then, another journal shows up.  The start up capital is easier to acquire
than the cultural capital, you see.  And
so the number of “members” of each sect is fixed, like any ward, and so every
Mormon journal and group-blog plateaus, because the start up costs for a new “sect”
are minimal.  It’s not like you’re
apostate if you start a new blog, rather than a new church.  But the difference is mostly in the words,
and not in the realities.  Got it?

I do.  Sort of.

Corpses are fertile, you see, but all the parasites,
maggots, and so on, are not signs of life.

So, are you saying
amateurs are maggots?

Jeez.  Yep.  That’s what I’m saying.  I’m a bad person.  You can read as much on many reviews of my
writing.  Thanks for demonstrating the
basic problem of Mormon Studies.

NEXT TIME: Why
Archaeology Can Prove Nothing, And Amateur Mormon Apologists Who Read
Archaeology And Then Trot It Out, Are Unwise..

Conversation with Mitt

Hi Folks.  I’ve got Brother Romney on the line, and he’s here to answer your questions.

Ask Mitt Anything (TM) is brought to you by TradeAmericaPriceShifters Inc.

Q:  So, Mitt, I mean, President Romney, what are corporations?

Mitt: Corporations are People, too, my friend.

Q: Well, I mean, what are they, really?

M: They represent the people, and are the people.  And are people.

Q: Well, how could that be?  I mean, we don’t vote for them.

M: Ah, but what about the market?  Everytime you purchase something, you vote.

Q: But what if I have no money, or not as much as you inherited?

M: Not so many votes, then.  See, it works this way.  Those with more money get more votes.  It’s just like –

Q: Don’t say it.  Consecration?

M: Exactly.  God gives us more ‘votes’ because we’ve done more with our votes.

Q: But you inherited your votes.

M: And grown many, too.

Q: Not enough, apparently.

M: What was that?  You little —  Update…Softward Mitt2.011.  Barack Osama Osama Barama beebebebep.  Am I right, guys?

Q: Huh? What was that?

M: Ask Mitt Anything is brought to you by HedgeFundManagersForTaxReliefGOUSA.

Q: Let me ask, then, what is a corporation?

M: Corporations are people.

Q: What about an individual one?

M: A corporation are people, too, my friend.  I don’t know how many ways I can speak the truth to power, here, but geeezoo-guy, come on.

Q: That’s the point, isn’t it?  A corporation isn’t individual, so it can’t be human.

M: Human, who said anything about humans?  I’m talking about people.  And corporations are people.

Q: Yeah, I heard that.  Can I ask you another question?

M: Ask Mitt Anything is brought to you by –

Q: Here goes: Do you know what people are?

M: Of course.  I am one of them.  I am one of  those people.

Q: But people and corporations are different.  For one, people can be incarcerated, conscripted, executed, and so on.  They die, have fingerprints, dental records, and so on.

M: Well, that may be the point, you see?  Corporations are exalted people.  Having received the blessing of faith, they are beyond the human notions of justice.  No bodies, no prisons to hold them.  They are redeemed from Hell, existing everywhere and nowhere, without passions and parts.  But the important point I want to make is that Barack Obama is a [insert negative categorization].

Q: Sorry, did you say, “insert negative categorization”?

M: Sorry, did you say, “insert negative categorizzz—Input: reboot.  Mitt2.011.  Yes, as I was saying, before this gentleman interrupted me, Corporations are people.

Q: I don’t recall…anyway, what I was trying to ask, Brother Romney, is whether you see any real difference between the two?

M:  I don’t see any difference.  Other than the exalted part.

Q: Can corporations marry?

M: If of distinct genders, of course.  How else can they raise a loving family in the safety and nurturance of a home?

Q: I think that was a question.  And I don’t have a corporate sponsor.

M: And that was an answer.  The only answer.  Get a corporate sponsor for yourself.  That is the answer.

Q:  Not really, no.  How could corporations have distinct genders?

M: Didn’t God make them different?  I mean, hello, someone must’ve missed the maturation seminar in fifth grade.  Am I right, guys?

Q:  So, do corporations need baptism?

M:  Baptism is the gateway to Heaven, my faith is this, and like all Christians I believe it.

Q: So, is that a yes?

M: Well, some people say it is, and others say it isn’t.  The important point I want to make to distinguish myself from the field is that corporations are people.

Q: So are corporations Christian?

M: Some are.  Some aren’t.  That’s why we at the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaim to all the world, that it is our responsibilty to teach the gospel to all corporations, irrespective of criminal activities, war profiteering, tax evasions, pollutions, downsizing, upgrading, forefronting, backing, and so on.  All brought into the House of Israel.

Q: So, you’re on a mission?

M: Like all faithful Latter-day Saints, I embrace the call to serve among the corporations of the world!

Q: How does one convert and baptize a corporation?

M: Ah, ah, ah.  It’s the Spirit that does the converting.  I’m just there to deliver a messaging solution.

Q: Message to whom?

M: To who.  To the corporation.  Am I the only one listening here?

Q: I mean, who does the Spirit preach the gospel to, when teaching the corporations of the world?

M: To the head of the Corporation, of course.  He’s the patriarch.

Q: So you mean the CEO?

M: Those are people. I mean the head of the corporation.

Q: Which is what? What other word can you use for that thing?

M: The patriarch.

Q: What about baptism?

M: Like I said –

Q: Nevermind.  What about baptism for the dead corporations?

M: Only at the temple, and under proper authority, as the prophet teaches us.

Q: So, you can baptize dead corporations?

M: Just as easily as dead people.  Speak the name, for an in behalf of, say, the East India Corporation, name of Father, Son, and so on.  Done.

Q:  And what happens, then?

M: They are redeemed.

Q: And?

M: And go to heaven, just like any other person.  Look, I’m tired of all this discimination against corporations.

Q: So, this is, what, like a civil rights campaign?

M: It is the civil rights movement for our century.

Q: And you are the Martin Luther King, then, for corporations?

M: Who?  Look, I don’t know much about your liberal professors, but when it comes to rights, I say we get back to the constitution.

Q: Which one?

M: What do you mean, the American one.

Q: No, I mean, the one before the Civil War, or after?

M: Huh?  Hello?  Uploading….Hah, hah, hah.  Uploading….Yes.

Q: Yes, what?

M: This guy can’t take yes for an answer!  Am I right, guys?  I mean, come on.  That’s all I have time for, thanks.

Q:  Mitt, one last question?  Is it true that there is one corporation who is, in fact, a person: President Thomas S. Monson, who is the Corporation Sole called the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

M: Yes.  He is both a corporation and a person.  This is my faith, and it shouldn’t be an ithmus test for president.

Q: He is the only member, then, of that church.  What church do you belong to?  There’s only two.

M: Time to shut down.  Trademark Romney 2.011.