Is it Good to be a "New Religion"? : Mormonism and the Status Politics of Novelty
New York, NY
Association for Religion and Intellectual Life
Mormonism is one of the movements that scholars, since the 1970s, have baptized a "new religion." However, from their movement's formative period, Mormons have displayed ambivalence toward outsiders characterizing theirs as a "new religion." Mormons have warmed to the description to the extent that they perceive it to aggrandize their movement—that is, when they understand the label as acknowledging that Mormonism is worthy of attention and admiration. But Mormons have resisted the way that designating their movement as "new" complicates their efforts to claim a place within Christianity and thus within a religious mainstream. In the late twentieth century, this ambivalence can be seen primarily in Mormons' responses to the work of two American scholars, sociologist of religion Rodney Stark and religious historian Jan Shipps.