Des Mormonismes, une étude historique et sociologique d’une fissiparité religieuse américaine (1830-2013)
École pratique des hautes études
PhD thesis in religions and thought systems
Beginning with a historical and sociological study of six Mormonisms, this research analyzes the phenomenon of Mormon fissiparousness within its primarily Protestant and American context. The study explores:
1- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the majority Mormonism headquartered in Salt Lake City (Utah); 2- The Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; 3- The Mormonism of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot); 4- The Mormonism of the Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite); 5- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite); 6- and finally, the Mormonism of the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite).
These six Mormonisms were born out of the succession crisis which splintered the church at the death of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of “early Mormonism. ” The historical research, fostered by the consultation of archives and other historical studies, presents the Mormonisms’ ideological and structural developments. If Joseph Smith’s first Mormonism was the indisputable result of 19th century American Protestant fissiparousness, it radically differed from evangelical Protestant orthodoxy until 1844. The six Mormonisms that developed after Joseph Smith’s death then positioned themselves in different ways within the legacy they had inherited. The Salt Lake City-based Mormon Church gradually moved towards evangelical Protestantism, while the Community of Christ experienced radical, liberal Protestantization, and is today a progressive Protestantism with Mormonism as an option. The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite) and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) see Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet, while the Strangite and Cutlerite Mormonisms endeavor to preserve his legacy. While some Mormonisms attempted to expand beyond their American promised land origins after the Second World War, their ideological development remained dependent upon the American context. The sociological study is based on a questionnaire distributed to one congregation in each of the six Mormonisms, as well as observations made during several research trips between 2009 and 2013. The responses collected from the members are compared with the teachings found in the institutions’ official manuals, field observations, and sociological studies to give them perspective. By questioning several aspects of Mormon beliefs, practices, ethical expression, and political views, the study intended to highlight the degree to which the legacy and heritage of Protestantism and first Mormonism has been retained differently by these diverse Mormon denominations. Even though this legacy and heritage differ among the different Mormonisms, they have all retained a deep-rooted American identity. Although they sometimes appear to be “globalized,” their ideological stances are ascribed to American societal debates.