White and Delightsome : LDS Church Doctrine and Redemptive Hegemony in Hawai'i
Ohio State University
Master of Arts
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) in Hawai'i presents a specific context to studyLDS Church doctrine and Native members. In this thesis, I undertake an interdisciplinary analysis of LDS Church doctrine, practice, and ritual in Hawai'i alongside exploration of Native Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) belief and participation in the Church. The history of Mormon interaction with and doctrine on Native people leads to their focus on Hawai'i, with religious ingenuity and missionary work at the forefront of Mormon efforts to convert Native Hawaiians. I examine the histories that lead to and informed Mormon presence and activity in Hawai'i, and the subsequent success in conversion and establishment of a presence through land, institutions, and economic development.
A study of the LDS Church in Hawai'i offers a site of exploration to make connections between theology, body, racialization, and settler colonialism. While scholars such as Hokulani Aikau, Simon Southerton, and W. Paul Reeve reveal the LDS Church’s racialization and inclusion of Native/Indigenous peoples, I add to their work by focusing on doctrine, practice, and the body. I claim that ritual of baptism serves as an embodied practice with theological implications for Mormon material and spiritual bodies. Using Catherine Bell’s theory of ritual, I analyze Mormon baptismal ritual and doctrine to magnify the centrality of bodies, racialization, and settler colonialism in LDS Church doctrine. The focus on baptism also points to the importance of Bell’s concept of redemptive hegemony as an important part of how institutions and individuals interact and negotiate their power. I argue that Native Hawaiians engage with the Church through baptism as a means of claiming power through claims to the Lamanite identity while the Church also actively racializes them as a settler colonial institution.