Armand Mauss, an LDS sociologist who was a major author and a supporter of Mormon studies over the last sixty years, passed away last week. A nice post at Dialogue presents remembrances of him by several LDS scholars (Patrick Mason, Claudia Bushman, Jana Riess, Richard Bushman, Gordon and Gary Shepherd) and adds links to several Dialogue articles authored by Mauss. Armand not only produced a great deal of fine scholarship, he also mentored and encouraged dozens of young scholars of Mormonism and hundreds of interested students of LDS history and culture (that’s people like you and me). Below, I will list several of his books and a few selected articles (with titles linked to online copies, if available) and then add a few personal comments. I hope that in the comments readers will share their own experience with his books and articles or their visits with him personally.
Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church (Signature Books, 1984). A collection of essays published in earlier years, giving a great overview of LDS scholarship on the issue from the early civil rights era of the 1960s through the end of the priesthood and temple ban in 1978 and its aftermath. The volume includes Armand’s 1967 Dialogue article “Mormonism and the Negro: Faith, Folklore, and Civil Rights” as well as his 1981 article “The Fading of the Pharoah’s Curse: The Decline and Fall of the Priesthood Ban Against Blacks in the Mormon Church.”
The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle With Assimilation (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1984). This book presented the assimilation versus retrenchment thesis, which has become the best model or pardigm for understanding the ups and downs of the LDS Church in the twentieth century. He supplemented the book with his 1981 Dialogue article “Rethinking Retrenchment: Course Corrections in the Ongoing Campaign for Respectability.” My own sense is that the direction of the Church in recent years has become rather confused, pursuing assimilation in some areas while at the same time retrenching in others. Another view might be that Mormon assimilation has become more difficult recently, with the liberal half of the social spectrum shunning the Church because of its LGBT policies, and conservative Evangelicals shunning Mormons because … well, that’s just what Evangelicals do. We don’t have many friends left out there.
All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2013). Summarizes and updates Armand’s earlier work on race, while extending the discussion to include problematic Mormon ideas about lineage. As discussed in the book, just about every Mormon patriarch you talk to has a different idea about the meaning of the lineage declaration that is part of every patriarchal blessing. I would add that none of them are much connected to reality, at least our 21st-century view of it. Granted, 19th-century Mormons who developed this lineage doctrine did not have the benefit of 20th-century genetics and 21st-century DNA science. But we do, which makes the continuing official endorsement of outdated lineage beliefs rather problematic.
Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic (Univ. of Utah Press, 2012). Armand revisits his earlier books and articles, as well as his work on the Dialogue Board of Directors. He quite successfully managed the balancing act of publishing candid, even crititcal, academic work on the Church that no doubt irritated many LDS leaders, while at the same time remaining a faithful and active member of the Church. Is it tougher to do that now? Armand’s example and discussion of how he made it work is worth reading and considering.
Richard Bushman wrote the Foreword to the book. Let me just quote the first few sentences:
When the intellectual history of late twentieth-century Mormonism is written, Armand Mauss will occupy a prominent position. Scores of names will figure in that history, scholars in a wide variety of fields beginning with history and extending into literature, political science, theology, philosophy, law, and sociology. But Mauss will be set apart as one of a handful who conceptualized the course of Mormon history in our time.
Now let me add a few personal observations. First, I was fortunate to get to know Armand through the Miller Eccles group in Southern California. In our several conversations, he was always friendly and gracious. I recall one point he made to me that is worth sharing. He was a bit frustrated with all of the activity and publishing on Mormon blogs (this was during the first years of Mormon blogging, roughly 2003 to 2008). He thought that bloggers and readers ought to be more familiar with all of the work published in LDS journals, much of which was being rehashed (in decidedly less detailed fashion) in the blogs. Furthermore, he thought the authors should clean up their writing, add details and footnotes, and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. Some bloggers have indeed done this, but for the rest of us … maybe we should do our review of the literature and get a little more serious about our work.
But, as always, Armand was supportive of blogging and those who contributed. He was the very first participant in Times and Seasons 12 Questions series, back in 2004 (Part 1 and Part 2). It’s well worth your time to revisit his responses. Then, in 2012, following the publication of his Shifting Borders intellectual autobiography, I did a second 12 Questions feature with him at T&S (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) in which he addressed more recent issues: Ordain Women, gay marriage, increased numbers of members leaving the Church, the Race and Priesthood gospel topics essay, and his work in helping establish the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. The time and effort Armand put into his responses to these two 12 Questions features shows again how gracious he was with his time and how supportive he was of both scholars and laypersons (folks like you and me) who were interested in Mormonism and the LDS Church. Thank you for your many contributions, Armand. You will be missed.
I’ll repeat my invitation for readers to share in the comments their experience visiting with Armand or reading his books or articles.
Here’s a link to the Salt Lake Tribune review of Armand’s work, with comments from another set of LDS scholars.
Great scholar. I’m a big fan of his work. So sorry to hear he passed.
Mauss’ book, “Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport” was instrumental in helping me reframe the structure of my testimony, so that I could remain in a Church and a culture that I cared deeply about, and still believe with a straight face. Mauss had the unusual talent of being able to raise difficult issues on the priesthood ban that helped create a climate favorable to the 1978 revelation and subsequent disavowal of the theories that had been put forward to justify the ban. He would say that the citing of a given theory had no basis in fact, in a non-confrontational way, and backed up his debunking with impressive and dispassionate research. He aroused the suspicions of leaders like Mark E Peterson, but answered their suspicions calmly and without rancor. He also received appreciative feedback from Dallin Oaks in his approach to controversial issues in Church history. He helped me most by stating that he was not overly disappointed by Church leaders, because he had never expected much from them, to begin with. He was a believer without illusions. I will miss him.
I saw Armand at conferences but never spoke to him. I wish I had made a bigger effort to reach out. I’m sad about his passing and wish I had known him better.