I’m on the road, and pressed for time, but wanted to leave a brief memory and paean for Armand Mauss, an LDS sociologist, academic, disciple, and wonderful person. Some biography and other memories here from the SLTrib, here from a number of LDS scholars, here from Claremont, where he had been on the Mormon Studies Council.
I served as the MSC student president for two years at CGU, and interacted with Armand there, occasionally sending him a paper to read for his thoughts. He joked that he didn’t buy green bananas anymore because he didn’t know if he’d be around to eat them ripe.
His Angel and the Beehive: the Mormon Struggle with Assimiation remains a classic; Mauss argued that Church growth was achieved with an optimum tension with society/culture. Too similar (assimilation), and there was no reason to join. Too different (retrenchment), and there were perceptions of cultishness. He revisited this later, “Rethinking Retrenchment: Course Corrections in the Ongoing Quest for Respectability” in Dialogue.
He worked on LDS issues of race for a long time, both in academic venues with All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage and more popularly, speaking at the FAIRMormon Conference in 2003 on the history and interpretation of the priesthood/temple ban. This got published in various places under various titles such as “Dispelling the Curse of Cain: or, How to Explain the Old Priesthood Ban without Looking Ridiculous.” Indeed, Mauss had a testimony published with FAIR and Mormon Scholars Testify in 2010.
Other work of his I’ve appreciated— and reread multiple times— includes reflections on temple worship, and a piece about the shifting balance between emotion and intellect in the Church; what is the symbolism at the chapel pulpit, when we have replaced the scriptures there with a Kleenex box? “Feelings, Faith, and Folkways: A Personal Essay on Mormon Popular Culture”
His last book was prefaced by Richard Bushman, who occupies the same kind of groundbreaking LDS academic discipleship, Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic
Requiescat in pace, Armand.
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