Q&A with Charles Randall Paul for Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America July 06 2018

278 pages, Paperback $26.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-756-4)
Hardcover $49.99 (ISBN 978-1-58958-747-2)
Available August 7, 2018

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Q: Give us some insight into your background, how you chose to write about this topic, and your involvement with religious diplomacy.

A: I was raised in northern New Jersey where my high school of 400 kids consisted of three major cliques: Jewish, Roman Catholic and Mainline Protestant.  There were four Mormons.  I was surprised to find how solid and happy my friends’ families were.  How could they be so good without The Truth?  In mid life I became interested in how religious and secular societies faced unresolvable conflicts over truth and authority and right values.  It seemed God had set up the world for pluralistic contestation, and I tried to figure out why.  These issues led me to develop interreligious diplomacy as a mode of interaction that included persuasive contestation between trustworthy advocates.

Q: Tell us briefly about the three case studies in this book. Who are these individuals and how did they differ in their tactics from one another?

A: In the early twentieth century after Utah had been accepted as a state, the major Protestant churches wanted to assure that Mormonism was not accepted as another Christian denomination.  John Nutting, a freelance pastor, evangelical/preacher came to Utah with young college age missionaries to save souls that, after hearing his revival teaching or door-to-door witnessing, simply confessed the true Jesus and stopped attending the Mormon church.  William Paden, a Presbyterian, educator/activist, helped set up 1–12 grade schools that taught LDS students “true” Christianity along with math and English. He also tried to discredit the LDS leadership, close down the Mormon Church, and educate its youth in the right way. Franklin Spaulding was an Episcopal Bishop intellectual/diplomat that aimed to educate LDS college students in the inconsistences of some of the Mormon Church claims.  He hoped to convert the Saints in their pews—urging church leaders that he befriended to change just a few doctrines and join the mainline churches.

Q: You state that ongoing debate between religious ideology is at the heart of what it means to be a pluralistic society. Can you elaborate on this?

A: Humans in societies live by stories that order their lives.  Ideological or religious traditions provide the comprehensive order and hope for a better world.  These religious stories can seriously challenge the veracity of their rival claimants to truth and authority—making for conflict.  Contemporary social conflict theorists have focused almost exclusively on conflicting economic and security interests as the engines for conflict, neglecting the cultural driver that religious tradition provides.  I am bringing into focus the potency of conflicting formational stories in any society.

Q: Why isn’t tolerance always the desired outcome? How can two opposing people or groups find meaningful ways of collaboration?

A: Tolerance is a weak social virtue (devoid of trust or good will) that collapses when economic and security crises lead societies to seek for scapegoats.  We have found that ideological opponents who engage honestly by means of persuasion actually can come to trust and “enjoy” each other’s bothersome presence.  People engage in collaborative co-resistance n many forms—sports being the most obvious—legal, legislative, scientific and commercial realms also absorb non-violent conflict managing procedures.  When religion is involved, there is no room for compromise solutions, so some form of sustaining the ideological contest in a mode of persuasion is needed.  This is healthy intolerance because it allows critics and rivals to be authentic and to have conversations that matter.

Q: For Latter-day Saints, contention is a particularly discomforting word. In your book, you say that you prefer the term “contestation.” Can you explain what you mean?

A: This is a key to understanding how the LDS can lead in the goal of peace-building in split families or societies.  We rightly learn that Jesus and Joseph thought contention—a term based on a root of forcing, twisting, coercing others—was the devil’s work.  It includes anger and contempt and resentment and revenge.  On the other hand, those who stand for something as witnesses need to elevate the term contestation that means to witness with, for or against something—the root being the testimony of a witness.  The design of heaven and Earth seems to include many intelligences with different experiences to which they can respectfully testify without fear or anger.  They have different viewpoints and experiences that bring them to conflicting contestants; honestly speaking the truth they see.  This is what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do.  It is the opposite of contentiousness even though the conflict of interpretation and ultimate concern or story remains.  Peaceful tension results from contestation—and that is enough for Zion to thrive.  Oneness cannot be identical interpretation and understanding of everything that would make individual existence redundant. 

Q: We live in an age of intense ideological polarization. What are you hoping that readers will learn from the case-studies presented in this book?

A: I want them to read the book in the broad context of the problem of pluralism that began, narratively speaking, when Eve was different than Adam.  I trace the American system of managing religious conflict as a living aspect of society.  As long as it remains in the persuasive mode, it allows free expression in the balancing of ideological drives for hegemony.  America is based on a foundation of continually contested foundations.  Our culture can thrive on pluralism, not because we follow laws of procedural conflict management, but because we have a deep belief in the value of a worthy rival in religion as well as any other aspect of life.  The case studies I show will hopefully move a reader to understand how the desire for a trustworthy opponent is a precious thing that does not come naturally but is essential to the success of a pluralistic society.

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On the sixth day of Kofford: 30% off international Mormon studies titles! December 06 2016

All international Mormon studies titles are 30% off December 6th. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code ALLTHEWORLD (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.

Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901–1968
by Shinji Takagi

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Mormon and Maori
by Marjorie Newton

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Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958
by Marjorie Newton

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For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830–2013
by Russell W. Stevenson

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Best Book Award, Mormon History Association

The History of the Mormons in Argentina
by Néstor Curbelo

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From Above and Below: The Mormon Embrace of Revolution, 1840 – 1940
by Craig Livingston

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Best International Book Award, Mormon History Association

20% Off Sale on Women's Issues Books October 27 2015

With the recently published essays approved by the LDS Church on the topics of women and priesthood and the doctrine of Heavenly Mother, now would be a great time to read up on the conversations surrounding women in Mormonism.

Greg Kofford Books is pleased to offer 20% off the following titles beginning today through November 3rd when you type "ESSAYS" in the discount code box at checkout.


Mormon Women Have Their Say
Edited by Claudia L. Bushman and Caroline Kline

Sale Price: $25.56 + tax, paperback
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From Claudia Bushman: Throughout the tangled past of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, women have been active and vocal participants. Their journals and diaries, primarily from the nineteenth century, have been plumbed for evidence of their experience and attitudes. Less is known and written about contemporary Mormon women. LDS women today still live in a patriarchal society. What is it like for them? How to they respond to the Church they have joined or inherited? Can they make space for their interests? How do they envision their contemporary role in the Church? What are the issues that define their lives? Writing our own stories empower us. Many of these narrators do not normally speak out. This project preserves and perpetuates their voices and memories. The silent majority goes on record.

In light of the Gospel Topic essay "Mother in Heaven," readers would find the chapter, "Heavenly Mother," interesting as it explores the views and feelings of contemporary LDS women on this important theological topic.

Praise for Mormon Women Have Their Say:

“Mormon women have always had a lot to say, but generation after generation, their voices fade away. The problem is not just that archives and manuals favor the writings of male leaders. The real problem is that few of us know how to listen to seemingly common stories. We revere our sisters but don’t understand them. The essays in this volume go beyond collecting and preserving to the hard work of interpretation.” — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact
By Neylan McBaine

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From Neylan McBaine: This book is predicated on a single belief: that there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church. In an effort to increase awareness of that belief and move all Church members to act on it, I have written this book as an inducement toward greater empathy for those who feel unseen, unheard, and unused, and a strategic guide to improving our gender cooperation in local Church governance. This book is for men and women who either are themselves engaged in this wrestle or know someone who is. It is for women who have been sitting on the sidelines of the media conversation around Mormon women, not sure where they fit or what they feel, but they resonate with at least some of what has been said. It is for the women who can't understand why someone would be discontent in the light of our glorious doctrine, but whose daughter or sister or friend or Relief Society sister may not be feeling so at ease.

Praise for Women at Church:

A pivotal work replete with wisdom and insight. Neylan McBaine deftly outlines a workable programme for facilitating movement in the direction of the ‘privileges and powers’ promised the nascent Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.” — Fiona Givens, co-author of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd

Sale Price: $26.36 + tax, paperback
(enter the word "ESSAYS" in the discount box at checkout)

From Lavina Fielding Anderson: In larger Mormon society, I consider this book to be a third voice in an intensifying conversation. The first voice was that of Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book, spelling out her position in Women and the Priesthood. The second voice followed a year later with the appearance of Neylan McBaine's Women at Church: Magnifying Women's Local Impact. This book, Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism, is the third book in as many years to explore this disquieting, yet immensely significant topic. Broader in scope than either Dew or McBaine's works, it is data driven, using a combination of sociological and historical analysis, political and theological explorations, and sometimes wrenching personal experiences.

Praise for Voices for Equality:

"In these pages, some of Mormonism's finest researchers and thinkers bring a richness of historical and scholarly perspective and a powerful new survey of tens of thousands of Mormon people to bear on headline-making issues like women's ordination, sister missionaries, church discipline, the internet and faith, and change in the LDS church. This book is a much needed mirror for our time.” — Joanna Brooks, co-editor of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings and author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith

SALE ENDS 11-3-15

Q&A with Voices for Equality Editors June 23 2015


Voices For Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism

Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd

Approx. 425 pages

Paperback $32.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-758-8)


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Q: What led the three of you to this project? How did it come together with so many authors?

Gary ShepherdLavina, of course, is a long-time Mormon feminist who has been at the forefront in challenging the LDS Church to re-examine traditional assumptions about a variety of issues and to become a more open, flexible, and tolerant organization. Gordon and Gary have written about processes of change in Mormonism and the LDS Church for over 30 years, and specifically predicted in their first co-authored book, A Kingdom Transformed (University of Utah Press, 1984), that women’s status would become a major issue in the church in the decades to come. When OW first began to stir publicity for its cause in March of 2013, Gordon and Gary saw an opportunity for first hand sociological observation of what promised to be a potent new expression of LDS women’s movement towards status equality with men. The three of us were well- acquainted from many years of overlapping scholarly involvements and agreed that a book that drew from a wide spectrum of Mormon scholars and activists on this subject could be an important stimulus for a larger, constructive discussion within LDS circles on the prospects for change. Lavina was especially well-connected with key people involved in both OW and Mormon feminism generally, and we were able to successfully tap into her network for authors who could address the various issues we thought were important.

Q: Who are the intended audiences for this book? What do you hope each get out of it?

Gary Shepherd: We hope the book will particularly have wide enough appeal to attract a general, lay LDS readership. Many LDS members know only what they read and see in media sources about Mormon feminist goals and their rationale, or what they hear in church from both leaders and ordinary gossip. At the same time, Mormon women tend to be uncommonly well-educated, especially younger generations, and their personal experience in contemporary secular society—in school, careers, organizations, and every other arena of social life—fosters increasingly taken-for-granted assumptions about their equality with men. When these assumptions are not institutionally applied within the LDS religious realm, it must cause some degree of dissonance and at least private musing about the causes, consequences, and possible resolutions of this significant discrepancy. So this is the first audience we hope will be reached, at least enough to provide an impetus for further personal reflection and conversation with family, friends, and colleagues.

Otherwise, there is enough of a scholarly approach taken in many chapters of the book to certainly appeal to Mormon intellectuals, academics, and scholars. For those among these categories who are themselves committed in various ways to advance gender equality in the Church, we think this book will help crystallize views and perhaps serve as a catalyst for more effective efforts to bring about change through writing, speaking, discussion, and assignment of the book as a text in Mormon studies courses.

Q: This book appears at a time when social media and podcasting have soared in popularity as perhaps the primary ways, especially among young people, to communicate about people, events, and ideas. How does an academic book like this fit into that crowd? Can it say and do things that these other forms of communication cannot? 

Gary Shepherd: Yes, certainly. As you note, we have brought together a relative large and diverse set of authors—some activists, some scholars—in one place—this book—and have solicited and organized their diverse, expert, well-reviewed, written contributions around a set of pre-planned, coherent topical subjects. We don’t think you can easily get this kind of all-in-one-place coherent, quality education from popular social media sources.

Q: The title of your book, Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism implies that in Ordain Women there is both an intimate connection but also possibly a significant divergence from prior iterations of Mormon feminism. Is this the case? And if so, how? 

Gary Shepherd: Ordain Women is not exclusively a younger generation movement, but certainly many of the leaders are of a younger generation (e.g, 20-40 or so years of age), and many of the women (and men) who have posted OW Profiles on-line are also younger. These are the generations mentioned above who take-for-granted gender equality in a modern, secular world and yet experience its absence in the realm— religious and spiritual—that for many is most important to them. They are action oriented, more prone to speak directly to power, and are genuinely committed to bringing about the gender equality they see lacking in their church within their own lifetime. At the same time, OW would not even exist without the conceptual framework and organizational foundations established by second wave Mormon feminists in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s and the steps they took to challenge established patriarchal traditions through their persistent and persuasive writings and personal witness. And, in fact, several of the founding and continuing leaders of OW are older Mormon feminists who have never stopped working for change and are grateful to see that their earlier contributions are now being incorporated into this new, energetic, and concrete activist expression of hope for reform. This intimate connection you speak of between prior expressions of Mormon feminism and current OW activists is, in fact, one of the points strongly made in several chapters of Voices.

Q: In the preface to the book, Lavina writes that she considers this volume to be the third literary voice in an intensifying conversation about women in the LDS church, along with Sheri Dew's Women and Priesthood, and Neylan McBaine's Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact. Tell us more about this dynamic and how Voices for Equality makes its contribution. 

Gary Shepherd: Simply that Dew’s position—although perhaps had it been given voice several decades ago would likely have been perceived as quite liberal for simply discussing issues of equality—currently occupies the most conservative end of the contemporary continuum. McBaine’s book occupies middle ground, advocating changes that give women more recognition and participation opportunities in worship and ecclesiastical affairs but not fundamentally moving LDS women into the same sphere of equality within the Church that they claim as their intrinsic right in the larger world. It is movement into this ultimate sphere that of course OW advocates. Our book, represented by a diverse set of authors, is not unanimous in its endorsement of OW strategies and goals or single-minded in its preoccupation with OW per se. But anyone who reads our book in its entirety with an open mind should at least be forced to re-examine prior assumptions and begin thinking more clearly and systematically about the values and changes that Mormon feminists are so earnestly and persuasively advocating.

Q: There are a variety of methodological approaches you and the various authors have taken in documenting and narrating the phenomenon that has been Ordain Women within the wider context of Mormon feminism. Tell us a little about these various approaches and how they contribute to our understanding of these events, people, and ideas. 

Gary Shepherd: No issue of broad social scope can adequately be comprehended by a single method or point of view. There is always a historical, social, and cultural context within which every current concern is embedded. So we have solicited historians to identify and narrate the complex of interrelated events that generated both original Mormon feminism and subsequently OW. We have solicited sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists to explore both past and present patterns of social interaction and cultural meaning that give shape and substance to Mormon feminism and OW and reveal the nature of conflict between these movements and the established institutional authority and traditions of the LDS church. Theologians have helped us to understand the rationale behind authoritative proclamations of belief, doctrine, and religious practice and how, within these proclamations, there is ground for change and reinterpretation. And, importantly, individuals who have made history by engaging with others in thought, hopeful prayer, organizational participation, and direct action are drawn upon to provide accounts of their own lived experience.

Q: How do you see Voices for Equality positioned within the wider universe of Mormon feminism and questions revolving around Mormon women? What might you hope to see in the future as far as scholarship on these subjects is concerned?

Gary Shepherd: Most of all we hope that Voices will prove to be a stimulus for both continued and more informed conversations among lay members and church leaders, as well as a stimulus for ongoing scholarly research building on cues and directions suggested by virtually all of the chapters in this book. The newest expression of Mormon feminism through the very public actions of OW is ripe for such further research and investigation as news stories in the national media, Mormon feminism in general, and OW in particular have become a big deal, with major articles regularly appearing in such outlets as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and coverage by all the major TV networks. This coverage is deemed newsworthy because the LDS Church, given its significant international expansion and growing political and even economic influence, is deemed newsworthy. What journalists report on as current news becomes a roadmap for subsequent in-depth studies by scholars of the fresh issues that are uncovered. Perhaps our book will get some media coverage in this regard, or at least significant reviews, and thus bring suggested directions for new or supplementary research to the attention of a larger audience of scholars beyond regular MHA, Dialogue, and Sunstone contributors.


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