BCC is pleased to present a 3-part series from guest author Adam J. Powell, a PhD student at Durham University. His multidisciplinary work analyses the role of opposition in the development of identity and soteriological beliefs among second-century Christians and early Mormons.
Appealing to biblical passages such as Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2, Psalm 135:4, and 1 Peter 2:9; Latter-day Saints have often referred to themselves as ‘a peculiar people’. This self-defining label, though clearly tied to the Mormon understanding of Hebrew connections with the Western Continent, goes beyond establishing a spiritual heritage. It serves as a focus of identity. In fact, the very same phrase from the King James Bible has been adopted by more than one religious group both as an internal motivator and an external identifier. For those on the outside, the term ‘peculiar’ rapidly alienates and distinguishes the adherents from the greater society. Viewed from within, the label reinforces this same in-group/out-group dichotomy, but it also mobilises the collective by fabricating a unique identity as a special and extraordinary group. In spite of its rather circular logic (we are special because we say we are), this act of self-definition greatly impacts solidarity and, subsequently, religious loyalty. [Read more…]