European Mormon Studies

When I was called as an Institute teacher in Oxford, I tried to inject a little life into the non-devotional aspects of Mormonism. After all, it was Oxford. Success was mixed. We tried to move class to one of the colleges (Wadham, very old, very nice) but this only ended up increasing the town/gown divide that was rampant among the young adults in the ward. We had a few firesides and talks, one with Jack Welch and another with Stephen Houston, who was then a BYU Mayanist. Welch’s talk on Paul was well-attended, but conversation afterwards centered on the appropriateness of not using the KJV; Houston’s — where he talked about the BYU dig in Guatemala — was attended by only two Mormons, one of whom was me. (We held it at my college and had good Gentile attendance. They wondered why no wine was being served, though, a staple of Oxonian evenings.)

I was disappointed. The fact is, like everywhere in the church, the vast majority of Mormons in England are simply not interested in this kind of stuff. They may own a few Nibleys, and a few radicals even subscribe to FARMS, but CES is as far as anyone goes for intellectual stimulation. I cannot think of one person I know with a subscription to any of the Mormon Studies’ journals. Try as I might, I cannot even interest my family and friends in the intellectual-lite of the Bloggernacle.

This is not meant as a criticism, just a fact. Most Mormons are content, and rightly so, to experience church and things Mormon through a salvific lens.[1] Still, it was a little disappointing when my dad asked me whether MHA was “apostate” after I told him I was speaking at the conference. If they come from outside of the boundaries of church or BYU, things are to be viewed with suspicion (if they are to be viewed at all).

There are Mormon Studies activities in Europe, however. Think of Douglas Davies at Durham who has written the best modern theology of Mormonism, or Walter van Beek at Utrecht whose recent Dialogue article is a must-read on the international church. Europe itself remains a vital subject for the study of Mormonism, particularly in historical subjects, and also as an example of Mormon sociology in a “post-religious” society. Students like Kim Östman in Finland are actively pursuing Mormon topics (read his “BCC Paper” here).

One difficulty is that there is no Mormon centre in Europe, so Mormon Studies efforts are thinly spread. This is a problem that a new effort hopes to overcome: the European Mormon Studies Association (EMSA), “an independent scholarly organisation that supports the academic study of Mormonism in Europe.” EMSA publishes a website that announces European Mormon Studies activities; collects a recent bibliography of relevant articles and books; organises an email-list; and plans to hold an annual conference.

It’s early days. Wish us luck. And please spread the word.

[1] One grumble, though. Sometimes the tools we use — like our woeful understanding of the Bible — mean we get a few important things wrong. But that’s another conversation.


  1. Ronan,
    This is fantastic! I admire people who see a problem and try to fix it. Best of luck in your endeavors. Don’t be discouraged. How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens?

  2. Ronan,

    What is the communication level between Mormons in Europe? Meaning, how communicative are English Mormons with French Mormons and German Mormons? How unified are they? Do they get together—on the internet more than in person—to do things, like study their faith?

  3. The Bloggernacle is Intelectual lite? I thought it was more like Talk radio…

  4. Ah, good show Ronan. I hope the European stuff kicks up some life.

  5. Dan,
    Not at all.

  6. Try as I might, I cannot even interest my family and friends in the intellectual-lite of the Bloggernacle.

    Family, friend or foe, your efforts have not been entirely in vain.

    Mormons studies takes up a pretty small niche in the European scheme of things (centuries of Kultur to proces and analyze, unlike the thin veneer of material available in the US, for example). And even more general religious aren’t really keeping audiences on the edges of their seats across Europe. I attended a symposium on Religion in the Public Sphere and Religious Freedom in the New Europe sponsored by the alpbach forum and the Diplomatische Akademie here in Vienna and was underwhelmed by the turnout. This was an event where a cardinal from Rome and other experts were carted in and was advertised among the elite of the city.

  7. Courtship rather than scholarship drives the interaction of European Mormons.

    Typically, international contacts between European Mormons occur randomly, such as young adults studying abroad. There are groups that travel to various young adult conferences. With occassional exceptions, conference tours occur within language boundaries. Occassionally, return missionaries from the same mission but different countries marry.

    There has been a student ward in Paris for some time and as of late there are institute clusters in certain German university towns. May be, that will destinations for folks who need to get married.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    I recently read the current Dialogue, with its 40-year retrospective articles, and this seems like a latter-day analogous activity: seeing a need and jumping in to try to fill it. This is a terrific idea, and I wish it much success.

    (Speaking of Dialogue, that will be a source for a lot of the bibliography you want to put together with articles of relevance to Europe.)

    P.S.–You should make sure Wilfried over at T&S knows about this. I’m sure he’ll be interested.

  9. Ronan, you did a great job as a seminary teacher in the Oxford ward. Excellent work with EMSA, by the way. The website looks great and it is indeed an exciting project.

    The low level of LDS intellectual life in Europe seems to mirror the low level of achievement of Latter-day Saints generally in society over there. I don’t know why this is, but I’ve often thought about it. In the United States, Latter-day Saints are at the top of their field in business, law, medicine, and academics and pedagogy, although certainly still in the minority in each of those professions and will always be. Yet, from my observation, in Europe — even in England, Latter-day Saints are rarely in the professions. Are there LDS partners in the management of top London law firms? Are there LDS judges sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice? Are there LDS heart and brain surgeons performing the most complicated of surgeries in hospitals throughout the UK? Are there even LDS dentists in the UK? How many Latter-day Saints are CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CTOs, or otherwise in the upper-levels of European corporations? More importantly, how many Latter-day Saints hold tenured positions in universities in the UK or Europe? My unfortunate guess, on that last one, is that, continent-wide, they could be counted on one hand. Why is this? I simply cannot figure it out and sometimes tend to think it must be some kind of invisible discrimination or glass-ceiling effect that attaches to people because of their religion.

    I want to make clear that I have absolutely nothing against people who work in blue collar jobs or lower-level office jobs. Refrigeration technicians, electricians, masonry workers, low to mid-level consultants, and all such jobs are perfectly dignified. I do not value anyone more or less based on how high their position is in different fields. I know this seems like a disingenuous statement given the fact that I am asking the questions that I pose in the preceding paragraph. I just simply wonder why this is the case and would be interested in hearing other people’s views on the matter.

  10. some kind of invisible discrimination

    John, it’s not this, at least not in England. I have some thoughts, but they’ll have to wait until later…

    You are right, it is a problem.

  11. John,

    There are quite a few Mormons in Germany that have successful careers in business, government, and academia. Interestingly, none of them served missions.

    Of course, underprivileged people are overrepresented among European Mormons. The biggest reason is that folks who are doing well have no reason to change their religion.

  12. I realize that there are many factors, but one large one is simply numbers. I imagine that there is a fairly large percentage of North American Mormons that might question the level of apostacy of the MHA, mostly because I’d bet that >99% have never heard of it. It takes a fairly large amount of Mormons to create of niche community that is based on a small fraction of a percentage of the greater community.

  13. Jonathan Green says:

    My impression from the half-dozen German wards I’ve known is that the percentage of people who might be potential consumers of Mormon Studies is about the same as the American wards I know, essentially one or a handful in each. Most of the German wards I’ve known also had at least one member at the top of their game in some field in the arts or, most commonly, business (like newly sustained seventy Elder Kopischke). It’s hard to put any kind of number on it, though, and John and Ronan might not be wrong in their impressions. (In Germany, at least, discrimination might be a larger factor since the customary job application identifies religion and family status.)

  14. Ronan,

    Although you say your thoughts will have to wait til later, as one who is soon returning to the UK (hopefully with a PhD) I’m at least one other person who would be very interested to know what you think the problem (that John F. talks about) is.

  15. Ronan,


    I wonder what success you would have at a “European Mormon Studies” when Mormons in the various countries in Europe don’t communicate with each other at all. Europe, while rather unified and at peace, is still a continent of like 60 separate and different nations that still speak different languages. Would it be better to focus more on “Great Britain Mormon Studies” first? What are you doing to integrate other Mormons in like Germany or Romania or Poland to do a Europe-wide Mormon Studies?

  16. Dan,
    The simple fact of the matter is that 99% of continental academics speak English. I hope that if EMSA succeeds we can have local groups, though.

  17. OK, now to the “problem” (if there is one).

    1. Stapley is right. It’s a question of numbers. There are Mormon professionals. And give time for the second/third generations to mature. Also, as far as Mormon Studies goes specifically, these few numbers are stretched thin, with no centre place. Which is why a Mormon interested in this stuff living in Latvia might not meet many similar souls. Hopefully, the internet can change this.

    2. Missions. As you can’t just “do a year” of college before turning 19, you end up sitting around for a year after high school. The pressure to go to college is intense. Also, unlike in Utah, there is no social pressure to serve a mission. So, many kids never go and then go inactive.

    3. BYU/Utah. Many of our bright kids emigrate.

    4. Military service (in some countries) + mission = too much. Again, no mission = greater probability of going inactive.

    5. Lower-middle class converts.

    6. Social stigma of Mormonism + dissatisfaction with the (non-existent) intellectual life in the Church = educated people going inactive.

    Add all this together, factor in a vicious circle, and voila!

  18. Ronan, please explain to me why someone in England can’t finish their A levels, go to university for a year, and then take a break for a mission before coming back to finish. Isn’t it the case that many LDS kids in the UK aren’t setting their sights on university at all, for whatever reason? This is what I was referring to. The problem is much worse in Germany.

  19. (I acknoweldge that taking that kind of a break wouldn’t be the norm and might be socially suspect among the students’ peers, but what I would want to know is whether the university would literally prohibit it? If so, so much for a tolerant society, right? I must say that I didn’t get that impression when I was at Oxford. People seemed to be taking extensive breaks all the time, to travel around or do work in Africa, etc. But I never looked into it in detail because the mission wasn’t an issue for me at that point.)

  20. Ronan, are there any LDS judges in the UK?

  21. John,
    I think one broad difference is in the States, money (and maybe merit) gets you anywhere while in Old Europe, connections do. Obviously, all are important factors wherever you live, but socialization starts early on the continent and outsiders like Mormons just don’t get in on the ground floor like the heathens do.

    While Mormons spend their Thursday evenings at seminary, aspiring Catholics attend their Cartellverband meetings. And you wonder why THAT guy became Chancellor? Thanks to essentially free higher education and extremely low campaign spending limits, to name just two factors, it doesn’t take the same kind of fabulous wealth to rise to the top in Europe as it does in the US, thereby de-emphasizing personal fortunes and increasing the importance of hookups.

    Anyway, the point isn’t that wealth doesn’t matter in Europe or the European Mormons are bums, just that connections are relatively more important, and Mormons, being outsiders either by statute (see Germany) or by practice, are left stacking the chairs after the main event is over.

  22. John,

    I did really well on my A-levels, but that whole year I sat around as my mates applied to Uni. I was very happy to be going on a mission, but I had a strong testimony. Without that testimony, the pressure “to go to Uni” would have been unbearable. When my teachers found out I wasn’t applying (and bear in mind, they wanted me to enter the Oxbridge cycle) one of them specifically asked whether I was “brainwashed.” They didn’t believe that I had every intention to return and go to college. After all, it was 3 years in the future!

    Yes, many students take a “gap year” between school and university but in my case it was a “gap three years” (8 months ’til I turned 19, 2 year mission, 4 months’ after I got home) and this certainly does not sit well within the current system. My friends had graduated before I even started! Remember a UK degree is not usually modular. You don’t pick-and-choose classes to add up to a degree. You take a degree in one subject. One sits at the feet of one’s professors for three straight years

    Is there a judge? No idea. For all I know, yes. I don’t know every UK Mormon!

    One other point: there are less lawyers and less professors (no private universities) in the UK anyway.

    (N.B. I regret none of my decisions, but as I said, I had a strong personal motivation to go on a mission.)

  23. Ronan,

    In Germany, if you are active at the age of nineteen then males are more likely to inactive if they serve a mission. In the Düsseldorf and Cologne wards, for example, they must have lost more than half a dozen bishops. I need to compile a list at some point.

    In my age cohort, we lost five out of six rms.

    I think one broad difference is in the States, money (and maybe merit) gets you anywhere while in Old Europe, connections do.

    It’s not just connections. It’s about being properly raised. You have to have a sense of the obligations that come with your place in society. That affects how you dress, how you talk, and how you treat the people around you.

    In Utah, rudeness means that someone is contradicing or criticzing you. In Germany and Austria, rudeness means that someone does not respect your status, usually because they are ignorant of the rules. And if you don’t know the rules then you cannot function.

    That’s one of the reasons why it is so much more difficult to integrate immigrants in France or Central Europe.

    With notable exceptions, Mormons recruit underprivileged individuals. And we do very little in terms of teaching converts how to get along in society.

    In the past, callings used to help in a big way. I have known several people who worked their way up through adult education. Serving at church had given them the self-confidence and the skills to prevail at a university.

    Unfortunately, correlation is undermining that effect because callings are less entrepreneurial. Instead of exercising leadership, one has to go increasingly through the motions.

    While Mormons spend their Thursday evenings at seminary, aspiring Catholics attend their Cartellverband meetings.

    That’s a good point, Peter. After I returned from my mission and military service, I joined a Corps. That was one of my better choices. People love me unconditionally. And the Corps remains the only group that has reciprocated my efforts. They continue to help me even in Washington, DC.

    For too many teenagers, Mormonism gets into the way of a proper socialization. Kids don’t associate with their peers because they are afraid. Big mistake.

    On the other hand, the Mormon experience benefitted me a lot until I served a mission. Service was an opportunity to develop skills, remain enthusiastic, and enjoy community.

    The mission completely deflated me, however. Trivializing what’s holy with Amway management methods, it turned out to be a personality destroying event. The worst thing about it was that one could not talk with anyone about that aspect of mission life. I am still not over it.

    Even though we did not talk about it, five of my friends from the Cologne ward had the same experience and left Mormonism behind.

    Most of them are successfully self-employed. None of them fits into an organization anymore.

    On balance, I would say that Mormons coming of age during the sixties and seventies did not serve missions and were upwardly mobile. After that people served missions more consistently, an experience from which many did not recover spiritually.

    There are exceptions for wards where a mentor can place young adults into jobs and careers. Mentors would include Uchtdorf in Frankfurt and Stoltenberg in Heidelberg who were managers, which put them into a position where they could shepherd young adults. As a result, their wards prospered.

  24. Follow Hellmut’s link. The man fights with swords. He even has a scar on his face from one. Really.

  25. Ronan, re # 22, I think you have missed my point. It was NOT about taking a gap year between A levels and university. My question was why LDS students are doing this. What in the system prevents an LDS student from entering uni right after A levels? Why did you sit around for a year before your mission? Can’t an LDS student enter university right after A levels and THEN take a gap for the mission, i.e. get a year of university in before the mission? Does the system prevent that, or do LDS students just think they need to do this for some other reason? If so, what is that reason? My impression, from living in both the UK and Germany, was that LDS students are not interested, for whatever reason, in attending university. I was wondering why this is. It must be admitted that the difference between the United States and Europe on this issue is immense.

    On the question of judges, Ronan, that is a sort of canary-in-the-mine question for me, since I happen to be in the legal profession. If there are no LDS judges in the UK, it is incumbent upon us to ask why this is. Are LDS simply not interested in pursuing that? Or is there prejudice in the system that simply will never allow a Latter-day Saint to be appointed to a judgeship on Her Majesty’s bench? Methinks you answered my “invisible discrimination” question a little to cursorily, and the judges question provides a good test case.

    As to other professionals, I know that many Latter-day Saints are in low to mid-level consulting and office management in various companies across Europe. The most successful Latter-day Saints I know, however, (at least in terms of worldly status and goods, i.e. level in profession), have been successful in their own businesses. Again, the difference between the United States and Europe is striking. In the United States, Latter-day Saints can be found at the top of virtually every field. You don’t have to strain to think of LDS CEO’s or other officers and directors of major companies and firms. You don’t have to strain to think of top surgeons and general practicioners of medicine who are LDS — there are some in virtually every community, even the buckle of the Bible Belt in Dallas. Ditto for lawyers and managing partners or otherwise influential and highly respected partners in law firms. And there are a number of federal judges, some on the most influential courts of appeals in the country such as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Tom Griffith) and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (Jay Bybee), to name just two examples of many others on courts of appeals and federal district courts, including those currently nominated but not yet confirmed for such, not to mention state courts. Thus, our weird religion does not prevent us from receiving such nominations from our central government. Can the same be said of the UK or Germany, or other European countries? If not, why not?

    But not to externalize the problem, because I suspect that it is internal. Hellmut suggested that young LDS are focused on dating and mating rather than achievement. How is that different than in the U.S.? Here, many young LDS also have that focus but achieve nonetheless.

    We need more Ronans in the UK and continental Europe. Where are they?

  26. Sweet, Hellmut was in a Burschenschaft. So he has the Schmisse to prove it? Cool. That was something I admired about some of the German attorneys who worked in the law firm I worked at in Hamburg, i.e. the fact that they had this network and that it was a real community for them.

  27. Hellmut, I must admit that I am surprised, given your usual rhetoric around the blogs, to see you in comment # 23 speaking uncritically, even approvingly, of a system that shuns based on not “being properly raised” (whatever that means and by whosever standard that is supposed to be evaluated) and based on a person not showing someone else the proper respect of their status (!) because they are “ignorant” of “the rules.” That seems out of character for you. It seems you should be crusading against such inequality, shunning, and class ranking, if your criticisms of the Church provide any basis of measurement.

    Also, I was curious that you described your Burschenschaft — essentially a fraternity or old-school old boys network (far more hardened than the practical joking frats here in the United States) — as showing you unconditional love. That seems strange to me. Are you saying that if you had remained an active, temple-going Latter-day Saint the mates in the Burschenschaft would still have loved you just as much despite your odd religion? Isn’t their love conditioned on you being the same as them (German, same social class, same educational pursuits, relatively speaking, etc.)? Isn’t that the point of those societies in the German universities?

    I suppose you meant the comment about “reciprocating” to be a dig at the Church. The Burschenschaft has reciprocated your efforts. The Church has not. What, pray tell, could the Church have done, or what did you expect the Church to do, to reciprocate your efforts? Get you a job through an old-boys network?

    Finally, I was surprised to see you making a point of how “underprivileged people” join the Church. Are they less worthy of the Gospel? And should the Church really be a reform society, teaching people to speak properly so that they will be accepted by the “upper classes”, to properly avert the eyes when in the presence of someone of higher class so as not to break the rules of which they are ignorant, to dress properly according to their status and use the correct fork and brandy glass at the upper-crust meals to which they are not invited, and so on and so forth?

    Well, one thing for sure, should I ever meet your kids, I will expect them to call me “sir” here in the United States (even though I expect that of no one else and give no one else the same courtesy)! After all, they need to know their place!

  28. On Hellmut’s Corp, here is a very rough and quick translation for non-German speakers:

    The Principles of the Corp:

    Every Corps is different. But all follow fundamental principles:

    The top priority is the Principle of Life-long Union [lit. “confederacy”, fig. “brotherhood”]. Every Corp student should feel united with his Corps and his Corps brothers until the end of his life. No matter whether a young freshman or an Old Master, all are Corp brothers and stand for common moral goals and ideals their whole life long. Thus arises friendship, and each profits from the experiences of the others.

    Each Corps student also has the Tolerance Principle written on his flag: as Frederick the Great said long ago, “Each must be saved in his own manner”. What is meant by this is openness to dissenters [or those who think differently] and those of other faiths. Of course, nationality and skin color play no roll in the Corps.

    Furthermore, there is the Study Principle. This means that each Corps student is obligated to finish his studies as quickly and as well as possible. Thus, a Corps offers the useful help of Old Masters in later semesters and even sometimes through placement in internships.

    Prinzipien der Corps

    Jedes Corps ist anders. Und doch folgen alle grundlegenden Prinzipien:

    An vorderster Stelle steht das Lebensbundprinzip. Jeder Corpsstudent fühlt sich bis an sein Lebensende an sein Corps und seine Corpsbrüder gebunden. Egal ob junger Fuchs oder Alter Herr, alle sind Corpsbrüder und stehen für gemeinsame moralische Ziele und Ideale ein, ein Leben lang. Dadurch entstehen Freundschaften, und jeder profitiert von den Erfahrungen des anderen.

    Auch das Toleranzprinzip hat sich jedes Corps auf die Fahne geschrieben. “Jeder soll nach seiner Facon selig werden”, sagte schon der Alte Fritz. Gemeint ist die Offenheit gegenüber Andersdenkenden und Andersgläubigen. Selbstverständlich spielt bei den Corps auch die Nationalität bzw. Hautfarbe keine Rolle.

    Weiterhin besteht das Studienprinzip. Das bedeutet, dass jeder Corpsstudent dazu angehalten ist, sein Studium so schnell und so gut wie möglich abzuschließen. Dementsprechend bietet ein Corps nützliche Hilfe durch ältere Semester oder manchmal sogar Praktikumsplätze durch Alte Herren.

    In some ways, this is not dissimilar to a fraternity in the United States.

  29. You’re right John, it does seem disingenuous.

  30. John, I don’t think there is anything to prevent you taking a gap year (or 2) after starting a degree at a UK university. I did 2 years at Sheffield University (a fairly well respected uni) took 2 years off for my mission, came back and completed my final year. However, I was strongly discouraged by all around me, both students and professors, who felt I would either not return or would forget everything and struggle my final year. Ironically, my grades were considerably better in my final year than in my first 2 (supposedly easier) years.

    On the subject of judges in the UK: To become a barrister in the UK is a very costly business. I recognise it is in the US as well but Americans seem a lot more willing to take on enormous amounts of debt in the name of education. Having grown up in a society where higher education was free for everyone for a long time we have a much different attitude to educational debt. Funny, that attitude hasn’t prevented us (the Brits) from becoming burdened with massive amounts of consumer debt! I get the sense that only those with family money behind them (and quite a bit of it) go into law. I would imagine most judges in the UK come from upper class backgrounds – most mormons in the UK do not come from upper class backgrounds.

  31. gomez, thanks for those points, but they actually kind of support where I was going. As you say, there is nothing institutionally that prevents an LDS student with ambition to start uni after A levels and then take a gap for the mission, except peer pressure. Don’t think that U.S. students at any college except BYU and its affiliates don’t get the same or similar pressure not to go!

    As to the point about barristers and judges, I actually am familiar with the UK system and becoming a barrister. Your insight here also substantiates my point. Nothing institutionally is preventing young LDS from choosing to become barristers and to enter that profession. Yet there are very few, if any(!), LDS barristers. And, the question remains, is it conceivably possible for a Latter-day Saint to be appointed to the bench in Her Majesty’s judicial system? If that is not even possible because of the religious factor, then we might need to rethink the UK as the beacon of tolerance.

  32. John

    My point is that I think its money rather than mormonism that prevents young LDS from becoming barristers. I don’t know that, but that is my impression. Its a class issue I think. As an example, my sister-in-law is an extremely bright student. She got a 1st (top possible mark) in law from a very good university. But a couple of things prevented her from going on to the UK equivalent of law school. First, her degree wasn’t from Oxford/Cambridge. She didn’t get accepted to Oxbridge because she sat her A-levels at a public comprehensive rather than a private school (IMO). Funny that, as I think it shows a greater ability to get her excellent grades from some skanky public school attended by all and sundry than it does from some private school where there are 10 pupils per teacher. Still Oxbridge’s loss. That kept her from getting offers from the biggest law firms in London (again IMO). Second, when she did get an offer for sponsordhip from a law firm, the cost put her off. Neither of these reasons have anything to do with her religion, but I think they may be common to many mormons who would consider law as a career.

  33. But gomez, why are Latter-day Saints in the U.S. willing to shell out the dough for their legal educations? The cost is arguably higher than anything your sister-in-law would have paid to go with chambers. What makes the difference? In the U.S., there are scores of LDS students scrimping their way through expensive educations, whether in law, medicine, academic subjects, or in other fields. I did it myself, working my way through undergraduate degree, saving up with my wife to go to Oxford, and again working my way through the law degree. Others go to law schools where the tuition is so high no one could possibly work their way through so they have student loans and debt that they pay off over the years after getting into their professions. And yet it is still worth it to them to get into the professions.

  34. Like I said in #30, the Brits have a much different attitude to educational debt than do Americans. I didn’t pay a thing for my undergraduate degree whereas here it costs how much in fees? $30,000 or more? The same is not true in the UK. We are a lot more hesistant to go into that much debt when we are used to free education.

  35. Besides, law school fees are just a part of it. I don’t know but I would guess that most judges are oxbridge educated. Getting into oxbridge as an undergrad is far more than grades. Its about where you went to school and what connections you have. Like I say, a class thing. I would imagine there are few mormons in the UK who are oxbridge potential, and even fewer who want to do law.

  36. john f., Chill out. No need to attack Hellmut for honestly describing where he stands.

    Ronan, I think there are a lot more readers of Dialogue and Sunstone and LDS history around you than you realize. Get to know people on the fringes and I suspect you’ll find them.

  37. Deep Sea, my comments to Hellmut draw from protracted experience with him in the Bloggernacle. I am justified to take his current comment and wonder how it fits into his scheme of constantly criticizing the Church for being discriminatory.

  38. Jonathan Green says:

    John, I’m really not sure if there’s a significant difference in ambition between LDS youth in Germany and the general population. I suspect a lot has to do with geography. Weren’t you mostly in a region known for underachievement?

    Yeah, the idea of Hellmut in an old-school Burschenschaft with Schmiss and Mensur and all that is pretty mind-blowing. Hellmut, mostly I wish you’d forgive your mission president and come back. But after that, I wouldn’t mind hearing more about being a Mormon in that setting. Far out.

  39. Gomez,
    One day you will email me and reveal the True Name of Gomez.

  40. In the U.S., there are scores of LDS students scrimping their way through expensive educations

    So, like 80 out of the 33,000 at the BYU? Paying one’s way through an undergrad degree, especially at a cheap university like the BYU where tuition fees are waived for good grades is certainly possible. But law school, etc? Past undergrad I suspect that there’s less skimping and more outright exogenous help going on.

    The difference between US and European students is at least twofold:
    1). US students expect to pay for their education. This may mean they and their families start saving early, they work as an undergrad, and they are willing to assume debt.

    Europeans, even if willing and able to work, have only recently been asked to help defray the cost of education, which means they do not have the advantage of years of saving nor the mindset that paying for an education should be a personal responsibilty when, after all, a better educated population is a public good.

    2). Europeans are taxed at rates close to twice their American counterparts. While their ailments might be taken care of until they die and the standard of living for Otto Normalverbraucher generally better than the equivalent in the States, there isn’t much left over for options like expsensive adventures into professional schooling.

    Given the extremely important role that I’m sure you would agree family plays in financing education, Europeans, ceteris paribus, will have less at their disposal than Americans.

  41. Jonathan, you might have a point with regard to the time I spent in Berlin and the Northeast. But I had the same observation from the time I spent in Hamburg, an area not generally known for underachievement.

    Again, I’m not saying that Latter-day Saints in these areas aren’t successful or aren’t able to provide for their families. On the contrary, they do a remarkably good job of doing so. Those who are successful financially beyond merely satisfying the needs of their families have started their own businesses — something that shows real initiative and ambition. So, they just remain remarkably invisible to the rest of the world in their successes and in providing for their families since they are not managing law firms, teaching in universities, sitting in judgment within their communities, participating in the leadership of major corporations, or performing heart and brain surgeries.

    There’s nothing in the world wrong with a “normal” job. I guess I am just wondering (from the field of law, since that is the direction I ended up going) why Harvard and the University of Michigan are full of LDS law students while the number of such at Oxford, Cambridge, Göttingen, Heidelberg, FU, Hamburg and other top European universities all put together could probably be counted on one — or maybe two — hands. Perhaps it has nothing to do with being LDS in America but rather merely with being American.

  42. It seems you should be crusading against such inequality, shunning, and class ranking, if your criticisms of the Church provide any basis of measurement.

    Thanks for the question, John. While European societies display some of the aspects that you are criticizing, it is based more on merit than you seem to imagine. It is not about who your father is, what his occupation was, and how much money he has. It is about mastering a behavioral code.

    Insofar as that is a matter of socialization, it is more exclusive than desirable. I tried to communicate that aspect when I criticized the inability of some European societies to integrate immigrants.

    During the last hundred and fifty years, the labor movement has successfully permeated the middle class in the German speaking countries. While economic gains play an essential role, the labor movement has socialized its members and officers. They learned in labor schools and activism how to navigate society.

    In Germany, Mormonism has been able to replicate that success. We have always recruited primarily underprivileged people. During the sixties and seventies, I know of many converts and children of converts who moved up in the class system.

    Callings made the difference. Exercising leadership would give young men’s and scout leaders the self-confidence and the experience to pursue more education and better paying careers. Unfortunately, that phenomenon seems to be on the decline, which is probably an effect of correlation.

    I will try to explain what makes a “classy” person. There are three elements: citizenship, ritual competence, and identity.

    Identity. Classy persons understand their position in the world. They have a sense of history: the history of ideas as well as political history. They appreciate that art, music, and poetry occur in a context that is relevant to their lives. Classy persons keep up with current events. They also appreciate the contributions of workers, professionals, and institutions to their lives and respect their status.

    Ritual competence. Classy people can navigate the world. Familiarity with rituals allows classy persons to establish relationships with strangers safely. Considering the rights of others, rituals facilitate relationships with strangers.

    Citizenship. Classy people have a sense of obligation. Their status requires them to respect others and to serve state and community. That has implications for the rules by which they live their lives. More importantly, it requires them to invest even if there is in the absence of a quit pro quo. The classy person needs to be fair, reasonable, and generous.

    Many middle class African Americans appreciate the benefits of such an institution very well. Too many wasps mistake wealth for class. Nonetheless, parents demanding character education in the public school curriculum understand that there is more to achievement than making money. They want their children to be classy.

    Every social institution has its drawbacks. The class system is easily corrupted by snobbery. It also requires an educational investment. The advantage is that individuals acquire a stronger sense of identity that is less susceptible to political and commercial propaganda.

    The advantage of the money system is that it is the most inclusive. As the Roman emperor Vespasian remarked money does not stink. Anyone regardless of their race, religion, and background can rise to the top if it is a question of money.

    On the other hand, the money system is ethically neutral. In fact, abusers are celebrated as long as they become rich. The money systems creates an attitude were people become vulnerable to become abused and rewards abusers.

    It might be counterintuitive but the money system will also create greater problems with respect to personal insecurities such as inferiority feelings. It is, after all, your possessions that define you rather than your character.

  43. One interesting fact calls out attention from reading this thread: Everyone talks of Europe and Europeans while the conversation revolves mainly around England and Germany (Austria briefly showed up, too).

    If the comments by john f. “The low level of LDS intellectual life in Europe seems to mirror the low level of achievement of Latter-day Saints generally in society over there.” and “Yet, from my observation, in Europe — even in England, Latter-day Saints are rarely in the professions”, which pretty much started the current theme development of this thread, were meant to focus on countries past the initial stages of Church settlement, then fair enough, but if we truly mean Europe then I think we would also have to take into consideration at least some former communist countries of Western Europe and the Catholic tradition countries sitting mainly in the south of the continent.

    I think there are two circumstances common to those two groups of European countries that have had an effect on what is being discussed: A traditional disregard for personal liberties and democracy, and a short time since the Church established therein. Now, obviously the first one generated the second one. And the second one brings up the point I would like to stress: Time. We need time.

    We need time to have the church established in a way that would allow us dedicate more of our resources to less “salvific” endeavours.

    You will find very few older people in the Church hereabouts. There are, though, younger people around that joined the Church in their young adulthood and fulfilled a true pioneer function in the settlement of the Church here, say since thirty years ago. Much (very much) is yet to be done for us to be able to say these Church’s stakes are firmly tacked to the ground. Many of us look at those local pioneers with real admiration for the sacrifices they had to make in order for us to enjoy whatever of Zion we now have. None of them served missions, they joined the Church too old. None of them had much to choose from in order to find an LDS consort, yet many built strong LDS rooted families. They have been the only local leadership the Church could resort to. Hard to ask them for a tremendously successful professional career or academical recognition as well, let me submit.

    Most of those in the newer generations have had the chance (the chance at least) of going on missions. That should allow for a brighter prospect but, since the Church is not growing that fast anyway and we seem to be dazzled by the ideal of the full implementation of the Church’s program as fast as possible and no matter what, the load on our shoulders is heavy still.

    But I think many of us in many European countries have hopes and are planting the seeds for a more enabled newer generation of LDS people to make a difference in our respective societies, even while others consider that courtship rather than scholarship drives European member interaction (BTW, IMO that was such an inconsiderate comment, Hellmut…).

    Our children, perhaps?

  44. Ronan: Are you serious that you consider Davies’ book the best modern Mormon theology? I guess that my opinion of Davies’ work differs markedly from yours.

  45. I do actually, but we’ll probably have to open another thread to discuss it properly. What don’t you like and whom do you prefer?

  46. Ronan: Well, I like me! How does one say that without sounding (and actually being) so self-centered that it is self-defeating? I also like David Paulsen and I regard even Sterling McMurrin’s works as far superior. Truman Madsen and B. H. Roberts also come to mind (tho maybe B. H. isn’t modern enough for what you had in mind).

  47. Blake, I wasn’t aware David Paulson had a book length piece on Mormon Theology. Can you link it, I’d love to check it out?

    Roberts is now sadly too old, and McMurrin is too scandalaized by, well, being Sterling McMurrin. Madsen is awesome, but I haven’t seen a general ovierview of all mormon theology by him, though I haven’t looked very hard. As for your books, I keep saying I will, I just haven’t yet :)

  48. I’m not sure if this is what Blake meant, but you can check out Paulsen’s thesis, Comparative Coherency of Mormon (Finitistic) and Classical Theism.

  49. Wow, By Common Consent is a great place. I appreciate your many questions and apologize for the length of my answers.

    Hellmut was in a Burschenschaft

    Actually, John, I am not a member of a Burschenschaft but of a Corps. The Burschenschaft is an organization with nationalist commitments. Admission requires at least one German grandparent. That is not the case for Corps.

    The tolerance principle is the foundation of the Corps. Membership is independent of religion, ethnicity, political, and ideological orientation. You need to attend a university that awards a doctorate.

    The Corps are at once the most traditional and the most liberal fraternities. They uphold the “conservative priniciple” in that they give satisfaction in matters of honor. They are liberal in the sense of emphasizing personal freedom.

    Members of Corps are ideologically quite diverse. Prince Bismarck was a Corps-student and so was Heinrich Heine.

    In light of these differences between Corps and Burschenschaften, may be, my membership makes more sense to you.

    In some ways, this is not dissimilar to a fraternity in the United States.

    Yes, American and German fraternities share some Masonic roots. There are two differences, however, that give the experience a different quality.

    First, there is a different selection process. American fraternities create hardship by requiring members to mistreat each other. Corps select members by requiring them to fence against outsiders.

    Because academic fencing requires a fixed distance, it is called mensur (Latin: mensura=distance). The mensur creates a bonding experience. In light of the shared experience of fear, personal differences become almost meaningless. It puts things into perspective.

    Among other differences, the generation gap secedes. It’s not just friendship for life but also across generations.

    Second, German fraternities do have much more active alumni. That moderates behavior and provides for greater continuity with respect to corporate identity and behavioral code.

    Are you saying that if you had remained an active, temple-going Latter-day Saint the mates in the Burschenschaft would still have loved you just as much despite your odd religion?

    That’s exactly what I am saying. That is what Corps are all about, the tolerance principle.

    At the time, I was a temple-going Latter-day Saint. I might have been despondent after returning from the full time mission but I was active. Among other things, I was ward mission leader and gospel essentials teacher. We baptized over thirty people that year, one of whom became a bishop in Lagos.

    My Corps-brothers were not concerned about me being Mormon. Nor did they mind that I did not drink. I established clear expectations the first minute I met them and it has not been a problem.

    I suppose you meant the comment about “reciprocating” to be a dig at the Church.

    I can see why you would think that but I didn’t.

    I was thinking about working on campaigns and citizen committees where you can get rewarded but you have to hassle not only for the cause but also for yourself. In the Corps that isn’t necessary . . . at least not in my case.

    Of course, if one requires immediate reciprocity then it’s not about community but merely another market interaction. That describes many campaigns. On the other hand, no community can survive systemic exploitation and free riding. Corps work in that respect.

    That’s an indicator of a quality organization that recruits and produces thoughtful and considerate individuals.

    Finally, I was surprised to see you making a point of how “underprivileged people” join the Church.

    Hadn’t you enquired about the careers of Mormons in Europe then I would not have made the point. In the context of your question, that’s a relevant observation. Unless we control for people’s initial position, an inter-Atlantic comparison of careers makes no sense.

    That seems out of character for you.

    You only see one aspect of me at the bloggernacle. I am not only member of a fencing fraternity but also an army officer. My father and my grandfather were officers. (My five year old son reported, however, that he will not become a soldier because he might die.)

    I am a conservative in the sense of Count Tocqueville and Dietrich Bonhoefer. I am a liberal in the sense of Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Lord Acton.

    Though I do understand that individual sacrifice is necessary in the service of a greater good, I do not subscribe to the notion of American conservatives that an organization’s rights trumps human rights.

    Humans are mammals. We are an altricious species, meaning that our offspring requires nurture, which cannot be consistently provided unless political institutions support children and parents. Therefore social democracy can make essential contributions to public policy.

    I also understand that rent seekers will abuse the nurturing properties of the state and find libertarian concerns in that regard legitimate.

    Whether a polity needs to move into a social democratic or libertarian direction is a matter of context. It depends on the particular shortcomings of a state at a given time.

    That has been the conservative position held by men as disparate as Bismarck and Bonhoeffer. It is no accident that both were Corps students.

    Hellmut, mostly I wish you’d forgive your mission president and come back. But after that, I wouldn’t mind hearing more about being a Mormon in that setting. Far out.

    Thanks for your good wishes, Jonathan.

    I did not leave the LDS Church over mission problems.

    The reason I am mentioning the mission experience is that for some of us, it has been a career buster for reasons other than opportunity costs.

    I am not bearing a grudge against my mission president. It’s not his fault that I and other Germans have had bad experiences. The causes are institutional and cultural. It’s not about individuals but a systemic problem.

    As for coming back, I only left Mormonism when I found out about the September Six. Punishing scholars for their work is neither compatible with my values nor my obligations.

    While this choice was not about me, it did have the salutary effect that I could finally make sense of my experience. Given that my friends from young men’s have arrived at almost identical interpretations of their own mission experiences, I am fairly confident about my conclusions.

    But I think many of us in many European countries have hopes and are planting the seeds for a more enabled newer generation of LDS people to make a difference in our respective societies, even while others consider that courtship rather than scholarship drives European member interaction (BTW, IMO that was such an inconsiderate comment, Hellmut…).

    I am sorry for being inconsiderate, Rascal. I did not look at it as either or. I just wanted to describe pan-European Mormon interactions. Ronan said there were none. I said that there is a little bit among young adults.

    When I was a young adult, courtship was important to me. It’s a huge problem for active Mormons. Hence I did not consider that people might interpret my statement as denigrating.

  50. Hellmut: Just so you know. It may be that your mission experience was a spiritual downer because you were turned off by the mass-marketing methods in your mission. Whatever the reason — we miss you. You may not need us LDS anymore, but we need you! We need thoughtful, spiritually sensitive individuals like you. As for the Sept. 6, I knew them all and there various situations at that time I think I could give a different perspective that may place that action in a different light for you. Of course, it may be all water under the bridge for you as well. In any event, I sure wish that folks like you could stay with the Church in Germany. If all those who have your perspective leave then no change is possible an we are impoverished by the loss of perspective. Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.

  51. Ronan: J Stapely is right, that is the work of Paulsen’s that I had in mind. Besides, Sterling was my friend and I liked him. That made his naturalistic theology of Mormonism much more meaningful to me.

  52. Hellmut Lotz rocks!

  53. Jonathan M. says:

    This is all very interesting.
    Just a note on LDS barristers in the UK, a search of the site (I think it’s LDS four RM’s in England who have qualified as barristers, (and listed their occupation as such), since 2000. I also happen to know of three other LDS barristers in England, although one now practices as a solicitor. How many of these are currently ‘active’ I do not know.

    If one were to include solicitors, and those non-lawyers holding law degrees,additionally including those currently pursuing law degrees, I would be genuinely surprised if there were not at least a hundred individuals who fall within one of these categories currently active in the Church.

    Given that there are probably only 35,000-40,000 active members over the age of twenty-one I think that’s quite impressive. On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful that the numbers are not much greater (do we really want a Church full of lawyers?!).

    In terms of university teaching…I think the numbers of members in the UK who have taught/are currently teaching at university-level is more likely to be counted on three or four hands, than on less than one. However, I have not heard of any UK-born and raised members who have attained full professorships there. Some have done so at BYU. For example,Noel Owen,Prof. of Chemistry, the late Arthur Henry King, Prof. of English, and Peter Bates,Prof. of Mathematics (who I believe is now at Michigan State; I do not know what his current relationship with the Church is).

    Also, I believe I read somewhere that Prof.Fred Buchanan,well-known in Mormon history circles, a formerly at the U of U was born in Scotland.

    I could go on (there is a thesis waiting to be written by someone on the emergence of a Mormon middle-class in the UK), but suffice to say, if one looks at the occupations declared by RM’s living in the UK on the above mentioned site what is striking is: the number of schoolteachers, Police Officers, Engineers,and those working in IT, that are listed.

  54. i don’t think it has anything to do with differences between US mormons and their european/UK counterparts. rather, it has more to do with the rigid social and conservative structures in place in europe and to a lesser extent in the UK, compared to the liberalism of the US. hence, one is likely to find not just mormons, but all sorts of diverse folk in high-up positions in the US. sure, there are many more (even as a %) LDS CEOs, law firm partners, politicians etc in the US compared to Europe/UK, but the same probably applies for lesbians, blacks, and new agers! think about how many black lawyers, judges, politicians there are in the US compared to Europe.

    the US is much more of a meritocracy where one’s ability (rather than color, sex, religious affiliation etc) counts for a lot. getting ahead in Europe is all about one’s class. people will only hire those who behave and look like them. sure, this happens stateside too, but to a much lesser extent.

    as for the mission thing. i finished A levels wanting to serve a mission. i didn’t go when i was 19 because my family are not LDS and wanted me to go to uni. so, i did their bidding and went to uni for 3 yrs. once i was finished though, i put in my papers. i served a fantastic mission in italy which i can definitely say was the best experience of my life.

    but this is how the UK system was, at least back in the mid 90s. my final year of uni i applied to law school, specifically, the inns of court law school in london – which at the time was the only school in england for the training of would-be barristers. i sat a day long multiple choice entry exam and attended two interviews. i was accepted to the school – 1 of only about 800-1000 people out of all the law grads in England to get in. i was also offered a scholarship to cover half the tuition fees. however, the desire to serve a mission burned deep and as my final year at uni came to an end, i decided to submit my papers. my bishop told me i would need to save up X amount of money before i could leave, which i did and am proud of.

    the problem was this – i graduated in july 94, but didn’t leave for the mission until the next may (95) (the time it took to save money and get in my papers, plus the prep time between call and departure) – that meant that i would not be able to attend the inns of court law school until Sept 97! and i’d applied in early 94 to begin in Sept 94! a 3 (not 2) year gap. i asked the school for a deferal and they said i could have up to 1 year only. that didn’t work, so i chose the mission instead – what a great choice that was.

    i reapplied when i came back (since it could not be done while i was on the mission) but this time they were not interested. i ended up doing odd jobs for 2 years to save up the money to attend BYU law school and came here in late 99.

    here in the US i still get asked why i took a 5 yr gap between undergrad in the UK and law school here (esp by prospective employers). when i explain it was because i did an LDS mission i nevertheless get funny looks, even by older RMs, who all think that we can just finish school, do a yr at uni, go straight on a mission, and then be back in school, with about a 2 and a 1/2 yr gap at the most. it amazes me how many US based potential missionaries are not asked to take time out to work to save up money to go on a mission.

    i’m proud of what i did, but even LDS employers here seem suspicious of the non traditional more than 2 yr gap.

    it’s not as easy and straightforward for us in the UK. but you know what, we make the sacrifice and do it.

  55. My experience is that Mormon scholarship, if that’s what we’re talking about, has more to do with church culture than anything else. In most places in Europe, church culture is different. (Frankfurt and parts of the UK may be exceptions.) It takes on a different form, and everyone is aware of it. (The profusion of Utard missionaries and odd messages coming from the Mother Ship reinforce that difference.) I think that esoteric discussions about which star Kolob might be would be seen as very American somehow. I know that my attempts to talk about elements of church history with intelligent young people have been met with less hostility (as they might be in the US) than indifference and amusement.

    Another issue is that most of Europe has or has had a state religion, and an active and overt participation outside of that religion made public life difficult. That has changed in the last 20 years in many parts of north-western Europe, but the residue of discrimination will take a generation to wear off. We have a very senior lawyer in our ward who says she could not have dreamed of her current government position fifteen years ago.

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