Mexico research question

April_2008_puebla-capilla-700-pixRecently a sociology graduate student in Mexico posted a question to the ASPMS list asking for pointers to articles discussing the church’s system for youth education (or CES in general), or to discussions of “institutions of socialization within the church.” He is working on a master thesis project which compares religious education among Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in a particular region in Mexico (Veracruz). He also asked for recommendations on how to make a comparison between socialization strategies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

A BYU history professor and student provided a bibliography with some relevant texts. Others pointed him to the half a dozen recent Dialogue articles on the Church in Latin America. But, even in these bibliographies, and in quick electronic searches I conducted through past issues of Dialogue, Sunstone, BYU Studies, and the Journal of Mormon History, I found surprisingly few discussions of the Church Education System. (Our “institutions of socialization” could be interpreted as including Primary, the Young Women organization, Scouts, the BYUs, etc., so there are, of course, more articles that address that wider ambit.)

Do you have any suggestions for this Mexican researcher with an interest in the academic study of Mormonism, including ideas on comparing Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses?

References he was pointed to include:

LaMond Tullis, Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1987.

Efrain Villalobos Vasques, “Church Schools in Mexico.” In F.L. Tullis, ed. Mormonism: A Faith for All Cultures. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.

“Church Education in Mexico.” Ensign 2:9 (September 1972).

Janine Boyce, “Messages from the Manuals- Twelve Years Later” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 27:2, Summer 1994 (available on line)

Stirling Adams is one of the volunteer directors of the Dialogue Foundation, publisher of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. For the latest in Mormon Studies articles, essays, fiction, and poetry, visit the Dialogue website.


  1. The Studies in Mormon History bibliography has a subject category for Mexico and Education. You might try digging around there a bit, as there looks like a lot of stuff on Mexico, let alone on CES.

  2. There may be something of that nature in Religious Educator, avilable from somewhere on BYU’s website.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    See Section 7 of the Mormon Social Science Bibliography.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Nitsav, is Religious Educator available online? I’ve only seen it in print.

  5. Almost all the academic scholarship I’ve seen on JWs is negative and somewhat superficial. Rodney Stark has written a bit on JW socialization and proselytism and a Dutch anthropologist has done some reasonably sophisticated work on the movement, but I don’t know much about formal child and adolescent education within the tradition. A great source for primary documents and a disaffected insiders’ view is likely to be available from the very responsive and pleasant folks who run

    As for CES, what about the USU folklore archives? Seems like a natural fit. Also I suspect Grant Palmer (the Mormon equivalent of ajwrb) would have lots of ideas to share about CES, though, again, this is the view of a disaffected insider. I would also have the researcher make an appointment with the head of Mexico CES just to get to know him and find out what kinds of archives might have been maintained.

  6. Kevin, they’re available here.

  7. and as for the comparison, I think JWs and LDSs are a fascinating comparison, specifically what it means to be a people of the Word and the meaning of ‘spirit’. Both use proof-texting in interesting ways, but Mormons continue (in direct antagonism to the characterization of modern Mormons as bureaucrats) to invest a surprising amount of energy in experiential religion, what is variously called “enthusiasm,” “supernaturalism,” “spirit possession,” or “the numinous.”

    They’re both considered Adventist faiths, though in their distinctive way the WBTS/JWs own the hyper-rationalism of predominant evangelicalism, while the LDS have a more complex relationship with rationalism. I see Mormonism as more metaphysical (in the sense Albanese is attempting to normalize) than JWs, though that’s not the first impression one would have from encyclicals from WBTS versus the First Presidency. I of course personally believe Mormonism, so that introduces its own set of problems for my perspective, but I would be very interested in sophisticated and sympathetic treatments of JWs.

  8. Yes it is, but the form varies, because they keep changing the person in charge of uploading it to the web. Sometimes it’s nice complete-issue PDF. Sometimes it’s picture-scan of poor quality.

    Their servers seem quite sluggish this evening, so I’ll try to post links tomorrow.

  9. The recently published volume Global Mormonism in the 21st Century (edited by Reid Neilson and published by the RSC) contains some essays on LDS education initiatives, though I don’t know if it specifically addresses Mexico.

  10. I just found the following two PhD dissertations that look useful and relevant:

    Fortuny Loret de Mola, Maria Patricia. “On the Road to Damascus: Pentecostals, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University College London, 1995.

    Johnson, Clark V. “Mormon Education in Mexico: The Rise of the ‘Sociedad Educativa y Cultural.'” Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1977.

    For some reason, I can’t access Proquest right now to see if they’re available there, but they should be helpful.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the Religious Educator link! I was not aware that was available online.

  12. If you would like more REAL and accurate info about Jehovah’s Witnesses on the web be sure to check out the official web site at

  13. #12 – Excellent point. If we want others to ask us about us, we should do the same for them.

  14. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 5

    I don’t think it’s accurate to compare Grant Palmer to the people at AJWRB. Does Palmer run a reformist web site? (If so, please direct me to it!) Does he advocate an equivalent change in policy such as eliminating the WoW?

  15. On my 5 and the 12-14, I believe I have correctly represented both groups, suggesting that the MA student consider disaffected members of both religious communities (and assuming that the standard face of the two movements is represented on their official websites), and suggesting that Palmer’s book was meant as a manifesto for a particular reading of a central aspect of Mormonism just as the AJWRB (many of them still actively involved in WBTS) are agitating for a particular reading of a central aspect of WBTS.
    Both the LDS and the WBTS have a complex history of interactions with scholars and news media that may make it worthwhile for an outsider uninterested in personal conversion to consult with disaffected members.

  16. Religious Educator is also available here.

  17. I don’t have any suggestions for articles, but it would probably be worth doing some research into the history and methods surrounding the Benemerito de las Americas, the private secundaria (high school) that the Church runs in Mexico City. I served in Mexico (in Veracruz actually) with all Mexican companions. About half of them had gone to the Benemerito, and it seemed to have a profound impact on them and their future course in life.

  18. Stirling says:

    Thanks, all, for the useful pointers. The dissertations appear to be quite on point, and the web-based access to several of these bibliographies, plus Mark Grover’s 2002 bibliography “The LDS Church in Latin America” and the Religious Educator are an excellent complement to the researcher’s current resources.
    Someone associated with the Association of Spanish and Portuguese Mormon Studies will likely use info from this thread as part of a quick research primer.

  19. The photo makes me feel like I’m looking up at a cathedral in central Mexico? Where’s it from?

  20. Stirling says:

    It’s the chapel in Cholula, Puebla, built by the Spaniards on a hill which only later would people realize covered a pyramid.

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