To fulfill its commitment to advance research on Mormonism outside the United States, Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Global Mormon Studies has awarded several oral history grants and research grants. These grants provide support for various expenses incurred in the production of data and research, such as travel, field work, equipment, translation, transcription, child care, research assistance and publication expenses.
2020 Award Winners
Through a generous gift from the Smith Pettit-Foundation, Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Global Mormon Studies granted funding to two oral history project among Latter-day Saints
Amaechi Okafor, Nigeria
Okafor spent two months in 2020 gathering fifteen oral histories with Latter-day Saints near Ibadan, Nigeria. Three of the oral history interviews were filmed, thus enabling us to craft mini-documentaries out of the interviews. See here to view the mini-documentary of one of these interviewees, who migrated to Nigeria from Sierra Leone. The Mormonism and Migration Project features these mini-documentaries, as well as profiles with links to the fifteen oral history interviews conducted in Nigeria. They can be found by clicking on the pins in and around Nigeria on the Mormonism and Migration Project map. The oral histories are also available through the Claremont Global Mormon Oral History Collection at the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.
Sarah Bybee Fisk conducted five interviews with Bolivian Latter-day Saints in 2020. Because of the pandemic, she utilized online conferencing to conduct these interviews, which are being transcribed into Spanish and translated into English. These interviews will be available through the Claremont Global Mormon Oral History Collection at the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.
2019 Award Winners:
Through a generous gift from the Smith-Pettit Foundation, Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Global Mormon Studies granted funding to two oral history projects among Latter-day Saints.
Amanda Talbot Tew, Nicaragua
Tew spent several weeks in Nicaragua in 2019 gathering seventeen oral history interviews. She transcribed these interviews into Spanish and then translated them into English. The audio recordings, Spanish transcriptions, and English translations are now in the process of being archived in the Claremont Global Mormon Oral History Collection at the library of the Claremont Colleges. These documents and audio files will ultimately be available through the Claremont Colleges Digital Library so that researchers all over the world can examine and analyze these primary sources as they study the church and its members in Latin America.
Stephanie Natolo and Michelle Natolo, Australia
Natolo and Natolo, two native Australian academics with interests in Mormon Studies, spearheaded the second oral history project. They gathered ten oral histories with Latter-day Saints in Australia, transcribing them into English. These oral histories are also in the process of being archived in the Claremont Global Mormon Oral History Collection and will eventually be available on the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.
2018 Award Winners:
Russell Stevenson, Tyson and Ashley Maughan, Nick Galieti, and Alvan Obichie, “The House of Obinna”
This documentary project offers a distinctive contribution to understanding the experiences, identity, and spirituality of Nigerian Saints through the lens of the family of Anthony Obinna, the first Latter-day Saint priesthood holder in Nigeria. Beginning in the early 1950s, Nigerian independent Christian groups began to solicit Latter-day Saint church missionaries, materials, and official integration into the American Latter-day Saint ecclesiastical network. The most widely known among them is Anthony Obinna, a school teacher in the Mbaise village network. After experiencing a series of visions and establishing contact with LDS church officials, he began to hold independent meetings with his family. This film will situate the Obinnas—and Nigerian Latter-day Saints, writ large—at the center of their narrative, liberated from the bounds placed upon them by American Latter-day Saint popular mythology.
Amy Hoyt, “Women, Religion and Transitional Justice in Africa: LDS, Catholic and Muslim Women”
This project aims to examine transitional justice in South Africa and Rwanda through the lens of gender and religion, specifically comparing Latter-day Saint, Catholic and Muslim women’s experiences with forgiveness and reconciliation after national conflict. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa and the gacaca courts in Rwanda have used reconciliation models, or transitional justice, in order to attempt to heal the collective psyches of their nations. The literature is rich with comparisons between these two models, yet research is lacking in analyzing women’s experience within these models, and there is no research to date that examines how women’s religious beliefs affect them within these reconciliation models. This project set out to answer two general questions: what are women’s experiences within transitional justice models? Does religious belief change women’s experience of transitional justice? This project makes an impact on the wider field of women and religion and contributes to the literature on gender and peace studies.
Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Laurie Maffly-Kipp, “Global Mormonism: Theory and Case Studies from East Asia”
This book project uses a combination of broad theoretical analysis and focused case studies and to break new ground in research on Mormonism as a global religious phenomenon. Asia, the home of the vast majority of the world’s people, has been perceived as the most enticing prospect for Protestant evangelization since the nineteenth century. Today, the church’s regional headquarters and temple in its “Asia Area” have been established in Hong Kong, but the project of cultivating local Mormon communities in the region remains highly variegated, challenging, and dynamic. The cutting-edge research in this volume examines the homogenizing and heterogenizing processes unfolding simultaneously within Mormonism’s centralized bureaucracy and local congregations.
Melanie Riwai-Couch, “The Influence of Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Young People Aged 14-18 in Aotearoa, New Zealand”
Presented as a series of case studies, this research considers the impact of attending early morning seminary, mid-week mutual activities and Sunday services on LDS young people’s attitudes towards schooling, family relationships, future career, and aspirations. The case studies also include youth perspectives about self-esteem, identity, gender-roles, sexuality, and leadership. Interviewed youth identify as Maori, New Zealand European, New Zealand born Pacific Islander, and immigrants to New Zealand. This research provides a qualitative measure of the positive and negative impacts of church participation and membership on young people during their formative years.
John P. Bartkowski, “The Sinner, the Saint, and the Making of Hawaiian Mormonism”
This project generates a comparative portrait of two iconic figures in Mormon Hawaiian history. Walter Murray Gibson (1822-1888) emigrated to Hawaii from the mainland U.S. and founded a Latter-day Saint community on the island of Lanai. He was later excommunicated from the LDS Church for various misdeeds, but he continued to exercise immense political influence. Hamana Kalili (1882-1958) was a native Hawaiian and devout Mormon from the small LDS town of Lā’ie on the Island of Oahu. Kalili is celebrated for his community service, hard work, and the shaka (hang loose) hand sign famous throughout Hawaii. This study uses insights from interpretive biography to examine the sharp contrasts between the respective arcs of these two men’s lives and collective memory to analyze how each has been subsequently characterized by Latter-day Saints. The rival archetypes of Gibson as a migrant Hawaiian sinner and Kalili as a native Hawaiian saint advances current understandings of Polynesian and global Mormonism.
Brittany Romanello, “Undocumented Latina Mothers’ Social and Parenting Experiences in Mormonism”
This project evaluates how gender, ethnicity, and undocumented motherhood exist together in the Mormon faith. Romanello interviewed about thirty undocumented Latina LDS mothers about their parenting and social experiences in pan ethnic, Spanish, or Portuguese speaking Latinx congregations. Respondents were recruited from California, Utah, and Nevada. Using gender theory, this project explores how these Latina LDS mothers conceptualize belonging while navigating intersectional societal disadvantage.
Ryan A. Davis, “Los Mormones in Spain: Popular Literature and Public Opinion”
This project focuses on representations of Mormonism in popular literature and the public sphere (periodicals and television) in twentieth century Spain. Through textual analysis, Davis identifies the themes, plots, and characterization of Mormonism in Spanish novels, situating them in relation to both Spanish popular literature from the twentieth century and representations of Mormonism in other national literatures. This project is the first of its kind to study representations of Mormonism in Spanish literature and promises to enrich understanding of the emerging story of global Mormonism.
Spencer P. Greenhalgh, “Every Nation, Kindred, Tongue, and “Tweeple”: International Use of the #ldsconf and #twitterstake Twitter Hashtags”
Both Mormonism and the Internet are worldwide phenomena, but the existing scholarly work on “Mormon Twitter” has implicitly focused on English-language activity concentrated in the United States. The aim of this study is to describe the international use of two Twitter hashtags associated with LDS General Conference: #ldsconf and #twitterstake. In particular, Greenhalgh answers the following research questions about these hashtags: How much participation comes from outside the United States? Which countries (other than the United States) are most represented? Which languages are most represented in international participation? What Mormon identities are expressed by international participants? An explicit focus on international participants promises to lend further insight into the diversity of identity present in these spaces—both in terms of how orthodox Mormonism is translated into other cultures and how members of other cultures push back on what is accepted as orthodox Mormonism.
Alison Halford, “From Mormonism to the ‘Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?’ Navigating American Exceptionalism and Regional Practices in a Global Religion”
This project explores how European Mormon women differentiate between American culture and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in order to understand what “gospel culture” means to congregations outside of North America. In studying the negotiations of Greek, Swedish, and English Latter-day Saint women, we can identify the scale of mobilization against Americanized forms of worship, ideals, and practices to generate a gospel culture. This will generate a body of work that shows to what extent European women are reproducing a gospel culture that is informed by regional practices and raises question on the role piety has in resisting Utah imperialism.
Holly Miller Jones, “Regional Interpretation of Gender by Temple Patrons of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
Until the recent changes, the temple endowment ritual of the LDS church, arguably the most central and significant ritual for church members, included several ritualized differences based on gender. Some patrons view these gendered differences in a positive light, but other patrons view these differences with ambiguity or negatively, finding ways to reconcile these meanings with their loyalty to the church and understanding of God. This study aims to determine how women in Fiji, a country which ranks high on the Gender Inequality Index, understand the recent changes and the past and present gendered differences in the temple ceremony compared to European-descended women in New Zealand, a country which ranks relatively low in the Gender Inequality Index.
Jason Palmer, “Sacred Places Between Holy Cities: Mormon Migration Across Peru and Utah”
This project explores how the incursion of Mormonism into Latin America creates regimes of power involved in global migration and exclusivity, which stand as the driving force behind a freshly viewed spiritual geography with its own holy regimes of solidarity that Mormons enact in everyday sacred place-making. For Peruvian Mormons today, this spiritual geography expresses a contradiction between the ideal of a universal Mormon identity and the reality of Peruvian Mormon existence inside a hierarchical topography of sacred places seen as geographically, genealogically, and spiritually unequal. This contradiction comes to the fore as Peruvian Mormons immigrate to their church’s historic “core” in Utah or decide to stay and build sacred place, what they call Zion, in its Peruvian “periphery.” In following a growing community of these Mormons in Arequipa, Peru for seven months and their kin in Utah for ten, Palmer explores how Mormons come to belong in both a global collective and a specific place.