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Mormonism 201 Years On: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 201 years after Joseph Smith’s first revelation (9th Leiden Symposium on New Religiosity)

Monday 29 March 2021
Online via Microsoft Teams

Attend via this link.


19.30 Welcome
19.35 Prof.dr. Wouter van Beek: Mormonism: A Transforming Religion
20.10      Discussion
20.35      Break
21.00      Elder Brian Ellis and Elder Neo van Damme: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: A Living Faith
21.25      Discussion

The symposium is hosted by the Leiden Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR). The symposium is public and free.

More information?
Contact Markus A. Davidsen (m.davidsen@hum.leidenuniv.nl) for more information.

From Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Stevenson, 1893), 21
A 1893 engraving by Edward Stevenson of the Angel Moroni delivering the Golden Plates to Joseph Smith in 1827.


Prof.dr. Wouter van Beek
Mormonism: A Transforming Religion

Abstract. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a relative newcomer on the scene of Christian denominations in the world, but has already a history of two centuries, with 2020 marking the 200 years anniversary of the initial revelation of its founder, Joseph Smith. Most of that history was in the USA and, turbulent as it was, mirrors the dynamics of US history in general. From the start the ‘Mormon’ message was an American one, with the New World taking a special place in salvific history: a new prophet, a new holy land and a fresh Zion, and above all additional Scripture, all American. This attempt at establishing a Christian theocracy, plus the unprecedented turn to polygamy, put the new church at variance with its cultural and political environment. At the turn of the 19th century, the struggle to find its place in America led to the first transition, when both the geopolitical claims of the church and polygamy were relinquished and the church became an American denomination. In the 20th century the church went into a second transformation when the notion of ‘gathering in Zion’ transformed into world-wide expansion, and from its Utah core the LDS Church entered a pathway of establishing itself throughout the world. Despite these transformations, which were reflected in theological discourse, the Church managed to retain its identity as the restoration of original Christianity. Missionizing – among Christians – has been and still is an important tool for both self-definition and growth. Though at present more than half of the members live outside the US, the church still is characterized by a geographical heartland in the American West that dominates a tightly run top-down ecclesiastical organization. The third transition, under way and debated, is internationalization, the challenge to adapt to different cultural realities in the world.

Bio. Wouter van Beek is emeritus professor anthropology of religion in Tilburg and senior researcher at the Africa Study Centre in Leiden. He has carried out extensive fieldwork in Mali and Cameroun and published widely on indigenous African religion. About the Latter-day Saints he has published a series of articles as ‘participant expert’, in particular on the European situation, and he is permablogger on the LDS blog Times and Seasons.

Elder Brian Ellis and Elder Neo van Damme
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: A Living Faith

Abstract. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is among the newest widespread religions in the world. A large portion of the growth of the church is due to the missionaries that it sends. The majority of the missionaries are relatively young (18-22 years old) and can be sent to nearly any corner of the earth. As they go about their work, the missionaries spread their unique message about Jesus Christ. Though not widely understood, they attempt to share the news of the restored gospel, modern-day prophets, and a new book of scripture called The Book of Mormon. With all of its challenges, being a missionary is a great trial of faith. Above all, the missionaries work to help others and to follow the example of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry the best that they can. Through these efforts, the missionaries try to bring others unto the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bio. Brian Ellis is a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has served in areas in both the Netherlands and Belgium. Before his mission, he studied for one year at the University of California Berkeley, majoring in undeclared-engineering. In his free time, he liked to work with cars, tinker with electronics, and spend time with friends. However, he set all of those pursuits aside to leave for two years and serve as a missionary for his church. 

Bio. Neo van Damme is a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Coevorden, the Netherlands. He was serving in Suriname before he got back and furthered his service in the Netherlands and Belgium. Before his Mission he was working full-time at a stonemasonry to get the money to go on his Mission. He likes to spend his free time playing football, meeting with friends and listening to music. When done with his Mission he is going to study technical business (technische bedrijfskunde) in Groningen at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Hanzehogeschool).

Previous Leiden symposia on New Religiosity

2012: Hekserij in Holland
2013: Identity and Tradition in Contemporary Paganism
2014: New Forms of Sacrality in the Netherlands
2015: Playing with Religion
2016: Elves, Spirits, and Aliens: Superhuman Entities in New Religions
2017: What Cards and Coins Reveal: Divinatory Techniques in the Netherlands
2018: Stories of the Supernatural: Encounters with the Other Side in Literary and Everyday Narratives
2019: The Paranormal: Experiences and Experiments
2020: Mormonism 200 Years On: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 200 years after Joseph Smith’s first revelation – postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19

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