Sociology of the LDS Church and Its People
Major substantive areas of sociological analysis
Students become "conversant with the substantive areas of sociology and the variety of theories and research methods associated with these substantive areas," as they apply to the sociology of religion in general and the sociology of Latter-day Saint life in particular. They learn several of the "major controversies and debates, new developments, emerging issues, and current trends" as they impact the study and interpretation of Latter-day Saint life in the contemporary academic and intellectual world. Students also are helped "to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of current sociological theories and research relating to substantive areas," in this case Latter-day Saint life both historically and in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Diversity of social life, inequality, social conflict, and r
Students have direct experience in comparative analysis both at the individual and group level, in interpersonal contexts as well as in vicarious and analytical experience, whereby they learn "the limitations of extrapolating from their own experience" and confront "how the life experience of others may differ from their own," both within social categories (e.g., comparisons with the life experience of other Latter-day Saints) and across social boundaries (e.g., comparisons with members of other faiths or national populations). Students experience "how race, class, and/or gender intersect with other social categories," in this instance, religious membership or national identities, "to create a variety of life experiences." They also learn to "articulate the sources of social conflict and describe the relations of power in modern society" as they consider both the history of the often-hated minority that was the Latter-day Saints and the contemporary setting and participation of Latter-day Saint people in modern and postmodern society.
Theoretical perspectives that inform sociological analysis
Students consider the underlying assumptions and "basic ideas and arguments forming sociological inquiry" as they apply to the sociology of religious life, especially the experience of Mormon people and Mormondom generally. Conflict theory, functionalism, social psychological perspectives, demographic perspectives are all brought into play as they affect the study of Latter-day Saint culture. Special attention is paid to the differences between postmodern and modern theoretical perspectives as they impact definitions of "truth" and "reality" and as they apply to theorizing about and doing research on people's ideas of religion and transcendence.
Diversity of research methodologies
Diversity of research methodologies are illustrated; the "fit" of various approaches to the study of religious life are evaluated. This is not a methods course, but as issues of research methodology affect the confidence one can have in the findings of researchers who study Mormonism, issues of methodology are discussed and we learn to distinguish good from poor research.
Accessing, reviewing, and analyzing current sociological lit
Because our focus is social science literature on Mormonism across more than a century, the emphasis on "current" is limited, but because many of our readings and several of the "classics" students review are current, we contribute in part to awareness of the current state of social science analysis of religion, and Mormonism in particular. Students demonstrate their knowledge of substantive areas as applicable to research on LDS populations in their critiques of "classic" sociological studies of Mormonism, ideally demonstrating both the strong points and weaknesses of high quality and/or high profile studies of Mormon thought, life, and people.
Opportunities for integrating life goals and professional an
Both the advantages and the disadvantages of sociological perspectives (the plural here is important; there are many social science perspectives, and to speak of the sociological perspective is a distortion) with respect to interpreting daily life and religious life are emphasized throughout the course. Dilemmas and challenges of trying to live an integrated spiritual and successful temporal existence within contemporary societies are stressed throughout the course. Throughout, we stress the importance to the religious life of systematic, honest, and sophisticated awareness of intellectual fads and foibles, changing trends and worldviews, varying standards and assumptions, patterns of globalization and secularization. More than many sociological courses, this one is devoted to the overall aim of BYU education to integrate spiritual and secular life goals and interest, to combine professional and career interests with a more specialized awareness of how religious organizations, beliefs, and institutions fit within and change along with the wider society, and the challenges associated with the sometime conflict of individual, family, organizational and societal interests.