Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Lesley Northup

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Oren Stier

Third Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Date of Defense



This study inquires into the institutional identity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its founding in 1830. The study takes a historical stance in discussing the relationship between American public perceptions and the Church's developing internal identity, tracing these changes through three distinct historical stages. Building on the works of historians and sociologists such as Jan Shipps, Armand Mauss, and Terryl Givens, this study hopes to contribute to the understanding of new religious movements and the progression from sect to church.

The study finds that Mormon identity and American perceptions of Mormons have had an inter-influential relationship, each responding and re-forming in turn. The LDS Church has progressed from sect to church as tensions with the host society have lessened. Currently, the Church is at an optimum level of tension with the host society, maintaining a distinct identity while enjoying conventional acceptance.





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