Faculty: Fenella Cannell, Department of Anthropology
Research Assistant: Kasia Micklem, Department of International History
This research project focuses on current political and religious developments centred in Utah. It will track key themes relating to religious and political free speech in the United States, through the lens of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
The complex and far-reaching changes in grassroots American politics under Trump and after, especially since the assault on the Capitol (January 6th, 2020) have an important and as yet under-recognised LDS dimension. Within the predominantly Republican-voting state of Utah the LDS Church leadership’s constitutionalism has seen a challenge from radical libertarian Utahans, including both those with religious breakaway theologies, and a wider group whose concerns include issues to do with farmers’ rights, as well as complex and diffuse prophetic and conspiracy theories which are both part of those nationally circulating in the US and yet also seem to be occurring in specific LDS variations. Meanwhile, many Utah voters have apparently been divided between their party loyalties and their concerns about both the political and personal directions of Trumpism and its correlates.
Information about how this situation is perceived and experienced by ordinary members of the church is currently very limited. The project will shed light on these complex changes by collecting and collating data from published sources, and from open-ended interviews with ordinary people in Utah, including students.