Mediating Mormonism: The Book of Mormon in Mormon Culture and Cognition


The dissertation proposed is an effort to further the development of an overarching model of the “textual mediation of culture and cognition” through an initial interdisciplinary case study of the dialectical relationship which has existed between the Book of Mormon and Mormonism since the publication of the former and the founding of the latter in 1830.
As currently conceived, the analysis will proceed in three parts. Part One will set the scene by laying out the theoretical background of the study and the historical background on Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. With these basic perspectives and facts in hand, Part Two will move in two opposite directions, conducting first an “imagined community” analysis which examines the ways in which the Book of Mormon has participated in the “social construction of Mormon realities” (text → context), and then an “interpretive community” analysis which examines the ways in which Mormonism has participated in the “social construction of Book of Mormon textualities” (context → text). Finally, Part Three will resolve this “Hegelian contradiction” by reconceptualizing both the issues and insights of Part Two in terms of: (1) textual mediation of Mormon culture (group habits of thought ↔ individual habits of thought); (2) textual mediation of Mormon cognition (individual habits of thought ↔ individual episodes of thought); and (3) textual mediation of Mormonism (group habits of thought ↔ individual episodes of thought). The conclusion will suggest how these three can be regimented as facets of one total phenomenon, the “textual mediation of Mormon culture-and-cognition”.
To the extent it is successful, the proposed study will: (1) promote a paradigm shift already underway by documenting the insufficiency of “social construction of reality” and “social construction of textuality” approaches to “myth” and the necessity of a “textual mediation” approach; (2) provide a basis for future studies of textual mediation both by contributing to our understanding of exactly what is happening when a text functions mythically and by serving as a prototypical analysis; and (3) shed light on the historical phenomenon that is Mormonism.