Former BYU professor and historian D. Michael Quinn, famous for his work about the LDS Church hierarchy and church teachings about homosexuality, will speak at Utah Valley State College tonight.
The presentation, which is scheduled from 7 to 9 in Liberal Arts Building Room 101, will be the fourth annual Eugene England Memorial Lecture and will focus on a paper Quinn wrote titled “To Whom Shall We Go? Historical Patterns of Restoration Believers with Serious Doubts.”
The lecture series was created to provide a forum for Mormon studies scholars to talk about issues related to LDS history, theology, culture and literature.
Past speakers have included BYU religion and history professor Richard Holzapfel and emeritus LDS general authority Marion Hanks.
Quinn, who is currently not associated with an education institution, has written hundreds of articles on Mormon history and eight books including “J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years,” “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View,” “The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power;” and “Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example.”
After teaching at Brigham Young University where he was once named “Outstanding Teacher” by students, Quinn was excommunicated by the LDS Church in 1993, although he has continued to proclaim his allegiance to church doctrines, according to some sources.
Quinn, who received a doctorate at Yale University and has since done additional work there, declined to comment for this article.
Holzapfel, who has known Quinn for years, said the scholar is a key figure in the area of Mormon studies.
“Anybody who is interested in Mormon history has benefited from his research and writing,” he said.
Dennis Potter, the UVSC philosophy professor and Mormon studies coordinator who arranged for Quinn to come, said he has been getting angry phone calls from people upset about his speaker selection, but he said the choice was made based on Quinn’s prestige and scholarship.
“It’s exceptionally well-argued and imaginative,” he said. “Whether or not it fits within the standards of LDS orthodoxy, each Latter-day Saint needs to determine that for (himself or herself).”
Potter said Quinn’s writing isn’t about debunking Mormon doctrine, but shows “the way certain developments in Mormon history are explainable in their social context.”
Holzapfel said some Latter-day Saints have been offended by Quinn’s work because of the humanity he shows in church leaders.
“I think that some Latter-day Saints have a special regard for their leaders, so they feel offended when someone describes them in ways they would not describe them in,” he said.
Holzapfel said church historians have made progress in collaborating with scholars from Protestant denominations in recent years, but that for some scholars, relating to dissidents like Quinn within the church is still a challenge.
“It’s easier to be nice to your neighbors than, sometimes, to be nice to your family members,” he said.
Holzapfel said he plans to attend the lecture and said Quinn seems to be exploring how to pursue the faith outside traditional paths.
“He is trying to find ‘How do I, in my search for truth, pursue my current beliefs in light of how I interpret the past?’ ” Holzapfel said.
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