Barriers to Sainthood: Mormon Families, Times, and Places Between Peru and Utah
- Author(s): Palmer, Jason Charles
- Advisor(s): Chavez, Leo;
- Bibler Coutin, Susan
- et al.
Employing interdisciplinary literatures on migration, kinship, race, place, and religion, this dissertation explores the literal and metaphorical establishment of a city called Zion in a zone of migration between Peru and Utah. Zion, in its Mormon instantiation, is central to the people and families who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, Zion is paradoxical because it is simultaneously exclusive and inclusive; racist and antiracist; material and spiritual; collectivist and individualist; colonialist and indigenista; and modern and antimodern. The following question drives this investigation: How do Peruvian Mormons navigate and complicate the paradox of Zion as they seek to become full Zion citizens?Ethnographic data for this investigation was gathered through three summers of preliminary research (2014, 2015, and 2016) in Peru and Utah. This was followed by two, six-month phases of full-time participant observation with Peruvian Mormon congregations, one in Salsands, Utah in 2017 and the other in Arequipa, Peru in 2018. Data took three principal forms: fieldnotes of interactions at congregational activities, photographs of these activities, and audio recordings of semi-formal interviews with people contacted through these activities. After transcribing the interviews and coding them together with the fieldnotes and photographs, patterns began to emerge that depicted Peruvian Mormons as a community engaged in a contradictory web of battles for and against inclusiveness in Zion. Each chapter in this dissertation assesses different valences of these battles as the specific Peruvians followed seek to become recognized as unambiguously “Mormon” without losing what it means to be “Peruvian.” Both of these identities, already highly unstable, merge in different ways to form a series of complexly volatile personhoods that disrupt linear time, transnationalize static space, and rupture the modern boundary that creates kinship and religion as distinguishable domains. The concepts of pioneer indigeneity and forever family are among many that emerge as essential to elucidating the paradoxical nature of these personhoods—now sainthoods—and to dissolving their unwieldy crystallization into this dissertation’s most oxymoronic subject category: Peruvian Mormon.