Clifford Geertz is the last thinker discussed in the series here. This is not necessarily to imply that his approach is the best. However, his understanding of religion as a cultural system may be especially useful for understanding Mormonism and Mormon identity.
Like many of the thinkers featured here, Geertz was also an anthropologist. One begins to wonder of the study of religion is just a subset of anthropology, like economics, family, or medicine. However, Geertz sees religion as something more foundational. Religion, he insists, is a part of a cultural system of symbols that conditions people to think, feel and act in certain ways. It is both a world view and an ethos that combine to affect emotions, morals, beliefs. Thus, religions form a system of meaning.
What would Geertz have to say about Mormonism? Certainly, our history and theology have combined to create a peculiar Mormon culture. Frequently, we hear criticisms that aim to separate the “gospel” from “Mormon culture.” Can this actually happen? If religion is a cultural system, can aspects of that culture be easily discarded, especially in a centralized religion such as our own? See this earlier discussion. What is Mormonism as a culture? Is it the religion itself, or is it separable?
This is my last post. I have enjoyed the time I spent here, though regretably I didn’t make the most out of it! Thanks to the T&S powers that be for allowing me to spend some time here.