Scholars studying the Mormon past have documented the manifold ways in which external pressure—economic, political, and legal—forced Mormons to abandon their isolated quest for purity and their deep hostility toward the outside world. The power of those forces cannot be denied. Yet more subtle eroding influences were also long at work among Mormons themselves. As Mormon students gravitated to the growing universities of the United States, they began to develop extra-ecclesial and transregional loyalties to their schools, their mentors, and their disciplines. Those loyalties, wide-ranging and difficult for theologically conservative authorities to control, became engines for institutional conflict and change. Other Mormon activities—proselytizing, secular business affairs, and increasing contact with non-Mormons in the Intermountain West—encouraged a certain anti-parochialism, but nothing nourished strong, competing loyalties like studying in the American university. Yet the tensions and scars linger from this long struggle for the soul of modern Mormonism. Accordingly, after a century and a half of immersion in American higher education, genuine reconciliation between Mormon scholars and the Mormon hierarchy seems destined to elude the church until the millennium, indefinitely postponed, comes at last.
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