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Jo Ann Barnett "Jan" Shipps (born 1929) is an American historian specializing in Mormon History, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century to the present. Shipps is generally regarded as the foremost non-Mormon scholar of the Latter Day Saint movement, having given particular attention to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her first book on the subject was Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition published by the University of Illinois Press. Recently, The University of Illinois Press published her book Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons, in which she interweaves her own history of Mormon-watching with 16 essays on Mormon history and culture.
Career as a scholar
Shipps has a Ph.D. in history. She taught at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for many years and is now professor emeritus of history and religious studies. Her interest in Mormonism was sparked when she lived briefly with her young family in Logan, Utah in the 1950s, graduating from Utah State University in 1961. A lifelong practicing Methodist, Shipps is widely respected in Mormon historical circles, as well as secular historical circles, for her ability to understand Mormonism on its own terms while maintaining sufficient distance as an outsider. Shipps served as a senior editor of The Journals of William McLellin, 1831-1836, the earliest extended account of the Mormon experience. She was the first non-Mormon and the first woman elected president of the Mormon History Association. Her articles about the Latter-day Saints have been published in a number of both academic and popular journals, and she speaks frequently about Mormonism to both Mormon and non-Mormon audiences.
Theories and arguments
Shipps has studied how perceptions of Mormons have changed over time and the process by which Latter-day Saints have gained a sense of distinctive self-identity. She has established academic standards for the use of the terms Latter Day Saint, Latter-day Saint and Mormon for the various churches and movements that trace their origins back to Joseph Smith, Jr. Her scholarship has brought attention to the "doughnut syndrome"; cases where histories of the Western United States ignore or give superficial treatment to the history of Utah territory, Mormonism and Mormon colonization. This syndrome, Shipps argues, may be due to the fact that Utah and Mormon history is dramatically different from the settlement of the rest of the West. While Western history usually emphasizes the individualistic, universalistic nature of early Western U.S. society, the settlement of the Utah Territory was characterized by ordered and communal societies.
In her 2000 book Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons, Shipps documents what she calls, "the gathering of the scattered and the scattering of the gathering". Shipps details how the LDS church changed its central gathering point from Utah to local stakes anywhere in the world as spiritual, cultural and physical gathering points.
Since retiring from her career as a professor, Shipps continues to write about Mormon history and consults with journalists about news on Mormonism. In 2005 she gave a paper on Mormonism as a global religion at a conference commemorating Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., held at the Library of Congress. She also keynoted an April 2007 conference in Arkansas honoring early Mormon apostle Parley P. Pratt. The conference marked the sesquicentennial of Pratt's 1857 murder and the bicentennial of Pratt's birth.
Shipps has long been an avid promoter of scholarly associations. She has served as president of the Mormon History Association (1979–80), the John Whitmer Historical Association (2004–05) and the American Society of Church History (2006).
- Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. 1987. ISBN 0-252-01417-0
- Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons. 2000. ISBN 0-252-02590-3 – collected essays
- with Welch, John W. The Journal of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836. 1994.
- with Silk, Mark. Religion and Public Life in the Mountain West: Sacred Landscapes in Transition (Religion by Region Series, #2). 2004. ISBN 0-7591-0626-6
- Howard R. Lamar, Richard L. Bushman, Donald Worster, Jan Shipps. Collected Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lectures. Merrill Library, 2004.
- Gerald D. Nash, Eugene England, Dean L. May, Jan Shipps, James B. Allen. Twentieth Century American West: Contributions to an Understanding. 1994.
- Full name from Shipps, Jan (2000). Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-252-02590-7. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
- Shipps, Jan (Spring 1982). "An "Insider-Outsider" in Zion". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (1): 138–161. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Jan Shipps (Retired)". IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI: Faculty & Staff Directory. Indiana University. 2011-02-21.
- See also: Symbolic annihilation
- "Past MHA Presidents". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2008-07-22.