News Release

McGill’s Annual Latter-day Saint Lecture Addresses Globalization

Latter-day Saint scholar focusses on Church growth in the Philippines

Globalization was the subject of the annual McGill Latter-day Saint academic lecture series on October 20, 2022. The series, celebrating its eighth year, was made possible by a partnership between McGill University’s School of Religious Studies and the Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Professor Daniel Cere welcomed participants to the lecture series on behalf of the School of Religious Studies. The lectures have been taking place since 2014, and Cere noted that the school has been happy to collaborate in their production.

Professor Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was the invited guest speaker.

Maffly-Kipp’s lecture reviewed the explosive growth of the Church since World War II in far-off places such as the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What could account for the surge of interest in and commitment to a religion that was organized just one century earlier in the United States?

Focussing on the Philippines, Maffly-Kipp drew parallels between the growth of Latter-day Saints in the United States and in the Philippines as both groups strove to become more firmly accepted by mainstream America. In the case of the American Latter-day Saints, this meant abandoning polygamy at the end of the 19th century and becoming model American soldiers during World War II.

Maffly-Kipp noted that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began unofficial missionary activity in the Philippines in the 1940s, when the Utah-headquartered church was solidifying its concerted assimilation into American society. Maffly-Kipp’s lecture explored the interconnections between Latter-day Saint Americanization in the United States and Americanization by Filipino society in the Philippines. She offered some insights into what the study of the Philippines might tell us about the internationalization of the Church.

In the Philippines, early members idealized the American Latter-day Saint soldiers and, later, the missionaries who shared the gospel with them, who were in the process of becoming model Americans by virtue of the Latter-day Saint values of honesty, cleanliness, healthy living and patriotism. These trends have persisted to the current day despite a gradual waning of direct American influence in the politics and lives of average Filipinos. Today, two-thirds of Church members in Asia are in the Philippines.

Maffly-Kipp highlighted prominent women in the Church’s early days in the Philippines. Sister Maxine Grimm held casual home meetings that built fellowship and faith and inspired a generation with songs she played on her portable organ. Sister Ping Batchelor was an avid Church spokesperson who shared her testimony widely and opened many doors for future growth.

The talk was received well by those in attendance. Associate professor Hillary Kaell of McGill Religious Studies said, “Professor Maffly-Kipp’s thought-provoking lecture ... introduced the topic with a light touch and humanized the role of individuals in this process, including very impressive [Latter-day Saint] women.”

Currently, over 830,000 Latter-day Saints worship in 1,256 congregations in the Philippines. Missionaries serve in 23 missions across the country. Most missionaries are under the age of 25, and all fund their own missions and serve voluntarily without pay. Globally, more than 53,000 full-time missionaries are serving in 411 missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read the article in French.

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