A Clarification from Clayton Christensen

It is difficult for a journalist to put together a story. They often start from a position of limited knowledge and try to quickly gather information and piece it together. Combine that with the people being interviewed are not always precise with their comments. They are often caught off guard by the questions and don’t always have time to think through their answers.

This combination of circumstances can lead to misstatements,  misunderstandings, and missed nuances. It appears this misunderstanding happened in a recent article with Clayton Christensen. To correct that misunderstanding brother Christensen issued the following letter, which has been sent to several friends and groups that it may be circulated as broadly as possible.


June 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

I am writing about an article by Michael Fitzgerald, titled “How the Mormons Conquered America: The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.” It appeared a couple of days ago in a journal, Nautilus.  I am misquoted in the piece.  Fitzgerald interviewed me several months ago relative to this article. He wrote notes as we talked; he did not record our conversation.

In the article, Fitzgerald reviews the history of how the church has changed several practices, such as polygamy and ordaining blacks to the priesthood. He then refers to same-sex marriage; and in that same paragraph quoted me as saying, “… I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.” It implies that I support same-sex marriage, and that I expect that the leaders of the church in the future will agree with that position.

This is not true. I did not say this. I support wholeheartedly every phrase in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” And I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who penned that document.

I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not. Society changes its mind quite frequently. I do not believe that God changes his mind, however. When society is telling me something new, even when it has assembled powerful reasons and powerful people on its side, I do not ask society whether it is correct. I ask God.

I understand that this mis-representation of my beliefs by Mr. Fitzgerald is being widely circulated through the church. I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to anyone who you believe ought to see this – and by the fastest and most effective ways possible.  Thanks for your help!

Clayton Christensen

Belmont, MA

Call for Papers: Religion and the Book

A call for papers has been issued for “Studies in Book Culture,” an Open Access peer-reviewed journal that has been published semiannually at the University of Sherbrooke since 2009.  The call is for Volume 6, Number 2, Spring 2015, “Religion and the Book.” Guest-edited by Scott McLaren, York University.

The relationship between the written word and religion is as old as writing itself. Today all the world’s major religions lay claim to sacred texts that in turn demand a special kind of attentiveness on the part of the reader. Indeed, the emphasis that Christianity and Islam— the world’s largest religions—place on the written word is so intensive that they, together with Judaism, are often simply referred to as “religions of the book.” But just as print undoubtedly pervades religious thought and practice, so too have religious actors and communities exercised their own protracted influence over the technologies of writing and printing. When the earliest Christian communities abandoned the scroll in favour of the codex, they at once changed both the mechanics of reading and prepared the ground for monastic scribes to develop paratextual tools—tables of contents, cross-references, and indices—that today we can hardly imagine our own books without. Religious controversialists in the era of the Reformation all but sustained the publishing enterprise at a time of cultural retrenchment when they pioneered the use of inexpensive pamphlets and flysheets—among the first forms of printed ephemera—to advance their religious and denominational agendas. Bible, tract, and missionary societies also played a powerful part in supporting the growth of stereotyping and steam printing at the dawn of the nineteenth century as these organizations transformed themselves into the world’s first global publishers in a renewed era of empire. Even today texts that seem calculated to appeal directly to the religious sensibilities of readers—from William Young’s The Shack to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code—continue to achieve enormous commercial success while they discomfit mainstream cultural critics and traditional believers alike.

This special issue invites submissions in English or French that explore the relationship between religion and the book, broadly defined, in either historical or contemporary settings and from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. Articles concerned with print culture and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Asian and African religions are most welcome. Potential areas of focus include how religious communities shape and are shaped by their interactions with the written and printed word, how the privileging of print guides the development of doctrine and practice, how books reinforce as well as subvert religious power, how the marketplace for books impacts the evolution of religious identity in various geopolitical and economic spaces, how religious agents contribute to the public sphere, and how changes associated with the advent of new forms of media influence the construction of meaning and even help determine what counts as religious truth for contemporary readers.

Article proposals of approximately 250 words should be emailed before 1 October 2014 to Scott McLaren (scottm@yorku.ca), guest editor of this special number. A response will be given by 20 October 2014 following evaluation of the proposal by the editorial committee. Proposed articles that have been accepted must be submitted by 20 January 2015, at which time they will be peer-reviewed. Articles recommended for publication must be re-submitted by 30 March 2015 for publication in spring 2015.