Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Bozeman, T Dwight

First Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond A

Second Committee Member

Pesantubbee, Michelene E

Third Committee Member

Turner, Richard B

Fourth Committee Member

Schnell, Scott


For tens of thousands of contemporary Latter-day Saint pilgrims, the Kirtland Temple near Cleveland, Ohio, provides an opportunity to visit a place where they believe Jesus appeared and restored long-lost priesthood powers. The Kirtland Temple, however, is not owned by the LDS church. Instead, the shrine is owned by a related denomination that has doctrinally aligned itself with mainline Protestant Christianity--the Community of Christ (formerly known as the RLDS church). Members of both churches include Kirtland on pilgrimage itineraries yet have understood the site's significance in radically different ways between themselves and within their denominations over time. The Kirtland Temple provides an opportune case study for changing contestation and cooperation by multiple groups at an American pilgrimage shrine--a phenomena that I term parallel pilgrimage. Two orienting metaphors help focus my moving picture of parallel pilgrimage: proximity (how the site ”moves“ in relation to changing pilgrimage routes, new shrines, and new interest groups) and performance (plays re-enacting the history of the temple and tour scripts, along with the reception of these performances). My study works out these two themes across the last forty years of change at the Kirtland Temple. Ultimately, I draw three main conclusions in my study. First, parallel pilgrimage at Kirtland Temple reveals sacred places, not simply pilgrimage routes, as itineraries in motion, constantly contested and constantly changing. Second, acts of cooperation and contestation at Kirtland Temple have formed a dialectical relationship that allowed the site to function. Acts of contestation helped the site retain its heightened importance while acts of cooperation allowed members from various denominations to minimize potentially disruptive conflict. Finally, in a wider context, parallel pilgrimage at Kirtland Temple, with its moving alliances and contested narratives, may be seen as suggestive of how many late twentieth-century Christians negotiated a pluralistic and fragmented religious America.


Community of Christ, Mormon, Mormon Temples, Pilgrimage, Religious contestation, Shrine


xiii, 340 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 324-340).


Copyright 2010 David James Howlett

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Religion Commons