Peruvian Mormon matchmaking

The limits of Mormon endogamy at Zion’s border

Authored by: Jason Palmer

The Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815395218
eBook ISBN: 9781351181600
Adobe ISBN:


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Mormonism seeks to unite the world through a concept called “Zion.” The universal inclusivity of Zion is paradoxical because the Mormon temple, the place where this ritual unification is thought to happen through marriage and other “sealings,” is highly exclusive. Through an ethnographic portrayal of kin-making among members of a Mormon congregation in Arequipa, Peru, who live near a temple construction site, this chapter analyzes the lived realities of Zion’s inclusive exclusivity and the broader problems these realities expose about family, tribe, and race. Led by the research question, “who gets to be included as a ‘full’ citizen of Zion?,” stories emerge from the life of one whose civil status constantly disrupts this question: a faithful, single, Peruvian, Mormon mother. As she navigates the matchmaking and match thwarting of her religious community, her experiences not only exemplify the contradictions inherent to the Mormon concept of family that stem from Zion’s paradox, but they reflect the primordial tribalism that makes Zion’s religious endogamy far more complex than simply a mandate to marry a fellow Mormon.

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