Asian American Mormons: Bridging Cultures

In his famous address about those of “the last wagon,” J. Reuben Clark paid tribute to the Latter-day Saints who are recorded only in the margins of history, if at all. Jessie L. Embry’s Asian American Mormons grows out of a similar desire to represent the experiences of common Latter-day Saints. The third book resulting from the Redd Center’s Oral History Program, Asian American Mormons presents interviews of 108 Latter-day Saints with Asian backgrounds. Drawing from interviews conducted in Utah, British Columbia, Virginia, and California from 1991 to 1995, Embry’s book is notable in the way it provides a space for ordinary Mormons to reflect on their experiences as members of the Church.

One of Embry’s most important chapters is the first one, where she sets forth the methodology and scope of the project and explains its limitations. She clearly acknowledges that her sample is not representative: all the interviewees are active in the Church, women interviewees outnumber the men almost two to one, over two-thirds of the interviewees live in Utah, and over a third of the interviewees were students at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah or Brigham Young University–Provo. Also, no Filipinos were interviewed, even though the Church is growing quickly in the Philippines. Therefore, one must keep in mind the ways in which limited research could affect Embry’s conclusions. Still, one cannot fault the book because of the unrepresentative sample. Embry explains that the sample problems resulted from limited funds and time. Furthermore, even with unlimited resources a perfectly representative sample would be impossible.

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