"The past few decades have witnessed an increasing reaction of the Mormons against their own successful assimilation," Armand Mauss writes in The Angel and the Beehive, "as though trying to recover some of the cultural tension and special identity associated with their earlier 'sect-like' history." This retrenchment among Mormons is the main theme of Mauss's book, which analyzes the last forty years of Mormon history from a sociological perspective. At the official ecclesiastical level, Mauss finds, the retrenchment can be seen in the greatly increased centralization of bureaucratic control and in renewed emphases on obedience to modern prophets, on genealogy and vicarious temple work, and on traditional family life; retrenchment is also apparent in extensive formal religious indoctrination by full-time professionals and in an increased sophistication and intensity of proselytizing.
At what he refers to as "the folk or grassroots level," Mauss finds that Mormons have generally been compliant with the retrenchment effort and are today at least as "religious" on most measures as they were in the 1960s. A sizable segment of the Mormon membership, Mauss asserts, has gone beyond "Mormon" retrenchment to express itself in a growing resort to Protestant fundamentalism, both in scriptural understanding and in intellectual style.
The author calls on a wide array of sources in sociology and history to show that Mormons, who by mid-century had come a long way from their position as disreputable "outsiders" in a society dominated by the mainline religions, seem now to be adopting more conservative ways and seeking a return to a more sectarian posture.
"Mauss's socio-historical analysis of selected transformations in the Mormon Church ... makes significant contributions to the sociology of religion. -- Sociology of Religion.