Mormon Studies Courses

beehiveA few years ago I came across a list of Mormon Studies courses complied by BYU professor Gideon Burton in 2008, the same year that the Claremont Graduate University started their Mormon Studies program and a year after Utah State started its program. Since it has been a few years, I thought Gideon’s list should be updated. I believe it gives a sense of how Mormon Studies is developing.

Including everything, even the many BYU religion courses and courses that just have a component that focuses on Mormonism, I count about 150 courses that include Mormonism at least briefly. But, if we look at the list below narrowly, including just those that cover only Mormonism, there are about 30, and even that list might be considered generous. [Should I include the BYU-Hawaii course on “Baton Technique and Hymnody” in Mormon Studies? It is restricted to LDS hymns!]

Even ignoring the complexity of deciding what courses count towards Mormon Studies, the list is quite fascinating. It includes courses in nearly a dozen subject areas, including, Anthropology, Biology, Communication, English, Geology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology, and others. Religious Studies courses are the most common, even if you exclude the religion courses at BYU, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii (which together account for some 93 courses. I have NOT included them in the list below). Next most common is courses in History, followed by Anthropology and English.

I haven’t been able to analyze whether or not this list represents an actual increase in the number of courses since Gideon Burton’s 2008 search, because I don’t know how thorough Gideon’s search was. I do know that my own search was clearly not thorough (I didn’t look at every college catalog in the nation), and I do NOT think that I got everything. I suspect that Gideon didn’t search all the places that I did, so I may have picked up some courses that would have been found in 2008 if the search then was more detailed. So, we simply don’t know if the number of courses is going up or not.

Preparing a list of Mormon Studies courses requires also facing a few logistical and methodological problems. Just because a course is listed in a University’s catalog doesn’t mean that it is taught every year — and in a few cases courses in the catalog never get taught. I hope, in future years, to look at class schedules as well, perhaps presenting a list of courses taught during the current term, courses taught within the past year but not in the current term, and courses currently listed in the catalog. But I haven’t got the time to do that this year, and many colleges and universities don’t allow you to go back and look at expired class schedules. I’d also like to list who is teaching the classes, but that information isn’t given in the catalogs, only on class schedules.

I have noticed that some courses Gideon found have since disappeared, and that usually seems to happen when the professor teaching the course is no longer there. That seems to be what happened to the “Mormonism and the American Experience” class taught at the Harvard Divinity School, and I’ve seen it at a couple of other places also. Even at Claremont, some classes listed below will probably disappear because Richard and Claudia Bushman have left to return to Columbia. Fortunately, this means that Columbia will now have a Mormon Studies course starting in the Spring.

The list below is NOT complete. If you know of a course that is missing, please, please point it out. I believe this list is useful, and since Gideon hasn’t updated the list, I thought it was worth doing. But I do appreciate any feedback.

Mormon Studies Courses

Brigham Young University

ANTHR 346 Anthropology of Mormonism.
BIO 347 Religion and the Environment.
BIO 370 Bioethics.
ENGL 268 Literature of the Latter-day Saints
ENGL 368 Literature of the Latter-day Saints
GEOG 245 Geography of Utah
HIST 364 Utah
HIST 375 Joseph Smith in Mormon History and Historiography
HIST 382 Mormonism in the American Experience
HIST 565 Sources and Problems in Latter-day Saint History
HIST 566 Sources and Problems in Utah History.
PHIL 215 Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
PHIL 415 Philosophy of Religion
PSYCH 353 LDS Perspectives and Psychology
SFL 100 Strengthening Marriage and Family: Proclamation Principles and Scholarship.
SOC 327 Sociology of the LDS Church and Its People.
SOC 527 Sociology of the LDS Church and Its People.
TMA 494 Transcendence: Religion and Film

Brigham Young University-Hawaii

IDS 309 Mormon Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach
MUSC 201 Baton Technique and Hymnody
EIL 215 Intermediate Church Language I
EIL 225 Intermediate Church Language IIQ

Brigham Young University-Idaho

MUSIC 185 LDS Hymns and Doctrine
RM 301 Family Recreation

Claremont Graduate University

313 Mormon Women in the 20th Century
380 Approaches to Mormonism
416 American Religion in the Time of Joseph Smith
426 The Life & Thought of Joseph Smith
424HC The Literature of Mormon Women
439HC Approaches to Mormon Scripture
441HC American Scriptures: From Thomas Jefferson to Ron Hubbard

Columbia University

Religion W4625 Contemporary Mormonism

Graceland University

RELG 3430 Restoration Scriptures
RELG 3530 Theology of the Community of Christ
RELG 5310 Community of Christ Scriptures
RELG 5320 Community of Christ Theology

Graduate Theological Union

HRHS-1850 Introduction to Mormonism
HS-4557 History of Christianity in the Pacific Region


History 1410 American Families, 1600-1900

Harvard Divinity School

Religion 1468 Religion in America: From the Coming of the Europeans to the 1870s

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

RELI 540 Mormonism and the American Experience

University of Utah

ANTH 4124/6124 Religion in Latin America
ANTH 4143/6143 Anthropology of Mormonism
HIST 4660 History of Utah
HIST 4795 Mormonism and the American Experience

University of Wyoming

RLST 3400 Religion in the American West
RLST4500-05 Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions

Utah State University

HIST 3850 History of Utah
HIST/RELS 4795 Biography, Autobiography, and Joseph Smith
HIST/RELS 6410 Special Topics in Mormon History and Culture.

Utah Valley University

PHIL3620/RLST 3620 Mormon Theology and the Christian Tradition
ANTH 3460 Anthropology of Mormonism
COMM 350R Special topics in mass communication
COMM 3870 Mormon Cultural Studies
ENGL 373R Literature of cultures and places
HIST 3260 History of Utah
ENGL 3780 Mormon Literature

Other Schools Researched:

  • Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Southern Virginia University
  • University of Alabama
  • Western Carolina University
  • Yale Divinity School

22 comments for “Mormon Studies Courses

  1. Interesting list, Kent. Thanks.

    I don’t know how far you want to take the definition of Mormon Studies, but while in law school, I took a seminar called “Religious Minorities in Supreme Court Litigation.” The class dealt with litigation around Kosher laws, around a Seventh-Day Adventist, around the Amish, and dedicated a significant amount of time to Reynolds, the case that held that the U.S. could ban polygamy. And, among other things, our readings for that section included the brief for the Church and portions of Prisoner for Conscience’ Sake, a biography of George Reynolds.

    So, if you’d be willing to include law school courses, it wouldn’t shock me to find out that there are a number of constitutional law courses that spend some time on Mormonism. (Although, FWIW, nobody teaches Davis, as far as I know.)

  2. Sam, given that many of the courses listed simply have a Mormon component as part of the course, yes, I think the course you listed should be included.

    Perhaps in the future I’ll separate out courses that are entirely about Mormonism from those that just have a Mormon component.

  3. I don’t recall that my Bioethics class at BYU had any more of a Mormon component than my other science classes. A great class, one that helped my realize I was more liberal than conservative, and a nice break from the rigors of other upper-level science classes–but if we talked about Mormonism it was very limited. I don’t know if Steve Peck does things different than my professor did; his syllabus is here:

    On the other hand, we talked about Mormonism quite a bit in Duane Jeffery’s History and Philosophy of Biology course. I believe Steve Peck’s also teaching that now–I wonder if he still spends a lot of time on Mormonism in that class.

  4. Tim, I assume that the Bioethics class you took is the same one that is listed above?

    FWIW, the reason I included it was that the course description in the catalog specifically mentions Mormonism, leading me to assume that it has a Mormon component.

    I trust readers here see that it is often very difficult to tell when a course has a Mormon component — even if you have a syllabus. [And it still seems like most courses don’t have syllabi online — at least not where it can be found easily if you aren’t taking the course.]

  5. University of Lethbridge has a course called “RELS 3051 – Mormonism”. It’s offered at the same time as another RELS class taught by the same instructor as a different course section: RELS 3051 – North American Religions, which touches on Mormonism.

  6. Kent,

    Same course, different professor.

    I’m sure Steve Peck (SteveP at BCC) would be a helpful resource here.

    I also recall discussing church history regarding science and evolution in BYU’s Evolution courses; I think Steve Peck teaches those now, and I’m not sure if he still goes into detail about it, but I think we spent a couple of days on it back when Duane Jeffery taught it.

  7. Kim (6), thanks for the tip. I’ll add them to the list.

    Tim (7), thanks.

    But, I’m not so worried about the details of BYU’s courses as I am the methods I should use in the future to determine when there is a Mormon component in a course. I don’t have an answer to that question.

  8. It is taught only in the summer semester. It might show up in the calendar as “Studies in Christianity,” but it is always the same content. Kurt Widmer teaches both classes; his research specialty is North American religions.

  9. What, pray tell, is “Intermediate Church Language?” Is that where they teach you when to stick “supernal” into one of your talks?

  10. Kim (10) I’ll look again. FWIW, Widmer doesn’t appear in the list of Religion faculty — so I assume he is either a grad student or from another department. I’ll figure it out.

    Aaron R. (11), thank you very much. I should have known Davies would get Mormonism into something he is teaching. That actually may be a strategy for finding more courses — look at the professors who write and study Mormonism a lot. OTOH, Terryl Givens doesn’t seem (from the Catalog) to be teaching any Mormon classes — although something he teaches could have a Mormon component.

    Last Lemming (12), that is a good question. It may have something to do with the fact that it is in BYU-Hawaii’s English International Language department, which kind of sounds like an ESL thing. So “Intermediate Church Language” may be for speakers of other languages?

  11. I think Kent has it right. Without knowing anything about the course in question, “Intermediate Church Language” sounds like an English for Special Purposes course – google that phrase for more information – focusing on the vocabulary and communication situations that are needed specifically for church use. Nothing too unusual, except that the focus is on speaking English in church rather than, say, in a cockpit.

  12. I teach a course at Bowdoin Collegein in the religion department titled “Mormonism: Prophets, Polygamy, and Proselytizing.” It’s a Mormon history and culture survey. If I am at Bowdoin again bext year, I will offer it again in the fall (I’m a post-doc). I have friends at Lewis and Clark College and Dennison University who teach similar Mormon history/culture courses in their religious studies departments.

  13. Thanks, David. I didn’t check every possibile college, of course, and Bowdoin, Lewis and Clark and Dennison were not ones that I checked.

    I’ll add them to the list.

  14. I believe Kathleen Flake has courses at the Vanderbilt Divinity School that deal with Mormonism. Here is an example from their course catalog:

    “DIV 3216 Sources of American Religious History, 1700-1930. An introduction to primary sources of American religion and religious historiography, including works from such representative figures as Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Paine, Charles Finney, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joseph Smith, Frederick Douglass, Walter Rauschenbusch, Mary Baker Eddy, and Richard Niebuhr. [3] Ms. Flake”

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