Mormon U

Let’s say you’re attending a hypothetical graduate program in Mormon Studies at a hypothetical Mormon U. What kind of classes do you want to take? History? Theology? Literature? Sociology? Etc?

What would you want to read in your proposed course? What do you read in a graduate course on Mormon history? What do you read in a graduate course on Mormon theology? What do you read in a graduate course on Mormon literature?

What do you read if your classmates are familiar with Mormonism? What do you read if they aren’t?

Name your class and propose me a reading list. Specialized/topical/themed courses are of particular interest.

23 comments for “Mormon U

  1. I did a Mormon History comps list a while ago at Juvenile Instructor. I’ll reproduce my list here, with some updates, but I recommend reading the thread so you can see the recommendations of others. I capped the list at 25 so that it is manageable. Also, if I were to do this list after August, I will likely have to make room for new books by Spencer Fluhman (on 19th century anti-Mormonism) and John Turner (on Brigham Young).

    (Note that this list doesn’t include (save one) articles or primary sources, as I had a separate list for those (see here and here).)

    General Overviews

    Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith (2012)

    Terryl Givens, A People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (2007)

    Thomas O’Dea, The Mormons (1957)

    Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (1985)


    Samuel Brown, In Heaven as It is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (2012)

    Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005)

    Terryl Givens, By The Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (2002)

    Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989)

    Through 1890

    Leonard Arringon, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-Day Saints, 1830-1900 (1958)

    Kathryn Daynes, More Wives than One: The Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 (2001)

    Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America (2001)

    Paul Reeve, Making Space on the Mormon Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes (2007)

    Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (2008)

    Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (2008)

    Since 1890

    Thomas Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-Day Saints, 1890-1830 (1986)

    Martha Sonntag Bradley, Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights (2005).

    Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (2003)

    Philip Jenkins, “Letting Go: Understanding Mormon Growth in Africa,” Journal of Mormon History (Spring 2009): 1-26.

    Edward Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (2005)

    Armand Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (1994)

    Gregory Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (2005)


    Philip Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion (1991)

    Claudia Bushman, ed., Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah (1997)

    Jill Derr, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (2002)

    Armand Mass, All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (2003)

  2. The courses I’ll be taking this fall at Mormon U:

    1. Mormon Manifestos – This course will study the first issues of all major Mormon periodicals, institutional and non-institutional, from the beginning of Mormon history to the present. We will begin with The Evening and the Morning Star and conclude with The Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies. The aim will be to see how manifesto-like first issues of periodicals mark moments of change and innovation in Mormon history. Texts: All texts can be accessed online.

    2. Hugh Nibley and Brigham Young – In this course we will look carefully at Nibley’s use and abuse of Brigham Young. We will begin with some contextualizing study of the work being done on both Brigham Young and the Journal of Discourses in the 1960s and 1970s, and then compare this with the portrait of Young that is emerging today. The rest of the course will be dedicated to investigating Nibley’s use of Young. Texts: Arrington, Brigham Young; England, Brother Brigham; Turner, Brigham Young; Nibley, Approaching Zion; Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints.

    3. The Shape of the Doctrine and Covenants – This course will be dedicated to a careful, theoretically-heavy look at the developing shape of the Doctrine and Covenants, from 1831 to 1981. We will look at the changing understanding of Joseph Smith’s revelations as modeled in John Whitmer’s early history, the Book of Commandments and Revelations, the earliest newspaper publications of the revelations, the Book of Commandments, and the 1835, 1844, 1879, 1921, and 1981 editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. Texts: Westergren, From Historian to Dissident; JSP, Revelations, Volume 1; Wood, Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. II; several editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    The course I’ll be teaching this fall at Mormon U:

    Introduction to Scriptural Theology – In this course we will both study the theory and engage in the practice of scriptural theology. The first part of the course will be dedicated to readings of important theorists and exemplary practitioners of scriptural theology, both in and out of the Mormon tradition. The remainder of the course will be dedicated to close, collective readings of scriptural texts in an explicitly Mormon and explicitly theological fashion. Texts: Ricoeur, Essays on Biblical Interpretation; Childs, Biblical Theology; Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination; Alter, Art of Biblical Narrative; Spencer, An Other Testament.

  3. New Mormon Theology(ies):

    Blake Ostler, “Exploring Mormon Thought” (3 vol)

    James Faulconer, “Why a Mormon Won’t Drink Coffee But Might Have a Coke: The Atheological Character of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and “Rethinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse” in “Faith, Philosophy, Scripture”

    Adam Miller, “Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology” (BTW- I really enjoyed your chapter on Life, Grace and the Atonement)

    David Paulson (ed), “Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies” (Selected chapters – Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Womanist Theology, and Black Theology)

    Taylor Petrey, “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology”

  4. Besides that comps list, which really isn’t what you are after, I’d love to see the following classes:

    1. “Gendering Mormonism,” which Patrick Mason taught at Claremont recently and recapped here.

    2. “Dissent (with)in Mormonism.” A current research project has me looking at how our tradition has reacted to, opposed by, and shaped through movements within and without the faith. Readings could include texts ranging from the Nauvoo Expositor to the Utah Magazine (the protest vehicle of the Godbeites in 1868-9), and from Fundamentalist literature in the 1940s to debates over homosexuality today. (There is also a large number of secondary literature on various points of conflict.) A main driving point of the semester would be that religious movements are often shaped through dialogue not only with those who remain committed, but those who move away, and that various forms of dissent offer a glimpse into different cultures and what those cultures expected religious membership to entail.

    3. “Mormonism and American Politics.” Obviously a hot topic for today, but Mormonism offers an important glimpse into the evolving nature of Church and State throughout American history. Scholarly literature would include Pat Mason’s article on theodemocracy, Sally Gordon’s book on anti-polygamy legislation, Kathleen Flake’s book on Reed Smoot, and Martha Bradley’s book on the ERA. Fun stuff.

  5. Engineering, agriculture, environmental science, community dynamics (sociology) geophysics, finance, and other courses best adapted to our manifest destiny of making Mars bloom like a rose.

  6. When I first read the post, I couldn’t get past my skepticism of the utility of a Mormon Studies graduate degree (as opposed to Religious Studies, or History with a focus on Mormonism). Whereas the posts Ben links to were, I think, highly valuable beyond the hypothetical comps lists, as a survey of the academic topography and thresholds against which to measure one’s exposure, the questions in this post seemed a little to far outside my reality. I’m having trouble coming up with any classes because of that.


    No man knows my history – Fawn Brodie
    Rough stone rolling – Richard Bushman
    The Mountain Meadows Massacre – Juanita Brooks


    The Articles of Faith – James E Talmage
    Mormon Doctrine – Bruce R McConkie
    The Gospel: An exposition of its first principles – B H Roberts
    Jesus the Christ – James E Talmage
    Gospel Doctrine – Joseph F Smith
    Rational theology: as taught by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – John A Widtsoe
    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
    Evidences and reconciliations – John A Wdtsoe
    Man: His origin and destiny – Joseph Fielding Smith
    Doctrines of Salvation – Joseph Fielding Smith
    The Miracle of Forgiveness – Spencer W Kimball

    By the way, Adam Greenwood, I have a blog set up now. My first post was about a compatibilist view of free agency. You should all check it out; it’s at

  8. That’s quite a reading list, themormonbrit. With the exception of _Rough Stone Rolling_, all titles were written 40-100 years ago. Do you philosophically oppose current works, or are you simply less familiar with them?

  9. Ardis E Parshall, definitely the latter, to my great regret. I wish I were more familiar with more current and recent works, but sadly have not yet gotten round to reading them.

    And to please queuno, I would like to add the standard works to my list.

  10. themormonbrit: Thanks for responding. That’s actually a relief to me, because with time and access you can eventually cure that (and I sincerely hope you have that opportunity sooner rather than later). I hoped you weren’t one of those who thought past prophets had said it all while more recent ones had gone astray — there’s not much that can be done to cure that kind of thinking!

    I’m still thinking what I would add or modify in your list.

  11. We need a lot more sociology and anthropology in here. Most of our sociology/anthropology is actually arm-chair-style in the form of historical studies (yes, I know that there are notable exceptions – but they’re just that, exceptions). There is a similar dearth of theology (same blip about history and same parenthetical). Likewise, there is tremendously little engagement between Mormonism and ethics. If we could fill these gaps, then maybe we could do more than Mormon history and actually have Mormon studies. I’m as anxious as anyone, but we clearly have some growing up to do before Mormon U’s new grad program gets deserved recognition.

    (Sorry, it’s kind of a lazy comment on the fly – kudos to everyone with specific readings, etc.)

  12. Ardis E Parshall, no I am not that kind of person. That type of thinking is dangerous. I call it fundamentalism.

    I also sincerely hope to be able to cure myself of my current deficiency in the area of mormon studies texts. Would you be able to recommend some more recent commendable books that are well worth reading in the field of mormon studies?

  13. themormonbrit, if time is a problem, I’d suggest some of the anthologies of short pieces. A really good recent one is Stephen C. Taysom, ed., Dimensions of Faith: A Mormon Studies Reader, Salt Lake City: Signature, 2011. You’d have a sampling of 15 or 16 articles on the whole spectrum of recent Mormon studies, and depending on what you found most interesting, you could mine footnotes for related studies and read more by authors who appeal to you. The journals (Mormon Historical Journal, Dialogue, Sunstone) would also provide a lot, and fast, but I think the anthologies, which sometimes include the best selections from recent journals, give a broader survey.

  14. The mormonbrit’s comment got me thinking about a possible course: Mormon classics. Students would read selected LDS classics and explore how they have affected mormon thought. Example texts might be Jesus the Christ or The Miracle of Forgiveness. The class could examine the way those texts have affected thought by looking for changes in policy or published writings over time

  15. As usual, Mormon literature has been left out also. A course covering Mormon fiction, poetry and drama clearly would be important for Mormon Studies. Such a course should cover not only Eliza R. Snow, but John Lyon, Emmeline B. Wells and Augusta Joyce Cocheron. Not only Added Upon, but Corianton, A Little Lower than the Angels, The Backslider, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint and A Short Stay in Hell. Not only Saturday’s Warrior, but A Dialogue Between Joseph Smith and the Devil, Corianton (again), Heubner, Gadianton and Angels in America.

    And that only scratches the surface.

  16. I’d love to see a hypothetical class tentatively titled The Business of Mormonism. Of course, what to read is kind of tricky. The JSP business and law volume, if and when it comes out, would be necessary. Something on the United Firm (I think there’s a BYU Studies article) and the Kirtland Safety Society. Great Basin Kingdom.

    Of course, that only takes us through the 19th century. I don’t know what would work for the 20th century. I’d includes general articles about limitations on tax-exempt organizations’ participation in business (of course I would, since I’m a tax person), and I’d probably also include the Supreme Court decision in Davis (just because).

    Also, something about City Creek would probably be good, as well as something about the Church’s welfare activities.

  17. Dustin, I like that idea. In addition to my previous list, I would also suggest that the Journal of Discourses be included in such a course.

    Ardis E Parshall, thanks for the suggestions!

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