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The Mormon Studies Courses at The University of Utah

Regularly Offered Courses


Instructor: W. Paul Reeve, Professor of History

This course explores the historical development of Mormonism in an American context, from its Second Great Awakening beginnings to the beginning of the twenty-first century. It situates the founding and development of Mormonism within the contexts of American cultural, economic, social, religious, and political history. A central theme is the ebb and flow over time of tension between Mormonism and broader American society.


Instructors: Jonathan W. Stone, Assistant Professor and Christie Toth, Assistant Professor, Writing and Rhetoric Studies

During the last decade or so, Mormonism’s generally monolithic public discourse—largely shaped, controlled, and distributed by the LDS church—has blossomed like Brigham Young’s proverbial rose in the desert: from Mormon rhetoric to Mormon rhetorics. These rhetorics will be the focus of this class. Over the course of the semester, we will trace the Mormon historical narrative; examine the tradition’s sacred texts, doctrines, and shifting church policies; and consider the influence and rhetorics of LDS leadership. We will also make a special effort to nuance and complicate “official” institutional narratives with attention to both academic and vernacular historical, sociological, and ethnographic accounts of what it means to be Mormon.


Instructors: Christopher Lewis, Associate Professor, and Margaret Toscano, Associate Professor, World Languages & Cultures

This course explores literary texts that engage the culture, tradition, and worldview of Mormonism in the broad sense (i.e. not exclusively referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This includes an examination of the complexities surrounding the concept of “Mormon” Literature, its possible definitions and scope, and the challenges that have often contributed to its marginalization in Mormon culture. Topics intersect with Mormon history, doctrine, and culture, as well as issues related to grace, institutional authority, heterodoxy, doubt, race, gender, mental illness, the LGBTQ community, the relationship between literature and boundary maintenance, and how a culture’s literary expression both reflects and shapes its identity.

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Previously Offered Courses


Instructor: Ian Barber, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology

How and why do sacred histories and religious ideas change? How do communites resolve difficult or dissonant aspects of their past? This course explores these questions about Mormon people(s) and cultures. Changing practices and conflicts of identity, history, science, sexualities, and conformity will be situated comparatively across time and space and investigated from multiple perspectives. Novel Mormon applications of the past are explored, including geneological research technologies and cultural heritage management and performance. This course should challenge assumptions and stimulate new cross-cultural thinking about the construction of the past by Mormons and others and improve understanding of religious conflict and change in general. It has been developed for social science and humanities students and especially anthrpology and history majors. 


Instructor: Kimberly Johnson, Professor of English

Kimberly Johnson, a University of Utah alumna and associate chairwoman of English at BYU, and the 2017-18 Marlin K. Jensen Scholar and Artist in Residence fellow. Johnson’s fellowship will consist of a semesterlong residency at the Tanner Humanities Center beginning in spring 2018. She will lead a semester-length poetry course for U. students and lifelong learners featuring a series of guest poets and public readings. She will also contribute to Mormon Studies curriculum planning and program development.


Instructor: Brian D. Birch, Professor of Philosophy

This course explores the development and contemporary landscape of Mormon intellectual life. It examines key episodes in Latter-day Saint history that shaped the development of policies, practices, and movements related to the study of Mormonism. The course also addresses distinctive features of the tradition that have served to regulate and constrain forms of academic activity within the ranks of the LDS Church. Finally, the course will situate Mormon ideas and practices relative to perennial questions related to faith, reason, science, and revelation.


Instructor: Sterling Van Wagenen, Professor (Lecturer), Film and Media Arts

This course explored the way Mormons have been portrayed and portrayed themselves in feature and documentary films. Topics include: LDS Church's contemporary use of film and media; survey of films treating the Mormon experience; current genres and filmmakers in Mormon Cinema; the use of film to express the transcendent; "devotional" v. "propaganda" expressions; Hollywood and the Mormon image; and, other traditions. Throughout the semester, guests will discuss their work with the class, and they will include working Mormon filmmakers, historians of LDS film, and LDS Church producers and directors. 


Instructor: Marcie Goodman, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology 

The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints is unique among the world religions, calling for a thorough exploration using sociological paradigms. In this course, aspects of Mormonism such as family, organization, education, politics, health practices, gender, stratification, culture, social control and deviance, identity, power, and other important principles are scrutinized with an academic framework, utilizing official LDS doctrine and applicable peer-reviewed publications. The course is designed to better comprehend and appreciate the distinctive nature and contribution of this religion.


Instructor: Jackie Farnsworth, Adjunct Professor, Gender Studies

This course offers an exploration and analysis of the historic and contemporary practices and perceptions surrounding gender in the Mormon religion. We will consider how different branches of Mormonism historically and currently view the social roles and responsibilities of men and women, as well as the recognition and treatment of gender minorities, including transgender individuals. Mormon perspectives on the connection between gender roles, family structure, and sexual orientation will also be examined. Personal perceptions of gender roles from outsiders and insiders will be explored. This course is supported by the Tanner Humanities Center and Gender Studies Program.


Instructor: David Bokovoy, Associate Instructor, Department of Languages and Literature

Written in the language of the King James version of the Bible, the long and complicated Book of Mormon boggles the minds of many. Yet it is unquestionably one of the most influential books ever written. In this class, the Book of Mormon will be analyzed for an entire semester independent of its truth claims. This exciting Mormon Studies course will help students recognize the ways in which the Book of Mormon can be appreciated for its unique literary qualities.


Instructor: Brian Birch, Professor of Religious Studies, Utah Valley University

This course will examine selected topics in Mormon thought and situate them in relation to the Christian theological tradition. The curriculum will 1) focus on the more distinctive features of Mormonism and 2) explore the range of perspectives within this tradition against the backdrop of historical and contemporary debates in Christian theology. The course will also examine key methodological questions regarding the place of theology in Mormon Studies and how these issues impact the development of this emerging field of study.


Last Updated: 7/6/22