The mission of the Council is to promote the development of a graduate program in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Religion that reflects both academic rigor and scholarly integrity while maintaining sensitivity to the LDS community.
The Council would like to see Claremont’s School of Religion become a center for graduate work in Mormon studies. Currently, there is no graduate program where students can receive training in religious studies with an emphasis on the Mormon tradition. It is the Council’s vision that graduate students attending Claremont will be able to focus their work on one of the major areas within the School of Religion (Women’s Studies in Religion; Philosophy of Religion and Theology; History of Christianity/Religions of North America) while utilizing Mormon studies as an emphasis in order to enrich their study of religions. For example, a student in the Women’s Studies in Religion doctoral program with an emphasis in Mormon studies might be interested in examining the Relief Society, the LDS women’s organization, as a dissertation topic.
The aim of the Council is to create an environment where the scholarly study of the faith traditions that descended from Joseph Smith can flourish in dialogue with the study of other traditions in the American context and beyond. The Council hopes to integrate the study of the Mormons into the larger academic religious landscape through endowing lectureships, student fellowships, and visiting professorships. The endowment of a chair in Mormon Studies was achieved in April, 2008, with the establishment of the Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies.
The Council has set specific goals in order to facilitate the advancement of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Religion
- Build a Council consisting of religious and community leaders, scholars, and philanthropists.
- Raise funds to finance the lectures, conferences, visiting professorships and endowed Chair in Mormon Studies with attendant courses.
- Create a hub for Mormon Studies, building upon the foundation of the existing Religions of North America doctoral program at CGU, where students may enrich their graduate studies and further their research interests in the area of Mormonism.
- Continue to promote a dialogue between academics and religious leaders in order to foster better understanding of both perspectives.
The Need for Mormon Studies
There are currently 13 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with more than 6 million residing in the United States. Within California, there are over 800,000 LDS members. The rapid growth of the LDS religion has sparked interest within the academic community. Graduate students who are trained in religious studies with an emphasis in Mormon Studies will greatly enrich the institutions where they will eventually work. The need for rigorous academic focus on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be increasingly important as that Church continues to increase its membership world wide.