Mormonism has become one of the largest and most significant religious movements to emerge from the American context. With almost two hundred years of history and millions of adherents worldwide, the religious traditions originating with the founding visions of Joseph Smith have become an important object of study for modern scholars of religion.

How to Study Mormonism at CGU

Claremont Graduate University does not offer an MA or a PhD in Mormon studies. Rather, students can choose a Mormon studies emphasis in any of a number of programs we offer. Many Mormon studies students are in the Religion department, but some have graduated with English and History degrees. The holder of the Howard W. Hunter Chair offers classes every semester in Mormon studies from a variety of perspectives, and students can work on a number of digital humanities, oral history, and other projects that focus on the Mormon tradition. For more information visit the Prospective Students page.


Why Mormon Studies

The rapid growth and expanding influence of Mormonism — and especially its largest institutional manifestation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have awakened a strong interest within the academic community and the world at large to understand its roots, its history, its doctrine, and its culture. That desire to better understand the LDS Church and the broader Mormon tradition is at the heart of the emerging academic field of Mormon Studies.

Mormon Studies is situated within and related to broader academic disciplines including religious studies, American history, theology, sociology of religion, philosophy of religion, and others. Because of the unique circumstances of its origins, coming relatively recently in world history and thus being documented to a degree virtually unparalleled among other religious traditions, Mormonism is an excellent case for studying and better understanding religion in the modern world.

Mormon Studies seeks to promote the academic and public understanding of Mormonism without necessarily advancing (or disputing) the veracity of its faith claims, which is the role of institutional churches and individual believers.

Formal training in Mormon Studies will enhance the value of students who will later go on to careers in higher education, church education, the nonprofit world, and various careers in the for-profit sector. Our graduates will be able to add to the richness of public dialogue about not only Mormonism but also the broader place of religion in the modern world.

Why Claremont Graduate University

The Mormon Studies program is part of an initiative of the Religion Department (formerly School of Religion) at Claremont Graduate University to establish academic chairs and programs in many of the world’s major religions, thereby creating a climate of serious academic study as well as interfaith dialogue.

Founded in 1925, Claremont Graduate University is unique in American higher education in being devoted entirely to graduate studies. CGU is part of the prestigious Claremont University Consortium. The Claremont Colleges, following the Oxford model, are comprised of various undergraduate colleges (Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Harvey Mudd), as well as Claremont Graduate University and the Keck Graduate Institute.

The Latter-day Saint Council for Mormon Studies was formed in 2002 to help advance Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. For more than a decade the Council has fulfilled its mission by sponsoring a wide range of courses, lectures, conferences, and other events. Most significantly the Council reached a major milestone in 2008 with the establishment of the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, occupied first by Dr. Richard L. Bushman, Dr. Patrick Q. Mason in 2011, and Dr. Matthew Bowman since 2019.

Southern California is a particularly suitable location for Mormon Studies because of its large community of Latter-day Saints. The Howard W. Hunter Foundation and the Howard W. Hunter Chair are named after the longtime Pasadena native, community leader and church leader who became a beloved apostle and then president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Famed Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley also began his teaching career at the Claremont Colleges.