Mission Statement

The Mormon Studies Council and Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University promote a robust and scholarly understanding of Mormon culture and religion through free and open dialogue, original scholarship, graduate education, and public outreach.The Mormon Studies Council works closely with the Religion Department and School of Arts and Humanities to advance Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. The Council seeks to foster interest in the study of the traditions descended from Joseph Smith in an academic context in which many religious traditions are studied alongside one another.

In partnership with the Mormon Studies Council, the Religion Department has established continuing relationships with the LDS community in our area. The Council advises the department on the needs and interests of the LDS community, consults with the department on the development of the Mormon Studies program, and works with it to sponsor lectures and conferences. The Council also directs fundraising efforts to support Mormon Studies at the university.

The Council established the Howard W. Hunter Foundation to raise $5 million to endow a permanent Mormon Studies program at CGU. The first stage of that effort was achieved in April 2008, with the endowment of the Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies. The first occupant of the chair was Dr. Richard L. Bushman, the second was Dr. Patrick Mason, and its current occupant is Dr. Matthew Bowman.The Council actively seeks donations to support Dr. Bowman and the activities of Claremont Mormon Studies. This includes providing financial support for lectures and conferences and for fellowships to current and incoming students in order to attract the best and brightest to Claremont.

The Mormon Studies Council is comprised of local LDS church leaders, academics and interested lay members. It meets regularly with university administrators including the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. The roots of Mormon Studies at Claremont date back to 2002. Now, after more than a decade of dedicated effort from Dr. Bushman, Dr. Mason, Dr. Bowman, the Mormon Studies Council and the Hunter Foundation, the framework has been established for a vital Mormon Studies program at Claremont. This historic effort has also provided the template for developing Mormon Studies programs at other leading universities in the United States and beyond.

Current Council Members

Christie Frandsen

Christie and Russ Frandsen

Christie Frandsen is the chair of the Mormon Studies Council. Christie was born in Havre, Montana and raised on Indian reservations in Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Arizona where her father was a range conservationist in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She received a BA degree from BYU, summa cum laude, majoring in ancient scriptures. She also studied at Duke Divinity School. She is the mother of 11 brilliant children and grandmother to 22 beautiful and precocious grandchildren.

A gifted writer and teacher, Christie taught early morning seminary and Institute classes at USC and Occidental College for 20 years and is currently a writing tutor for young students. Her publications include articles and essays in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Mourning With Those Who Mourn and the Ensign magazine, as well as the book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, chronicling her experience losing a young son to cancer. She and her husband Russ received the Honored Alumni Award from Brigham Young University in 1996 and were guest lecturers for the College of Humanities.

Christie is a devoted community organizer in La Canada Flintridge where she has lived with her family for over 30 years. She served for 35 years as a Girl Scout leader, serving simultaneously in many leadership positions in the Council.  She has also held a multitude of leadership positions in the PTA, and for the past 10 years has organized the annual Baccalaureate service for all the high schools in her community. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Christie served as a member of the Mormon Studies Council and on the Board of the Howard W. Hunter Foundation.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman is the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and associate professor of religion and history at Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of a number of articles about religion in the United States, and of the books The Mormon People: the Making of an American Faith (Random House, 2012), The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2014)and Christian: The Politics of a Word in America (Harvard University Press, 2018)With Kate Holbrook he edited the essay collection Women and Mormonism: Historic and Contemporary Perspectives (University of Utah Press, 2016).  He holds a PhD from Georgetown University. His research interests include twentieth century American religion and culture, the concept of the secular and modern American religion, and professional basketball.

Blaine H. Evanson

Blaine Evanson

Blaine H. Evanson is a partner at the international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2003 and from Columbia Law School in 2006, and after law school served as a judicial clerk for Judge A. Raymond Randolph on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Blaine’s law practice is focused on appellate litigation; he has handled several dozen appeals in federal and state courts across the country, including in the Supreme Court of the United States. Blaine also serves on the board of directors of the Orange County Legal Aid Society and the J. Reuben Clark Society, and has taught courses on constitutional law and appellate advocacy at the University of Southern California and Loyola Law Schools. Blaine served as a missionary in the Germany Frankfurt Mission of the LDS church, and has served in a variety of church callings, including as bishop of the South Pasadena Ward in Southern California. He and his wife, Robin, are the parents of four children.

Lynn Forester

Lynn Forester

Lynn Forester has been living and serving in Claremont her entire adult life. After ushering her own four children through its public schools, she has spent the past two decades working with the students of Claremont High School in the office of student government and activities. Her efforts were honored when the Claremont Unified School District named Lynn their Employee of the Year in 2014. She has served two terms as a Human Services Commissioner for the city, and continues to be deeply involved with local youth through her work at the high school and through her church.

John Forester

John Forester

John Forester has deep roots in Claremont and the Pomona Valley. A lifelong resident who can remember way back to when lemon groves outnumbered residential tracts, he attended Brigham Young University after graduating from Claremont High School. Returning after college, he raised his family of four children in his hometown. John has run small businesses here and been deeply involved in church and community sponsored volunteer work benefiting local youth, the elderly, schools, and various under-served members of the community.

Morgan McKeown

Morgan McKeown

Morgan McKeown is a graduate of Dartmouth College and USC Marshall Business school, and currently works for a global medical device company. His international positions have taken him to many parts of the world, including three years living abroad in Singapore while managing an Asia Pacific division of his company. He has dabbled in Mormon studies as a hobby for many years, and has enjoyed being a part of the efforts at Claremont since 2014. His other hobbies include songwriting, playing the guitar (both real guitar and air guitar), traveling, wrestling with his children, and snowboarding. He has held various responsibilities within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints such as missionary (in Buenos Aires, Argentina), primary teacher, Elders Quorum president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and Ward Mission Leader. He currently serves as the First Counselor in the Bishopric in his ward in Irvine, California.

Suzanne Midori Hanna

Suzanne Hanna photo

Suzanne Midori Hanna is a native of Albuquerque and the thirdborn, only daughter of four, including a brother with Down syndrome. Her professional interests have been shaped by her Japanese American roots, personal faith and work in Utah, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky and California. She has been a clinician, professor, researcher, administrator and author in couple and family therapy and is a Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor in the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy.

For 35 years, she taught graduate classes in marriage and family therapy and designed the only master’s program in the U.S. to be dual-accredited in marital and family therapy and social work. During this time, her students included the daughter of share-croppers, former gang members, interdenominational clergy and immigrants from Iran, Romania, Nigeria and Botswana. She has also been involved in federal, state and local projects dedicated to mental health practices for the traumas of underserved Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Her current projects involve trauma treatment, sibling development and LDS church history in South Africa.

She is the author of The Practice of Family Therapy: Key Elements Across Models, (5th ed.) and The Transparent Brain in Couple and Family Therapy: Mindful Integrations with Neuroscience, (2nd ed.). As a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she has been especially interested in the intersections of culture, race, religion, class, and sexuality. She is now a service missionary in the Bonita Canyon (Persian) Branch in Southern California.

Caroline Kline

Caroline Kline

Caroline Kline is the assistant director of the Center for Global Mormon Studies at CGU. She holds a PhD in religion from CGU, and her areas of interest include contemporary Mormon women’s communities and Mormonism in the Global South. She is the director of the Claremont Mormon Women Oral History Project and the Claremont Global Mormon Oral History Project. She is the author of a number of articles about Mormonism and gender, including, “Saying Goodbye to the Final Say: The Softening and Reimagining of Mormon Male Headship Ideologies,” in Out of Obscurity: Mormonism Since 1945 and “Finding Peace, Claiming Place: Black South African women Navigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” in Handbook of Global Mormonism.  Her dissertation examines the oral histories of Mormon women of color in the US, Botswana, and Mexico.