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 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.
Amanda Haslam Wirtz is the vice chair of the Mormon Studies Council. She was most recently an engagement manager with Cicero Group, a Salt Lake City-based consulting firm. In this role she contributed to the day-to-day analytics, research and data collection on projects with non-profit organizations, schools, system levels, and institutions of higher education. Her work with institutions of higher education includes growth strategy, systemic improvement, and competitive advantages.
Prior to joining Cicero Group, Amanda worked in higher education at the University of Redlands, first as the director of admissions for the School of Education, followed by her role as regional director of enrollment and operations for the School of Education and the School of Business. As regional director, she led a team of eight regional campus directors who functioned independently as branch campuses with multiple programmatic offerings. In addition, Amanda served as an assistant director of recruitment for the Claremont Colleges, where she was responsible for the recruitment and marketing strategy of the Keck Graduate Institute. She created a strategy for two international markets in India and China to grow their international student representation for graduate programs.
She also worked in for-profit education at Kaplan Inc., developing national curriculum in reading, math and writing for K-8th graders based on common national standards as the national director of academics. She has co-authored a Kaplan textbook on instructing writing for third- to eighth-graders. In addition to her curriculum development, she was responsible for training the instructors on best practices in pedagogy.
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.
Robert D. Crockett
Robert D. Crockett is a business trial lawyer with his own firm, Crockett & Associates, after over 30 years with the international firm of Latham & Watkins. He has published on legal topics, including the legal aftermath of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In 2015, the California State Bar’s magazine named him “Lawyer of the Year” for his work with the ACLU supporting the rights of immigrant children. Bob has been a bishop in the Valencia Stake. He and his wife, Debora, are the parents of 11 children.
Blaine H. 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 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.
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.
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.
Former Council Chairs
Rick Richmond is an attorney with strong ties to the community and a deep commitment to his faith and his family. He manages the Los Angeles office of the international law firm Jenner & Block, which he co-founded in 2009. The firm has been selected multiple times as one of the 20 elite national firms on the American Lawyer’s “A-List” and has been recognized as the #1 law firm nationwide by the American Lawyer for pro bono efforts in five of the last eight years. Rick has been recognized by the Daily Journal as a “Top 100 Lawyer” in California, has been listed as a Southern California Super Lawyer every year since 2005, and is a recipient of the Outstanding Lawyer Award by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s Los Angeles Chapter. Prior to Jenner & Block, Mr. Richmond was an associate and partner at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis for 20 years, served on the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and was a law clerk to Judge Harlington Wood Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Mr. Richmond is an honors graduate of the law school at George Washington University and a cum laude graduate of Brigham Young University. In the community, Rick has served and continues to serve in a variety of capacities: Chair, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation; Chair, J. Reuben Clark Law Society (Los Angeles chapter); Chair, Los Angeles Eagle Scout Association; President, George Washington Law Alumni Association; Secretary, California Club; Director, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce; Director, Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Advisory Committee Member, Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence; Advisory Board Member, George Washington University Law School; and Advisory Committee Member, The Federalist Society (Los Angeles chapter). Mr. Richmond has been married to the former Linda Ann DeGraw since 1982. They are the parents of three children.
Joseph and Marilyn Bentley
Joseph and Marilyn Bentley are residents of Orange County and were the earliest prime movers for the Mormon Studies program at CGU. Joe is a retired partner at the international law firm of Latham & Watkins. He served as an LDS Stake President in the Newport Beach Stake and thereafter as a Regional Representative for the LDS Church. Currently, the Bentleys serve as the President and Matron of the Newport Beach Temple.
For over 25 years, Steve Bradford has been counseling with public companies as well as closely-held and family-owned businesses, helping them develop plans and make decisions about acquisitions and sales; growth and expansion; financing; restructuring; business relationships and personnel; and dispute resolution without litigation.Mr. Bradford has co-authored several chapters of U.S.A. Business: The Portable Encyclopedia for Doing Business with the United States, and Mexico Business: The Portable Encyclopedia for Doing Business with Mexico. Mr. Bradford has lived in California, Utah and Virginia, as well as Mexico and Spain, traveled extensively in the Americas and Europe, and speaks both English and Spanish.Mr. Bradford is a member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, and the J. Reuben Clark Law Society. From 2007 to 2009, he served as Chairman of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s Los Angeles Chapter.Mr. Bradford is a member of the Board of Visitors at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Arts & Humanities, Chairman of Claremont Graduate University’s Mormon Studies Council, and Vice Chairman of the Howard W. Hunter Foundation that supports Claremont Graduate University’s Mormon Studies program.
Mr. Bradford and his wife have been married for 25 years and they have three children. Two of their children graduated from public high schools in Pasadena, California and are currently students at the University of California, Berkeley, while their youngest currently attends a Pasadena public high school.
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.
Robert H. Briggs
Robert H. Briggs holds degrees from Brigham Young University and Pepperdine University School of Law. His professional work has been as an attorney in private practice in southern California for thirty-five years. He has published on the history of territorial Utah in various publications. Since 2004, he has observed the growth of Mormon Studies at CGU and strongly supports its continued expansion. He and his wife, Linda, make Fullerton their home and they have four grown children.
Armand L. Mauss
Armand L. Mauss (PhD, UC Berkeley) is a member emeritus of the Mormon Studies Council. He retired as Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Religious Studies at Washington State University and moved to Irvine, CA. He was invited to join the CGU Council on Mormon Studies in 2004, while the Council was still raising the funds to endow the Hunter Chair, and he taught the first and only courses in Mormon Studies at CGU until the Chair was endowed and eventually filled in 2008 by Professor Richard L. Bushman. He is the author or co-author of several books on Mormon topics, the best known of which are The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (University of Illinois Press, 1994); All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (University of Illinois Press, 2003); and Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic (University of Utah Press, 2012).