The Study of Mormonism at UVA

The University of Virginia’s Mormon Studies program began in 2013 with the establishment of the Richard Lyman Bushman Endowed Professorship in Mormon Studies. The Professorship is charged with promoting scholarly research and facilitating public understanding of those churches which trace their origins to Joseph Smith. Each year approximately 100 students from across the university enroll in courses and lectures about the origins and development of Mormonism, its beliefs and practices, as well as its history and cultural significance.

The study of Mormonism is principally located within the University’s Department of Religion. Founded in 1967, the Department is the largest stand-alone religion department in the United States and plays a leading role in the national and international study of religion. Rooted in the humanities and liberal arts, its faculty offer a comprehensive curriculum that spans traditions, geographies, and methodologies, including historical, philosophical, philological, ethnographic, and literary approaches.

The University of Virginia is a mid-sized public university in central Virginia, known for its founding by Thomas Jefferson and its strong emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences. Since U.S. News began its rankings, UVA has never placed less than second in the listing of public universities. In the 20-year history of the combined ranking of private and public schools, it consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all 262 national universities. We encourage you to apply.

The Richard Lyman Bushman Professorship

The first to occupy the Professorship, Kathleen Flake brings to her teaching and research a breadth of training in history, religious studies, law and English literature. She has served in positions of responsibility in national professional organizations and on the boards of scholarly journals and has been the recipient of grants from national foundations promoting academic research. Her publications are popular among academic and general readers and are featured here in our Resources section.

Professor Flake researches the adaptive strategies of 19th and 20th century American religious communities and the affect of pluralism on religious identity. She is interested also in the constructive function of text and ritual in maintaining and adapting the identity and gendered power structures of religious communities. In the area of American Legal History, she studies the influence of American law on American religion and the theological tensions inherent in the First Amendment religious clauses.

Prior to her appointment at Virginia, she taught at Vanderbilt University in both the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion. Before becoming an academic, she litigated cases on behalf of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Washington, D.C.

Richard Lyman Bushman

Richard Lyman Bushman is a historian of early American and Mormon history. He is currently Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University. Bushman’s publications include From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 (1967), King and People in Provincial Massachusetts (1985), The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992), and Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005).

Bushman has served as president of the Mormon History Association, as a member of the board of editors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, as a council member for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, and as president of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. He chaired the advisory committee to the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University, 1999–2004; and he chaired the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation until 2016. He is currently a member of the National Advisory Board for the Joseph Smith Papers project of the History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served as a general editor from the project’s founding until 2013.

Bushman has previously taught at Brigham Young University, Brown University, Boston University, Harvard University (as a visiting professor), and the University of Delaware. In addition, he occupied the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California from 2008 to 2011.