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Patrick Mason, “Approaches to Mormonism”

REL 466, Claremont Graduate University 2016

The second half of the twentieth century and early years of the twenty-first witnessed a remarkable explosion of scholarly works on Mormonism.  While the breadth and depth of this literature can hardly be touched in a single semester, this course will introduce students to representative approaches used by scholars in the academic (non-polemical, non-apologetic) study of Mormonism, thus serving as something of a historiographical introduction to some of the best and newest literature in the field of Mormon studies.  Students will read exemplary works representing various disciplinary and methodological approaches to Mormonism, and in the process will be encouraged to consider ways that Mormon studies has been shaped by, and can potentially shape, other established academic fields and disciplines.

This course asks questions such as whether there exists a Mormon studies canon, where the gaps and blind spots in the extant literature are, and what the future of Mormon studies might hold.  In surveying the field students will be invited to join the conversation and help envision ways to advance it as both teachers and researchers.


Students in this course will achieve the following learning outcomes:  1) acquire a deeper historical, conceptual, and theoretical understanding of Mormonism; 2) develop mastery of some of the key literature and major trajectories in the Mormon studies literature; 3) conceptualize the place of Mormonism within the broader academic study of religion and American religious history; and 4) sharpen skills in critical reading, writing, thinking, and speaking.


Joseph Smith; Polygamy; Zion; Mormon image; Mormonism and music; and more


  • Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History:  The Life of Joseph Smith (1945)
  • Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith:  Rough Stone Rolling (2005)
  • John Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire:  The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (1994)
  • Samuel Brown, In Heaven As It Is on Earth:  Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (2012)
  • Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom:  An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (1958)
  • Kathryn Daynes, More Wives than One:  The Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 (2001)\
  • Tom Carter, Building Zion:  The Material World of Mormon Settlement (2015)
  • Patrick Mason, The Mormon Menace:  Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (2011)
  • Spencer Fluhman, “A Peculiar People”:  Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (2012)
  • Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount:  Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (2008)
  • Armand Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive:  The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (1994)
  • J. B. Haws, The Mormon Image in the American Mind (2013)
  • Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music:  A History (1989)
  • Tom Mould, Still, the Small Voice:  Narrative, Personal Revelation, and the Mormon Folk Tradition (2011)
  • David Howlett, Kirtland Temple:  The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space (2014)