SYLLABUS: Robert Rees, “Mormonism: Emergence of a New World Religion”

HRHS 1850, Graduate Theological Union 2012

Course Description:

Mitt Romney’s quest for the U.S. Presidency, the success of The Book of Mormon Broadway Musical, the popularity of HBO’s Big Love, and Mormons’ engagement in Proposition 8, have placed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints front and center in American culture, leading to what some have called the “Mormon Moment.” That moment began nearly two hundred years ago when the young frontiersman, Joseph Smith, claimed to have had a series of remarkable visions and revelations that for Mormons constitute a restoration of primitive Christianity, including priesthood authority, continuing revelation, and the doctrines and ordinances of the original Christian church. From six members in 1830 to a world-wide membership of over fourteen million, the Church has become, as one critic predicted, “the first major faith to appear on earth since the Prophet Mohammed rode out of the desert.” This course examines the origins, history and evolution of this distinctive JudeoChristian American religion with its own prophets, temples sacred texts and unique doctrines and practices.

Course Objectives:

  • To examine the cultural and religious context in which Mormonism emerged as a unique American religion;
  • To introduce students to the core beliefs and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;
  • To consider Mormon doctrine, theology and practice within the Judeo-Christian tradition;
  • To discuss the tensions within Mormonism itself and between the Church and American society;
  • To assess the future of Mormonism as a world religion

Required Texts:

  • Richard Bushman, Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, ) NB: To get an overview of Mormonism, students are expected to have read this brief introduction by the third class session (September 17).
  • Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith (New York: Random House, 2012). Hardcover or kindle (new and used copies available from Amazon).
  • Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Ensign Peak, 2012).
  • Adam S. Miller, Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).
  • A Course Reader (R) is available at Copy Central (the same reader as for my UC Berkeley Course, Religious Studies 190)
  • LDS Scriptures (The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price)