Kathleen Flake (Left) at the Mormon History Association conference in 2005, with Sydney S. Reynolds, Karen Lynn Davidson, and me.

Kathleen Flake (Left) at the Mormon History Association conference in 2005, with Sydney S. Reynolds, Karen Lynn Davidson, and me. (Author photo)

The New York Times reported yesterday that Kathleen Flake, currently a professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt Divinity School, has been named the inaugural Richard Lyman Bushman Chair in Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia. UVA’s new Mormon Studies program will be enriched by having Flake at the helm, given her outstanding scholarship and reputation.

Flake's groundbreaking book on turn-of-the-century American politics, religious identity, and Mormon polygamy.

Flake’s groundbreaking book on turn-of-the-century American politics, religious identity, and Mormon polygamy. (UNC Press)

Readers of this blog have probably seen me reference Flake’s game-changing book, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle, and cite my eager anticipation of her work in progress, about women and authority in Mormon history.

Mormon Studies is flourishing. This week I am working on an article for Publishers Weekly about recent, current, and forthcoming academic books in the field of Mormon Studies. In the course of my research I have uncovered several I had not heard of before, by authors I’ve never met; ten years ago the field was so small that I could keep up with every book and author.

Today, university presses and other scholarly publishers have been opening up to this emerging field partly for content reasons (Mormon Studies is fresh and original) and partly for sales reasons (Mormons and non-Mormons like to buy books about Mormons). With Oxford University Press leading the way (new next month from OUP: Stephen Webb’s Mormon Christianity, which I hope to cover eventually on the blog), there is a growing body of quality scholarship addressing diverse aspects of Mormon history, theology, sociology, and literature.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. It is exciting to see the growth of Mormon Studies. It will give consumers of history a third choice between the pro-Mormon articles that I love, and the anti-Mormon articles.

    As to Smoot, as an economist, I cringe every time I think of his role in the passage of the Smoot- Hawley Act. It is understandable that a people forced to flee their homes to practice their religion would grow to believe that self-reliance was an economic good. Economists preach interdependence. The Act was infamously bad policy.

  2. Emerging. An interesting term. It’s being used by a lot of groups today. But really, the bottom line is the same. The gospel that Paul and the Apostles taught is not the gospel being taught in these circles. And those who follow a different gospel will only head to their destruction. Does anyone think that after God gave His own Son to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind, that He would wink at the foolishness of men who would be enemies of the cross and strive to get to heaven on their own merits?

    • Raymond Takashi Swenson

      Dave–I sincerely hope that, in the long run, the efforts of Professor Flake and other excellent scholars, both Mormon and not, will help you understand how severely you appear to misunderstand the Mormon doctrine of the atonement of Christ and our reliance upon His grace. A good place to start is the new book, Mormon Christianity, by Professor Stephen Webb (a Catholic), who authored an article published a couple of years ago in First Things journal entitled “Mormonism Obsessed with Christ”. Another resource is the Book of Mormon itself, which is insistent throughout its 500+ pages that we can only be reconciled to God through the redemptive sacrifice of the Savior.

  3. Lucky enough to know Kathleen when we lived in Nashville, and her perceptive kindness has stayed with me. A beautiful choice to follow Terryl Givens there.

  4. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    UVA is a beautiful campus which I visited decades ago to attend a course at the US Army Judge Advocate General’s School, which is collocated with the law school. There was a small but thriving Mormon presence in the UVA faculty back then, including a former Air Force colleague of mine. Congratulations to Professor Flake.

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