U to offer fellowship for Mormon studies

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

Although the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are just west of the U, Utah’s flagship university has not implemented a Mormon studies program before now.

In an effort to make use of resources right in the heart of the LDS religion’s headquarters, the U is now offering a fellowship for graduate or postgraduate students to research aspects of the LDS Church and its impact on society.

“Here we are in the center of Mormonism,” said Bob Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center and the fellowship initiator. “We have all the resources in regard to libraries and archives. I thought this would be something of value.”

The new fellowship, which will provide $18,000 for two students starting in the Fall Semester, will give one student per year an office at the Humanities Center and time to study any form of Mormon studies, including culture, economics or history.

The fellowship could lead to more courses offered at the U on Mormon studies, which are gaining popularity in universities across the nation.

Paul Reeves, a history professor, said other universities such as Utah State University and even Harvard University have offered courses on the LDS Church.

“There’s no better place to be studying Mormonism than at the University of Utah,” he said.

Goldberg said this fellowship will also expand diversity studies at the U, especially because many people overlook religion as part of diversity.

“That’s how it’s taught: race, class and gender, but I’m an American historian, and religion has divided us for centuries,” Goldberg said.

The fellowship comes at a unique time8212;after the presidential election, when religion became a factor in voting for many Americans, especially because Republican candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

“We forget that John Kennedy was the first Catholic president,” Goldberg said. “Even (in) the last election, religion reared its ugly head.”

The new fellowship has also attracted interest from teachers in the LDS Institute of Religion. Gary Paul, an LDS Institute teacher, said there is a “wealth of information” for future scholars at the U, and a number of different topics they could study.

“(The University of) Utah has had a reputation for anti-Mormonism, and in the past, there is some evidence to support that idea. I think since the 1990s, there’s been new awareness of the prejudice that can exist. I think Mike Young’s presidency has enlightened us to the fact that we are a complete community,” Goldberg said, referencing U President Michael Young’s LDS faith.

There are no plans yet to expand course lists beyond the few classes offered at the U relating to the LDS Church.

The Humanities Center placed an advertisement for the fellowship last week and intends to make a decision by April 1. Goldberg said the total of $36,000 in funds donated by the George and Dolores Eccles Foundation is just for two years right now, but if the fellowship seems successful, the center will apply for more funding.

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