Mormon Studies Goes to Cambridge: Harvard Divinity School Hires David F. Holland

By March 29, 2013

Okay, now that Harvard Divinity School made official the news that has been circulating for weeks, we at JI (and JI’s satellite branch in Cambridge) can pop the Martinelli’s. David Holland, currently an associate professor at UNLV, will be joining the HDS faculty starting this July as an associate professor of American religious history. (You can read the official HDS announcement here).

Holland-NewsUntil he came to Harvard for his job-talk and visit earlier this year, I only knew Prof. Holland through his groundbreaking work, Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America (OUP, 2011). JI’s own Christopher provided an in-depth review when the book was first published, which I encourage all to read again. For those American religious historians (this aspiring one included) who are returning to sacred scriptures as a starting place for our analysis of both church history as well as history of the volk (both institutional, intellectual, and “lived”), Sacred Borders is model scholarship.

During his visit to HDS, Holland proved that he’s not only a writer. His dynamic and innovative presentation on his current on “editing” sacred texts was simply dazzling.

His students at UNLV have attested that he is also a great mentor, and many students at HDS have already benefited from his generous, critical (in both senses of the word), but always amiable suggestions on their work.

Congrats to HDS on a great hire!

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Such great news. Though his work hasn’t primarily dealt with Mormon studies yet–save for an excellent presentation at a BYU conference a few weeks ago, and a UVU conference next week–the way he uses Mormonism in his work is a model for the field. Here is what I said in my JMH review of his Sacred Borders:

    Besides the general context and historical insights, Sacred Borders is a significant contribution to Mormon history in at least two ways. First, it demonstrates the benefits that the discipline of intellectual history can bring to the study of Mormonism…[lots more boring stuff on intellectual history]
    The second major contribution of Sacred Borders is not so much what the book says as what it does. Some may question whether this monograph could be described as a work of “Mormon studies”–and the fact that the text only devotes a handful of pages to Mormonism likely answers the question in the negative–but the type of approach Holland utilizes will be of the utmost importance for the future development of LDS history. By presenting Joseph Smith as case study rather than as a leading player in the narrative, Holland makes Mormonism much more pertinent to a wider audience of scholars. Historians of Mormonism have, for several decades now, argued that their scholarship’s relevance would increasingly depend on its ability to speak to broader issues and wider concerns. This goal will only be accomplished, however, when scholars are willing to replace early Mormonism with American culture more broadly as the center players in their narrative. David Holland has done this, and should be commended for it: he has made Mormonism much more relevant to broader scholarship. And that, in itself, is an important revelation.

    Comment by Ben P — March 29, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  2. Big fan here and happy for David. And yes, this represents the best of futures for Mormon studies.

    Comment by WVS — March 29, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

  3. Very interesting. Thanks for the note.

    Comment by Ben S — March 29, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  4. Thanks for the write-up, Max. Congrats to Dr. Holland and HDS.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2013 @ 5:18 am


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