New Course at the University of Utah (with Guest Lectures open to the Public): The Intellectual Life of Mormonism

By May 2, 2016

Brian Birch, Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University, will be teaching a course on the intellectual life of Mormonism this coming fall at the University of Utah. He has kindly made his syllabus and course readings available online, which many readers will want to read at their leisure.

Course Poster

The course will hold guest lectures on Thursdays; lectures will be open to the public. I will post the lecture schedule once it becomes available.

Intellectual Life - 2


Professor Birch has kindly offered to answer questions about the course. If you have anything to ask, please leave your inquiries in the comment section. I will post the Q&A with Professor Birch in the next few weeks.

Article filed under Announcements and Events Courses Current Events Public History


  1. Thanks for sharing your syllabus, Brian–this looks phenomenal! I wish I could attend. I’ll get the ball rolling with a few questions:

    1. Since your course is listed as a philosophy class, and this is a history blog, there are bound to be disciplinary differences in how to approach this material. What type of overlap do you think your course would have with a history class, and what fundamental differences would there be?

    2. Teaching this in Utah–and especially at the University of Utah–will pose particular possibilities and challenges. What are you expecting might be some of the difficulties teaching in such a setting, and how do you plan to address those?

    3. One of the hallmark problems with Mormon history has been the paucity of including women’s voices within our general narratives. This is especially true with intellectual history, which has traditionally (and wrongly) been seen as a male’s sphere. How will you seek to include more women’s voices in your course?

    Comment by Ben P — May 2, 2016 @ 11:11 am

  2. Thanks for sharing! I immediately hunted down some of the readings. I’d be curious to know how you selected your guest speakers and what your aim is with the lectures. Thanks!

    Comment by Saskia — May 2, 2016 @ 8:30 pm

  3. Thanks for sharing, Brian. This looks like a really interesting class, with some great source material.

    I, too, am particularly interested in Ben’s third question. Might you involve more women in the lecture series? Is that why Laurel Ulrich is pictured since she isn’t on the assigned readings? Have you thought about using the Woman’s Exponent as a resource for women’s 19th-century theological writings?

    Comment by JJohnson — May 2, 2016 @ 9:13 pm

  4. Thanks, Ben – I’ve been looking forward to teaching this class for a while now and I am delighted to have the chance to work with Bob Goldberg and the Tanner Humanities Center team.
    We are in the process of finalizing dates and speakers for the lecture series and we will announce this as soon as details are finalized. We plan to record the lectures and make them available online for those who might be interested.

    1. Philosophy and History | Given my background and interests, the class will be more theoretically oriented than it might otherwise be under a history listing. The overarching theme will be the negotiations between faith, reason, science, and revelation; and along the way we will be connecting with various schools of thought such as Scottish philosophy (and its connection with ?Old Princeton? theology), presuppositionalism, process thought, finitist theology, evidentialism vs. fideism, narrative theology, fideism, epistemology of religious experience, biblical hermeneutics, etc. My plan is to focus on episodes in the history of Mormonism that help to illustrate these and other intellectual forces at work in the development of the tradition.

    2. Teaching Mormon Studies in Utah | The Utah context provides, as you say, interesting ?possibilities and challenges.? The opportunity to invite colleagues into the classroom is especially exciting. This will help provide students with a more well-rounded experience and introduce them to different personalities in the field. The classroom dynamic is always a fun challenge. In Utah, of course, most of the students come to the classroom with a decided view of all things Mormon; and they have a wide range of expectations. Over the years I?ve learned that it?s better to set the bar high and stay laser focused on the material. That said, I?ve had very few problems. Thankfully, I have never experienced external pressures and I hope, and expect, for this to continue.

    3. Women?s Voices | I absolutely agree, and the situation in my field is especially distressing. With regard to the class, the lecture series will involve a rich mixture of voices, both male and female. I?ve also received some terrific suggestions that will be incorporated into the second draft of the syllabus (including some essential selections from Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings). We?re also very fortunate to have Margaret Toscano, Kate Holbrook, Colleen McDannell, and others in the neighborhood?I?ve enjoyed participating with them in Research Interest Groups sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center (shout out to Colleen, Bob Goldberg, and Paul Reeve for making these possible). I?m always open to suggestions and thoroughly enjoy the collaborative nature of these projects.

    Comment by Brian Birch — May 2, 2016 @ 9:34 pm

  5. What a great looking class. I hope to make it to some of the guest lectures–thanks for sharing your plans!

    Comment by John Hatch — May 3, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  6. […] at Utah Valley University, will be teaching a class this fall at the University of Utah on ?The Intellectual Life of Mormonism.? In addition to being open to traditional┬ástudents, the course will host lectures open to the […]

    Pingback by Mormon News, May 2?6 | Signature Books — May 6, 2016 @ 2:34 pm


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