Scholars & Saints

From History to Mormon Studies (feat. Matthew Bowman)

April 16, 2024 UVA Mormon Studies Season 2 Episode 2
From History to Mormon Studies (feat. Matthew Bowman)
Scholars & Saints
More Info
Scholars & Saints
From History to Mormon Studies (feat. Matthew Bowman)
Apr 16, 2024 Season 2 Episode 2
UVA Mormon Studies

What do an archeologist, historian, philosopher, and literary critic have in common? They're all members of the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University! Continuing our series on Mormon studies in the academy, Dr. Matthew Bowman, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at CGU joins host Nicholas Shrum to discuss his own journey to Mormon studies as a trained historian, how Mormon studies emerged as an interdisciplinary field, the history of its foundational authors and scholars, and the current and future state of Mormon studies scholarship at CGU and beyond. 

To find out more about Dr. Bowman and his work, visit his CGU profile page.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What do an archeologist, historian, philosopher, and literary critic have in common? They're all members of the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University! Continuing our series on Mormon studies in the academy, Dr. Matthew Bowman, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at CGU joins host Nicholas Shrum to discuss his own journey to Mormon studies as a trained historian, how Mormon studies emerged as an interdisciplinary field, the history of its foundational authors and scholars, and the current and future state of Mormon studies scholarship at CGU and beyond. 

To find out more about Dr. Bowman and his work, visit his CGU profile page.

00;00;00 Scholars and Saints Introduction
Nicholas Shrum: You’re listening to Scholars and Saints, the University of Virginia Mormon
Studies podcast. On this podcast, we dive into the academic study of Mormonism, where we
engage recent and classic scholarship, interview prominent and up-and-coming thinkers in the
field and reflect on Mormonism’s relevance to the broader study of religion. Scholars and Saints
is brought to you by support from the Richard Lyman Bushman Endowed Professorship of
Mormon Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. The
podcast was founded by UVA Religious Studies Ph.D. candidate Stephen Betts. For the past
several years, Stephen spoke with dozens of Mormon studies scholars and helped connect
thousands of listeners to the world of Mormon Studies. Starting this year in 2024, I, Nicholas
Shrum, a Ph.D. student in religious studies at UVA, will carry on the podcast goal of exploring
some of the most pressing issues and cutting edge methods in Mormon studies and put them in
conversation with scholarship from the discipline of religious studies.
00;01;04 Dr. Bowman’s Overview
Nicholas Shrum: On today's episode, I speak with Doctor Matthew Bowman, associate
professor of religion and history, and Howard Hunter, chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont
Graduate University in Southern California. Doctor Bowman received a BA and an Ma in history
from the University of Utah, and completed a doctorate in history at Georgetown University. In
today's conversation, I speak with Doctor Bowman about his academic journey into the study of
Mormonism. Like many Mormon study scholars, Doctor Bowman did not initially intend on
studying Mormonism. As a trained historian, Doctor Bowman has many important insights into
what Mormon Studies is and how scholars of religion and history can best go about studying
Mormonism as part of their broader study of religion in America and around the globe. I hope
you enjoyed my conversation with Doctor Matthew Bowman.
00;01;58 Dr. Bowman’s Introduction
Nicholas Shrum: Today on the podcast, we're going to have Dr. Matthew Bowman, who is an
associate professor of religion and history at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont
California. He holds the Howard W Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, and it's a position that he's
held since 2019. And today we're going to be talking about Mormon studies as a discipline, as a
field of study in academia and broadly about Matt's interest in Mormonism and American
religious history. So please join me in welcoming Matt Bowman to the podcast today.

Matthew Bowman: Hi there. Glad to be here.

00;02;35 Dr. Bowman’s Background
Nicholas Shrum: Thanks, Matt. So just to open up the podcast, I wanted to ask you about your
academic background, your schooling, your research interests, and kind of how you got to the
position that you're at today.

Matthew Bowman: Yeah, absolutely. So my PHD is from Georgetown University in American
history, and I was not actually intending on doing religious studies or even religious history when
I began at Georgetown. My interest was mainly in political history, and particularly that in the
Progressive era. But I was increasingly, I think, drawn to the study of religion as a historian. In
my time there, I took a seminar in my second semester there in which I wrote a paper on
Christian socialism in early 20
-century America.

And I found that fascinating and particularly interesting to me was the way in which religious
language functioned in progressive era politics as a mode of legitimation or a delegitimization of
various political ideas. And that really drew me into that contest over terminology, over
legitimacy in American religion, and eventually led to my dissertation, which was about what's
sometimes called the fundamentalist modernist crisis of the early 20th century, or I guess this
kind of classic way of thinking about Protestantism in America and how it separates into two
camps in the early 20th century.
My interest was not necessarily in how the two groups separated, but rather in how they both
laid claim to the word evangelical and how they fought over that identity and that idea in New
York City in particular. I was interested in practice in congregational leadership, things like that.
So that really led me into the study of religion and the first job I got out of graduate school was
in a religion department. I was a visiting assistant professor at Hampden-Sydney College in the
history of religion.
And that meant I had to start teaching classes in theory of religious studies. And so I was kind of
frantically reading all of these books over the summer so I could teach stuff that I had not really
studied before. My classes at Georgetown were nearly all in history, some in the history of
Christianity, but not a lot of theoretical courses. I'm somewhat self taught in that way.
Nicholas Shrum: That's fascinating.
Matthew Bowman: Oh yeah. From Hampden-Sydney College, I ended up getting a tenure
track job at the liberal Arts College in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I was in the history
department. So I was back to teaching the U.S. History survey instead of introduction to the
study of religion. But I missed it enough that I created a religious studies minor there which I
directed and ran. And from there I came to CGU.
Nicholas Shrum: Excellent. Well, that's a really fascinating way to get into religious studies.
And I feel everybody has their own way of getting into religious studies myself. I started in
geography and history, and the next thing you know, I'm studying religion somewhere when I
first thought of myself as a historian. Yeah. So great.
00;06;19 Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University
Nicholas Shrum: Let's ask you about Claremont Graduate University and this chair that you
hold the Howard W Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of that position, how you came to it, and you
mentioned that you developed a minor at your previous institution in religion, and you kind of
brought that expertise to Claremont. Can you talk about that transition?
Matthew Bowman: Yeah. It also speaks, right, to this sort of odd thing that is religious studies,
right, and sort of its artificiality. And I'm even hesitating in calling it a discipline because I don't
know that it is. Of course, I'm in a history department here, but I'm also in a department of
religion which descends from what used to be a college of religion here at Claremont Graduate
It is interesting. So our Department of Religion, I think like many of religious studies
departments, is made up of people trained in a number of different disciplines. And the thing that
I think makes whatever it is we do coherent is that we're all studying this thing we call a religion,
or maybe even just this category rather than any actual thing that we call religion.
I'm a historian by training, there are some other historians in my department. We have an
archeologist. We have people who study literature. We have people trained in philosophy, right,
but we're all kind of looking at religion. And perhaps that's the thing that brings whatever unity
we have. So, I bring that up because of the establishment of this chair. Right now chairs are
kind of an interesting way to also try to organize the academic disciplines or ideas or whatever
we do, because chairs tend to be subject-based rather than discipline-based. But this chair is
about 15 years old, and although it was, it came to life, I think as a twinkle in somebody's eye
maybe 20 years ago. And it reflects, I think, Claremont Graduate University, we have a number
of chairs of different types of religion in my department.
There is a chair in Islamic studies in my department, there’s a chair in women’s studies and
religion and several others. And about 20 years ago, the then-dean over the Department of
Religion here at CGU, Karen Torjesen, was interested in establishing these chairs. And she
actually had a graduate student who was a member of the LDS Church who began pushing her
and saying we should think about a chair in Mormon studies.
And of course, most people's reaction, at that point, was what is Mormon studies? Which is still
a question we can talk about. But I think it was not even really on the radar. And this was 20
years ago. Still a time, I think, in which Mormon studies had not attracted interest across the
academy that it has since. But there was something that I think still exists also in the Mormon
studies community, which is a lot of well-off interested laypeople, people who would contribute
to endowing this sort of thing.
And so there was a committee put together with a number of local members of the LDS Church
who were interested in seeing this sort of thing established. They began raising money.
Increasingly, and I think the members of the faculty at CGU began kind of inquiring into this
possibility. And eventually, Richard and Claudia Bushman came up to Claremont and Richard
ended up holding the chair for an initial three year term.

And I think it was it was really their academic credentials and credibility that persuaded faculty
that this was something that could be a useful contribution to the CGU community. You know,
this isn't to say, right, that it's always kind of smooth sailing because, of course, it never is. And
these sorts of chairs raise questions. They raise questions about donor influence, about the
relationship between scholars and the things scholars study and I'm not simply talking about the
Mormon studies chair here. Right.
The same might be said of many academic chairs, those studying other religious bodies, but
even chairs studying other things in economics or politics that are endowed by fundraising.
Right. There's all sorts of interesting complexities there. And I say sometimes, right, that a chair
like this one has feet planted in the academy, but it also has to look outside the academy
because there are communities of interest. And that is as it should be, I think academics, you
know, we often fool ourselves into thinking that that our modes of inquiry or ways of thinking are
more exclusive and special than they might actually be. And having to have kind of
conversations with other groups keep us honest in some ways. So the Chair eventually was
named after Howard W. Hunter who was president of the LDS Church, because Hunter lived in
this area and before he joined the Church hierarchy in Salt Lake City, and his family still in the
area as well.
And I am the third holder of the chair. And as you say, I held it for four years. The chair has
historically been affiliated with the Department of Religion here, but when I joined it was split
and it is now half in religion and half in history, both of those departments, which I think is good
for the chair and also a good for the program of Mormon studies here at CGU.

00;12;59 What Mormon Studies is and How Mormon Studies is Related to Broader
Nicholas Shrum: Yeah, thank you for that. And to keep going with that idea-- you mentioned
that having it being a split joint appointment in history and religion is good for Mormon studies, I
think that Mormon studies, maybe if we want to call it a field or a mode of inquiry that scholars
have pursued looking at Mormonism, it's traditionally been history and I think it's been slower
getting into religious studies.
So that's really interesting that it is joint. Can you speak to how Mormon studies, whether it's at
Claremont or in your other professional academic experience, how Mormon studies has related
to other fields? So maybe you could speak to your own--perhaps this would be a good time to
speak to your own introduction to Mormon Studies. I know that you've published a few books
and articles in the field of Mormon studies, but then also how that relates to the field of history
generally. Questions like What does it offer history or What does history offer Mormon studies?
Matthew Bowman: Oh yeah, that's a lot. We can start with that phrase: Mormon studies. What
is Mormon studies? What is it? What does that phrase mean? And I think the first thing to say,
right, is it's not a discipline and it's not a mode of inquiry. It's not a way of organizing or
arranging knowledge.

Now, of course, right, from a from a sort of insider perspective, we could speak of Mormon
theology maybe as a way of organizing knowledge and a way of looking at the world and a way
of thinking about doctrine, but that’s not what scholars necessarily do. So Mormon studies-the
study of Mormonism using a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and you are correct, I think, in
saying that the very first time academic scholars or people trained in universities in formal
modes of thinking, formal modes of organizing knowledge, were historians who began to deal
with this.
And I would sometimes say when I refer to books of Mormon studies were this trinity of books
right by Leonard Arrington, Fawn Brodie, and Juanita Brooks. And the interesting thing there is
that none of them held PhDs in history even though all three of them are writing history.
Arrington's PhD is in economics. Although economic history. Right. Then the other two held
masters degrees. But, right, they are the first books, I think, that really strove to abide by
modern academic disciplinary expectations or how this sort of thing should be done. And that
precedent then continued. Right? It was generally historians doing historical sort of work. Now,
although we shouldn't, I think, erase contributions by people like Mark Leone, for instance, or
Jan Shipps who were in the seventies and eighties, doing other sorts of disciplinary studies of
I mean, all the way back in the fifties, Wayland Hand was doing folklore analysis of Mormonism.
And so there have been other things like that done in the past. But by and large, it has been
history. That's something I think that is interesting about Claremont Graduate University,
because of course we are a graduate only institution. We only have graduate students.
When I have students reach out to me or prospective students who're interested in doing
Mormon studies, and many of them assume then that means they'll be in the Department of
Religion and they will have to take introduction to the study of religion classes, they have to read
Max Weber, right, or Thomas Tweed or all of these people. But that's not necessarily the case.
And the fact that I also have a position in the history department means that I can tell students
you could actually be in history, you can be in religion. We’ve graduated Mormon studies
students with Ph.D.s in English and, you know, we had some, of course, in our program in
Philosophy and Religious Thought, which is affiliated with the Department of Religion, but it's
not quite the same thing.
That's right. So there are a lot of different ways you can study Mormonism, and that's the
conversation I have with students upon entering. I will tell them that the Mormon Studies
program here is not a department. You do not get a degree in it. Rather, it is a group of students
who circle this subject and this topic, and you pick your own way of analyzing it and it's my job
to guide you either in those disciplines or to people who can help you as one to approach
Mormonism, say, from the perspective of the study of literature, which some of our students do.

So that is how we do it here. And yet often that will throw students because, as you say, right I
think the introduction that a lot of prospective students have to Mormons Studies is historical
and they sort of assume that that's what they'll be doing. And then they come here and they
read Durkheim and Weber and all of these other people and they get their minds blown a little
bit, they start thinking, okay, there are multiple ways we can think about what this thing
Mormonism is.
00;18;34 Make up the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University
Nicholas Shrum: Oh, no, that’s an excellent, I mean, that's a great insight into how the
environment at CGU works for students. It sounds like a very productive, flourishing place for a
student to go. What is kind of the makeup of the department of or, excuse me, of the program at
the moment? Is it primarily historical? You mentioned that there were some in philosophy and
English. What's typically the route they take?
Matthew Bowman: And so that's an interesting question, right? Because well, for a couple of
reasons. The first is there's really two cohorts of students here. There is that group of students
who are actually taking coursework. And at any given time, perhaps somewhere between ten
and 15, I think who are actively in course work, and there is at least an equal number who are
out somewhere writing a dissertation or a master's thesis, right?
And often they don't stay in Claremont because Claremont is kind of a pricey place to live. And
it's a time for doing research. And they’ll go somewhere and live somewhere to do research and
write. I would say the majority are in the department of Religion because, before I arrived here,
my predecessors were both full-time religion department appointments.
Since I have come with this dual appointment and, I think we've been much more clear to
students that can do a variety of things, the number of students in history is rising. I think that's
probably the second largest major of our students. And we have smatterings in some other
programs as well. There is a couple in politics right now.
Our politics department, doing—we have a program called Religion in American Politics. There's
a number of Mormon Studies students in that. I mentioned English a moment ago and I'm right
now actually speaking with-- we have a school business here and I'm speaking with a professor
in the school of business to try to think about that because you probably are aware, right, the
study of religion and its relationship to business, capitalism, economics is something that I think
gaining more and more interest in the academy. I'd like to do something about it as well.
00;20;55 What Mormon Studies at CGU Offers Students
Nicholas Shrum: Oh, absolutely. That's great. I look forward to hearing more about that. And
so you mentioned that Claremont Mormon Studies offers this environment. It's this group of
students and faculty that are able to guide and bounce ideas off of each other on this topic of
Mormonism. Are there other things that the program and that the chair offer to students? Are
there other workshops or conferences or other kinds of opportunities for students? What other
things are offered?

Matthew Bowman: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I should mention as well, there are certain things
that are required in my contract. What is required in the contract is that I teach two classes per
academic year on Mormon studies or that are in Mormon studies in some way. I often structure
classes like this. First I try to make them comparative. So for instance, last academic year I
taught a class called “Woman in American Christianity.”
And that class compared women in Mormonism, women in Protestant evangelicalism, and
women in Roman Catholicism. I taught a class called American Scripture, which looked at The
Book of Mormon but then compares the Book of Mormon to other texts that have been deemed
Scripture or sacred or holy books in the United States from the Code of Handsome Lake, all the
way up to Dianetics.
And so that's one thing right — I will teach these classes, and we teach them comparatively,
because I want my students to be thinking of Mormonism not simply as a discrete thing, but as
something that exists within contexts, historical contexts, ideological contexts, and achieved by
those contexts. Secondly, in these classes, in addition to being comparative in that way, I try to
introduce students to a variety of methods.
So as we study this question of, say, scripture and Mormonism, we will read books that are
historical. We will read books that are more theoretical in other ways as well, sociological texts,
for instance, or texts that are explicitly in this field of religious studies, interrogating the concept
of religion and using a theory to do that sort of thing.
So that's kind of the the baseline of the program right. There are these - once every semester,
there is a Mormon Studies class offered that tries to cast as wide a net as possible that will help
students kind of think in multiple disciplines comparatively. Second thing that is mentioned in by
my contract, we have events - at least as per my contract – two Mormon Studies events a year.
There is and has been for a long time, since before my time, an annual Mormon Studies
Conference that happens every year. At that conference, I usually have between 6 to 12
speakers who come and address a topic. I try to get them from a variety of disciplines. This last
April we had a workshop come that I made up almost entirely of Indigenous scholars from the
United States, Latin America, and the Pacific who came and thought about the term Lamanite -
interpretations on the term Lamanite—the various work that term does.
What does it mean? How does that term work? The year before that, we had a conference
thinking about the concept of scripture and especially scripture in terms of not simply in terms of
ideology and ideas, but also in terms of materiality. What is the object we call or how does the
object we call scripture exert authority, that sort of thing.
We had theologians come, we had historians, we had anthropologists and so on, right? So that
happens every April. And students are usually very plugged into those conferences. I tried to
organize them such that students are chairing sessions. Students are offering comments on the
things that our guests, the talks that they give. Even planning at times, students will be involved
in planning conferences.

So those are the kind of baseline things that I think any chair in Mormon Studies at Claremont
Graduate University would be doing. We’ve done some more as well. I mentioned earlier that I
have an appointment in the history department. Our history program has two very strong
sub-programs, one in archival studies and one in museum studies. And I have tried to get our
Mormon studies students involved in both of those.
One of the things that I have really kind of made emphasis on and tried to accomplish here is
gathering a robust archival collection in Mormon history and Mormon studies. And we've had -
we've gotten several collections. Now we have a collection of the original San Bernardino
settlers who were members of the LDS Church who settled San Bernardino - and, we've got a
bunch of genealogical papers from them. We have the papers of J. Talmage Jones who was a
mission leader in the LDS Church.
A president of a number of different missions in the mid 20th century from all the way from
Singapore to England. And I think most prominently and we've recently acquired a collection of
the Museum of Mormon Mexican history, which is of course a museum in Provo, Utah, that
donated to us around 90 linear feet of materials documenting the history of various Mormon
movements in Mexico.
So Mormon studies students who are interested in doing this have been able to take classes in
our archival studies program, organizing and documenting these collections. And so we have
two students in particular with archival training or we have one student who is about to graduate
from our archival studies program, who has done a lot of work on these collections and which is
a really excellent kind of professional development opportunity.
We’re also continuing a partnership with the Museum of Mexican Mormon History and offering
various internships and work at the museum for student tours, in particular museum studies. So
that's stuff on the history side of the spectrum. Now I'll pivot over to the religion side of the
program. One thing that we have done ever since the Bushmans were here, and Claudia
Bushman in particular, is oral histories.
Claudia Bushman spearheaded the Mormon Women’s Oral History Project, which is now nearly
coming up on 20 years old and has been gathering oral histories of Mormon women for a long,
long time - hundreds of years. We also more recently have launched a Global Mormon Oral
History project, which seeks to gather oral histories from Mormons outside of the United States.
Caroline Kline, who received her Ph.D. here at CGU – in Women's Studies and Religion and
who recently – to brag about her for a moment, recently won the Mormon History Association’s
International Book Award for her book, which is based on these oral histories. She directs these
programs, and a lot of our students are really interested in doing this. We regularly offer a class
in oral history. Caroline works with a lot of students who are interested in working in these oral
history programs.

She is teaching a class this fall on doing this sort of oral history and she has also launched a
podcast called Global Latter-day Life, in which you can hear, if you listen to this podcast, you
can hear many of these oral histories which she has done, and she organizes episodes around
themes that she discovers in this book of oral histories, things like marriage and family, or work,
and how you can find out how Mormons all around the world are experiencing these various
The class she is teaching this fall is going to be built around producing the second season of
that podcast. Students who take this class with her will develop a podcast episode and learn
how to edit podcasts, learn how to record, learn how to do all the hands-on practical stuff as well
as really engaging with the literature on globalization and religion, that deeply informed the
podcast from the beginning. That is all taking place under the egis of something called the
Center for Global Mormon Studies.
And we've created a website for that center, which is called the Mormonism and Migration
Project. Students are working on that website as well. They are curating oral histories and
building an online archive of a lot of these different collections we've been pulling together. So
as you can see, we do have this curricular offering, right?
But there's a whole lot of extracurricular things happening here at CGU as well that are all part
of this Mormon studies program. So students here don't only take classes and write
dissertations - they do a lot of other things as well, which I hope will help prepare them for what
I'm sure you are aware is a really, really sometimes terrifying academic job market.
Nicholas Shrum: Absolutely. Well, I mean, that is a fabulous offering for graduate students.
Like you said, it's not just an opportunity to study the content, the topic, and ask questions of
Mormonism, but Mormon studies itself seems to be quite fruitful in lots of practical professional
training. Oral history, archival work, like you're saying, with podcasting and other administrative
type jobs.
00;31;39 Dr. Bowman’s Mormon Studies Work
Nicholas Shrum: That's fabulous. So if you don't mind me asking, maybe we can take a little bit
of time to talk about your work in Mormon studies, kind of under this umbrella question of how
one does Mormon studies. Maybe you could talk about maybe some of the questions that
you've asked? You’re a historian so we know that primarily you're asking historical questions,
but what kind of questions have you asked and why has that been fruitful in Mormon studies?
Matthew Bowman: Yeah, you know, I think a number of people my age say this. I think people
who, particularly people who are members of the LDS church, you sort of find your way into
Mormon studies. That was certainly true for me. I did not intend on making it a focus of my
academic life. But I mentioned earlier when I went to Georgetown for my Ph.D., I was interested
in politics and religion.

My dissertation is not on Mormon studies. It was always, I think, something that was of vague
interest to me, in part because I was associated with a number of scholarly organizations,
gathering groups that piqued my interest. My first actual piece of Mormon studies that I
produced was somewhat historical, but it was also really informed by folklore.
And that was this article on Bigfoot and Mormonism that I wrote 15 years ago. Now, actually,
probably a little more. I'm coming up on 20. That really leaned heavily on the folklore analysis
and Wayland Hand who I mentioned before and Burt Knowlton and it was a kind of a way of
using Bigfoot folklore in Mormon history to think about how Mormon ideas about evil had
changed over 200 years of Mormon history.
So in a sense, it was historical, but also going across folklore as well. I continued writing articles
here and there, but my first real book on Mormon studies was again, something I fell in to. It was
it was not something I planned on writing. It’s called the Mormon People, and it is a one volume
history of Mormonism.
And I, well, I wrote it in three months because I received a call in the summer of 2011 from
Random House – an editor at Random House told me they wanted history of Mormonism to
publish while Mitt Romney was running for president, and that I had been recommended to write
it by Richard Bushman, which was both a tremendous honor and also a really daunting
You know, they called me, I think it was around the end of June 2011, and they told me they
wanted to book by Labor Day, and I negotiated another ten days out of them so I had to turn it in
by September 15th. And so I just wrote like now. I had barely defended my dissertation. So
fortunately that was off my plate. But I was preparing classes and to teach principles on faculty
for the first time, but I wrote it.
It is largely a synthesis. Because of the chronological demands on me, I did not have time to do
a great deal of archival research, but I hope it's stood for a long time. It's kind of a valuable
synthesis of where Mormon history writing was to that point. And particularly, I think to the 20th
century, because as a scholar of religion generally, I've always largely been interested in the
twentieth century.
I'm interested in questions of modernity, as described by theorists like Durkheim or Max Weber,
what modernity is, how religion interacts with modernity, and particularly issues of technology,
bureaucratization, the rise of modern commercial capitalism, things like that. I am right now.
Well, I should not say I am anymore because I have finished it. A month from now, at the end of
August, a book I had worked on for several years on alien abduction in the 20th century - its
going to be published by Yale. And I wanted to write a book like that because so many of my
interests in kind of religion and modernity and technology really appear in alien abduction. It has
nothing to do with Mormonism.

I didn't mention it when I was interviewing for this job because I thought they would think that
was, you know, it's kind of funny, but I'm really proud of it. I think it was really fun to write and it
also was a springboard for me into the book I am working on now, which is a study of Stephen
R. Covey, who is, of course, for anyone who does not know, was one of the rock star business
consultants in the late 20th and early 21st century, and one of this really group of business
consultants who, in those decades, really made this interesting move between business
organization and psychology and therapy and self-help.
And he also was a very devout member of the LDS Church and did a lot of writing for lay
members of that church. And I'm interested in him as somebody who is blurring these lines that
Americans often take for granted between economics and religion and business and religion.
And certainty, right, there was a lot of suspicion, and there has always been in the United States
because of Protestant roots in religions that are wealthy, and religions that are institutional or
religions that look like business.
Right. But those are boundaries that Covey kind of drifted back and forth on effortlessly. And I'm
interested in that. And how come he allowed these ideas to coexist and found needs for these
on various discourses to become mutually supporting. So that is what I'm working on now. And
you can see then why I mentioned earlier, I'm interested in these collaborations with the School
of Business that we have here and how we can kind of think about religion and business in new
and interesting ways.
Yeah, absolutely. And congratulations on the upcoming publication with Yale University Press,
we’ll be looking forward to that one. And yes, this this project on Stephen Covey and business
and the intersection of capitalism, economics and religion sounds really fascinating. And I'm
sure that people in the UVA religious studies community will be really interested in that. So you
spoke a little bit about how you teach Mormon studies through a comparative lens, and I think
that's very valuable.
Nicholas Shrum: Religious studies scholars, I think, would applaud that wholeheartedly. That's a
good way to do it.
00;38;51 What Mormon Studies Offers the Broader Academy
Nicholas Shrum: But I am curious about your thoughts on what Mormonism or Mormon studies
both in its institutional sense through the chairs and the programs. But what does it offer? So
why is it fruitful? Is not that there's anything necessarily exceptional about Mormonism or
Mormon studies, but maybe compared or how it's similar to other “studies” disciplines such as
Islamic studies or Jewish studies. What does it offer to the academy and to other disciplines?
Matthew Bowman: Yeah, I like that you made that distinction, right, between the sort of
institutional manifestations like a program like we have here. But also this thing as sort of an
intellectual exercise, something more maybe abstract. So those are two distinct things, right?
Yeah. And I think you could sever them in some ways and one might well, you know that the first
would not exist without the second.

The second could probably exist without the first. The institutional programing: chairs,
departments, things like this is really interesting. And because it has, I think, both some
possibilities but also some pitfalls. And one of the major things it offers, I think it's something
that the humanities in particular can never get enough of, which is money, right? We have
fellowships for students who do Mormon studies here they get extra money on top of whatever
Claremont Graduate University itself might offer them.
And that's really valuable. And that's something I think that's important to encourage the
discipline to thrive. We have money to do this sort of programing stuff to bring people from
different disciplines and different fields together, to have these kinds of conversations. I think all
of that is really fruitful. Of course, at the same time, right as and as we mentioned earlier, right,
all chairs have multiple threads pulling on them. I think getting members of the community – not
academics, not graduate students--members of their community interested in what academics
are doing is in many ways a very good thing and something that we should be pursuing, right?
Academics should not – I think, you know, when we only talk to each other
we just get very far up our own butts and lose relevance to the world that we're hopefully trying
to help. But at the same time, right, that often can also come with threats and pitfalls and a
sense of serving multiple audiences at the same time, which can be a danger. But it's not a
danger that outweighs, I think, the kind of material and organizational benefits a program like
this can offer. I don’t know, but I think it is.
Secondly, though, Mormon Studies is kind of just an intellectual discipline as a way of thinking.
As I say, I don't know that it is a way of thinking in its own right. I don't think it is an intellectual
discipline in its own right. It is, I think, a discipline that can, or I should say a field of study, bring
together many other disciplines and it can raise questions and offer answers. It can be places
where people who study other things can talk to each other. Now, that's maybe true of many
chairs or fields, like this, Jewish studies, Islamic studies have similar benefits. Mormonism, I
think as distinct from those things, has the advantage of being relatively compact. There is a
wonderful line from No Man Knows My History, which is of course, Fawn Brodie's
groundbreaking biography of Joseph Smith in which it says, and I'm paraphrasing here, Smith
had the audacity to found a new religion in the age of print. Right.? And that is something I think
that is really beneficial. Right? We can see in this religious movement grow and thrive within the
last 200 years, and the sources are far greater for the origins of Mormonism than they are for
the origins of Christianity or Islam or Judaism.
As well, we can see, as I brought up earlier, right, context, we can see this religion moving into
an American context and out of the American and into a global context in a relatively
compressed amount of time. And there is I mean, for scholars, I think that is beneficial because
it allows us to explore questions surrounding new religious movements and religion and
globalization and all of these other things in a really distilled way, which can be very valuable.

00;43;59 The Future of Mormon Studies
Nicholas Shrum: Well, thank you for that. And we don't want to take too much more of your
time. I do have one more question, especially with somebody in the position that you're at and
working with many students and networking with many other scholars in the field of Mormon
studies, where do you see the future of Mormon studies going? Is it kind of a dying field? Is
there not much more to be done? Yeah. What are your thoughts on the future of it?
Matthew Bowman: Oh, that is a good question and a kind of an eternal question, right? There
are a couple of ways to answer that, I think, again, citing some of the phrases you brought up
earlier in terms of institution, in terms of organization, in terms of questions scholars are asking,
interests, and things like that. To start at the end of that list, increasingly I think globalization is
an essential question, I think not simply for Mormonism, but for religion generally.
The global patterns, I think, impacting nearly all of what people in the West call religion are
manifest in Mormonism, as with many other movements. Right. And Mormonism, I would hope,
might be an interesting way in which we could study these deeper questions about globalization
and come to some answers that would have relevance both within the field of Mormon studies,
but also without it as well.
And that's, I think, particularly one of the most urgent areas of study and also one I think that
would be of interest to scholars with training in multiple methodologies. There are many ways
you study the question of globalization, historically, sociologically, so on and so forth. We have
some students working on these questions right now, and I think that's particularly important.
I often will tell my Mormon Studies students that they should ask questions that are of interest to
people who don't otherwise care about any of the Mormon movements, but particularly for
students who kind of grow up in that environment, students who are LDS or members of other
Mormon traditions right? They're very embedded in that. And certainly, when I speak about
audience and the audiences we're writing for or thinking about, many of these people deeply
care about what is going to happen with the various Mormon churches.
The students should, I think, develop the ability. And they can that if they like, that's fine, but
they need to develop the ability to seek people who don't care about Mormonism otherwise. And
finding a big question like globalization, I think, is the place I'm trying to point them.
00;46;59 Episode Closing
Nicholas Shrum: Oh, fantastic. Yeah. Well, we're excited to see where your students and
where the program at Claremont takes Mormon studies in the next few years. And we're also
looking forward to – personally – your work. So thank you so much for your time. We'll link into
the show notes for the podcast where they can find your profile at CGU and learn more about
you. And if they have questions, they can contact you. I believe your institutional email is is on
that page.
Matthew Bowman: It is. Yes.

Nicholas Shrum: Perfect. Well, Dr. Bowman, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.
And we hope hopefully in the future, we'll have you back.
Matthew Bowman: Great. Thank you so much.
00;47;33 Outro
Nicholas Shrum: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Scholars and Saints. Please be sure to
come back to hear more conversations soon. Music for this episode is provided by Ben
Howington. To hear more, visit Thank you so much for listening.

Scholars and Saints Introduction
Dr. Bowman's Overview
Dr. Bowman's Introduction
Dr. Bowman's Background
Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University
What Mormon Studies is and How Mormon Studies is Related to Broader Academia
Make up of the Department of Religious Studies at Claremont Graduate University
What Mormon Studies at CGU Offers Students
Dr. Bowman's Mormon Studies Work
What Mormon Studies Offers the Broader Academy
The Future of Mormon Studies
Episode Closing