Rising Scholar of Mormonism to Teach Class at Southern Virginia

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Dr. Matthew Bowman

Dr. Matthew Bowman, a rising scholar in the growing field of Mormon studies, will teach a class titled “Mormonism and the American Experience” at Southern Virginia University this fall.

Bowman’s book, “The Mormon People: the making of an American faith,” which was published in January by Random House, has been reviewed in major news publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

According to The New York Times, the current “Mormon moment” has led an increasing number of scholars to see the study of Mormon history as an important topic in the landscape of American history.

“[Bowman] is a great religious historian — he knows about LDS history in the context of American history and other religious movements,” said Jeremiah John, assistant professor of politics at Southern Virginia. “His book has been discussed on the pages of major newspapers. It’s something that many people have looked to as a guide to what the Church is all about — especially because Mitt Romney is running for president. It’s definitely a book in the public eye that people have given a lot of praise to.”

Bowman was one of several Mormon scholars — including David Campbell, co-author of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” and Patrick Mason, author of “The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South” — who delivered forum addresses at the university in the past two years. Bowman gave his address,“Eternal Progression: Mormonism and American Progressivism,” in February.

Bowman said that he decided to teach a class at Southern Virginia after his forum address, when he had a conversation with two professors who “expressed the sentiment that Southern Virginia, because of its unique tradition and aims, should host a class on Mormonism.”

According to the class syllabus, Bowman’s class will focus on the relationship between “Mormonism” and American culture, and will teach students about “some of the more important events, people, and issues in the history of Mormonism in America.”

“This school is a special and unique place, the only LDS liberal arts college in the country, and as such I think it has exceptional promise,” said Bowman. “I think the school will become increasingly recognized… as time goes on. I hope my class contributes to that effort.”

Bowman is a visiting assistant professor of religious history at Hampden-Sydney College. He received both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Utah, and a doctorate in American history from Georgetown University. His dissertation was titled, “The Urban Pulpit: Evangelicals and the city in New York, 1880–1930,” and is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

He has written numerous articles published in scholarly journals and news publications, and given a number of addresses at universities and conferences across the country. He has received awards and grants including the James Ruedy Award for Outstanding Teaching in a Survey Course at Georgetown University and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

“Having heard Matt speak at conferences and in discussions with students, I’ve seen that he’s an engaging speaker and teacher,” said John. “His class will be a unique intellectual experience as well as a real blast.”