Apparently Mormon Studies is a hot new topic in academic circles. More universities (outside of Utah) are beginning to study the faith.

According to an article by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune:

First came Utah State University, with its Leonard J. Arrington Chair in Mormon History and Culture. Next up was Claremont Graduate University, which has the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies. Meanwhile, the University of Utah offers a Mormon studies research fellowship, Utah Valley University includes the topic in its interdisciplinary religious studies program, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., offers a courses on Mormonism.

Now, University of Virginia is taking up the topic, too. Last week, the school founded by Thomas Jefferson announced the creation of the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies.

This represents one of the first Mormon studies programs established outside of regions with significant Mormon populations. Stack:

For Mormon scholars, the Virginia announcement is big news. “Not only is UVA the first school outside regions that have large Mormon populations, its prestige as one of the top universities in the nation — and, specifically, one of the top religious studies programs in existence — further confirms the growth and establishment of Mormon studies as a discipline,” Ben Park writes at Juvenile Instructor. “The importance of such an elite institution placing a stamp of approval on a still-developing subfield cannot be overstated.”

Well “seal of approval” is perhaps overstated, however. Something doesn’t get an endowed chair because it’s so important that the world demands it. The Mormon chair at UVA is apparently supported by a $3 million endowment from anonymous donors. If donors throw enough money at anything it can become a subject for serious study.

Thus Colorado State University has the Barbara Cox Anthony Endowed University Chair in Equine Orthopaedic Research (funded by Mrs. Anthony, a multibillionaire horse lover) and the University of Minnesota Medical School has the Joycelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education (funded by Adam & Eve, a company that makes sex toys).

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer