The LDS Council for Mormon Studies, which has been involved with the creation of a chair in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has issued the following press release:
Claremont University to Establish First Chair for Mormon Studies Outside of Utah
On April 28, 2006, Claremont Graduate University will formally announce the establishment of the Howard W. Hunter Chair for Mormon studies. This will be the first academic chair for ongoing Mormon studies at a non-Mormon university anywhere in the world. When endowed, the chair will honor the legacy of LDS Church president Howard W. Hunter, who lived many years in Pasadena.
At a time when news events seem to be increasingly focused on religious tension, Claremontâ€™s action is both timely and farsighted. â€œThe more we examine and understand a religionâ€™s true beliefs and practices, the more we can respect its differences with our own,â€? says Joseph Bentley, chairman of the Council for the Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is raising funds to endow the chair.
Over the last 50 years, the study of religion has steadily lost ground in most universities as an academic emphasis. Claremont bucks that trend. â€œIn actual fact, religion continues to be a powerful motivator of human actions,â€? says Karen Torjesen, Dean of the School of Religion at CGU. â€œTo ignore it is to get both history and the current context wrong. This is part of a bold effort to make a positive contribution to the community and our nation.â€? CGU now works with eight councils to promote comparative studies of the faith traditions of Indic, Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Middle Eastern Orthodox, Zoroastrian, and LDS religions.
To date, the Council and Claremont have sponsored several major events on the study of Mormonism, including lectures by leading scholars on the study of Mormonism, Richard Bushman (Columbia University) and Jan Shipps (Indiana Universityâ€”Purdue), and academic conferences in 2004 and 2005.
Howard W. Hunter, for whom the endowed chair will be named, is the only LDS Church president from California. Both of his sons currently reside in California and his widow resides in San Clemente, Orange County.