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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 06, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15Aug00

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

UVSC Says LDS Studies Benefit Utah

OREM, UTAH -- The 20th Annual Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, Utah was the setting for a panel discussion on Thursday to discuss the first Mormon Culture Studies program in the state's higher-education system. Eugene England, a former Brigham Young University English professor and now the Orem college writer-in-residence, recently won a $25,000 one-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will aid in funding the new program.

The new program will serve as a host to conferences and guest lectures that support the school's already established religious diversity and interfaith programs that are currently housed in UVSC's Center for the Study of Ethics. Eventually, the college hopes to work the Mormon cultural studies program into the curriculum and offer a full-blown religious studies degree.

England believes the intent of the program is to provide a neutral and open atmosphere for the study of a culture, not a church. He listed three reasons why UVSC should provide the program; to help combat-anti-Mormonism; to enrich an understanding of Mormonism as a part of Utah culture; and to help Mormons understand, appreciate and improve upon their own culture.

Elaine Englehardt, Utah Valley's University Assistant Academic Vice-President, remarked when the news went public in March, "it's been kind of a bullet train." Concern has poured in from the secular and sacred world. Three general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were concerned that the program would open the door to Mormon bashing.

All six participants in the forum saw the program as favorable to UVSC. Robert Rees, an associate professor at the Universiy of California in Santa Cruz said, "Faith is an important part of human culture. You can't separate the two."

Brian Birch, an associate director of UVSC's religious studies program, and Scott Kenney, a founding editor of Sunstone, were members of the panel. Daniel W. Witherspoon, an instructor at Salt Lake Community College, moderated the discussion.

"Utah is one of only a handful of states in the country that does not offer a baccalaureate degree in the study of religion," Birch said. "This, despite the fact that Utah is arguably the most religiously influenced state in our union."

Mary Ellen Robertson, who holds a master's degree in Women Studies in Religion from Claremont Graduate School said, "I think the academic study of religion is an energizing and worthwhile endeavor."

UVSC Says LDS Studies Benefit Utah
Salt Lake Tribune 4Aug00 D4
BY Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune


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