BYU College of Religious Education
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The BYU College of Religious Education runs the various programs related to teaching Mormonism at Brigham Young University (BYU). In the past it has granted various masters degrees and Doctor of Religious Education degrees. Currently its only degree program are a MA in religious education primarily aimed at full-time Church Educational System employees and an MA program for military chaplains, while most students who take courses with Religious Education are studying other topics. Undergraduate BYU students have to take the equivalent of one religion course per semester.
The BYU College of Religious consists of two department, Church History and Doctrine and Ancient Scripture. Church History and Doctrine focuses on courses related to the Doctrine and Covenants, missionary work, the religious history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and LDS Temples. These courses focus primarily on doctrines and theology and are largely devotional in nature. BYU also offers more historically oriented courses related to LDS Church history through its history department, some of which are taught by faculty members whose main appointment is with the religion department.
The work of faculty members of the BYU College of Religious Education is often published by the Colleges publication are, the Religious Studies Center, pr through the various operations of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
Prior to 1929 religion related instruction at BYU was termed theology. In that year it was renamed religious education. George H. Brimhall, who was the president emeritus was the only full-time religion instructor before 1930. Other classes in religion were taught by faculty from other fields. Having faculty with their main expertise in other fields teach religion is still done at BYU, but the full-time religion faculty is now much more numerous.
Guy C. Wilson, an alumnus of BYU, the University of Chicago and Columbia University was hired as the director of BYU's religious education program in 1930. Wilson had also been the first seminary teacher ever. In the early 1930s Sidney B. Sperry and Russel Swensen, also Universityof Chicago alumni, were added as full-time religion faculty.
In 1932 the department of religious education was made part of the BYU College of Education. In 1940 the department was split off and made the Division of Religious Instruction, a college-level entity, with J. Wyley Sessions as its first head. The division was divided into four sections, Bible and Modern Scripture (Sperry as head), Church Organization and Administration (Wesley Lloyd as head), Church History (Swensen as head) and Theology (Sessions as head).
In 1946 the BYU Department of Archeology was organized as part of the Division of Religious Instruction. In About 1953 that department was moved to the BYU College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The section or department of theology was renamed in 1952 to the Department of Theology and Religious Philosophy. Its name was shortened to Department of Theology and Philosophy.
In 1959 the Division of Religious Instruction was renamed to the College of Religious Instruction. David H. Yarn, an alumnus of BYU and Columbia University was chosen as the first dean. All the departments were reformatted or renamed at this point. The Bible and Modern Scripture Department retained its name, but a new Biblical Languages department was formed that absorbed some of that departments old components. The Theology and Philosophy and the Church History departments were merged into the History and Philosophy of Religions Department. The Church Organization and Administration Department was renamed the LDS Theology, Church Organizations and Administration Department. This last was the shortest lived of the changes, it was renamed in 1961 to the Theology and Church Administration Department. In 1964 the college was reduced to two departments. Biblical Literature was moved to the BYU College of Humanities. The remaining departments were re-organized into the Undergraduate Studies in Religious Instruction and the Graduate Studies in Religious Instruction Departments. This organization persisted until 1973 when the College was again renamed to being the Department of Ancient Scripture and the Department of Church History and Doctrine. In 1969 BYU created a philosophy department outside of the College of Religious Instruction.
The 1973 organization of the current departments also saw the program designated as Religious Instruction with no other modifiers.
It appears that the current official name is Religious Education and it is not technically designated a college. The current dean is Brent L. Top. His most recent predecessors were Terry Ball, Andrew Skinner, and Robert L. Millet.
The college has approximately 70 full-time faculty members.
- Ernest L. Wilkinson, Brigham Young University: The First 100 Years (Provo: BYU Press, 1975) Vol. 2, p. 286-295; Vol 3, p. 112-117; Vol. 4, p. 181-197
- BYU Religious Education website