Director, Center for the Study of Ethics
Director, Religious Studies Program
Professor of Philosophy
Brian Birch is a graduate of the University of Utah with a bachelor's and master's degree in philosophy (1990, 1992). With interests in religious diversity and comparative theological studies, he completed a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Religion and Theology program at Claremont Graduate University (1998). His dissertation was directed by the late D.Z. Phillips and is entitled "The Limits of Pluralism and the Primacy of Practice: An Epistemological Inquiry into Religious Diversity."
Areas of Academic Specialization
Philosophy of Religion
Religious diversity & Interreligious Studies
The Mormon intellectual tradition
Comparative Christian thought
Ethics education with a focus on pluralism and civic engagement
Philosophy of Religion - syllabus
Honors Ethics and Values - syllabus
Approaches to Religious Studies - syllabus
Religion, Ethics, and the Law (with Melissa Proctor) - syllabus
Mormon Theology and the Christian Tradition - syllabus
Mormonism in the American Experience - syllabus
The Intellectual Life of Mormonism - syllabus
Director, Center for the Study of Ethics (2014-present)
Director, Religious Studies Program (2002-present)
Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs (2010-2014)
Associate Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (interim, 2008-10)
Department Chair, Philosophy and Humanities (2003-06)
Associate Director, Center for the Study of Ethics (1999-2006)
Current Professional Affiliations
Marlin K. Jensen Scholar in Residence, University of Utah (Fall, 2016) - website link
Parliament of the World's Religions (Board of Trustees, Executive Committee)
American Academy of Religion (Mormon Studies Group)
Society for Philosophy of Religion (Executive Council)
Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (co-founder, Board of Directors)
Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (Senior Fellow)
Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah (Faculty Advisory Board)
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Philosophy & Theology editor)
Mormon History Association (Graduate Student Work Awards Committee chair)
Director, Interreligious Engagement Initiative, Utah Valley University
Member, Utah Civil and Compassionate Communities Advisory Board
Member, Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable
Member, UVU Community Advisory Council
Executive Committee, 3Rs Project (Rights, Respect, Responsibility), Utah State Office of Education
Links to Select Papers
"Mormonism and the Search for an Adequate Theodicy"
"Faith Seeking Understanding: Mormon Atheology and the Question of Fideism,"
"In Defense of Methodological Pluralism: Theology, Apologetics, and the Critical Study of Mormonism"
"Mormonism and the Concept of Hell"
"Theological Method and the Question of Truth: A Postliberal Approach to Mormon Doctrine and Practice"
"The Awkwardness of Mormonism and Its Place in Religious Studies"
"Heretics and Infidels: The Changing Landscape of Religious Diversity"
Pending Book Projects
Articles & Book Contributions
"Beyond the Canon: Authoritative Discourse in Comparative Contexts" in The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts (Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2016 forthcoming)
"Mormonism and the Challenge of an Adequate Theodicy" Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (6:1, Fall, 2015).
"'The Old Orthodoxy': Sterling McMurrin and the Development of Mormon Thought" in Faith, Reason, Conscience, and Conflict (forthcoming, University of Utah Press, 2016)
"Mormonism and the Heresies" in Let Us Reason Together: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Millet (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2016)
"Divine Investiture: Mormonism and the Concept of the Trinity" in Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation (InterVarsity Press, 2015)
"In Defense of Methodological Pluralism: Theology, Apologetics, and the Critical Study of Mormonism" Mormon Studies Review 1:1 (2014)
“Faith Seeking Understanding: Mormon Atheology and the Question of Fideism” in Mormonism at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Theology (Kofford Books, 2012)
"Turning the Devil Out of Doors: Mormonism and the Concept of Hell" in Hell and Its Afterlife (Ashgate Publishing Co., 2010)
"Theological Method and the Question of Truth: A Postliberal Approach to Mormon Doctrine and Practice," in Discourses in Mormon Theology: Theoretical Possibilities, ed. James M. McLachlan and Loyd Ericson (Greg Kofford Books, 2007)
"Religion and Friendly Fire: Examining Assumption in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion," with Patrick N. Horn, Philosophical Investigations 31 (July, 2007)
"The CIA Leak Investigation: A Case Study" Teaching Ethics, 6:1 (Fall, 2005)
"Mormonism and War" Encyclopedia of Religion and War (Routledge, 2003)
“The Intellectual Cultures of Mormonism: Faith, Reason, and Authority in the Information Age” Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah, November, 2016
“‘A Portion of God’s Light’: Mormonism and Religious Pluralism” Maxwell Institute Lecture, Brigham Young University, November, 2016.
“To Hearken or Not: Divine Commands & Ethical Dissonance” Conference on Peacemaking: Ethical Perspectives in and Around Mormonism, Utah Valley University, October 2016.
"On Being Epistemically Vulnerable: Mormonism and the Secular Study of Religion," Scholar's Colloqium on Mormonism in the Academy, Brigham Young University, June, 2016
"Engaging Interfaith Studies in Public Higher Education: Strategies and Programs" Conference on Interfaith Studies: Curricular Programs & Core Competencies, California Lutheran University, March, 2016.
"Peer Disagreement and the Problem of Religious Pluralism," Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Religion, San Antonio, TX, February, 2016
"The Specter of Fideism: Critical Reflections on Mormon Apologetics," Foundation for Religious Diplomacy Panel, November, 2015
“Mormonism Among the World Religions: Situating Mormonism in the Christian Community,” Parliament of the World’s Religions, October, 2015
"'all that God has revealed': Revelation and Authority in LDS and Catholic Contexts," Mormon Studies Conference, Utah Valley University, April, 2015
"Heretics and Infidels: The Changing Landscape of Religious Diversity," Third Annual Neale Nelson Memorial Lecture, University of Utah, February, 2015
“The ‘Old Orthodoxy:’ Sterling McMurrin and the Development of Mormon Thought,” Symposium on Faith and Reason, Conscience and Conflict, University of Utah, April, 2014
“A Peculiar People: Mormonism at the Margins of Christian Theology,” Conference on Mormonism and Exoticism, Royal Academy of Belgium, Brussels, May, 2013
“Beyond the Canon: Authoritative Discourse in the Digital Age,” Mormon Studies Conference, Utah Valley University, April 5, 2013
“What Power Shall Stay the Heavens: Continuing Revelation and Doctrinal Authority Among the Latter-day Saints,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Baltimore, MD, November, 2013
“Dogma and Democracy: Religious Authority and Political Pluralism in the Twenty-First Century” UVU Conference by the Faculty, January, 2013
”The Mormon Moment,” BYU Humanities Center Faculty Colloquium, November, 2012
“The Good and the True: Religious Diversity and Theological Integrity," Foundation For Interreligious Diplomacy Conference, University of Southern California, June, 2010.
“In Defense of Methodological Anarchy” CMSSA Annual Conference, What is Mormon Studies? Transdisciplinary Inquiries into an Emerging Field, Claremont Graduate University, April, 2010
“Are Mormons Pelagians?” 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, April, 2010.
“The Awkwardness of Mormonism and its Place in Religious Studies,” Religious Studies Colloquium, University of Utah, September, 2009.
“Treasure Them Up: Providence, Pluralism, and the Plan of Salvation,” 2009 Annual Meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, May, 2009.
“The Contested Concept of Christian Identity,” Philosophy Colloquium, Utah Valley University, November, 2008.
“Revelation and Doctrinal Authority,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Chicago, Ill, October, 2008.
“On Being Christian: Doing Justice to the Tradition” 2008 Annual Meeting of the European Mormon Studies Association, Turku, Finland, August, 2008.
"Rethinking Atheology” 2008 Annual Meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, University of Utah, April, 2008.
"Mormon Atheology and Its Implications for Teaching Mormon Studies," Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Mormon Studies Consultation, San Diego, CA, November, 2007.
"Mormonism and War," Interfaith Conference on War and Peace, Salt Lake City, Utah, October, 2007.
"The Ethics of Inclusion in a Homogenous Culture," Presidential Colloquium, Clemson University, April, 2007
"A Confessional Approach to Religious Diversity: Implications for Latter-day Saint Self-Understanding," Annual Meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, Brigham Young University, March, 2007.
"D.Z. Phillips and His Critics: Remarks on Religion and Friendly Fire," Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Religion, Hilton Head, SC, February, 2007.
"An Analysis of Latter-day Saint Conceptions of Damnation," Hell and Its Afterlife: An International and Interdisciplinary Conference, University of Utah, October, 2006.
Select Professional Projects
Annual Religion and the Humanities Conference, Utah Valley University (1996-present)
Annual Mormon Studies Conference, Utah Valley University (2001-present)
Foundation for Religious Diplomacy
Links to Related Organizations and Projects
UVU Religious Studies Program
Foundation for Religious Diplomacy
Parliament of the World's Religions
American Academy of Religion
Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology
Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable
Society for Philosophy of Religion
Reflection Center, Utah Valley University
Center for the Study of Ethics, Utah Valley University