Birch, Brian D.
Director, Center for the Study of Ethics
(801) 863-6363
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Last Updated: 4/15/15 -

Brian D. Birch

Director, Center for the Study of Ethics
Director, Religious Studies Program 

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
Mormon Theological Studies

Research Interests
Theoretical foundations of religious diversity
Comparative Christian thought 
Ethics education with a focus on pluralism and civic engagement
Social dimensions of religious experience

Select Courses
Philosophy of Religion
Honors Ethics and Values 
Approaches to Religious Studies 
Mormon Theology and the Christian Tradition 
Mormonism in American History and Thought

Administrative Experience
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)

Professional Affiliations
Parliament of the World's Religions (Board of Trustees)
Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (Senior Research Fellow)
Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (co-founder)
American Academy of Religion (Mormon Studies Consultation)

Civic Engagement
Member, Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable
Director, Interreligious Engagement Initiative, Utah Valley University
Member, UVU Community Advisory Council 
Executive Committee, 3Rs Project (Rights, Respect, Responsibility), Utah State Office of Education

Select Publications

What is Postmodernism? ed. with David R. Keller (Center for the Study of Ethics, 2003)
Ethics and Values: Basic Readings in Theory and Practice (Simon & Schuster, 1999), contributing editor

Pending Book Projects
Mormonism Among Christian Theologies 
(with Grant Undertwood; under contract with Oxford University Press)

Perspectives on Mormon Theology
(series editor; forthcoming from Kofford Books)

The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormon Scripture
(co-editor; forthcoming from Brigham Young University Press)

editor, Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (2005-2010)
editor, Teaching Ethics: The Journal of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum (2000-2005)

"Divine Investiture: Mormonism and the Concept of the Trinity" in Talking Doctrine: The Mormon Evangelical Dialogue After Fifteen Years (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)

Presentations (select)

"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.

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