How this university became top site for study of Mormonism outside of Utah

Religion

This miniature book, designed to resemble the gold plates from the Angel Moroni that Joseph Smith found, is one of two copies on record, the other located at Indiana University. (University of Virginia)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Vir. (ABC4) – An East Coast university just became the leading site for the study of Mormonism outside of Utah.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville announced the donation of more than 10,000 books and other print materials from the collection of scientist and Latter-day Saint historian Gregory A. Prince, which are now being installed in its research archive.

Prince is a sixth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who began collecting these artifacts nearly five decades ago, UVA explains. According to the university, the donation of these materials makes UVA the leading site for the study of Mormonism outside of the Beehive State.

“With the gift of the Gregory A. Prince Collection, the UVA Mormon Studies Program is poised to provide the leadership needed for a new generation of students and researchers of Mormonism,” says Kathleen Flake, UVA’s Richard Lyman Bushman professor of Mormon studies.

Some pieces of the collection include:

  • Beehive Girls handbooks for Mormon girls
  • Designs for a Rotunda-shaped building in Temple Square that was never constructed
  • A miniature model of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon
  • A dictionary of Sign Language terms for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • “Affirmation” newsletter for gay and lesbian Mormons from the Los Angeles chapter in July 1981

In the slideshow below, you can see photos of the collection, courtesy of UVA:

“I’ve been stunned at how many items are recorded only in Utah libraries or nowhere,” Molly Schwartzburg, a curator with the University’s library, explains.

UVA explains why Prince chose a site outside of Utah for his collection:

Prince said that he realized his collection “needed to have a second life, given that my own use of it was coming to an end.” He began discussing it with Richard Bushman, who endowed the Mormon studies professorship that Flake holds at UVA, and contacted officials of the University about the possibility of donating the library to UVA.

Prince had known Flake when she was a professor at Vanderbilt University and said he was thrilled when UVA hired her as the Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies in 2013. “The reason was obvious: a chair in Mormon studies would lay down a marker, but a chair and a world-class research library would make UVA a center for Mormon Studies that would be unrivaled by anything else east of the Rocky Mountains,” Prince said.

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