David Howlett

Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion

David Howlett

Contact & Office Hours

Spring 2021
Tuesday, 3:00–4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, 3–4:30 p.m.

Wright Hall 212



Ph.D., The University of Iowa

M.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City

B.S.E., University of Central Missouri


A specialist in American religions, David Howlett has taught at Kenyon College, Skidmore College, and Bowdoin College. His work highlights how religious minorities participate in the construction of centers and peripheries, manage internal dissent and difference, and develop strategies to distinguish themselves from and proffer critique of more powerful groups.

Howlett’s first book, Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space, is a historical ethnography set in late twentieth-century America that delineates the rival claims, narratives, and practices of multiple Mormon groups at a contested pilgrimage site in Ohio. It was awarded the Best First Book Award from the Mormon History Association. His second book, Mormonism: The Basics, is the only Mormon studies text that provides sustained comparative analysis of the three major traditions within Mormonism, and, as such, illustrates how young religions diversify over time and work out their place within a larger culture.

Howlett’s current book project decenters the dominant American-based narrative of Mormonism by documenting and analyzing late-twentieth-century global exchanges between a small Mormon denomination in America and subsistence-farming highland peoples (adivasis or “indigenous peoples”) in eastern India. Although his scholarship is focused on Mormon studies, Howlett consistently addresses broader themes in the study of religion, e.g. pilgrimage, globalization, indigeneity, conflict, class, race, and authenticity.

Selected Publications


Mormonism: The Basics. Co-authored with John-Charles Duffy. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2014.

Articles and Chapters

“Why Denominations Can Climb Hills: RLDS Conversions in Highland Tribal India and Midwestern America, 1964-2001.” Church History: Christianity and Culture, forthcoming.

“The Cultural Work of the ‘First Vision Accounts’ Essay.” In The Mormon Church and the Gospel Topics Essays: The Scholarly Community Responds, edited by Matthew L. Harris and Newell Bringhurst. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming, 2020.

“Ripe Fields, Plentiful Laborers, Few Jobs: The Prospects and Challenges for Early-Career Mormon Studies Scholars.” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 1 (2015): 174-183.

“What Does Kashi Have to Do with Salt Lake?: Academic Comparisons, Asian Religions, and Mormonism.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 47, no. 2 (2014): 122-132.

“A Post-Correlation Church?” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 34, no. 2 (2014): 112-116.

“‘We’re Not the Mormons’: Alterity and Church History in the Community of Christ.” Fides et Historia 45, no. 1 (winter/spring 2013): 101-108.

“Restorationist Studies: The Future of the New Mormon History." Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 3 (2009): 200-204.

“Eating Vegetables to Build Zion: RLDS Children in the 1920s.” Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 1 (2009): 1-22.

“The Death and Resurrection of the RLDS Zion: A Case Study in ‘Failed Prophecy,’ 1930-1970.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40, no. 3 (fall 2007): 112-131.

“The Bruderhof’s ‘System of Objects’: A Study in Material Culture and Christian Praxis.” Communal Societies 26, no. 2 (2006): 19-42.

“‘The Making of a Steward’: Zion, Ecclesiastical Power, and RLDS Bodies, 1923-1931.” Journal of Mormon History 32, no. 2 (2006): 1-38.

“Zion as Fiction: Gender, Early RLDS Novels, and the Politics of Place.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 25 (2005): 93-106. 

“Historians on Defining Hegemony in Missionary-Native Relations.” Fides et Historia 37, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2005): 17-24.

“Remembering Polygamy: The RLDS Church and Late Twentieth-Century American Spiritual Transformations.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 24 (2004): 149-172.

Book reviews in Church History: Christianity and Culture, Nova Religio: The Journal of New and Emergent Religions, German Studies Review, Journal of the Civil War Era, Religious Studies Review, Mormon Studies Review, and Journal of Mormon History.