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Kathleen Flake

Richard Lyman Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies


  • PhD, University of Chicago: Ph.D.
    • Major Area: History of Christianity (American)
    • Minor Area: Theology & Narrative
  • MA in Religious Studies, Catholic University of America:
  • JD, University of Utah School of Law
  • BA in English, Brigham Young University

Research Interests

Professor Flake's research in the area of American Religious History focuses on the adaptive strategies of 19th and 20th century American religious communities and the effect of pluralism on religious identity; she is also interested in the constructive function of text and ritual in maintaining and adapting the identity and gendered power structures of religious communities. In the area of American Legal History, she studies the influence of American law on American religion and the theological tensions inherent in the First Amendment religious clauses. Her current project is “Mormon Matriarchy, a Study of Gendered Power in Antebellum America.” Prior to her appointment at Virginia, she taught at Vanderbilt University in both the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion. Before becoming an academic, she litigated cases on behalf of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Washington, D.C. 


    • Mormonism & American Culture
    • American Religious Innovation
    • Church-State Conflict
    • Modern American Marriage in Historical Context

    Selected Publications

    • The Politics of Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
    •  "Ordering Antinomy: Ante Bellum Mormonism’s Priestly Offices, Councils, and Kinship.” Journal of Religion and American Culture 26.2 (Summer, 2016).
    • “The Development of Early Latter-day Saint Marriage Rites, 1831–1853,” Journal of Mormon History 41.1 (January 2015): 77–103.
    • “Joseph Smith’s Letter from Liberty Jail: A Study in Canonization,” Journal of Religion 92.4 (October 2012): 515–526.
    • “Whose Christianity is ‘American’?: The Enduring Contest of Churches and the State." In American Christianities, ed. Catherine A. Brekus and W. Clark Gilpin. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
    • “The Emotional and Priestly Logic of Plural Marriage.” Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture Series No. 15. Logan, UT: Utah State University, 2010.
    • “Protecting the Wilderness: Comments on Howe's The Garden in the Wilderness.” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 79.4 (Dec. 2010): 863–870.
    • "Translating Time: The Nature and Function of Joseph Smith's Narrative Canon,” Journal of Religion 87.4 (October 2007): 497–527.