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Guess what it would take to keep Utah State’s only full-time Mormon studies professor. Would you believe $1 million? How about $3 million?

For a decade, Philip Barlow, 66, has cultivated USU’s Leonard J. Arrington Professorship of Mormon History and Culture. He has no plans to surrender that chair any time soon, but he also knows he won’t hold the position forever.

So Barlow, a respected senior contributor to the expanding field of Mormon studies, felt joy, relief and validation for his life’s work when the LDS Church donated $1 million this fall to USU. In addition to the LDS Church’s gift, an anonymous donor has pledged to match other donations up to $500,000.

“Those two gifts together give me confidence the program will endure after I’m gone,” Barlow said.

The donation puts a nice, round figure on the value the LDS Church places on Mormon studies. It’s also a windfall for the first Utah university to offer a Mormon studies major. USU is raising a $3 million endowment to fund the program and the Arrington chair in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, beginning in January, USU will get a sense of what post-Barlow Mormon studies in Logan might look like. Barlow will spend 2017 as a fellow at BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, where he will work on two books about the premortal War in Heaven — one academic, the other fiction.

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