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The University of Utah will offer what it calls the first academic course dedicated to studying the Book of Mormon as a work of literature this fall.

Though there are other programs on Mormon studies and history, instructor David Bokovoy says his class is unique in taking an academic look at the text that's inspired one of the country's fastest-growing churches, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The semesterlong religious studies class won't explore sometimes-controversial issues such as the historical origins, translation or authorship of the work, instead focusing on the "internal qualities of the text itself," Bokovoy said in a statement.

"The objective of the class will be to help students appreciate the text as 19th-century American religious literature and as a work with deep literary ties to the Bible," according to a U. news release.

The Book of Mormon traces the story of "God's dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 B.C. and 400 A.D.," according to the LDS Church website. Members consider it scripture, like the Bible, and believe it was recorded principally by an ancient prophet named Mormon onto gold plates, which were found and translated by church founder Joseph Smith.

It was first published in 1830, and more than 150 million copies have since been printed in 82 languages.

Twitter: @lwhitehurst