After earning a B.S. in psychology from Utah State University, Bott earned a M.S. in education from the same university and an Ed.D. from BYU in 1988. Bott also speaks Samoan.
Bott is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has served in various capacities for the church, including bishop, high councilor, stake presidency counselor (twice), and as a mission president in Fresno, California. Bott married Vickie Pehrson in September 1969. They had three boys and three girls, and became the grandparents of 14 children. (As of 2014)
Bott said in 2008 that he spent four to six hours every day answering phone calls and e-mails from his students, which "enables him to have a more personal touch with the students he teaches". At the beginning of every class, he also invites students to ask any question they wish about missionary life, LDS Church doctrine, and personal comportment. Bott's tests, which he calls "celebrations", are open-note, open-book. In 2008, Bott taught 3,149 students at BYU, which is more than 10 percent of the university's student body.
In 2008 Bott was the highest rated professor in the United States on the website Ratemyprofessors.com.
It was announced in March 2012 that Bott would be leaving his teaching post at BYU to serve as a senior missionary with his wife.
In February 2012 Bott was quoted in a Washington Post article about the LDS Church's stand on race. In the article Bott referred to former church teachings and practices, speculating on possible underlying reasons for a ban on ordaining people of black African descent to the LDS priesthood. Whether Bott's reasons for denying ordination to black men prior to 1978 were ever official LDS doctrine or merely folk belief, as some LDS maintain, is disputed. Bott said that one possible reason for the ban was the belief that black people descended from Cain through Egyptus, who married Ham, Noah's son. Bott pointed to a passage in Mormon scripture that suggested to him that Cain's descendants were marked with dark skin and were prohibited from holding the priesthood. Before the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978, some Latter-day Saint leaders had made similar statements. However, the 1978 revelation which lifted the ban said nothing about the reasons for the ban.
On February 29, 2012, the LDS Church issued a press release in response to the Post article, saying that the reasons for the ban are not precisely known, and condemning racism in any form. Then, in December 2013, the LDS Church posted a page on "Race and the Priesthood" on its official website that described the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood as a product of an "American racial culture," not "divine disfavor." The statement formally disavowed the past teachings that sought to create doctrinal justifications for the ban:
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
Bott has authored and co-authored books on missionary preparation, LDS Church doctrine, application of doctrine to life, and the writings of Joseph Smith.Non-fiction - religious and general interest