Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology

SMPTThe annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology is this week at BYU. All the sessions are being held in B192 in the JFSB from Thursday through Saturday. You can see the full schedule of sessions at the website.

Like an idiot I hadn’t put it on my calendar. I’d completely forgotten about it until Ben called me this evening to ask if I was going. Unfortunately my wife is going out of town this weekend. I’m going to try and go to the Thursday and Friday sessions though. Even though I’ve not been able to attend as regularly the past few years as in the past, I’ve always enjoyed the sessions I’ve attended. There are lot of great thinking by people far smarter than I am. So I always get something out of it – especially in the sessions I disagree with.

As in past years, there’s a few concurrent sessions where I wish I could attend both sessions. Hopefully they’ll put up the audio recordings on in a month or so as in past years. You can then listen while working out or walking the dog.

The ones I’m looking forward to the most are Sam Brown’s “Mormonism’s ‘True Light’ and the God of Classic Theism.” I always have a soft spot for analysis of Mormon theology in terms of traditional theism. Charles Randall Paul, who’s quite influenced by the pragmatists albeit more James than Peirce, has session that sounds extremely interesting “Our Worship-Worthy Divine-Human Leader: A Reverent Speculation on Joseph Smith’s Divine Anthropology and Jesus Christ.” I’m going to really try to make it to that one although I might not be able to. Jeremy Talmage has “The Mormon Metaphysics of Spirit: A Revised Tripartite Model” and I’ve long been interested in that subject. There’s also a discussion panel Saturday (which I know I can’t attend) on the theologian Stephen Webb. He wrote the book Mormon Christianity: What Non-Mormon Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints.

All the sessions really sound great this year though. I hope you’ll all be there.

6 comments for “Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology

  1. Stephen Wight
    October 12, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Joseph F. Smith wrote: “One thing about this so-called philosophy of religion that is very undesirable, lies in the fact
    that as soon as we convert our religion into a system of philosophy none but philosophers can understand, appreciate, or enjoy it.” This is true to a certain degree with the proceedings of “The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology.” This should not be unexpected, given the very name of the organization. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the meetings I have attended. Some of the presentations are very erudite, but in lay language, and easy to understand by anyone. Others have required me, in order to understand what the heck is being said, to sit on the back row with my iPhone dictionary, translating philosophical terms into understandable English. That is fine by me, as groups within the Church deserve the right to discuss it in the language of their particular profession. A meeting discussing aspects of the Gospel by LDS physicians is going to sound different than a meeting discussing the same Gospel through the eyes of those trained in philosophy, and accustomed to its vocabulary. After all, the ultimate word of God to his prophets, whether trained or untrained, farmers or scribes, etc. has been “after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” We pretty much do the same thing (and a good thing if we don’t place our philosophy and learning above the original revealed word) in our discussions of the Gospel, that is, in terms of the language in which we are most comfortable communicating.

  2. Clark Goble
    October 12, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Some speakers assume more familiarity with certain philosophers and ways of thinking than others. I think though there’s typically a pretty good cross section of both types of philosophy (more continental philosophy, more analytic philosophy) and how technical the sessions are. For instance Paulson usually speaks in a fashion easily understandable at a lay level.

    I confess I hope there are more technical discussions too as I think one problem in Mormon theology and philosophy is that there are lots of papers or arguments that orient a topic but few that then pursue that line of reasoning. That’s why as glad as I am of popularizers like Terryl Givens I’m also exceedingly glad that there are people like Blake Ostler pushing things farther. Although I should also add that while Blake’s books are long part of that is because he’s writing in a fashion to bring new readers up so they can understand the issues he raises. So they work as a great way of introducing the topic to people without a background in philosophy.

    I should also note that culturally we’re pretty different from the era when Joseph F. Smith wrote that. He never attended college. Today a significant number of people do and typically encounter a much broader array of ideas than the typical member then did. Likewise today there are tons of resources for those interested in more narrow and careful questioning of ideas. Wikipedia for all its flaws can orient people around terminology. The SEP and IEP are fantastic free resources for getting up to speed on the idea of most philosophy movements. There’s also tons of literature out there from the Oxford Press, University of Illinois Press, Kofford Books, Maxwell Institute, FAIR, and the Interpreter. There’s also blogs like this one, BCC and many more that do careful discussions on these issues and encourage feedback or questions.

  3. jpv
    October 13, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Clark, Ben. There’s no clear link to this on the website, and the email listed is bouncing.

  4. Clark Goble
    October 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    JPV you mean here or on the SMPT website? I’m outside room B192 right now waiting for things to start so I can’t do much about the SMPT web sight. The link in the above works fine for me though.

    It’s in the JFSB (the new education building to the west of the library and south of the math building) in the basement in room B192. That’s the big auditorium. There are signs up outside.

  5. ricke
    October 16, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I live out of town but would have considered driving to Provo to attend, but I couldn’t seem to find any meaningful information in advance about the program. There wasn’t anything at the SMPT website or the Facebook page. I found the conference dates, but I wish the program could have been advertised a little better.

  6. Clark Goble
    October 17, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Yup. Even though I’ve not been involved I’ll try and set an alarm to help out next year. Unfortunately I had a basement flood and then some contractors who caused more problems and delays plus working 7 days a week for about 4 weeks. This is all volunteer work and most of the involved people are also professors often with church callings on top of it. So any volunteers I’m sure would always be welcome.

    I may actually finally submit my paper I’ve been working on for a while. I might try out some of the arguments here over the next couple of months.

    There also weren’t recordings this year. So unfortunately no listening to the sessions at the gym.

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