Author: Ben Huff

I'm a dedicated NPR jazz listener and a philosophy teacher at a small liberal arts college in Virginia. I live in a log cabin outside of town and blog from my classic '99 G3 Mac. I did my PhD at Notre Dame with a dissertation on friendship and its role in the relationship of virtue and happiness, within a eudaimonistic virtue ethics. I was born here in Virginia, and it is becoming home again, though I spent a lot of my growing-up years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Carpinteria, CA. I was an undergraduate at BYU, and my immediate family have all ended up near there, so I visit Utah often.

Hong Kong’s Vital Moment for a Win-Win

The people of Hong Kong have delivered a spectacular message in Sunday’s elections, with a nearly total reversal of the 2015 election results. With a 71% turnout, and more than twice the votes cast compared with the last such election, there is no mistaking where the great majority of Hong Kong’s people stand on the direction of their society. This moment presents a vital opportunity for a shift to constructive engagement between pro-democracy activists and the government of Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Months of increasingly bold protests, met with increasingly aggressive government response, had created a tense standoff in which neither side felt it could afford to give any ground. Protests began in response to an extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kongers accused of crimes to be tried in the very different court system of mainland China, eroding the partial autonomy promised to Hong Kong. While this bill was eventually withdrawn, by then protesters’ concerns about Hong Kong’s autonomy had deepened, and they had expanded their demands. Protesters were apparently prepared to sustain their running battle with police in perpetuity, but the regional government hardly wanted to be perceived as making concessions in response to violence, even amid the restraint shown by the great majority of protestors. The months of conflict have made all concerned keenly aware of Hong Kong’s desire to preserve its distinctive system. Yet positive movement toward strengthening it was hard to imagine in…

SMPT at U of U next week: “More Nations Than One: Theology, Culture, and Pluralism”

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will hold a conference at the University of Utah, March 14-16, on the theme, “More Nations Than One: Theology, Culture, and Pluralism.” The Book of Mormon presents a highly inclusive vision of God’s love and his work to redeem all humankind, affirming that “the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one” (1 Nephi 17:35). Yet distinctions among cultures appear to retain a meaningful role in God’s work, since he teaches them “of their own nation and tongue,” according to what “he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). What role does the variety of nations and cultures among God’s children play in the project of building a people “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18)? Next week’s conference includes a number of different presentations on this theme, as well as several on other aspects of LDS belief such as repentance, baptism, and personal revelation. Here is a sampling of speakers and topics: Jane Hafen, “Nor Any Manner of -Ites: Indigeneity and the Book of Mormon” Bob Millet, “God Grants unto All Nations” Jim McLachlan, “Deep Religious Pluralism: Bergson, Chamberlin, and Openness to the Religious Other” Sam Brown, “The Atonement of Love” Noel Reynolds, “The Language of Repentance in the Book of Mormon” Brittney Hartley, “A Bible, We Have Got A Bible: Gathering Zion Through Open Scripture” Keith Lane, “The Divine Beauty and Persuasion of the Latter-day Saints” James Holt, “Towards a Latter-day…

SMPT Submissions Due Tuesday, Jan. 15th

There’s still time to submit a proposal for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2019 meeting, March 14-16 at the University of Utah. Submissions may take the form of a full paper, or an abstract of 400-600 words. Submissions on any aspect of LDS belief will receive full consideration, but those on the conference theme are particularly encouraged. This year’s theme is “More Nations Than One: Theology, Culture, and Pluralism.” The Book of Mormon presents a highly inclusive vision of God’s love and his work to redeem all humankind, affirming that “the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one” (1 Nephi 17:35). Yet distinctions among cultures appear to retain a meaningful role in God’s work, since he teaches them “of their own nation and tongue,” according to what “he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). What role does the variety of nations and cultures among God’s children play in the project of building a people “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18)? For full details, see the Call for Papers (PDF).

Ahijah’s Prophecy of the Rending of Israel

Early Israelite prophets are not averse to a little drama! Moreover, their choice of dramatic form is often quite effective and instructive. One of the more striking and poetic moments is when Ahijah prophesies that Jeroboam will become the king of Israel. Jeroboam has a new garment he is wearing that day—perhaps a cloak. Ahijah finds Jeroboam while he is out in a field, pulls the new cloak off of him, and tears it into twelve pieces! (1 Kings 11: 29-30). How must Jeroboam be feeling as Ahijah is doing this? It is quite striking that he is willing to meekly stand there and let Ahijah pull this stunt in the first place. Jeroboam is explicitly described as “a mighty man of valour” (v. 28), and has a position of high authority in Solomon’s administration, so he is accustomed to being treated with quite a bit of deference, and he is capable of extracting deference from the unwilling when necessary. Yet here he accepts what would normally be a major affront to his dignity, bordering on assault. Evidently he knows Ahijah and respects his role quite a lot. Ahijah then hands Jeroboam back ten pieces out of the twelve—not even the whole of the original garment. The drama of watching his clothing torn apart is almost eclipsed by what Ahijah says next, however: “thus saith the Lord . . . I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of…

SMPT at Utah State Univ. Next Weekend: The Exaltation Revelations

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will be meeting at Utah State on Friday-Saturday, March 16-17, with a focus on “The Exaltation Revelations,” D&C 76, 84, 88, and 93. The program includes talks on divine justice, the potentially universal scope of salvation, the law of the celestial kingdom, the role of the priesthood in salvation, and various perspectives on the eternal nature of humans and our kinship with God. Many of the most distinctive Latter-day Saint teachings appear in a series of revelations received in 1832-33, and recorded in Doctrine and Covenants sections 76, 84, 88, and 93. Richard Bushman has called these the “exaltation revelations,” in reference to the state of the righteous in the celestial kingdom. These revelations clarify the nature and basis of salvation and exaltation, the order of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, the eternal nature of humankind, and the role of the church in the last days. While they draw continually on themes and language of the Bible, the exaltation revelations establish Mormonism as a dramatic departure from the prevailing Christian theology of the time. The conference will be held on the fifth floor of the University Inn. It is free and open to the public. Please join us! Full program information appears on the SMPT website.

Reminder: SMPT Submissions Due Jan. 15

Submissions are due this coming Monday for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s upcoming conference at Utah State University, March 15-17. The conference theme is “The Exaltation Revelations,” D&C sections 76, 84, 88, and 93. For full details see the Call for Papers (PDF).

Temple Scriptures: A Mountaintop Experience

I had been studying the scriptures quite intently for the year or so before I first went to the temple. This really added to the experience for me, because I could see all the ways that temple worship connects with everything we know from the scriptures. The form of temple worship is quite different from what we experience elsewhere in the church, and I know some people who have found it a bit disorienting at first. In my case, though, with so much from the scriptures fresh in my mind, everything made sense and felt that much more right and beautiful. My sister Emily had given me the excellent suggestion that I especially study the Pearl of Great Price, which I totally recommend. Since then she and I have also noticed a lot of other passages that have special meaning in connection with the temple, and I thought I would share some. Here is one set, which includes a lot from the Pearl of Great Price but also positions it within a larger, quite striking pattern. The temple is often referred to as the mountain of the Lord (e.g. Isaiah 2:2-3). It is illuminating to consider what happens on mountaintops in the scriptures. Several prophets describe a mountaintop experience that helps to prepare them for their calling. For example, Nephi was carried away into a high mountain and shown the plan of salvation, the big picture, from the beginning (1…

The Book of the Weeping God

One of the most striking features of the Bible is its division into Old and New Testaments, which present not only substantially different sets of religious beliefs and practices, but very different portrayals of God. The God of the Old Testament is a judgmental, jealous, and vengeful God, who destroys sinners without remorse, whether of his own people, the Hebrews, or even entire nations such as those of Canaan. God’s love and compassion are also visible in the Old Testament, but the harsher side is displayed quite dramatically. This judgmental conception of God is reflected not only in descriptions of God himself and his behavior, but also in the attitudes and behavior of his prophets and of his chosen people. There is quite a contrast with Christ in the New Testament, who is gentle with sinners and teaches that we should love our enemies, bless those that curse us, and turn the other cheek when others treat us badly. Christians explain the major differences between the Old and New Testaments as partly a reflection of the fact that the Law of Moses was offered to prepare the Hebrews for the new law, which was delivered by Christ. This account explains the differences in worship practices and in behavioral commandments, but it does not explain the different portrayals of God. I suggest that part of the difference we are seeing is precisely the difference in perspective between a people who are…

SMPT at Claremont March 2-4: “Poured Out Upon Us: The Holy Spirit”

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will hold its 2017 Annual Meeting at Claremont Graduate University on March 2-4th, on the theme, “Poured Out Upon Us: The Holy Spirit.” Over two dozen presenters, including several T&Sers, will speak on a wide range of aspects of Mormon belief, including: “Deny Not the Manifestations of the Holy Spirit” —John W. Welch, Brigham Young University “‘The Spirit Said unto Me Again: Slay Him’: Latter-day Saint Reflections on Divine Violence” —Patrick Q. Mason, Claremont Graduate University “Toward a Nephite Pneumatology” —Joseph M. Spencer, Brigham Young University “The Family: A Performance of the World” —Rosalynde Welch, Independent Scholar “The Transcendence of Flesh” —James E. Faulconer, Brigham Young University “‘The Spirit Speaketh the Truth and Lieth Not’: The Complex Theological Intersection of Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics” —Benjamin Spackman, Claremont Graduate University “Grace and the Baptism of Fire” —Benjamin Huff, Randolph Macon College For the full schedule and other information, visit the conference page.

SMPT 2017 submissions due November 28

Submissions for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2017 meeting are due this coming Monday, November 28th. The meeting will be held at Claremont Graduate University March 2-4, with the theme “Poured Out Upon Us: The Holy Spirit.” As usual, submissions on any aspect of LDS belief are welcome. For details see the Call for Papers (PDF).

Peacebuilding and Mormonism Conference

Today and tomorrow at UVU, the BYU Wheatley Institution and the UVU Center for the Study of Ethics are hosting a conference on “Peacebuilding: Religious and Ethical Perspectives.” They have lined up an impressive list of speakers from near and far; come check it out!

Reminder: SMPT Submissions due August 15

Paper proposals for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2016 Annual Meeting are due soon—Monday, August 15. Proposals are particularly invited on the theme, “Christ, Our Forerunner,” but proposals on any aspect of LDS belief will receive full consideration. For full details on the conference and the call for papers, see the original announcement.

SMPT Conference October 13-15th, 2016: “Christ, Our Forerunner”

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will hold its 2016 Annual Meeting on October 13-15th at BYU, with the theme, “Christ, Our Forerunner.” Below is the text of the call for papers (adjusted for blog format), or click here for a printable PDF version. The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology invites paper proposals on any aspect of Mormon belief, including its philosophical ramifications. We particularly encourage submissions on this year’s theme. Jesus Christ stands at the center of Mormon belief, understood through many roles, as co-creator of the earth, as the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the bringer of the new covenant, as redeemer from sin and forerunner into the presence of the Father (Hebrews 6:20, 9:24), among others. In some ways the Mormon understanding of Christ aligns closely with that of other Christians, while in other ways it differs dramatically. Who is this Jesus, and why is it vital for us to know him? Topics falling under this theme might include but are not limited to: Son of Man and Son of God Christ as teacher Christ as mediator Christ as redeemer Christ as exemplar The lamb without blemish The relationship between the Father and the Son Christ in the Bible and the Book of Mormon God in the Old Testament and the New Prophecies of Christ The premortal Christ The resurrected Christ The condescension of Christ The Word made Flesh Continuing from grace to grace…

Utah Transcends Political Tribalism

This might be the last place you would expect to see it: a state where Republicans already prefer the inclusive message of Marco Rubio over the divisive messages of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,* even before Rubio’s strong finish in South Carolina.** That is, if you didn’t know much about Utah. Utah is the reddest state in the Union, with a 36-point gap in party affiliation. Rubio is often called a moderate, so he should be the favorite in a place where the Republicans are tinted purple, like Massachusetts or Vermont, right? Nope! They prefer Trump, by 34 percentage points in Massachusetts and 15 in Vermont! Trump is leading nationally by around 14 points, and in nearly every state. Just look at the polls. Cruz won the Iowa caucus and leads in his home state of Texas and neighboring New Mexico. Otherwise, it is all about Trump right now—except in Utah. How is the reddest state in the Union coming out in favor of a so-called moderate rather than a hard-liner like Cruz or Trump? Utah has a different brand of Republicans, much less likely to see the world in tribal terms, especially not ethnic tribes. For most of us in this country today, national politics is driven more by what we hate and fear than by what we love. Most voters’ negative feelings toward the opposition party are stronger than their positive feelings for their own. This is called…

Doers of the Word: SMPT Conference Next Weekend

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology holds its 2015 conference next Thursday-Saturday (Oct. 8-10), at BYU, on the theme, “Doers of the Word: Belief and Practice.” Speakers include Noel Reynolds, Sam Brown, David Paulsen, Jennifer Lane, and about 30 others from Minnesota to Hawaii, including T&S’s own Jim Faulconer, Rosalynde Welch, Nate Oman, Ben Spackman, Adam Miller, and Ben Huff. Session themes include analysis of Book of Mormon rhetoric, the role of choice in faith, divine foreknowledge and human freedom, renaissance thought on a Christian restoration, the role of narrative in repentance, and the social nature of the Godhead. All sessions are free and open to the public. For more information, see the conference schedule on the SMPT website.

Reminder: SMPT deadline Tuesday Sept. 1

Paper proposals for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2015 Annual Meeting are due soon—Tuesday, September 1. There have been a number of strong submissions already, and we are looking forward to more. For full details on the conference and the call for papers, see the original announcement.

Society for Mormon Philosophy & Theology 2015 Call for Papers

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will be meeting at Brigham Young University, October 8-10, 2015. This year’s conference theme is “Doers of the Word: Belief and Practice.” From the Call for Papers: The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology invites paper proposals on any aspect of Mormon belief, including its philosophical ramifications. We particularly encourage submissions on this year’s theme. Religious faith is not merely a matter of belief but of action. Indeed, several passages in scripture suggest that true belief cannot be separated from action. In John 7:17, for instance, Jesus indicates that the practice of faith is a means of acquiring knowledge: “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” Yet other scriptures seem to emphasize the intrinsic, perhaps independent importance of both belief and practice, as in D&C 131:6, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” This year’s theme examines the distinctive roles of religious belief and practice, and their profound influence on one another. Topics falling under this theme might include but are not limited to: the nature of faith belief as a source of action action as manifesting faith action as nourishing faith spiritual learning through experience the role of ignorance in spiritual development theologies implicit in Mormon practices orthopraxy versus orthodoxy religious results versus religious hope cognitive versus embodied truth history as theology engagement with Wittgensteinian, process, or…

2015 Summer Symposium on Mormon Culture, July 23 at BYU

Participants in the 2015 Summer Symposium on Mormon Culture will be presenting research papers this Thursday, July 23rd, on the seminar theme, “Organizing the Kingdom: Priesthood, Church Government, and the Forms of LDS Worship.” The symposium will run from 10am to 5pm in Room B094 of the Joseph F. Smith Building. The full program is posted on the Maxwell Institute Blog.

Symposium on Mormon Theology and Social Issues, July 9th at BYU

Participants in the Wheatley Seminar on “Mormon Theology and Social Issues” are presenting papers in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium at BYU on Thursday, July 9th. See the schedule below. SECOND ANNUAL WHEATLEY SEMINAR SYMPOSIUM FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING “MORMON THEOLOGY AND SOCIAL ISSUES” 10:00 Brock Mason, “Marriage and Sexuality: A Mormon View” 10:30 Kim Berkey, “’As in Adam all Die’: Temple Robing and Dying in Mormon Thought” 11:00 Joe Spencer, “The Moral Stakes of Philosophy’s History” 11:30 Alan Clark, “Inheriting the Enlightenment” 12:00 LUNCH BREAK 1:30 Jonathan England/Spencer Green, “Communal Environmentalism” 2:15 Randy Powell, “Capital Punishment: A Mormon Theological Critique” 2:45 Holly Huff/Maged Lhroob, “An LDS Theology of Mental Illness” 3:30 Diana Brown, “Mormon Conceptions of Embodiment and Female Beauty Culture” 4:00 Rachel Hunt, “A Mormon Ethic of Food” 4:30 Jared Rife, “Renewing Body Energy and Spirit”

A Nation Divided

Today our government has taken another step toward moral upheaval, or, if we think more optimistically, toward a crisis that will reshape it and its relationship toward the people it governs, potentially in a constructive manner. The government of the United States of America presents itself, in Lincoln’s immortal words, as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Its premise is that the legitimacy of government depends on the consent, and not merely the passive, but the active consent, participation, and support of the governed. Today’s Supreme Court ruling mandating same-sex marriage across the Union goes against the democratically enacted laws of a strong majority of the states, and against the constitutions of many of them. It also goes against the deeply held moral beliefs of half its population, and against the moral tradition that originally made democratic self-government possible in the West. The federal government no longer merely embodies a separation of church and state, but an opposition of church and state. A house divided against itself cannot stand. All legitimate government requires a basis in the moral culture of its people. In this country, that moral culture, where it is strong enough to be a sustaining force for law and the common good, is overwhelmingly Christian or, more broadly, Abrahamic. The competing culture of Hollywood, of consumerism, and of unaccountable individualism that has led us to this point, where marriage is perceived as…

Teaching Like The Prophets

I think the recently announced changes to the CES and BYU Religious Education requirements could be really great. Far from paying less attention to the scriptures, as some have worried, I suggest the new model pays more attention to the scriptures, in what might be the most important way. In the scriptures, Christ and the prophets focus their teaching on true doctrine above all, and refer to prior accounts to support this goal. The scriptures are designed to teach us spiritual truths, and these should be the primary focus of teaching today. The scriptural texts are one of the main ways we learn these truths, but they are the vehicle through which we learn, the lens through which we see, not the focus themselves. The point of the Book of Mormon, as described on its title page, is “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” D&C 1 and Luke 1 announce similar purposes. When we read the scriptures, understanding God and his plan for our salvation should be our primary concern. Think of the great passages we remember most from the scriptures. Alma 32 is a discourse on the nature of faith. 1 Corinthians 13 is a discourse on the pure love of Christ. Romans 6 explains the symbolism and the meaning of baptism. Matthew 5 is a set of simple and beautiful moral teachings, correcting false traditions to underscore the centrality of love in…

12 Questions for Miranda Wilcox and John Young, Editors of Standing Apart—Part II

Here are the six remaining questions in our series with Miranda Wilcox and John Young, continued from Part I. 7. How much of what you do in this book should we understand as theology, as opposed to, say, history? Miranda: Religious communities perform theological work when they tell historical narratives. Remembering and memorializing their divine origins is crucial for communities to maintain distinctive self-identities and to realize their divine mandate. We see examples of this process when Israel retells the story of their ancestors’ deliverance from captivity in Egypt or when Lehi’s descendants retell the story of their family’s deliverance from the destruction of Jerusalem. Telling origin narratives also offers communities ways of distinguishing themselves from other communities, and typically these stories develop a legacy of antagonistic relations between communities. Sometimes communities have opportunities to redirect these relationships. For example, the book of the Acts of the Apostles tells how the Jewish Christians struggled to revise their attitudes towards Gentiles, whom they had considered antagonists for generations, when they were commanded to preach the gospel of Christ to all nations. Standing Apart examines how the concept of a Great Apostasy and narratives about it have shaped LDS historical assumptions, contributed to the construction of LDS social and theological identity, and impacted the ability of the LDS church to develop ecumenical relationships. We suggest that the exclusivism and antagonism in these narratives may have contributed to the survival of LDS identity…

12 Questions for Miranda Wilcox and John Young, editors of Standing Apart—Part I

Miranda Wilcox (BYU) and John Young (Flagler College) have recently published Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy, a collection of essays examining the Mormon narrative of apostasy and restoration in light of the history of Christianity. It is published by Oxford University Press, in both hardcover and paperback. They have kindly shared responses to 12 Questions about their project. I am including six in this post; the remaining six will follow soon in Part II. 1. What led you into this project, and how did it take shape? Miranda: Although John and I grew up listening to Sunday School lessons about the “Dark Ages,” we found the Middle Ages deeply compelling. We met as graduate students of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame, where I studied Anglo-Saxon England and he studied Jewish-Christian relations in the high Middle Ages. As I learned about the Christianization of early medieval Europe, I discovered much sincere devotion to Christ and the Bible; stories written by medieval Christians resonate with my own religious experiences and teach me spiritual insights. It makes me sad when I hear medieval people, whose lives I have come to love and admire, characterized as living in spiritual darkness, rebellious against God, or willfully perverting truth. (For more of my personal thoughts, see my entry at When I began teaching medieval literature at BYU, I confronted the challenge of making the Middle Ages…

Raising an Ensign: Challenges of Scholarship on Mormonism at BYU

In his recent First Things article, Ralph Hancock argues that it is vital to the mission of BYU that it produce scholarship articulating a distinctively Mormon worldview, as a major part of its regular work. What would it take for BYU to respond seriously to Hancock’s call? Hancock notes that there is much more one would need to consider on the way to concrete action than what he is able to say in a five page article. As things stand, for such a large, well-funded, highly religious university, BYU is doing surprisingly little on this front. For the vast majority of BYU faculty, including in the humanities and social sciences, this is simply not included in their job description. Rather, what they will be recognized for professionally is scholarship done in the mode and according to the standards of the (secular) mainstream academic world. It should go without saying that the production of scholarship is a core purpose of a modern university. If BYU is not producing scholarship that develops a well-informed, distinctively Mormon worldview, as a large and routine portion of its work, then as a Mormon university it is as though BYU is missing a leg. Further, because scholarship is the primary basis of university teaching, and there is no other comparable source for academic work developing a Mormon worldview, it is as though BYU is also missing an arm. Why would BYU choose to go through life…

Lineage and the Book of Mormon’s Universal Audience

An excellent entry on “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” has just appeared in the Gospel Topics section at It explains why studies of New World genetics can neither prove nor disprove the historical claims represented in the Book of Mormon. In the process, it provides a delightfully clear and thorough explanation of some key principles of population genetics, and of how these would apply with regard to the Book of Mormon peoples and the genetic evidence they would (or would not) leave today. Along the way it also offers some helpful observations about what the Book of Mormon record does or does not imply about the demographics of the New World in the events it describes. It is exciting to see offer material of this intellectual depth and complexity. Of course, it is ultimately an article for a popular audience (not for professional researchers), but they obviously aren’t afraid to make their audience think a bit with this article. Clearly, faith is not just about helping us feel good about what we already think, but also about expanding our vision and understanding in a way that reflects eternal truths. One risk of reading such an interesting and detailed article on genetics, though, is that we will find ourselves thinking so much about it that we overemphasize the role of genetics and lineage in the Book of Mormon and in its message. Indeed, the idea that genetic studies…

Orihah’s Uncle, Moriancumer

Why is the brother of Jared called the brother of Jared? He is far more important in the narrative of the Book of Ether than Jared, so why isn’t Jared called the brother of Moriancumer instead? Here’s my swipe at this much-pondered issue. One might think that Jared is more of a political leader, even though his brother is clearly the more spiritual one, and it is Jared’s political importance that makes him the one with the name recognition. At times, it looks like Jared is telling his brother what to do. Jared asks him to pray for them and their friends, so that their language will not be confounded. When the revelation comes, however, Moriancumer (for short?*) is told to gather Jared and his family and friends. Jared isn’t the one to do the gathering. In fact, the Lord says that Moriancumer is to go at the head of them all as they travel (Ether 1:42). When they come to the seashore, they name the place Moriancumer, presumably after their leader. When he is consulting with the Lord about building the barges, there is no indication that Moriancumer is taking orders from Jared. Rather, it looks like Jared and his brother have the kind of mutual, cooperative relationship one might expect of good-hearted brothers, so that Moriancumer talks to his brother, listens to him, and is happy to do what he asks or follow his advice sometimes, because he…

2014 Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture: The History of the Mormon Family

In the summer of 2014, the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, with support from the Mormon Scholars Foundation and the Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley Institution, will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and junior faculty on “The History of the Mormon Family.” The seminar will be held on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, from June 15 to July 26. Admitted participants will receive a stipend of $3000 with an accommodations subsidy if needed. The seminar continues the series of seminars on Mormon culture begun in the summer of 1997. In 2014, the seminar will be conducted by Richard and Claudia Bushman. The question we will address is: how did the Church move in the course of a century from the most unconventional marriage system in the nation to a model of family stability? Mormons were criticized in the nineteenth century for their assault on family values. By the mid-twentieth century, they were lauded for the strength of their families. What resources could Mormons draw on to accomplish this transformation? Despite the bad reputation of plural marriage, what principles of family life were established in the nineteenth century that could ultimately produce the strong families of the twentieth century? What teachings and programs shaped Mormon family life and brought about the change in public opinion? Each participant will be asked to prepare a paper on some aspect of this general subject area for presentation in…

SMPT at UVU: “The Atonement”

Abstracts are now available for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference this Thursday, October 31st-Saturday November 2nd. Almost two dozen presentations will directly address the theme of “The Atonement,” alongside related principles such as sin, repentance, freedom, and redemption. A number of other presentations by both Mormons and non-Mormons will address other aspects of Mormon belief including orthodoxy/heterodoxy, business ethics, and the theological importance of gender. Notable sessions include: “Works,” by Daniel W. Graham (Brigham Young University) “Mormonism and the Problem of Heterodoxy,” by Dennis Potter (Utah Valley University) “Rethinking Penal Substitution,” by Paul Owen (Montreat College) “The Structure of the Book of Mormon,” by J. Christopher Thomas, Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies (Pentecostal Theological Seminary) “Narrative Atonement Theology in the Gospel of Mark,” by Julie Smith (Independent Scholar) “The Gospel According to Mormon,” by Noel Reynolds (Emeritus, Brigham Young University) “Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Atonement,” by Lynn Wardle, Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law (J. Reuben Clark Law School) “What Becoming Mortal Empowered God to Do,” by Blake Ostler (Attorney & Independent Scholar) Also this year, there are an unprecedented five T&S permabloggers and an emeritus on the program! Come join us at the UVU Student Center, rooms 206a-c, starting Thursday at 7:30pm. For a detailed conference schedule, consult the SMPT website.

“Hearing Cosmic Harmony Again”—Dan Peterson Delivers BYU Summerhays Lecture 2013

Thursday at 7pm in the JSB Auditorium at BYU, Dan Peterson will speak on how our understanding of the natural world through history has reinforced or weakened belief in God. His title for the 2013 Summerhays Lecture is “Hearing Cosmic Harmony Again.” Here is an introduction from the Summerhays Lecture web page: For many centuries, religious believers of all stripes have affirmed, in the words of the Psalmist, that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work.” But, although the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins could still exclaim that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” scientific discoveries had seriously undermined that view–or, at least, were being claimed to have done so–by the time of his too-young death in 1889. The serious subversion had begun, or so the story is often told, with the Copernican “revolution’s” dethronement of earth and humans from their privileged place at the center of the universe. It continued, rather ironically, with Sir Isaac Newton’s portrayal of that universe as governed by a remorseless chain of cause-and-effect operating under mathematically rigorous physical laws, and it seemed to have been proven by Darwin’s apparent demonstration that life, in all its varieties, had emerged as a result, merely, of purposeless chance. I will attempt to show, with special emphasis on astronomy and cosmology, that this picture of the development of science and its implications–the picture with which I grew up–…

SMPT 2013 Reminder/Travel Funding

The August 23rd proposal submission deadline for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2013 Annual Meeting is approaching. The conference will be held at Utah Valley University, October 31-November 2, with the theme, “The Atonement.” For a fuller discussion of the theme and submission information, see the Call for Papers flyer (PDF), or the Call for Papers web page. Student Travel Funding: SMPT has some funding available, on a competitive basis, to defray travel costs for student presenters. Travel funding awards of a value up to $700 each will be made on the basis of (a) merit of the proposal and (b) distance of travel to Orem. Students interested in travel support should indicate their institution, degree sought, and subject at the time of paper/proposal submission, and should provide a brief statement of need, including their point of origin for travel to the conference, major mode of transportation (e.g. air, train, personal vehicle) to Orem, and availability of travel funding from other sources, such as their home department, if any.