A Bit of News

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Ben contemplates his words at Petra.

I’ve got some public speaking coming up, and I’m excited.

First, I’ll be in Utah over the summer as an enthusiastic participant in the Maxwell Institute’s Summer Seminar on Culture, working with Terryl Givens and Philip Barlow. The topic is right up my alley, “Mormonism Confronts the World”– How the LDS Church Has Responded to Developments in Science, Culture, and Religion. I anticipate writing about scripture, evolution, and creationism in Mormon thought. Past seminars have had a small public conference in early August where the papers are presented, so look for such an announcement in late July.

Second, I’m on the schedule to present a paper at the Mormon History Association Conference in June in St. Louis. (Regrettably, I’ve had to arrange for someone else to read my paper; I won’t actually be present.) Here’s my abstract.

Religious and scientific tensions involving the book of Genesis which began during the Enlightenment and scientific revolution came to a head in the early twentieth century. Academics, clerics, and laypeople engaged in an intellectual battle royale, wrestling with Darwin, “higher criticism,” new scientific and historical discoveries in geology and ancient Near Eastern languages, as well as religious tradition, authority, and each other; scripture had to be read differently, science proven wrong, or some attenuating mix of the two. This tension generated no small amount of creativity, engendering responses both intellectual  (e.g. The Fundamentals and fundamentalism) and spiritual (e.g. Pentecostalism).

Consequently, the intellectual atmosphere in which some prominent LDS engaged in attempts to bring Genesis back into harmony with science (or vice-versa) was not a vacuum but a maelstrom of competing views and interpretations. Although expressed in Mormon idiom, with different terminology and different reasoning, the reconciliatory ideas embraced by James E. Talmage, B.H. Roberts, and John A. Widtsoe strongly resembled those outside the LDS tradition. These included reading the seven days of Genesis 1 as geological periods, and positing the existence of humans outside and before the Bible. Such similarities raise questions of dependence and intellectual engagement with the broader religious and intellectual world. Did Latter-day Saints generate these ideas independently, adapt directly from non-LDS sources, or were they simply “in the air”?

Third, August 3-4, I will speak at the FAIRMormon Conference in Provo. Regardless of what you might think about the organization or apologetics, the conference has attracted some well known, established, and interesting people in the last few years: Patrick Mason, Jill Mulvay-Derr, Matt Grow, Grant Hardy, Ally Isom, Brittany Chapman, Brant Gardner, Laura Hales, Ty Mansfield, Marvin Perkins, Robert Rees, Don Bradley, Maxine Hanks, etc. I’m honored to be added to the broad list. My title is Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis, bio/blurb here. The conference has live-streaming available if you can’t be there in person, but given that FAIRMormon is a shoestring operation with no funding from or any formal association with the LDS Church, you do have to buy tickets to attend or stream.

Lastly, come October, I’ll return to Provo to speak at BYU’s Sperry Symposium, with a paper on Reading the Old Testament in Context, which I think is kind of important. I talk about several kinds of context, including literary context or genre, something I’ve blogged about a good bit. Here’s the general website, which I presume will be updated with details and schedule in the future. My paper be published in some form, somewhere, yet TBD.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

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