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Q&A Part 2 with the Editors of The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts September 11 2018

Edited by Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Petersen
276 pages, Paperback $25.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-638-3)
Hardcover $35.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-637-6)



Part 2: Q&A with Brian D. Birch
(Part 1)

Q: When and how did the Mormon Studies program at UVU launch?

A: The UVU Mormon Studies Program began in 2000 with the arrival of Eugene England. Gene received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to explore how Mormon Studies could succeed at a state university. A year-long seminar resulted that included a stellar lineup of consultants and guest scholars. From that point forward, the Religious Studies Program has developed multiple courses complemented by our annual Mormon Studies Conference and Eugene England Lecture—to honor Gene’s tragic and untimely passing in 2001. The program also hosts and facilitates events for independent organizations and publications including the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, the Dialogue Foundation, the Interpreter Foundation, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, Association for Mormon Letters, and others.

Q: How is the UVU Mormon Studies program distinguished from Mormon Studies programs that have emerged at other campuses?

A: Mormon Studies at UVU is distinguished by the explicitly comparative focus of our work. Given the strengths of our faculty, we have emphasized courses and programming that addresses engagement and dialogue across cultures, faith traditions, and theological perspectives. Permanent course offerings include Mormon Cultural Studies, Mormon Theology and the Christian Tradition, Mormon Anthropology, and Mormon Literature. Our strengths lie in areas other than Mormon history, which is well represented at other institutions—and appropriately so. Given the nature of our institution, our events are focused first and foremost on student learning, but all our events are free and open to the public and we welcome conversation between scholars and nonprofessionals.

Q: How long has the annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference been held, and what have been some of the topics of past conferences?

A: As mentioned above, the Mormon Studies Conference was first convened by Eugene England in 2000, and to date we have convened a total of nineteen conferences. Topics have ranged across a variety of issues including “Islam and Mormonism,” “Mormonism in the Public Mind,” “Mormonism and the Art of Boundary Maintenance,” “Mormonism and the Internet,” etc. We have been fortunate to host superb scholars and to bring them into conversation with each other and the broader public.

Q: Where did the material for the first volume, The Expanded Canon, come from?

A: The material in The Expanded Canon emerged came from our 2013 Mormon Studies Conference that shares the title of the volume. We drew from the work of conference presenters and added select essays to round out the collection. The volume is expressive of our broader approach to bring diverse scholars into conversation and to show a variety of perspectives and methodologies.

Q: What are a few key points about this volume that would be of interest to readers?

A: Few things are more central to Mormon thought than the way the tradition approaches scripture. And many of their most closely held beliefs fly in the face of general Christianity’s conception of scriptural texts. An open or expanded canon of scripture is one example. Grant Underwood explores Joseph Smith’s revelatory capacities and illustrates that Smith consistently edited his revelations and felt that his revisions were done under the same Spirit by which the initial revelation was received. Hence, the revisions may be situated in the canon with the same gravitas that the original text enjoyed. Claudia Bushman directly addresses the lack of female voices in Mormon scripture. She recommends several key documents crafted by women in the spirit of revelation. Ultimately, she suggests several candidates for inclusion. As the Mormon canon expands it should include female voices. From a non-Mormon perspective, Ann Taves does not embrace a historical explanation of the Book of Mormon or the gold plates. However, she does not deny Joseph Smith as a religious genius and compelling creator of a dynamic mythos. In her chapter she uses Mormon scripture to suggest a way that the golden plates exist, are not historical, but still maintain divine connectivity. David Holland examines the boundaries and intricacies of the Mormon canon. Historically, what are the patterns and intricacies of the expanding canon and what is the inherent logic behind the related processes? Additionally, authors treat the status of the Pearl of Great Price, the historical milieu of the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the place of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. These are just a few of the important issues addressed in this volume.

Q: What is your thought process behind curating these volumes in terms of representation from both LDS and non-LDS scholars, gender, race, academic disciplines, etc?

A: Mormon Studies programing at UVU has always been centered on strong scholarship while also extending our reach to marginalized voices. To date, we have invited guests that span a broad spectrum of Mormon thought and practice. From Orthodox Judaism to Secular Humanists; from LGBTQ to opponents to same-sex marriage; from Feminists to staunch advocates of male hierarchies, all have had a voice in the UVU Mormon Studies Program. Each course, conference, and publication treating these dynamic dialogues in Mormonism are conducted in civility and the scholarly anchors of the academy. Given our disciplinary grounding, our work has expanded the conversation and opened a wide variety of ongoing cooperation between schools of thought that intersect with Mormon thought.

Q: What can readers expect to see coming from the UVU Comparative Mormon Studies series?

A: Our 2019 conference will be centered on the experience of women in and around the Mormon traditions. We have witnessed tremendous scholarship of late in this area and are anxious to assemble key authors and advocates. Other areas we plan to explore include comparative studies in Mormonism and Asian religions, theological approaches to religious diversity, and questions of Mormon identity.


Download a free sample of The Expanded Canon
Listen to an interview with the editors


Upcoming events for The Expanded Canon:


Tue Sep 18
 at 7pm | Writ & Vision (Provo) | RSVP on Facebook
Wed Sep 19 at 5:30 pm | Benchmark Books (SLC) | RSVP on Facebook


Q&A Part 1 with the Editors of The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts August 29 2018

Edited by Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Petersen
276 pages, Paperback $25.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-638-3)
Hardcover $35.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-637-6)


Part 1: Q&A with Blair G. Van Dyke (Part 2)

Q: How is the Mormon Studies program at Utah Valley University distinguished from Mormon Studies programs that have emerged at other universities?

A: The Mormon Studies program at UVU is distinguished by the comparative components of the work we do. At UVU we cast a broad net across the academy knowing that there are relevant points of exploration at the intersections of Mormonism and the arts, Mormonism and the sciences, Mormonism and literature, Mormonism and economics, Mormonism and feminism, Mormonism and world religions, and so forth. Additionally, the program is distinguished from other Mormon Studies by the academic events that we host. UVU initiated and maintains the most vibrant tradition of creating and hosting relevant and engaging conferences, symposia, and intra-campus events than any other program in the country. Further, a university-wide initiative is in place to engage the community in the work of the academy. Hence, the events held on campus are focused first and foremost for students but inviting the community to enjoy our work is very important. This facilitates understanding and builds bridges between scholars of Mormon Studies and Mormons and non-Mormons outside academic orbits.

Q: Where did the material for The Expanded Canon come from?

A: The material that constitutes volume one of the UVU Comparative Mormon Studies Series came from an annual Mormon Studies Conference that shares the title of the volume. We drew from the work of some of the scholars that presented at that conference to give their work and ours a broader audience. Generally, the contributors to the volume are not household names or prominent authors that regularly publish in the common commercial publishing houses directed at Mormon readership. As such, this volume introduces that audience to prominent personalities in the field of Mormon Studies. It is not uncommon for scholars in this field of study to look for venues where their work can reach a broader readership. This jointly published volume accomplishes that desire in a thoughtful way.

Q: What are a few key points about this volume that would be of interest to readers?

A: Few things are more central to Mormon thought than the way the tradition approaches scripture. And many of their most closely held beliefs fly in the face of general Christianity’s conception of scriptural texts. An open or expanded canon of scripture is one example. Grant Underwood explores Joseph Smith’s revelatory capacities and illustrates that Smith consistently edited his revelations and felt that his revisions were done under the same Spirit by which the initial revelation was received. Hence, the revisions may be situated in the canon with the same gravitas that the original text enjoyed. Claudia Bushman directly addresses the lack of female voices in Mormon scripture. She recommends several key documents crafted by women in the spirit of revelation. Ultimately, she suggests several candidates for inclusion. As the Mormon canon expands it should include female voices. From a non-Mormon perspective, Ann Taves does not embrace a historical explanation of the Book of Mormon or the gold plates. However, she does not deny Joseph Smith as a religious genius and compelling creator of a dynamic mythos. In her chapter she uses Mormon scripture to suggest a way that the golden plates exist, are not historical, but still maintain divine connectivity. David Holland examines the boundaries and intricacies of the Mormon canon. Historically, what are the patterns and intricacies of the expanding canon and what is the inherent logic behind the related processes? Additionally, authors treat the status of the Pearl of Great Price, the historical milieu of the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the place of The Family A Proclamation to the World. These are just a few of the important issues addressed in this volume.

Q: What is your thought process behind curating these volumes in terms of representation from both LDS and non-LDS scholars, gender, race, academic disciplines, etc?

A: Mormon Studies programing at UVU has always been centered on solid scholarship while simultaneously broadening tents of inclusivity. To date, we have invited guests that span spectrums of thought related to Mormonism. From Orthodox Judaism to Secular Humanists; from LGBTQ to opponents to same-sex marriage; from Feminists to staunch advocates of male hierarchies, all have had a voice in the UVU Mormon Studies Program. Each course, conference, and publication treating these dynamic dialogues in Mormonism are conducted in civility and the scholarly anchors of the academy. Given our disciplinary grounding, our work has expanded the conversation and opened a wide variety of ongoing cooperation between schools of thought that intersect with Mormon thought.


Download a free sample of The Expanded Canon
Listen to an interview with the editors


Upcoming events for The Expanded Canon:


Tue Sep 18
 at 7pm | Writ & Vision (Provo) | RSVP on Facebook
Wed Sep 19 at 5:30 pm | Benchmark Books (SLC) | RSVP on Facebook


Q&A with Traditions of the Fathers Author Brant Gardner June 30 2015

by Brant A. Gardner

Approximately 590 pages

Paperback $34.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-665-9)

Pre-order your copy today.

Q: You've already commented extensively on the Book of Mormon, first in your multi-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, and The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of MormonHow does this volume differ from these previous volumes? 

Brant: Second Witness was an attempt to provide a comprehensive commentary on the Book of Mormon that included multiple perspectives, including a historical context. There is so much in Second Witness, that only the most persistent reader could gain a chronological understanding of how the Book of Mormon fits into a particular time and place. Traditions of the Fathers concentrates on the story rather than the doctrine. It pulls together the history in a more compact and more easily readable form. It also includes information and insights available since the publication of Second Witness.

 

Q: There are many volumes dedicated to investigation and study of the Book of Mormon, including the questions of its historicity. What makes this book stand out from those?  

 Brant: Even the best of the previous volumes on the history and historicity of the Book of Mormon use somewhat of a shotgun approach to understanding the text. Some have had better aim, but the process has still been to rely heavily on proposed similarities--that sometimes are not that similar. Traditions of the Fathers looks more closely at tying together multiple types of information belonging to the same time and location, as well as providing some in-depth analysis of some previous suggestions that were more enthusiastic than correct. In addition, the intent of the book is not necessarily to provide proofs of the Book of Mormon, but rather to give it the kind of historical and cultural background that we have for the Old and New Testament. Understanding those historical and cultural contexts can deepen our understanding of the Bible, and the proper historical and cultural background for the Book of Mormon should similarly deepen our understanding.

 

Q: What is most valuable about this book for the believing Latter-day Saint? What is there to recommend it for the interested reader who is not a believing Latter-day Saint? 

Brant: The believing Latter-day Saint should begin to see the people and actions recounted in the Book of Mormon in new and more human ways. The characters and events of the Book of Mormon should become more real, and therefore we should be able to see our own humanity transformed in similar spiritual ways. For those who are not believing Latter-day Saints, Traditions of the Fathers can provide a way to understand why Latter-day Saints accept it as history, even when many assume that it doesn't seem similar to known populations. Those similarities and the way to see the Book of Mormon in history should be easier to understand.

 

Q: Can you give us an example or two of the work you do in teasing out the culture and context for where the Book of Mormon is said to take place? 

Brant: There are two important aspects to placing the Book of Mormon in time and space. The first is to find the right place, since the text provides the timeframe. Geography is only a first step to that determination. Other major factors deal with the people discussed in the text. For example, there is no direct communication between Jaredites and Nephites. There is the last king of the Jaredites who lives with the people in Zarahemla before the Nephites arrive. That tells us that there must be a physical separation between the original Nephite lands and those of the Jaredites.

Once there is a time and place, the culture of the area is compared to the events in the Book of Mormon to see if there are correspondences where the Book of Mormon is reflecting the culture or events at the appropriate times. That comparison leads to insights elaborated in Traditions of the Fathers about why Nephi's people wanted a king, why Mosiah fled at the time he did (and in the direction he did), why Mormon is so interested in the Gadiatons, and why the Nephite final battle occurred when it did and not earlier (or later).

 

Q: What are some of the ways of discussing the Book of Mormon and historicity that you find are not helpful or are even detrimental? 

Brant: When the approach to discussing Book of Mormon historicity doesn't have sufficient controls on the evidence presented, it is too easily dismissed. It is also dangerous when believers start to base testimonies on fundamentally flawed approaches.

 

Q: How might you describe the current state of Book of Mormon studies? What do you hope to see in the future? 

Brant: This is a very interesting time for Book of Mormon studies. There are a wider number of serious studies looking at a larger number of aspects of the text. The work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon helps answer some simple questions that help understand certain confusions. The work on poetic and other literary features of the text look at it in new ways. There are new aids in deepening our understanding of the theology behind the text. There are studies looking at the place of the Book of Mormon in our own modern history. We are seeing more and better correlations between the text and the ever-increasing amount of information coming from archaeology and history, both in the Old and New Worlds.

The future should see a continued expansion of and refinement of all of these fields. Personally, I'd love to see a continued shift away from attempts to prove the Book of Mormon to better understanding the Book of Mormon--to see it in history not to prove what only spiritual witness can prove, but to bolster that spiritual witness by better understanding the real people who lived the lives behind the Book of Mormon stories.

 

Pre-order your copy here.


Kofford Authors at MHA June 01 2015

Greg Kofford Books authors have long been well-represented as speakers and panel chairs at annual conferences of the Mormon History Association, and the 2015 Conference at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, June 4-7, is no exception! Check out the titles of their presentations and panels below: 

  

Russell Stevenson, author of For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 will present, "We Aren't Africa: Mormonism in Nigeria, 1960-1964."

 

  

Joseph Spencer, author of For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope will present, "Canon and History: On the Revelation to Emma Smith."

 

    

Boyd Petersen, author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life and Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family will chair theTheology and History panel. 

 

  

Claudia Bushman, co-editor (with Caroline Kline) ofMormon Women Have Their Say: Essays from the Claremont Oral History Collection will present "Early Decisions," as part of the Exponent II: Present at the Creation panel.

 

    

Lavina Fielding Anderson and Newell Bringhurst, editors of Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century will chair a panel and present a paper, respectively. Lavina will chair the Mormon History Journals Editors panel, and Newell will present "President David O. McKay's 1954 Encounter with the LDS Church's Black Priesthood Ban: An Important but Forgotten Episode."

 

  

Thomas Alexander, author of Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930, 3rd ed. will speak as part of the Culture of the Early Mormon History Association roundtable. 

 

 

  

Todd Compton, author (with Leland H. Gentry) ofFire and Sword: A History of the Latter-Days Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39 will present "Ganado Mucho, Navajo Headman, and the Mormons."

 

  

Don Bradley, author of the forthcoming The Lost 116 Pages: Rediscovering the Book of Lehi will present, "From Cumorah's 'Ark' to Joseph's Hat: Sacred and Mundane Objects in the Emergence of the Book of Mormon."

 

 

  

Christine and Christopher Blythe, editors of the forthcoming Mormonisms: A Documentary History, 1844-1860 will chair panels and present papers. Christine will present, " 'Presiding at Birth:' The Creation of Folk Theologies among Latter-day Saint Women," and she will chair the Mormonism and Material Culture panel. Christopher will present, "Martyrdom Canes and Vernacular Mormonism" in that same panel.

 

  

Stuart Parker, author of the forthcoming History through Seer Stones: A Hundred Years of Mormon Pasts will present, "Margarita Bautista's 'Eternal Mexico:' A Revolutionary Mormon proto-Chicanismo."