I have a guest post at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Studies blog on my participation in the Mormon Theology Seminar earlier this year, here.

The MI blog is not open to comments, so feel free to comment here.

7 comments on “Guest post at the Maxwell Institute blog”

  1. “As a student at Brigham Young University (2001-2005), I was struck by how generalized most of the religion classes were. What I mean is, at an evangelical Christian college you can take an entire class on a single book of the Bible, getting in some truly intense study and becoming deeply acquainted with that one book—its authorship, its themes, the setting of its composition, and special details about the original Greek or Hebrew—all in the course of your undergraduate education.”

    Which schools? I did some brief research, did not find anything. I used Wheaton as a good parallel, and a Wheaton Engineering undergrad would take far less religious study than a BYU undergrad, at least for what I saw. What schools were you using for comparison?

      • I cannot speak for BYU, I never attended it (or have stepped foot in Utah for that matter), but it seems like something of a difference in orientation. BYU requires a basic understanding of religion from an LDS perspective, but only a basic understanding.

        Neither Biola nor Wheaton require any religious classes to graduate, though they both may offer specific classes to those that are interested. For whatever reason the LDS Church seems more than content to allow its scholars to seek that specialized education elsewhere, and plenty have done so. I’m currently planning on attending divinity school, but I am looking at Chicago or Yale, both of which offer specialization, but that’s their orientation.

        I just do not necessarily see the criticism as justified.

      • “Each Biola student completes 30 units of biblical studies, equal to seven prescribed courses and three electives.”

        https://www.biola.edu/undergrad/academics

        That’s more than twice the religious education required at BYU.

        Wheaton requires 14-18 hours in “Studies in Faith and Reason” and 4 hours in “Biblical Studies,” again, more than similar to the 14 hours of religious education required at BYU:

        http://www2.wheaton.edu/Registrar/catalog/ug_acad_policies.htm#Legacy_General_Education_Requirements

        If the LDS church’s own colleges aren’t supposed to develop in-depth studies of Mormon scriptures, not really sure who should be. Sure, Claremont and some other places have pilot Mormon studies graduate programs or concentrations, but these are seldom going to focus on just one or two books of LDS scripture (if ever).

        (Edited)

      • I may be wrong. I was looking at the General Educational requirements (or Core, depending on institution).

        https://www.biola.edu/undergrad/academics/general-education

        Neither Biola nor Wheaton included religious classes in their “Core”, but it might have been included elsewhere.

        Who should be developing in-depth LDS Scripture scholarship is an interesting question. The best model for comparison might be Catholicism. For all of the different Catholic institutions around the world, the Catholic Church itself is still the final authority on theology. The schools just teach theology and studies. Certainly Catholic scholars influence discussion, but there is still a necessary stamp of approval from Rome. LDS Scholars are influencing LDS thought, but Salt Lake still retains final approval. As such, I am not sure if BYU is intended or wanted as an engine for this sort of development. Raymond Brown did some significant work at Union Theological Seminary, hardly a Catholic institution, and still influenced the Catholic Church. If BYU became the engine for LDS development it might suffer through its proximity and overall influence by Salt Lake. Scholars working outside of the strict confines of BYU have a much greater chance of influencing change. Salt Lake, like Rome, would probably disagree but it might be a better orientation, overall.

      • It would be a rare evangelical college that didn’t require a single religion class in its undergraduate education.

        Roman Catholic universities have been doing theology and engaging in specialized studies of their Scriptures for ages. It isn’t necessary for Rome to sign off on everything that its scholars do.

        Whatever the case, BYU is moving in the direction of doing more highly specialized study of Mormon scriptures. The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies was founded in 2007, old-school FARMS was ousted in 2012 so that the Maxwell Institute could drop the polemics and focus on more serious Mormon studies topics, and those two organizations have been sponsoring the Mormon Theology Seminar for three years now. There’s a New Testament Commentary project underway (though a lot of the people I know think it’s going to be a disaster) and of course Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and BYU Studies regularly put out new material.

        Will that ever translate into more specialized classes on LDS scriptures? Who’s to say for sure, but I think so. It’s only a matter of time.

    • Also, at Wheaton undergrad, they have the following offerings:

      BITH 332 Ruth & Esther (not technically a single book, but those are short books)

      BITH 338 Gen 1-11

      BITH 341 Exodus

      BITH 356 1 Corinthians

      BITH 358 Acts of the Apostles

      BITH 362 James

      BITH 363 Letter to the Romans

      BITH 364 Peter & Jude

      BITH 368 Book of Revelation

      BITH 433 Jeremiah

      BITH 454 Mark

      BITH 457 John

      BITH 458 Acts of the Apostles

      http://www2.wheaton.edu/Registrar/catalog/bible_ug.htm#Biblical_and_Theological_Course_Desc

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