Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Margaret Barker on Temple Theology and Mormonism

Following Margaret Barker's lecture, "Our Great High Priest: The Church Is the New Temple," given at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary as the Fr. Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture on January 31, 2012, she addressed a few questions relevant to her discourse and scholarly studies. The second question is of particular interest for Latter-day Saints and is quite complimentary:
Q. "One of the other questions which came about prior to your visit to St. Vladimir's, is a curiosity about why people of the Mormon faith are interested in your work. Maybe, again you could explain their attraction to understanding of temple worship?"
A. "Well, you never know who is going to read your books. And many years ago now, I was contacted by a leading scholar of the Latter-day Saints, and he came to see me when he was in England, and he said, when he read this particular book, The Great Angel, he couldn't believe it hadn't been written by one of their community. And he was intrigued how somebody working outside their community, just using the conventional tools of scholarship, could come up with something very, very similar, unusually identical to their teachings. And we explored this, and I have developed a very happy relationship with many top Mormon scholars, really good Biblical scholars, who know their temple stuff. And what they've come up with, and what I've come up with, is just about identical. So, I work with Mormons because in terms of temple scholarship, they are the best available."
My thanks to Kevin Christensen for referencing this discourse.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Direction of the Maxwell Institute

The Direction of the Maxwell Institute
My posts are generally intended to be somewhat formal, so this post will be a bit of a departure for me. I suppose my commentary on this subject is a bit late, but I wanted to comment on the direction that the Maxwell Institute seems to be heading in with the benefit of hindsight. It has now been just over a year since Dan Peterson and others were unprofessionally dismissed. Numerous online blogs and other venues have commented on this drama. I, like many others, was disappointed in the decision made by Bradford; however, I was also gratified to see Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture formed and the prolificacy that has resulted in connection with that formation.
So, what is the direction that the Maxwell Institute is heading in? According to Blair Hodges, who currently seems to be the only active voice at MI,1 the organization's mission statement declares that their objective is to "deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints and to promote mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts." The organization is further identified as an academic unit at Brigham Young University. I'm not sure how mutual respect and goodwill among people of other faiths will be achieved through academic publications, nevertheless, I'm not opposed to a good cause such as this.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Chptr 3

Shortly after the publication of Richard Bushman's monumental tome Rough Stone Rolling, he began recording his candid observations of the publication's aftermath in his personal journal. Included in his entries he discussed some of the reviews of his book, and the following entry addresses one of his primary concerns with some of the critical reviews received:
I am annoyed by what the reviewers choose to emphasize in Joseph's life. Most of them pick up a few fragments and present them as if they were the key elements. There is something so cavalier about the implicit assertion that they have delivered the essence of the man.1
The opposite has been true thus far in this biography. Rather than reviewers inappropriately highlighting fragmentary information, the biographer has actually provided us with morsels of Brigham Young's life and character. In fact, in the first ten pages (of 25 within this chapter), Brigham is virtually all but missing from the content. There are some passing references to him with surface-level attention given to some of his actions, but minimal insight is gained in capturing his character development. Brief reference to Brigham's contributions during the Missouri period in church history are overshadowed with the narrative of general church history. Professor Turner intermingles LDS and non-Mormon perspectives, providing somewhat of a balanced summary of this historical period, but he distances the narrative from biography and, I believe, underplays Brigham's role in this larger setting.