BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part II: Scripture “Mastery”

This is part II of a post begun a week and a half ago in response to a devotional lecture given by Terry Ball, dean of the BYU college of religious education. That discussion centered on what I argued to be the problematic connection Ball makes between the pre-existence, Isaiah 28, and mortality. This post focuses on the scriptural aspects of his argument. Continue reading “BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part II: Scripture “Mastery””

BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part I: Race and Nobility

Last week Terry Ball, Dean of the College of Religious Education, gave BYU’s weekly devotional address (mp3 file available here, Daily Universe report here). His talk raises many issues relevant to recent discussions here and elsewhere. My reaction to his talk will be divided into two posts: first, a discussion of some of the problematic themes that Ball raises, and second, an analysis of the way this Professor of Ancient Scripture handles scripture. Continue reading “BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part I: Race and Nobility”

Wilford Woodruff Conference at Yale

This upcoming conference at Yale is the same weekend as the conference on Mormonism and Politics at Princeton. It looks like there are going to be some interesting papers, but it is unclear exactly if any of them are going to be more than historical recitations. If you are in the area, please go and let us know how it was!

The only question is why this conference is being held at Yale. All but one of the presenters is BYU faculty (Richard Lambert is a US attorney in Utah who runs the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation). Further, there is only a small LDS population in New Haven. Why fly out 8 people to speak to 8 other people?
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Rate My Institute Teacher

Any teacher worth their salt as a teacher desires constructive feedback. Students desire to leave feedback, often anonymously, especially if it’s negative. From early personal experience, I know it’s hard to get sincere and thoughtful feedback when spontaneously asking the question face-to-face. Thus was RateMyProfessor.com born, in which students can rate their professors on a variety of characteristics and provide a brief description.

Assuming one can get an accurate enough perspective to be useful in decision making, would a similar site be appropriate for Institute or Gospel Doctrine teachers, in which prospective students at a University or prospective members of a ward could take the measure of a teacher ahead of time? Why or why not? How would it be different from the informal ward shopping LDS inevitably do when moving?

Does FARMS Still Matter?

The latest issue of the FARMS Review offers useful insight into the past, present, and possible futures of FARMS. The issue (19/1) is a hodgepodge of topics, themes, and approaches. It addresses ancient scripture, Mormon history, debates with evangelicals, tributes to a recently deceased Mormon historian, reflections on a Joseph Smith biography, an essay on Mormon studies, book reviews, a lecture by Terryl Givens, and a BYU lecture on theology by Jim Faulconer. The FARMS Review is, indeed, a many-sided thing.
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How To Get Hired at BYU Religion

As an amateur, I am not really eligible for this, but in speaking to some friends of mine going through the process, I must say that I find the BYU Religion hiring process to be really weird, and a bit insulting. Perhaps some of you who are going through it/have gone through it can illuminate me on the ins and outs. What is mostly disturbing about the hiring process is that it seems incredibly ad hoc and much more demanding on grad students time and resources than any other job application.
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Oh Snap! Society of Biblical Literature is lame all around

Anyone interested in the state of Biblical Studies in North America should read this article:
The Chronicle: 11/10/2006: What’s Wrong With the Society of Biblical Literature?
It raises a lot of important questions about the kind of pedantic scholarship that biblical studies has cultivated. Clearly lay people are bored to tears by most of what biblical studies produces. It has carefully avoided anything interesting or truly controversal since the mid-ninetes. But what interests me is the critique that it has for religious education like that at BYU. Should the SBL intervene in BYU’s biblical studies classes to make sure that they are taught by professionals? Should they lean on BYU to insist that more “secularly” trained scholars be hired by the faculty? If the SBL had to produce a scorecard for BYU, how would it do? Finally, is this article right to emphasize the need for “secular” biblical studies at universities across the country?

UPDATE: One of the main NT blogs has some interesting reactions here.

What to do with BYU Religion

On analogy with a recent post by Clark Goble on M*, and in the spirit of Sweeps, I want to bring up an honest question, without being sarcastic, demeaning, or combative:

What is the purpose of Religious Education at BYU? I realize that they define it on their home page, but I specifically want to take a more functional look. Does having a faculty concerned with “preserving the doctrine” fill a role fundamentally different from that of the LDS Institutes? If so, what is that role? If not, why is Religious Ed housed at BYU and not in an adjacent institute? Is it only so that the University can require participation of its students in such a system? Although it seems that I can only seem to write about BYU and BYU religion, I’m really less interested in BYU RelEd and more interested in its role in the wider Church.

What say ye?