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A new century of Latter-day Saint theology

by PATRICK MASON

The twentieth century was the century of Latter-day Saint history. The field of Mormon history transitioned from dueling polemics to a sophisticated scholarly conversation. Both Latter-day Saint and non-LDS historians came to appreciate and revel in the remarkable sources housed in archives in Salt Lake City and around the country. Mormon history catapulted Mormonism into the echelons of intellectual respectability and in turn forever changed Mormonism.

The twenty-first century will be the century of Latter-day Saint theology. If Mormonism is to be a serious global religion—and it increasingly will be—then this will necessarily be the case. New religious movements and sects can get away without theology; aspiring world religions, even those with living prophets and apostles, can’t. On this score, I’ve got bad news and good news. The bad news is that there are currently exactly zero people in the world with full-time jobs as Mormon theologians. The good news is that will change, and probably sooner than most people realize.

Prediction 1: we’ll have a full-time Mormon theologian, probably in an endowed professorship, and very likely more than one, within the next decade.

Prediction 2: most if not all of those professional academic Mormon theologians will have come through the Mormon Theology Seminar.

The Mormon Theology Seminar is and will be to academic Mormon theology in the next two decades what Richard Bushman’s summer seminars have been to historically oriented academic Mormon studies over the past two decades. For that reason, the Mormon Theology Seminar may be the most important feature of Mormon intellectual life right now. Historians—who won’t lose their relevance, we’ll just have to share the stage—will look back and see the Mormon Theology Seminar as one of the essential contributions to twenty-first-century Mormon culture.

If you want to know where Mormon thought is headed, keep an eye on the theologians.


Read more reflections from the recent Mormon Theology Seminar and listen to recorded presentations here

Upcoming Events

  • October 2
    MI Scholar Lecture—Janiece Johnson, "Becoming a People of the Books"
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  • October 3, 10, 17
    Wednesday Brown Bag
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  • October 12
    40 Years: Commemorating the 1978 Priesthood and Temple Revelation
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Announcements

Catherine Taylor joins us as the Hugh W. Nibley Postdoctoral Fellow

The Maxwell Institute is excited to welcome Catherine Gines Taylor as our Hugh W. Nibley Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dr. Taylor researches the iconography of the scriptural figure of Woman Wisdom, tracing representations of female devotional and biblical figures that evolved from late ancient Christianity into the early Medieval world. Her work aims to demonstrate the direct and reflective role of women as essential to the divine economy within early Christian practice and memory.

Dr. Taylor holds graduate degrees from the University of Manchester and Brigham Young University. Her monograph on the iconography of the Annunciation, Late Antique Images of the Virgin Annunciate Spinning, was recently published by Brill.

Read Dr. Taylor's thoughts about being a disciple-scholar here
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You can pre-order our Study Edition of the Book of Mormon today

We're excited to announce pre-order availability of the Maxwell Institute Study Edition of the Book of Mormon, edited by Grant Hardy and featuring art by Brian Kershisnik.

The Maxwell Institute Study Edition will be the first edition ever to combine the Church’s current official version of the text (2013) with the results of Royal Skousen’s groundbreaking Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This exquisitely produced volume will present the official LDS edition of the Book of Mormon in an attractive, accessible version using helpful features that have been part of standard Bible publishing for decades: paragraphs, quotation marks, poetic stanzas, section headings, superscripted verse numbers, and more.

Read more about the Study Edition and take a peek inside here. Pre-orders available here
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Call for papers—Material Culture and Women’s Religious Experience in Antiquity

Next year we'll be holding a symposium at Brigham Young University on the intersections of material culture and women’s religious experience in antiquity. This symposium seeks to highlight the importance of material and visual evidence in retrieving women’s religious experiences, perspectives, and activities so often overlooked in the literary record. The conference will approach antiquity broadly, from the time of ancient Israel into late antiquity and the early medieval period. It will also approach religion broadly, welcoming papers on early Christianity, Judaism, Greco-Roman traditions, and other varieties of religion in the ancient Mediterranean and ancient Near East. 

We invite the submission of proposals for papers that consider interdisciplinary topics in material culture and religions of antiquity, in addition to meeting the increased need for scholarship concerning women’s religious experience. Proposals are due November 15.
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Maxwell Institute Podcast

MIPodcast #83—What made Americans American? (with Benjamin Park)

Benjamin Park’s book investigates how early Americans defined what it meant to be American—an essentially contested category people still religiously fight over today. Listen or read the transcript.
Maxwell Institute Conversations—Terryl Givens interviews Brian Kershisnik on creativity and worship

The Maxwell Institute and the Faith Matters Foundation are producing new video podcast episodes featuring Terryl Givens.  Listen or read the transcript.
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