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2015 Summer Seminar of the Mormon Theology Seminar — Call for Applications!

Posted by joespencer on November 6, 2014

Summer Seminar CFA 2015

Posted in Misc. | 1 Comment »

The Book of Mormon as a Key to the Gathering of Israel and Judah

Posted by joespencer on January 22, 2014

The following is a guest post by Gregorio Billikopf, who has posted here at Feast on occasion. Our thanks to Gregorio for sending it along.

My paternal grandfather was a Lithuanian Jew; my grandmother a German Jew. My maternal grandparents were both Chilean (mostly Spanish but with some Inca and Chilean native blood). I was born and raised in Chile and attended a Catholic school in Santiago. As a youth I often felt that the Lord’s true Church would be a missionary one. I was converted and baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1974, after reading the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ. It was the Book of Mormon that compelled me to go back and become more interested in my Jewish roots and study the great promises made to the children of Israel in the Holy Bible, and most especially in Isaiah and the Prophets. It was while reading in the Book of Mormon that the words of our Savior sank deep in my heart: “And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yeah, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). Read the rest of this entry »

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“Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born” – Lesson 2 (Old Testament Manual)

Posted by joespencer on January 10, 2014

Well, it’s been far, far too long since I last posted here at Feast. And I think I might make a habit again this year of posting somewhat regularly. I was called some months ago as one of several Gospel Doctrine teachers in my ward, and that’s reason enough for me to turn my attention back to things here. I didn’t do any posts on the Doctrine and Covenants simply because the lessons in the manual aren’t conducive to the kind of posts I write. But I think I’d like to use the blog here to air thoughts as I work through material for my Old Testament lessons. As always, my notes aren’t much good for others, I suspect. I don’t mean to provide anything like a lesson plan, but only to work through some of the texts I’m wrestling with as I prepare to teach. I should also apologize that I probably won’t get these notes up with much time to spare before others will be teaching these lessons. I just haven’t the time this year to get these done much in advance of my own responsibilities to teach. And I’ll only be working through notes on the lessons I’ll be teaching (every other lesson during the year), for which I also apologize.

Okay, enough stalling. To work! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Lessons:Sun. School | 6 Comments »

New Summer Seminar in Mormon Theology

Posted by joespencer on October 10, 2013

Seminar Sunstone

The Mormon Theology Seminar and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship are pleased to announce the First Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology, “A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1.”

The seminar will be held at BYU’s London Centre in June 2014. Graduate students, junior scholars, independent scholars, senior scholars, and European-based scholars from a range of disciplines are invited to apply. Full information is included below. A printable PDF of the call for applications can be found here.


The First Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology
“A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1”
Brigham Young University London Centre, London UK
June 9—June 20, 2014

Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar
in partnership with
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

In the summer of 2014, the Mormon Theology Seminar, in partnership with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University and with support from the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding, will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading 1 Nephi 1.

The seminar will be held at the BYU London Centre in London, England, from June 9—June 20, 2014. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1000 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Mormon Theology Seminar, with assistance from Brian Hauglid, director of the Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, and James Faulconer, a Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding and the director of the BYU London Centre.

This summer seminar will take the Mormon Theology Seminar’s practice of facilitating intense, exploratory, interdisciplinary, and collaborative readings of Mormon scripture and adapt it for a live two-week format. During the first week, the seminar will meet daily to work word by word through 1 Nephi 1 from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (philosophical, historical, literary, anthropological, rhetorical, political, archeological, sociological, etc.) in order to promote theologically rich readings of the text. The second week will workshop conference papers and a joint-report based on the previous week’s collaboration and will culminate in a one-day conference on June 20, 2014. The conference proceedings will then be gathered and edited for publication.

The seminar welcomes applications from a wide variety of academic disciplines, cultural backgrounds, and geographic locations. Graduate students, junior scholars, and European-based scholars are especially encouraged to apply, though applications from senior and independent scholars are also welcome.

Applications should be submitted by December 15, 2013. Notifications will be sent by January 15, 2014. Application materials should include (1) a full curriculum vitae, (2) a 200 word statement regarding the applicant’s interest in the seminar, and (3) a 500-750 word essay that demonstrates the applicants ability to offer a close, creative, and theologically substantial reading of 1 Nephi 1:2-3.

Questions and application materials should be directed to brian_hauglid@byu.edu.

For more information about the Mormon Theology Seminar, its mission, and archives of its past work, visit http://www.mormontheologyseminar.org.

For more information about the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, visit http://www.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu.

Posted in Misc. | 3 Comments »

The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 5 – As If

Posted by joespencer on September 14, 2013

3 Nephi 11 opens with a voice from heaven interrupting Nephite conversation. Or so we likely summarize the story. There’s a curious detail, however, that we’re too quick to overlook in the account of this event: “And it came to pass that, while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven . . .” (3 Nephi 11:3). What’s to be made of this as if in the middle of this otherwise straightforward description of an event. The next few verses won’t be so skittish about placing things in heaven. Verse 5 will refer to “heaven, from whence the sound came.” And verse 8 will say that “they saw a man descending out of heaven.” In those instances, the “as if” construction doesn’t appear at all. Heaven is heaven, the source of both the Father’s voice and the Son’s person. We might note further that the phrase “as if” appears only twice more in the account of Christ’s visit (3 Nephi 17:5; 19:14), and the similar phrase “as though” never appears at all. Given its infrequency, it’s a bit strange that it appears in this first introduction of the heavenly voice. What’s to be made of this? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Scripture topics | 12 Comments »

The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 4 – To and With

Posted by joespencer on September 7, 2013

The first verse of 3 Nephi 11 contains two very similar formulas, almost side by side, whose slight difference may be of real importance. Those gathered at the Bountiful temple are described as “marveling and wondering one with another,” and they’re described as “showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.” Two sorts of relation—being-with and being-to(ward)—are on offer here in strikingly similar formulations. Is there any significance to their joint appearance? How might we decide on the nature (and significance) of their difference? Do they play any role in the larger text of Third Nephi? I think there are interesting answers to all these questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 3 – Marvel and Wonder

Posted by joespencer on September 5, 2013

The setting of Christ’s visit to the New World is complex. A large group of “the people of Nephi” was gathered about the Bountiful temple, but they were not idly standing around waiting for something to happen. The text describes them as follows: “they were marveling and wondering one with another and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.” The first two verbs used to describe the actions of the people—“marveling” and “wondering”—deserve some attention, though they might seem straightforward enough. As it turns out, their coupling is quite infrequent in scripture, appearing only a total of six times. (I won’t bother with the last of these, since it appears in the Book of Moses.) Even more importantly, there’s a very specific genealogy of sorts that lies behind their coupled appearance here in 3 Nephi 11:1. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 2 – At the Temple

Posted by joespencer on August 27, 2013

3 Nephi 11 opens by noting that a “great multitude” was “gathered . . . round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful” (3 Nephi 11:1). A host of questions arise at this point for the careful reader of the Book of Mormon. When did the Nephites build a temple at Bountiful? Why was this temple spared during the destructions associated with Christ’s death, when the older and arguably more religiously central temple of Zarahemla seems not to have survived? Why was Nephi—and why were the other eleven who would be chosen along with Nephi—in Bountiful, and specifically at the temple in Bountiful? Was there some kind of ceremonial or ritual event under way when Christ appeared to Lehi’s children?

If anyone has begun to answer these questions, it’s John W. Welch, who, in a lengthy article called “The Temple in the Book of Mormon” as well as in a full-length book called Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, has had much to say about why Christ’s visit took place at the Bountiful temple. These questions are worth pursuing, and Welch’s studies are an important place to begin. I want, though, to ask a rather different question here—perhaps simpler, perhaps more complex. I want to think about the curious fact that it’s only here in 3 Nephi 11 and two centuries earlier in Mosiah 2 that there’s any talk in Mormon’s history (as we have it) of people gathering to temples in the larger land of Zarahemla. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 1 – Saying and Showing

Posted by joespencer on August 25, 2013

3 Nephi 10:18-19 provide us with what’s probably best described as Mormon’s introduction to the visit of Christ to the New World. The preceding several chapters have of course recounted the massive destructions and consequent human lamentation and divine communication associated with Christ’s death in the Old World. The immediately preceding verses, though, have brought that tale to a close with a challenge from Mormon: “he that hath the scriptures, let him search them and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions . . . is not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophecies” (3 Nephi 10:14). But in 10:18-19, Mormon leaves off this difficult narrative to turn to the “great favors” that were shown to those who were spared.

It’s a fascinating few words of transition, a passage we almost never pay attention to as Latter-day Saints. I want to focus on a few theological points of interest that appear in the text. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Scripture topics | 4 Comments »

The Visit of Christ in Third Nephi, 0 – Index

Posted by joespencer on August 25, 2013

So, several things have induced me to begin an extended study of Third Nephi—and specifically of the chapters that report the visit of Christ to Lehi’s children. And I’ve decided to post my ongoing notes here, so that I can revisit them, and in case they’re of any interest to others. I’ll get started in earnest with my next post. Here in this post I’ll just be providing an index to all the other posts I write. I haven’t any idea how long the series will be yet—I might write only three or four posts, or I may write twenty-five. We’ll just see what I learn as I work along.



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