“Opposition in All Things: Perspectives on the Fall”

The Mormon Theology Seminar will host a two-day conference, “Opposition in All Things: Mormon Perspectives on the Fall,” at Utah Valley University on June 7-8, 2013.

The conference is the culmination of three months of intensive work of two concurrent seminars, one focusing on Genesis 2-3 and the other on 2 Nephi 2. Each seminar spent months collaboratively reading their respective texts on a verse by verse, word by word basis and each included participants from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

Past volumes of the Seminar’s conference proceedings have been published with Salt Press and, in light of Salt’s recent merger, future collections will pursue publication with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

Though past seminars have all been conducted online, plans are also being considered to offer some future seminars in a live, two-week, onsite format. 

Friday, June 7
(Library Auditorium, Utah Valley University)
“Fleeing the Garden: Reading Genesis 2-3”
9:30 – 10:20
Julie Smith, “Paradoxes in Paradise”
   Response by Deidre Green
10:30 – 11:20
Ben Spackman, “Adam, Where Art Thou? Onomastics, Etymology, and Translation in Genesis 2-3”
   Response by Rico Martinez
11:30 – 12:20
Rosalynde Welch, “Creation, Localism, and Appetite in the Garden World of Wendell Berry”
   Response by Candice Wendt
12:30 – 2:30
2:30 – 3:20
James Faulconer, “Chaos and Order, Order and Chaos: The Creation Story as the Story of Human Community”
   Response by Julie Smith
3:30 – 4:20
Candice Wendt, “Environmental Education in Zion”
   Response by Jenny Webb
4:30 – 5:20
Adam Miller, “Dirt, Dung, and Digestion”
   Response by Joseph Spencer
Saturday, June 8
(Library Auditorium, Utah Valley University)
“Lehi’s Discourse: Reading 2 Nephi 2”
9:30 – 10:20
Rico Martinez, “Reading Genesis with Lehi: Lehi as Exegete”
   Response by John Hilton III
10:30 – 11:20
Jenny Webb, “‘He Is the Firstfruits unto God’: Toward a Theology of Flesh”
   Response by Adam Miller
11:30 – 12:20
Joseph Spencer, “Lehi’s Unfinished Thought: On 2 Nephi 2:10b”
   Response by Rosalynde Welch
12:30 – 2:30
2:30 – 3:20
Deidre Green, “Sacrifice, Doubt, and Divinity: Using Doubt to Become Divine”
   Response by James Faulconer
3:30 – 4:20
John Hilton III, “Fathers and Sons: Textual Connections in 2 Nephi 2 and Alma 42”
   Response by Robert Couch
The Mormon Theology Seminar is an independent, scholarly forum committed to organizing short-term, seminar-style collaborations that consider specific questions about Mormon theology through close readings of foundational Mormon texts. As a part of this work, the Seminar also publicly archives the findings of these study groups.The Seminar’s primary aim is to create a common space where theological work can be undertaken in a way that is both concentrated and collaborative.In this way, the Seminar means to avoid two difficulties that traditionally plague such scholarly work. On the one hand, focused theological work is typically an individual affair and the spaces that customarily support this work tend to reinforce isolation and idiosyncrasy. For instance, the writing of conference papers and journal articles tends to be relatively private work that only briefly flares in the common space of a presentation or publication. On the other hand, common spaces typically conducive to spirited discussion and collaboration generally tend to preclude focused and sustained concentration. Exchanges on blogs and discussion lists, for example, while often invigorating and instructive, consistently lack focus and resolution. In short, collaboration tends to diffuse concentration, and vice versa.

In order to address the apparent difficulty of coupling collaboration and concentration, the Seminar organizes small, temporary study groups (seminars) designed to facilitate collaborative engagement in focused readings of primary Mormon texts.

These seminars are organized along the following lines:

(1) Each seminar consists of 4-6 people, preferably including both men and women, and preferably with a variety of backgrounds.

(2) Each seminar collaborates for a period of only 3-4 months.

(3) Each seminar is organized around the reading of a small selection from a Mormon text (typically less than 20 pages). An agreed upon reading schedule paces the work over the span of several months.

(4) Prior to the work of reading itself, seminar participants formulate a small, provisional set (2–4) of key questions in order to bring focus to possible avenues for future discussion and aid them in formulating concise summaries of their findings. These questions should be freely modified, extended, or replaced as the seminar proceeds.

(5) Members of the seminar take turns leading weekly discussions that address that week’s reading assignment in view of the seminar’s key questions. In light of the discussion, possible answers are then tentatively framed in the discussion leader’s summary of that week’s work.

(6) At the conclusion of the seminar, the participants co-author a concise report (typically less than 5000 words) that summarizes their provisional findings. In addition to the joint report, participants may also compose individual papers prompted by their work in the seminar.

(7) Reports and individual papers are then indexed for easy reference and publicly archived.

In this way, the Seminar proposes to combine the strength of collaborative work with the concentration of focused effort. Moreover, it aims to archive and summarize the reported work of completed seminars in a way that will promote a sense of cumulative progress in the field of Mormon theology.

13 comments for ““Opposition in All Things: Perspectives on the Fall”

  1. Alas, someone else will be reading my paper for me. I’ll miss the opportunity to meet and greet.

  2. I can’t tell from this list, but were traditionalists like Gary invited to give presentations? If not I don’t think you can call it a true differences of perspectives.

  3. Jettboy –

    I’m not sure which Gary you’ve got in mind, nor am I entirely sure what you have in mind when you refer to traditionalism, but there have definitely been differences of real substance as this has progressed. There are historians, biblical scholars, philosophers, literary critics, psychologists, economists, etc., on the list of presenters. The point is to bring a variety of disciplinary approaches to a single text (or, in this case, two texts) and do collaborative reading. The point isn’t just to exhibit a variety of Mormon perspectives on the fall….

  4. Jettboy, I know exactly what Gary you have in mind. I’m not sure the radically collaborative approach of the Seminar is really up Gary’s alley.

  5. I only mention this because although I am an Evolutionary Theist, traditional Creationism has been a legitimate Mormon perspective on the Fall. To leave that out would be a huge hole and unrealistic, like talking about Mormons and race without the ban and its theological speculations.

  6. Ah, I see. I can’t say for sure, but I’d be surprised if either of these perspectives comes up. The focus is on the relevant scriptural texts, and on undertaking close readings of them. Since the texts don’t raise the question of evolution vs. creationism (indeed, since the authors of the texts couldn’t have raised that question), we haven’t raised it either in the course of our discussions. It’s a debate that just doesn’t seem that relevant to close reading of the scriptural texts in question.

  7. “It’s a debate that just doesn’t seem that relevant to close reading of the scriptural texts in question.”

    This is what I love so much about the MTS, it does what nobody else seems to want to do, read scripture.

  8. I don’t recall anybody on the Genesis 2-3 side talking about evolution or variants or opposition, even in the emails.

  9. “This is what I love so much about the MTS, it does what nobody else seems to want to do, read scripture.”

    Awesome quote and awesome thing. Revolutionary!

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