Tips on Applying to Grad Programs in Religious Studies, Part VIII: MA or PhD

In this post I want to address the question of whether one should first apply to master’s programs in religious studies, or whether it’s possible to be directly admitted into a PhD program without obtaining a master’s degree. Below are some quick thoughts. As always, feel free to chime in since I’m speaking more from my own experience than any comprehensive study I’ve done on. [Read more...]

Dear BYU Religious Education

Dear BYU Religious Education,

I can only speak for myself here–one LDS graduate student studying religion; but I know this sentiment is shared, and that those who share it are apprehensive about expressing it. Over the next few years, however, you, Religious Education, will hire several new professors. I believe there is one search ongoing now in Provo (using the same ad), and another in Hawaii; so this is something you should probably know sooner rather than later.

You think much higher of yourself as a place to work than I (or we) think of you. Religious Education, in my view, is not a dream job; nor is it a highly desirable job; instead, it is a job that has some benefits, but many other drawbacks that make is less than desirable.

Given, however, that the job market is so bad and that academic positions are extremely competitive, you can afford to treat me as one of many chomping at the proverbial bit to work for you. You can ask that I jump through hoops that not even Princeton asks of its potential hires–spending my summer teaching for barely enough money to get by, working as a visiting assistant professor for a year before even putting up a full-time job ad, and allowing 19 year old students to be the final arbitrators in determining whether or not my teaching is good. I do these things only because I may not have any other options; hence when you ask if I am interested in teaching for you, I feign interest; and feel a certain degree of apprehension in sharing my genuine thoughts (even now, as I share them anonymously). The notion that you can have your pick of the litter is only true for a narrow subset of graduate students. Most of us hope that we will have other prospects. In the end, though, it need not be this way. [Read more...]

Symptoms of Parallel-o-Mania

I recently came across this presentation by Daniel Peterson given at the annual FAIR Conference in 2009. Admittedly I haven’t read much of Peterson’s work, but from conversations I’ve had with others I get the sense that he’s rather well respected in the field of Islamic Studies. I know he’s also very involved in Mormon Studies. I gather that he’s one of the best comparativists that LDSs have since he’s deeply knowledgeable of Islam and Mormonism. [Read more...]

There are no Private Choices?

I taught Sunday School this past week, and in preparation I came across the following quote from the manual:

Elder James E. Faust said: “Private choices are not private; they all have public consequences. … Our society is the sum total of what millions of individuals do in their private lives. That sum total of private behavior has worldwide public consequences of enormous magnitude. There are no completely private choices” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 101; or Ensign, May 1987, 80).

Unfortunately we never got around to discussing the quote during Sunday School. I also haven’t spent a lot of time learning theories of public/private distinctions (maybe Chris H. can help us out here). On the one hand I tend to believe that human beings are interconnected; and that our private beliefs/actions have public consequences. On the other hand I can see how such a position can lead to attempts from institutions such as the government (or church) to pervade every aspect of our lives in order to mitigate the public consequences (something I’m not such a fan of). I’m torn, so perhaps some of our readers can clarify the issue for me. Are there no private choices?

Imposed Openness

How is God infinite and embodied? Are we born in the spirit world or have our spirits existed forever? What is the nature of “intelligence”? What is eternal progression?

These are issues that LDSs have different views on. Leaders throughout the history of the Church have also expressed a variety of views in responding to these kinds of questions. The fact that 2 different LDSs can hold opposing views about these issues and both still be considered “faithful” is a primary reason that some see Mormonism as having postmodern tendencies. [Read more...]

Tips on Applying: Spotlight on Edinburgh

Our next spotlight comes from Benjamin Park. Ben is a master’s student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity, studying historical theology in the 18th and 19th century. He also blogs at the Juvenile Instructor.

[Read more...]

Tips on Applying to Grad Programs in Religious Studies, Part VII: Placement

As much as graduate school offers up the chance for one to delve deeply into a particular topic of interest and, in many regards, devote several years of one’s life to studying these interests; it is also a means to an end. In other words, success at graduate school (on the PhD level) entails not only producing a respectable dissertation, but also entails securing “good” employment after graduation. For most of those going into PhD programs in religious studies, this means landing a tenure track professorship. [Read more...]

Tips on Applying: Spotlight on Oxford

Application and admission season is upon us. This next spotlight comes from Daniel O. McClellan, a master’s student at Oxford. Enjoy. [Read more...]

Lacking Celestial Motivation

Before leaving on my mission I spent several evenings teaming up with the missionaries in our ward to see how they taught and to gain a general feel for mission life. I still recall teaching one investigator a lesson on the role of Jesus Christ, part of which included a discussion on the resurrection–how it was a free gift and that we would gain a perfect body, etc. [Read more...]

Globalizing the Word of Wisdom

I overheard part of an interesting discussion this past Sunday when a member of our ward was discussing traveling to China. Knowing that “tea” would be served at practically every meal, this member wondered what kinds of teas were against the Word of Wisdom. I don’t recall the entirety of the answer, but I do remember one of the people involved in the discussion explaining that “tea” in Chinese could refer to anything from water to black tea. [Read more...]