A Religious Studies Major at BYU–Pt. III

In our two previous posts we discussed the curriculum as well as what to cover in the theory and introductory courses for our new major. In this post I’d like to raise the issue of how the “areas of emphasis” should be structured and who/where we could draw from in creating classes from these areas. 

Areas of emphasis (or areas of study–AoS) are organized differently depending on the organizing committee’s perception of “religious studies” as well as the school’s strengths. Below are three options of organization, although often times more than one is adopted to meet the diverse opinions of what constitutes religious studies, as well as the fact that they often overlap (how can one do sociology of religion for instance without focusing on an area or tradition?):

  • By Area:

            Religion in America, Europe, Africa, etc.

            A strength of this approach is that it allows one to do more inter-disciplinary and inter-traditional work. A weakness is that if strictly interpreted one could end up knowing very little about any particular tradition outside of one geographical location. It’s also possible to end up ill-trained in many disciplines, but proficient in none.

  • By Tradition:

            Islam, Judaism, Christianity, etc., and at BYU, I would imagine, Mormonism.

            A strength of this approach is that it allows one’s work to extend beyond a geographic location. Islam, as we know, is a major religion of SE Asia for instance. A weakness is that in some cases the category of a religious ‘tradition’ is a construction of Western attempts to assert a universality of ‘religion’ (see for instance Oddie’s Imagined Hinduism). Working according to ‘traditions’ therefore could play into this bias.

  • By Discipline:

            History, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, etc. 

            A strength of this approach is that it gives the student a firm grounding in a particular discipline. A weakness is that these approaches sometimes lack the depth into a particular tradition. A philosopher of religion, for instance, might not be well informed about the history of Christianity.

So, here are the questions:

Given BYU’s current scenario, how should the “areas of emphasis” be structured? What kinds of areas of emphasis could be offered?

Which faculty members should be drawn from in teaching classes in these areas? Related to this question are the more sensitive issues of: Should current classes in Religious Education count? Will faculty from RE be allowed to teach classes in RS? On what basis will this be determined?

In responding to these latter questions, let’s try to keep comments from becoming too personal.

A Religious Studies Major at BYU Pt. II

In Pt I we looked at developing a curriculum and focused on “core classes”. That discussion is still on-going. This post will examine the develoment of an Introduction to Religious Studies course (which will be part of the core classes), and a required theories course which majors will take during the Sophomore (and perhaps Junior) year. The issue of language requirements was also raised so let’s toss that into the mix here. [Read more...]

A Religious Studies Major at BYU Pt. I

Okay, I know it will probably never happen, but… [Read more...]

Toss the Milk and Lose the Meat

I think most of the people that frequent the Bloggernacle believe that classes such as Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society fall short as far as how engaging they could be. This has been discussed in numerous places. Most recently at BCC; and earlier here at FPR under the rubric of “Consequentialism”. “Engaging” of course means different things to different people, but it often is expressed along with the idiom of “milk before meat”. I want to argue in this thread that employing the “milk before meat” rhetoric will not solve the problems people are trying to articulate.

As far as I see it, the paradigm of milk before meat is heavily attached to the following ideas:

[Read more...]

EQ–Ethical Intelligence

Are we all born with the same amount of ethical intelligence? 

I would imagine that most people believe that “intelligence” or IQ is not something all people are born with equal amounts of (although an interesting argument anyone is welcome to take up would be that “IQ” is a culturally bound notion and most people are born with equal amounts of “intelligence”). While we may be able to increase our IQ to a certain extent, it seems (at least to me) that there are always people who are more intelligent, and seem to be naturally so.

A similar argument could be said for SQ or “social intelligence” (although much less quantifiable). Some people are naturally better at responding to social circumstances, “fitting in”, or “getting along” with others. A large amount of in-born(?) social ackwardness is hard to overcome.

I’m curious whether or not this argument can be extend to the ethical or moral sphere as far as Mormonism is concerned? Are we all born with the same amount of ethical intelligence? In terms of this discussion it may perhaps be best to create a working definition of ethical intelligence–the ability to recognize right from wrong–as subjective or objective as it may be (so not necessarily to take action or “do” the right, which would also be an interesting discussion). I’m speaking here generically and not universally. In other words there are of course those with sever deformaties that make any universal claim impossible, so I’m dealing here in a “generic” rather than “universal” sense.

Can we all equally recognize right from wrong? Are we born equals in EQ, or are some more naturally endowed than others? If we have differing levels of EQ, is it harder for some to live the gospel than it is for others? 

Church Education as Consequentialism

For a long time I’ve felt a disconnect between the concept of “education” employed by programs such as the Church Educational System, and “education” in the context school learning (be it post-high or not). I think I recently have been able to put more of a finger on why I’ve felt this way. Before going further I should probably admit that this may reflect more of my own attitudes and experience with “education” both within and without the church, than an “objective” description of the situation, but I believe it will resonant with some. I’m also going to (over?) generalize, but hey, it’s a blog post and I’m happy to modify or defend my argument as needed [Read more...]

Exchanging Orthodoxy for Orthopraxy

I tend to make few comments during lessons in Sunday School or Priesthood, even when something is said that I deeply disagree with. I don’t want to be labeled as one who “stirs the pot” or the “ward liberal”, so for the sake of maintaining harmonious relationships in the ward I usually keep my thoughts to one-on-one interactions I have with closer friends in the ward. When asked to comment (or to speak in Sacrament), I try to do it in a way that facilitates conversation without sparking controversy. [Read more...]

Welcome Jondh and Yellow Dart

We’d like to welcome two guest bloggers: Jondh from SundayPage and Yellow Dart from LDS Kai Ta Biblia. (For more on them see their “about” pages.) Both are young scholars planning on going to grad school in Biblical or Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Let’s welcome them to FPR!

What’s Missing From the Three-Fold Mission?

I don’t really know much about the history of the Three-Fold Mission of the Church:

To Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, and Redeem the Dead

(Perhaps someone can refer something to read)

I do know, however, that the Three-Fold Mission has been a central component of my church experience as long as I can remember. It seems, in most regards, that the Three-Fold Mission is meant to express the purpose of the Church (a “mission statement” for our religious organization). If I were to restate it succinctly it would be something like: To make (and keep) people a part of our church.  [Read more...]

Interpretation and Revelation

I’ve been thinking lately about the question of revelation; not necessarily in a definitional sense (in terms of this post we can talk about revelation as knowledge revealed from God to his prophet(s)), but in a material sense–is revelation an idea interpreted into a particular language, recorded on paper, edited, and reproduced for others to read? Or is the reproduction the revelation itself? (And if so, then how materially should we take it–is the reproduced paper and ink sacred? Or if we download it, does our computer become sanctified? I remember a visiting GA on my mission talking about the power of having the BoM open when teaching, even when not using it.) 

I don’t believe there’s a clear cut answer (and it may vary from situation to situation); but I do believe that our response to this question, perhaps tells us a lot about the way we view the authority of prophets.  [Read more...]