Academic Freedom at BYU, Part 2: The Role of the Academic Vice President

(Part 1 here; part 3 is now up).Faculty issues at BYU are funneled through the office of the Academic Vice President. For our purposes it is important to know that the office of the AVP deals with faculty hiring and firing, promotion and “tenure” (“Continuing Faculty Status”*) and discipline. Thus when a department sends one of its own up for tenure, it will pass through the offices of the Chair, Dean, and AVP. Promotion can be vetoed at any of these levels, including the AVP. This is fairly … [Read more...]

10 Reasons to be Excited about the Study of Religion at BYU

In the spirit of the 10 tidbits series at FPR, I offer (for once!) a positive outlook on Religious Studies at BYU. Good things (too) are happening in Provo! In no particular order, and with no pretensions of comprehensiveness: … [Read more...]

The Value of an Outsider’s Perspective


Several years ago I was asked to accompany an investigator to church.We showed up a few minutes early and sat in the chapel. On the way to church, this investigator explained that he had never been to a Christian service before. He seemed quite eager to take in the experience.After I briefly introduced what takes place in a sacrament meeting service, we sat quietly in the chapel. Several moments went by as he looked around, and then asked, "What does that mean?" He was pointing to the organ p … [Read more...]

Faith, Scholarship, and Teaching at BYU Series

For the series announcement and the question to which I am replying, see here.I believe that the dichotomy between the "intellectual" and the "spiritual" in religious education is a false one. Instead, I would prefer to appropriate for my approach to this important issue the German adjective geistlich (or Hebrew ruchi): a word that sees the spiritual and the intellectual as part of a synthetic whole that also includes an appreciation for the aesthetic. I believe that by adopting this … [Read more...]

Apologetics in the Academy

In line with Daniel Peterson’s recent comments, I see significant points of congruence between apologetics and religious studies. I also see no reason why the same institution cannot pursue both endeavors—particularly a private religious institution such as BYU. I do think, however, that much of the apologetics advocated by Peterson is better off done at another venue (congratulations to those involved with the new Interpreter project). At the same time, a more appropriate kind of apologetics can … [Read more...]

A Reponse to Hamblin on Mormon Studies

A few days ago William Hamblin posted his views on the issue of Mormon studies here. I believe his views are flawed in several respects. Any disagreement, however, is always cast against a backdrop of larger agreements. As such, I do not want to construe my criticisms such that it seems we do not largely agree on a few important issues. … [Read more...]

Ten Tidbits About the Ten Commandments

1. Although commonly referred to as the "Ten Commandments," in the Hebrew Bible itself they are not so called; rather, they are referred to as the "ten words/sayings" (Exod 34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4). Thus a better designation perhaps is that derived from the ancient Greek translation of the Bible, known as the Septuagint (LXX), from the 3rd or 2ndcentury B.C.E: the "Decalogue."  The word "Decalogue" comes into English via French and Old Latin from the Greek, deka meaning "ten," and logos (pl. l … [Read more...]

LDS Correlated Lessons and the Hermeneutical model “PaRDeS”

I deeply respect the Jewish approach to the study of the scriptures. It is said that simply stating an opinion about Torah without any background or training in how to critically think about the text is Torah discussion but is not necessarily Torah study. To encourage critical thinking, rabbis from at least the third century C.E. established a simple four-level system known as PaRDeS. Each consonant in this acronym stands for a Hebrew word, and put together they mystically form the word … [Read more...]