BYU Hiring Ancient Scrip Prof

BYU Hiring Ancient Scrip Prof October 30, 2007

BYU is looking to hire a professor of ancient scripture in their department of Religious Education. For the entire posting go here.

Here is an excerpt from the listing. Below it are some thoughts.


Brigham Young University Religious Education is dedicated to teaching and preserving the doctrine and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because our highest priority is spiritually uplifting classroom instruction, we are always eager to identify men and women who are effective gospel teachers and who have a special interest in strengthening the faith and commitment of college-age Latter-day Saints. More specifically, we welcome applications from persons who meet the following qualifications:

1. Orientation: One with a proper orientation has a firm testimony of God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ, an unquestioned loyalty to Joseph Smith and the restored gospel, and a commitment to the prophetic destiny of Brigham Young University.

2. Broad Gospel Scholarship: Although we are eager to identify faculty members who are carefully trained in specific disciplines or particular books of scripture, we desire all faculty members to be “perceptive generalists,” well acquainted with all the Standard Works and with the teachings of modern apostles and prophets. A solid foundation in the doctrines of the gospel is critical to our work.

3. Teaching Effectiveness: Classroom instruction in Religious Education is to be substantive and inspirational. Students should become familiar with the text studied in each course and learn the implications of the text for daily living. Teachers should be models of the disciple/scholar, affirming that one can be well trained in a discipline, intellectually rigorous, honest, critical, and articulate, and at the same time be knowledgeable and fully committed to the restored gospel and the Living Church. Students will thereby acquire a witness that is as satisfying to the mind as it is soothing and settling to the heart; students should come away from our classes with a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).

4. Academic Preparation: Full-time faculty are to be trained at the doctoral level. Ancient Scripture Religious welcomes candidates competent in a number of disciplines, including but not limited to Bible, History, ancient languages, Near Eastern Studies, Comparative Religion, doctrine, and Restoration scriptures. The hiring process strives to maintain a balanced faculty with expertise in various areas.

5. Citizenship: To be a good citizen is to work harmoniously, happily, and effectively with the administration, staff, and faculty. It includes attending appropriate meetings; accepting committee assignments and serving well; reviewing others’ teaching and written work when requested; and being willing to mentor junior faculty. It entails sharing ideas and sources that help others to improve their performance, and treating students, visitors, staff, and colleagues with respect and courtesy. Good citizenship also involves abiding by the guidelines necessary to efficient, cost-effective administration within Religious Education. In short, it means being a good team player, both within and beyond Religious Education.

Frequently-Asked Questions:

1. What is a typical teaching load? While teaching loads may vary, depending upon special department needs or individual assignments, most faculty are expected to teach nine semester hours (two-hour classes) in the Fall and Winter semesters and two two-hour courses in either the Spring or Summer terms.

2. Is a faculty member expected to be an expert in all fields of study in Religious Education? While one may in fact have specialized training and background in the New Testament, for example, he or she would be expected to deepen their understanding and teaching skills in Old Testament, Book of Mormon, or Pearl of Great Price, inasmuch as they may be called upon to teach those subjects. Individuals will be expected to be teaching generalists and research specialists.

3. What are the research and publishing expectations? Faculty are expected to be effective presenters in the classroom and, further, to expand their classroom through focused research and meaningful writing and publication. Their written work should be properly evaluated through an appropriate peer review process. Articles and books written to a Latter-day Saint readership (in Ancient Scripture and doctrinal/devotional fields), as well as research published in non-LDS forums, should demonstrate clear thinking, articulate expression, and well-reasoned conclusions. Excellent scholarship is an important facet of our work.

4. How is one promoted in Religious Education? Faculty are evaluated each year in terms of their teaching, citizenship, and scholarship. During a faculty member’s third year, they are evaluated to see if they are on track with department expectations. Those who pass this initial review become candidates for continuing faculty status. After one’s fifth year they are evaluated again to determine whether their work is acceptable enough to receive continuing faculty status and promotion to associate professor. Promotion to the rank of professor, the highest honor the university can bestow upon faculty members, may take place through a successful evaluation of the candidate’s work at least five years since the promotion to associate professor. Even after one is promoted to professor, he or she is expected to maintain an ongoing and rigorous program of improvement and productivity.

5. What kinds of professional support may a new hire expect? Each faculty member is entitled to a part-time secretary, a research assistant, and research funds from the department or the Religious Studies Center (which may be applied for each year) for supplies, travel, and conferences. In addition, members of the faculty are provided with a computer and excellent computer support.

6. Can one expect to receive adequate compensation at a private, Church-owned university? BYU consults with several educational institutions to insure that faculty in given fields of study are paid in a manner that is fair, equitable, and competitive.

There are a few interesting things I would like to mention; and then I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

Three positive points:

1) Preference is given to someone actually trained in “ancient scripture” (although I’m not entirely sure what someone trained in “Comparative Religion”, “doctrine”, or “Restoration scriptures” would be like in relation to “ancient scripture”). This opens the door to anyone, CES or not, who meets the criteria. What this means in all practicality is that the new hiree will be someone unlike the majority of the current faculty body; which would (ideally) add to the ways in which the material is approached.

2) The candidate is to be a “disciple/scholar” who is someone “well trained in a discipline, intellectually rigorous, honest, critical, and articulate, and at the same time… fully committed to the restored gospel….”

3) The professional support in terms of a secretary, a research assistant, and funds for conference attendance/presentation is generous.

Three not-so-positive points:

1) I’m struck by the length of the post. I’ve not only never seen a faculty job posting this long before, but none of the other BYU listings come remotely close. This isn’t to say an academic job posting shouldn’t be this long (although I wouldn’t be suprised if other institutions considered it a bit awkward); but why include common-sense portions such as “Citizenship”–isn’t this an obvious expectation? (Although I do have to admit that the use of “cost-effective” is mildly entertaining.) And does “Orientation” say anything more than the applicant must have a temple recommend? (If so, who judges their “unquestioned loyalty”?) Incidentally, this posting is much longer than BYU-I’s, who is also hiring in the Religious Education department (see here).

2) Given the teaching load (11 classes a year; but they are of course only 2 credit hour classes), can they legitimately expect their professors to be “research specialists” who produce “excellent scholarship”?

3) Is the Religious Education department looking for an academic (someone “trained at the doctoral level” in “ancient scripture”)? Or in the words of a friend of mine, are they looking for someone with the brand, but not the bite? Personally, the way this post comes across is that the candidate should be someone with an academic degree in the field of Biblical studies (broadly conceived); but in the end he or she should function like a CES instructor. Not that there’s anything wrong with the CES, but I’m wondering if this post isn’t over simplistically conflating someone trained in Biblical studies with the expectations of a CES teacher (emphasis on “teacher”, because that is their primary purpose; and for the most part, they do it very well). I found it especially revealing that question #3 concerning “researching and publishing expectations” begins with an explanation that the candidate is to be an “effective presenter in the classroom”. I also can’t help but feel that question #4 is an ordering of priority of sorts–“teaching, citizenship, and scholarship”. IMO the implicit emphasis on the term “disciple/scholar” is still on the “disciple” side of the term; despite the fact that the posting calls for a “scholar”.

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