Hugh Nibley's groundbreaking work on ancient temples is bearing a bountiful new harvest among Latter-day Saint scholars.
John Lundquist's book "The Temple: Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth" (London and New York, 1993) was joined years later by his "The Temple of Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future" (Westport, CN, 2008) and by William Hamblin and David Rolph Seely's "Solomon's Temple: Myth and History" (London and New York, 2007); the latter two were dedicated to professor Nibley's memory. And, on Sept. 22, in honor of the contributions made to the field by the late Matthew Brown before his very untimely death, the new Interpreter Foundation sponsored a symposium in Provo on the theme of "The Temple on Mount Zion," the proceedings of which are already online (www.mormoninterpreter.com/youtube-videos-of-the-temple-on-mount-zion-conference) and will eventually be published in text form.
But Latter-day Saint scholars aren't toiling alone in the rich vineyard of temple studies.
The British Methodist scholar Margaret Barker has published a stream of insightful, paradigm-shifting books in the field and in related areas, including such volumes as "The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy" (London, 2003), "Temple Theology: An Introduction" (London, 2004), and "Temple Themes in Christian Worship" (London, 2008). Her work has found a particularly receptive audience among Mormon scholars, many of whom have discovered her approach to the ancient temple to be extraordinarily congenial and productive.
And now the two streams of temple-related scholarship are coming together in Utah: The newly formed Academy for Temple Studies — modeled on the United Temple Studies Group based in the United Kingdom — is hosting a day-long conference in Logan titled "Mormonism and the Temple: Examining an Ancient Religious Tradition." Led by Gary Anderson in conjunction with professor Philip Barlow and the Religious Studies program at Utah State University, the conference is scheduled for Oct. 29 and will be held on the USU campus. (For details about the conference line-up, registration fees and other relevant matters, see the academy's website: www.templestudies.org/home.)
Barker herself will address the conference in a keynote address on the topic of "Restoring Solomon's Temple." For members of her devoted and ever-growing Mormon audience, it will be a rare treat to have her among us, in our temple-centered community.
Rev. Dr. Laurence Hemming, another British leader in modern studies of temple theology, will address the subject of "Chapel, Church, Temple, Cathedral: Lost Parallels in Mormon and Catholic Worship."
Joining them will be a number of Latter-day Saint researchers. John Hall, a professor of classical languages and ancient history at BYU, is slated to present a paper on "Ancient Mediterranean Temple Ceremonies: Vestiges of the Rites of Enoch and Precursors to the Hebrew Temple Ceremonial." John Welch, editor of the quarterly journal "BYU Studies," creator of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at BYU, will revisit a subject to which he has made major, internationally recognized contributions: "The Temple in the Sermon on the Mount and the Gospel of Matthew." He will be followed by yours truly, chairman of the board of "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture" (www.mormoninterpreter.com), who will also re-examine a topic on which I have previously published: "A Divine Mother in the Book of Mormon?"
Other Latter-day Saint participants in the conference are Danel Bachman, a retired instructor at the LDS Institute of Religion in Logan, who will present his massive "Temple Studies Bibliography"; Le Grande Davis, an adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology at Weber State University, speaking on "Temples — Bridges of Eternity"; and John Fowles, a member of the faculty at the Logan Institute of Religion, who will discuss "The Temple, the Book of Revelation, and Joseph Smith."
Including a 90-minute break for lunch, the conference will run from 8:30 a.m. until it adjourns, following a 40-minute panel discussion, at 5:30 in the evening, leaving time for family night.
With the second-oldest functioning temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints crowning a hill adjacent to the Utah State University campus, and with the church's newest temple just a few miles away in Brigham City — though the Calgary Alberta Temple will succeed to that honor roughly 24 hours before the conference opens — Logan seems a particularly appropriate place in which to reflect upon the concept of the temple, both ancient and modern. All are welcome. The conference isn't restricted to scholars.
Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, where he also serves as editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. He is the founder of MormonScholarsTestify.org, the general editor of "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture" online at www.mormoninterpreter.com and he blogs daily at www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson.