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Defending the Faith: A stimulating month ahead

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

The next month offers what the French call an “embarrassment of riches” — in this case, a number of remarkable conferences devoted to Latter-day Saint scripture and thought or at least, in one case, to matters of direct relevance to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, for example, the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum will hold its 11th annual “Book of Mormon Lands Conference” at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. The BMAF conference is establishing itself as a premier venue for sharing educated insights into the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican book.

Speakers at the conference include archaeologist F. Richard Hauck (“Deciphering Book of Mormon Chiasmus”); Royal Skousen, the unrivaled expert on the textual history of the Book of Mormon (“Hypotheses and Evidence in Book of Mormon Research”); Kirk Magleby and John W. Welch, two of the principle figures in the establishment of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (“Book of Mormon Studies 1952-Present”); and Mesoamericanist Mark Alan Wright (“The Future of Book of Mormon Studies”). Elder Clate W. Mask Jr., a former member of the Seventy and president of the Caribbean area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will offer “Insights from the Cakchiquel Maya and Pedro Choc.” In addition, a deservedly obscure newspaper columnist and BYU Arabist is scheduled to speak on “Two Books from Angels: Comparing the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon.”

For program details and information on how to register for the BMAF conference, go to bmaf.org. On-site registration begins at 7:45 a.m., and the meeting will begin at 8:45 a.m. and continue through 5:30 p.m. Admission cost is $50 per person (or $60 at the door) and includes a hot lunch.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, the Academy for Temple Studies will host a conference devoted to “The Lady of the Temple: Examining the Divine Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition” on the campus of Utah State University in Logan. Speakers will include the prolific British Methodist scholar Margaret Barker, who has become a favorite among many Latter-day Saint readers for her unique and fascinating approach to pre-exilic Israelite religion; the English Catholic philosopher and theologian Lawrence Hemming; William Dever, a distinguished archaeologist of biblical Israel; Alyson von Feldt, a Latter-day Saint author who has previously published significant articles on both “temple theology” and the divine feminine; and Valerie Hudson, Mormon thinker who currently holds the George H. W. Bush Chair of International Affairs at Texas A&M University.

Registration is at templestudies.org/home/2013-the-lady-of-the-temple-conference/ and costs $50, though students can attend for only $10.

Next on the calendar is the annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, which will be held on the campus of Utah Valley University in Orem. It is scheduled to run from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. This association is comprised of Mormons and non-Mormons but all are convinced that Mormonism is worthy of careful, disciplined reflection. The details of the meeting will be posted at the society’s website: smpt.org.

Finally, the Interpreter Foundation’s symposium on “Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth and Man” is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. Visit mormoninterpreter.com/events/2013-symposium-science-mormonism-cosmos-earth-man/ for details. Registration is free, but almost certainly necessary. On the day of the conference, preferential admission will be given to those who have pre-registered.

“Now behold,” says a very familiar passage of scripture revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith in February 1829, “a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:1-2). There are, of course, many forms of service. Service with the mind — including that offered through faithful scholarship and study — is almost certainly not the most important of those forms, but, clearly, and by divine command, it should not be neglected.

Daniel Peterson teaches Islamic studies, founded BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs MormonScholarsTestify.org, chairs mormoninterpreter.com, blogs daily at patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson, and speaks only for himself.

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