President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Launches the Widtsoe Foundation and Endowed Chair at USC
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf delivered the historic inaugural Keynote Speech at the John A. Widtsoe Symposium at USC last April. It was hosted by the USC Provost Michael Quick in association with Dr. Varun Soni, Dean of the Office of Religious Life and Dr. Lori Meeks, Director of the School of Religion at USC.
Since this momentous occasion, we have been dedicated to fulfilling President Uchtdorf’s charge to the Foundation and the Chair to create and foster scholarship in association with USC to the greater community of religious academics throughout Southern California “to see each other not as aliens or adversaries but as fellow travelers, brothers and sisters, and children of God,” and to advance the global reach of LDS scholarship utilizing the superior technology available in the Los Angeles corporate and university community.
Three Renowned LDS Scholars Featured at Second Widtsoe Symposium Our second symposium took place on September 24th and
Our second symposium took place on September 24th and featured world-renowned LDS scholars Grant Hardy, Eric Huntsman and Noel Reynolds. They focused on how the LDS religious academic community interacts with the world’s theological scholars today, guest-taught the “USC Religions of LA” class, and presented a truly remarkable fireside at the historic Los Angeles Stake Center.
Dr. John W. Welch, BYU law professor, has been appointed Widtsoe Distinguished Scholar
Dr. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, where he teaches courses on Joseph Smith and the Law, Biblical Law, and Tax Exempt Organizations. He is the Founder of FARMS and Editor of BYU Studies.
As the Distinguished Scholar, Dr. Welch will direct the many initiatives of the Foundation giving them a rigorous depth of scholarship. These initiatives will be made available to academicians and practitioners of faith-based studies, with the goal of enlarging the discussion abou commonalities in faith traditions.
Widtsoe Sponsored Initiatives
In the year since the inaugural event, the Widtsoe Foundation has made tremendous progress in assembling a global set of initiatives to support LDS scholars, members across the world, and interested academic and policy professionals who have questions and interests in LDS doctrine, history, culture and humanitarian service throughout the world.
New Testament Commentary
The 16-volume BYU New Testament Commentary seeks to illuminate the historical, cultural, linguistic and doctrinal heritage of each book in the New Testament through analysis of original Greek texts along with unique LDS doctrinal perspectives. The Widtsoe Foundation is the official sponsoring publisher of the entire series over the next five years through funding and academic resources, as well as providing a global forum for its many uses and audiences.
Book of Mormon Central
Book of Mormon Central is one of the most acclaimed LDS initiatives of the decade. It is an independent group of LDS scholars affiliated with the Ancient America Foundation that seeks to bring together in one central web location every useful piece of information that is available about the Book of Mormon in books, articles, speeches, videos, scholarly reviews, and all types of media. The Widtsoe Foundation will add substantial support by providing the human and financial resources in support of gathering, organizing, translating and disseminating this information about the Book of Mormon, and develop insights into how the teachings of this scripture can have beneficial and practical applications to individuals and families throughout the world, as well as to societies and populations at large. Once it is well underway, a companion initiative for the New Testament Central will begin.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The Widtsoe Foundation is preparing to be named as the home for the completely revised and redesigned 25-year-old
Encyclopedia, which will take the form of a “wiki” document. This will be the premier resource for information regarding the Mormon culture and people to members, scholars, media and the general public across the globe.
Temples and Sacred Spaces Global Conference
The Foundation, in association with the USC Office of Religious Life and the Temple Studies Academy is proud to announce the global Conference on Temples, Sacred Spaces and Sacred Clothing on November 10th and 11th of this year.
This is an American-based initiative based on the pioneering work of Dr. Margaret Barker and other scholars who have met annually over the last decade at the Temple Church in London. Their work strives to apply temple studies to biblical texts. The Widtsoe Foundation will make it possible for a wide array of scholars and students to participate in the Academy’s annual Temple Studies Symposium, and also to expand the reach of the Academy’s main proceedings by hosting them at the University of Southern California and broadcasting them live on the Internet.
This will be a two-day conference. Day One will be the academic session with scholars from across the globe already committed to present. Day Two will focus on the practitioners of religious life presenting their perspectives on the importance of sacred spaces in which to teach, organize and provide service to their followers and the community. Additionally, a set of common principles and goals will be set to serve the communities of Southern California.
Specific emphasis will be placed on assembling the broadest set of senior scholars and religious leaders representing the many religious sects interested in sharing their experiences and learning from one another the importance that each places on their specific temple/ mosque/ synagogue and the vestments that accompany their uses and observances.
The Conference will be open to the public, who will have the opportunity to interact with the participants and clergy.
The (To Be Named) Center for Religious and Family Life -- The John A. Widtsoe Scholars Center
The Foundation is currently negotiating with the owners of a property directly across from USC’s soon to be completed $1 billion campus expansion, and just three doors down from the USC LDS Institute of Religion.
Whoever donates the funds to purchase this property will have the naming rights for the Center. It will provide the following benefits to the Foundation:
1. It will provide a headquarters for the Foundation, a meeting place for groups of scholars and students, and house the global technology through which the Foundation will be able to broadcast live and for later viewing its conferences, webinars, initiatives, and any other offerings to the general population of interested scholars, members and public.
2. The rental units on the property will provide a permanent source of funding for the Foundation to cover the basic costs of management and administration.
3. A Family History Center will be available to students, faculty and the surrounding community.
4. Apartments can be made available to the graduate students studying under the endowed Widtsoe Professor.
Given the cost of housing near the campus, and the need to ensure the safety of the Foundation and scholars, this location is well within the university’s security zone under the protection of campus and community law enforcement 24/7.
The John A. Widtsoe Foundation: Expanding the Global Reach of LDS Scholarship in Association with an Endowed Mormon Studies Chair at the University of Southern California
Dr. John A. Widtsoe was a preeminent scholar, university president and LDS Church Apostle, and the first Mormon scholar to be invited to teach classes in Mormonism in a secular university. His 1935 lectures at USC began the Church’s reach into the world of comparative religious studies. Today, the John A. Widtsoe Foundation aspires to build on his legacy of scholarly engagement and become the leading voice for LDS perspectives on religious and spiritual issues and doctrine in the global ecumenical community by:
• Instituting a world-class scholarly center for Mormon research and publication;
• Establishing a gathering place (the Widtsoe Scholars House) where faculty and students can exchange ideas, critique works, and present papers and articles for review and discussion;
• Utilizing the latest technological tools and Web-based initiatives to disseminate unique and valuable Mormon scholarship to the worldwide academic and religious communities;
• Organizing seminars, symposia and conferences that bring together global faith leaders to explore commonalities in values and traditions;
• Providing opportunities and experiences for students and young adults in the Southern California area to more fully appreciate the
importance of faith in their lives and in society;
• Endowing the permanent Chair in Mormon Studies at USC; and,
• Making available funds for graduate scholarships and grants to attract the best next generation of scholars.
The Chair and the associated Mormon Studies program will be integral parts of an exciting new Ph.D. program in comparative religion at USC. The Foundation will provide support and resources to the Chair and the Mormon Studies program, with the twin goals of
mentoring the next generation of exceptional scholars and strengthening and increasing positive exposure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its history, doctrine, theology, and programs in a collaborative academic setting. The independent Foundation will bring together a robust and unique set of scholarly projects, world-class visiting professors, and technological, academic and financial
resources to enhance research and study of the Church, its members, its scriptures and their impact on religious thought.