Global Outreach: Engaging Young European Latter-day Saints
The Widtsoe Foundation co-sponsored a significant international seminar held in London, England. The December 2017 LDS Euro Seminar was co-sponsored with Brigham Young University’s London Centre, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and the Wheatley Institution. This remarkable three-day seminar provided young European Mormons with a rigorous, yet intimate setting in which they considered the implications of Mormonism in the European public sphere. These intellectually active LDS young people from across Europe included students (undergraduate and graduate), aspiring scholars, and young professionals. The seminar was highly interactive and involved close discussion with senior LDS scholars and professionals from across Europe. Participants then formed small groups and created detailed action plans to positively affect public policy in areas of concern to Latter-day Saints and set timelines for implementing their ideas. In a very real sense, this seminar served to train the next generation of LDS leaders to flourish in their congregations and in their communities throughout Europe.
Foundation President Receives Award from BYU
Every year, Brigham Young University honors graduates with significant professional accomplishments from each of their colleges with Alumni Achievement Awards. On October 5th, BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences presented their annual award to Widtsoe Foundation President Larry Eastland. As part of this event, Dr. Eastland delivered a public speech at BYU titled, “My Decade of Decisions Began at BYU.” You can read a summary of his speech online or view it in its entirety at: http://www.widtsoefoundation.org/2017/11/29/widtsoe-foundation-president-receives-award-byu/ .
The LDS-Jewish Academic Dialogue Project
The LDS-Jewish Academic Dialogue Project began in 2016 to strengthen professional and personal bonds between the LDS and Jewish communities in Los Angeles and Salt Lake. As the Widtsoe Foundation Scholar in Residence, Dr. Jacob Rennaker joined this group soon after its inception and has been regularly participating ever since. Its meetings include closed-door presentations and discussions among scholars, as well as public events where members of the LDS and Jewish communities can learn more about each other’s faith.
The group’s most recent closed-door meeting was held March 15-16 at Loyola Marymount University. Topics included Christian teachings of Christ “fulfilling” the Law of Moses, the State of Israel, and the experiences of LDS and Jewish women in secular and religious spheres. The fact that this group could discuss such sensitive subjects is a testament to the strength of their personal and professional relationships. Outside of these dialogue sessions, Jewish participants have regularly invited Widtsoe Foundation Scholar Dr. Rennaker to speak at their classes. In November, Dr. Tamar Frankiel had Dr. Rennaker address her World Religion graduate seminar on sacred space in Mormonism. And in March, Rabbi Mark Diamond had Dr. Rennaker attend his Interfaith Engagement undergraduate class at Loyola Marymount University to model an LDS-Jewish dialogue on the topics of sacred space and religious authority. Afterward, students (who were mostly Catholic) asked Dr. Rennaker additional questions about Mormon doctrine, history, and practice.
Association for Mormon Letters Award
The Association for Mormon Letters selected Dr. Rennaker to sit on the panel of judges for their annual Award for Religious Non-Fiction. This category is decidedly broad within the world of Mormon publications: this year, the finalists ranged from a poetic paraphrase of a biblical love poem to an ambitious consideration of Mormon ecclesiology. But it was Patrick Mason’s careful, concise, yet comprehensive approach in What is Mormonism: A Student’s Introduction that ultimately stood out.
Roman Plate Exhibit
At this year’s Book of Mormon Central Conference in Provo, Utah, the Widtsoe Foundation sponsored an exhibit of two ancient bronze plates—some of the best preserved in the world. Several similarities evoke comparisons between these Roman bronze plates and the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon: their comparable size and thickness, use of alloyed metal and binding rings, with one part open and the other part sealed. As recent discoveries now show, this pattern of documentary preservation, implemented in various media, was widely recognized in several ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean civilizations.