“What we have in common is of far greater significance than that which divides us.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, remarks from the inaugural John A. Widtsoe Symposium
Book of Mormon Conversations: Moroni
In this final Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Board member Christopher Eastland spoke with professor David Holland about his brief theological introduction to the book of Moroni. This call to pure love marks the culmination of Moroni’s book—and thus of the Book of Mormon. With his final words the prophet concludes that love is the lens through which we can fully understand our Savior, the essential quality in our quest to become like him. David Holland shows the book of Moroni to be an intentionally organized collection of artifacts, pointing readers toward the transformative power of divine love. He interprets Moroni’s teachings as a “theology of the Gift”—a doctrinal depiction of a God whose nature is to give. This theology powerfully reminds Latter-day Saints that the ordinances we observe, the community we serve, and the talents we develop are all gifts designed to draw us toward the culminating bestowal of Christlike love. Ultimately, this theology rests upon the truth that Jesus Christ is the Gift from which all other gifts flow. David Holland is the John Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School and the Director of Graduate Studies in Religion at Harvard University. He is the author of Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America, published by Oxford University Press. You can pre-order the volume and learn more about this series on the Maxwell Institute website https://mi.byu.edu/book/moroni/.
Pure Religion: Caring for Communities in Need
How interfaith communities are coming together to care for the suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. A special virtual event featuring Reverend E. Wayne Gaddis, President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, and Dr. Larry Eastland, Widtsoe Foundation Chair.
Book of Mormon Conversations: Ether
In this week’s Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Vice Chair Michael Stanley spoke with scholar Rosalynde Welch about her brief theological introduction to the book of Ether. Following the destruction of the Nephite people, Moroni works in solitude to complete a long-promised translation of an ancient record: the Jaredite plates. Discovered amid the ruins of a lost civilization, this record had captivated Nephites’ imaginations for centuries. Now Moroni sees foreshadowed therein the spiritual wonders and historical tragedies of his own people. In this brief theological introduction, literary scholar Rosalynde Frandsen Welch explores the book of Ether—a sweeping history in which Moroni, absorbed in the past, turns his heart to future readers whose spiritual fate will be at stake. According to Welch, Moroni’s work as translator-prophet brilliantly reframes the nature of scripture itself. Like the brother of Jared’s luminous stones, Moroni’s offering glows with his powerful testimony of Christ. In faith, his record extends the promise of Christ’s saving power to people in every place and time. Rosalynde Frandsen Welch is an independent scholar of Latter-day Saint literature and theology. She earned a PhD in early modern English literature from the University of California at San Diego. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on Latter-day Saint scripture, culture, and theology. She has served as a codirector of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminary and as associate editor at the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. You can pre-order the volume and learn more about this series on the Maxwell Institute website https://mi.byu.edu/book/ether/.
Book of Mormon Conversations: Mormon
In this week’s Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Board Member George Durham spoke with Collin College Professor Adam Miller about his brief theological introduction to Mormon. From the moment Sariah and Lehi’s family arrived in the promised land, their prophets warned that the people would face destruction if they failed to trust in Christ. Centuries later, Mormon witnesses the fulfillment of this dark prophecy. He witnesses his own people hewn down in open rebellion against God. Crying out from the depths of his heart, the prophet reflects on what went wrong and how it might have been avoided. Through it all, hope in Christ abides. In this brief theological introduction, philosopher and theologian Adam S. Miller presents Mormon’s book as a beginner’s guide to the end of the world. Mormon’s life is a case study in apocalyptic discipleship. What does a disciple’s task of sacrificing all things look like in a world where all things are already passing away? Miller introduces a Mormon for our own troubled times—a sober and observant prophet who models hope in Christ even as everything in the world he loves collapses around him. Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He earned a BA in comparative literature from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD in philosophy from Villanova University. He is the author of nine books, including Speculative Grace, The Gospel according to David Foster Wallace, Letters to a Young Mormon, and An Early Resurrection. He also directs the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar. You can pre-order Miller's book at https://mi.byu.edu/book/mormon/
Book of Mormon Conversations: 3-4 Nephi
In this week’s Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Board Member Laura Redford spoke with BYU Professor Daniel Becerra about his brief theological introduction to the books of 3rd and 4th Nephi. Generations of prophecy are fulfilled when Jesus Christ visits the people of the Book of Mormon following his crucifixion and resurrection. In his short time among these “other sheep,” Christ teaches about the path of discipleship, inaugurating a centuries-long period of righteous peace and prosperity in Nephite society. In this brief theological introduction, Daniel Becerra enlists 3 and 4 Nephi as aids in the disciple’s pursuit of Christ and Christlikeness. What do these books reveal about divine nature, human nature, and the means of bridging the gap between the two? Becerra places Christ at the center of all theological thinking in his interpretation of these remarkable books of scripture. He proposes that the fullest expression of discipleship—Christlikeness—can only be found in community and collaboration. Daniel Becerra is an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and is a scholar of early Christianity. You can preorder Becerra's book at: https://mi.byu.edu/book/third-fourth-nephi/
Addressing Critical Global Issues: The Role of Faith Communities
A Conversation with Audrey Kitagawa, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Larry Eastland, Chair of The John A. Widtsoe Foundation, and Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at The University of Southern California. Where does religion fit into solving critical challenges on a global scale? What does moral leadership look like? How can you personally enact change needed to address these challenges? If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. In this live virtual conversation, we’ll discuss how global religious organizations impact policy through the United Nations Multi-faith Advisory Council, what moral leadership looks like, and how you can use your time, talents, resources and energy to enact change locally, which leads to global change. Learn more about our conversation partners: Audrey Kitagawa, JD Audrey E. Kitagawa, JD, is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World's Religions, President and Founder of the International Academy for Transcultural Cooperation, President of the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family, Chair of the UN Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and co-facilitator of the United Religions Initiative UN Cooperation Circle. Dr. Larry L. Eastland Larry Eastland has served four U.S. Presidents, including Staff Assistant to the President (President Gerald Ford), Director of Operations for the Summit of Industrialized Nations (President Ronald Reagan), and as the U.S. Delegate to the World Tourism Organization (elected Chairman of the General Assembly and Security Council). He also served as a Foreign and Defense Policy Assistant at the U.S. Senate and Deputy to the Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. He is a combat-decorated U.S. Marine Corps officer, having served as an infantry Firebase Commander and Intelligence Officer in Vietnam. Dean Varun Soni Varun Soni is the Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He earned his B.A. in Religion from Tufts University, where he also earned an Asian Studies minor and completed the Program in Peace and Justice Studies. He subsequently earned his M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School and his M.A. degree through the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He went on to receive his J.D. degree from University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, where he also completed the Critical Race Studies Program and served as an editor for the Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law. He earned his Ph.D. through the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town, where his doctoral research focused on religion and popular culture.
Book of Mormon Conversations: Helaman
In this week’s Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Executive Director Jacob Rennaker spoke with Kimberly Berkey about her brief theological introduction to the book of Helaman. The Book of Helaman marks a dramatic reversal. The spiritual tables turn. While the Lamanites righteously cast their eyes toward heaven, the Nephites take their first steps toward a surprising precipice where final destruction awaits. In this brief theological introduction, Kimberly Matheson Berkey underscores an often unnoticed theme that plays throughout the book of Helaman—a book she calls “a masterclass in sight.” What does this history teach us about visibility? What is the spiritual threat behind secret combinations? What can the eyesight of the Lamanites show readers about their own religious journeys? Berkey takes us chapter by chapter through the book of Helaman, identifying how much remains to be discovered in this slim record. On each page she invites us to become more aware of the hidden and often overlooked things that shape our lives as disciples of Christ. Kimberly Matheson Berkey is a doctoral student in theology at Loyola University Chicago, where she studies the philosophy of religion. She serves on the boards of the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar and the Book of Mormon Studies Association and has contributed several articles to the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. She lives in Provo, Utah. You can pre-order Kim's book at https://mi.byu.edu/order-helaman/
Book of Mormon Conversations: Alma 30-63
In this week’s Book of Mormon Conversation, John A. Widtsoe Foundation Board Member Chris Eastland spoke with Oxford professor Mark Wrathall about his brief theological introduction to the last 33 chapters of the book of Alma. Alma the Younger is forever changed by an overwhelming personal experience with God’s mercy—a mercy capable of overpowering justice and giving Alma the means to exercise faith unto repentance. Driven by his new desire to share the joy that God’s mercy brings, Alma confronts the apostate Korihor, preaches a sermon on faith to the Zoramite outcasts, and encourages and consoles his sons. His ministry cannot be understood apart from the miraculous transformation initiated and powered by God’s mercy. In this brief introduction to the second half of the book of Alma, philosopher Mark Wrathall painstakingly works out the logic of Alma’s understanding of faith, justice, mercy, and the final judgment and restoration of all things, encouraging readers to receive salvation today. Mark Wrathall is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College. He works on the phenomenology of agency and religious life, and is interested in the temporality of human existence. He is the author of Phenomenology and Human Existence (forthcoming with Oxford University Press), Heidegger and Unconcealment (Cambridge University Press), and How to Read Heidegger (W. W. Norton). He has edited numerous volumes, including The Cambridge Heidegger Lexicon and Religion After Metaphysics. You can pre-order the volume and learn more about this series on the Maxwell Institute website mi.byu.edu/brief.