The Mormon Theology Seminar is an independent, scholarly forum committed to organizing short-term, seminar-style collaborations that consider specific questions about Mormon theology through close readings of foundational Mormon texts. As a part of this work, the Seminar also publicly archives the findings of these study groups.
The Seminar’s primary aim is to create a common space where theological work can be undertaken in a way that is both concentrated and collaborative.
The Seminar means to avoid two difficulties that traditionally plague such scholarly work. On the one hand, focused theological work is typically an individual affair and the spaces that support this work tend to reinforce isolation and idiosyncrasy. For instance, the writing of conference papers and journal articles tends to be relatively private work that only briefly flares in the common space of a presentation or publication. On the other hand, common spaces typically conducive to spirited discussion and collaboration generally tend to preclude focused and sustained concentration. Exchanges on blogs and discussion lists, for example, while often invigorating and instructive, consistently lack focus and resolution. In short, collaboration tends to diffuse concentration, and vice versa.
In order to address the apparent difficulty of coupling collaboration and concentration, the Seminar organizes small, temporary study groups (seminars) designed to facilitate collaborative engagement in focused readings of primary Mormon texts.
Seminars are organized along the following lines:
(1) Seminar typically consist of 6 people, preferably including both men and women, and preferably with a variety of backgrounds.
(2) Online seminars typically collaborate for a period of 3-4 months. Live seminars typically collaborate for two weeks.
(3) Seminars are organized around the reading of a small selection from a Mormon text (typically just one or two chapters). An agreed upon reading schedule paces the work.
(4) Prior to the work of reading itself, seminar participants formulate a provisional set of key questions in order focus discussions and aid in formulating concise summaries of their findings. These questions may be freely modified, extended, or replaced as the seminar proceeds.
(5) Members of the seminar take turns leading discussions that address the current reading assignment in view of the seminar’s key questions.
(6) At the conclusion of the seminar, the participants co-author a concise report summarizes their provisional findings. In addition to the joint report, participants also typically compose individual papers prompted by their work in the seminar.
(7) Reports and individual papers are then presented and published or archived.
Presently, seminars are commissioned to address specific texts and topics. Some seminars are conducted principally online. Other seminars, like the Summer Seminar in Mormon Theology offered in partnership with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, are conducted in-person.
Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He and his wife, Gwen Walters, have three children. Hereceived an MA and PhD in philosophy from Villanova University as well as a BA in Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University. He is the editor of An Experiment on the Word (Salt Press, 2011) and the author of Badiou, Marion, and St Paul: Immanent Grace (Continuum, 2008), Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Kofford, 2012), and Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology (Fordham University Press, 2013). He is the co-editor, with Joseph Spencer, of the book series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture, published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
Joseph M. Spencer has degrees from Brigham Young University, San Jose State University, and the University of New Mexico, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of An Other Testament: On Typology, published in 2012 by Salt Press and soon to be reissued by Brigham Young University Press. He is the co-editor, with Adam Miller, of the book series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture, published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. His work focuses on the intersection of continental and analytic philosophy, as well as contemporary continental philosophy of religion and scriptural theology.
Robert Couch teaches finance at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University. In addition to doing research in finance and economics, Robert also does work on business ethics and Mormonism.
James E. Faulconer is the father of four and the grandfather of eleven. He is a Professor of Philosophy, a Richard L Evans Professor of Religious Understanding, the Associate Director of the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, and the Academic Director of the BYU London Centre. He is the author of The Life of Holiness, The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder, The Book of Mormon Made Harder, and the forthcoming The Old Testament Made (Even) Harder. He has edited several philosophy collections, including Appropriating Heidegger (with Mark Wrathall) and Transcendence in Religion and Philosophy.
Julie M. Smith received a MA in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. She is married to Derrick Smith and home schools their three sons. She is the author of Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels and the editor of Apocalypse: Reading Revelation 21-22 (Maxwell Institute, forthcoming). She lives in Austin, Texas, where she teaches Institute.
Jenny Web is an independent scholar living in Huntsville Alabama with her husband, Nick Webb, and two young children. She has an MA in comparative literature from BYU and has worked as an editor and compositor for the past eight years. Her research interests include twentieth-century fiction and scriptural theology; her most recent publications include “Fantastic Desire: Poe, Calvino, and the Dying Woman” as well as Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah: 2 Nephi 26-27, which she co-edited along with Joe Spencer.
The Seminar is jointly managed by a director, an associate director, and an executive board. Positions are filled by appointment. Terms of service are flexible and determined by mutual agreement. Similarly, decisions about seminar topics, publications, future organization, and the Seminar’s own stated mission are determined by mutual agreement.