During 2015 Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship continued to make significant contributions in the broad field of religious studies and in the emerging area of Mormon studies. In doing so, it furthered its mission of deepening understanding and nurturing discipleship among Latter-day Saints while promoting mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts and traditions.
The Maxwell Institute’s efforts in this regard are reflected in the work conducted under the auspices of its ongoing research initiatives; in the work produced by its research fellows, its research scholar, and their colleagues based at BYU or elsewhere around the world; and in its publications.
The following is a brief report of work completed in 2015. For more details, see mi.byu.edu.
CENTER FOR THE PRESERVATION OF ANCIENT RELIGIOUS TEXTS
Visiting Research Fellow
David Calabro (PhD, University of Chicago) joined CPART for the 2015 calendar year as a visiting postdoctoral research fellow. In addition to pursuing his own research projects, David spent the year assisting with the Syriac Electronic Corpus project (see below).
Student Research Assistants
CPART employed several student research assistants in 2015. Tara Gregory worked with Heal and Calabro on the Syriac Electronic Corpus project, organizing the Syriac Corpus texts and proofreading and editing the digital version of Jessie Payne Smith’s Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Spencer Farris worked with Heal and Calabro on CPART’s digital humanities projects, especially those relating to the Syriac Electronic Corpus. Jessica Steele worked with Heal and Calabro on the digital Syriac dictionary and the Syriac Electronic Corpus project. Itza Mostert worked with Griffin on the S. Kent Brown microfilm collection (see below), digitizing microfilm to fulfill specific scholarly requests and to grow the collection of digitized manuscripts. Mostert also worked with Heal on the Vatican Library project (see below) and as a research assistant with his “Audacity of Excellence” project. Susannah Morrison worked with Griffin on the Vetus Latina project. Bert Fuller worked with Griffin on the 2015 volume of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity (see “Publications” below).
BYU-Vatican Library Syriac Manuscripts Project
In May, Heal accompanied BYU President Kevin Worthen, Peggy Worthen, and Professor Sandra Rogers (BYU’s international vice president), on a visit to the Vatican Library. President Worthen and company met with the prefect and vice-prefect of the library, along with key staff that BYU works with in our joint Syriac manuscripts project. They were also given a tour of the library and the manuscript vault, where they were shown some of the most important Syriac manuscripts. While there, they presented the Vatican Library administration with the second addendum to our partnership agreement, which entails digitizing an additional fifty manuscripts, primarily versions of the Syriac Bible together with biblical commentaries. These manuscripts will be published online in 2016.
S. Kent Brown Eastern Christian Manuscripts Collection
This past year CPART continued its work with the extensive S. Kent Brown microfilm collection of Eastern Christian manuscripts. Our goal has been to improve access to these important texts through digitization and publication online. With the assistance of intern Itza Mostert, more than 130 manuscripts were scanned from microfilm, mostly from the collection of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Cairo, Egypt. These were then uploaded to CPART’s Internet Archive collection, which now numbers over 500 items, and were also made available on the COP collection page of the CPART website. In addition, we fulfilled several individual scanning requests from scholars working with these materials, including a scholar from Bethlehem working on Ibn al-Tayyib’s commentary on the Gospels, illustrating this initiative’s global reach. Thanks to Professor Brown, we also were able to collect and curate photographs relating to his microfilming project. On a related project, with the assistance of Professor Grant Lundberg, we conducted a review and reassessment of our Pontifical Oriental Institute Old Church Slavonic collection metadata.
Old Latin New Testament Portal
In 2015 CPART began work on an Old Latin New Testament web portal, which will provide single-point web access to all editions and facsimiles of Old Latin New Testament manuscripts that are either in the public domain or available online via holding collections. Working with student Susannah Morrison, Griffin has compiled the necessary manuscript metadata, sourced materials available online, created digital copies of materials otherwise unavailable, and is now starting on the development of a suitable web delivery platform. This project is being supported by a research grant from BYU’s Committee on Religious Endeavors.
Syriac Electronic Corpus
CPART’s productive research collaboration with Professor Eric Ringger and BYU’s Natural Language Processing Lab came to an end in 2015 when Ringger took a new position with Facebook. This collaboration generated several master’s thesis projects and a PhD dissertation. This year Kevin Black completed his MSc with a thesis entitled “Interactive Machine Assistance: A Case Study in Linking Corpora and Dictionaries,” and Paul Felt defended his PhD thesis entitled “Facilitating Exploratory Corpus Annotation.” Both of these projects, and others that preceded them over the past decade, generated multiple published articles that laid the groundwork for annotating a large corpus of Syriac texts and linking that corpus to a dictionary. The Syriac corpus project was also integral to Patrick Pearson’s MA thesis in linguistics entitled “Syriac Rhetorical Particles: Variable Second-Position Clitic Placement,” which was defended in December.
Calabro spent the year advancing two other research projects related to aspects of Syriac lexicography connected to the Syriac corpus project. First, he explored the role of etymology in Syriac lexica, arguing that it should be more robustly represented. Second, Calabro worked with Heal and two BYU students, Spencer Farris and Jessica Steele, to prepare a prolegomenon to a new electronic Syriac dictionary, including detailed examples of how Syriac dictionary entries can be encoded in TEI. Several important new Syriac texts were added to the corpus in 2015. These include the Letters of Jacob of Sarug (d. 521), Ten Homilies on Joseph by Jacob of Sarug, Twelve Homilies on Joseph by Balai and also attributed to Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373), and a number of fully vocalized texts by Ephrem. In 2015 BYU also began collaborating with the Université catholique de Louvain and Peeters Publishers to produce the e-CSCO version of the complete works of Ephrem the Syrian.
Conferences and Lectures
In March CPART hosted a lecture by Professor Peter Martens (Saint Louis University) entitled “The Bible in Early Christianity.” Martens is a leading scholar on this subject. His recorded lecture was released on the Maxwell Institute Podcast with an accompanying interview. As newly appointed chair of his department, Martens returned to the BYU campus in the fall to consult with university administrators on BYU’s undergraduate education philosophy and related matters. In August Dr. Jeff Wickes (Saint Louis University) and Heal organized a workshop at the Oxford Patristics Conference entitled “Exegesis in Syriac Verse.” The theme was tackled from a variety of perspectives by an international group of seven contributors. These and additional papers have been gathered into a single volume edited by Wickes and Heal.
Studies in the Bible and Antiquity
Professor Martens’s March lecture and eight other contributions were published in the 2015 volume of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, under the auspices of CPART and the editorship of its associate director, Carl Griffin. The heart of this volume was the first-time publication of a “lost work” by Hugh Nibley, “Preservation, Restoration, Reformation” (edited by Bert Fuller and Carl Griffin). This is a chapter from a long, unpublished manuscript by Nibley on Christian apostasy, which he called “End of What?” Assessments of this work, and of Nibley as a scholar of early Christianity, were contributed by Daniel Becerra, Bert Fuller, Carl Griffin, Lou Midgely, and Taylor Petrey (see “Publications” below).
In addition to occasional posts on the Maxwell Institute Blog, CPART engages with a broad audience through the CPART Facebook page. This page provides notices of CPART activities as well as news, images, conference announcements, and other articles relating to ancient religious texts. The page has more than three thousand followers, and posts typically reach thousands more through organic means.
Dr. Heal is an assistant research fellow and pursues a research agenda focusing on early Syriac Christian texts and manuscripts. During the year, he gave the following presentations:
• A paper entitled “The Syriac Corpus” at the Hugoye Symposium IV: Syriac and the Digital Humanities, hosted by the Beth Mardutho Research Library in Piscataway, New Jersey, and by Rutgers University Libraries
• The David J. Lane Memorial Lecture in Toronto, at the invitation of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies; the lecture was entitled “Five Kinds of Rewriting: Appropriation, Influence and the Manuscript History of Syriac Literature”
• A lecture to the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, entitled “Digitizing Syriac: Manuscript, Lexicon and Corpus Projects at Brigham Young University”
• An invited lecture in Paris in connection with the exhibit Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures: Grandes Heures des manuscrits irakiens at the Archives Nationales, Fontainebleau, entitled “Vatican Syriac Manuscripts from Iraq”
• Three presentations at the Seventh North American Syriac Symposium, held at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC: “Using the BYU-Oxford Syriac Corpus for Research” for a special Instrumenta session, “Teaching Syriac in One Semester” for a workshop on Syriac pedagogy, and a research paper entitled “Syriac Studies: A Lamentable Misnomer?”
• A paper entitled “Construal and Construction of Genesis in early Syriac Sermons” at a workshop on exegesis in Syriac verse in connection with the XVII International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford
• Two papers at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia: “As It Is Written: The Text of the Bible in the Syriac Dialogue Poems on Joseph” and “Making a Digital Compendious Syriac Dictionary”
Also during the year, Heal published the following:
• “Five Kinds of Rewriting: Appropriation, Influence and the Manuscript History of Early Syriac Literature,” Journal of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies 15 (2015): 51–65
• “Notes on the Acquisition History of the Mingana Syriac Manuscripts,” in Manuscripta Syriaca: Des sources de première main (Cahiers d’études syriaques 4), edited by Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet and Muriel Debié, 11–38 (Paris: Geuthner, Société d’études syriaques, 2015)
• “Digital Humanities and the Study of Christian Apocrypha: Resources, Prospects and Problems,” in Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier: The Christian Apocrypha in North American Perspectives, edited by Tony Burke, 270–81 (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books)
• “Patristic Writings in Early Mormon Periodicals,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith’s Study of the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln Blumell, Matthew Grey, and Andrew Hedges, 407–24 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University)
• Review of Claudio Balzaretti, The Syriac Versions of Ezra-Nehemiah: Manuscripts and Editions, Translation Technique and Its Use in Textual Criticism, trans. Michael Tait, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 77 (2015): 128–29
• Review of Arietta Papaconstantinou with Muriel Debié and Hugh Kennedyeds, Writing ‘True Stories’: Historians and Hagiographers in the Late Antique and Medieval Near East, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, vol. 9, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 18/1 (2015): 283–86
• “The Cave of Treasures,” in The Routledge Dictionary of Ancient Mediterranean Religions, edited by Lisbeth Fried et al. (New York: Routledge, forthcoming)
• “Jacob of Serugh,” in The Routledge Dictionary of Ancient Mediterranean Religions, edited by Lisbeth Fried et al. (New York: Routledge, forthcoming)
Heal also submitted for publication the following:
• Literature, Rhetoric, and Exegesis in Syriac Verse, ed. Jeffery T. Wickes and Kristian Heal (Leuven: Peeters)
• “Syriac Studies in the Contemporary Academy: Some Reflections,” in Ad Fontium: Proceedings of the VII North American Syriac Symposium, ed. Aaron Butts and Robin Darling Young (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press)
• “Construal and Construction of Genesis in early Syriac Sermons,” in Literature, Rhetoric, and Exegesis in Syriac Verse, Studia Patristica Supplements, ed. Jeffery T. Wickes and Kristian Heal (Leuven: Peeters)
Dr. Griffin is an assistant research fellow. His current research is focused on early biblical reception and the writings of the Syriac homilist Cyrillona. In 2015 he completed the following:
• Published an article, “Looking Down a Dark Well: An Editorial Introduction,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 7 (2015): 55–58
• Participated in the “Exegesis in Syriac Verse” workshop at the Oxford Patristics Conference and had his paper, “Vessel of Wrath: Judas Iscariot in Cyrillona and Early Syriac Tradition,” accepted for publication in the workshop proceedings, which are forthcoming through Peeters
• Contracted with the academic publisher Gorgias Press to publish both an edition/translation and monographic study of the early Syriac author Cyrillona (forthcoming)
LAURA F. WILLES CENTER FOR BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES
Dr. Brian M. Hauglid directs the Willes Center.
Conferences and Lectures
The Willes Center hosted two lectures by Dr. John Christopher Thomas from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee. His January lecture was entitled “A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon.” His October lecture was called “The Book of Mormon Meets Pentecostals.” As with our other 2015 lecture, both are available on the Institute’s YouTube channel. From June 8 to June 20, the Willes Center hosted the annual Mormon Theology Seminar, held at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Along with the directors Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, the six participants included Kim Berkey, Sharon Harris, Jacob Rennaker, Jana Riess, Jeremy Walker, and Jenny Webb. Participants discussed their experiences in a special series on the Institute blog. In October Professor Kristin Matthews (English, BYU) delivered the annual Laura F. Willes Book of Mormon Lecture. Her remarks were entitled “‘Come into the Fold of God’: Caring for the Poor and Needy.”
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
The 2015 volume debuts a new book review editor, Janiece Johnson (BYU–Idaho), replacing Jared Tamez, and two new members of the editorial advisory board: Janiece Johnson and John Christopher Thomas (Pentecostal Theological Seminary and Bangor University). Notably in this volume, Dr. Nicholas Frederick (BYU) proposes a practical methodology of inter-text between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon in his “Evaluating the Interaction between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon: A Proposed Methodology” (pp. 1–30). Dr. Ethan Sproat (UVU) offers a novel interpretation of skins as clothing in “Skins and Garments in the Book of Mormon: A Textual Exegesis” (pp. 138–65). Other article authors include Shon Hopkin (BYU), John Hilton III (BYU), Kimberly Berkey (independent scholar), Kerry Hull (BYU), and Michael Perry (independent scholar). This volume also contains two review essays by J. B. Haws (BYU) and Joseph Spencer (BYU), three book reviews, five short notes, and a book notice on a new volume in the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Revelations and Translations, Volume 3, Part 1: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
Book of Mormon Critical Text Project
In 1988 Royal Skousen (professor of linguistics and English language, BYU) announced plans to produce a critical text of the Book of Mormon, in cooperation with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. The Foundation became part of BYU in 1998. Eventually its work on the Book of Mormon was housed in the Willes Center. Skousen meticulously analyzed the extant handwritten manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, some of which were provided by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ) and some from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Between 2001 and 2009, Skousen produced three volumes of his project, which were published first by the Maxwell Institute and then by the Willes Center: Volume 1, The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 2001; Volume 2 (in two parts), The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 2001; and Volume 4 (in six parts), Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, with one volume published each year from 2004 through 2009. In August 2015 the BYU administration entered into an agreement to transfer the remaining work on the project (Volume 3, History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, in six parts, and Volume 5, A Complete Electronic Collation of the Book of Mormon) from the Willes Center to BYU Studies. Volumes 1, 2, and 4 are available through BYU Studies. In 2016 BYU Studies began constructing a website to host online editions of the volumes. The Willes Center was fortunate to have played a significant role over the years in this landmark publication venture.
During the summer, Professor Grant Hardy (University of North Carolina, Asheville) conducted a six-week seminar for about thirty interested faculty and students that was based on his “Study Edition of the Book of Mormon” (utilizing his earlier publication The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition). In October the Willes Center at BYU hosted Christopher Leighton, executive director of the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS); Heather Rubens, associate director of ICJS; and Fred Axelgard, senior fellow at the Wheatley Institution. This gathering focused on possible LDS engagement with interfaith outreach in collaboration with ICJS and the idea of producing academic papers that will be presented at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, sometime in 2016 or 2017.
The Willes Center website has been completely revamped and updated with links to the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Mormon Theology Seminars, Book of Mormon lectures, nineteenth-century Book of Mormon reception history, and the Journey of Faith films.
Dr. Hauglid is a senior research fellow and associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU. His research agenda includes work on the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the New Testament, and Islamic studies, along with other related subjects. During 2015 he participated in the following conference:
• Mormon Ethics Seminar, July 14–16, hosted by the Wheatley Institution, BYU, which focused on the topic “Towards a Mormon Ethics on War and Peace.” Other participants included two Roman Catholic scholars and the following LDS scholars: Patrick Mason, Ben Hertzberg, Christian Euvard, Adam Miller, Miranda Wilcox, Robert Rees, Brian Birch, David Pulsipher, Andrew Skinner, Melissa Inouye, Grant Hardy, Medlir Mema, and Chad Ford. This group is slated to meet again in 2016 and will produce academic papers for a published volume.
He published the following:
• “The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Project: ‘A Knowledge of Hidden Languages,’” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith’s Study of the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew F. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2015), 474–511
He also worked on the following forthcoming publications:
• A paper (with Dr. Calabro) on Ibn Bishr’s Mubtada’ al-dunya wa al-qisas al-anbiya (Beginning of the world and the stories of the prophets), to be delivered at the national meeting of the American Oriental Society in Boston in 2016. The paper will be submitted to the Journal of the American Oriental Society. Hauglid and Calabro were assisted by Jessica Mitton, a student research assistant who copied texts in digital format and did some limited translation work on the Bishr text.
• “Towards Understanding Joseph Smith’s 1835 Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar Papers,” in Foundational Texts of Mormonism, ed. Robin Jensen and Mark Ashurst-McGee (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
• “The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Manuscripts,” in Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion, ed. Dennis Largey (Deseret Book, forthcoming)
• The Book of Abraham and the Abraham and Egyptian Manuscripts, vol. 4 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, coedited with Robin Scott Jensen (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, forthcoming)
• The Pearl of Great Price and the Bounds of Canonicity, coauthored with Terryl Givens (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
MIDDLE EASTERN TEXTS INITIATIVE
Dr. D. Morgan Davis directs METI.
He is the acquisitions editor and also oversees production of titles in five METI publication series:
• Islamic Translation Series (which began in 1993 and has produced thirteen titles to date)
• Medical Works of Moses Maimonides (which began in 2002 and has produced nine titles to date)
• Eastern Christian Texts (which began in 2002 and has produced four titles to date)
• The Library of the Christian East (a new companion series to Eastern Christian Texts which has produced one title to date)
• Library of Judeao-Arabic Literature (a newly formed series, six titles of which are under development, including Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed)
Two METI volumes were published in 2015:
• On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion–February, the second volume of a twelve-part subseries that is translated and edited by Edward G. Mathews Jr. and is part of the Eastern Christian Texts series
• An additional volume in the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides series entitled Medical Aphorisms: Treatises 16–21, edited and translated by Gerrit Bos
Additionally, volume 1 of The Alexandrian Epitomes of Galen, a parallel English-Arabic text translated, introduced, and annotated by John Walbridge, was published in late 2014 but released in 2015.
Early in 2015, METI made an audio recording of a 2014 London conference entitled “Avicenna and Avicennisms.” It is available via the METI website. We continued to maintain our METI Facebook page with updates on volumes published and other posts of current interest.
In January, Davis contributed information for a story in the Salt Lake Tribune on Muslim reactions to depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. In April he was invited to give a fireside on Islam and Mormonism to the BYU Alumni Association in Appleton, Wisconsin. In August he gave another fireside at the home of Katherine Boswell in Salt Lake City.
Over the course of the year, Davis made presentations to a number of scholars from the Islamic world who were visiting BYU, including delegations from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sudan. Following the Sudanese visit and in response to national news of a political proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Davis authored a blog post entitled “Mormons and Muslims Building Bridges of Understanding.” It was widely shared. Subsequently, Davis appeared on the XM radio program Top of the Mind to discuss ways that non-Muslims can get accurate information about Islam and how they can get to know Muslims better.
METI also supported several private outreach efforts by BYU officials to various segments of the international and domestic Islamic community by providing them with selected titles from our series as gifts they can give during official visits.
Dr. Davis is an assistant research fellow. During 2015 he initiated a personal research program focused on a comparative analysis of the Qurʾan and the Book of Mormon. In 2016 he will present two papers from this study that will eventually become part of a monograph on the subject.
THE WILLIAM (BILL) GAY RESEARCH CHAIR
Dr. John Gee is a senior research fellow and the William (Bill) Gay Research Professor.
His research interests include the study of ancient scripture utilizing Egyptology and other relevant disciplines and ancient languages.
During 2015 he gave the following conference presentations:
• “The Development of the Book of the Dead in the Early Eighteenth Dynasty,” American Research Center in Egypt Annual Meeting, Houston, Texas, 26 April 2015
• “Ein Forschungsbericht zum Buch Abrahams,” FAIR Conference, Darmstadt, Germany, 5 June 2015
• “Subordinating and Volitional (Non-Indicative) Verb Forms in Phonecian and Luwian Inscriptions,” coauthored with Aaron Schade, Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew and the Idea of Writing, Mainz, Germany, 1 November 2015
• “Categories of Volition in Luwian and Phoenician Inscriptions: Functioning Subordinating and Volitional Forms,” American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, 19 November 2015
• “‘Put Off Thy Shoes From Off Thy Feet’: Sandals and Sacred Space,” Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, 21 November 2015
• “The Phonecian/Luwian Bilingual Inscription of Azatiwada: The Use of the Optative Form,” coauthored with Aaron Schade, Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, 23 November 2015
He also published the following articles:
• “Horos Son of Osoroeris,” in Mélanges offerts à Ola el-Aguizy, edited by Fayza Haikal (Cairo: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 2015), 169–178
• “The Life of Apa Aphou, Bishop of Pemje (Oxyrhynchus),” coauthored with Lincoln Blumell, in Christian Oxyrhynchus: Text, Documents, and Sources, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2015), 638–57
• “The Martyrdom of Apa Epima,” in Christian Oxyrhynchus: Text, Documents, and Sources, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2015), 682–97
• “A Different Way of Seeing the Hand of the Lord,” Religious Educator 16/2 (2015): 112–27
• “Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2015), 448
• “Did the Old Kingdom Collapse? A New View of the First Intermediate Period,” in Towards a New History for the Egyptian Old Kingdom: Perspectives on the Pyramid Age, edited by Peter Der Manuelian and Thomas Schneider (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2015), 60–75
• “Of Tolerance and Smoked Fish,” Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy 37 (2015): 17–20
Matthew Roper is a full-time research scholar with the Institute.
Roper’s research interests include the Book of Mormon, especially its coming forth and its early reception history. He also works on early Latter-day Saint publications and documents, as well as other related subjects in LDS Church history.
In 2015 he gave the following presentation:
• “Joseph Smith, Benjamin Winchester and Central American Archaeology: Assessing the Authorship of the 1842 Book of Mormon Articles in the Times and Seasons,” with Paul Fields, John Whitmer Historical Association meeting, Independence, Missouri, September, 2015
He also published the following articles:
• “The Treason of the Geographers: Mythical Mesoamerican Conspiracy and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 161–205
• “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 207–53
• (with Paul Fields and Larry Bassist) “Zarahemla Revisited,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 17 (2016): 13–63
Don L. Brugger is the Institute’s managing editor.
Under his direction the Institute published the following in 2015:
• Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 24, edited by Brian Hauglid. Beginning in 2016, the Journal will be published each spring
• Mormon Studies Review, volume 3, edited by J. Spencer Fluhman. By plan this volume, though produced in late 2015, carries a 2016 date
• Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, volume 7, edited by Carl Griffin. Volume 8 will be edited by Brian Hauglid, Cory Crawford, and Matthew Grey and produced under the auspices of the Willes Center
• An additional volume in the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides series entitled Medical Aphorisms: Treatises 16–21, edited and translated by Gerrit Bos (available to the public in February 2016).
• On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion–February, the second volume of a twelve-part subseries that is translated and edited by Edward G. Mathews Jr. and is part of the Eastern Christian Texts series (available to the public in March 2016).
Mormon Studies Titles
Blair Hodges serves as acquisitions editor for Mormon studies titles. In 2015 the following general titles were published:
• James E. Faulconer, The New Testament Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions
During the year, two titles were published in the Living Faith series, which is devoted to readers who “cherish the life of the mind and the things of the Spirit”:
• Steven L. Peck, Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist
• Patrick Q. Mason, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (with Deseret Book)
Also during the year, the Institute launched a new book series called Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture. Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer edit the series. The first title was written by Maronite Catholic philosopher Jad Hatem:
• Postponing Heaven: The Three Nephites, the Bodhisattva, and the Mahdi, a comparative analysis of the Three Nephites in the Book of Mormon and similar self-sacrificing figures from the Buddhist and Islamic traditions.
Each book in these series demonstrates the Institute’s ongoing commitment to deepening understanding and discipleship through quality publications informed by scholarly perspectives. The latest additions to the Living Faith and Groundwork series raise the bar in terms of the diverse and broadly appealing scope of our contributions to religious scholarship.
Blair Hodges is the Institute’s public communications specialist.
Hodges oversees the Maxwell Institute Blog, which continued to provide news and original content with an average of two posts per week. Followers can now subscribe to receive blog posts directly in their inbox. He produced eighteen new episodes of the Maxwell Institute Podcast with prominent guests including two editors of The Study Quran (Marai Dakake and Joseph B. Lumbard), Terryl and Fiona Givens, Marc Brettler, Peter Enns, Amy-Jill Levine, John J. Collins, and Martin E. Marty.
The Institute’s website (mi.byu.edu) was expanded with new pages for book series, including Living Faith, Groundwork, and Scriptures Made Harder. The Institute’s YouTube channel was expanded with new playlists including the two annual lectures: the Laura F. Willes Book of Mormon Lecture (see Willes Center above) and the Neal A. Maxwell Lecture (given in November by Professor Bonnie Brinton, Communications Disorders, BYU), in addition to the Maxwell Institute Podcast, Hugh Nibley lecture series, and other Institute events.
At the 2015 conference for the Society for Disability Studies in Atlanta, Georgia, Hodges presented a paper entitled “The Social Construction of Intellectual Disabilities in Mormon Thought and History.” An active member of the American Academy of Religion, Hodges was invited to serve on the steering committee of the Academy’s “Religion and Disability Studies” section. He published a review in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 19/1 (August 2015): 122–23. The Deseret News selected Hodges as an occasional columnist in the Mormon Times section.
Hodges was aided in 2015 by communications and design intern Sarah Skriloff.
FINANCIAL UPDATE AND ONGOING SUPPORT
Jeremy B. King is the Institute’s comptroller and human resources representative.
King works closely with the executive director in overseeing the work of the Institute’s professional support staff, including the part-time student administrative assistants who cover the front desk.
King reports that thanks to the ongoing generous support of our subscribers, donors, and BYU, the Maxwell Institute ended 2015 in a solid financial position. We are committed to continue to use our resources as effectively and wisely as possible to enable us to make meaningful and lasting contributions to religious scholarship.
We express our sincere appreciation to all those who contributed time, means, and encouragement to make this work possible.
In June, Alan R. Harker, associate academic vice president for research and graduate studies, announced that a national search for the next director of the Maxwell Institute would be conducted in the fall under his direction. Once the new director is appointed and in place, Bradford will retire from BYU.