Terryl Givens recently published Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Practice. We were happy to see the gratitude he extended to—among others—the participants of the 2015 Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture, “Organizing the Kingdom: Priesthood, Church Government, and the Forms of LDS Worship,” as well as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, who hosted the event. The Seminar has a storied history and we’re glad to be a part of it.
The Summer Seminar began in 1997 when historian Richard L. Bushman was working on his landmark biography Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. He enlisted a group of graduate students to help him compile the “Archive of Restoration Culture,” a repository of documents that add context to Joseph Smith’s life. Participants eventually cataloged around 3,000 items totaling over 1,600 pages before the archive was discontinued. (You can check it out here. Technological advances like Google Books made this approach somewhat obsolete.)
But there was more work to do at the precipice of the next phase of Mormon historical studies. The Summer Seminar provided young scholars—mostly LDS—an opportunity to network and receive mentorship while researching Mormon history, faith, and scholarship. Terryl L. Givens and others began alternating with Bushman as director, all under the chief sponsorship of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.
In 2006 the Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture moved to BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute where it has been held every summer (except one) ever since. Students and scholars convene here each summer to study Mormon history, belief, & practice.1 They prepare presentations for public symposium. Originally, these “Working Papers” were published by BYU Studies, but technological advances make it easier to provide access to them online. The Institute offers them to document the Seminar’s history and to inspire and inform scholars who wish to expand on their work. As noted above, Terryl Givens made use of the 2015 seminar for his latest book. You can see those Working Papers here.
The Institute is once again abuzz with the enthusiasm of young scholars ready to dig in to Mormon topics together under the tutelage of our two visiting Neal A. Maxwell Fellows, Terryl Givens and Philip Barlow. The theme is “‘Mormonism Confronts the World’: How the LDS Church Has Responded to Developments in Science, Culture, & Religion.”
We’re thrilled to have them with us through August 3. You’ll learn more about this year’s group on an upcoming MIPodcast episode, but in the meantime you might check out these episodes from previous years:
I was lucky enough to participate in the seminar in 2010. It radically altered my academic trajectory in the best way. ↩