From the Director’s Desk—Gearing up for the Bushman colloquium

05.18.2016 | Spencer Fluhman

“From the Director’s Desk” is an occasional column where Spencer Fluhman discusses the Institute’s direction and ongoing work. Follow him on Twitter @spencerfluhman.
Well over a year ago, my predecessor at the Institute, Jerry Bradford, casually tossed out the idea of compiling an essay collection to honor Richard Lyman Bushman, professor of history, emeritus, at Columbia and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. That’s all I needed to hear! I’d worked two summers with Richard as a member of his famed summer seminars—once as a graduate student in 1999 and once as a BYU faculty member some years later. Simply put, he had been a significant mentor for me, both as a scholar and a Saint. As editor of the Mormon Studies Review I happily went to work thinking about how we might properly celebrate Richard’s prodigious influence on so many of us. I asked Kathleen Flake, who holds the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair at the University of Virginia, to plan with me. But Richard himself was hesitant—we’d held a symposium in his honor several years ago to celebrate his 80th birthday and some of those presentations were published in the Journal of Mormon History. He changed his mind, though, when it occurred to him that this volume might offer an opportunity for LDS scholars to think publicly about the intersection of their faith and academic lives. With that theme in mind, we pressed ahead. As it turns out, this June’s “Mormonism and the Academy” scholars’ colloquium will be the first Institute event under my directorship. It promises to be a remarkable gathering of LDS and non-LDS academic perspectives. It’s not a symposium—it’s a workshop where scholars across several disciplines will share preliminary thoughts and get feedback from each other and from a remarkable set of commentators. In classic “Bushman” fashion, Richard insisted that non-LDS commentators be in the mix to enrich and enliven the conversations. Eventually, the presentations will become essays in a volume that will stand as our expression of gratitude for Richard’s work and influence. If you’ve been impacted by his work or example, we invite you to send a note of thanks which we’ll include in a Book of Gratitude for Richard. With the colloquium’s diverse cast of characters and its twin commitments to thoughtful, big-hearted faith and academic rigor at the highest levels of scholarly achievement, it both mirrors Richard’s own remarkable career and the Maxwell Institute’s deepest commitments. See the full colloquium schedule and list of participants here.