Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar: “Enos came to life”

09.15.2022 | The Maxwell Institute

This post was written by Rebekah Call, a participant in the 2022 Latter-day Saint theology seminar.

Over a decade ago, I learned about favorite cafés of great thinkers in recent centuries. These thinkers, along with groups of intellectual friends, would gather and discuss in these cafés, often daily, for hours on end. This small-group discussion format proved to be the genesis of many key works of western literature and philosophy. When I first learned of this, I remember dismissing this habitude, thinking that it seemed to be a waste of time. After all, who wants to sit in a café day after day? I have matured since then. I have learned that often proliferation of ideas comes, not in solitude, but in conversation. The Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar provided just such a conversation, with three crucial elements for success: the format, the text, and the people.

During the first week of the seminar, we individually studied passages from Enos in the mornings, and then gathered in the afternoons to pick apart our thoughts, arguments, and the text itself. This added to the production of ideas: when I arrived at the seminar, the thought of spending an entire day on two or three verses from the Book of Mormon was daunting. I was not sure I would be able to find enough to say about the text each day. But somehow, I always ended up with much more than would fit in my daily writings. The seminar’s concept of theology also enhanced the value of the experience. None of us sought the “one and only true interpretation” of the passage. Rather, we explored. We questioned. We experimented. And Enos came to life. I found a wealth of insight into concepts such as faith, knowledge, and agency.

As a Hebrew Bible scholar, I am trained to study a source language. I am not trained theologically. Thus, in critically studying the Book of Mormon, I felt a distinct sense of discomfort in not only approaching a text without a source language, but also drawing theological conclusions based on that text. However, in the face of this, the seminar provided mentorship. I was able to watch great minds think—to see how they speculated and extracted meaningful conclusions from Enos. In this, every single member of the seminar was crucial. Each voice significantly impacted and shaped the conversation and how I related to the text. Observing the thought process of these colleagues and friends has changed how I think about textual analysis, and will continue to shape my research going forward. In addition, the opportunity for close interaction built what I hope will be lifelong friendships, for which I am truly grateful.

It has been a privilege to participate in this “café” experience. Far from being a waste of time, it has left me wishing that the café format were more common. I am left wanting more small-group discussion, more in-person scrutiny of ideas, and more opportunities to expand myself both theologically and academically.