The Book of Mormon warns against mistaking intelligence for wisdom, but adds a crucial caveat: “to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29). Where LDS founding prophet Joseph Smith declared that a person is saved no faster than they get knowledge, historian Richard Bushman adds a corollary: A person gains knowledge no faster than they are saved. Bushman believes historical inquiry has made him a better Mormon, but he also believes being a Mormon has made him a better historian, too.
In this episode, Bushman gets autobiographical about his biography of Joseph Smith, talks about the rise of Mormon studies, and offers his perspective on the relationship between personal faith and professional scholarship. Bushman is one of the most distinguished and respected historians ever to call The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints his religious home. It was a real treat to sit down with him to talk about his career, his personal faith, his difficulties and successes.
This episode coincides with the publication of To Be Learned Is Good: Essays on Faith and Scholarship in Honor of Richard Lyman Bushman. The book contains the edited proceedings of a 2016 scholars’ colloquium held in Bushman’s honor at Brigham Young University. Bushman wanted Latter-day Saint scholars to reflect on their work in the presence of non-LDS scholars, to think through the difficult issues in ways that spoke to larger questions about faith and reason. Learn more about the book or watch video of the presentations at mi.byu.edu/bushman.
Learn more about the Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture here.
About the Guest
Richard Lyman Bushman is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. He occupied the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California from 2008 to 2011. Before joining the faculty at Columbia University, Bushman received his BA and PhD degrees from Harvard University and taught at Brigham Young University, Brown University, Boston University, Harvard University (as a visiting professor), and the University of Delaware.
Bushman has served as president of the Mormon History Association, as a member of the board of editors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, as a council member for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, and as president of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. He chaired the advisory committee to the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University, 1999–2004; and he chaired the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation until 2016. He is currently a member of the National Advisory Board for the Joseph Smith Papers project of the History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served as a general editor from the project’s founding until 2013.
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