“Answering sincere gospel questions,” with Spencer Fluhman [MIPodcast #95]

  • This bonus episode feature Spencer Fluhman delivering his 2019 BYU Women’s Conference address, “Answering Sincere Questions about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    It also features an announcement about the Institute’s forthcoming series about the Book of Mormon, Brief Theological Introductions.

    Originally presented on May 2, 2019.

  • BLAIR HODGES: Latter-day Saints are a question-asking people. So said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf during a Church Education System fireside a decade ago—listen:

    DIETER F. UCHTDORF: What about doubts and questions? Is it all right to have questions about the Church or its doctrine? My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people. We have always been. Because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is the way the Church got its start—from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions.

    Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.

    God commands us to seek answers to our questions (see James 1:5–6) and asks only that we seek “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us “by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:5).

    HODGES: The Maxwell Institute’s executive director, Spencer Fluhman, recently addressed this pressing topic during Brigham Young University’s 2019 Women’s Conference. In this episode we’re pleased to bring you his address, “Answering Sincere Questions about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    If you’d like a transcript of these remarks, sign up for the Maxwell Institute monthly newsletter. We’ll include the transcript in our next issue. You can sign up at bit.ly/maxwellnews.

    By the way, stick around, because at the end of the devotional remarks Spencer Fluhman will join me to talk about a new book series the Maxwell Institute is producing about the Book of Mormon.

    And now, Spencer Fluhman presents “Answering Sincere Questions about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”


    HODGES: Thanks for listening to this bonus episode of the Maxwell Institute Podcast featuring Spencer Fluhman’s 2019 Women’s Conference address, “Answering Sincere Questions about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” You can get a transcript of these remarks if you sign up for our monthly newsletter. We only send one out a month. You can sign up at bit.ly/maxwellnews.

    And now as promised, Spencer Fluhman, executive director of the Maxwell Institute, joins me today because the Institute is preparing to publish a new series of books on the Book of Mormon.

    Spencer, thanks for joining us. We’d like to hear about this series.

    FLUHMAN: It’s exciting to talk about. We’re excited about it ourselves. This series is titled “The Book of Mormon: Brief Theological Introductions.” It’s a supplement to next year’s Sunday school curriculum from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re hoping it’s a hit for those who want that kind of a deeper dive into the theological aspects of the text.

    HODGES: So last year the Institute published Grant Hardy’s study edition—The Maxwell Institute Study Edition of The Book of Mormon. Do you see this series as supplementing that?

    FLUHMAN: Yeah. I think they’ll fit well together. The study edition we intended, again, for folks—not everyone wants that deeper dive, but some folks do, and we want to bring scholarly tools and angles to folks who want a more scholarly approach to the text. So the study edition was aimed to support that kind of study and this book series will do a similar kind of work. I think they’ll work really well together for readers.

    HODGES: When we talk about “scholarly approaches” that makes some readers maybe think that these books will be above them, over their heads a little bit. What are your thoughts about that?

    FLUHMAN: We worried about that. We want to make this series accessible to educated Latter-day Saints, but to non-scholars. So we’ve driven home with our authors, repeatedly, this is an opportunity for them to translate their great work, not for their academic peers, but for the folks in their wards, the folks in their neighborhoods, who they’re going to be speaking directly to. We want it to be accessible.

    HODGES: That can hard for scholars to do. Are you taking any steps—I should also mention, you’re one of the editors overall. You and Phil Barlow are the main editors—Are you taking any steps with the authors to help them reach a broader audience?

    FLUHMAN: Yeah, so we’ve got several public events planned to help with this. We’ve already done one, where we bring authors into kind of face-to-face with prospective readers where they present material and then get feedback. We did one on BYU campus in July. We’re going to do another one in mid-September, September 22 on BYU campus. Another one in October, and then another one in the Boston area in late October as well, where our authors will have to kind of see if they’re translating in a way that’s meaningful to prospective readers.

    HODGES: What excites you most about the series? You’re the one who initially conceived of it.

    FLUHMAN: Yes, one is that the voices that we’re gathering together to comment on the Book of Mormon’s theological implications, these are scholars who are brilliant. They come with varied backgrounds academically, but they all have a kind of disciple’s soul as well. They write at the intersection between their incredible training and that kind of warm heart for that disciple’s path.

    So I’m excited to have these voices come together to consider each individual book of the Book of Mormon. We’ve got one author per book, we’re combining some of the shortest books and splitting Alma into two, but otherwise you get an individual author wrestling with each book of the Book of Mormon. It’s just exciting to see these minds grapple with this text we all love, and that’s meant so much to us.

    HODGES: For those who are interested in the series they can go to the Maxwell Institute’s YouTube page and watch the first live event that we did, featuring Terryl Givens, Joe Spencer, and Mark Wrathall talking about their volumes. You can go to our YouTube channel and watch that now.

    Also, mark your calendars, the next live event is going to be on September 22nd. Watch us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’ll announce exactly when that’s going to happen, and a small audience will be able to get in to see it in person. Those who can’t will be able to watch it online. So that’s September 22nd. Mark your calendar for Friday, October 18th, and then also for Sunday, October 27th in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    All of these will be live streamed. You’ll be able to watch them during the event. You’ll be able to watch them after the event. You’ll get to know the authors of this series, “Brief Theological Introductions.”

    Also, right now you can see all the names of the authors and who’s participating if you go to our website, mi.byu.edu/brief. We don’t have an official publication date yet for the first couple of volumes. The twelve volumes won’t come out all at the same time. They’re going to come out over the course of the year as the gospel doctrine lessons continue. But the first two volumes—Joseph Spencer in First Nephi and Terryl Givens for 2 Nephi, we hope to see out in December in time for Christmas. That’s the goal, we’ll see if we make it.

    Spencer, thanks for telling us about the series. We’re really looking forward to it.

    FLUHMAN: Thank you Blair.

    HODGES: Questions and comments about this, and other episodes of the Maxwell Institute Podcast can be sent to me, Blair Hodges, at mipodcasts@byu.edu. And if you enjoyed the podcast please take a moment to rate and review the show in Apple Podcasts or wherever else you listen. We’re also available now on Spotify.