Moving Forward—a letter from Institute director Jerry Bradford

10.21.2014 | M. Gerald Bradford

Our world is riven by ideological and religious divides. The quest to understand the human experience of God and the effort to build bridges of understanding between disparate communities of believers press upon us. We look to the past for examples of faith and hope. For instance, there was a time in the medieval Middle East when Jews, Christians, and Muslims came together with mutual respect to seek words of wisdom out of each other’s books. Dialogue, debate, and meaningful religious scholarship resulted. They called the movement “the house of wisdom.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have similarly been commanded to establish a “house of learning” where they can “seek out of the best books words of wisdom.”1

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is supported by Brigham Young University for precisely this purpose—through our work we engage a broad academic community in meaningful conversations about religious texts and traditions in an effort to foster faithful discourse and mutual respect.

The Institute’s primary activities turn on the axis of sacred and religious texts. We foster manuscript research to recover and engage with ancient texts in their earliest forms. We publish editions and translations of the intellectual and spiritual masterpieces from the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Middle East. We explore the reception and influence of the Bible in Western and Eastern Christianity. We write about LDS scripture—especially the Book of Mormon—and LDS thought in a way that engages the larger academic community and enriches the understanding of Latter-day Saints.

Above all, we seek to embody the qualities of what our namesake has called the “disciple-scholar.” As an institute of religious scholarship, our work is informed by the highest standards of academic study as well as by the principles of our own faith. Our scholarship is an expression of our discipleship—our desire is to seek learning out of the best books, by study and also by faith, in an effort to create a hospitable house of learning open to all who seek religious understanding. As Elder Maxwell put it: “For a disciple of Jesus Christ, academic scholarship is a form of worship.”2

By supporting the work of our individual scholars, our research initiatives, and our publication agenda, you can assist us in deepening understanding and nurturing discipleship among Latter-day Saints while cultivating mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths.

NOTES

1. See Doctrine and Covenants 88:118109:8.

2. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The Disciple-Scholar,” in On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar, ed. Henry B. Eyring (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995), 7, emphasis added.