If you happen to be in California this weekend . . .

March 9, 2004 | 3 comments
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The Miller-Eccles Group has a speaker coming that sounds quite interesting.

March 13, 2004
Speaker: Prof. Karen Torjeson
Subject: LDS and their place in the Mosaic of Early Christian Belief-and-Why Claremont Graduate University Wants to Establish a Chair of Mormon Studies
Time: 7:30 p.m.

You will enjoy a riveting a stimulating presentation on comparisons and contrasts of Latter-day Saint doctrine and teachings with early Christianity, particularly with respect to the Godhead and Christology; the place of Mormonism in the mosaic of Christian belief and practices; Claremont Graduate University’s relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls (and any connection to BYU’s scroll and manuscript preservation and digitization efforts); Why Claremont is interested in establishing a Chair for Mormon Studies (what is there about Mormonism that is worthy of study by the wider academic community).

I omitted the location from this blog post to save it from spam-bots, because it appears to be a private home. Interested readers should go to the the Miller-Eccles site for further details.

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3 Responses to If you happen to be in California this weekend . . .

  1. Taylor on March 10, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Torjeson is an great scholar! I really like what I have read of her’s.

  2. Melissa on March 15, 2004 at 10:16 am

    Hello all,

    Here is a copy of notes taken during Karen’s talk over the weekend. Some of the details are inaccurate (i.e. not Katherine Flake, but Kathleen, etc.) but it is very interesting to read what Karen had to say considering all the rumors that have been flying about the details of Claremont’s decision to establish a Mormon chair. While I am truly thrilled about this move–I am less inclined than I originally was to think that this means big changes in the academy any time soon. Wealthy members of the Church are largely funding this position and Claremont school of religion is grateful and happy to let them do it because they have been in somewhat of a funding crunch since they separated from the rest of the graduate school. The other issue I see is one of legitimacy. Students who go to Claremont to study Mormonism (especially if they are LDS) will teach what, to whom, where? Karen indicates that at first people will only be able to minor in Mormonism with their primary training in some other field. As far as I can tell (based on the few people who teach Mormon stuff currently) that other field will have to be American history. Otherwise, the “Mormonism” minor will be either irrelevant or detrimental (say in Biblical studies or Early Christianity or Philosophy of Religion, for example)in trying to get a job. I worry that there will be a flood of students from BYU (where there is no degree in religion) that will go to Claremont to study Mormonism and then be unable to find a job… i.e is this practical?

    Anyway—here are Juliann’s notes

    Hey folks. To anyone out there, this is a very interesting notice.
    Juliann is part of FAIR, but did Coptic studies at Claremont.

    Meeting: March 13, 2004
    Speaker: Dean Karen Torjeson
    Subject: LDS and their place in the Mosaic of Early
    Christian Belief-and-Why Claremont Graduate University
    Wants to Establish a Chair of Mormon Studies

    [notes taken by Juliann Reynolds]

    The religion department of Claremont Graduate
    University (CGU) originated with Claremont School of
    Theology (CST) forty four years ago. The founder of
    CST wanted to establish a west coast seminary with
    stature. He took his first endowment across the
    street to Claremont Graduate School (now University)
    to fund a department of religion and they have had a
    symbiotic relationship ever since. They are so
    intertwined, that many do not realize that these are
    separate institutions.

    CGU ( School of Religion) has approximately 200
    students and is one of the largest suppliers of grad
    students to churches, universities, etc. The
    majority of graduates go on to teach at colleges and
    universities. It is ranked in the top ten
    nationally. They currently have about thirty faculty
    members (20 at the grad level).

    She emphasized that the study of religion is a growth
    field. Fifty percent of undergrad schools have
    positions in religion. This is the time to shape the
    future. It is part of our society can no longer be
    ignored. Pomona College, one of the Claremont
    consortium colleges, just approved a course on
    Mormonism.

    When the department of religion became the School of
    Religion three years ago, they had to bring together
    a Board of Visitors and envision what should a school
    of religion look like in ten years. It should be:

    1. A place where study of religion involves all
    religion.
    2. A study of religion that is faithful to the
    religion that practices it.
    3. Outsiders study the religion in a way that is
    responsible to the community.

    Their purpose and vision is to bring the university
    into the service of the community. Their strategy is
    in building relationships with the LDS community.
    All CGU grads should leave being able to teach
    Mormonism responsibly. They hope that they can
    establish an approach and model of study that can be
    followed by other universities.

    Mormonism is a global religion. The presence of their
    LDS students made them conscious that LDS students
    needed to be a part of any study of religion. (When I
    was there in the late 90?s there tended to be 4 or 5
    of us kicking around every year). Another piece that
    was important was the flowering of LDS scholarship
    over the last ten years, e.g., Mormon History
    Association, JBMS, etc. (She mentioned academic
    sources only?not Dialogue/Sunstone). Outsiders now
    have information available to them.

    The Yale Conference was a big step for the Church to
    be involved in rules of engagement with that
    University and it was a big step for Yale. This gave
    CGU the confidence that they are moving in the right
    direction. Their upcoming conference will be a sequel
    to Yale?s.

    They began by bringing together a Board of Visitors
    that involved all major religions. Leaders were
    gathered from ?all over?. It is the most diverse
    board in existence. The contacted Keith Atkinsen,
    (sp?) of the So. CA Council of Public Affairs, to
    begin the LDS council.

    Also established councils, e.g., Council of
    Protestant Studies, Catholic Studies, Islamic,
    Judaism, Indian religions and LDS. The LDS council
    was gathered with the help of Atkinsen. They meet
    every month to three months. The councils represent
    the partnership between the community and CGU. They
    are to assure CGU is responsible to the communities,
    be ambassadors (CGU needs students to come) and fund
    raisers. They look for leaders in the community who
    can do these things. The LDS council consists of
    Judge Clay Smith, Clare Holt, David Andrews, Elder
    Joseph Bently, Mylan Smith, Louise & John Dalton.

    After the establishment of the Council, the first
    conference was about how the study of the Church
    should be positioned with respect to literary, source,
    etc. criticism, and history, so that participants
    could evaluate?how does this presentation change the
    field you were in?. LDS have not been integrated into
    the larger scene.

    Bushman spoke in a 100 seat forum and it was standing
    room only. Learning from this level of interest,
    they used a 400 seat auditorium for the next year?s
    speaker, Jan Shipps on ?How Mormons are Christians?.
    It was also filled. Some of the other Councils
    attended. There were those that came to express that
    LDS were not Christian. Karen commented on how
    respectful the exchange was and how we came to
    understanding in that evening. ( I was in the front
    row and I saw literal sparks fly from Shipps eyes as
    she expressed that it was not her place to tell
    someone that ?Jesus came for me but not for you?.)

    The next step is the major conference on Oct 14-26th
    and a conference on Joseph Smith the following year.
    They will have lead speakers on each topic. The Oct.
    conference will be used to showcase the scholars (they
    want a historian)they are looking at to fill the
    Chair: Katherine Flake, Phillip Barlow, Teryl Givens
    and Kathryn Daynes. They will triangulate the
    proceedings by supplying third party respondents from
    Islam, Judiasm , etc. The need is to first create
    friendships. The friendships create ties. We need
    to get to know our differences and let them stand.
    But we need to go beyond tolerance to real
    understanding. She brought up Millet as an example
    of this, crediting him with great success in his road
    show presentations with his evangelical partner.

    They are now in the process of establishing the Chair
    of Mormon Studies. They need 2 ? million. Formal
    fundraising will be launched in three months. [She
    told me she expected the program to be up and running
    in a year and a half. ] They have established
    cooperation with organizations such as ISPART for
    research connections. She visited BYU and seemed in
    awe that she was ?treated like a foreign dignitary?.
    Initially, two courses will taught as ?insider?
    courses and two as ?outsider?.

    The academy has a role to play in legitimatizing
    Mormonism. It won?t be trivialized anymore. She
    compared this process to what she had encountered as
    she left her field of Patristics and turned to the
    once trivialized field of women?s studies.

    Some questions and answers:

    Q: What tools do you analyze with.
    A: We start with historian not theological. The
    commitment is to evaluate but be balanced. Any
    presentation must include what all positions are and
    who holds them.

    Q: Do the professors practice in any religion?
    A: (I responded from my own experience and she
    confirmed) I said that there is an unfortunate
    stereotype that liberal scholars are always
    secularists. I gave examples of two flaming
    liberals, James Robinson and James Sanders, who would
    talk about their Sunday lecture at church?Sanders
    would actually slip in a little preaching in the
    class.

    Q: What employment opportunities will there be with a
    Mormon Studies degree.
    A: It will be treated as a minor at first. You will
    go into a position as someone who can do such and such
    and also teach Mormon Studies.

    Q: Where there any surprises in the process?
    A: How hotly debated the use of the name ?Mormon
    Studies? was in the Council (The Council used the
    CJCofLDS in their title.) ?Mormon? takes more under
    its umbrella than the Council liked.

    My impressions: These people are committed beyond
    anything I have seen to legitimatize Mormonism and to
    do it in a way that remains faithful to the community
    of believers. To accomplish this, they are
    deliberately beginning with a historical rather than a
    theological approach. They are having all faiths
    dialogue under rules of engagement to circumvent
    internal Christian to Christian tension. There was
    no mention of our band of rogue ?liberal
    intellectuals? and from my personal experience at CGU,
    they do not play and will not be able to play
    according to those ?rules of engagement? that the
    academy demands. However, having said that, CGU
    is sponsoring the Sunstone Symposium in April because
    the organizer is or was a student at CGU. ( I told
    Karen privately that the vast majority of Mormons
    soundly reject Sunstone.)

    I hope BYU throws everything it has in support of this
    undertaking…especially funding and sending students
    to them…this is a very pricey private college. But
    as she said, we are in a window of time in which can
    determine the future.

    ————————–

    Professor Karen Torjeson, Ph.D., Claremont Graduate
    University, is the Margo L. Goldsmith Professor of
    Women’s Studies in Religion, director of the women’s
    Studies in Religion program, chair of the Religion
    Department, and co-director of the Institute for
    Antiquity and Christianity. Her research interests
    include constructions of gender and sexuality in early
    Christianity, authority and institutionalization in
    the early churches, hermeneutics and rhetoric in late
    antiquity, and comparative study of Greek and Latin
    patristic traditions. During her tenure as assistant
    professor of patristic theology at the University of
    Goettingen (Germany), her book Hermeneutical Procedure
    and Theological Structure in Origen’s Exegesis was
    published by de Gruyter. Her most recent book is When
    Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early
    Church & the Scandal of their Subordination in the
    Rise of Christianity.

  3. Restoring Lost Comments on November 25, 2004 at 11:36 pm

    [Restoring Comment Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    Thanks for the update. I knew something was going on at Claremont because every time I’m looking for a LDS-related book to order through my university library’s Calif. network, Claremont always pops as either the only or the most extensive set of holdings. It’s great to have more of the specifics.

    Comment by: William Morris at March 16, 2004 05:02 PM

WELCOME

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