An Open Letter from Richard Bushman

October 28, 2006 | one comment
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Dear LDS Bloggers:

Many you are aware of the conference for LDS Religious Studies and Divinity School students to be held at Yale University on February 16-17. The aim of the conference is to address issues that create problems for LDS students in religion and to ask what can a Mormon contribute to the debates that go on in these fields. (For more information email Seth Payne (seth.payne@yale.edu).

In th hope that this will be the first of a series of conferences for LDS graduate students, scholars, and intellectuals, I have begun to entertain proposals for 2008. One idea that has come up is a conference on “Explaining Mormonism,� using C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity as the governing text. We would ask for close readings of Lewis in order to understand how he tells the Christian story so effectively and then propose the question: can Mormonism be explained so convincingly? The purpose of this kind of apologetics is not to convert readers but to make religion intelligible and attractive. We would have to ask what is the Mormon story that corresponds to the Christian story at the heart of Mere Christianity, and then inquire what would it take to tell that story as effectively as Lewis does.

I would envision a series of panels or short papers by scholars in literature, philosophy, history, religious studies and about any other discipline. The fact is that all Mormon scholars, whatever their field, have to give an accounting of their faith ­if only to themselves. They cannot just live their religion, they have to explain it. The conference would be an occasion to reflect on how we can best do this.

We might wish to add Sterling McMurrin’s Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology as a companion work. McMurrin’s work is about the best we have right now in the C.S. Lewis genre; we need to know how we can go beyond McMurrin.

My question to bloggers is how interested are you in this topic. Can we find people ready to contribute to the discussion?

Richard Bushman

Richard Bushman is an emeritus professor of history at Columbia University, and the author ofJoseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.

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One Response to An Open Letter from Richard Bushman

  1. Nate Oman on October 28, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Professor Bushman has apparently sent this letter to a number of LDS blogs. BCC is already hosting a lively conversation on the topic, which I encourage readers here to join. Here is a link