BYU and Institute scholars gave presentations at all five sessions of the Rocky Mountain-Great Plains regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on 26-27 March 2004. Because several sessions took place on the BYU campus for the first time, and because one-third of the 51 presenters were BYU-affiliated scholars (8 of them closely associated with the Institute), the event was an ideal opportunity for the university to showcase its contributions to religious scholarship.

According to Thomas Wayment, a BYU assistant professor of ancient scripture who chaired the event, many AAR/SBL officers at the national level (such as the current president and director of SBL) come from the Rocky Mountain-Great Plains region. "In this regard, it was an important move on our part to bring the regional meeting here--so that leading scholars from around the nation could have the opportunity to see the type of work that is going on here at BYU," Wayment said. "To say it mildly, they were very impressed with what is being done here on campus."

The Institute's work of digitally imaging ancient manuscripts was one of two BYU projects that caught the attention of participants. "One attendee (a national officer) was so impressed that she promised to promote the work of BYU at the national level," said Wayment, who added that the informative presentation further solidified BYU's already-strong position in that field. The other project that attracted attention was the Joseph Smith Papers Project of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History. This research intrigued non-Latter-day Saint scholars in attendance because of the potential they see in it for "affecting scholarship on Mormons and Mormonism in general," Wayment said.

Brief reports of the presentations by BYU scholars and other specialists working on Institute-sponsored projects follow. Titles of presentations appear in quotation marks, and the order of the reports is chronological.

Besides turning a spotlight on religious studies at BYU and providing faculty and Institute scholars with opportunities to develop professional contacts and keep abreast of research in their fields, the regional meeting may yet yield more tangible benefits. "One of the nice things about the regional meetings is that they are small enough to encourage discussions after the presentations," Wayment said. "As a result, several publication opportunities were made available to BYU faculty who presented at the meeting."