Researchers Share, Test Ideas with Peers
Each semester the Institute sponsors an average of six brown bag presentations (so named because they are informal lectures delivered during the noon hour). Held on the BYU campus, these events are conducted largely for the benefit of scholars and other specialists who are invited to report on research projects they are pursuing and papers they are writing. At the conclusion of their presentations, the speakers respond to questions and constructive comments from the audience. These events enable researchers to test and explore the ideas and insights they are developing on a host of topics related to the work of the Institute. In order to ensure a maximum amount of give-and-take between the presenters and the audience, attendance is limited to invited BYU faculty and staff as well as Institute personnel. Insights later reports on most of these presentations. Three such reports follow.
Strength of LDS Theology
On 7 November 2001 Barry Bickmore, assistant professor of geology at BYU, addressed the topic "Doctrinal Trends in Early Christianity and the Strength of the Mormon Position." He began by noting three versions of Christian history since New Testament times: (1) direct continuity with the New Testament Church, the Catholic and Orthodox view; (2) some measure of apostasy and corrective reformation, the Protestant view; and (3) total apostasy and a complete restoration of primitive Christianity, the LDS view. Arguing the strength of the LDS position, Bickmore examined three doctrines that evolved in the first few centuries of Christianity: the nature of God, God's relationship with nature, and the nature of divine unity. He asserted that in each case the doctrine changed from something closely resembling LDS theology and toward the doctrines of later Christianity. Bickmore closed by addressing the Catholic and Protestant responses to the evolution of theology in the ancient Christian church. He is the author of Restoring the Ancient Church, published by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. The full text of his brown bag presentation can be found online at www.fair-lds.org.
Herculaneum Papyri Project
On 28 November 2001 Roger T. Macfarlane, chair of the Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature at BYU, reported on the Herculaneum papyri project, for which he is the principal investigator. He began by showing a video clip in which noted scholars praise BYU's recent work of digitally imaging the ancient carbonized texts to improve legibility and to create an electronic archive that will preserve the images and facilitate scholarly access to them. The Villa of the Papyri, destroyed in A.D. 79 following the eruption of Vesuvius, was first excavated in 1752-53. Many of the scrolls and scroll fragments found in the villa's library contain the writings of Philodemus, a Greek Epicurean philosopher of the third century B.C. One level of the library is yet unexcavated, and scholars expect to find more works by important Greek and Latin authors, Macfarlane said. After discussing plans to publish the images and to publicize the extraordinary find through museum exhibitions and television, he concluded by showing specifically how the digital imagesin his words "a revolutionary step forward in the reading and publication of the Herculaneum papyri"are aiding scholars.
The Origin of the Book of Mormon
On 12 December, Louis C. Midgley, emeritus professor of political science at Brigham Young University, and Matthew P. Roper, resident scholar at the Institute, reviewed their progress on a book project titled Recovery of the Book of Mormon: A FARMS Sourcebook of Historical Documents. Midgley and Roper's goal for the project is to update and replace Francis W. Kirkham's groundbreaking collection, A New Witness for Christ in America, which has been the main resource for researchers of the early history of the Book of Mormon since it was published in 1937. Recovery of the Book of Mormon will include 575 printed sources (newspaper articles, books, pamphlets, and tracts, ranging in length from one sentence to over 300 pages) from the lifetime of Joseph Smith that deal with the origin of the Book of Mormon. Although most of the sources were written by anti-Mormons, this collection will be valuable for many reasons, including (1) some of the sources record information about the missionaries, members, and teachings of the early church that is not available in other sources; (2) the sources show the earliest forms of various arguments against the Book of Mormon; (3) many of the sources that will be printed in their entirety through this project are currently available only in archives. Midgley and Roper are hoping to begin publishing the results of this project in 2003.