Jan 012013


A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon:

A Literary and Theological Introduction


DATE: November 11 (Fullerton) and November 12 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are privileged to have as our November 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, John Christopher Thomas, who will be speaking on his new book A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon: A Literary and Theological Introduction, published by CPT Press. Dr. Thomas (PhD, University of Sheffield) is Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University, in Bangor, Wales, UK. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Chris Thomas BookTHE TOPIC: Most of us who attend the Miller Eccles Study Group have studied the Book of Mormon in a variety of circumstances. Perhaps we first read it while attending Seminary or Institute; perhaps we served a mission and used its contents in our proselytizing efforts. Most likely we have studied it every four years in Gospel Doctrine class and, of course, we have heard familiar passages lifted from it in Sacrament Meeting sermons, Priesthood and Relief Society lessons and General Conference talks. What we likely never have done is to view the Book of Mormon through the lenses of a Pentecostal theologian and scholar. In this lecture, New Testament scholar, John Christopher Thomas, offers a constructive, critical overview of his own reading of the Book of Mormon that focuses on some issues that often have been under-represented in the literature currently available.

Dr. Thomas will discuss the structure of the Book of Mormon as a groundwork for its interpretation; explore some of the major theological emphases that emerge from the book; provide a sampling of the book’s reception amongst followers and opponents alike; outline its impact in the areas of music and art, and even look at its disastrous interpretations. He will place the Book of Mormon and Pentecostalism into dialogue through historical analyses and theological comparisons. Finally, issues of origins will be explored by examining the earliest story of the book’s origins, identifying the major complications with this standard story, and proposing a taxomony of various reading strategies in the light of these complications.

IMG_0897THE SPEAKER: Dr John Christopher Thomas was educated at Lee College (BA), Church of God School of Theology (MA), Ashland Theological Seminary (MDiv), Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM), and the University of Sheffield (PhD). Professor Thomas has been honored for his work in New Testament scholarship by election into membership of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and his appointment as the Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee.  He also serves as the Director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University in Bangor, Wales.

Professor Thomas has published articles in several leading international journals devoted to study of the New Testament. He has authored a major study entitled Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community, published a collection of his essays for the church, Ministry and Theology: Studies for the Church and Its Leaders, written a significant monograph on healing entitled The Devil, Disease, and Deliverance: Origins of Illness in New Testament Thought, authored a brief study on John 13-17 entitled He Loved Them until the End: The Farewell Materials in the Gospel according to John, written a commentary on 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, published a collection of his studies in The Spirit of the New Testament, recently completed a major commentary on the Book of Revelation entitled, The Apocalypse: A Literary and Theological Commentary, together with Professor Frank D. Macchia he has authored Revelation in the Two Horizons Series.

Professor Thomas serves as editor of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology (Brill), the Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series (Deo), and serves as General Editor of the Pentecostal Commentary Series (Deo).  Along with his colleague Lee Roy Martin, he is a founding publisher and editor of CPT Press. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Strongly committed to parish ministry, he has served as Associate Pastor of the Woodward Church of God in Athens, Tennessee since 1981.  Professor Thomas has been a Guest Lecturer or Visiting Lecturer at a variety of educational institutions on five continents.  He was named Alumnus of the Year by Ashland Theological Seminary (1992) and by the Church of God Theological Seminary (2004).  Dr Thomas served as the President of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (1997-98).

He is married to Barbara and they have two daughters, Paige Thomas Scaperoth and Lori Thomas Brown, two sons-in-law, David Alan Scaperoth and Chad J. Brown, and one granddaughter, Madeline Danielle Scaperoth.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


A House Full of Females

Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870


DATE:  February 17 (Fullerton) and February 18 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased and privileged to have as our February 2017 Miller Eccles speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Harvard University professor, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who will speak about her forthcoming book A House Full of Females – Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835 -1870. 

ulrichcoverTHE TOPIC: In January 1870, three or four thousand Latter-day Saint women gathered in the old tabernacle in Salt Lake City to protest federal anti-polygamy legislation pending in Congress.  To the astonishment of outsiders, the Utah Territorial Legislature soon granted women the vote, an action that eventually brought them into the most radical wing of the national women’s rights movements. Then, as now, observers asked how women could simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights while defending marital practices that to most people seemed relentlessly patriarchal.

At one level, the answer is obvious. Their own community was threatened. By standing up as women, they defended their homes and their religious identity. But that explanation is too simple. By the time the Mormons arrived in Utah in 1847, female as well as male leaders knew how to circulate petitions, sign affidavits, lobby public officials, and employ the power of the press. The activism of Mormon women emerged from religious passion, from a yearning for millennial justice, from the experience of being hounded and driven from place to place, and from the frustration of vainly petitioning judges, governors, and presidents for redress.  But it also developed out of struggles within their own communities to rebuild the Female Relief Society, which was founded in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842 and dissolved by Brigham Young in 1845. As their own writings attest, female leaders endured both the condescension and open opposition from church leaders.

A House Full of Females explores the complex interplay between outside opposition to plural marriage and the gender politics of early Mormonism.

laurel-thatcher-ulrichTHE SPEAKER: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University. She is author of A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812,  which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991, and many other publications in early American history and women’s history. One of these, Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007), derives its title from a phrase she made famous. Born in Idaho, she was educated at the University of Utah, Simmons College, and the University of New Hampshire, where she completed her Ph.D. while she and her husband, Gael Ulrich, raised their five children.  She is past President of the American Historical Association and the Mormon History Association, and is currently serving as Regional Church History Consultant as well as Gospel Doctrine teacher.

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in January 2017.

Posted by Scott Volmar


 Posted by at 8:01 am
Jan 012013

podcast1Did you know that most meetings of the Miller Eccles Study Group since September 2012 are available as podcasts? Thanks to a cooperative arrangement between Miller Eccles and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, if you have to miss a meeting, you can listen to it on your smartphone or computer. What a great way to make productive use of the time when you’re driving, exercising, or working on repetitive tasks that do not require your complete mental focus!

For the past fifty years, Dialogue has been the premier journal of LDS scholarship and we are privileged that our meetings are featured as Dialogue podcasts. It is one of the factors that has made Miller Eccles the best-known Mormon study group in the world.

Click here to go to a listing of all of the available Miller Eccles podcasts, with links for downloading them. Happy listening!

Posted by Morris Thurston

Jan 012013


The Minutes of the Nauvoo-Era Council of Fifty

New Insights From Recently Released Documents


DATE: October 14 (Fullerton) and October 15 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are delighted to have as our October 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Dr. Matthew J. Grow, Director of Publications at the Church History Department. Dr. Grow will speak about one of the most anticipated volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers Project, The Minutes of the Council of Fifty, March 1844–January 1846. Scheduled to be released shortly before Dr. Grow’s presentation, these minutes have hitherto been restricted and unavailable to researchers. This promises to be a groundbreaking presentation.

Joseph Smith Administrative RecordsTHE TOPIC: On March 11, 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the government of the literal kingdom of God on earth. Known both as the Council of the Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty, the council operated under Smith’s leadership until his murder less than four months later. Under Brigham Young’s leadership, the council continued to meet in Nauvoo from February 1845 to January 1846. In September 2016, the minutes of the council, which have never been publicly available, will be published as the latest volume in The Joseph Smith Papers. This landmark book contains hundreds of pages of hitherto unknown statements by Smith, Young, and other early Latter-day Saints.

The Council of Fifty played a major role in managing Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign, exploring possible future settlement sites, and in planning the migration of the Latter-day Saints to the American West. The minutes provide an unparalleled view of decision making at the center of what participants viewed as the nascent kingdom of God on earth. They thus shed new light on the development of Latter-day Saint beliefs and on the history of Nauvoo and the church during this critical era, while also providing new perspectives on American religious history, political culture, and western migration in the nineteenth century.

THE SPEAKER: Grows_Matthew1Matthew J. Grow is Director of Publications at the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He leads a team of forty historians, editors, and web specialists creating historical publications for academic and popular audiences. Along with Ron Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit Dirkmaat, and Jeff Mahas, he prepared the minutes of the Council of Fifty for publication. His newest book is The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (co-editors Jill Derr, Carol Madsen and Kate Holbrook; Church Historian’s Press, 2016). In 2015, he authored The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane (co-author Ronald W. Walker, Oxford University Press). Grow is also the author of biographies of Parley P. Pratt (along with Terryl Givens; Oxford University Press, 2011) and Thomas L. Kane (Yale University Press, 2009), both of which received the Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association.

Previously, Dr. Grow was an assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He received his PhD in American history from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife Alyssa live with their four children in Sandy, Utah.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


 Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History


DATE:  June 24 (Fullerton) and June 25 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are thrilled to have as our May 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Gregory A. Prince, who will be speaking on his forthcoming book, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History, published by the University of Utah Press, to be released May 30, 2016. Dr. Prince earned doctorate degrees in dentistry and pathology from UCLA. A prodigious student of Mormon history, he is also a prolific author of numerous articles and books on Mormon topics.

THE TOPIC: Leonard Arrington is considered by many the foremost twentieth-century historian of Mormonism. But Arrington’s career was not without controversy. A new in-depth look at this respected historian and gives readers insight into the workings of the LDS Church in the late twentieth century. In 1972, Arrington was asked to serve as the official church historian, thereby becoming the first—and thus far the only—professional historian to hold that title. While the output of and from that division moved Mormon studies to a new level, the shift of historiography from faith promotion to scholarly research and professional analysis was unacceptable to some powerful senior apostles. In 1980 the History Division was disassembled and moved to Brigham Young University, where Arrington’s broad influence on Mormon history remained strong. This biography is the first to draw upon the remarkable Arrington diaries (over 20,000 pages) and it is supplemented by Prince’s interviews of more than 100 people who knew or worked with Arrington. The book provides background to continuing LDS struggles with member scholars, while illuminating the life of one dedicated historian.

THE SPEAKER:  Greg Prince was born and raised in Los Angeles. He served a mission to Brazil and then attended UCLA for six years, earning doctorate degrees in dentistry and pathology. He moved to Maryland in 1975 to work at the National Institutes of Health, and over a four-decade career in biomedical research, co-founded a company that pioneered the prevention of RSV pneumonia in high-risk infants. He has published more than 150 scientific papers, and, importantly for us, also published several books on Mormon history, including the remarkable David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, which won the Mormon History Association’s Best Biography award in 2006.

Dr. Prince is often quoted in national news articles and has appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts in which he has addressed issues involving current topics in the Mormon world.

Dr. Prince is currently serving as the Interfaith Liaison in the Washington, DC Stake.  He and his wife, JaLynn Rasmussen Prince, are the parents of three children, the youngest of whom (Madison) is autistic.  JaLynn and Greg now spend their time heading the Madison House Autism Foundation (madisonhouseautism.org), through which they hope to address national issues facing autistic adults and their families.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Boyd J. Petersen – May 13-14, 2016

 Posted by at 7:26 am
Jan 012013


Landing Instructions:
How to Navigate (or Help Someone Navigating) a Faith Crisis


DATE:  May 13 (Fullerton) and May 14 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are very pleased to have as our May 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Boyd J. Petersen, who is the Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University and the newly appointed editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. He is also a prolific essayist who will draw from his book of essays titled Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Family and Culture.

Boyd PetersenTHE TOPIC: Experiencing a faith crisis is a lot like experiencing turbulence on a airplane: one minute everything is fine, then things get bumpy, everything starts shaking; you’re diving, then climbing, bouncing back and forth; you feel helpless and out of control. Worst of all, unlike on a plane where seated next to you are fellow passengers white knuckledly gripping their seats like you are, in a faith crisis you often feel like you’re all alone. Usually airplane turbulence passes and things go back to normal. Conversely, after a faith crisis things typically don’t go back to what they were like before. You will likely never be the same. Going through this transformation—or watching someone you love go through it—isn’t easy, but it can lead to a deeper faith, a richer life, and greater communion with your traveling companions.

Dead Wood and Rushing WaterTHE SPEAKER:  Boyd Petersen has a B.A. from Brigham Young University, an M.A. from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Utah. His biography of Hugh Nibley received the 2003 Best Biography Award from the Mormon History Association.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Dr. Petersen has twice run for the Utah State House Assembly as a Democrat in a Utah Valley district that is overwhelmingly Republican.

Dr. Petersen is married to the former Zina Nibley, who teaches early British literature and language at BYU and is a daughter of Hugh Nibley. They have four children, Mary, Christian, Nathaniel and Andrew. The Petersen’s live in Orem, Utah. He is currently serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jared Hickman — April 15-16, 2016

 Posted by at 7:25 am
Jan 012013


The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse


DATE: April 15 (Fullerton) and April 16 (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are excited to have as our April 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Dr. Jared Hickman, Assistant Professor in the English Department of Johns Hopkins University. Professor Hickman will speak on his essay The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse which was published in American Literature, a literary journal published by Duke University Press.

Hickman, JaredTHE TOPIC: Recent official statements have left some doubt about the traditional understanding of the Book of Mormon as a history of “the Indians.” This presents us with two especially important tasks: 1) to understand why the “Indian question” seemed important enough, both politically and theologically, in Joseph Smith’s time and place, to claim such attention in a new scripture; and 2) to pay closer attention to the Book of Mormon text, which itself, in emphasizing the “Indian question,” offers a new narrative for understanding what it means. If we read with such questions in mind, we can recognize in the Book of Mormon a vision (or program) for Native American resurgence radically opposed to the European and American colonialism of Joseph Smith’s time.

Such a recognition will also show us how to root out the racism still present in our theology that obstructs the realization of this vision for the Native Americans. These concerns are such an important part of the Book of Mormon story that they cannot be responsibly ignored by its readers. For its LDS readers, in particular, some new forms of advocacy and activism might even be called for.”

JS Preaching to IndiansTHE SPEAKER: Jared Hickman is assistant professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He researches the intersection of literature, religion, and race in the U.S. and the Atlantic world from the colonial period through the nineteenth century. He is the author of Black Prometheus: Race and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and co-editor of two volumes–with Martha Schoolman, Abolitionist Places (Routledge, 2013) and, with Elizabeth Fenton, Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Dr. Hickman has served in various capacities in the LDS Church, most recently as Gospel Doctrine teacher. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Aimee Evans Hickman, former editor-in-chief of Exponent II, and his three children, Leo, Zeke, and Sylvia.

Posted by Scott Volmar

Jan 012013


The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Traditions


DATE:  February 19 (Fullerton) and February 20  (La Canada – Flintridge).

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

We are pleased to have as our February 2016 Miller Eccles speaker, Dr. Cory Crawford, Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Ohio. He will speak on his timely article, “The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Traditions,” published in Dialogue — A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Cory_altTHE TOPIC: The Old Testament refers to righteous women exercising authority, such as Deborah, the Prophetess and a Judge of Israel (Judges 4). Likewise, in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul mentions righteous women as fellow servants, such as Phebe, Junia and others. Yet many statements attributed to Paul concerning the role of women in the primitive church are contradictory.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs, cited the absence of precedent as the reason women are not ordained in the Church: “Holding offices such as Bishop and Apostle—there is no scriptural precedent for that, and so we don’t ordain women to those positions.” What is striking about the recent official LDS appeal to scriptural silence is that it appears to ignore the most polemic passages, such as 1 Tim 2:8–15 (“no woman . . .[has] authority over a man”) and Gen 3:16 (“[Adam] shall rule over [Eve]”) as precedents for a gendered priesthood ban. Thus it may signal the emergence of a parallel with LDS discourse about race, in which appeals to scripture and tradition were replaced with similar expressions of agnosis. Continued attention to scriptural precedent and discourses of gender, as well as to the best recent scholarship on this issue, seem warranted, especially in the absence of detailed official commentary on the matter.

deborah-prophetess-12-16-12-Scholarly investigation of the cultural context of racial concepts of priesthood has done much to shed light on the origin and development of the racial priesthood ban, and it is toward a further understanding of the gender ban that the Dr. Crawford undertook his research.

THE SPEAKER: Dr. Cory Crawford (PhD Harvard, 2009) is assistant professor of Biblical Studies in the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Before Ohio he taught ancient history at Brigham Young University (Department of History). In 2014-15 he held a Volkswagen/Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Eberhard-Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany. He currently serves as associate editor of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, a publication of the Maxwell Institute at BYU. In addition to the recent Dialogue article on the struggle for female authority, Dr. Crawford has published on the Israelite Tabernacle and Jerusalem Temple, on ancient art and text, and on the notion of Apostasy in the Bible and LDS narratives. He is currently working on a manuscript that examines the role of the Temple in the creation and manipulation of Israelite cultural memory.

Cory is currently serving as Elders’ Quorum President in the Athens, Ohio Ward, where he lives with his wife, Rebekah Perkins Crawford, and their three children.


Posted by Scott Volmar