2020 Conference: Call for Papers

The Annual Meeting of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

March 26-28, 2020

Oxford University, England

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities (MSH) invites proposals for its 2020 annual conference. The conference topic this year is Aesthetics, and papers or panels organized around the theme are encouraged.

The culture that surrounds the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had mixed feelings about the body and the senses. While the “natural man” is an enemy to God, the spirit and the body are man’s soul. And while both scriptures may mean “men” as all human beings, there might be even more ambivalence about women’s bodies. While historically Mormon teachings have indicated that a body is necessary for both aesthetic experience and the achievement of the highest realms of exaltation, how do we grapple with the span of time between receiving a perfected body and “the flesh” that we contend with now? Furthermore, the arts of all varieties have long been embraced and promoted by Church leaders, including President Spencer W. Kimball in “The Gospel Vision of the Arts.” We wish to explore how Church doctrine and culture can affect artistic production, style, and consumption. This conference encourages participants to explore “aesthetics” in the widest sense of the term.

Potential topics include:

  • What is the aesthetic and the sensory? To what degree is it necessarily embodied? How might an embodied aesthetic experience relate to an individual’s “spirit” or to the Holy Spirit? 
  • What is the relationship between the aesthetic and the ethical? What is the relationship between the aesthetic and truth, being true, or even the Truth? What might be some theological implications connected with aesthetics?
  • How is religious art created and viewed?  How do issues of patronage and taste complicate its production/appreciation?  
  • What is the role of music, literature, and poetry in the Church?

As always, we also invite high-quality paper proposals on other topics, including those that reflect one’s current professional research interests or pedagogy in the humanities. Interested scholars (affiliated or independent) and graduate students are invited to submit 250–350 word abstracts for papers, as well as proposals for organized panels. Abstracts and proposals are due Friday, November 1, 2019, using the portal link below. Acceptance notices will be sent out by Friday, December 6.  All presenters are required to register for the conference but are not required to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Graduate students wishing to be considered for a Graduate Student Travel Grant can indicate that when making their submission. Information about the registration fee and available accommodation will be posted soon at mormonscholars.net.

Submission Portal: https://forms.gle/us1WAX15ByAW2TgJ9 

Deadline: Friday, November 1, 2019

Artwork: J. Kirk Richards, Winged Torso, 2018, bronze.


Final Program: 2019 Conference

The 2019 Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Annual Meeting will be held at Southern Utah University, May 16-18 in Cedar City, Utah.

The conference theme is “Ecologies.”


6:30-7:30 pm–Special Session

Student Center (Ballroom B)

Social and Spiritual Ecologies in Heart of Africa: Discussion and Scenes from the Film

Besides showing scenes from the film Heart of Africa, we will discuss the role of social and spiritual ecologies in the film’s story line and production, in the resurrection of Congolese cinema, and in the ongoing transformation of the nation’s social, spiritual, and artistic life. Jospin Kapata will comment on these questions and on his experience as an actor in the film. We will discuss Heart of Africa’s roots in the real-life experience of two other young Congolese Latter-day Saints, Aimé Mbuyi and Tshoper Kabambi, the film’s co-writer (with Margaret Blair Young) and director. Along the way, we will consider the “Gospel’s social ecology,” the relation of the social and spiritual in the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, and the crucial role of social and spiritual interdependence in the Congo’s future.

Bruce Young (Brigham Young University)

Jospin Kapata (Southern Utah University)

Moderator: Shawn Tucker (Elon University)


8:00-8:30 am Registration (Student Center, in Front of Ballroom B)

8:45 am Welcome: Jenny Champoux (Northeastern University)

Student Center (Ballroom B)

9:00-10:20 Session 1: In Other Words

Student Center (Ballroom B)

Being, a Household Word; Being a Household World

If “free will is overrated,” as Timothy Morton has observed, and we are always already in the Anthropocene, how can we reconcile individual futility with collective urgency? Will it be possible for us to learn to think at the level of earth systems and to engage in the collective action to be stewards of those systems?

David Charles Gore (University of Minnesota, Duluth)

Mormons in the Interfaith Dialogue Ecology

Mormons are relatively underrepresented in many of the places of direct theological and moral interchange between religious traditions. I argue that the potential barriers that Latter-day Saints face in entering the interfaith-dialogue ecology are no greater than what other monotheistic communities have faced, and now is an opportune moment for Mormons to join the interreligious conversation.

Matthew D. Taylor (Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies)

Out of the Garden: Nature as Site of Revelations in Romanticism and Naturalism

Naturalism is a middle stage between Romanticism and Modernism, noting that in contrast to the Romantics, for whom nature was the site of God’s self-revelation, Naturalism celebrates the revelation of the self in nature: a wilder knowledge, but not yet shorn of the sacred.

Jonathon Penny (RIT-Dubai)

Moderator: Jennifer Champoux (Northeastern University)

10:30-11:50 Session 2: Alternative Theology

Student Center (Ballroom B)

Over the last 10 to 15 years, a new approach to theology has been developing among Latter-day Saints that focuses on close reading of scripture as in itself a way of doing theology. The members of this panel have been actively engaged in that work, and will discuss whether or not this approach is new, how it can best be described, and what methodology, if any, is or can be associated with the approach.

In particular, Joseph M. Spencer will reflect on the relationship between theological interpretation and the performative, Jenny Webb will ask whether the practice of close reading reflects something particularly characteristic of Latter-day Saint belief, and James E. Faulconer will give a theoretical justification for calling the practice of close reading “theology.”

Auld Lang Syne: Performative Scripture; Not Such a New Thing

James E. Faulconer (Wheatley Institution, Brigham Young University)

Hereby: Notes from the Field

Joseph M. Spencer (Brigham Young University)

On Care

Jenny Webb (Independent Scholar)

Moderator: David Charles Gore (University of Minnesota, Duluth)

11:50-12:50 LUNCH BREAK

1:00-3:00 Session 3a: Stewardship I: Field Work

Student Center (Cedar Breaks)

Reclaiming Reclamation: Stewarding Western Water Resources in the 21st Century

This presentation examines the influential role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have played in reclaiming the arid West and Utah’s current reputation throughout the region as a profligate water waster. This paper proposes an alternate stewardship model that reimagines Western members’ connection to place so that Utah and its members might once again be a model for managing the region’s scarce water resources.

Paul Formisano (University of South Dakota)

“The different Frutes of the Country”: Ecological Imperialism and the 19th Century Mormon Gathering

Taking the 1853 Mormon mission to Jamaica as a starting point, this paper explores an oft-overlooked aspect of the Mormon Gathering: the ecological gathering of different plants from around the world, which Latter-day Saints planned to use to help the desert “blossom as the rose.”

Christopher Cannon Jones (Brigham Young University)

SHORT RECESS 1:55-2:05

Earth Stewardship in Light of St. Matthew 25 and King Benjamin’s Address

Earth is the moral imperative of our own and future generations. In Matthew 25, Jesus gives the ultimate challenge to his followers in relation to earth stewardship: he intends that we consider those who will be adversely affected in the future by our indifference and inaction to climate change. In other words, he is saying that we should consider those who will suffer disease, destruction and death because we failed to act in the interest of future generations as if they were Jesus himself. This imperative is confirmed by the Book of Mormon king-prophet, Benjamin.

Bob Rees (Graduate Theological Union)

The Ecology of the Classroom: Practical Tips Toward Improving the Learning Environment

The classroom can be thought of as an ecology, as an environment of interconnected and interdependent organisms or entities. This presentation foregrounds those entities in an attempt to provide practical tips toward improving and bringing new energy to the learning environment.  

Shawn Tucker (Elon University)

Moderator: Jenny Webb (Independent Scholar)

1:00-3:00 Session 3b: The Promise of Land (Arts and Letters)

Student Center (Brian Head)

Reading the Word: Spirit Materiality in the Mountain Landscapes of Nan Shepherd

With the help of Nan Shepherd, a Scottish modernist who wrote on the eternal nature of elements and our own physical bodies as a means of apprehending a closer understanding of Being as existence, I hope to broaden our discussion of belief by seeking more words, ideas, and experiences to discern truth about spirit materiality.  

Rachel Gilman (Independent Scholar)

Maurine Whipple: An Eye on the Land

Maurine Whipple, perhaps Mormonism’s greatest novelist, earned that title at least partially because of her remarkable sense of place. She saw the need to preserve her red rock country, not only for the sake of the environment, but for artistic and spiritual purposes that go beyond ecology and converge to touch the soul.

Lynne Larson (Independent Scholar)

SHORT RECESS 1:55-2:05

The God of Small Things and the Voice from the Whirlwind: How Arundhati Roy Might Re-Write the Book of Job

Ethical challenges to the Book of Job’s presentation of God tend to lose sight of literary aspects of the text, which make Him more humane than it might first appear. This paper considers these features of the text by imagining what the Indian novelist Arundhati Roy might say to Job.  

James Egan (Independent Scholar)

Praise the Lord with Drums and Dance: The Old Testament Advocates for Drumming in Culture and Religion

There are nineteen instances in the Old Testament text referring to drums and drumming. I propose that by examining each of these references we can gain an understanding of the relationship between Jehovah and His covenant people and the general customs of the people.

Glenn Webb (Dixie State University)

Moderator: Jonathon Penny (RIT-Dubai)

3:10-4:30 Session 4a: Thine is the Kingdom: Divine Ecologies

Student Center (Cedar Breaks)

Loving Heavenly Fathers: Latter-day Saints and Their Many Gods

In Forese and Bader’s work, America’s Four Gods, the authors argue that Americans’ conceptualizing of the divine rests on two intersecting spectrum- the extent to which God judges the sinner and the level of God’s involvement in the world. This paper is the product of a recreation of their work within the Mormon community. Containing polling of roughly one thousand participants and in-depth interviews of fifty, this small-scale reproduction discusses the Gods of active Mormon men and women, LGBT Mormons, Post Mormons and the differences between each group.

Taylor Kerby (Independent Scholar)

Can Latter-day Saint Theology Solve our Ecological Crisis?

Belief in the spiritual nature of all of God’s creations, as described in Moses 3:5, has the potential to restore mankind’s respect for nonhuman entities. Ecology, often considered the subversive science, may have found its champion in Latter-day Saint theology, the subversive Christianity.

Jared Meek (Columbia University)

“To Restore the Physical World”: The Body of Christ, the Redemption of the Natural World and Mormonism’s Environmental Dilemma

This paper analyzes the current conversation regarding Mormon attitudes towards the environment and suggests a solution to what I call the Mormon environmental dilemma. The paper argues that there is an environmental model that Mormons should embrace regarding the environment in order to become more invested in caring for it: the redemptive model.  I base this model on the writings of early Mormon theologians such as Parley P. Pratt, who suggested that the bodily suffering of Christ redeemed not only humanity, but also the entirety of the natural world.

Gary Ettari (UNC-Asheville)

Moderator: Christopher Jones (Brigham Young University)

3:10-4:30 Session 4b: Ethnicity, Language, & Ecologies of Being

Student Center (Brian Head)

The Argentinean Community in Australia: Language and Identity

This presentation will share findings on the maintenance of Castellano Rioplatense [Rioplatense Spanish] and Argentinean identity within the Argentinean community in Australia. It explores how and why first and second generation Argentines from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne maintain and transmit Spanish, and the consequences this has for their experience of Argentinean identity.

Stephanie Natolo (Griffith University)

The digital evolution: Ethnic community newspapers, hybridity, and the digital Spanish language press in Australia

This presentation discusses the ways in which Australia’s community Spanish language newspapers disseminate news to the community in light of digital technologies and how Spanish language newspaper editors and journalists view the future of community Spanish language newspapers in the digital era.

Michelle Natolo (Griffith University)

尔门/Scrub Thy Gates:” Rectification of Names and the Eurocentric Moorings of the M Word

Rigid positions on the question of what’s in a name, such as the policy and accompanying address by Church President Russell M. Nelson during the October 2018 General Conference on discontinuing the use of the word “Mormon” may appear dogmatic. Outside the Western heritage, however, are other epistemological traditions which see naming not as arbitrary, socially negotiated, or simply essential, but as performative, as moral action. This paper explores the Classical Confucian concept of “Rectification of Names”, as an alternate paradigm for examining Nelson’s emphatic new policy and its implications for a church that is not yet truly global.

Jenn Quist (University of Alberta)

Moderator: Shawn Tucker (Elon University)

5:00-6:00 BANQUET

Student Center (Ballroom A)

6:30-8:00 KEYNOTE

Hunter Center (Great Hall)

George Handley (Brigham Young University)

Steven Peck (Brigham Young University)

Moderator: Sarah Moore (University of Washington)


All Saturday sessions will be held in the Great Hall, Hunter Center.


9:00-10:20 Session 5: Stewardship II—Reception and Covenant

Sustainability as the Core Principle of Eternity: Latter-day Saints’ Conceptions of Truth and Human Ecology

Restored-gospel cosmology emphasizes the Eternal (i.e. the endlessly sustainable) as the essence of divinity and truth. We can show fairly straightforward connection between goals of environmental sustainability and the latter-day gospel of the Eternal.

Nicole Amare (University of South Alabama)

Alan Manning (Brigham Young University)

The Reverence of Recycling

This paper acknowledges the Church’s commitment to conservation and green initiatives, but argues that a more visible philosophical and public spiritual commitment to sustainability is long overdue, and relatively easy to both implement and encourage. One simple step could be to support initiatives like recycling at an institutional level.

Doug Christensen (University of Utah)

This Earth and the Inhabitants Thereof: Non-humans in the Divine Household

Through speculative theology and personal narrative, I explore how the teaching that animals have individual spirits, considered alongside the fact of evolution, complicates our theology of human kinship, gender, sexuality, and nature.

Michael Haycock (Independent Scholar)

Moderator: Steven Peck (Brigham Young University)

10:30-11:50 Session 6: A New Heaven and Earth: A Revitalized Ecology of Mormon Feminist Theology

Toward a Mormon Womanist Theology of Abundance: Insights from the Margins of Mormonism

This paper constructs a framework for a Mormon womanist theology of abundance, based upon the theological reflections of LDS women of color in Botswana, Mexico, and the U.S. Taking on different nuances in different locations, these reflections on abundance arise from these women’s commitments to a non-oppressive personal God and to healthy relationships with self and others.

Caroline Kline (Claremont Graduate University)

Writing the Templed Body: An LDS Feminist Theology

The LDS theology of embodiment is incomplete without including women speaking for themselves about their embodied experiences. Contemporary Mormon poetesses are giving the female form voice, making the embodied theology of Heavenly Mother possible.

Elizabeth Pinborough (Independent Scholar)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Mother Tree: Understanding the Spiritual Root of Our Ecological Crisis

An exploration of Ecofeminist and scriptural sources reveals how a renewed understanding of the divine feminine is vital to recognizing the underlying spiritual cause of our ecological crisis and to restoring us to a proper stewardship relationship with the natural world.

Kathryn Knight Sonntag (Independent Scholar)

Moderator: Jennifer Champoux (Northeastern University)

11:50-12:50 LUNCH BREAK

1:00-2:20 Session 7: Other Testaments

Divine Wrath as Ecological Renewal: An Examination of a Biblical Motif

This paper will examine the relation between wrath and renewal, particularly in regards to the environment, in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.  The author will propose that violation of God’s commandments has an ecological effect and that the purging of the unfaithful whether this be Israel in the Old Testament or the Nephites in the Book of Mormon is necessary for ecological renewal.

Adam Oliver Stokes (Trenton Charter School)

Four Symbols of Collapse: in Isaiah, Joseph Smith, Jared Diamond, and Elizabeth Kolbert

“Thou art a God that hidest thyself” in the symbols of environmental and social collapse. (Isaiah 45:15)

Mark Thomas (Independent Scholar)

Language, Translation, and the Problems of Secularity

Mormonism is a religion of the word. Many of its foundational texts are commonly presented as translations of ancient documents. Almost from the beginning, there’s been a tendency to understand those texts as merely linguistic. But the assumptions about what language is and how language matters have changed out from under everyone in ways that severely limit traditional interpretations. What if we viewed language the way Smith and his predecessors did, as mortal imprints of metaphysically vast reality?

Samuel Brown (University of Utah)

Moderator: Joseph M. Spencer (Brigham Young University)

2:30-3:50 Session 8: Promised Lands?: Literature and Ecology

“In Their Promised Canaan Stand”: Outlawry, Landscape, and Memory in C.C.A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama

Using English outlaw literature, this paper will consider the ways in which C.C.A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama paintings visualize the place of nineteenth-century Mormonism in landscape and society. The outlaw literature and these Mormon paintings exhibit a similar ambivalence about who, exactly, is the outlaw and about the protective power of landscape.

Jennifer Champoux (Northeastern University)

Spiritual Approaches to Secular Nature

This presentation will examine the ways a specialist course at SVU (“Spiritual Approaches to Secular Literature”) uses something like a spiritual hermeneutic to examine texts from disparate parts of the chronological and generic map. As case studies, this paper focuses on the ways in which “nature” acts as a context and frame for spiritual hermeneutics in the classroom.

James Lambert (Southern Virginia University)

Re-enchanting the Vineyard: A Tolkienian Reading of Jacob 5

A pre-Enlightenment “enchanted” worldview saw plants and trees as complex living beings with meaningful relationships to the rest of creation—a perspective J.R.R. Tolkien embodied in his fiction. Viewing Jacob 5 through this lens can provide a sort of “re-enchantment” of Zenos’ allegory of the vineyard.

Jacob Rennaker (John A. Widtsoe Foundation)

Moderator: Sarah Moore (University of Washington)

4:00-5:20 Session 9: Stewardship III–Lynn White and Hugh Nibley

God’s First Answer: Exceptions to Human Exceptionalism in Mormon Scripture and Theology

This presentation draws primarily from the books of Genesis, Job, Moses, and Mosiah, and from the material turn in environmental humanities and cultural studies to explore larger cosmovisions latent in Mormon spirituality, and alternatives to rational, anthropocentric Western epistemologies and hierarchies between the human and more-than-human worlds.

English Brooks (Snow College)

Dominion and Global Stewardship in the Anthropocene

This presentation will build upon recent re-reading of the Genesis scriptures commanding humans to subdue the earth likewise re-considering the question of dominion over nature in connection with new philosophical and scientific understandings of “the Anthropocene.” Far more than a designation for a new geological epoch, the idea of the Anthropocene explores a relationship between humans and the environment that is strikingly different from traditional environmental attitudes about the natural world. Given the extensive and pervasive influence human activity has wrought upon local and global systems, we must reconsider, for better or worse, the continued human participation and involvement in nature going forward. This recognition of the human embeddedness within nature casts the charge in Genesis to “subdue the earth” as well as the call the stewardship in an entirely new light.     

Christopher Oscarson (Brigham Young University)

The Theological Foundations of Hugh Nibley’s Environmental Criticism

Hugh Nibley has often been regarded as a key early figure in Latter-day Saint eco-criticism. The theological foundations of Nibley’s perspective has seldom been investigated. This paper investigates the relationship between Nibley’s theology of grace and his environmentalism.

Joseph M. Spencer (Brigham Young University)

Moderator: George Handley (Brigham Young University)

5:20–5:30 Closing Comments

Jonathon Penny (RIT-Dubai)


Nicole Amare is Professor of English at The University of South Alabama.

English Brooks is an Assistant Professor of English at Snow College in central Utah. His scholarly and creative work has appeared in ISLE, Pacific Coast Philology, Sunstone, Green Letters, The Dark Mountain Project, Saltfront, Western American Literature, and in the Mormon Arts Center Festival’s Immediate Present collection. This summer he is directing Birch Creek Service Ranch, where 12-15-year-olds come to the high desert to live in yurts, do farm work in local communities, hike slot canyons, play music, chase rabbits, eat bugs, and howl at the moon.

Jennifer Champoux is a lecturer in art history at Northeastern University.  She has also taught art history courses as adjunct faculty at Emerson College, Emmanuel College, and Colorado Community Colleges Online, and as a teaching fellow at the Boston Architectural College.  Her writing on religious art has been published in BYU Studies Quarterly and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (forthcoming).  She earned a BA in international politics from BYU and an MA in art history from Boston University.  

Doug Christensen has been teaching LDS seminary and institute for 27 years. He also teaches writing classes at the University of Utah, where he earned a BA in English Literature, an MFA in creative nonfiction, and a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing Studies. He researches and writes about environmental issues, theological questions, and literacy.

James Egan is an average attorney, a better musician, and would be a novelist if only he had the chops. In college, he fell in love with literary studies, but his primary academic interest became the nature and history of the secular, especially in India. In law school, he was drawn to criminal justice reform and eventually took a job with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, a regional innocence project that helps prevent and correct wrongful convictions. Currently, he works as an attorney in healthcare and wishes he had more time to read and write about fiction and cultural history.

Gary Ettari is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.  His recent scholarly work has included articles on a variety of subjects, including Mormon aesthetics, Elizabethan sonnets, and labor and masculine identity in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike.  He is currently working on a book-length manuscript that focuses on Mormonism’s concept of embodied empathy and how it could re-define Mormon aesthetics.   

James E. Faulconer has taught contemporary French and German philosophy at BYU since 1975.  He has an MA and a PhD in philosophy from the Pennsylvania State University.  Currently he is a resident research fellow at the Wheatley Institution, where he focuses on questions of faith and intellect. Besides publications in philosophy, he has published Faith, Philosophy, Scripture; The Life of Holiness: Notes and Reflections on Romans 1, 5-8; and a series of study materials on the Latter-day Saint Standard Works including The Old Testament Made Harder and The New Testament Made Harder.

Paul Formisano is Associate Professor and Director of Writing at the University of South Dakota. His teaching and research interests in the environmental humanities emphasize the role that literature should play in complex, interdisciplinary issues concerning Western water management. This focus is the subject of his manuscript Tributary Voices: Literary and Rhetorical Explorations of the Colorado River. He is also working on an anthology on the literature of dams. Dr. Formisano’s research has appeared in The Journal of Ecocriticism, Landscapes: The Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language, Iperstoria, and Western American Literature.

Rachel Gilman is an independent scholar who works as an 8th grade special education teacher to students with emotional disturbances in Palo Alto, California. She earned her BA in Humanities and English from BYU in 2011, an MA in Landscape, Literature, and Environment from Bath Spa University in 2014, and an MA in American Literature and Ecocriticism from BYU in 2016. She hopes to eventually pursue a PhD and teach writing and her love of the outdoors.     

David Charles Gore is Associate Professor and Head in the Department of Communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He regularly teaches courses in the history and theory of rhetoric and the rhetoric of globalization. His first book, The Voice of the People: Political Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon, is being published this year by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU.

George Handley is a proud former president of MSH and one of its founders. He teaches Environmental Humanities at BYU and is the author of several books, including his environmental memoir, Home Waters; his recent novel, American Fork; and his new collection of essays, If Truth Were a Child, that explores humanities and faith. His collection of essays, The Hope of Nature: Our Care for God’s Creation, will be published jointly in 2020 by the Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book.

Michael Haycock received his BA in political science from Yale University in 2012, having written his senior thesis about the relationship of religion and government, equality and liberty, and social cohesion in the Book of Mormon. He shifted to American religious history for his MA, which he received from Claremont Graduate University in 2014 with a thesis on ideals of 19th Century Mormon masculinity, focusing on etiquette, economics, and cosmological rituals. Since then, he has been working in government relations in Washington, DC, while still participating as he can in the Mormon Studies world.

Christopher Cannon Jones is a visiting assistant professor in the history department at Brigham Young University, where he teaches classes on early American history, slavery and the slave trade, and missions and missionaries in American history. His research has been published in the Journal of Mormon History, Journal of Southern Religion, Mormon Historical Studies, and a variety of edited collections. He is currently revising his book manuscript, Connexions: Methodism, Slavery, and Freedom in the Revolutionary Atlantic World, for publication, and co-editing a volume of essays on Mormon and Protestant missions in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jospin Mutombo Kapata was born in 1996 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the youngest of 10 children. Five family members are now members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jospin served a mission in Ghana from 2016 to 2018. He plays Elder Kamosi in the film Heart of Africa. He is now a freshman at SUU and planning to major in accounting. He loves music and plays the piano.

Taylor Kerby is an alumni of Claremont Graduate University and holds Masters’ Degrees in Religion and Education. He has presented at multiple conferences including at The John Whitmer Historical Association, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, and The American Academy of Religion’s Western Region. He also publishes frequently on Reading Religion.

Caroline Kline is a research assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. She earned her PhD in religion with a focus on women’s studies in religion at CGU. Her areas of interest revolve around the intersections of Mormon and feminist theology and the study of contemporary Mormon women’s communities. Her publications include “The Mormon Conception of Women’s Nature and Role: A Feminist Analysis,” in the Journal of Feminist Theology. She co-edited with Claudia Bushman the book Mormon Women Have Their Say: Essays from the Claremont Oral History Collection.

James Lambert is an associate professor of English at Southern Virginia University. He teaches a combination of British Renaissance poetry, Shakespeare, writing courses, and general literature courses. He also directs the SVU Writing Center and is chair of the Humanities Division. He has published original work in a variety of specialist journals for literature and literary studies, and you can find those pieces in databases usually. James spends more time teaching than writing by about 8 to 1, so a book will be forthcoming for a while. His talk will focus on teaching for that reason.

Lynne Larson is working with independent scholars Andrew Hall and Veda Hale under a grant from the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts to find and compile the lost and unpublished literature of Maurine Whipple. Ms. Larson has a BA degree in English from Brigham Young University and an MA degree in English from Idaho State University. She was a public school teacher for 28 years. She is also a published writer, having produced five novels in addition to several articles, essays, and short stories.

Alan Manning has taught at Brigham Young University-Provo since 1994 in the Linguistics Department, where he is currently the coordinator of the Editing & Publishing major.

Jared Meek received a B.S. in Biodiversity and Conservation from Brigham Young University, and is currently working towards a M.A. degree from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University. He studies plants, mountains, and plants in mountains! While the majority of his time is spent botanizing, he is inspired by the ways in which science and faith interact to foster a sense of wonder about the natural world.

Sarah Moore is currently a PhD student at the University of Washington, where she explores ecocriticism and animal studies, and situates her studies in medieval and early moderns texts.

Michelle Natolo is a researcher at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She teaches Spanish and is also the Administrator for the worldwide Japanese Language Proficiency Test for Queensland for the Japan Foundation. Michelle received her Doctorate in 2018 from Griffith University where her thesis investigated the rise and evolution of Spanish language print and online newspapers in Australia and how Spanish language media maintains the linguistic, informational, and cultural needs of Hispanics. Her research interests include community media, digital media technologies, language, and Spanish learning and teaching.

Stephanie Natolo is a researcher at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She also teaches Italian and Spanish. She received her doctorate from Griffith University. Her thesis examined the Argentinean community in Australia, with focus on the first and second generation and intergenerational Spanish language maintenance and transmission and Argentinean identity. Her research interests include language, identity, language contact, Latin American Studies, and digital technologies.

Christopher Oscarson is an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Scandinavian Studies at Brigham Young University and co-director of the university’s International Cinema program. He graduated from University of California, Berkeley and his research focuses on ecologic discourses in early twentieth-century Scandinavian literature and film.

Steven L. Peck (BYU Biology) is an evolutionary ecologist and writer. He is the two-time winner of the Association of Mormon Letters Novel Award (The Scholar of Moab, 2011; Gilda Trillim, 2017), and once for short story (Two-Dog Dose, 2014). His novel (2019) King Leere: Goatherd of the La Sals was a semi-finalist in Black Lawrence Press’s Big Moose Prize and received a starred-review from Publishers Weekly.  In addition to his collection Incorrect Astronomy, his poetry has appeared in New Myths, Pedestal Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Red Rock Review, and other places. He has two books on faith and science (Evolving Faith and Science the Key to Theology).

Jonathon Penny is a professor of liberal arts and the chair of Sciences and Liberal Arts at RIT-Dubai. He has published occasional scholarly pieces (mainly on literary uses of scriptural apocalypse), short fiction, and poetry, and is the author of a four-play cycle set in Southern Alberta, Canada: Are We Not All Strangers (Cardston, 2016), Diggers (Magrath, 2017), Junction Town (Stirling, 2018), and Home/front (Raymond, 2019). He also translated Jad Hatem’s Postponing Heaven for the Maxwell Institute (2015).

Elizabeth Pinborough is a writer who lives in Salt Lake City. She graduated from BYU and Yale Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Exponent II, and Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets. She edited the book Habits of Being: Mormon Women’s Material Culture, published by Exponent II. She is working on a book of poems about living with brain injury.

Jennifer Quist is a novelist, critic, and graduate student at the University of Alberta in western Canada where she studies and teaches comparative literature and early morning seminary. Her latest scholarly publication appeared in New Left Review and her novels have been recognized by the AML, the Dublin Literary Award long-list, and the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Her latest novel is The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner.

Robert A. (“Bob”) Rees is Visiting Professor and Director of Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Previously he taught at UCLA, UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley and was a Fulbright Professor of American Studies in the Baltics. He is the author or editor of numerous studies, including the forthcoming second volume of Why I Stay: The challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons, a collection of essays on the Book of Mormon and a collection of writings on LGBT issues and Mormonism. His collection of poetry, Waiting for Morning, was published in 2017.

Jacob Rennaker is Scholar in Residence at the John A. Widtsoe Foundation and is currently serving as the Foundation’s Director. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Chapman University and a staff member at their Interfaith Center. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, received an M.A. in Comparative Religion from the University of Washington, and earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Los Angeles with his enchanted wife Anna and their faithful steed Scout.

Kathryn Knight Sonntag is a landscape designer and land planner in Salt Lake City with undergraduate degrees in English and environmental studies from the University of Utah and a Master’s in landscape architecture and environmental planning from Utah State University. Her thesis focused on the role of the transcendent in landscapes and greatly informs her first collection of poetry, The Tree at the Center (By Common Consent Press, 2019). Her poems have appeared in many publications, including: Shades: The University of Utah’s Literary Magazine; Wilderness Interface Zone; Exponent II; Segullah; Psaltery & Lyre; and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Joseph M. Spencer is assistant professor of philosophy in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He’s the author of three books and dozens of articles in the fields of philosophy and of Latter-day Saint scripture and theology. He serves as the editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the co-editor of the book series Introduction to Mormon Thought, and the associate director of the Mormon Theology Seminar.

Adam Oliver Stokes holds degrees in religion from Duke University and Yale Divinity School.  He currently teaches Old Testament at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and classical languages at STEMCivics Charter School in Ewing, New Jersey.  He is the author of Perspectives on the Old Testament and Essentials in Classical Literature and he has contributed reviews and articles to the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, BYU Studies Quarterly, Classical Outlook, and Ancient American magazine.  He currently lives in Beverly, New Jersey with his wife and two sons.

Matthew D. Taylor is the Protestant Scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, where he works on facilitating interreligious dialogue and interfaith learning. He earned his Ph.D. in Theology and Religious Studies from Georgetown University in 2017. He also holds an MA in Christian Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and a BA in English and Religious Studies from the University of California, Irvine. He specializes in American Protestantism and Islam, and his research currently focuses on the identities and relationships that communities of American Protestants and Muslims form around their respective scriptures.

Mark Thomas is the former Editor of Scriptural Studies at Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and has written extensively in scriptures as literature. He is currently writing a book sponsored by GTU on Mormon readings of Isaiah with Marvin Sweeney (Claremont), and Cory Crawford (Ohio University).

Shawn Tucker is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina. His scholarly interests include pride and humility, the virtues and vices in the arts, and Humanities pedagogy. He has published two books, The Virtues and Vices in the Arts and Pride and Humility: A New Interdisciplinary Analysis as well as articles in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, BYU Studies Quarterly, and Interdisciplinary Humanities.

Glenn Webb directs the Percussion Ensemble and Jazz Band at Dixie State University. He was the Founding Chair of the Music Department. He is an endorsed artist for SABIAN cymbals. Webb is the leading New Music percussionist in the Intermountain region. He is the percussionist and Co-Artistic Director of Grand Circle New Music. He also co-founded and is Artistic Director for the St George Jazz Festival. He is the house drummer/percussionist at Tuacahn performing for 2,000 patrons six shows a week. He is the former principal percussionist with Ballet West.

Jenny Webb lives in Woodinville, Washington, where she works as an academic editor in the fields of comparative literature and religion. Her work has appeared in journals including The Comparatist, Recherche Littéraire, Scandinavian Studies, Dialogue, and The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, as well as in the volumes Perspectives on Mormon Theology, An Experiment on the Word, Christ and Antichrist, and Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah, which she co-edited along with Joseph M. Spencer. She is a past president for Mormon Scholars in the Humanities and also serves on the Executive Board for the Mormon Theology Seminar.

Bruce Young is co-producer, along with his wife, Margaret Blair Young, of the film Heart of Africa. Bruce has taught in BYU’s English Department since 1983. His interests include Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, world literature, C. S. Lewis, and Emmanuel Levinas. In 2009, he published Family Life in the Age of Shakespeare and is now at work on a book titled Shakespeare’s Dramas of Atonement. Margaret is an award-winning writer (five novels and two short story collections) and film and documentary maker. In connection with her humanitarian organization Congo Rising, she travels periodically to the DR-Congo.

Potential Activity

For those who will be at or live near the 2018 conference, we just wanted to let you know about a potential local activity you may be interested in: on Saturday, March 24th, Dry Bar Comedy (a local comedy club) will be holding a show by Bryan Cork and Danny Villalpando at 6:30 pm and again at 9:00 pm. Complete details are on their website.

2018 Preliminary Program now available

The preliminary program for the 2018 conference is now available here.

If you are presenting and need to update any information, please contact us via email at president@mormonscholars.net before March 14th. 

Call for Papers—MSH 2018: Humor

Link to Submission Portal: https://goo.gl/forms/X11XJt10oA9CsYD42

Downloadable PDF of the CFP available here: 2018 MSH CFP


Full text of the CFP below:


Call for papers: The Annual Meeting of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

March 23–24, 2018

Brigham Young University, Provo

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities invites proposals for its 2018 annual conference. The conference topic this year is humor, and papers or panels organized around the theme are encouraged. However, as always, we invite papers on other topics, including those that reflect one’s current professional research interests in the humanities.

Mormons have a sometimes difficult relationship with humor and especially its outcome: laughter. In Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s final conference address, “Come What May, and Love It,” he encouraged Mormons to learn to use humor. He told a number of humorous stories to highlight its value and usefulness. People laughed, loudly. This reaction highlights the possible conflict: while we encourage humor, Mormon scriptures prohibit loud laughter. This example is just one conflict surrounding humor that potentially troubles a people of paradox. Mormons have been the butt of satirical writing, jokes, and television, as well as a famous musical. Mormons have also produced a wide variety of humor in their history. The conference encourages participants to reflect on the ways humor and related topics like laughter and the comic are configured in humanities disciplines and consider how those configurations speak to contemporary Mormon culture.

Potential topics include:

• What is the role and place of humor, and how might it be associated with related topics such as folly, parody, gallows humor, wit, irony, spoof, travesty, tricksters, jesters, and clowns?

• How do Mormon approaches to humor compare with those of other cultures and traditions?

• What is the relationship and nature of satire about and/or by Mormons?

• What theological possibilities are there in the combination of humor and Mormonism?

• What is the relationship between laughter, gender, power, sexuality, and identity? Who gets to make others laugh, who gets to laugh, and why?

We invite 250–350 word abstracts for papers, as well as proposals for organized panels. Abstracts and proposals are due January 5, 2018; acceptance notices will be sent out by February 5, 2018. Submissions are made using an online portal (link below); a link to the portal is also available at www.mormonscholars.net.

All presenters are required to register for the conference, but they are not required to be members of the LDS church. MSH welcomes submissions by independent scholars and graduate students. Graduate students wishing to be considered for a Graduate Student Travel Fund award should indicate so when making their submission.

Submission Portal: https://goo.gl/forms/X11XJt10oA9CsYD42

Deadline: January 5, 2018





MSH 2017 Preliminary Program

 Thursday, May 25

There are several events taking place prior to the actual start of the conference for those who would like to participate.

  • MSH Affiliated Seminar on “Mormonism as Sound and Medium”
    12–5 pm, Harvard University, room TBA
    Organizers: Sharon Harris and Peter McMurrayPlease join us for this seminar as we explore theoretical frameworks and Mormon texts and objects with an eye toward sketching out further directions for sound and media studies of Mormonism. We will enjoy a keynote address by John Durham Peters over a provided lunch and then launch our seminar discussions.

    Readings include works from Roland Barthes, Mladen Dollar, Friedrich Kittler, Peter McMurray, Steven O’Connor, and John Durham Peters as well as Mormon scripture, hymns, and historical anecdotes. Participants should bring one written page to share with the seminar that puts an object, text, or moment of Mormonism in dialogue with the readings.

    Registration is necessary for the catering order, and space may be limited. Please register by May 1 by emailing Peter McMurray {mcmurray@fas.harvard.edu} or Sharon Harris {sharris29@fordham.edu}.

  • MSH evening museum outing organized by Jenny Champoux and Shawn Tucker

    meet at Basho Sushi, walk to MFA after
    7:00 meet at MFA: 45-60 minute tour of collection highlights by Jenny Champoux
    9:00 leave MFA on T for Mike’s Pastry

    9:30 meet at Mike’s Pastry in North End for fabulous Italian desserts

    If you would like to participate, please contact Jenny Champoux {jennychampoux@gmail.com} and Shawn Tucker {stucker@elon.edu} and let them know!

Friday, May 26

8:30–9:00      Registration (CAS B20)

9:00–10:15    Welcome and opening keynote by Terryl L. Givens (University of Richmond)

10:15–10:30   Break

10:30–12:00  Session

Knowing Mormonism Through Sound (CAS B20)
Chair: Sharon Harris (Fordham University)
“(When) Is Revelation Audible? Scripture, Dictation and Voice in Early Mormonism” • Peter McMurray (Harvard University)
“God in Stereo: The Sale Lake Tabernacle and Harvey Fletcher’s Telephonic Symphony” • Amanda Beardsley (Binghamton University)
“American Musical Theater and Mormon Integration” • Jake Johnson (UCLA)

12:00–2:00    Lunch

2:00–3:30     Concurrent Sessions

A: Book of Mormon I (CAS B20)
Sponsored by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Chair: James Egan (Independent Scholar)
“Wise Historians of the Book of Mormon” • Rosemary Demos (Hunter College)
“Wise Purposes” • Karen Spencer (Independent Scholar)
“What Can I Say More? Wisdom in the Book of Mormon” • Catherine Nielsen (Brigham Young University)

B: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (CAS B25B)
Chair: Adam Miller (Collin College)
“The Pathos of Elena Ferrante and Lila Cerullo: Parallel Fates of ‘Difficult Women'” • Shayla Whipple Frandsen (Independent Scholar)
“Personal Freedom in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels” • Rachel Frandsen Jardine (Independent Scholar)
“Elena Ferrante and the Matter of Difference” • Rosalynde Welch (Independent Scholar)

3:30–3:45      Break

3:45–5:15      Concurrent Sessions

A. Literature and Wisdom I (CAS B20)
Sponsored by the BYU College of Humanities
Chair: Shawn Tucker (Elon University)
“The (Un)Wisdom of Literature” • David Paxman (Brigham Young University)
“What Wisdom is Buried in Domestic Fiction?” • Lee Ann Westman (Rutgers University)
“How ‘Seek Ye Out of the Best Books Words of Wisdom’?” • Bruce Jorgensen (Brigham Young University)

B. What is Wisdom? (CAS B25B)
Chair: Sarah Moore (Independent Scholar)
“Wisdom from Above” • Zachary Davis (Harvard Divinity School)
“Against Common Sense: Wisdom as Historical and Cultural Subversion” • Conner Bassett (University of California Santa Cruz)
“Hypomene and the LDS Word of Wisdom” • Adam Oliver Stokes (Saint Joseph’s University)

6:00–8:00      Banquet and Anniversary Roundtable (18th floor, 10 Buick Street)

“What Part Mormon? What Part Scholarship? What Part Humanities? Reflections on the First Ten Years”
Sponsored by the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding
Participants: David Gore (University of Minnesota Duluth), George Handley (Brigham Young University), David Paxman (Brigham Young University), Jenny Webb (Independent Scholar), Rosalynde Welch (Independent Scholar)


Saturday, May 27

8:00–9:15      Business Meeting (CAS B20)

9:15–9:30      Break

9:30–10:00    Poetry Reading (CAS B20): “Wisdom for the Dead and Dying” • Jonathon Penny (Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai), Chair: Robert Couch (Earlham College)

10:00–10:15  Break

10:15–12:00   Concurrent Sessions

A. Modes of Wisdom (CAS B20)
Chair: David Paxman (Brigham Young University)
“Seer Stones and Small Means: The Scandalous Wisdom of the Book of Mormon’s Shameful Origins” • James Egan (Independent Scholar)
“Elected Wisdom” • Redge Bendheim (Claremont Graduate University)
“Toward a Mormon Theology of Teaching and Learning” • Shawn Tucker (Elon University)

B. Literature and Wisdom II (CAS B25B)
Sponsored by the BYU College of Humanities
Chair: Bruce Jorgensen (Brigham Young University)
“Decomposing Flesh and the Wisdom of Bodies” • Sarah Moore (Independent Scholar)
“The Wisdom of Weeping Gods in Middle Earth and Mormonism” • Jacob Rennaker (John A. Widstoe Foundation)

12:00–2:00    Lunch

2:00–3:30     Concurrent Sessions

A. Book of Mormon II (CAS B20)
Sponsored by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Chair: Joseph Spencer (Brigham Young University)
“Corianton’s Distorted Desire: The Plan of Restoration and Happiness” • Robert Couch (Earlham College)
“Ether and Material Narrative” • Jenny Webb (Independent Scholar)
“‘We Could Write But Little’: Faith and Fragment in Ether 12” • Kimberly Berkey (Harvard Divinity School)

B. Women and Wisdom (CAS B25B)
Chair: Rosalynde Welch (Independent Scholar)
“Wise or Foolish: Women in Mormon Biblical Narrative Art” • Jenny Champoux (Northeastern University/Colorado Community Colleges)
“Mormonism/Womanism: Determining the Position of the African Woman” • Okafor Amaechi Henry (University of Ibadan)
“The Divine Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 1–9” • Alyson Von Feldt (Independent Scholar)

3:30–3:45      Break

3:45–5:15      Session

Theory and Wisdom (CAS B20)
Chair: George Handley (Brigham Young University)
“The Rule of Wisdom” • David Gore (University of Minnesota Duluth)
“Beyond a Form of Godliness to the Power Thereof: Mormon Literature as Christo-Fiction” • Adam S. Miller (Collin College)
“Shame’s Wisdom: Notes on Stewardship” • Joseph M. Spencer (Brigham Young University)



Call For Papers

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

May 26–27, 2017

Boston University

Boston, Massachusetts

Theme: Wisdom

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities invites proposals for its 2017 annual conference. The conference topic this year is Wisdom, and papers or panels organized around the theme are encouraged. However, as always, we invite papers on other topics, including those that reflect one’s current professional research interests in the humanities.

Mormons have a long history associated with various conceptions of wisdom. Both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants each contain more references to wisdom than the New Testament, and together they provide Mormons with a strong scriptural tradition that promotes wisdom as a positive virtue. And beyond these textual examples, Mormons practice and observance of the Word of Wisdom promotes connections between embodiment and knowledge via wisdom. We encourage participants to reflect on the ways wisdom is configured in their own disciplines—the humanities also has a rich tradition of engagement with wisdom—and consider how those configurations speak to contemporary Mormon practice.

Potential topics include:

What is the relationship between texts and wisdom within Mormonism?

How do Mormon conceptions of wisdom relate to other wisdom traditions?

In what ways are wisdom and the economic figurally linked in Mormonism?

What role does wisdom literature play within Mormonism, and how does Mormonism theologically or doctrinally engage with these texts?

How is wisdom aesthetically conceptualized and depicted within the Mormon tradition?

How does the Word of Wisdom affect Mormonism’s theological understanding of wisdom, its practice, and its cultivation?

What is the relationship between wisdom and gender in Mormonism, and how should we evaluate that relationship?

We invite 250–350 word abstracts for papers, as well as proposals for organized panels. Abstracts and proposals are due January 5, 2017; acceptance notices will be sent out by February 1, 2017.

Please send submissions either as an email or as a MS Word attachment to MSH President Jenny Webb at president@mormonscholars.net. Please include the author’s full name, affiliation, contact information, paper title, and abstract word count.

All presenters are required to register for the conference, but they are not required to members of the LDS church. MSH welcomes submissions by independent scholars and graduate students. Graduate students wishing to be considered for a Graduate Student Travel Fund award should indicate their student status with their submission.

Send all materials to: president@mormonscholars.net

Deadline: January 5, 2017