MSH 2008: Interpretation: Latter-day Saint Perspectives
Southern Virginia University
May 16–17, 2008



“Interpretation: LDS Perspectives”
Sponsored by Mormon Scholars in the Humanities and Mormon Scholars Foundation
May 16-17, 2008
Southern Virginia University

As a continuation of the Faith and Knowledge series inaugurated by the Religious Studies workshop for LDS graduate students at Yale University in February 2007 and a follow-up to the inaugural Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference in March, 2007, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities and Mormon Scholars Foundation are collaborating on a conference to take place on May 16-17 of 2008 on the campus of Southern Virginia University. The conference theme is “Interpretation: LDS Perspectives.”

The conference welcomes papers from all disciplines in the humanities, including literature, religion, philosophy, history, and the arts, that reflect on interpretation within the Mormon tradition or within other traditions. We seek to address such questions as: What are the grounds for Mormon interpretation? Are there reasons to argue against a “Mormon” interpretation? Is it possible to extract interpretive guidelines for understanding the world from our theology, our history, or our way of life? Or is it best to borrow and adapt the perspectives of secular culture and not strive for anything distinctive? What are the particular dimensions and implications of interpretation laid out in the restored scriptures? How is interpretation of history and of literature distinct from the interpretation of sacred books? How do they influence one another? What is the relationship between
interpretation and religious, academic, or political authority? What difference does a restoration theology make to our acts of
interpretation? What lessons can be learned from the various
traditions we study in the humanities and how might the Mormon
tradition benefit from those traditions? What is the relevance, for
example, of literary theory? How is interpretation of music and art
and of foreign languages relevant to the restoration of all things? In acts of interpretation, what are the distinct roles played by
inspiration, historical context, personality, and the text in
question? What is the religious, ethical, or secular value of a
self-conscious understanding of this process?

The conference will also hold a special workshop on “Making Graduate School Spiritually, Academically, and Professionally Successful.” The aim of this workshop will be to facilitate conversation between senior and junior level scholars about their graduate school experiences.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 200 words and an abbreviated CV to George Handley at by December 15, 2007.

Southern Virginia University will provide subsidized housing and food. For those without sufficient travel funds of their own, modest stipends will also be provided. All participants must be members of MSH at the time of the symposium. Membership information is available at



PDF program available here: MSH2008Program.


Friday, May 16
9:00 a.m. Informal Gathering in the Main Hall Ballroom

9:30 a.m. Welcome by Rodney K. Smith, President of Southern Virginia University, and George Handley, President of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Chair: Rodney K. Smith, Southern Virginia University
Nathan Oman, College of William and Mary, “‘The Living Oracles’ : Legal Interpretation and Mormon Thought”
Jeremiah John, Southern Virginia University, “Interpretation and Political Theology: A Mormon Reading of John Paul II’ s Evangelium Vitae  and Laborem Exercens”
James Holt, Parrs Wood High School & University of Chester, “Fostering or Failing Faith? Interpreting Latter- day Saint Theology in the Context of Christian Theology”

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:30–3:30 p.m.

Chair: James Faulconer, Brigham Young University
Joseph Spencer, San Jose State University, “Thinking the Mormon Hermeneutical Situation: Four Mormon Discourses and the Place of a Uniquely Mormon Hermeneutics”
Alan Goff , DeVry University, “A Mormon Hermeneutic of Proximity and of Narrative”
Bruce Jorgensen, Brigham Young University, “Could We Have a Mormon Hermeneutics, and Would It Be a Good Thing If We Did?”

Chair: Terryl Givens, University of Richmond
Chad McLane, Brigham Young University— Idaho, “Emerson in Gilgal Garden: An LDS Appropriation of ‘ The Sphinx’”
Rosalynde Welch, Independent Scholar, “Attend the Tale: Toward an Art- Centered Aesthetics”
Candice Wendt, Brigham Young University, “Reading ‘The Book of Nature’ : An LDS, Ecocritical Perspective of Marriage, Nature, and Interpretation in Shakespeare’ s As You Like It”

4:00–6:00 p.m.

Chair: Jennifer Connerley, James Madison University
Ann Marie McDonald, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, “Giggles in Sacrament Meeting: Laughter and Reformative Satire in Mormon Culture”
Melanie Steimle, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, “Dinner on the Median: The Historical Location of Creative Dating in Mormon Folk Tradition”
Richard Oman, Museum of Church History and Art, “Mormon Pioneer Furniture: An Example of Using Context and Content, Rather Than Style, in Defining Mormon Art”

Chair: Randall Cluff , Southern Virginia University
Neal Kramer, Brigham Young University, “Orson F. Whitney’ s Musings on a Mormon Theory of Literary Interpretation”
Genevieve Oliver, Indiana University, “The Religious Reader in the Secular World: Mormon Interpretation and the Literary Significance of Faith”
Shawn Bennion, Purdue University, “The Mormon Renaissance”

6:30 p.m. Dinner ( Ballroom)

7:30 p.m. Plenary Session, “Belief and Interpretation”
George Handley, MSH President
James Faulconer, Brigham Young University
Terryl Givens, University of Richmond

Saturday, May 17

10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Chair: Paul Edwards, Southern Virginia University
George Handley, Brigham Young University, “Interpretation as Continuing Revelation in The Book of Mormon”
Benjamin Spackman, Independent Scholar, “The Contributions of the Book of Mormon to an LDS Hermeneutic of the Old Testament”
Stanley Thayne, Brigham Young University, “The Sacred Literature Conundrum: Situating the Book of Mormon in the Academy”

Chair: Kary Smout, Washington and Lee University
Ronald Bartholomew, Brigham Young University, “Babylon and Zion: Buckinghamshire and the Mormons in the Nineteenth Century”
Zachary Hutchins, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The Mote and the Beam: Applying Christ’ s Parable to Critical Paradigms and Poe’s Stories”
David Paxman, Brigham Young University, “The Family in the 18th  Century British Novel: An LDS Interpretation, or a Rhetoric Thereof”

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m.

Chair: Scott Dransfi eld, Southern Virginia University
Samuel Brown, University of Utah, “Interpretation and the Truth in Brackets”
Benjamin Park, Brigham Young University, “Losing a Generation: LDS Interpretations of Lost Generation Literature”
Jonathon Penny, United Arab Emirates University, “Mis( sed) readings? Critical Mormonism as Aperture and Aporia”

Chair: T.R. Porter, Southern Virginia University
Jan- Erik Jones, Southern Virginia University, “LDS Interpretation of Omnipotence and Omniscience”
Mark Olsen, Central Connecticut State University, “Interpreting the Implications of Mormon Materialism for the Soul”
Blake Ostler, Independent Scholar, “Interpretive Tradition Rather than Doctrine in the Mormon Tradition”

4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Chair: David Paxman, Brigham Young University
Sheila Taylor, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, “How Might a Mormon Read Julian of Norwich? LDS Interpretation of Non- LDS Religious Texts”
Jenny Rebecca Rytting, Northwest Missouri State University, “Visionary Writing in an Age of Apostasy”
Daniel Muhlestein, Brigham Young University, “The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint  and the Limits of Mormon Literature”

Chair: Francis MacDonnell, Southern Virginia University
John Armstrong, Southern Virginia University, “Happiness as the End of Our Existence”
Benjamin Huff , Randolph- Macon College, “Interpreting the Veil: Two Models of Mortality”
Adam Miller, Collin College, “A Hermeneutics of Weakness”



Article at Deseret News