MSH 2013: The Mystical
Brigham Young University
March 15–16, 2013


Conference Theme: The Mystical
Conference Date: March 15-16, 2013
Conference Location: Provo, Utah (BYU)
Proposal Deadline: December 15, 2012

Most religious traditions begin with or develop a mystical tradition—a tradition given to the study and direct encounter with the divine, the ineffable, or the transcendent. Somewhat surprisingly, the theme of the mystical has in recent centuries been as prevalent outside of the religious sphere as inside, suggesting that it may be fundamental to the human experience generally. Mysticism leaves its traces in the arts and cultures studied by the humanities.

We also might ask what role mysticism plays in Mormonism. Is there a mystical tradition per se in Mormonism? Are mystical texts present in Mormon scripture? Are there mystical elements in Mormon ritual practice? Is anything constitutively mystical about the Mormon experience of the divine? What place remains for mysticism in a tradition that conflates the heavenly and the earthly? How might aspects of Mormonism compare with more explicitly mystical traditions? What role does the “secular mystical” play in Mormonism?

We are seeking papers on the mystical, whether in literature and art, or the relationship of mysticism to Mormonism. Some topics that might be considered are:

  • The psychology of mysticism
  • Meditation and mysticism
  • Mysticism and conversion experiences (including secular conversions)
  • Visions and higher states of consciousness
  • Embodiment and out-of-body experiences
  • Divinization/deification
  • Emptying out and Pure Conscious Events
  • Epistemology and the mystic
  • Mysticism and nature
  • Neuroscience and mysticism

We are interested in the work of all scholars (LDS or those whose work touches on Mormonism) whose research and writing engages the humanities, so the topics aren’t limited to those taking up the conference theme.

Submission Guidelines

We encourage scholars in the humanities, arts, history, and social sciences to submit paper proposals or panels. Creative submissions on the theme in story, verse, drama, or performance are also encouraged. Submit your proposal, including a 200-word abstract, through the on-line form at Submission deadline: December 15, 2012.

Submit proposals to

Questions can also be sent to Alan Goff at the email address listed above.



PDF of program available here: 2013 Program.pdf


Friday, 9:00–9:20 Welcome and Orientation, WSC 3215

Friday, 9:30–11:30 Concurrent Sessions

Theosis and Embodiment, WSC 3223
Kirk Caudle, A Divine Destination: How Medieval Mysticism Influenced the Development of Theosis in the Western Tradition
David D. Peck, Who Am I, Lord? Recapturing Pre-mortal Identity and the Quest for Self-knowledge in Sufism
Tyler Andersen, Infallible Proofs: Interpreting the Temple Endowment as Mystical Rhetoric

Mormonism, Literature, and Scripture, WSC 3238
Chair: Bruce Jorgensen
Scott Hales, The Role of the Novel in Post-Utopian Mormonism
David Paxman, The Plan of Salvation: Why the Angels Rebelled
Richard Crosby, Canonical Kairos: Demystifying the Conditions for Creation of  Mormon Scripture

Meditation, Mormonism, and Contemplative Practices, WSC 3252
Chair: Joseph Spencer
Adam Miller, Bored in the Pews: Reading the Sermon on the Mount with David  Foster Wallace
Phil McLemore, The Kingdom of God Is Within … And Few There Be That Find It
Kathryn Soper, Expecto Patronum

Friday, 11:30–1:00 Lunch

Friday, 1:00–2:15 Keynote Address, WSC 3380
David Loy, Nonduality Past and Present

Friday, 2:30–4:30 Concurrent Sessions

Mormonism, Mysticism, and Language, WSC 3223
Chair: Adam Miller
Brad Kramer, “Those With Ears To Hear”: Language about Sacred Language in Mormonism
Jenny Webb, “Ver tu cuerpo”: Embodiment, Suffering, and Salvation
Brock Mason, Mormons, Mystics, and the Other: A Levinasian Account of the Mormon Religious Experience

The Body of God: Mormon and Mystical Ideas about Embodiment, WSC 3238
Chair: Kirk Caudle
Jason Brown, Canticle to the Sacred Grove: An Encounter between Joseph Smith and Saint Francis of Assisi
Rachael Steineckert, The Paradoxical Embodiment of Mother in Heaven
Alan Goff, Emotion and Knowledge: Against the Grain of Modernity’s Prejudice against Feelings

LDS Scripture and Other Sacred Texts, WSC 3252
Chair: John Armstrong
Joseph Spencer, Christ and Krishna: The Visions of Arjuna and the Brother of Jared
John Hilton III, Textual Connections Between Jesus Christ and Nephi
Kelly Sorenson, Moral Persuasion and Parables
Morgan Davis, “Origin and Return” in Mystical Islamic and Reflective Mormon Thought

Friday, 6:00–7:30 Conference Banquet, Skyroom, WSC 6th floor

Saturday, 8:00–9:00 Meditation Practicum for Beginners, HC 105
David Loy, Guided Meditation and Question/Answer

Saturday, 9:30–11:30 Concurrent Sessions

Literature, HC 102
Chair: David Paxman
Linda Ohran Soderquist, I am the Way: A Reading of Jane Eyre
Scott Stenson, Opening a Way into the ‘Thick Shade’ of Paradise Lost
Ned Williams, Hemingway and Mormonism
Bruce Jorgensen, “The Sacred Whispers” in James Salter’s “Akhnilo”

Mystics and Prophets, HC 3rd Floor Assembly Hall
Chair: Jenny Webb
Debra Sowell, Moonlight and Mysticism: Otherworldly Creatures in the Romantic Ballet, 1830–1844
Allen Hansen, A Prophetic Contemporary of Joseph Smith
William Hamblin, The Incoherence of Neomysticism

Bodies, Emotion, Epistemology, and Memory, HC 105
Chair: Alan Goff
Sam Brown, Magic and the Spoken Word
Jacob Baker, “‘Arrayed in silence I gave him nothing’: An Apologue of an Encounter with the Almighty God”
Gary Ettari, The Finger of the Lord: The Brother of Jared and Embodied Mysticism in the Book of Ether
John Armstrong, The Revelations of Socrates

Saturday, 11:30–12:45 Lunch and Business Meeting, HC Assembly Room, Ground Floor

Saturday, 1:00–2:15 Keynote Address, HC 105
Elliot Wolfson, The Path Beyond the Path: Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest for Universal Singularity

Saturday, 2:30–4:30 Plenary Session, HC 105
Jad Hatem Panel, Putting Off Heaven: The Three Nephites, the Mahdi, and the Bodhisattva
Joseph Spencer, Brad Kramer, Alan Hurst, and Morgan Davis



Post “2013 Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference” at A Motley Vision

Post “Some Reflections on the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference” at A Motley Vision

Post “Infallible Proofs: Interpreting the Temple Endowment as Mystical Rhetoric” at Worlds Without End

Post at The Low-Tech World




Armstrong John-Socrates and Revelation Slides

Brown Jason–The Body of God-Canticle to the Forest–MSH 2013

Goff Alan Emotions and Rationality, MSH 2013

Hales Scott–Role of the Novel in Post-Utopian Mormonism- MSH 2013

Hamblin William–Incoherence-of-Neomysticism–MSH 2013

Hansen Allen–A Prophetic Contemporary of Joseph Smith–MSH 2013

Jorgensen Bruce–Sacred Whispers in Salters Akhnilo (Note: This paper was reworked and published as “‘Awakened’ by ‘the Sacred Whispers’ in James Salter’s ‘Akhnilo.'” In Carol M. Bensick, ed., A Passion for Getting It Right: Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching. New York: Peter Lang, 2016. 299-329.)

Loy David–Notes Nonduality Past and Present–MSH 2013

Miller Adam–Boredom–MSH 2013

Soper Kathryn–Expecto Patronum–MSH 2013

Spencer Joseph–Christ and Krishna–MSH 2013

Steinekert Rachael–Paradoxical Embodiment of Mother in Heaven2

Stenson Scott–Opening a Way into the Thick Shade of Paradise Lost

Webb Jenny–Handout

Webb Jenny–Ver tu cuerpo–MSH 2013

Williams Ned–Hemingway and Mormonism-2–MSH 2013



Conference poster: