The Mormon Theology Seminar is an independent, scholarly forum committed to organizing short-term, seminar-style collaborations that consider specific questions about Mormon theology through close readings of foundational Mormon texts. As a part of this work, the Seminar also publicly archives the findings of these study groups.
The Seminar’s primary aim is to create a common space where theological work can be undertaken in a way that is both concentrated and collaborative.
In this way, the Seminar means to avoid two difficulties that traditionally plague such scholarly work. On the one hand, focused theological work is typically an individual affair and the spaces that customarily support this work tend to reinforce isolation and idiosyncrasy. For instance, the writing of conference papers and journal articles tends to be relatively private work that only briefly flares in the common space of a presentation or publication. On the other hand, common spaces typically conducive to spirited discussion and collaboration generally tend to preclude focused and sustained concentration. Exchanges on blogs and discussion lists, for example, while often invigorating and instructive, consistently lack focus and resolution. In short, collaboration tends to diffuse concentration, and vice versa.
In order to address the apparent difficulty of coupling collaboration and concentration, the Seminar organizes small, temporary study groups (seminars) designed to facilitate collaborative engagement in focused readings of primary Mormon texts.
These seminars are organized along the following lines:
(1) Each seminar consists of 4-6 people, preferably including both men and women, and preferably with a variety of backgrounds.
(2) Each seminar collaborates for a period of only 3-4 months.
(3) Each seminar is organized around the reading of a small selection from a Mormon text (typically less than 20 pages). An agreed upon reading schedule paces the work over the span of several months.
(4) Prior to the work of reading itself, seminar participants formulate a small, provisional set (2–4) of key questions in order to bring focus to possibleavenues for future discussion and aid them in formulating concise summaries of their findings. These questions should be freely modified, extended, or replaced as the seminar proceeds.
(5) Members of the seminar take turns leading weekly discussions that address that week’s reading assignment in view of the seminar’s key questions. In light of the discussion, possible answers are then tentatively framed in the discussion leader’s summary of that week’s work.
(6) At the conclusion of the seminar, the participants co-author a concise report (typically less than 5000 words) that summarizes their provisional findings. In addition to the joint report, participants may also compose individual papers prompted by their work in the seminar.
(7) Reports and individual papers are then indexed for easy reference and publicly archived.
In this way, the Seminar proposes to combine the strength of collaborative work with the concentration of focused effort. Moreover, it aims to archive and summarize the reported work of completed seminars in a way that will promote a sense of cumulative progress in the field of Mormon theology.
Presently, the Seminar is commissioning the organization of study groups. However, in the future, open applications will be welcomed and then screened by peer review.
Additionally, the Seminar plans to facilitate, where appropriate, the presentation of reported findings in both conference venues and book publications.
In order the support the work of its various temporary study groups, the Seminar is jointly managed by a director and six-person executive board. Positions are filled by appointment. Terms of service are flexible and determined by mutual agreement. Similarly, decisions about seminar topics, publications, future organization, and the Seminar’s own stated mission are determined by mutual agreement.