Recent lectures highlight Elder Maxwell, Book of Mormon

The Maxwell Institute started the year off with two annual lectures—one focusing on the life and example of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the other on the Book of Mormon. A third event was a series of lectures highlighting findings from the ongoing Book of Mormon Critical Text Project.

The 2013 Laura F. Willes Book of Mormon Lecture, "Sealings and Mercies: Moroni’s Final Exhortations in Moroni 10," was delivered by BYU philosophy professor James E. Faulconer. Over the past decade, the Institute has helped Faulconer become better known for his close reading of LDS scripture by publishing his works Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions (FARMS, 1999), Romans 1: Notes and Reflections (FARMS, 1999), and Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Maxwell Institute, 2010). Most recently, Faulconer completed The Life of Holiness: Notes and Reflections on Romans 1, 5–8 (Maxwell Institute, 2012) and The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions (Salt Press, 2013; forthcoming edition from the Maxwell Institute).

In his lecture, Faulconer took a fresh look at Moroni 10, perhaps the most frequently cited chapter in the Book of Mormon. He asserted that the truths found in the Book of Mormon are often "obscured by what we think we already know about the text—standard interpretations that may or may not be the best." Familiarity can obstruct; it becomes "easy to fall into the habit of thinking that we are reading when we are really just repeating to ourselves what we supposedly already know." Faulconer said that by examining the chapter’s structure, the ways Moroni relates his ideas to each other, and the definitions he appears to apply to particular words, readers can uncover "questions that the text asks us to think about." Faulconer concluded that Moroni’s sealing of the ancient record and his final exhortations are tied together through the principles of faith, hope, and charity.

James S. Jardine delivered the 2013 Neal A. Maxwell Lecture, "Elder Neal A. Maxwell: A Disciple’s Light." Jardine is an attorney specializing in business, antitrust, securities, and intellectual property litigation. Among other duties, he chairs the LDS Church’s Salt Lake City Public Affairs Council.

As a former student and lifelong colleague of Elder Maxwell, Jardine illustrated how Elder Maxwell’s church service exemplified the combination of faith and intellect in Christian discipleship. "Those who in the future will read Elder Maxwell’s talks and his thirty books will be . . . deeply impressed by the qualities of his mind," Jardine said. "It is in part due to those intellectual qualities, reflected over the years in his writing and speaking, that this Institute bears his name."

The Institute’s Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies sponsored three lectures by Dr. Royal Skousen entitled "25 Years of Research: What We Have Learned about the Book of Mormon Text." Skousen, a professor of linguistics and English language at BYU, has spent the last quarter century analyzing the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, in addition to the text of subsequent print editions. His analysis has brought attention to a number of scribal and printer’s errors and discrepancies, as well as possible alternative readings. He gave an overview of the project’s origins, the various technologies used in analyzing the manuscripts, and some of the more interesting variant examples that potentially clarify passages of the Book of Mormon. For instance, he proposes that "the pleasing bar of God" in Jacob 6:13 and Moroni 10:34 might better read as "the pleading bar of God," conceptually highlighting the legal aspect of the judgment bar as opposed to an affective feeling about it. He also spoke about more recent attempts to make the Book of Mormon text more visually pleasing and easier to process and appreciate, such as his The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Yale University Press, 2009) and Grant Hardy’s The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2005).

The lectures by Faulconer and Jardine are now available on the Maxwell Institute’s new YouTube channel ( Skousen’s lecture series will be offered there later this summer.