by Jeffrey Bradshaw
Beginning in the 1970s, a few scholars, most notably Hugh W. Nibley, began to point to evidence relating to the ancient context of the Book of Moses. However, over-enthusiastic scholars (admittedly, at times, including myself) have not always been careful in their research and sometimes have gone farther in their claims than the evidence warrants. As a result, some of the early enthusiasm for comparative studies has waned and, paralleling the course of biblical studies, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme where comparisons of scripture to the ancient world became less common.
Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. We hope that the presentations at the conference will reflect the still increasing maturity of the field, relying on more well-defined methodologies designed to better assure the reliability of their results — avoiding the extremes of both parallelomania and parallelophobia. In addition to more well-defined methodologies, recent research has also benefitted from new discoveries and better understandings of the manuscripts and other material remains of the cultures and religious traditions of the ancient Near East.
The conference is based on the premise that significant patterns of resemblance to ancient manuscripts not available during the lifetime of Joseph Smith and of unexpected conformance to conditions imposed by an archaic setting are potential indicators of antiquity that are best explained when the essential element of divine revelation is acknowledged.
The conference will take place on the evening of Friday, September 18 and the day of September 19. The Friday night keynote will be given by Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Sister Marie K. Hafen. They will set the tone for the remainder of the program through their affirmation of the antiquity of the Book of Moses and their insights as former president and matron of the St. George Utah temple on how the story of Adam and Eve is inseparably connected with the Atonement of Jesus Christ within modern temple ordinances.
On Saturday, a full-day program of new research will follow. The program will include:
- A launch announcement from Pearl of Great Price Central (Ryan Dahle);
- A close comparison of the visions of Moses (Moses 1) to an ancient account of Abraham’s “heavenly ascent” (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock);
- The discovery of scriptural passages that indicate the possibility of ancient roots for the Book of Moses in the brass plates (Noel Reynolds and Jeff Lindsay);
- An analysis of the many references to the divine “word” in the Book of Moses that illuminate the antiquity of the Book of Moses (Matthew L. Bowen);
- An exploration of temple and priestly themes in the Book of Moses that are consistent with Moses’ identity as a Levite (John W. Welch and Jackson Abhau);
- A survey of evidence showing that the Book of Moses restores doctrines relating to the Great Plan of Happiness once taught by early Christians were lost when Augustine reshaped Christian theology (Terryl L. Givens);
- An examination of the similarities between the story of Adam and Eve after they left the Garden of Eden (Moses 5:1-15) and texts outside the Bible, suggesting a common background in ritual (David Calabro);
- A comparison of the account of Enoch in Moses 6-7 with Enoch traditions outside of scripture (Jared Ludlow).
The conference is co-sponsored and co-organized by The Interpreter Foundation (myself), BYU Department of Ancient Scripture (David Seely), Book of Mormon Central (John W. Welch), and FairMormon (Scott Gordon). On Friday evening, our session chair will be Daniel C. Peterson, and on Saturday that role will be filled by Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye and Kent P. Jackson.
Due to Covid restrictions, it will be live-streaming only. About 6-8 weeks after the conference, edited recordings of the presentations will be available for viewing. More details are available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2020-book-of-moses-conference/ as well as on the Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon websites.