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Bio: Dr. Taylor Halverson received a B.A. from Brigham Young University in Ancient Near Eastern Studies in 1997, an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Yale University in 2001 and an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Indiana University in 2004. He completed Ph.D.s in Instructional Technology and Judaism & Christianity in Antiquity—both from Indiana University in 2006.
Dr. Halverson currently works at BYU full-time at the Center for Teaching and Learning. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Creativity, Innovation, and Design group, acting associate director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and has taught a variety of courses at BYU including: “Old Testament,” “Book of Mormon,” “History of Creativity,” “Innovation Lab: The Design Thinking Experience,” and “Illuminating the Scriptures: Designing Innovative Scripture Study Tools.” Dr. Halverson is a contributor to the popular LDS Bible Videos project and the LDS Scripture Citation Index site and a columnist for the Deseret News. He and his wife Lisa lead travel tours to Israel, the Mediterranean, and Mesoamerica.
Questions addressed in the interview:
In preparation for this interview I went to TaylorHalverson.com, and in reading over the many things you are involved in, various chair positions at BYU, a tour guide for LDS themed travel, writer of multiple text books, articles for various publications and media outlets, this may seem like a judgmental question, and it is not meant to be, but where do you find to study the scriptures, and give time to your own personal faith development?
You are multi-lingual, Spanish, Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and a slew of others considered secondary languages. How has learning and knowing multiple languages changed your approach to learning the scriptures?
The article you wrote for the Deseret News, addresses a challenge or at least a shift in approach that we have seen with the world at large, and that is an evidence first approach. Disbelieve until proven logically true. At first, it seems like this is a prudent approach, but you call it difficult if not outright outlandish. Could you expound on that conclusion?
This relates to an exchange you had while attending Yale as follows:
Yale student: Where is the original Book of Mormon today? Where are the gold plates?
Taylor: They are gone.
Yale student: What do you mean that the original plates are gone?
Taylor: When Joseph Smith completed the translation of the gold plates into the Book of Mormon, he returned the plates to the angel Moroni. So we no longer have access to them. All that remains is Joseph Smith’s translation of the plates.
Yale student: I mean no disrespect, but this sounds both incredible and convenient for the story of the Book of Mormon. (Remember that the word “incredible” means unbelievable.) We have no way of source checking Joseph Smith’s story because the plates he claims to have worked with are no longer available. How can anyone even believe Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon?
Taylor: Great questions. I have several questions for you.
Yale student: Sure.
Taylor: Are you a Christian?
Yale student: Yes.
Taylor: Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Yale student: Of course. That is the fundamental foundation of Christianity! Without the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ there is nothing for Christianity.
Taylor: OK, then show me Jesus’ body.
Yale student: (Pausing to think with dawning comprehension) Oh, I see.
Taylor: What is more implausible: That someone claims to have translated a book and now the original book is missing, or that a physically dead body is now alive again? Just as Christians throughout the centuries have exercised faith in the claim that Jesus Christ died and rose again, so too members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exercise faith in that original claim as well as in the claim that God has brought forth additional scriptural witnesses, such as the Book of Mormon, for the life and mission of Jesus Christ
Sometimes people find themselves in a faith crisis, not simply a position of unknowing something, but that they feel they know something that has caused some cognitive dissonance. How does faith apply to someone in this intellectually conflicted position?
The article title asserts that faith must come first, that it is a matter of approaching spiritual matters with faith first. What tends to be the end result if faith comes second, or third or somewhere down the line?
This idea that we wait to act till we have knowledge is the opposite of what you inject at the end of your article, “As we act in faith, our knowledge increases and our views enlarge.” What sorts of things can we ONLY learn through faith as opposed to traditional empirical learning models?
Taylor Halverson is the author of the article In the Gospel, Faith Must Come First published by the Deseret News.