Notes from BYU Religious Education

The Fall 2009 issue of BYU Religious Education Review hit my mailbox recently, and I thought I would point to some stories of interest.

The Review opens by talking about RE profs who also teach elsewhere on campus. There is a nice picture of Roger Minert teaching archaic German handwriting, which sounds like a really fun class to me. There’s also a shot of Eric Huntsman, who teaches in four different disciplines (RE, Honors, Classics and ANES). I got to know Eric at the Mormon Theology Seminar in Austin a few weeks ago, and he is a really terrific guy in addition to being a fine scholar. We went for lunch one day at a Thai place, and Eric had served a mission to Thailand, so he ordered and then spoke to the owner in Thai. They were amazed to have this whitebread guy speaking to them in their native language. Anyway, I think there should be more of this crosspolinization going on with profs in RE. Teaching too many sections of freshman BoM is enough to make your scholarly skillz grow stale, I’m afraid.

There is a faculty highlight of my friend David Seely, and a nice picture of Dave and his wife Jo Ann. They team teach a world civilizations class together. I think it is so cool that they have been able to work together on so many projects over the years. I have a young friend who is in the ANES program at the Y, and he told me that Dave came to give a guest lecture and talked about careers in ANE, and in the course of that he cited me as an example of someone who studied the ancient world as an undergrad, went on to do other things but has maintained an interest and published in the field. I appreciate his kind words. Dave is just a great, great guy.

There is an article about the newish Ancient Near Eastern Studies (ANES) major, with a focus on Dana Pike, who is in charge of the program. I wish there had been something like that on campus back when I was a student.

Then there is an interesting history of BYU RE itself. The original idea reflected the ideal of BY himself, that everyone on campus should teach relgion classes. While there has always been a lot of that going on, eventually they had to hire specialists in religion, starting in 1930. Ten years later they formalized a Division of Religion, which, as BKP quipped, became all too descriptive a moniker. Two decades later they formed the College of Religious Education, which itself was dissolved in 1973. I get the impression that the ideal is for RE to be like the Levites, to be found among all the tribes of the university, not a separate College. Religious Instruction was renamed Religious Education in 1983.

Then there is a nice little bio of the late Daniel Ludlow by his son Victor and grandson Jared, both themselves RE profs. I never actually met Daniel, but he was very influential. I have on my shelf his first book, Latter-day Prophets Speak!; he was a dean of the College of RE; he led the first study abroad trip to Israel in 1968; he was in charge of Church correlation for a long time, and he was editor of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. I had a chance to talk to him by phone not long before his death in connection with some research I’ve been doing, and I was glad to learn more about his life from this piece.

Then there is a nice interview with Larry Porter on Church historic sites, talking about the early days of studies back east, including describing how they found the site for the Smith family cabin.

There is a Q&A with Roger Keller about the graduate program for training LDS chaplains. Military chaplains have to have so many hours of divinity school study and so LDS candidates used to have to go to non-LDS grad schools to meet this requirement; BYU now has a track for those who want to do this study there.

There is also a section on a number of BYU students who are researching the experiences of LDS in Germany during WWII. Accompanying the article is a picture of the youth of the Tilsit Branch in East Prussia on a wintry Sunday in 1941. They are laughing, having fun, just like you would expect from a group of youth. But the caption tells us that four of those kids would die during the war. I’m very interested in anything WWII, so i’ll look forward with interest to the publication of this research.


  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    “We went for lunch one day at a Thai place, and Eric had served a mission to Thailand, so he ordered and then spoke to the owner in Thai. They were amazed to have this whitebread guy speaking to them in their native language.”

    Yeah, that was fun to watch.

  2. Oh, thanks for finally explaining the acronym. To me, ANES is the American National Election Studies.

    My husband is still fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, and he gets the same kind of looks. I am struggling to learn it so he can go back for another mission later.

  3. Huntsman is a butt-kicker, in a good way.

  4. thanks for providing positive images of RE. so often RE gets associated with embarrassment, debacle, and similar terms. While strawman caricatures are fun and convenient, they are almost certainly not accurate for all.