Scholars & Saints

Latter-day Saint Biblical Studies (feat. Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey)

August 12, 2023 Stephen Betts Episode 40
Latter-day Saint Biblical Studies (feat. Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey)
Scholars & Saints
More Info
Scholars & Saints
Latter-day Saint Biblical Studies (feat. Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey)
Aug 12, 2023 Episode 40
Stephen Betts

Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey join me to discuss The Bible and the Latter-day Saint Tradition (Utah, 2023) and the opportunities and challenges of Latter-day Saint biblical studies in the 21st century. 

Show Notes Transcript

Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey join me to discuss The Bible and the Latter-day Saint Tradition (Utah, 2023) and the opportunities and challenges of Latter-day Saint biblical studies in the 21st century. 

Scholars & Saints – Ep. 040 – “Latter-day Saint Biblical Studies” (feat. Cory Crawford & Taylor Petrey)


Stephen Betts: [I’m] joined today by Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey to chat about the book they recently edited with Eric Eliason called The Bible and the Latter-day Saint Tradition published by the University of Utah Press. Cory Crawford is associate professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at Ohio University.

His published work centers on the intersections of text, space, and visual culture in the Hebrew Bible and in the ancient Near East more broadly. He's also published on gender and history in the Bible and Mormonism. From 2008 to 2010 he was visiting assistant professor in history at Brigham Young University. And in 2014 and 2015, he held a Volkswagen Foundation fellowship in biblical archeology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Taylor Petrey is professor of religion at Kalamazoo College. He is the author of Resurrecting Parts: Early Christians on Desire, Reproduction, and Sexual Difference, and Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism. He is the current editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought

Cory, Taylor, thanks for being here today. 

Taylor Petrey: Glad to be here. 

Cory Crawford: Thanks for having us. 

SB: So, I want to hear about the background of this book. We've seen a lot of publications about translation and Joseph Smith and the Bible recently. This is something different. This is focused on the subfield of Latter-day Saint biblical studies. What's the background of this book? What got you guys together? 

CC: Well, I'll just, I guess, start and say that this book was originally Taylor's idea. Taylor and I, we go way back. We've been talking about things like this since our [Latter-day Saint] mission days, actually, in Italy. And Taylor approached me and said, “Hey, what do you think about editing a book in the handbook genre on the Bible in Mormonism. And I, of course, thought it was a great idea. And so, Taylor pulled it all together. And then we reached out to Eric Eliason as well. And it's been a long time. It's been sort of, you know, something that people have stuck with since, I don't know, 2016, 2017, and we're really, really happy to see it finally make its appearance in the public world.

TP: Yeah, I'll just add Cory and I are two of one another's oldest friends at this point and have been having conversations about this for a long time. Not only were we missionaries together—we were never companions, but we were in the same area, and we knew each other well and had a lot of great conversations back then. But then we both ended up at graduate school at Harvard together. And Cory was studying Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, and I was doing New Testament and early Christianity.

We were in joint programs and had, again, a lot of further conversations. Our kids were born, you know, around the same time, and we have just been really, really close friends. And this has been kind of one of our dreams, I think, for a long time to sort of make our generation’s mark on this question.

We, of course, are not the only LDS biblical scholars. There were a bunch of others that were kind of coming up, or a few that were a little bit ahead of us. And some a little bit behind us, but we really sort of saw ourselves as part of a new generation of Latter-day Saint biblical scholars and people who wanted to advance the field in ways that I think were sort of happening around the margins.

And there are some great articles there are, you know, 1 or 2 books that are kind of making some gestures along these ways. I think it shows up in people's classroom teachings in some cases. But there wasn't really a sort of single book that brought all of this conversation together, at least hadn't, at least not in the last 30 years. So, we wanted to sort of advance that conversation. And like I say, sort of make our mark and not just our own, but really invite a broad range of scholars who are working on these kinds of questions to the table to update the field as it were. 

SB: Yeah. So, to me, one of the things that sets this apart is that it's not centered in a Brigham Young University, Utah kind of environment, although there are a number of contributors from Brigham Young University and Utah universities, but I want to hear more about what this this generation you're talking about and the kinds of themes that you're talking about in the book. 

TP: I would say that there were kind of a number of different waves or schools of thought among LDS biblical scholars that have happened over the last several hundred years. And the Latter-day Saint tradition is an interesting one for its relationship to the Bible and its relationship to biblical studies as an academic discipline. In part because the church is sort of born in the context of a real critical reevaluation of the Bible in American culture in general, in Christianity in general, and there's a way in which the Latter-day Saint tradition is sort of both absorbing those conversations, responding to those conversations, developing its own kind of unique answers to some of the problems that are raised there, and the sort of legacy of that push and pull between LDS tradition and biblical scholarship meant that as Latter-day Saints went to study the Bible professionally nearly a century ago now is really when the professional study of the Bible in the Latter-day Saint tradition started.

That ends up creating its own set of further conversation and discussions. And one of the fascinating things is that it's not just that the LDS tradition is a sort of static thing, that it is also evolving, it's changing. And the same thing is happening in biblical scholarship, which is also evolving and changing over all these times, and really quite rapidly in many respects in the last several decades.

Huge proliferation of different methods and approaches and new discoveries of materials, of course, that are changing the way that we understand the past and the way that set of ethical questions that people are asking that are, you know, raising the question of how do we go about interpreting this text from the past?

So, there are all of these kinds of multiple conversations that are happening simultaneously that are developing over time. And as our generation sort of enters into that, I would say that this, you know, 20, 25 years ago or so, we're kind of at this really height of excitement for the way that the Book of Mormon is being talked about as an ancient document, the way that it sort of is a really positive take on biblical studies, and I think that Cory and I both kind of come out of that enthusiastic era where, you know, there was just a lot of it seemed there was a lot of excitement. And I think that in part, we also, as we entered into sort of the professionalization of the field realized that maybe it was a little bit more complicated and that there were maybe some other kinds of conversations that we thought we should be having, or that we could be having. And that seemed to be something that a lot of people in our generation of biblical scholars were sort of moving in that direction.

And so, we wanted to bring in new sorts of methodologies, new kinds of things that hadn't been talked about, that Latter-day Saints hadn't really had any specializations in before. Suddenly, we had new people who were doing those kinds of things. So, it really was just sort of an explosion of a bunch of new kinds of scholars and scholarship that were coming out of this era. And we were really excited to sort of be a part of all of that. 

CC: Yeah, and I'll just add that this kind of came about at the same time that the church was experiencing a kind of new relationship to its own past. And that, you know, we saw new investments in the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers, for example, and the employment of well-trained historians within the church to put out information to the public and to, you know, write gospel topics essays and things like that to deal with some of the hard questions, but we didn't see the same kind of investment in biblical studies and the questions that might come about because of the connection to the Bible.

And so, I think we saw, I guess I'm speaking for us, I saw certainly a real need for this kind of application of training and scholarship to some of the fundamental questions in the Latter-day Saint tradition. So that that was another motive, I think, at least of mine. And I think as well, I feel like there's a different kind of relationship the church has now to the Bible than it did even back in the 1950s. We see, maybe a more connected engagement with certain aspects of biblical scholarship within things like the efforts for Correlation and things like that. And I think in some ways the movement has shifted away from that. And so, I think, again, with that, there's a, there's a real need for engaged scholarship.

SB: Speaking to your point a little bit, obviously, there are continuing institutional tensions between the church as well as its formal armatures like Brigham Young University and biblical scholarship. But what's one thing that really struck me recently in the Latter-day Saint General Conference here in April [2023] was that one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is quoting in his sermons from N.T. Wright! This is something you would not have seen happening twenty years ago, thirty years ago. 

Talk a little bit about what does the Bible look like for Latter-day Saints? What kind of unique relationship do Latter-day Saints have with the Bible over time and up to the present? And what does that have to do with the ways in which the Bible functions as a religious and cultural symbol for Latter-day Saints?

TP: So, this is a great question, you know, part of what we were talking about earlier about how there's this huge transition in American culture, American Christianity, as Mormonism is, is developing. One of those questions is, “What is the authority of the Bible? How do we measure that authority relative to other competing authorities?” And different Christians have developed you know, a whole schema of how to balance you know, tensions, not only between or within the Bible, but between tradition, between, you know, reason and philosophy. Between our own natural experiences in the world, how do we sort of weigh those competing authorities? And, of course, you know, Protestants came up with this idea of scripture alone [sola scriptura]. That's the only reliable thing. You know, other Christians have had other answers to that. And Latter-day Saints sort of responded to that problem of the authority of the Bible in a couple of different ways. 

First, they expanded the canon itself, of course, with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants. They also expanded the Bible itself by adding in parabiblical texts, I guess we could say, things like Joseph Smith's New Translation, which includes the canonical book of Moses. Also, you know, other miraculous translations, like the Book of Abraham. And of course, prophetic authority itself, in many cases, even supersedes biblical authority. It's considered to be even more important, more authoritative.

So as Latter-day Saints are sort of struggling to figure out, “What is the authority of the Bible?” they're also sort of supercharging it with other canonical texts and weakening it in other respects by having a prophetic tradition, a modern prophetic tradition, which is, in some respects, supersedes, as I said, the Bible. 

CC: Yeah, agreed 100%. And I think I would just add that the way that I see the relationship between the Bible and the emergence of Mormonism is one of really kind of profound creativity in the sort of first decades and you know, Joseph Smith kind of trying to bring the Bible to life for people in the context of nineteenth-century North America, connecting biblical history to the land that they were, you know, settling and moving around in, operating as a prophet kind of in the old tradition. Revitalizing in his view, I think, temples and organizational structures that were found in the Bible. And I think at the same time, that that is kind of a new, a unique constellation, I guess, of these kinds of things, because there are lots of different efforts to connect the Bible to early America and think about the earlier inhabitants as somehow related to Israelites and things like that.

It's a fairly, I guess, unique combination that Joseph Smith puts together in the early decades. I think that shifts at some point where it becomes fixed over the years in tradition. And we don't see that same kind of creativity. We see, as Taylor was saying, a new kind of negotiation of the relationship between the Bible and the different forms of authority that are becoming more fixed in Mormonism.

So, I think where we are today is very much up in the air in terms of what the authority of the Bible is, because it has to be balanced against the prophetic authority, against the parabiblical scripture that Joseph Smith brought and that got entered into the Mormon canon. So, I think that's part of the interesting moment that we're in right now is asking the question, “What does the Bible mean for Mormons today?”

SB: Something that comes to mind as you're talking is one of the big inflection points in the early twentieth century, of course, is the Modernist-Fundamentalist [controversy] over precisely biblical authority and its role in American life.

How does that event or series of events influence the ways that Latter-day Saints think about the authority of prophets, the authority of scripture, whether that's Bible, or this more expanded parabiblical canon? How does the Modernist-Fundamentalist [controversy] inflect Latter-day Saint attitudes?

TP: Yeah, so, I think that we have a great essay by Amy Easton-Flake that sort of traces out the way that nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints are dealing with biblical authority. But as you mentioned, Stephen, at the beginning of the twentieth century, your essay [co-authored] with Phil Barlow covers some of this period as well. There's a real kind of challenge to biblical authority from a new front that is from of course, science, Darwin and geologists are coming along and saying a lot of the traditional narratives can't really be supported historically. New archaeological discoveries, new textual discoveries, all of these things are really kind of changing up the ways that not just Latter-day Saints, but many Christians were thinking about the Bible, how to read the Bible itself.

Is it primarily a theological text? Is it primarily a historical text? Is there some deep, hidden, allegorical meaning in every passage, you know? So, these were some of the big debates and Latter-day Saints find themselves caught in precisely this set of questions at the beginning of the twentieth century. And it's here where we really start to see a fracturing of LDS approaches. Where there isn't just one, but rather a variety of competing forms of approaches to biblical studies, approaches to the question of Modernism, whether or not the Bible can be reconciled with modern scientific discoveries, whether or not one has to read the Bible in these more traditional, Fundamentalist ways, as you mentioned.

So, Latter-day Saints are responding and adopting in some cases, a mixture of both of those approaches. In some cases, some Latter-day Saints are fully convinced by the Fundamentalist approaches. Some Latter-day Saints are fully convinced by the Modernist approaches, but they all sort of find themselves still under one umbrella within the church. And that kind of provides the seeds for, as I said, then a later proliferation, where I think the story gets even more complicated in the second half of the twentieth century, especially towards the end of the twentieth century, where all kinds of new Latter-day Saint ways of reading the scripture are emerging. We have feminist readings work for the first time. Well, they're sort of reviving feminist readings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which were around as well in the church. But we've got again, a sort of new set of responses that are kind of complicating the binary between Modernism and Fundamentalism at a later stage, but it really is such a defining moment in early twentieth century at least Latter-day Saint approaches to the Bible.

CC: And I would just say that there are some unique features of LDS engagement with the Bible that maybe make their mark on LDS hermeneutics in ways that maybe diverge from other Protestant traditions. There's a kind of baked-in skepticism of the text of the Bible at a certain level that when you're adding to the canon, that at some level, I mean, explicitly and implicitly says the canon is insufficient and needs to be supplemented and expanded. And part of Joseph Smith's claims to authority were built into that ability to expand on the Bible. 

And I think that leaves Latter-day Saints a little bit more open than other traditions to thinking about difficulties in authorship, redaction, right? You know, when the Book of Mormon is put together and presented as a redaction of a variety of source texts by a final editor or set of editors, that leaves Mormons maybe a little bit more open to some of the historical critical scholarship of the Bible than maybe other traditions.

At the same time, it introduces other problems, of course, like the problem of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. But I'll also say that — I don't want to speak for Taylor but — I became aware of biblical studies very much in the moment of the sort of peak of the influence, I think, of Hugh Nibley. And that itself was a moment that was heavily informed by historical-critical scholarship, which I think connects to Mormonism also in a unique way because of the historical claims, right? The claims that there were ancient Israelites in North America, and we should be able to detect their presence in archaeology and in possible other texts that are coming out of the ground. But I think Taylor is absolutely right in that once historical-critical scholarship starts to be seen as sort of just one kind of hermeneutic that needs to take its place alongside of others like, you know, redaction criticism and canonical criticism and feminist criticism and all these other modes of engaging the Bible, then yeah, you see a little bit more gradual appearance of those kinds of readings and those kinds of hermeneutics within the LDS tradition. And I think there's still tons and tons and tons of room for us to grow. 

SB: So, when it comes to contemporary Latter-day Saint biblical studies, you talk a little bit about a few of the things in the book, but say more about some of the approaches that are highlighted in the book and do these approaches give us a sense for some sort of not monolithic or unitary, but some sort of range or “family resemblance” of approaches that we might call a Latter-day Saint biblical hermeneutics?

CC: Well, I think you can just sort of see it in the structure of the essays that are included in the book. So, at the beginning, we characterize Mormonism and its relationship to the Bible. So, Part 1 is the ancient world as understood by Latter-day Saints. There are certain thematic treatments of issues related to the Bible that are important to Mormonism as well as a sort of situation of Mormonism relative to the Bible. Then we have a section on the Bible and Restoration scripture. So, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Mormon, of course. And then in part three, we have a variety of the critical biblical approaches, which is maybe what you're most directly asking about.

So, Taylor already mentioned Amy Easton-Flake's treatment of nineteenth-century biblical interpretation. We have essays on historical criticism, as we have already talked about, the new approaches that some people are calling “the new Mormon theology” with Joe Spencer and others. We have a great essay by Deidre Green on feminist biblical criticism that connects it to Latter-day Saint tradition and readings, and then in Parts 4 and 5, we sort of get into the biblical texts themselves. 

As I said, I think on this issue of the variety of approaches, we have an issue, maybe a structural issue or concern with representation. Many Latter-day Saints come up through BYU and through BYU Religious Education and tradition of doing biblical studies and biblical scholarship is heavily not only engaged in the historical-critical mode in these institutions, but there are maybe some hurdles and maybe obstacles to overcome when it comes to the ability to engage some of these and to teach some of these ideas, these methods. Even just the history of feminist biblical scholarship is something that Latter-day Saint students are not often exposed to through the channels through which many of them pass. And as a result, I think we still have an issue, for example, with gender and race disparity among professional interpreters of scripture and a disparity that lags behind the broader field just by the numbers. And I realize Taylor and I don't really do a lot to right the ship in that way in terms of our own demographics, but I think we were able to marshal a pretty wide and interesting variety of approaches and voices and hope that that will continue into the future.

TP: Yeah, I'll just add that I think that the book and what we asked our authors to do was really kind of two things: both to look backwards to describe as best as we could where the tradition has been, what have been the emphases? What explains why Latter-day Saints are really obsessed with this particular element of biblical history, right? What's going on here? How have Latter-day Saints approached this era or this period of biblical history? Why is there such an emphasis on this or that? So, we really tried to do our best to explain and understand the past and to describe it as best as we could.

The other thing that we asked our authors to do was to engage a set of critical questions that were sort of at the present, you know, maybe some of those emphases in the past have sort of been ruts that we're stuck in that have caused us to miss other interesting elements of the Bible or caused us to miss a set of critical questions about those texts and about the past. And part of that is then sort of gesturing towards the future. What are the new kinds of questions that we should be asking? What are the new methods that we should be looking at? 

Something like what Cory already mentioned, the rise of Latter-day Saint “new theology” or “scriptural theology,” that's a kind of new school of thought that's emerged really in just the last a few decades here that is a distinctive Latter-day Saint approach. And at the same time is relatively new. It doesn't really come out of the past. It doesn't have a strong root in LDS history here. And so, I think that that's a really interesting thing to kind of keep our eye on is the fact that the field really is changing and emerging and that people are trying to push it in new ways.

You know, Cory mentioned in many respects, this book is also a snapshot of the field as it is in all of its weaknesses. The fact that we don't have a lot of people who are doing black liberation theology, for instance, which is a huge field in biblical studies. But nearly completely silent or absent in the Latter-day Saint tradition, right? So, we're also trying to, you know, invite other scholars to get us there where we're not yet as well. So, I think that sort of both an explanation of the past and description of the present and also really trying to hopefully set the table for a new generation, a new set of questions, a new set of approaches that will take us even to the next steps.

SB: Is your sense that there is something that [is characterstic], is it just the text? Is it just the fact of Latter-day Saints having a larger canon that kind of unifies this as a kind of group of approaches? Or is there something about the ways in which they are being interpreted while using all of these other critical tools that makes their approaches Latter-day Saint approaches?

TP: Yeah, I'm not an essentialist, right? I don't think that there is some essence to what a Latter-day Saint approach is and a more open, you know, maybe your “family resemblance” model, Stephen, that you mentioned is a little bit closer. Right? Yes. I think that the texts are maybe a part of that,  that we're all sort of working from the same set of texts. But different people are going to evaluate those differently and weigh them differently, different sets of authority, for instance for what even is Joseph Smith's New Translation? What level of authority does it have? Those are debates that Latter-day Saints at all levels do not agree on, right?

So, I want to acknowledge that there isn't a set of like what is actually authoritative, right? And I think that the sort of infinite varieties and possibilities that we can't fully predict are also always going to be available to us that are going to take the Latter-day Saint tradition and the way that it engages the Bible in new directions as well. So, I'm always a little bit reluctant to sort of define like what is the essential thing here, in part because I think that it limits us and I think that it excludes maybe some people and some approaches unwittingly or deliberately in some cases, too. So, I'm more open to like, you know, anything and everything. Let's see what it all looks like. 

SB: So, we've talked about these varieties of Latter-day Saint approaches or approaches to Latter-day Saint scripture and the Bible. But talk about for a moment, what do you see as the contribution that that this book and that these approaches make to the broader discipline of biblical studies? I mean, we have unique things, Cory you've written about this, things like temples, priesthood, that are unique sites of interest beginning especially with Hugh Nibley, but up to the present in a variety of different aspects. What do you see as the contribution that Latter-day Saint biblical studies makes to biblical studies proper?

CC: Thanks for the question. It’s a really great question. I think at a really basic and general level scholars who engage in research are at some level affected by their embodied experience. So, there are certainly aspects of my LDS upbringing that prompted certain questions, like, you know, questions about, as you mentioned about temples, about priesthood.

So, I think as we have more and more LDS scholars operating, working and publishing and communicating with the larger field, I think maybe there will be room for some more of those questions to be asked and answered. I will say that if you want to measure Latter-day Saint scholars’ impact on the broader field, that's a little bit, again, to put it positively, I think there's a lot of room to grow that is a lot of Latter-day Saint scholarship ends up being inwardly focused and presented to an LDS audience, sort of Saints talking among themselves.

And I think, you know, I hope for a day where there's a lot more robust engagement. So again, part of this is structural. We see as with a lot of traditions, Evangelical scholars have written about the gravitation of devout scholars toward safer areas, right, areas where you can sort of have the authority of biblical scholarship, but not engage directly in hermeneutics or in questions or criticism that might lose you your job or your standing in in the community. And we see that in Latter-day Saint biblical studies as well, that it's a lot safer to be inwardly focused and there's a lot of work to do also. But there are a few, I guess, exceptions to this.

For a while, John Lundquist's typological look at temples would show up in mainstream biblical scholarship and I think Latter-day Saints are doing interesting work with Dead Sea Scrolls and papyrology and things like that that that have made an impact in the broader field.

But I think again, one of the difficult lines to walk was speaking simultaneously to Latter-day Saints who are interested in the Bible, but also to biblical scholars who might be interested in reception history, in the way that the Bible is engaged in different religious communities. And I think this book does that. And I think there is a growing interest in those kinds of questions. 

TP: So, I'll just jump in on behalf of our co-editor, Eric Eliason, I'll ventriloquize him for a moment to say that the way that he describes one of the big contributions of our book is in terms of “reception history.” And what we mean by that is that people have become very interested in not only what the Bible means in its original context—if that's even possible—but rather how the Bible has been interpreted throughout history. How different groups of people, different ideological and theological perspectives have read the Bible and have produced meaning out of that text.

And there are so many different ways that people have interpreted this text. Latter-day Saints offer their own unique history and distinctive history. And we think that that's of interest to biblical scholars and biblical scholarship in general as a part of that broader field of reception history. And at the same time, I think that as Latter-day Saints are increasingly entering into the field of biblical studies, which is not really a denominational exercise as it's practiced, that is, you know, there are Catholic biblical scholars and Protestant biblical scholars, and yes, they have some elements of their thought that you may be able to discern as vaguely Catholic or vaguely Protestant, For the most part, scholars work really hard to sort of shed some of those denominational identities and Latter-day Saints as they practice biblical scholarship in the broader field, often do that as well.

But we do bring, as Cory said, our own set of questions that come out of our histories, out of our lived religious experiences that might ask us to kind of scratch something that other biblical scholars haven't noticed because their traditions have not been as interested in X, Y, or Z question. So, I think that that we also have a lot to add to the field by exploring questions that may be other denominations, other interpretive histories have not paid as much attention to as we might be inclined to do.

And I think that there are already some really good examples of that among current Latter-day Saint scholars who are working in this field. And I think that this book, in many respects, also adds to that by exploring and exposing some of those unique questions that Latter-day Saints have had and providing, you know, scholars and lay readers [with] some broader context for why that is the case.

We're talking [in] a lot of generalities. Let's just actually have Cory tell the story of his essay on the temple and the priesthood, which is one of the real highlights here, which is one of the sort of preoccupations that Latter-day Saints have had especially in recent decades. Yeah, I mean, again, we're sort of like an abstract land. Cory, why don't you just tell that story really fast? 

CC: Yeah, so I guess if we're getting personal, you know, I went out to grad school motivated by a lot of experiences that I had both growing up in an LDS tradition, also on my mission with Taylor and the exposure that we had to really old things was really important in my development and also exposure to languages and things like that. But when I went to grad school, I wanted to be not just sort of defined as an LDS scholar. And so, I was really resisting working on temple because that was sort of classic. A lot of [Latter-day Saint] people before me had gone out and had written about it and I was like, “Well, you know, maybe everything that needs to be said, that can be said, has been said.”

And I was in a grad seminar and we were talking about images and the deity and one of my professors, Larry Stager put up a reconstruction of the temple, and I was sort of looking at the reconstruction and going, “How does all this stuff work? You know, what do we know about how this stuff works?” And, of course, there are elements of the temple that were taken from the Bible and incorporated into LDS temples. And so, I wasn't really interested in sort of proving the connection between some historical connection between ancient temples and Latter-day Saint temples, but I was just like, “How did that work in the ancient world? And what can we say about practice and meaning and things like that.” So that set me off on my dissertation project, which was about the visuality of the temple, the iconography of the temple and how it worked in its sort of political and art historical and even phenomenological dimensions.

So, that wasn't at all a sort of, closet, like sneaking in LDS theology through the academy. It was really just motivated by my own experience, I guess, of space and the way that space sort of engages ritual and things like that. And I thought I discovered, I guess, that there were, there were some big gaps in scholarship, you know, for whatever reason, or at least I thought there were some big gaps that left some room for me to talk about that.

And then with priesthood, I'll say I was really pulled into that question. I mean, of course, priesthood is connected to temple, but in when I was in Germany and in 2014 and ‘15, I had heard a comment by an LDS General Authority about like there not being any evidence that women [in the Bible] had priesthood. And so, we don't give women priesthood. It was right around the time of the sort of a new wave of activism about gender and priesthood and that comment about “the Bible says nothing about it. And so, we can't do anything. Our hands are tied,” you know, really kind of made me say, “Well, what does actually the Bible say about it? And let's talk about that.”

So that led to an article that was more focused on a Latter-day Saint audience in Dialogue. And that was before Taylor was editor, but that engaged me in the question of gender and authority in a way that I really hadn't been active before and now it's very much one of my current research questions and research topics, right? The relationship between gender and authority, how we get to an androcentric priesthood. How do we get to a male-only priesthood when Israelite neighbors had priestesses and things like that. So yeah, I guess that's a long story and a long example, but it's Taylor's fault for making me tell it.

SB: Well, I'm glad you made us take that detour, Taylor. I think that really helps illustrate both some of the challenges and the opportunities facing LDS biblical studies right now. Before we go, in a nutshell, what do you want people to take away from this book?

TP: I think that this book offers Latter-day Saints the best resource to date about not only how Latter-day Saints have interpreted the Bible, but also to give them some orientation toward the Bible itself as a historical text, as a literary text, and also how to kind of engage with biblical scholarship. Latter-day Saints really have almost no good resources to study the Bible. The curriculum that the church produces is razor thin. Very few authors provide kind of historical academic approaches to biblical studies for Latter-day Saint audiences where there is a proliferation of books in sort of the popular, more devotional market, but it's not particularly academically rigorous.

So, this book, I think, really fills a huge gap in the field that I hope will stand for a good long time here as the kind of standard of how Latter-day Saints might look at not only their own history, but biblical history, and the history of biblical scholarship that takes into consideration their own unique experiences and history.

So that's what I really hope that the book does. And I've been very pleased with early reception of the book so far that we have accomplished that goal, that we're sort of filling that gap that has existed for a long time and we're just so grateful to the whole gamut of authors that we had that contributed to this book, that helped to make it such a strong contribution.

CC: I do really hope that it fills the gap that Taylor talked about, and I hope that it's of value to Latter-day Saints who want to engage some up-to-date ideas in biblical scholarship. And I also hope it's of value to scholars and others who want to understand the Bible in the Latter-day Saint tradition.

SB: That's Cory Crawford and Taylor Petrey talking about the recent edited collection, The Bible and the Latter-day Saint Tradition. Thanks for chatting today, guys. 

CC & TP: Thanks for having us. 

 *Transcript has been edited