Blair Van Dyke on “How Wide the Divide?”

Blair Van Dyke’s presentation is entitled “How Wide the Divide: The Absence of Conversation between Mormon Studies and Mormon Mainstream.”

In his remarks, Blair said he, as an Institute employee, was criticized for presenting at this CGU conference by mainstream Mormons. He described the collaborative work between Mormons and evangelicals and the book that emerged from repeated conversations between the two groups.

Blair described a similar divide between academics working in Mormon Studies and mainstream LDS members. The two groups largely don’t interact and Blair suggests that academics could do more to reach out across the divide. Mormon Studies could be an arena of interfaith bilingualism and dialogue, such that the conversations could move beyond academic treatments/circles and open up to mainstream Mormons.

Blair asked will the divide persist? He suggested some options to help bridge the divide–interreligious dialogue, fostering the religious bilingualism that would allow disparate groups under the Mormon/Mormon Studies umbrella could talk to each other.

Blair noted the efforts of scholars such as Richard Bushman, Brian Birch, and Spencer Fluhman who are participating in conferences such as this one, speaking in other arenas that introduce mainstream Mormons to ideas in Mormon Studies, and making other efforts to reach out to mainstream Mormons, teach them some of the language in religious studies, and include them in the dialogue.

Without those efforts from academic community, mainstream Mormons are likely to remain paralyzed without the ability to move forward to a more expanded understanding. Blair said that he hopes after giving remarks today about the divide, in the future he’ll be able to give papers on the continuing conversation and eventually documenting how the divide has been successfully bridged.