Thursday, April 15, 2004

TEMPLES AND ACADEMIC DIPLOMACY: Anyone in the NYC area around the first week of May might be interested in the following. Some of the more academically inclined members of the NY NY stake (spearheaded by the indomitable Dr. B.) decided to put together a conference on “sacred space in the modern city” to mark the opening of the new temple there. While we all enjoyed the Yale conference it was generally agreed that we wanted a more diverse set of speakers and presenters (i.e., speakers who weren’t all LDS), and so we turned to Auburn Theological Seminary (housed within Union Theological Seminary) and the Columbia University Religion Department as co-sponsors. They responded enthusiastically and put together exactly the sort of conference we were interested in. As I understand it BYU provided most of the funding for this venture (without making any demands for editorial input), and the highlight of this one-day event will be a VIP tour of the temple, attuned to the special interests of these scholars. (If this comes off the way we are hoping it should be something of a departure from the run-of-the-mill tour. I’m still waiting to see exactly what is going to happen though). See the information at the bottom of the announcement for registration information.

"Sacred Space in the Modern City"
Auburn Theological Seminary
May 4, 2004

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. –
Multiple Religious Perspectives on Sacred Space

Keynote: The Topography of Sacred Space

Jonathan Z. Smith - University of Chicago – Divinity School
Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities in the College and the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and on the History of Culture; Associate faculty in the Divinity School

Jonathan Z. Smith (Ph.D. Yale University) is a historian of religions whose research has focused on such wide-ranging subjects as ritual theory, Hellenistic religions, nineteenth-century Maori cults, and the notorious events of Jonestown, Guyana. Some of his works include Map is Not Territory; Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown; and To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. In his book Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity, he demonstrates how four centuries of scholarship on early Christianities manifest a Catholic-Protestant polemic.

Followed by respondents representing multiple religious traditions.

12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch
(Auburn will try to meet all dietary requests)

1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Making Space Sacred:
the Modern Latter-day Saint Temple

Paul Anderson Brigham Young University

Paul L. Anderson, Head of Design at the Brigham Young University Museum
of Art in Provo, Utah, is an architect, exhibition designer, and
architectural historian. He received his B.A. From Stanford University
and his Master of Architecture from Princeton University. He has
lectured and published articles about the history of Mormon buildings in
the context of American religious architectural traditions. He is
currently working on a book, Mormon Moderne: New Directions in
Latter-day Saint Architecture, 1890-1955, exploring the changing
Latter-day Saint architectural identity during a period of Mormon
assimilation in mainstream American society.

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Visit to Manhattan Mormon Temple

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sacred Space in the Modern City – Public Event

Featured panelists:

Karen Franck
Professor of Urban Environments
New Jersey School of Architecture

David Kraemer
Professor of Talmud
Jewish Theological Seminary


Kenneth T. Jackson
Professor of History
Columbia University

Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences, specializes in American social and urban history. He received his B.A. from the University of Memphis in 1961 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1966. His publications include The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915–1930 (1967), Cities in American History (1972), Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985), Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery, with Camilo Vergara (1990), and, as editor The Encyclopedia of New York City (1995). He is presently working on two books to be entitled Gentlemen's Agreement: Race, Class, and Differential Development in Newark, White Plains, and Darien, 1840–1990 and The Road to Hell: Transportation Policy and the Decline of the United States.

Please RSVP to Christian Martinez:
(212) 662-4315

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

LAW AND THE COMMANDMENTS: The Historians remarks below are interesting. The recourse to the ten commandments is interesting. In American history, attempts at "biblically based" law have been made, but they have always been eliminated in the end in favor of the common law. In part this is because the lawyers had a vested interest in maintaining the common law. In part it was because the authors of "biblical" legal codes tended not to be lawyers and the laws that they drafted were not really workable. Hence, Massachusetts experimented with a biblical-esque legal code in the 17th century but gave it up rather quickly. Mormon Deseret is an strange case because while there was an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to exclude the common law, Mormons don't seem to have written the Bible into the territorial laws the way that the early Puritans tried to do in Massachusetts.

However, the ten commandments have frequently been used by common law judges as a legal touchstone. There are a variety of common law rules that require judges to differentiate between acts that are malum in se (wrong in themselves) and merely malum prohibitum (wrong because they are forbidden). For example, at common law a woman who committed a crime in the presence of her husband was presumed to have been coerced by her husband into committing the crime, thus absolving her of criminal liability without any showing of actual coercion. However, if the crime was malum in se then the presumption no longer held, and the woman would have to make an actual showing of coercion in order to have a defense. In interpreting this rule, 19th century courts frequently used the prohibitions of the decalogue as a criteria for determining what was or was not malum in se. Also, the ten commandments were frequently invoked by 19th century courts as the reason for "blue laws" which required that businesses be closed on Sunday.