The session "Heaven, Hell and How You Get There" looks at the paths to salvation as defined respectively by the Mormon and Protestant traditions. Despite a strong historical connection in nineteenth century America, and a commonly claimed commitment to the moral teachings and saving power of Jesus, differences in doctrine and practice have complicated the relationship between Mormonism and Protestant Christianity. As both Latter-day Saints and Protestants move forward into the twenty-first century, they stand more ready than ever to engage in thoughtful dialogue and social collaboration."
Terryl L. Givens was born in upstate New York, raised in the American southwest, and did his graduate work in Intellectual History (Cornell) and Comparative Literature (Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill, 1988), working with Greek, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and English languages and literatures. As Professor of Literature and Religion, and the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at the University of Richmond, he teaches courses in Romanticism, nineteenth-century cultural studies, and the Bible and Literature. He has published in literary theory, British and European Romanticism, Mormon studies, and intellectual history.
Dr. Givens has authored several books, including The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (Oxford 1997); By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (Oxford 2003); People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (Oxford 2007); The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2009); and When Souls had Wings: Pre-Mortal Life in Western Thought (2010). Current projects include a biography of Parley P. Pratt (with Matt Grow, to be published by Oxford in 2011), a sourcebook of Mormonism in America (with Reid Neilson, to be published by Columbia in 2011), an Oxford Handbook to Mormonism (with Phil Barlow), and a two volume history of Mormon theology. He lives in Montpelier, Virginia.
R. Kendall Soulen is Professor of Systematic Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary. He earned a B.A. at Yale University, an M.Div. at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a Ph.D. at Yale. Soulen has written extensively, especially in the area of Jewish-Christian relations. He is the author of The God of Israel and Christian Theology, co-author of the Handbook of Biblical Criticism, editor of Abraham's Promise: Judaism and Jewish Christian Relations, and co-editor of God and Human Dignity. Soulen is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, and serves as an editor or board member of four academic journals. He is ordained in the United Methodist Church.
Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of a sect closely related to it (e.g., the Community of Christ). The Mormon religion was founded by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have received an angelic vision telling him of the location of golden plates containing God's revelation; this he published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. Smith and his followers accepted the Bible as well as the Mormon sacred scriptures but diverged significantly from orthodox Christianity, especially in their assertion that God exists in three distinct entities as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons also believe that faithful members of the church will inherit eternal life as gods. Other unique doctrines include the belief in preexisting souls waiting to be born and in salvation of the dead through retroactive baptism. The church became notorious for its practice of polygamy, though it was officially sanctioned only between 1852 and 1890. Smith and his followers migrated from Palmyra, N.Y., to Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, where Smith was killed by a mob in 1844. In 184647, under Brigham Young, the Mormons made a 1,100-mi (1,800-km) trek to Utah, where they founded Salt Lake City. In the early 21st century, the church had a worldwide membership of nearly 10 million, swelled yearly by the missionary work that church members, both men and women, are encouraged to perform.