Conference: THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE: EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

Conference Schedule

The Academy for Temple Studies and the Utah State University Religious Studies program announce further details of the conference to be held on October 23, 2013, on the campus of Utah State University.  It will start at 9:15 a.m. in the Eccles Conference Center and adjourn at 4:30 p.m.  Since seating is limited, we recommend that you register now if you want to attend.

THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE:  EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

This conference will approach this topic from a temple perspective with biblical, archeological, liturgical and LDS components.  Looking at the abstracts below it is clear that this conference should promote a lively discussion and time is being allotted for panel discussion and response to questions.

8:45 Benchmark Bookstore open in the lobby.

9:15 Welcome and Introduction of the conference.

9:30 Margaret Barker, well-known for her numerous books and articles on temple theology, whose book called The Mother of the Lord:  The Lady in the Temple was published last year.  Her presentation is entitled, “The Woman Clothed With the Sun in Revelation 12.”  A female figure, apparently not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, appears in the centre spot of the Book of Revelation.  She is a royal figure, crowned with stars, and she gives birth to the king who rules from a throne in heaven.  She is attacked by a red dragon, escapes to the wilderness, and there waits for the allotted time to pass. Her other children were the Christians, but who was she, and where had she been hiding?  The implications are that the Lady is the Mother of Yahweh.

10:20 Q&A

10:40 break

11:00 William Dever, distinguished professor of Near Eastern Studies; has written 26 books and 350+ articles on Near Eastern archeology.  The writers of the Old Testament clearly present monotheism—the exclusive worship of the male deity Yahweh—as the ideal.  Yet the frequent condemnation of “idolatry” by prophets and reformers indicates that in folk religion other deities were often worshipped.  In particular, the Mother Goddess “Asherah” appears as a shadowy figure, almost forgotten in later times.  But several recent archaeological discoveries of both artifacts and texts have revealed that the cult of Asherah was widespread throughout the monarchy.  And in many circles she was regarded not simply as a patroness of mothers, but as the consort of Yahweh. Even in later Judaism, she appears as the “Shekinah”—the earthly Mother who represents the presence of a remote God.  Prof. Dever will give an illustrated lecture on Asherah, based on his recent book Did God have a Wife?  Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel.

11:50 Message from Laurence Hemming to be read in his absence.

12:00 Lunch

1:00  John Thompson is currently finishing his Ph.D in Egyptology from the University of Pennsylvania and teaches full-time at the Orem, UT LDS Institute of Religion.  His paper is entitled, “The Lady at the Horizon: Egyptian Tree-Goddess Iconography and Sacred Trees in Israelite Scripture and Temple Theology.”  The purpose of his study is not to ascertain whether the ancient Israelites acknowledged or worshipped female deities in pre-exilic periods, though such questions are important for understanding their religious history and theology; rather, it explores the symbolic reasons the ancient Israelites may have had for employing the feminine in sacred tree and temple narratives. When one analyzes the iconographic specifics surrounding female divine trees that were prominent in the ancient Near East, especially Egypt, during the time-period of Israel’s kingdom, and then compares these specifics to relevant scriptural passages, some symbolic reasons for portraying sacred trees as female become clearer and do not require one to frame the debate solely as a historical or theological matter.

1:40  Alyson Von Feldt has explored temple theology as reconstructed by Barker from an LDS perspective in her review of Dever’s Did God Have a Wife? and an analysis of the Book of Mormon, “His Secret is with the Righteous: Instructional Wisdom in the Book of Mormon.”  These can be found at: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/  Recent biblical and archeological studies, most notably those of Margaret Barker and William Dever, have coalesced strong evidence that worship of a feminine deity alongside Yahweh was widespread in the pre-exilic Judaic tradition and was carried on into later Judaism and Christianity. This evidence is intriguing to Latter-day Saints, whose church leaders have written and taught of the existence of a Mother in Heaven since 1844 but who recognize no authoritative revelation about her origins and roles. What light do the new insights from these studies shine on the Latter-day Saint understanding of the divine feminine? Do they inform what we already know about a Heavenly Mother? Are they congruent? Von Feldt will consider these questions, briefly reviewing evidence of the ancient (Wisdom) tradition in restoration scripture and suggesting some possibilities for Latter-day Saint theology.

2:35  break

2:50  Valerie Hudson, Professor and George H. W. Bush Chair of international affairs at Texas A&M University, who is co-author of Women in Eternity, Women of Zion, a comprehensive examination of LDS doctrine concerning women.  In 2009, Professor Hudson was named by Foreign Policy to be one of the top 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers.  She will comment on the other papers, examine them in light of her perspective on LDS teachings about Mother in Heaven, and explore their implications in the wider world religious community.

3:30 break

3:45 Panel Discussion and Responding to Questions from the Attendees

4:30  Conclusion

5:15  Benchmark Bookstore

Registration for the day-long conference is $50.00. Students with a valid student ID will be admitted for $10.00.  Seating will be limited. You can register on-line at this link: https://secureinstantpayments.com/sip/cart/event.php?EID=1003

(via The Academy for Temple Studies)

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  1. […] certain range of conclusions. I wanted to post this article on The Millennial Star in light of the upcoming conference at USU on the Divine Feminine (Oct. 23, 2013), which I recently posted about.  William Dever, the […]

  2. […] « Conference: THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE: EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRA… […]

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