LDS scholar Terryl Givens visited Benchmark Books in South Salt Lake Wednesday evening to discuss his newest book “Feeding the Flock”. Givens, a professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, is in Utah this summer teaching a seminar at Brigham Young University.
Givens explained to a packed crowd that “Feeding the Flock”, which dives into the history of Mormon theology, is not written from the perspective of an apologist.
"As a scholar of Mormonism I am trying to make the most powerful and compelling presentation I can of Mormon theology as Mormons themselves conceive it," said Givens.
Givens says his book tackles one question in particular:
“Why do we need a church? What is the value or necessity of a formal institution?"
He seeks to answer that through history. Cross-examining past scholars and Mormon leaders to determine why the emphasis on priesthood authority is so strong and what it means to experience saving ordinances.
Down at BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Givens has been tackling another topic with the help of a few graduate students. As part of a summer seminar the group has been examining how the Mormon church has evolved over time.
“Most people would be surprised to know the extent to which the church has actually been influenced from the bottom up," Givens says. "Even though we tend to think of it as a top down hierarchical structure.”
Givens points to practices like Family Home Evening and Primary which began on a local level by members before being instituted church-wide.
“The more you study the history of the church the more encouragement young scholars can derive from the fact that we, as lay members of the church and scholars, can make a difference in substantive ways," says Givens.
The group will share their research with the public in August.