Foreword, in Deity & Death, ed. Spencer J. Palmer (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978), xi–xii.

This monograph on deity and death comprises selected papers from a symposium on “Deity, Ways of Worship, and Death” held on the Brigham Young University campus, April 13–14, 1977—the first such scholarly event sponsored by the newly established Religious Studies Center of Brigham Young University. There were eighteen participants from BYU and other educational institutions in the United States and overseas, including Sri Lanka and Japan.

The papers on ways of worship are not included in this book. Several of these were slide presentations which were difficult to reconstruct and reproduce in printed form.

We express sincere appreciation to all who participated. We wish to make special mention of the fact that Jeffrey R. Holland, Commissioner of Education for the far-flung Church Education System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attended the sessions and presented a very insightful luncheon address. (The full address has been published in Brigham Young University Studies.) His assessment of the contributions of the symposium speakers and the potential of the new Religious Studies Center in providing a significant service follows:

In this day of Church activity which is, by a prophet’s declaration, going to take us to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, we do well to aid that process and facilitate our friendships by sharing here, in just such a symposium, our mutual experience, our knowledge of “countries and of kingdoms” as the Lord has commanded. (D&C 88:79.) Even in the early and difficult days of this dispensation, with more than enough hardships and temporal travail to go around, the Lord nevertheless urged our forefathers to “study and learn and become acquainted with all good books and with languages, tongues, and people.” (D&C 90:15.) In the same way and presumably at the same time, we declare ourselves to be seekers after anything that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” (Thirteenth Article of Faith.) That search is now taking us to countries and kingdoms, cultures and corners of the world our fathers never knew and our grandfathers never dreamed of. The rich opportunities of our time suggest that we move as rapidly and as resolutely into these “new” frontiers as we are able.

I am . . . trying to suggest that what you are doing here today in this comparative religion symposium is not simply a nice intellectual exercise or just another praiseworthy educational experience. For me it is part of a personal dream in terms of what the Center for Religious Studies at BYU may yet do. It is deeply theological, it has eternal implications, and it will play its own part in the process of international brotherhood. [1]

Ellis T. Rasmussen


[1] Jeffrey R. Holland, “. . . Of Countries and of Kingdoms,” Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 18, no. 1 (Fall 1977), 4–5.