Gospel Scholarship


Dana M. Pike

Education at Brigham Young University, including courses in Religious Education, is intended to be both intellectually enlarging and spiritually strengthening (http://aims.byu.edu/). And Latter-day Saints in general, not just BYU students, are encouraged by the Lord to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Such seeking is intended for secular subjects as well as gospel subjects (see D&C 88:118; 90:15; 93:53; 97:1). The outcome of such investigation in gospel-related topics can rightly be termed gospel scholarship. A major mission of the Religious Studies Center and Religious Education is to encourage the production of and engagement with quality gospel scholarship.

When thinking of gospel scholarship, I am reminded of my experience in years past teaching at BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Most students came for the whole experience—courses, fieldtrips, and interaction with the people, culture, history, and land of Israel and its neighbors. Some students, however, seemed to have come intent on a vacation: “Required courses—why do we have to take these?”; “Who wants to do schoolwork in Israel?!” I found myself emphasizing that the Jerusalem Center program existed for “travel study.” Not just travel. And not merely the type of study one could do in Provo, but a great combination of these two dimensions of experience—travel and study.

I believe this illustrates well the attributes of gospel scholarship. It is not just talking or writing about the gospel, although it is based on and informed by the perspectives of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel scholarship is scholarship that is wrapped in and informed by faith in Jesus Christ as our sole Savior and the principles of the restored gospel—but it is still scholarship. As such, it must be doctrinally sound, as well as intellectually honest, historically accurate, and clearly expressed and developed. It shows that authors have lived with and wrestled with their topics for some time. Thus, gospel scholarship is not less scholarship because it focuses on gospel-related topics, just as travel-study is not less study because it is travel based. Because it is scholarship, gospel scholarship demonstrates that authors know and have applied appropriate methodologies in dealing with their topics. Gospel scholarship, like scholarship in general, is based on research and analysis. Just as it sounds, research has to do with searching, inquiring, investigating.

Many professors of Religious Education choose to publish some of their gospel scholarship through the Religious Studies Center. Whether publications originate with professors of Religious Education or other authors, our hope is always that Religious Studies Center publications provide a model of good gospel scholarship and encourage Saints to engage in their own productive study of the gospel and gospel-related topics. The opportunity to participate in such study is a great blessing.

Dana M. Pike

Publications Director,

BYU Religious Studies Center