I survived my first scholarly experience!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of presenting at the Literature and the Sacred Conference at BYU.  I talked about the LDS Plan of Salvation as the Archetype of the Monomyth.  It was a great experience, but, of course, I could have done some things better.   At first I was very nervous, having never presented like this before, but as I started speaking, it came easier.  I have studied this and have been working on this for a long time, so I was familiar with the material.   I did, however, speak too quickly, and did not cover some aspects in as much detail as I would have liked.  Mostly this was because I was deathly afraid of going over time.  I knew that I only had 15 minutes, but when I have talked about this with people before I have found that I can barely explain everything in that amount of time.  So, as I presented, I hurried, because I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to get to my conclusion, which is the important part, for me.

In talking with my wife and a friend who both came to watch me, I realize that I could have done better.  I should have used more concrete examples.  I hinted at examples in contemporary literature, but never expounded upon them, because I was worried about my time.  When I write this paper up I will be sure to draw parallels with literature and use examples to help the audience understand what I’m talking about.  There was also an interesting question posed to me afterward that I hadn’t considered – If the Monomyth is based upon the Plan of Salvation, why do so few myths and legends have female heroes? What does that mean?  I responded that the Plan of Salvation is indeed individual and applies to everyone, male and female, but that most societies when telling their myths and stories focus on the male hero because most societies have been male-dominated.  Female-led stories are not well received, nor do they get published or publicized in such male-oriented societies.  So, I guess, the Monomyth is based upon the Plan of Salvation, but there are many details of myths and legends and religious stories that are inventions of the societies telling the story- one of those being the gender of the hero figure.

I will have to explore that aspect a bit more.  I think the answer I gave is adequate, for being made up on the spot, but it definitely justifies more research.  I was also compared to Hugh Nibley, after the fact, I guess more because of the subject matter than any resemblance my speaking style had to his.  Apparently, Hugh Nibley talked a lot about myths and legends of various cultures being remnants of the Gospel truths they had once known.  I will have to research some Hugh Nibley, and read more of what he’s written, see what he’s already said and go from there.  That should be very interesting.

It was a good conference; the other two presenters at the session with me spoke about the Poem that Joseph Smith wrote based upon D&C 76 that few members of the Church seem to be aware of.  It was interesting to hear him talk about it, quote it and compare it to the original Vision, as described in the Doctrine and Covenants, but his presentation seemed, to me, to lack a point, other than simply making people aware that this great Poem exists and can shed some light and aid in understanding of that revelation.

The other presenter spoke about fictionalized accounts of Mormon historical events, specifically the story that Brigham Young, when speaking at a conference of the Church, was transfigured to look and sound like Joseph Smith, indicating that Brigham was to lead the Church from that point on.  He analyzed Gerald N Lund’s novels as well asOrson Scott Card’s book Saints, and talked about how these fictionalized accounts affect the LDS community’s perception of events and their testimony of the Church.  It was an interesting topic, but unfortunately the presenter only knew how to read his paper.  He read it word for word, occasionally stumbling over the words or sentences.  It was unfortunate because it made an interesting subject, suddenly less so.  I’m sure it was a great paper and would be powerful if read in a journal, but writing and speaking are two different mediums and need to be approached in two different ways.  An oral presentation should not simple be a reading of a written document – there needs to be more.  And not just eye-contact, which we had occasionally as he looked up from the page.  We, as the audience, need to feel engaged and not just read to.  Oh well, it was a good presentation, it just could have been better if delivered better.

All in all, it was a great day, a great conference, and a great experience for me.  I’m already thinking about a couple of ideas that I could submit for next year’s conference!  It should be fun!

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3 thoughts on “I survived my first scholarly experience!

  1. Ted

    Yes, your subject matter is very Hugh Nibley. He was often accused by his critics of “parallelomania,” which is his somewhat obsessive tendency to find parallels between cultures and religions and concepts to come up with a vast, extensive, and epic conclusion (he also drove his critics crazy because he felt no need to defend himself when it turned out he was wrong. By the time his critics caught up to him saying something he concluded had been proven false, he had already moved on to five other things and didn’t care anymore).

    Is the poem from the other presentation available anywhere for reading? And the second presentation does sound very interesting, but yes, just reading from a paper can make for a somewhat dull presentation. : /

    Overall, I’m glad that it was such a good experience for you!

  2. Along with including concrete examples, another thing that is important is a rebuttal to the non-monomyth side. There are plenty of critics who aren’t sold on the model, myself (sorry) included. :^)

    A response to criticism in this case is important in that with Nibley, he would see individual parallels between myths, but with the monomyth it seeks to link all myths to one common parallel. To me, this is a stretch (similar to the Proto-World language hypothesized by some).

    Not that you have to have all the answers. Just don’t take for granted that all will be as believing.

    Otherwise, great presentation! Thanks for the invite (and the ride)!

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