Sperry Symposium call for papers


The BYU Department of Religious Education has started a call for papers for the Sidney B. Sperry Symposium in Oct. 2014.

This will be the 43rd annual symposium and the topic will be on the ministry, life, and writings of the Apostle Simon Peter. Proposals must be submitted electronically, and are due no later than Nov. 12, 2012. Faculty members and scholars are encouraged to participate.

Proposals should be written in the form of a 300-word abstract, and should have a thesis, outline, methodology and conclusions. Also, submitted with the proposal should be a brief statement explaining qualifications and background.

Scott Esplin, who is the committee chair for this year’s Sperry Symposium, said that for this year there are 25 presentations, 17 were chosen to be published based on quality and applicability. He also said that what is covered in the symposium is usually what is going to be covered the following year in Sunday school in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Patty Smith, a permanent member of the Sperry Symposium committee, said to ensure the process of reviewing is as fair as possible, the proposals are peer reviewed.

“People who review articles do not know the writer,” she said.

Dan Belnap, who has served as a committee chair and had various other positions involved with the symposium, said that in order for peer reviewing to be effective, it’s important to keep the reviewers from knowing who the authors are. It keeps the process more fair, and allows the reviewer to not feel restrained in terms of comments and criticisms. This helps to keep any bias or inequality out of the process of selecting proposals.

The majority of scholars who have been chosen in the past to both present and publish have been faculty members from BYU–Hawaii, BYU–Provo and BYU–Idaho. However, Smith said gospel scholars from across the country have also been selected to present and be published.

Esplin said that normally there are about 70 to 80 proposals submitted. From there, about one third are selected to present, and then about 15 are published. Also, he discussed that every year there is a general authority that gives an address. For this year, about half of the presenters are BYU faculty members.

“(The symposium) is one of the best ways to reach the general audience of the Church,” Esplin said. “We can take religious education scholarship, and try to bless a larger audience.”

Smith said the call for papers is always about two years early. The text for the symposium is printed by Deseret Book and is ready in March, but comes out two months before the symposium for people to buy.

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