Editor's Note: We are pleased to bring our readers this announcement from the Academy for Temple Studies concerning a one-day conference at Utah State University, especially since one of our editorial board will be the discussant for the conference. The topic of "the lady in the temple" is of timely significance for the Latter-day Saints, given the debut of the first of three new temple films. The first new film (the others have not yet been released) gives a very different--and much improved--portrayal of Mother Eve than we have had in previous attempts. The new cinematographic framing shows Eve's decision was hers alone and was deeply considered.  The framing also shows Adam seemingly receiving some inspiring feeling from heaven that he is to hearken to Eve and partake.  Our first parents actually embrace afterwards, putting the whole situation in such a different light than previously!   At one point, Adam makes a protective gesture towards Eve to protect her from apparent imminent harm. And at another point after the Fall, Adam looks to Eve and she firmly shakes her head no and then Adam terminates a conversation with another character.  Though Eve is still depicted as mute after the Fall, this is definitely a first step in a better direction. Just before the end, another framed hand-in-hand between them is highlighted, indicating their loving equal partnership is the foundation of all the good that follows. Throughout the film. . . different emphases on different words, different tones of voice.  The LDS community now has a lot to ponder and even re-think about their "lady in the temple," which makes this conference about another Lady in the temple of special interest.

The Lady in the Temple

The Lady in the Temple,” a one-day conference jointly sponsored by the Academy for Temple Studies (templestudies.org) and the Utah State University Religious Studies program (religiousstudies.usu.edu), is slated for Wednesday, October 23, 2013, on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Recent biblical and archeological studies have provided strong evidence for a pre-exilic Hebrew belief in a feminine deity who was worshipped in temples alongside Yahweh. Though the theology of the early temple, which included veneration of this Lady, was suppressed by those who came to control the temple in Jerusalem and the Biblical canon, Margaret Barker’s study of both biblical and extra-biblical texts reveals that the older tradition’s followers continued to write of her, and their beliefs comprised the soil in which Christianity took hold. The Lady’s memory can be traced throughout much of the history of Christianity.

Presenters from various areas of expertise and religious traditions will share some of their findings and comment on points of intersection between their disciplines. They include Margaret Barker, the Rev. Dr. Laurence Hemming, William Dever, Alyson Von Feldt, and Valerie Hudson.

Margaret Barker (margaretbarker.com) is the British biblical scholar and Methodist preacher well known for her reconstruction of the original meaning of the temple in Jerusalem. In her latest book, The Mother of the Lord:  The Lady in the Temple, she shows how evidence for the Lady was obscured in biblical texts anciently by reforming scribes and more recently by the assumptions of biblical scholars. She characterizes her work as the delicate process of “listening for echoes, watching for shadows, and piecing together the shards of history.” [1] Her paper will explore the Lady in the biblical book of Revelation, which book she has called “the key to understanding early Christianity, . . . steeped in temple imagery.” [2]

Laurence Hemming (laurencehemming.com) is a Catholic philosopher and theologian who lives in London; he is Professor in the Philosophy, Politics and Religion Department and the Management School of Lancaster University, UK. He is the author of Worship as a Revelation: The Past Present and Future of Catholic Liturgy. As one of the world’s foremost experts on the Latin liturgy, Hemming will present a paper on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary known as “The Presentation of Mary in the Temple.”  The feast derives from the ancient tradition that as a child of twelve Mary was presented to the Jerusalem Temple by her parents, where she lived, weaving the sacred veil, until the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would conceive and bear the Son of God.  The feast was celebrated in monasteries in Southern Italy from the ninth century, and was introduced into the Papal chapel in 1372 at Avignon by Pope Gregory XI.  Eastern Orthodoxy has always acknowledged liturgically a connection between Mary and the Temple, a connection that the West has only celebrated intermittently, finally suppressing the feast in the reformed Calendar of 1970.  

William Dever, distinguished professor of Near Eastern Studies at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, has written 35 books and many articles on Near Eastern archeology and is author of the book, Did God Have a Wife? Archeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. As both a trained biblical theologian and archeologist, he attempts in this book to reconstruct the folk religion of ancient Israel in general and the veneration of the goddess Asherah in particular, whom he suggests was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh. But like Barker, he finds evidence that scribes in control of the official documents obfuscated references to her. “By the time the literary process had produced the final canonical texts, the old Mother Goddess had been driven underground and all but forgotten. Thus the final redactors of the Hebrew Bible did not know who ‘Asherah’ had been, or whether she had existed at all.” [3] (p. 102). For his part, Dever said, “I have tried simply to anticipate her emancipation by showing that in the world of ancient Israel, among other places and times, [the Great Mother] was once alive and well. . . . Archaeology brings her back to life.” [4]

Alyson Von Feldt, a writer and consultant living in Kansas, has explored the work of both Barker and Dever from a Latter-day Saint perspective in "His Secret is with the Righteous: Instructional Wisdom in the Book of Mormon" and in her review of Dever's Did God Have a Wife, “Does God Have a Wife?” These papers can be accessed online at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/. Von Feldt will present on The Lady in the Latter-Days. She will explore Wisdom in Restoration scripture and suggest possibilities toward an LDS theology of Wisdom.

Valerie Hudson (http://vmrhudson.org) is professor and holds the George H. W. Bush chair in the International Affairs program at Texas A&M University. In 2009 she was named by Foreign Policy to be one of the top 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers. She is co-author of Women in Eternity, Women of Zion, a comprehensive examination of LDS doctrine concerning women. She will respond to the presentations of Barker, Hemming, Dever, and Von Feldt.

Barker and Hemming are among the founders of The Temple Studies Group in the UK (templestudiesgroup.com), an “ecumenical and international initiative” which  “promotes and enables study of the Temple in Jerusalem, believing that the world view, traditions, customs and symbolism of the Temple were formative influences on the development of Christianity.” This group is the inspiration for the Academy of Temple Studies, a co-sponsor of the “Lady in the Temple” conference. The Academy of Temple Studies was founded in the US in 2012 by Gary N. Anderson, a Utah attorney, and Brigham Young University professors John F. Hall and John W. Welch. Its objective is “the study and understanding of the ancient temple – as typified by the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem – and its antecedents and successors in various cultural settings, from deep antiquity to ancient Egypt to Israel, and later temple traditions.” The other sponsor of the conference, the Utah State University Religious Studies Program, is under the direction of Philip Barlow.  

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in deepening their understanding of temple worship or expanding their knowledge of the divine feminine in Judeo-Christian history and theology (including LDS theology). Registration for the conference is $50.00. Students with a valid student ID will be admitted for $10.00. Seating will be limited, so early registration is encouraged. You can register online here: https://secureinstantpayments.com/sip/cart/event.php?EID=1003



[1] Barker, Margaret, The Mother of the Lord: The Lady in the Temple, 3. [Back to manuscript].

[2] Barker, Margaret, Temple Theology: An Introduction, 1. [Back to manuscript].

[3] William G. Dever, Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel, 102. [Back to manuscript].

[4] Ibid, 317. [Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: SquareTwo (2013) "The Lady in the Temple: A Conference Announcement," SquareTwo, Vol. 6 No. 2 (Summer), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleLadyTemple.html, <give access date>

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