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BYU to host 33rd annual Sperry Symposium Oct. 29-30

To consider "Prelude to the Restoration: From Apostasy to the Restored Church"

In a departure from its 33-year history, this year's Brigham Young University Sydney B. Sperry Symposium Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30, will focus on people and events between early Christianity and the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, the symposium, sponsored by Religious Education at BYU, has focused on a specific book of scripture to provide helpful materials that would supplement the Church's Gospel Doctrine curriculum for the upcoming year.

The title and theme for this year's symposium, however, is from the Church history textbook used in the Church Educational System, "Prelude to the Restoration: From Apostasy to the Restored Church."

Andrew C. Skinner, dean of Religious Education, will deliver the keynote address, "Forerunners and Foundation Stones of the Restoration," Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the Joseph Smith Building auditorium.

Five concurrent sessions will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the JSB auditorium and the Thomas L. Martin Building Friday evening following Dean Skinner's address. Saturday lectures will begin at 8 a.m. in the Martin Building and 9 a.m. in the JSB auditorium and continue until noon.

Other presenters will include faculty members from BYU, the Church Educational System, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho, BYU faculty from other departments and other Church scholars.

For more information or a copy of the symposium schedule, contact Patty Smith at (801) 422-3611, or visit the Web site at

"The convergence of ideas, institutions and individuals to bring about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is mind-boggling," Skinner says. "Only God could have orchestrated it, using so many individuals over such a span of time."

Fred Woods, director of the symposium, says the symposium will be "unprecedented."

"This year's symposium is in anticipation of the anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith," Woods says. "We want to show the catalytic individuals, the processes and the ideas that set the stage for the Restoration."

"We realize the Lord works through a lot of people, not just members of the Church," said Andrew Hedges, associate professor of Church history at BYU. "He worked through John Wesley and Martin Luther, and I believe he continues to work through other people today."

The decision to change directions this year was further confirmed when one of BYU's professors heard Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church speak at a BYU-Hawaii devotional in November 2001.

"I had prepared a talk, written it, and had it prepared to give to you by the teleprompter," Elder Ballard said at the devotional. "But in the middle of the night I had the impression that I was to set that aside and speak to you from my heart . . . on a matter that the Lord apparently wants."

The rest of the message Elder Ballard delivered reflected the need for members of the Church to study and remember the early reformers.

"We must appreciate that there has been a terrible price paid," Elder Ballard said. "I would pray that you would focus some of your study on what price has been paid, by those who have gone before us, to give us the privilege of walking in the light and knowledge of the gospel."

BYU religion professor Steven Harper was present the day Elder Ballard spoke.

"It was extremely impressive," says Harper. "In graduate school I studied early modern Europe, but Elder Ballard's talk inspired me in such a way that I felt I needed to go back and review it again."

Writer: Devin Knighton

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