Guest blog by J. Spencer Fluhman, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University.
Latter-day Saint scholar Robert L. Millet’s 2014 retirement provided an opportunity for those who consider him a mentor, colleague, and friend to pay tribute to his prodigious career of nearly four decades. Both in terms of his staggering literary production and in his broad collection of colleagues, it is not an overstatement to place Bob, as he’s affectionately known to us, among the most influential Latter-day Saint voices of the past quarter century. Let Us Reason Together is a collection of nineteen essays written in his honor—a modest monument to his remarkable career as an administrator, teacher, and writer. Bob’s students number in the thousands, his readers number perhaps ten times that, and his friends in academia, the Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and around the globe in many faiths would be difficult to number indeed. That these pieces range across topics, disciplines, and even religious traditions seems especially appropriate given Millet’s own broad reach.
Few Latter-day Saints have had as big an impact on the Church’s interreligious relationship with other Christian faiths as Bob. His interest in building bridges of understanding can be traced to his Southern American upbringing with an LDS father and Methodist mother, but a particular encounter with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also played an important part. When Brigham Young University’s Religious Education department needed a new dean they looked to Millet, who met with members of the Twelve to discuss his appointment in 1991. According to Bob’s account, Elder Neal A. Maxwell provided needed counsel: “We had a wonderful conversation. He gave some encouraging counsel. Then he came around and put his hands on my head and said, ‘By the power of the Holy Apostleship’—that got my attention. . . . He said a lot of things that I still can’t remember. I remember how inspired I felt by his blessing. But then [came] words that he repeated three different times through the course of what he was saying. ‘Brother Robert, you’ve got to find ways to reach out to those of other faiths more.’ ‘Now Brother Bob, you need to build some bridges between us and those of other faiths.’ And then he said [it] again just before he closed. And it just weighed on me.”
Bob has gone on to author, coauthor, or edit over 70 books and 180 articles and book chapters, many of which explore Latter-day Saint belief in comparison to other Christians. Much to his credit, the authors gathered in Let Us Reason Together may or may not agree with Millet on any given topic. He has long been confident that Mormonism can more than hold its own under intense scrutiny, and he’s keen to set a big table for the discussion.
Simply put, he has personally mentored a large number of Mormon educators and has won the trust and respect of a significant contingent of Protestant fellow travelers. We who count ourselves grateful recipients of his generous influence hope this volume’s collective thinking, faith, and lively conversation form a worthy “thank you” to our cherished colleague and friend.
Let Us Reason Together: Essays in Honor of the Life’s Work of Robert L. Millet is coedited by J. Spencer Fluhman and Brent L. Top and is a coproduction of BYU’s Religious Studies Center, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and Deseret Book.
See the contents here.