BYU exhibition: God’s children ‘converse’ through the humanities

Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen


“Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:15)

There’s a challenging question posed at the entrance of the Brigham Young University exhibition “50 Years of Fluency in the Human Conversation”: How do you harmonize the secular and the sacred?

Latter-day Saints often follow their own secular/sacred system of classification. There are work clothes and church clothes. Sunday music and “rest of the week” music. Regular books and gospel books. Even the way members converse — the topics, words and manner in which they speak — seem to fall on the sides of secular or sacred.

But the exhibition, found on the top floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building at the Church-owned campus, argues that the gap between secular and sacred need not exist. The divine can be found in all forms of expression, or “conversation.” The glory of God is, after all, intelligence. It is light and truth. “[And] light and truth forsake that evil one” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37).

The multi-media display champions the study and practice in the humanities through literature, languages, philosophy, art history and linguistics. Humanities, according to the exhibition website, allows for “the human conversation across divergent cultures, times, tongues and peoples.”

Through the humanities “we learn to see things in new ways, read unfamiliar texts and scripts and come to know others as human beings and children of God rather than stereotypes,” wrote J. Scott Miller, the dean of BYU’s College of Humanities. The exhibition doubles as a birthday party.

Fifty years ago the College of Humanities became its own academic unit. Its stated charge over the past half-century has been to prepare BYU students to face the changing demands of the workplace and the community by learning to “converse.”

The exhibition explores the many voices in the human conversation through traditional humanities fields such as art, language and literature. Visitors can participate by posting notes on how they are inspired by the humanities. A sprawling map of the world reveals the many ways BYU students incorporate the humanities as they live, study and serve the nations of the world.

Language and art, the exhibition also teaches, were the vehicles of revelation which fueled the Restoration.

“50 Years of Fluency in the Human Conversation” is open through Nov. 23, 2016. Admission is free. @JNSwensen

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