LDS, FARMS, BYU Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Germany

June 28, 2005

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that was housed at BYU in the late 1990s and a derivative of which then traveled around the country displayed at Stake Centers is now making its way around Europe. The exhibit has already been in France and is now in Germany. It has been in Frankfurt am Main so far and will be displayed in Stuttgart from the end of June to the middle of July, in Munich from the middle of July to the end of July, in Berlin from the middle to the end of September, and in Dresden from the middle to the end of October. It will also travel to Austria and Switzerland, to Salzburg from the beginning to the middle of August and in Zollikofen at the beginning of September. I would absolutely love to see that exhibit in the Berlin Tiergarten stake center! But, alas, I will be in Japan at the time for my brother’s wedding (the Japanese reception, actually, as the wedding will be in SLC).

I have actually been fortunate to have been involved to a very small extent in this development. Elder Hafen wanted Jack Welch, one of the original promoters of the exhibits in the 1990s and one of the people whose contacts in the Middle East were invaluable in bringing priceless, indeed uninsurable, scrolls and fragments from Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East to BYU for the exhibit (of course the goodwill built up by FARMS contributed significantly to this as well), to open the Stuttgart exhibit with a public lecture given in the stake center and at which press was supposed to be in attendance. Jack Welch then contacted me to assist in translating various sources on the scrolls for his speech and in proofreading the German speech he had written for the occasion. The extra time it has required outside of work has been well worth it because I have spent the last couple of weeks immersed in fascinating information about the Qumran community and the genesis and content of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have also been infected by Jack Welch’s catchy enthusiasm for the scrolls.

In addition to his public lecture, which, I believe, is to be held Wednesday, June 29 (but I may be mistaken about the exact date), Jack Welch will also be giving one or two firesides in the area. I think he specifically mentioned Karlsruhe, so if anyone is out there, try to make it. He will be speaking on a variety of topics, all of which fascinating, and most of which focusing on the status of work that FARMS is involved in. He will also speak some on the work of Joseph Smith since we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth this year. In one of his talks (but I don’t know if it will be in Karlsruhe), he will be giving a German version of the BYU Devotional Address he gave in 2004 on what it means to “love God with all your mind.”

My hope is that the Scrolls exhibit will interest the public in Germany and will promote some reflection on the role of religion in the life of a society. I don’t think that there needs to be a particularly LDS angle to the presentation of the scrolls, aside from the fact, which will be quite obvious, that the exhibit is the creation of BYU and FARMS. Jack Welch will be making a few points that will resonate with Latter-day Saints in the audience but will seem nothing more than interesting information to others in the audience.

For instance, he will mention the copper scroll discovered at Qumran, which is a thinly pounded copper plate inscribed with Hebrew characters–an example of Hebrews writing on metal plates before the birth of Christ which surprised scholars when it was discovered in the 1950s. (Noone has yet been able to decode the message on the copper scroll, I believe, but it is thought that the scroll contains the location of the treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem.) This will be interesting to a non-LDS audience but will have special meaning to Latter-day Saints in the audience because they will be thinking of other Hebrew writings on metal plates. Also, he will talk about sealed documents as found at Qumran and compared to Roman sealed documents, comparisons between the Qumran community and the early Christian Church, and other fascinating topics for LDS and non-LDS alike.