Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Direction of the Maxwell Institute

June 22, 2013
by Tim Barker


The Direction of the Maxwell Institute
 
My posts are generally intended to be somewhat formal, so this post will be a bit of a departure for me. I suppose my commentary on this subject is a bit late, but I wanted to comment on the direction that the Maxwell Institute seems to be heading in with the benefit of hindsight. It has now been just over a year since Dan Peterson and others were unprofessionally dismissed. Numerous online blogs and other venues have commented on this drama. I, like many others, was disappointed in the decision made by Bradford; however, I was also gratified to see Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture formed and the prolificacy that has resulted in connection with that formation.
 
So, what is the direction that the Maxwell Institute is heading in? According to Blair Hodges, who currently seems to be the only active voice at MI,1 the organization's mission statement declares that their objective is to "deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints and to promote mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts." The organization is further identified as an academic unit at Brigham Young University. I'm not sure how mutual respect and goodwill among people of other faiths will be achieved through academic publications, nevertheless, I'm not opposed to a good cause such as this.

 
I am in agreement with Dan Peterson, however, that the Mormon Studies Review, as previously edited, was not incompatible with the terms of the current mission statement.2 I don't believe that the two are mutually exclusive; those leading the MI apparently feel otherwise. This points the MI in a different direction than they were facing over a year ago, despite arguments to the contrary. The organization's move implicitly discounts apologetics in terms of scholasticism and interfaith-relationship building. To me, this shift calls into question the compatibility of Bradford and the current administration's motives in juxtaposition with the organization's namesake. After all, Elder Maxwell is reported to have openly expressed his appreciation for FARMS and specifically their scholarly approach in apologetics. He stated that he would be "reluctant if [FARMS] ever moved away from what had become [their] traditional role."3
 
If the current direction is strictly aimed at speaking to academic circles, and apologetics has no real future role for the Maxwell Institute, then I wonder how the current administration reconciles their direction with Elder Maxwell's sentiments. It would seem that the late Apostle's appreciation and desires have been disregarded. Of course this isn't news; Dan Peterson has already tactfully discussed this issue almost a year ago.4 Those of us who regret the dismissal of the former editorship of the Mormon Studies Review, also see the dismissal of a much needed scholarly tradition with apostolic approbation. Of course, this is my generalization and I do not speak for all who regret the administration's change in atmosphere, but my communications with numerous others leads me to believe this barometric reading to be generally representative.
 
What I find to be somewhat ironic, is the MI Facebook page prominently displaying the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Within this corpus, of course, is Nibley's Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, a strictly apologetic work, with other books such as An Approach to the Book of Abraham, and Abraham in Egypt, as well as others in the collection, that include a substantial amount of apologetic literature. The question arises as to why Nibley's apologetic publications are advertised while the Institute is leaning away from this type of literature. Is Nibley's approach to apologetics acceptable while Dan Peterson's approach is not? Does MI believe that there is a significant difference between the Mormon Studies Review (formerly, the FARMS Review) and Nibley's writings?
 
Since FARMS/Maxwell Institute has built a reputation around scholarship on the Book of Mormon and other Latter-day Saint scripture and apologetics, I am curious as to why this particular organization was the instrument for reformation under the 'academic only' approach to religious scholarship. Why not BYU's Religious Studies Center? Or, the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History? Or, BYU Studies? Of course, the intellectual capacity of Elder Maxwell and his namesake associated with the Institute seems fitting for the course that MI is heading in, however, the other organizations seem just as relevant and appropriate. One of the primary differences between these organizations, however, was FARMS/MI's reputation in apologetics. Does Bradford disapprove of apologetics altogether? Or, was he simply in a position with the proper infrastructure to implement his personal objectives? I don't have an answer to why this particular organization was reformed vs. the others, but it is regretful to me and to many others that the only church-sponsored organization that attempted to fulfill the principles outlined in Doctrine & Covenants 123 has disbanded its traditional approach.
 
It seems that it is becoming popular to look down on apologetics, and many superficially dismiss this endeavor as bigotry. I tend to believe that those who do so have no real experience in engaging this approach to religious studies. Its importance to me can be partially illustrated with an experience I had a few years back. A co-worker friend invited me to attend Mariners Church in Irvine, California, where Robert (Bob) Millet and Greg Johnson held a "Mormon/Evangelical Dialogue." Subsequently, three more sessions were held with different speakers focusing on the Godhead/Trinity, Biblical accuracy/inerrancy, and faith and works. Following these sessions, my wife and I invited this co-worker friend over for dinner and she brought her cousin with her, who was a recruiter at a Calvinist college in SoCal. We had an amicable night and learned much from each other. At one point I asked my friend's cousin why he thought that we believed certain things that were not only incorrect, but gross misrepresentations. He answered that his church's specialists research Mormonism and then teach them about our church. My impression was that these specialists primarily relied on Walter Martin, Ed Decker, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and other avid anti-Mormons for their 'specialist' research. I asked him if he had ever read the Book of Mormon and he informed me that he did not need to since these specialists provided him with sufficient reason to avoid what he thought was a waste of time.
 
This further confirmed to me that there are numerous individuals who know little of the church's  teachings except through blatant misrepresentations from those who willfully distort the truth. Now, having a book review on the Tanners' Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon could prove far more effectual in addressing concerns of potential converts than a book discussing how Joseph Smith or the Mormons fit into America's sociological context. Both have a place in Mormon Studies, but the need for apologetics is every bit as important as publishing academically engaged scholarship. Elder Ballard wrote a few years back that there are "conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot sit on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches."5  Since the Maxwell Institute was the only Church-related arm to directly engage issues raised by critics and it has severed that tie, again I'm left to speculate as to how the current administration reconciles their current direction with the organization's past. At any rate, my implication that the MI's new direction is towards a sociological approach may be an oversimplification, but will be revisited momentarily.
 
So, the other irony in highlighting Nibley's collected works, is what I perceive to be MI's movement away from Nibley's legacy. Almost seventy years ago Hugh Nibley began publishing articles in the Improvement Era regarding Lehi in the Desert. His contextualization of the Book of Mormon in terms of Hebraic/Arabic/Egyptian origins was groundbreaking. A few years later, under President David O. McKay's appointment, Nibley wrote An Approach to the Book of Mormon, which took into consideration apocrypha/pseudopigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient texts that had relevance to the marks of antiquity within the Book of Mormon. Hugh Nibley was a pioneer in this field. His approach revolutionized the way that future scholars would approach the Book of Mormon. Of course the underlying premise in all of this was that the Book of Mormon was actually translated from ancient plates, did contain an actual history of migrant Israelites, and the Savior actually ministered among these 'other sheep' after His resurrection.
 
Over the years, many more scholars emerged that would publish pieces on the Book of Mormon's antiquity, including John Sorenson, John Welch, Noel Reynolds, Stephen Ricks, and many, many others. Dan Peterson is among these high-caliber scholars. His specialty in Islamic and Arabic studies adds unique perspective in understanding the origins of the Book of Mormon, but further his ability to articulate so clearly the importance in taking the Book of Mormon seriously as an ancient religious text further adds to the significance of this corpus. So why is the MI's display of Nibley's Collected Works ironic? It is because those scholars who have emerged with backgrounds like Dan Peterson are a natural extension from Nibley's pioneering research, but are now completely absent from the Mormon Studies Review editorial advisory board.
 
Spencer Fluhman has been appointed as the first editor of the Review. He is an Assistant Professor of History at BYU and obtained a Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The editorial board will allegedly consist of an "interdisciplinary focus." Accordingly, the new board consists of the following (as published on MI's blog):
  • Philip L. Barlow, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University
  • Richard L. Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, emeritus, Columbia University
  • Douglas J. Davies, Professor of Theology and Religion, Durham University
  • Eric A. Eliason, Professor of English, Brigham Young University
  • James E. Faulconer, Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding, Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University
  • Kathleen Flake, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University
  • Terryl L. Givens, James A. Bostwick Chair of English and Professor of Literature and Religion, University of Richmond
  • Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
  • Matthew J. Grow, Director of Publications, Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Grant Hardy, Professor of History and Religious Studies, University of North Carolina—Asheville
  • David F. Holland, Associate Professor of History, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University
  • Quincy D. Newell, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Wyoming
  • Grant Underwood, Professor of History, Brigham Young University
 
Please note that virtually the entire board consists of historians. There is nobody with an anthropological background, Arabic and Islamic studies background, Meso-American studies background, Egyptological background, etc. If I am going to attempt to interpret the direction in which the Maxwell Institute is heading, I am left to conclude that the origins and antiquity of the Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture are of very little concern to the Maxwell Institute. Please do not misunderstand my criticism. I appreciate the slate of professionals included in the editorial advisory board. In fact, Terryl Givens' By The Hand of Mormon, Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon, and Philip Barlow's Mormons and the Bible, are three books that I highly cherish and willingly recommend to others. I look forward to and welcome all of the forthcoming literature from each of the above scholars. My criticism isn't meant to demean anybody on the board, it is meant to point out that the scope of MI's 'Mormon Studies' is far too narrow.
 
Is the direction that the Maxwell Institute intends to proceed with entirely geared towards interpreting Mormonism and Mormon scriptures within a 19th and 20th century context? If 'Mormon Studies' is meant to understand Mormonism solely in a latter-day context, than it is missing the point of the basis of the religion. Since it is believed by members of the church that the restoration constitutes fulfillment of Paul's prophecy of the restitution of all things and the dispensation of the fullness of times, and that the Latter-day Saint scriptures are primarily of ancient origin, and the fact that the scriptures themselves claim antiquity, then the Institute is ignoring all scholarly activity outside of trending popular culture studies (i.e., a focus on the sociological considerations as referenced above).6

I don't want to oversimplify the matter. The organization still has its other publications. One year after the reformation, however, the Maxwell Institute has hardly warmed up its press. As far as I'm aware, there has been no revamping or enlargement of those periodicals that do address Mormon scripture (including the Bible) as ancient and/or religious texts. The focus, so far, is towards moving full-steam ahead with historians on the newly minted 'Mormon Studies,' a term defined in various ways online (see comments in the referenced link as well). I hope for better days ahead for MI, and I cannot adequately articulate my appreciation for the Interpreter for the void that it has filled, but with a year of hindsight, it seems to me that all of the concerns expressed by those disappointed in the Maxwell Institute's shift, appears to be fully justified.
 
 
_____________________________
1 Blair Hodges has a BA in Mass Communications and a Minor in Religious Studies from UoU. He recently obtained a graduate degree from Georgetown in Religious Studies. He was appointed the public communications specialist with MI earlier this year. I say that he seems to be the only voice of the Maxwell Institute because he runs the Facebook page and the organization's blog, and as will be illustrated in this post, very few publications have been actually printed by the MI as of yet. Accordingly, all of our news from MI and the various projects they intend to pursue, are publicly known through Brother Hodges.
Dan Peterson, "Of 'Mormon Studies' and Apologetics," FAIR Conference, 2012, online here
3 Neal A. Maxwell, FARMS Annual Recognition Banquet, 27 September 1991, as cited by John Gee at Forn Spǫll Fira
4 "Of 'Mormon Studies' and Apologetics"
5 Elder M. Russell Ballard, "Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet," Ensign, July 2008 
6 I say 'trending popular culture studies' because there seems to be an increase in publications geared towards interpreting Mormon culture, rather than its religion. Focus has shifted from doctrine and restorational themes to the sociological context of Mormonism. Examples that seem to corroborate this assertion most recently include Matt Bowman's The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, Samuel Morris Brown's In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death, Joanna Brooks' The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of An American Faith, and many others. This generalization may be far reaching, but I see a slate of individuals on this board interested in interpreting Mormonism and how it has developed based on Mormon scriptures, rather than a direct study of the scriptures as primarily ancient religious texts from those with credibility in analyzing the ancient historical context.
 
 
 
 

72 comments:

  1. "Please note that virtually the entire board consists of historians."

    Except for Phil Barlow (ThD Harvard Divinity; taught at Dept of Theological Studies for nearly two decades before USU); Douglas Davies (self-description: "I am both an anthropologist and theologian with theoretical and practical interests. "); Eric Eliason (literature); James Faulconer (philosophy); Terryl Givens (literature and religion); Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp (religion); Quincy Newell (religious/women). studies).

    In other words, only 8 of the 15 are historians by training. Hardly "virtually."

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    1. Hello narrator - and thanks for your response.
      For my overgeneralization on the exact number of historians, I apologize. My point remains, however, that the antiquity of LDS scripture cannot be adequately explored by the current slate of editors.

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    2. I certainly agree that the antiquity of LDS scripture cannot be adequately explored by the board members of the Mormon Studies Review. However a couple points should be remembered:

      1. This is the board, not the reviewers. Most likely, few reviews would actually be written by the board members. Rather, the editors and board would choose capable reviewers knowledgeable on the topics reviewing particular works.
      2. This is the MORMON STUDIES REVIEW, not the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture (which already exists and will be continued to be publishd by the MI. (It even has a ink on the MI website: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/ ).

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    3. Regarding 1. - if a book review was submitted regarding DNA and the Book of Mormon, do you think any on the editorial board would be able to distinguish between a competent reviewer and an incompetent one? It is a technical field, and a theologian or historian's viewpoint on this kind of topic seems of little value to me.
      Regarding 2. - Thank you. Please re-read my last paragraph in my post. Mormon Studies should be far more expansive in scope than just history and theology, as you note regarding trends in Mormon Studies; accordingly, there should be somebody on the board who can determine the adequacy and comptency of the reviewer - please see 1.

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    4. "Do you think any on the editorial board would be able to distinguish between a competent reviewer and an incompetent one?"

      Yes.

      "A theologian or historian's viewpoint on this kind of topic seems of little value to me."

      Well that's just wonderful, but nobody cares. And if they did, there is this mysterious thing called "research, asking questions, and getting advice from others." The persons on the board are good at that sort of of thing. It's largely why they are at the top of their various fields.

      Furthermore, your whole premise here is built on a silly premise (that only someone specialized in a particular field can distinguish the competence of someone else in that field). Just think for a moment: imagine that your dream team editorial board of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc was going to be put together. How would a group of persons ever determine the competence of those people? Surely you would need a team of competent mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc for the selection committee to have any value to you, but then who would determine the competence of the selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc who would determine the competence of the board of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc. You would have to create a preliminary selection committee of competent mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc to distinguish the competence of the selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc who would distinguish the competence of the board of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc (who would, of course, distinguish the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc who be distinguishing the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc they are reviewing).

      But this would still beg the question of whether the preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc were competent. Thus you would would need a pre-preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc to distinguish the competence of the preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc, who would determine the competence of the board of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc. (who would, of course, distinguish the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc who be distinguishing the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc they are reviewing).

      But this would still beg the question of whether the pre-preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc were competent. Thus you would would need a pre-pre-preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc to distinguish the competence of the pre-preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc to distinguish the competence of the preliminary selection committee of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc, who would determine the competence of the board of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc. (who would, of course, distinguish the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc who be distinguishing the competence of mesoamerican anthropologists, Egyptologists, etc they are reviewing).

      But why should we trust this pre-pre-preliminary selection committee?????

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    5. I'm not even sure how to comment on such stupid reasoning, with all due respect.

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    6. And yet most of the above mentioned have spent most of their published careers writing on aspects of history.

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    7. Tim, I'm just extending your reasoning.

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    8. Tim, let me spell out the logic a little more clearer for you.

      You said: "if a book review was submitted regarding DNA and the Book of Mormon, do you think any on the editorial board would be able to distinguish between a competent reviewer and an incompetent one? It is a technical field, and a theologian or historian's viewpoint on this kind of topic seems of little value to me."

      As well as: " I repeat my concern over the reviewer's ability to identify competency in technical subjects outside of modern history and theology."

      The underlying premise of your reasoning is: 'Only persons specialized in a particular field can distinguish/identify the competency of another person in that field.'

      Because you hold this premise, you believe: 'Because nobody on the MSR board is specialized in X, they will be unable to identify the competency of a reviewer to adequately review a book dealing with X.'


      Because you believe this (rather silly) thing, I ask you this: If we accepted your reasoning and decided that the MSR needed a person specialized in X so that they could identify a competent reviewer of X (as you seem doubtful that the current MSR board could figure this out), how would you determine that the new board member is competent in X?

      Now this is very important. Keep your answer to that last question in your head and answer this next question, why couldn't the current MSR board do this very thing?

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    9. This really isn't that difficult Loyd. If a reviewer decides to submit their review on some new book on Egyptology and the Book of Abraham, then an editor, say John Gee, could provide responses back to the reviewer for polishing or pointers prior to publishing. Do you think Grant Hardy would be able to do the same (I mean no disrespect to Brother Hardy)? Do I need to be an Egyptologist to know whether John is adequate as an Egyptologist to know whether he can provide feedback on a review of a book concerning Egyptology? Of course not. I need to know that he has a skillset relevant to his editorship.
      Otherwise, why the selection of this editorial board? Why not somebody who has been editing books for Alfred Knopf or Cedar Fort or something? Obviously you'd want somebody with relevance to the subject at hand.
      I don't see why this is so difficult to comprehend.

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    10. "This really isn't that difficult Loyd."

      It isn't, which amazes me on why you can't grasp basic ideas.

      "If a reviewer decides to submit their review on some new book on Egyptology...."

      There's your first problem. With most higher-end academic book reviews, the journal solicits a reviewer, not the other way around. In other words, the editor (with the help of the board) asks a capable reviewer (perhaps someone like John Gee) to review a particular book. Not the other way around. The point is to have a skilled reviewer review the book, not to have some amateur submit his review and have someone else hold his hand to make it better.

      "Do I need to be an Egyptologist to know whether John is adequate as an Egyptologist to know whether he can provide feedback on a review of a book concerning Egyptology? Of course not. I need to know that he has a skillset relevant to his editorship."

      Which is precisely what the editor and the board does when they ask someone to review a book. Your whole "of course not" reveals the utter silliness of your concern about whether the board could distinguish whether or not someone they ask to review a book is competent to do so.

      I'm flabbergasted that you are not comprehending this.

      "Otherwise, why the selection of this editorial board?"

      To have persons who are deeply a part of Mormon Studies and Religious Studies to oversee the decisions of the MSR--basically the same thing that most boards do.

      "Why not somebody who has been editing books for Alfred Knopf or Cedar Fort or something?"

      A journal editor and a proofing editor are two VERY different things. I've been both.

      "Obviously you'd want somebody with relevance to the subject at hand."

      No. That's the reviewers job. The editors job is to oversee the journal as a whole and find reviewers who are specialized.

      "I don't see why this is so difficult to comprehend."

      Me neither!

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    11. "Otherwise, why the selection of this editorial board?"

      "To have persons who are deeply a part of Mormon Studies and Religious Studies to oversee the decisions of the MSR--basically the same thing that most boards do."

      Well this is the whole point, isn't it Loyd? Please re-read my post, as you seem to have missed the basic premise of my argument. Your definition of Mormon Studies, along with what I perceive MI's definition of Mormon Studies to be, is far too narrow. Excluding individuals with backgrounds in the antiquity of Mormon scripture is implying that Mormon Studies is a very narrow field. I disagree with this definition! And you are welcome to continue disagreeing with me (as persistently as you have been). But trying to pigeonhole Mormon Studies into this little paradigm is absurd.

      Delete
  2. "If the current direction is strictly aimed at speaking to academic circles, and apologetics has no real future role for the Maxwell Institute,"

    Directly from Spencer Fluhman, new editor of the MSR: "No, we don’t intend to leave apologetics entirely behind. As one of a diverse set of academic conversations about Mormonism, APOLOGETICS WILL ALWAYS HAVE A PLACE IN THE REVIEW." (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/seven-questions-for-spencer-fluhman/)

    You also seem to forget that the MI is doing and will be doing more than just the MSR.

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    Replies
    1. I am familiar with Brother Fluhman's comments, and I appreciate their intentions to retain apologetics; however, the actions of the organization have yet to align with this assertion. I hope there is a future at MI including apologetics, but I hope it isn't as generic as Ben Park has described (see Bill Hamblin's response here: http://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/the-apologetics-of-richness/)

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    2. "however, the actions of the organization have yet to align with this assertion"

      But have they dis-aligned?

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    3. My opinion, and others are welcome to theirs, is that the dismissal of Dan Peterson, Bill Hamblin, Lou Midgeley and others points in a direction away from this. So, I would say yes, they have dis-aligned. What MI intends to do, and what they actually do in the future will hopefully be acceptable to the demographic of us who appreciated FARMS/MI's historical works engaging apologetics.

      Delete
    4. "points in a direction away from this"

      What is "this"?

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    5. Perhaps the most accurate -- and least debatable -- way of putting it is that nobody (so far as I recall) on the new advisory board has demonstrated any particular interest in ancient or Middle Eastern or Mesoamerican studies, which were the mainstays of the pre-2012 Maxwell institute or FARMS.

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    6. " nobody (so far as I recall) on the new advisory board has demonstrated any particular interest in ancient or Middle Eastern or Mesoamerican studies,"

      The new advisory board of what Dan?

      Yes, the new advisory board of the MORMONS STUDIES REVIEW.

      I seem to recall that the MI had a journal specifically focused on the Book of Mormon...

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    7. FARMS (later the Maxwell Institute) was founded to support study of and publication on the Book of Mormon. Everything else was an add-on.

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  3. "According to Blair Hodges, who currently seems to be the only active voice at MI"

    Except for Spencer Fluhman (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/seven-questions-for-spencer-fluhman/), Jim Faulconer (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/our-new-youtube-channel/); Kristian Heal (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/dead-sea-scrolls-announcement/); Matt Roper (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/premortal-existence-book-of-job/); Kirk Caudle (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/podcast-an-interview-with-w-kesler-jackson-elijah-abel-the-life-and-times-of-a-black-priesthood-holder/); and Morgan Davis (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/the-middle-eastern-texts-initiative-to-recover-preserve-and-remember-part-i/)

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    Replies
    1. Others have contributed to the Blog, and the MI has published two journals with contributions that do not include Blair Hodges. However, if you were to compare total contributions from others at MI or through MI since the reformation took place with the blog posts and facebooking that Blair has provided, I think the scale is largely tipped in his favor. I'm not complaining about Blair Hodges or his contributions, I am critiquing the absence of MI publications. Please don't misunderstand me - I'm not opposed to the Maxwell Institute! I want more literature! I am simply disappointed in the quantity of materials published thus far, and what I perceive as an extremely narrow scope for the Mormon Studies Review.

      Delete
    2. FYI - your comments utilizing ad hominem against John Gee and Dan Peterson have been deleted. I have no problem with conflicting opinions, but disrespectful and petty comments against individuals are not welcome here.

      Delete
    3. What ad hominem? I said nothing about them. I only said something about Gee's one post and the quantity over quality goals of the Interpreter.

      People throw around "ad hominem" way too much, without understanding what it means.

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    4. My understanding of ad hominem is that the subject of discussion is diverted or ignored while the person/author is criticized instead. I believe name-calling falls under this logical fallacy as well.

      Again, I have no objection to posting your comments that are in opposition to my views, or others, but it must be done respectfully.

      Delete
    5. " I believe name-calling falls under this logical fallacy as well. "

      It doesn't. It does, however, fall under 'name-calling.'

      Delete
    6. Point conceded. However, I felt your approach was disrespectful and diversionary, and so I deleted those comments. If you want to re-write them with a little more mature approach, I'd be happy to post. Thanks.

      Delete
    7. "Interpreter" has no "quantity over quality goals." That's Loyd Ericson's (the narrator's) invention.

      Loyd tends to follow me around on the Web to post insults. I've had to delete quite a number of them from my own blog, for example. Apparently, though, he also likes to post them in places where I haven't even shown up. (Who KNOWS how many he's posted of which I'm not aware?) I hadn't looked at comments here previously, but it seems he's been a busy fellow already.

      Delete
    8. A comment received by "the narrator" (Loyd Ericson)and was an immature jab at Brother Peterson and will not be posted. As I mentioned before, disrespectful comments are not welcome here. Individuals are free to comment with dissenting views; however, our collective objective in becoming more Christlike shouldn't be compromised by disagreements.
      Narrator, please try to stay on topic.

      Delete
  4. "There is nobody with an anthropological background, Arabic and Islamic studies background, Meso-American studies background, Egyptological background, etc."

    Davies has a background in anthropology. It's a Mormon Studies journal, not an Islamic Studies journal, and books dealing with Egyptology and Mesoamerica make up only and relatively very small fraction of titles published in Mormon Studies. To use your "virtually" more correctly, virtually all Mormon Studies titles being published today are historical in nature.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for clarifying the nature of the journal.

      Similarly, I hope to clarify my position. A background in religious studies, history, and theology has little bearing on the study of the religious texts themselves, which is what the Maxwell Institute's mission statement comprises. Rather, these fields study reactions to the text - also interesting, but again, not a study of the texts. Literature and anthropology are both relevant, so at least there is some consideration, be it ever so small in comparison with the organization's past figures.

      As far as what 'Mormon Studies' comprises, I am not convinced that current trends define what the field embraces, or what it should embrace.

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    2. "A background in religious studies, history, and theology has little bearing on the study of the religious texts themselves, which is what the Maxwell Institute's mission statement comprises. Rather, these fields study reactions to the text"

      That is simply not true.

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    3. Please feel free to provide yet another definition of what constitutes Mormon Studies.

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    4. Do you really not understand the relationship between studying theology and studying scriptural texts?

      Do you really think a reception history of a scriptural text can be done without studying the actual scriptural texts?

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    5. I don't believe your comments addressed mine. Let me simplify - do you believe that Mormon Studies is inclusive or exclusive of scriptural antiquity? If is inclusive, I repeat my concern over the reviewer's ability to identify competency in technical subjects outside of modern history and theology. Again, the unfortunate departure from Nibley's legacy in favor of sociological perspectives.

      Delete
    6. "Let me simplify - do you believe that Mormon Studies is inclusive or exclusive of scriptural antiquity?"

      I'm an advocate for inclusive anarchy. See here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/30451798/Mormon-Studies

      "I repeat my concern over the reviewer's ability to identify competency in technical subjects outside of modern history and theology."

      A concern built on a fallacious premise. See my comment above. Here is the short version: "there is this mysterious thing called 'research, asking questions, and getting advice from others.' The persons on the board are good at that sort of of thing. It's largely why they are at the top of their various fields"

      Delete
    7. So is Harold Bloom. Why not solicit him for a position on the board?

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    8. He's old and probably doesn't want to be on the board. Also, although he has written a bit on Joseph Smith and Mormonism, he is hardly specialized in Mormon Studies--something that the rest of the board is.

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    9. Again, the point of relevance. I'll chalk this one up to point proven. You believe that the board is representative of Mormon Studies. I believe that the board represents a portion of Mormon Studies, a very good portion, but I do not believe Mormon Studies to be so contracted in scope like you do. My problem with the board is that it is missing specialists in other relevant Mormon studies.

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  5. "If I am going to attempt to interpret the direction in which the Maxwell Institute is heading, I am left to conclude that the origins and antiquity of the Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture are of very little concern to the Maxwell Institute."

    You must have missed this announcement on the MI blog: "BRIAN M. HAUGLID APPOINTED AS NEW DIRECTOR OF THE WILLES CENTER FOR BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES" (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/brian-m-hauglid-appointed-as-new-director-of-the-willes-center-for-book-of-mormon-studies/)

    All those things you were complaining about the MI not having because they weren't on the MSR board? Yeah....

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    1. I did not miss this announcement. I sure hope he is strongly encouraged to publish with MI as much as possible. What hasn't been defined is what role this position will play for MI's future.

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    2. "What hasn't been defined is what role this position will play for MI's future."

      Huh?

      From the Willes Center website: "he Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, established in April 2007, promotes a concentrated study of the Book of Mormon both as an ancient text and as an important publication in the modern world. To this end, the Willes Center awards research scholarships, sponsors lectures and symposia, supports educational efforts, and assists in publications and media productions. In all, the Willes Center advances efforts to understand the historical and spiritual value of this significant ancient source." (http://willes.byu.edu/)

      From the announcement of Brian's appointment: "As director, Hauglid WILL OVERSEE THE PUBLICATION OF SEVERAL OF THE INSTITUTE’S PUBLICATIONS, INCLUDING THE JOURNAL, AND STUDIES IN THE BIBLE AND ANTIQUITY. In addition to studies on the Book of Mormon, the Willes Center focuses on the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and other related subjects in their ancient and modern settings. HE WILL ALSO OVERSEE THE INSTITUTE’S ANNUAL LAURA F. WILLES BOOK OF MORMON LECTURE, AS WELL AS VARIOUS SYMPOSIA AND OTHER SPONSORED EVENTS FOCUSING ON RESTORATION SCRIPTURES.
      In accepting the new position, Hauglid expressed gratitude for the opportunity. “I’ve been working with the Institute for a number of years now, and I’m honored with this appointment,” Hauglid said. “I look forward to providing up-and-coming scholars with a valuable venue to pursue and publish solid research worthy of the Maxwell name.” (http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/brian-m-hauglid-appointed-as-new-director-of-the-willes-center-for-book-of-mormon-studies/)

      Not sure how you missed that....

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    3. As an outsider from the Institute, I don't know how relevant a 2007 explanation is to the MI administration's perspective today. Brian Hauglid has a background in Egyptology, and I look forward to anything and everything he has to say. I wish the Institute's focus on their other periodicals were as concentrated as their focus on the variably-defined 'Mormon Studies' and the future of that periodical.

      Also, thanks again, but I haven't missed any MI blog posts. I follow MI publications, and look forward to forthcoming literature.

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    1. Haha. Ok. I appreciate your opinion, and thank you for contributing your perspectives to my blog.

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    2. On a side note, I think your blog pseudonymously posted as Dan Peterson is extremely juvenile and petty, and I also see you that you just now eliminated my accessing this blog. If this is the level that you operate at, than I am inclined to take little concern regarding your opinions on my post.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Seriously? Loyd Ericson is now posting blog entries pretending to be me? Wow. If true, that's beyond pathetic, and, plainly, more than a little obsessive. I thought it was bad enough that he seems to follow me around the Internet, posting insults.

      Does anybody have a URL for this thing of his?

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    5. Found it:
      http://deardansdiary.blogspot.com/

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    6. A comment received by "the narrator" (Loyd Ericson)and was an immature jab at Brother Peterson and will not be posted. As I mentioned before, disrespectful comments are not welcome here. Individuals are free to comment with dissenting views; however, our collective objective in becoming more Christlike shouldn't be compromised by disagreements.
      Narrator, please try to stay on topic

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. I would just love to know who "the narrator" is...

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    1. Before he disabled access to view his profile, I learned that he has three blogs - one on his family, another where he pretended to be Dan Peterson, and another called Project Mayhem, where he has the South Park version of Joseph Smith included in his title:
      http://loydo38.blogspot.com/
      From what I gather on this blog, I believe his name is Loyd Ericson, and he might be attending Claremont Graduate University - if so does he know my old friend Lincoln Hale?
      At any rate, read some of his blog and that will provide clues as to his outlook on Mormonism.

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    2. In his blog he leaves this request for commenting on his posts:
      "Please provide a name or consistent pseudonym with your comments and avoid insults or personal attacks against anyone or any group."
      Yet I had to remove a few of his comments here because of the disrespectful way he vented against Interpreter, Dan Peterson, and John Gee.
      ...for what it is worth.

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    3. Please do read some of my blog. It doesn't get the readership it used to.

      Tim would like this one: http://loydo38.blogspot.com/2010/03/re-reading-ammons-mission-to-lamanites.html#more

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    4. "Yet I had to remove a few of his comments here because of the disrespectful way he vented against Interpreter, Dan Peterson, and John Gee.
      ...for what it is worth."

      It's worth about a buck twenty-five.

      I have no qualms about you deleting posts that you find offensive.

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    5. the narrator demonstrates someone with more time than sense on their hands.

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  9. Yesterday I attended the two hour broadcast from the Quorum of the Twelve promoting more intense missionary efforts by members in order to take advantage of the growing force of missionaries, now at 70,000. There are active efforts in a number of denominations, especially the Southern Baptists, to "immunize" people against Mormonism and reading the Book of Mormon, and it is just plain silly to lose the opportunity to teach people who are sincere worshippers of God who have been misled, like Saul, to direct their energies against the work of the God they love, by not arming ourselves with apologetic information to counter the disinformation spread by pastors who are afraid. Since the Brethren want the Church as a whole to put more faith and works into missionary work, why shouldn't BYU, including the Maxwell Institute, also be doing its unique part to support the mission of the salvation of souls? Apologetics on behalf of Mormonism is not about trouncing a Baptist in a contest of wits, but of getting past barriers of untruth so that the truth of the Holy Ghost can be perceived and accepted. Finding and articulating such truth, and distinguishing it from untruth, is surely a scholarly mission, and also happens to support the growth of Zion.

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    1. I wish Blogger had a 'like' button. Thanks for your comments coltakashi.

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  10. Thank you for your comments coltakashi. I think there is a place for this approach, but I disagree in that I think that apologetics is very important. When my family lived in South Carolina (~1976) my mother began looking for a Church to join. (She wanted her boys to have religion.) She decided to do her own research and went to the local library. In the library she found an anti-Mormon book. She read it. After reading it she felt confused and unsure. As she was looking at the book, someone had written on the title page in ink: "If you want to know the truth, read the Book of Mormon." Thankfully, the library had a copy of the Book of Mormon and she read it and then found that the library also had a copy of the book "The Articles of Faith" by Talmage. She read that book too. After reading both books and praying about it she knew that the Church was true. Today, I'm married in the temple and my wife and I have 8 kids (two are on missions right now). My mom's conversion didn't come via a "promot[ion] [of] mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths". It came because someone was willing to challenge readers of the anti-Mormon book to read the Book of Mormon (defacing library property in the process!). If the Church can build bridges I think that is fine, but someone needs to be out there helping the confused and the deceived find the truth.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Peredehuit. I am in agreement with your sentiments.

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  11. Great convo guys. (narrator and tim alike) What I find fascinating is that we currently have the narrator (and people like him) coming to the defense of, essentially, BYU. On the other hand, we have Tim (and people like him) finding himself, essentially, agreeing with the guys over at Mormon Expression. Here's the money quote of a post titled: Thoughts on Daniel Peterson:

    It is not a step in the right direction. It is nothing like a step in the right direction. It is the same crap the church has been dishing out for nearly two hundred years. Once you are no longer useful to the corporation you are cast aside and marginalized. Daniel Peterson joins the ranks of many others whose lives have been spent building up an organization that doesn’t reciprocate their loyalty...Now Daniel Peterson is a scapegoat.

    I really do love it when odd bedfellows unite!

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    1. CJ thank you for your comments. I believe you have misunderstood the points of my post altogether. My point isn't defending Dan Peterson (although I have no reluctance to speak in his defense), my point is that MI is moving away from the Nibley legacy that indirectly led to the formation of FARMS/MI, and the organization's traditional role that it has developed over the last several decades.

      For the record, I'm not sure if there is anything at all at Mormon Expressions with which I agree.

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    2. This has devolved too much. Now that Dan has joined and had to make our discussion all about himself, I think I'm going to bail. Thanks for the convo and for tolerating my criticisms.

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    3. I'd hope you would respond to my last comments on the ongoing definition of what comprises Mormon Studies, as I feel it is extremely pertinent to the post and our conversation, and I'd like to know how you understand the matter.

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    4. Oh, and why don't I get to be "Brother Ericson"?

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    5. LOL. As has become even more publicly obvious over the past eighteen hours or so, it would be very difficult for me to be as obsessed with me as "the narrator" is.

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  12. Why you want to be stirring up trouble for DCP and Hamblin.

    You know they've been warned about losing their day jobs.

    Just cool it already.

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  13. Tim, you were critical of the way in which DCP was dismissed (which was essentially the point of the ME post) and in the stated new mission of the MI. I find that fascinating, considering that MI is part of BYU and that BYU is, well, part of the Church.

    For the record, I have no problem with people respectfully criticizing BYU or the LDS Church, but I'm surprised to see that you agree with me.

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    1. If, by observing that " MI is part of BYU and . . . BYU is, well, part of the Church," you mean to suggest that department chairmen, institute directors, and deans at BYU deserve or are given the same kind of religious deference that faithful Mormons typically give to bishops and stake presidents, you're simply wrong. Nobody at BYU believes any such thing. Nobody at BYU has ever claimed any such thing. Nobody at BYU is ordained or "set apart" to such offices. And, in fact, for what it's worth, there are and have been non-LDS and/or female department chairs, associate deans, deans, and other senior administrators at BYU; it's rather difficult, in such cases, to argue that their positions are priesthood callings.

      And, just for the record: The senior leadership of the Church didn't order my dismissal, let alone prescribe the manner in which it was carried out. I know this directly, from unimpeachable sources who could not possibly, shall we say, be better placed than they are to know whereof they speak. I'm also reasonably confident that my purging wasn't initiated at the University level, either. That was an effort undertaken by the current leadership of the Maxwell Institute. I have no doubt that they sought and received authorization from the University administration, but that's rather a different matter.

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  14. I know from fairly long and consistent personal experience that Loyd (an official representative of Greg Kofford Books) also has no qualms about WRITING offensive posts.

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