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The State of Mormon Apologetics

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Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists?  

 

P.S. It's been years since I've posted here, I hope everyone is doing well.

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7 minutes ago, lostindc said:

Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists?  

 

P.S. It's been years since I've posted here, I hope everyone is doing well.

The good ones have all apostatized. ;)

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5 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

The good ones have all apostatized. ;)

Yep, there's definitely a few apologists that switched sides.  Quite a few apologists I lost tabs on over the years, like Bokovoy and William Schryver, 

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1 minute ago, lostindc said:

Yep, there's definitely a few apologists that switched sides.  Quite a few apologists I lost tabs on over the years, like Bokovoy and William Schryver, 

David is still around. I have no idea what happened to Will. 

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5 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

David is still around. I have no idea what happened to Will. 

Will is undoubtedly still in Cedar City, licking his wounds.

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9 minutes ago, lostindc said:

Yep, there's definitely a few apologists that switched sides.  Quite a few apologists I lost tabs on over the years, like Bokovoy and William Schryver, 

Also Xander and the Backyard Professor.

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25 minutes ago, lostindc said:

Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists?  ........................................

FairMormon is stronger than ever, while we have a new crop of apologists at Book of Mormon Central.  Farms Review has morphed into a much larger and broader Interpreter Foundation, which is not part of BYU.  Meantime, the Church History Dept is fully publishing the Joseph Smith Papers, and the LDS Church itself now has a bunch of very forthright Gospel Topics Essays online, thus making apologetics much more broadly based.  At the FairMormon Conference last week, it was generally admitted that it is now LDS Church policy to "innoculate" members against some of the more absurd claims about the Church by discussing some of the  more controversial issues more openly.

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12 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

FairMormon is stronger than ever, while we have a new crop of apologists at Book of Mormon Central. 

New crop of future apostates? :lol:

Seriously, though, it's good to see people taking up the effort. 

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3 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

New crop of future apostates? :lol:

Seriously, though, it's good to see people taking up the effort. 

John Tvedtnes passed on recently, and many other appologists are getting long in the tooth.

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13 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Will is undoubtedly still in Cedar City, licking his wounds.

What happened to Will?

 

13 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Also Xander and the Backyard Professor.

I think the Backyard Professor is no longer Mormon, or at least a believing Mormon.

 

5 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

FairMormon is stronger than ever, while we have a new crop of apologists at Book of Mormon Central.  Farms Review has morphed into a much larger and broader Interpreter Foundation, which is not part of BYU.  Meantime, the Church History Dept is fully publishing the Joseph Smith Papers, and the LDS Church itself now has a bunch of very forthright Gospel Topics Essays online, thus making apologetics much more broadly based.  At the FairMormon Conference last week, it was generally admitted that it is now LDS Church policy to "innoculate" members against some of the more absurd claims about the Church by discussing some of the  more controversial issues more openly.

Besides the Interpreter Foundation, the other outlets you mentioned like the Church History Dept and the Essays, to me, don't seem like apologetics.  Rather, these outlets seem like they focus more on compiling historical documents and acknowledging portions of Church history.  I don't feel like these outlets are seeking to explain why something happened in an apologetic manner.  I could be wrong.

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As raised in a conservative Lutheran (Missouri Synod type) church spent my late teens and young adulthood in the Mormon church  then leaving and trying others it was always hard to get use to the less activity required in other churches. My wife went with the Pentecostals i tried but being brought up listening to J S Bach  Hillsong type music was not my thing. Wesley P Walters would find me today a too liberal Christian for his liking. Peter Enns explains it well in The Bible Tells Me So " 

"If your present community sees your spiritual journey as a problem because you are wandering off their beach blanket, it may be time to find another community. One should never do that impulsively. But if after a time you are sensing that you do not belong, that you are a problem to be corrected rather than a valued member of the community, maybe God is calling you elsewhere and to find for yourself that 'they' aren’t so bad after all. That decision is very personal (sometimes involving whole families) and can take some courage to make, but it is worth the risk. One thing is certain: if you stay where you are without any change at all, the pressure to either conform or keep quiet will work in you like a slow-acting poison. And if you go too far down that road, it can be a tough haul coming back from bitterness and resentment— especially for children."

Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (p. 241).

LDS Apologetics which I have followed has not convinced me otherwise. The Book of Abraham issue was the issue. Gee's recent Fair presentation gave me no answers. But I and my wife don't regret our time made some  good friends who friendship continues  even though we took different paths.

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47 minutes ago, lostindc said:

Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists?  

 

P.S. It's been years since I've posted here, I hope everyone is doing well.

Huge blowout over academics doing apologetics about the time Doc Peterson ...... left.... the Maxwell Institute.

The real issue is being able to publish in non- Mormon Journals about religion.

Apologetics is not considered "professional".

The essential problem is that academics are supposed to be neutral on issues in their writings at least- of course they have personal beliefs, but one cannot be a blatant apologist for a specific religious view and then write something which is supposedly "objective scholarship"

So academics are supposed to be able to evaluate positions "objectively" while apologetics is by definition defending a certain religious position and is NOT therefore "objective scholarship".

Publish or perish!  If you do apologetics- no publish- therefore perish !

So the only apologists left are those who do not care about publishing in non-Mormon journals, which means they are also not likely to be horribly educated in their disciplines but autodidacts or just interested bystanders.

Of course there are exceptions and oftentimes the Big Boys show up here, but it is becoming more and more rare. 

 In my humble and totally objective opinion of course.  :)

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, lostindc said:

Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists? 

Never really was a regular at the old ZLMB but I think many people realized they were wasting time on forums, were generating more heat than light, and could be more productive in other ways. Personally I think The Interpreter is at least as good as FARMS back in its heyday if not better. But it's also worth noting that the period of active apologetics (say the 90's through early naughts) was a period when there was a lot of low hanging fruit. Lots of documents were just being discovered, people were just starting apply certain avenues of argumentation. At a certain point most of the arguments have been made and are relatively stable.

Now all that said one thing I think can and should be done is cleaning up the arguments a little and systemizing them. In some ways FAIR tried to do that with their web pages but ideally what you want are all the arguments pro and con so people can see them.

There are new arguments though, despite most of the low hanging fruit being gone. The 17th century grammar in the Book of Mormon is one that really hasn't been grappled with by critics for instance. Taves "platonic instantiation" model is new. There's been a resurgence looking at neoplatonic elements in early Mormonism. There's been recent work on the 116 pages and early Jewish influence on Joseph Smith. So new stuff is still going on. It's just that people don't argue on forums about it much.

I also think the point Mark raised has affected things as well. The pressures at BYU not to do apologetics are high. There are people at BYU doing them still, but it's a bit trickier. Part of that is a difference over how to do apologetics. I think both sides have their points. FARMS often simply was too confrontational and frankly sometimes mean. While I think most published was good, if not necessarily correct, there were also some real stinkers that should never have gotten past the editors. That reflected poorly on FARMS and more importantly BYU's academic prestige. Publish or perish is important not just to professors seeking BYU's equivalent of tenure but also for reputation and potentially moving on to better universities. Further BYU as a whole is affected by the quality of publications that the professors do. That puts tremendous pressure on professors, made more difficult by BYU being primarily a teaching university and not a research university combined with the annoying habit of Provo Stake Presidents tending to call BYU professors to Bishoprics and a high rate.

I'd also say that people at the Maxwell Institute while they might not necessarily like the name apologetics, may also think they're doing a similar project albeit with a different strategy.

 

54 minutes ago, lostindc said:

Yep, there's definitely a few apologists that switched sides.  Quite a few apologists I lost tabs on over the years, like Bokovoy and William Schryver, 

And some that have switched back to be fair. I think some people seek out doing apologetics to deal with their own doubts. My experience with some people doing apologetics who weren't necessarily professors in their field was that many had issues. That is they weren't necessarily writing from a place of confidence in the spirit. Not everyone of course. But it often wasn't hard to figure out who'd struggle down the road. (Of course everyone struggles at times and for different reasons)

Of course it's been years since I've had the time to do that. So I honestly don't know who are the main players in the field anymore beyond who publishes at The Interpreter.

Edited by clarkgoble

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44 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

David is still around. I have no idea what happened to Will. 

Around, but not around HERE.

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10 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Never really was a regular at the old ZLMB but I think many people realized they were wasting time on forums, were generating more heat than light, and could be more productive in other ways. Personally I think The Interpreter is at least as good as FARMS back in its heyday if not better. But it's also worth noting that the period of active apologetics (say the 90's through early naughts) was a period when there was a lot of low hanging fruit. Lots of documents were just being discovered, people were just starting apply certain avenues of argumentation. At a certain point most of the arguments have been made and are relatively stable.

Now all that said one thing I think can and should be done is cleaning up the arguments a little and systemizing them. In some ways FAIR tried to do that with their web pages but ideally what you want are all the arguments pro and con so people can see them.

There are new arguments though, despite most of the low hanging fruit being gone. The 17th century grammar in the Book of Mormon is one that really hasn't been grappled with by critics for instance. Taves "platonic instantiation" model is new. There's been a resurgence looking at neoplatonic elements in early Mormonism. There's been recent work on the 116 pages and early Jewish influence on Joseph Smith. So new stuff is still going on. It's just that people don't argue on forums about it much.

I also think the point Mark raised has affected things as well. The pressures at BYU not to do apologetics are high. There are people at BYU doing them still, but it's a bit trickier. Part of that is a difference over how to do apologetics. I think both sides have their points. FARMS often simply was too confrontational and frankly sometimes mean. While I think most published was good, if not necessarily correct, there were also some real stinkers that should never have gotten past the editors. That reflected poorly on FARMS and more importantly BYU's academic prestige. Publish or perish is important not just to professors seeking BYU's equivalent of tenure but also for reputation and potentially moving on to better universities. Further BYU as a whole is affected by the quality of publications that the professors do. That puts tremendous pressure on professors, made more difficult by BYU being primarily a teaching university and not a research university combined with the annoying habit of Provo Stake Presidents tending to call BYU professors to Bishoprics and a high rate.

I'd also say that people at the Maxwell Institute while they might not necessarily like the name apologetics, may also think they're doing a similar project albeit with a different strategy.

 

And some that have switched back to be fair. I think some people seek out doing apologetics to deal with their own doubts. My experience with some people doing apologetics who weren't necessarily professors in their field was that many had issues. That is they weren't necessarily writing from a place of confidence in the spirit. Not everyone of course. But it often wasn't hard to figure out who'd struggle down the road. (Of course everyone struggles at times and for different reasons)

Of course it's been years since I've had the time to do that. So I honestly don't know who are the main players in the field anymore beyond who publishes at The Interpreter.

For the record as if there IS one, I can see why you would call Taves' ideas "neoplatonic" and yes that makes some sense.

But I see them as re-creating an object in a new context and therefore changing its significance and meaning, and not at all "neoplatonic" and I think that Joseph would not even understand the concepts or apply them to what was happening if he did.

He was not the kind of guy who would envision a kind of "Platonic Form" floating around of the Perfect Book of Mormon to be materialized through his efforts.   It's just not the way New England Yankees with limited education would think.

Now using folk magic to transform something in a kind of shape-shifter way of thinking-  THAT I think fits.

It's more simple and practical.  It's folk magic and you see it all the time that a picture becomes the THING in a different context; you draw a picture on a cave wall and the picture BECOMES the hunted animal spiritually.  Don't let someone take your picture- because it captures YOU.  If you want someone cursed- make a doll of that person and kill the doll, poke pins in it, etc.

Honestly I think it is that kind of thinking and I have no problem with that.  They are now selling punch-pillows and things similar that you can punch to your heart's content 

I suppose it's semantics to classify folk magic as "Neoplatonic" or not, and the distinction is a fine one, but I think it is a real distinction.  Really what we are talking about is more from Pythagoras than Plato- worshiping Forms

But it's probably not worth an extensive discussion.  I just see it differently and less Idealist than just calling it "neoplatonic"

It's folk magic and we all know Joseph believed in that in his youth.

Heck Western New York where I grew up was full of that stuff when even I was a kid in the early 1950's, we lived in a very rural area and all our neighbors were old farmers who told my mom to put a silver knife under my bed when I had a fever to "cut" the fever.

A dowser found a location for our well but my dad got the professional out to do it scientifically and he came up with the same location!

This was near Buffalo- like 90 miles from Palmyra 120 years or so after Joseph- it was still believed.

So no, I would not call it "Neoplatonic".

I know that sounds nicer, but it jest ain't real! ;)

 

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Posted (edited)
46 minutes ago, smac97 said:

A few thoughts:

1. There really isn't much new to discuss.  We end up re-litigating the same topics over and over again, or else minor variations of the same topics.

2. The topics that are discussed seem to have reached sort of an end-stage.  The data points and talking points are being recycled.

3. FAIR, Mormon Interpreter, BookofMormonCentral, Jeff Lindsay, and a few other resources seem to have addressed pretty much all of the substantive criticisms of the doctrines of the Church.  That is not to say that these explanations and such are undeniably persuasive.  There's still plenty of room to disagree.  But both sides have argued each other into a stalemate.

4. Online debates about the merits of the truth claims of the LDS Church can only get you so far.  Moroni's Promise, prayer, faith, humility, service, patience, endurance, and so on are, I think, the means God intends for us to use when seeking a determination on the Church's truth claims..  Adversarial discussions . . . not so much.

Thanks,

-Smac

Adversarial claims must be neutralized if not destroyed for faith to have space to flourish. That is the value of apologetics. Having faith is challenging enough when the playing field is level. Or, to use another metaphor, being fruitful is challenging enough when the ground is free of noxious weeds. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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Posted (edited)

What I see confronting Mormonism these days, more so than antagonism from the outside, is capitulation from the inside, sometimes carrying such self-labels as “neo-apologetics” or “new-order” Mormonism. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

Around, but not around HERE.

Around enough to get a shout-out at the FairMormon conference. 

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2 hours ago, lostindc said:

Years ago, when I joined this site, the field of Mormon apologetics was active.  I remember active engagement from Mormon academics from various backgrounds, consistent publications, debate, amongst other activities.  Nowadays, Mormon apologetics seems close to non-existent relative to ten years ago.  What changed?  Where are the apologists?  

 

P.S. It's been years since I've posted here, I hope everyone is doing well.

Its shifted from the old guard to the new guard.  The new guard is more interested in Mormon studies and not fighting the truth claim battles, but is more focused on building consensus and doing more broadly applicable research.  

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Just now, hope_for_things said:

Its shifted from the old guard to the new guard.  The new guard is more interested in Mormon studies and not fighting the truth claim battles, but is more focused on building consensus and doing more broadly applicable research.  

After checking out Book of Mormon Central, I’m not sure you’re correct. 

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

Never really was a regular at the old ZLMB but I think many people realized they were wasting time on forums, were generating more heat than light, and could be more productive in other ways.

Youtube is the new domain of antiMormon activity with new videos each week and a new crop of Ex_Mormons.  I am very active there and have several hundred posts in the comment section of these videos.

Here is my "blog" of youtube apologetics.  https://mormonhub.com/forums/topic/57532-youtube-apologetics/

I am  71 years old and this is my legacy.

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1 hour ago, lostindc said:

What happened to Will?

Will had been working on a high-profile research project and had actually received permission from the First Presidency to use official high-resolution images of the Egyptian scrolls. Part of the agreement with the Church is that his research could only be published by the Maxwell Institute.

The MI chose not to publish his research, and Will became persona non grata at the MI. John Gee, Brian Hauglid, and Marlin K. Jensen all abandoned him. He changed his avatar here from the happy scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz to a scarecrow that looked like it was being crucified. All of this happened while Peterson was being fired from the MI.

Will claimed that the MI decided not to publish to him because they succumbed to a smear campaign orchestrated by our friends at the message board that shall not be named.

Here is Will's account of what happened from a blog entry that he later deleted:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Calculated Suppression of Mormon Apologetics:
The Case of William Schryver


A little over two years ago I had just completed the preparation of what would become my presentation at the 2010 Annual Conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).1 The presentation was a brief preliminary report of my examination and analysis of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP), a little known set of early Mormon documents related to the Book of Abraham and the papyrus scrolls that were purchased in Kirtland, Ohio in early July 1835, at the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The analysis presented was the product of my initial comprehensive examination of many of the relevant source documents. Previous to this time, very few people were even aware of my entry into the nascent field of Book of Abraham studies. It is therefore in order, I believe, to provide a brief account of the salient events of my history in relation to these things.

In early April 2006, during the course of some unrelated research on a question of Mormon history, I stumbled upon the FAIR website for the first time, previous to which I was unaware of that organization, nor of the message board that they hosted. Having previously been a casual student of Book of Abraham-related issues, I was immediately drawn to discussions on the FAIR board that dealt with that topic. I became involved in debates with a gentleman by the name of Brent Metcalfe, an ex-Mormon of some notoriety, and, at that time, one of very few people in the world with access to the source materials, in the form of a set of photographs (and original set of negatives) he had obtained in the mid-1980s.2

Sometime in the summer of 2006, I received a private message from a board member going by the name "Al Ghazali." He identified himself as BYU Professor Brian Hauglid, and he wrote to commend me for my argumentation during an online debate with Mr. Metcalfe—a debate concerning certain questions about one of the Book of Abraham manuscripts. Professor Hauglid provided me with his email address, and there commenced a voluminous correspondence between us that was to continue uninterrupted until August 2010. Previous to this time, I had never heard of Brian Hauglid, nor had I previously had contact with anyone associated with BYU, FARMS, or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Professor Hauglid informed me that he was directing a recently inaugurated formal academic study of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and notwithstanding my status as a non-academic (I am a software engineer), he subsequently invited me to serve as an informal research assistant to him in this project. Pursuant to that end, he provided me with medium-resolution scan images of two of the Abraham manuscripts, which I immediately began to examine with great interest.

Over the course of the next few years I identified several significant elements of text-critical evidence in the two manuscripts Hauglid provided me. I was also brought into contact with BYU Professor of Egyptology John Gee, who was working in concert with Hauglid in this study of the KEP. One thing led to another; my apparent knack for text-criticism was manifest; and as the number of important findings I made increased from month to month, Professors Hauglid and Gee ultimately invited me to prepare the manuscript of a book-length analysis of a portion of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that was to have become a volume in the Studies in the Book of Abraham series, published by the Maxwell Institute.3

Given my lack of experience in scholarly circles, I frequently sought out my only acquaintance in the world of academia: my good friend Dallin D. Oaks, Professor of Linguistics at BYU.4 I distinctly recall a conversation with Dallin as my involvement in these matters increased. He told me to be extremely cautious and to document thoroughly all the findings I made; to create a "paper trail" of these things such that it could never subsequently be disputed that it was I who had made the discoveries. My initial reaction to this counsel was to express disbelief that anyone at BYU would try to "steal" my research and call it his own. But Dallin was adamant that such things do happen—even at BYU—and that I would live to regret it if I did not take steps to prevent the misappropriation of my research. Therefore, from that moment forward, I heeded his counsel to carefully document the various findings consequent to my research. Little could I have anticipated how prescient that counsel would turn out to be.5

Furthermore, as my research into the KEP proceeded, I began to see that it would no longer be expedient for me to do so as an unofficial research assistant to Professor Hauglid. Therefore I prepared a detailed research proposal of my own, in which I described my findings to date and specifically requested to receive my own complete set of the digital scan images of the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. I mailed this research proposal, dated November 18, 2009, to the Church Historian, Elder Marlin K. Jensen.

In late December 2009, I was notified by Glenn Rowe, Director of Special Projects for the Church History Library, that my research proposal and request to receive the images had been received favorably by Elder Jensen, but that it would require the authorization of his supervisors in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (at the time, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Russell M. Nelson), as well as the First Presidency.

In January 2010, Elder Jensen notified me via email that the First Presidency had approved my request. The first week of February 2010 I traveled to the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, and after affixing my signature to a detailed research contract, I was permitted to download to my laptop hard drive the image files of the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.6

The research proposal I had submitted to Elder Jensen also contained a request for Professor John Gee and I to perform specific forensic measurements of the Joseph Smith Papyri, pursuant to calculating the original length of the scroll of Hor, one of the papyrus scrolls included in the collection obtained by the Church in 1835. Those measurements were performed the same day (February 5, 2010) that I received the digital image files of the JSP and the KEP.

Previous to obtaining the high-resolution images of the KEP, I had been conducting a comprehensive analysis of a typographic transcription of the portions of the KEP called the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language.7 This analysis resulted in the development of my primary thesis concerning the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: that they derive from a pre-existing text of Joseph Smith's original revealed translation of the Book of Abraham. This thesis became the basis of the presentation I prepared for the 2010 FAIR conference.

Strangely enough, no sooner had my name and the title of my presentation been posted on the FAIR website, than several members of the FAIR Board of Directors were bombarded with demands that I be removed from the conference agenda! These demands originated from people who participate (most of them anonymously) at the Mormon Discussions message board—an online forum dominated by critics and enemies of Mormonism. The premise of their demands was that I am (allegedly) vulgar, sexist, misogynistic, etc., and that I consistently engage in what they characterize as "vicious ad hominem attacks" towards the women with whom I have participated in online debates of issues related to Mormonism.8

Very few, at the time, appeared to note (or even recognize, it would seem) the irrelevance and irony inherent in the attempt to suppress my presentation on the premise of my being a purveyor of vicious personal attacks. Nevertheless, these transparently ad hominem allegations failed to achieve their objective, and I was permitted to present at the conference, notwithstanding the continuing threats which were made to "take these things to the media." My presentation was considered by many observers to have been the highlight of the 2010 conference, and it was widely reported in print and online media.9

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of my having "branched out on my own" in terms of my research into the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and having obtained my own set of the high-resolution images of the source materials, was that my previously collegial relationship with Professor Hauglid steadily deteriorated from that point forward.

My FAIR presentation also ignited a veritable firestorm of anti-Schryver activity on the Mormon Discussions message board. At one point in November of 2010, I counted over one hundred threads there dedicated, in one fashion or another, to the objective of discrediting me personally. Many more have followed since then, and although I am still unaware of any substantive counter-arguments to the primary thesis of my presentation (that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are dependent on a pre-existing text of the Book of Abraham), a pervasive même has evolved such that it is now the received wisdom, in anti-Mormon circles, that not only is William Schryver the single most offensive LDS apologist on the planet, but that the Schryver thesis of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers was comprehensively "destroyed" within days of its original presentation. Of course, no one can tell you precisely how the thesis was destroyed, but there is now a universal consensus among the participants at Mormon Discussions that "all qualified scholars" have rejected my thesis as a ridiculous apologetic imposture.

A little over a year ago, I had just completed the final revisions of an article entitled The Interminable Roll – Determining the Original Length of the Scroll of Hor. This article had been submitted to and approved for publication by the Church Historian, and I had been informed by Professor Paul Hoskisson, editor of the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, that it would appear as the "cover article" of the next issue (20:2, as I recall). In addition, Professor Hoskisson had been enthusiastically encouraging and soliciting from me a series of articles for subsequent issues of the JBMORS, treating upon my ongoing analysis of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.

At some point in early 2011, I made mention of these forthcoming articles in an online message board post. Not long after this announcement, the same group of people who had attempted to suppress my FAIR conference presentation the previous year resurrected their scheme, and posted on their message board a seemingly well-researched exposé entitled Mormon Apologetics and Misogyny: The Case of William Schryver.9

In addition, this same group of militant anti-Mormon activists11 began to secretly plot to have my forthcoming articles removed from the publication agenda of the JBMORS. They were aided by two or more individuals with close association to the Maxwell Institute, as well as an influential member of the FAIR Board of Directors, who, on this second attempt, was apparently persuaded that the allegations against me had merit: to whit, that I am a notorious misogynistic thumper who has made vicious ad hominem attacks upon women a staple of his online literary oeuvre. They framed their presentation as a sincere concern for the welfare of the women involved in "Mormon Studies," should they have the misfortune of being ambushed by me on the field of rhetorical combat.

Prior to May 2010, I had no idea that this group of people had been in contact with Dr. Bradford or anyone else at BYU. Indeed, I was entirely convinced that no one associated with the Maxwell Institute was interested in, let alone persuaded by, these outrageous ad hominem attacks. My research and writing had continued unabated. I had met with Professor Hoskisson on multiple occasions to discuss the future publication agenda for the series of articles I was preparing, and therefore, when he requested another meeting for May 16, 2010, I assumed its purpose was to further discuss these matters. I drove from Cedar City to Provo that morning for a lunch meeting with him. I arrived at the Maxwell Institute offices about noon, and was invited to join him in his office. There he succinctly informed me that Dr. Bradford had ordered that my scroll-length article be removed from the forthcoming issue of the JBMORS. He also informed me that Dr. Bradford had taken steps to prevent my being published by any journal associated with BYU, and that I was no longer welcome in the offices of the Maxwell Institute.

Needless to say, I was stunned. I inquired as to the reasons for this sudden decision, and was told that it was prompted by the allegations made against me by the anti-Mormons at the Mormon Discussions message board. I requested that I be permitted to defend myself against these allegations. My request was denied. I categorically denied the veracity of the allegations. Dr. Hoskisson replied, and I quote: "It doesn't matter if they're true or not. If we publish you, they will take these things to the media and bring disrepute upon the Maxwell Institute, BYU, and the Church." I expressed shock that the Maxwell Institute would permit itself to be intimidated and manipulated by a group of mostly anonymous anti-Mormons associated with an obscure internet message board. Hoskisson expressed sympathy for my cause, but indicated he could do nothing. He then showed me the door, and that was that.

I drove home to Cedar City from Provo in stunned silence. Upon my return, I contacted a close friend who works in the Maxwell Institute offices, and inquired as to his knowledge of what had happened. He informed me that certain individuals at the Mormon Discussions message board had persuaded Professor Hauglid to deliver their allegations to Dr. Bradford, and to vouch for their truthfulness.

This had all taken place while Professor Daniel Peterson, editor of the Mormon Studies Review, was traveling in Europe. Dr. Peterson was one of the few people at the Maxwell Institute who was aware of the nature of the mormon*****.*** message board, as well as my posting history on that forum. He and I were among the mere handful of faithful Latter-day Saints who had ventured to that site over the years to defend the Church against the attacks made upon it by the anti-Mormons that dominate the discourse there. I made contact with him while he was on a cruise ship outside of Naples, Italy. He replied with outrage over what had happened, and assured me that, as soon as he returned, he would attempt to set matters straight. However, in the meantime, someone associated with the Maxwell Institute intentionally leaked the information concerning my discommendation to the people at Mormon Discussions. This information was promptly made public as a triumphant preface to the message board thread that contained the allegations against me.

There immediately ensued (as those familiar with the place can well imagine) a veritable orgy of jubilant celebration at Mormon Discussions. They had set out to silence an important new voice in Mormon apologetics, and they had succeeded far beyond their wildest expectations.

Of course, this "leak" from the Maxwell Institute was orchestrated with the simple purpose of setting the decision in stone before Dan Peterson could return and attempt to reverse it. (Only much later would I come to understand that I was merely a pawn in a much larger political struggle occurring within the Maxwell Institute.)

At any rate, I authored a description of the affair, from my perspective, and sent it via email to Dan Peterson, Glenn Rowe, and Elder Marlin K. Jensen, the Church Historian (who had already been making public mention of the findings associated with my scroll-length article). In this email, dated May 18, 2011, I made the following predictions:

The mob will not be placated, but rather emboldened. Having brought down one of their primary targets, they will turn their full attention to others. And they will be certain to employ the same methods on subsequent targets that they have on me (successfully) and on you (unsuccessfully, to date). Their power to intimidate through threat—whether credible or not—will be greatly augmented. Their prestige among fellow critics will be greatly enhanced. Their ability to attract new converts will be greatly strengthened.

As you well know, the prime directive at mormon*****.*** is to destroy the effectiveness of LDS apologetics in general. They want to replace what they perceive as the current direction of LDS apologetics with one that will work to effect things such as the abandonment of the Book of Abraham; the formal acknowledgement of what they are convinced is the ahistoricity of the Book of Mormon; the formal renunciation of things they find objectionable in church history; etc. As a result of the Maxwell Institute having submitted to their intimidation in this instance, they will perceive weakness (and rightly so), and they will attack it relentlessly and with much more confidence of success.

Now, a little more than one year later, my predictions have proven accurate in virtually every respect. Furthermore, it has become apparent that it is not only the anti-Mormon critics of the Church who seek to suppress Mormon apologetics, but also a substantial number of the LDS intelligentsia who oppose apologetics per se, and who instead advocate a purely secular approach to Mormon studies—an approach that will necessarily entail the rejection of traditional faithful defenses of the restored gospel.12

 

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2 minutes ago, Analytics said:

Will had been working on a high-profile research project and had actually received permission from the First Presidency to use official high-resolution images of the Egyptian scrolls. Part of the agreement with the Church is that his research could only be published by the Maxwell Institute.

The MI chose not to publish his research, and Will became persona non grata at the MI. John Gee, Brian Hauglid, and Marlin K. Jensen all abandoned him. He changed his avatar here from the happy scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz to a scarecrow that looked like it was being crucified. All of this happened while Peterson was being fired from the MI.

Will claimed that the MI decided not to publish to him because they succumbed to a smear campaign orchestrated by our friends at the message board that shall not be named.

Here is Will's account of what happened from a blog entry that he later deleted:

Thanks for posting that, as I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before. 

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17 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:
18 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Its shifted from the old guard to the new guard.  The new guard is more interested in Mormon studies and not fighting the truth claim battles, but is more focused on building consensus and doing more broadly applicable research.  

After checking out Book of Mormon Central, I’m not sure you’re correct. 

BMC is definitely more in line with the "old guard," but it is a different type of organization than FARMS or the old Maxwell Institute were. BMC doesn't really get involved in "fighting battles." It mostly repackages faith promoting scholarship for a general audience. 

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