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Addendum to closed thread about alleged Elder Packer request

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1 minute ago, the narrator said:

Schooling -- haven't read it, but sounds more like something assuming Joseph's prophetic calling rather than promoting or defending it.

Evolving - not apologetic. Rather, than promoting or defending the truth of religious claims, it's showing how science does neither. Instead it's of theology to show how those who begin with a premise of faith can embrace scientific views and how those views can better than beliefs.

First Principles - this is a work of theology, not apologetics. Like evolving, it begins with a premise of faith.

Planted - haven't read it, but from what I understand Patrick is neither trying to defend or promote religious beliefs but is rather taking a pastoral approach to help people through challenges. Michael Ing and Seth Payne have both argued for this approach, and Payne calls it pastoral apologetics, but I wouldn't call it religious apologetics.

So we're operating with different definitions of apologetics, and your definition seems to differ not only from mine but also from Dr. Peterson's. I think you warehouse genres much too tightly. A work of theology can be a work of apologetics, or contain apologetics, and vice versa. In fact I think that's inevitable, at least implicitly, whether one brackets out truth claims about God or explicitly affirms them, theology resides. Anyway, looks like we're going in circles. I agree to disagree. 

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49 minutes ago, BHodges said:

I think he's also speaking of being careful about trying to disprove fundamental faith claims of the restored gospel. The goal of scholarship at BYU isn't to challenge the truths of the gospel as taught by the church but to enhance, bolster, support, and point to its richness. So the content and packaging alike should reflect the truths of the gospel. When true things are put in aggressive, angry, contentious, snarky, mean-spirited, or loud-laughter-inducing packages the truth content is compromised. Untruths packaged up in pretty or apparently kind and loving words likewise faith to deliver gospel truths. 

When it comes down to the supernatural aspects of truth claims, I think a careful and respectful approach would work fine.  For example, I think Ann Taves approach in her exchanges with Steven Harper on the first vision or on her discussions around materialization of the golden plates have been a thoughtful middle ground for exploring ideas without taking a disproving approach.  Do you think this kind of interaction with these kinds of scholars, like Taves, is a good middle ground and will continue based on Elder Holland's guidance?  

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3 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

When it comes down to the supernatural aspects of truth claims, I think a careful and respectful approach would work fine.  For example, I think Ann Taves approach in her exchanges with Steven Harper on the first vision or on her discussions around materialization of the golden plates have been a thoughtful middle ground for exploring ideas without taking a disproving approach.  Do you think this kind of interaction with these kinds of scholars, like Taves, is a good middle ground and will continue based on Elder Holland's guidance?  

That exchange was part of the Mormon Studies Review, which again isn't staying at the Institute, so it's not the best example perhaps. I'd expect the Institute to produce work along the lines that Harper runs in that exchange rather than along the lines that Taves runs. 

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I understoodFAIR Mormon's re-branding from F.A.I.R. as being influenced by the same dynamic, though they continue as an apologetic organization. (I could be mistaken about that motivation.)”

we still spend time explaining apologetics is not ‘apologizing for being wrong’ nor at the other end does it need to be contentious

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

Thanks for sharing this additional excerpt from the talk.  I find it insightful and important to consider these dynamics.  I'm actually quite impressed with the way that Elder Holland articulated this section as it really gets to the heart of the matter.  

I love that he is emphasizing scholarly honesty on one hand, which I think if this is practiced effectively, it will essentially eliminate all the problematic apologetics of the past.  I see this principle centered around engaging with the academy using rigor and the tools that are accepted by the scholarly community.  Essentially to give legitimacy to the work being done in a respectable way.  

The second emphasis on not causing your ministering companion to accuse you of disloyalty, is more about the tone with which the material is delivered.  He's speaking about writing in academic journals.  Author who write for these publications are already encouraged to write in a dispassionate and respectful tone.  So this second pillar of his emphasis would be supported by the expectations of reputable scholarship already, and its speaking more directly at the tone and way that people write than the actual content.  

I see this section of Elder Hollands address to be completely supportive of the recent direction we've seen from the MI, and also very encouraging from my vantage point.  It means that things will continue down a wise path going forward, and that we are not going to return to the politics of the past.  I'm not sure how Dan Peterson missed this important section when he wrote his article, perhaps he needs to go back and re-read it.  

I also like your comment about people who have appointed themselves as police making criticisms/accusations of the MI.  Some of these same people also must feel a calling to set themselves up as defenders of their interpretations of orthodoxy and they justify tactics that in some ways do harm to the culture and institutions that the very church they believe they are defending is trying to uphold.  I think these people need to re-evaluate what it is that they are doing in the name of defense and orthodoxy.   

For some reason I"m feeling less enthused with this section.  I see it as condoning the MI and condoning the old MI at the same time.  I mean it's not as if Dan, Greg Smith, Midgley (sorry those three came up recently in discussions at Dan's blog so fresh on my mind as examples), see themselves doing anything other than Holland outlines.  The last sentence "But that can be only if you never, ever lose sight of your call to be true to the kingdom of God" may carry significant baggage that likely rings true in the ears of the old crew more than anything else.  It's not as if Dan et al think they are fairly getting called dishonest by other PhDs moreso or differently than anyone currently enlisted in the MI, and they certainly think they are staying more true to the Kingdom of God than the current MI.  So it seems to me it can be read as condemning the current MI with such assumptions.  I still think it remains a debate I need no part in, but I think the parameters are well established and I have no dog in the fight.  

What Holland intends by staying true to the Kingdom of God, if read in light of some of his other past comments he's had over the years, makes me feel more certain he'd be upset at the notion, for instance, of an LDS scholar saying their is room to see the BoM as not a good representation of history even if it is scripture.  

I admit, my bias is much more prone to see HOlland as doing as Dan and co are suggesting--speaking out against the current MI.  If Blair and Co see it differently good for them.  But perhaps in the end, they will fail the test Holland is apparently putting them through.  I guess we'll see.  

 

By the way, this is by far the most times I"v eposted in a day and have been able to continue posting.  I

Edited by stemelbow

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36 minutes ago, BHodges said:

So we're operating with different definitions of apologetics, and your definition seems to differ not only from mine but also from Dr. Peterson's.

To the contrary, this is one of those rare occasions that I am in some agreement with DCP: (source)

Quote

I’ll be using the word apologetics to refer to attempts to prove or defend religious claims.

We differ in what is a religious claim. I do not think that a claim about the BofM's historicity is a religious one--though it certainly is (IMO wrongly) associated with the religious claim that it is the word of God.

 

39 minutes ago, BHodges said:

A work of theology can be a work of apologetics, or contain apologetics, and vice versa.

Agreed. I'm saying that those works of theology you listed do not involve religious apologetics.

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23 minutes ago, Calm said:

I understood FAIR Mormon's re-branding from F.A.I.R. as being influenced by the same dynamic, though they continue as an apologetic organization. (I could be mistaken about that motivation.)”

we still spend time explaining apologetics is not ‘apologizing for being wrong’ nor at the other end does it need to be contentious

Oops, I meant "Fair Mormon," not "FAIR Mormon." And yes, that need for ongoing explanation was clear at the recent conference and the conferences since the name change. Yes, it doesn't necessarily or usually mean apologizing for being wrong nor does it need to be contentious. I noticed Dr. Midgley recently brought up some of the internal disagreements that went on when I was a FAIR volunteer. He incorrectly said I was "given the boot" from FAIR. From what I recall, those internal discussions focused on the need to improve the image of apologetics, specifically moving further away from snark, aggressive tones, and contention. My younger enthusiastic and energetic undergrad self grated on some of the other FAIR volunteers, but not all of them, and I wasn't the only voice arguing for improvements in tone. From what I can tell the contingent who was arguing for a more pastoral and charity-infused approach have largely carried the day there. But apologetics infused with some meekness and fear, as the scripture has it, predated me at FAIR and continues at FAIR depending on the voice.

By the way, I don't know who "Calm" is. Is that a secret? 

Edited by BHodges
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24 minutes ago, BHodges said:

Oops, I meant "Fair Mormon," not "FAIR Mormon." And yes, that need for ongoing explanation was clear at the recent conference and the conferences since the name change. Yes, it doesn't necessarily or usually mean apologizing for being wrong nor does it need to be contentious. I noticed Dr. Midgley recently brought up some of the internal disagreements that went on when I was a FAIR volunteer. He incorrectly said I was "given the boot" from FAIR. From what I recall, those internal discussions focused on the need to improve the image of apologetics, specifically moving further away from snark, aggressive tones, and contention. My younger enthusiastic and energetic undergrad self grated on some of the other FAIR volunteers, but not all of them, and I wasn't the only voice arguing for improvements in tone. From what I can tell the contingent who was arguing for a more pastoral and charity-infused approach have largely carried the day there. But apologetics infused with some meekness and fear, as the scripture has it, predated me at FAIR and continues at FAIR depending on the voice.

By the way, I don't know who "Calm" is. Is that a secret? 

I would say that, used in this classic sense, apologetics never means “apologizing for being wrong.” It always means defense of one’s position (and yes, I get the distinction between positive and negative apologetics, neither of which is a disparaging term). 

I’m curious about your observation that a certain contingent at FairMormon “carried the day.” I’m not persuaded there was a “day” to be carried, as I’ve never viewed the folks at FairMormon as being uncivil or unkind or less than apt to be helpful. 

I do recall a FM conference of a few years ago that had a discernible infusion of progressive outlook among the scheduled speakers, but I don’t know that such has been sustained since. Incidentally, a couple of participants at that conference that I know of are no longer Church members. 

Finally, I know who Calm is. She used to go by Calmoriah. I even know her irl identity though, out of consideration for her, I won’t disclose it here. 

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13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

For some reason I"m feeling less enthused with this section.  I see it as condoning the MI and condoning the old MI at the same time.  I mean it's not as if Dan, Greg Smith, Midgley (sorry those three came up recently in discussions at Dan's blog so fresh on my mind as examples), see themselves doing anything other than Holland outlines.  The last sentence "But that can be only if you never, ever lose sight of your call to be true to the kingdom of God" may carry significant baggage that likely rings true in the ears of the old crew more than anything else.  It's not as if Dan et al think they are fairly getting called dishonest by other PhDs moreso or differently than anyone currently enlisted in the MI, and they certainly think they are staying more true to the Kingdom of God than the current MI.  So it seems to me it can be read as condemning the current MI with such assumptions.  I still think it remains a debate I need no part in, but I think the parameters are well established and I have no dog in the fight.  

What Holland intends by staying true to the Kingdom of God, if read in light of some of his other past comments he's had over the years, makes me feel more certain he'd be upset at the notion, for instance, of an LDS scholar saying their is room to see the BoM as not a good representation of history even if it is scripture.  

I admit, my bias is much more prone to see HOlland as doing as Dan and co are suggesting--speaking out against the current MI.  If Blair and Co see it differently good for them.  But perhaps in the end, they will fail the test Holland is apparently putting them through.  I guess we'll see.  

 

By the way, this is by far the most times I"v eposted in a day and have been able to continue posting.  I

I think those who want to interpret Elder Holland's lecture as condoning either the current Maxwell Institute or the "old MI" will either be confused by the lecture or they will be forced to ignore parts of the lecture that run against their interpretation. Current Maxwell Institute scholars (and employees like myself) are all committed to being true to the Kingdom of God. Sadly some of our fellow Saints have publicly claimed otherwise, sometimes explicitly but more often implicitly. I think it's likely that the Institute's (few) critics do think they are "more true" to it than current Institute personnel. That's pretty clear from the comments you can see in response to blog posts which insinuate that very thing, comments which I've never seen them push back on.

Elder Holland was speaking to the Institute as presently constituted. His words include excerpts from a January 2014 external review (meaning a review performed by people outside of the Institute and BYU) that spoke to the Institute as a whole, pre- and post-2012, but the directives were intended for the Institute as presently constituted. His lecture included principles that he said he'd like to see spread "apply across the entire campus and beyond," which I assume is one reason Dr. Peterson felt to comment on them with regard to Interpreter. But to the Institute specifically he said this during the lecture:

Quote

I come [to speak to you tonight] with love, appreciation, admiration, and applause for every good thing you have ever done, are now doing, or—as our title suggests—will yet do to seek the truth, build faith, and illuminate the majesty of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. For so much good done by so many for so long and who yet want to do more, I say, "'Thank you for the gift of your 'heart, might, mind and strength.'" One cannot give more.

This excerpt didn't appear in Dr. Peterson's blog post, perhaps because it wasn't directed to Interpreter. Elder Holland thanked the Institute for every good thing it has done, is currently doing, and will yet do. At the same time, I think Elder Holland wanted people to know that learning to speak to multiple audiences, learning to create disciple-scholarship and to be disciple-scholars, can be a difficult journey. Another excerpt:

Quote

 

Brothers and sisters and friends, we know you want—and are trying—to get this right. Professor Fluhman, whom I love almost as a son, phrased your intentions this way. He said: “The Maxwell Institute’s mission is unique because, though it is grounded in the most rigorous scholarly standards, it explicitly acknowledges [a Latter-day Saint faith], audience, . . . identity, and [commitment]. Because we pursue scholarship as a dimension of discipleship, we offer a fundamentally different approach to [the study of our own faith] and the study of religion more generally.”

That seems wonderfully consistent with your external review team’s counsel that the institute should “create an environment where faith [can] be nurtured and the Restoration defended, and all of this accomplished with the highest scholarly standards.”

 

Elder Holland said to the extent that these characterizations are truly representative of the Institute's work, "your trustees will enthusiastically and devotedly support you and the university administration in following that course to great success." At BYU this is always conditional, and it seems clear that Elder Holland wanted us to remember that. We're directly accountable to these governing bodies—governing bodies who are working to build up the Kingdom in their roles as stewards. (For example, if the Mormon Studies Review didn't entirely offer a "fundamentally different approach to the study of our own faith and the study of religion more generally” enough to satisfy our leadership it would make sense that MSR moved.) The Institute's work that is "grounded in the most rigorous scholarly standards" while more "explicitly acknowledging a Latter-day Saint faith, audience, identity, and commitment"—work which we've been doing throughout this time and for which Elder Holland directly expressed his love, appreciation, admiration, and applause—continues and, I believe, will only increase as Elder Holland so challenged. 

I think selectively interpreting the lecture merely as a referendum on past changes at the Maxwell Institute results in a skewed reading. I see Elder Holland's vision and invitation as being much broader than that. Elder Holland doesn't want to be employed as tool, a battering ram, against the Institute. 

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47 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I would say that, used in this classic sense, apologetics never means “apologizing for being wrong.” It always means defense of one’s position (and yes, I get the distinction between positive and negative apologetics, neither of which is a disparaging term). 

Right, so the problem is that some people who aren't familiar with the term "apologetics" sometimes get the mistaken impression that the word means "apologizing for being wrong." That's one reason Fair Mormon folks tend to define the word for people at the beginning of conferences, in occasional emails, and in other ways. I agree that neither negative nor positive apologetics are inherently negative in the sense of being "bad" or "wrong." 

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 I’m curious about your observation that a certain contingent at FairMormon “carried the day.” I’m not persuaded there was a “day” to be carried, as I’ve never viewed the folks at FairMormon as being uncivil or unkind or less than apt to be helpful. 

As I said, there were occasional disagreements on the backlist about how best to respond to a particular criticism or critic, questions about how careful volunteers should be about their tone, whether flippant, arrogant, condescending, or cheerful, supportive, empathetic, etc. I don't want to over-inflate my own role; I was a volunteer for FAIR for a handful of years. These discussions predated me. There was a message board, for example, that FAIR folks used to frequent but things got very much heated there too often and IIRC the board decided to part ways with that venue. What I mean by "carrying the day" is that in my view Fair Mormon has striven to be an empathetic organization whose apologetics reflect the charity made incumbent on us by the gospel of Christ. It carries an unfair reputation in some circles as bulldog group out to attack critics of the church and things like that. Personally I don't think the reputation is 100% without past foundation, but the organization has taken great measures to not justify such accusations. I'm sure it's not an easy job, wrangling all the volunteers, including me back in the day!

Quote

I do recall a FM conference of a few years ago that had a discernible infusion of progressive outlook among the scheduled speakers, but I don’t know that such has been sustained since. Incidentally, a couple of participants at that conference that I know of are no longer Church members. 

I thought the recent conference had an interesting mix of speakers, as have conferences in years past. I know Scott Gordon and others at FM work hard to include diverse voices. They want to reach a lot of different church members, not all of whom carry the same questions, concerns, or troubles in their hearts. Not every talk will resonate with every member or attendee. I sympathize with that, as not ever Institute offering can reach everyone either. (I'm being an apologist for Fair Mormon at the moment. I hope I'm not being a jerk in the process.😉)

Sadly not everyone who has associated with Fair Mormon has remained in the church. The same can be said for FARMS, the Maxwell Institute, Interpreter, and probably most organizations which work for the benefit of the church. 

Quote

Finally, I know who Calm is. She used to go by Calmoriah. I even know her irl identity though, out of consideration for her, I won’t disclose it here. 

Oh excellent, thank you. I know very well who Calmoriah is!

Cheers cal! 

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41 minutes ago, BHodges said:

I think those who want to interpret Elder Holland's lecture as condoning either the current Maxwell Institute or the "old MI" will either be confused by the lecture or they will be forced to ignore parts of the lecture that run against their interpretation. Current Maxwell Institute scholars (and employees like myself) are all committed to being true to the Kingdom of God. Sadly some of our fellow Saints have publicly claimed otherwise, sometimes explicitly but more often implicitly. I think it's likely that the Institute's (few) critics do think they are "more true" to it than current Institute personnel. That's pretty clear from the comments you can see in response to blog posts which insinuate that very thing, comments which I've never seen them push back on.

Elder Holland was speaking to the Institute as presently constituted. His words include excerpts from a January 2014 external review (meaning a review performed by people outside of the Institute and BYU) that spoke to the Institute as a whole, pre- and post-2012, but the directives were intended for the Institute as presently constituted. His lecture included principles that he said he'd like to see spread "apply across the entire campus and beyond," which I assume is one reason Dr. Peterson felt to comment on them with regard to Interpreter. But to the Institute specifically he said this during the lecture:

This excerpt didn't appear in Dr. Peterson's blog post, perhaps because it wasn't directed to Interpreter. Elder Holland thanked the Institute for every good thing it has done, is currently doing, and will yet do. At the same time, I think Elder Holland wanted people to know that learning to speak to multiple audiences, learning to create disciple-scholarship and to be disciple-scholars, can be a difficult journey. Another excerpt:

Elder Holland said to the extent that these characterizations are truly representative of the Institute's work, "your trustees will enthusiastically and devotedly support you and the university administration in following that course to great success." At BYU this is always conditional, and it seems clear that Elder Holland wanted us to remember that. We're directly accountable to these governing bodies—governing bodies who are working to build up the Kingdom in their roles as stewards. (For example, if the Mormon Studies Review didn't entirely offer a "fundamentally different approach to the study of our own faith and the study of religion more generally” enough to satisfy our leadership it would make sense that MSR moved.) The Institute's work that is "grounded in the most rigorous scholarly standards" while more "explicitly acknowledging a Latter-day Saint faith, audience, identity, and commitment"—work which we've been doing throughout this time and for which Elder Holland directly expressed his love, appreciation, admiration, and applause—continues and, I believe, will only increase as Elder Holland so challenged. 

I think selectively interpreting the lecture merely as a referendum on past changes at the Maxwell Institute results in a skewed reading. I see Elder Holland's vision and invitation as being much broader than that. Elder Holland doesn't want to be employed as tool, a battering ram, against the Institute. 

Fair enough.  And you make good points.  Thanks.

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1 hour ago, BHodges said:

That exchange was part of the Mormon Studies Review, which again isn't staying at the Institute, so it's not the best example perhaps. I'd expect the Institute to produce work along the lines that Harper runs in that exchange rather than along the lines that Taves runs. 

Didn't the MI also publish a review of Taves' Revelatory Events book, perhaps that was also in the Mormon Studies Review.  I would like to see this kind of work continued.  I think Taves is a great example of respectful scholarly engagement, that shouldn't be seen as threatening to religious believers.  I would like to see this kind of dialogue continue.  

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On 1/7/2019 at 2:45 PM, BHodges said:

There does seem to be some confusion. The claim that the Maxwell Institute abandoned apologetics in favor of "secular religious studies" is false. I've objected to this accusation with counter-evidence so often I've lost count (like here, for example). The work the Institute itself has supported and published since 2012 proves the allegation false. Such work includes, but isn't limited to, the following:

Without getting drug down into the rest of the discussions in this thread, I hope you don't mind me commenting on this Blair. I think what bothers some people is that Maxwell Institute seems to have backed off of apologetics focused on evidence for historicity. It's definitely done some great apologetics such as Adam's Letters to a Young Mormon. And making some of the classic FARMS stuff available that wasn't online as well as keeping the older online FARMS stuff accessible must be noted. However in terms of discussions of historicity, it's hard not to notice a pretty different intensity before and after 2012. (I think Sorenson's book that came out in 2013 was the last - and that was largely done by the time of the kerfuffle) Maybe I'm just missing some prominent works along those lines. But I think it's that which raises concern among many.

Let me reiterate though that I know many and probably the majority of people at MI accept historicity and so forth. I think this is just a perception of focus. Of course some might also say that The Interpreter is doing a lot of that historicity focused work, that there's really not a lot new to say there, and that apologetics for those not convinced (or sometimes even repelled) by historicity apologetics means there's a lot left to do in non-historicity apologetics. Still I think it's that historicity issue and not apologetics proper that's the real concern.

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1 hour ago, hope_for_things said:

Didn't the MI also publish a review of Taves' Revelatory Events book, perhaps that was also in the Mormon Studies Review.  I would like to see this kind of work continued.  I think Taves is a great example of respectful scholarly engagement, that shouldn't be seen as threatening to religious believers.  I would like to see this kind of dialogue continue.  

I think that review was seen as problematic by many since it seemed to concede far too much and didn't engage weaknesses in the book. (Such as the overreliance on that one ambiguous quote of Joseph's uncle) As I've said elsewhere while I have some strong differences with Taves it is a good book - probably the strongest case she could make. However I suspect it's not ultimately going to move the needle much and the fraud model will return to the main non-Mormon interpretation. Even a lot of historian/critics who initially praised Taves seem to have moved back to the Joseph the fraud model.

We should be able to have positive, friendly dialog, without necessarily dismissing historicity. But as Blair noted, that was also part of the Mormon Studies program which is now moving. So there's a case to make for secular methological presumptions. Still even from a purely naturalistic perspective I think there were some problems with Taves that didn't get discussed enough in most of the reviews. I think that's because so many people were hoping for a nice safe middle ground where everyone could be happy.

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48 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Without getting drug down into the rest of the discussions in this thread, I hope you don't mind me commenting on this Blair. I think what bothers some people is that Maxwell Institute seems to have backed off of apologetics focused on evidence for historicity. It's definitely done some great apologetics such as Adam's Letters to a Young Mormon. And making some of the classic FARMS stuff available that wasn't online as well as keeping the older online FARMS stuff accessible must be noted. However in terms of discussions of historicity, it's hard not to notice a pretty different intensity before and after 2012. (I think Sorenson's book that came out in 2013 was the last - and that was largely done by the time of the kerfuffle) Maybe I'm just missing some prominent works along those lines. But I think it's that which raises concern among many.

Let me reiterate though that I know many and probably the majority of people at MI accept historicity and so forth. I think this is just a perception of focus. Of course some might also say that The Interpreter is doing a lot of that historicity focused work, that there's really not a lot new to say there, and that apologetics for those not convinced (or sometimes even repelled) by historicity apologetics means there's a lot left to do in non-historicity apologetics. Still I think it's that historicity issue and not apologetics proper that's the real concern.

I think that's been one of the main arguments Institute critics have made. This is a subset of the complaints about the FARMS Review, which used to overlap in confusing and unnecessary ways in function with the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. 

Every issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies published since Paul Hoskisson left has included pieces which either argue for or assume ancient historicity. Brant Gardner, Dan Peterson, and Mark Wright (the church's foremost expert on Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon), and Noel Reynolds have contributed great work in this area, for example. Why do critics of the Institute ignore such work? I recall some past conversations with an exasperated Mark Wright, exhausted at continued allegations from a small group of people that the Journal was abandoning historicity-related work. As an associate editor he was frustrated and unfairly represented by people who otherwise would claim to be his friends. 

Anyone can argue there has either been too much or not enough work in this area at the Institute. That's a subjective judgment. But no one can reasonably or accurately claim that Institute publications have abandoned the topic. Ironically, by "Yeah, but"-ing like this they're the ones ignoring some of the best new scholarship pertaining to the Book of Mormon in ancient settings.

Incidentally, Elder Holland didn't mention anything about BoM historicity in his Maxwell lecture. Someone seeking to make him an offender for a word, or perhaps an offender for lack of a word, could have an unfair and unfounded field day with that. His lack of mentioning it doesn't mean people should stop expecting to see more work in that broad and well-trod area in the coming years. It will primarily appear in the Journal and through its main sponsor, the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies. 

And of course, the Institute's brand new study edition of the Book of Mormon contains entries and appendices defending and contextualizing the ancient setting, historicity, etc. None of that should detract from the paramount spiritual message of the scripture, a message which is also grounded in but not limited to its historical setting. 

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5 hours ago, BHodges said:

Oops, I meant "Fair Mormon," not "FAIR Mormon." And yes, that need for ongoing explanation was clear at the recent conference and the conferences since the name change. Yes, it doesn't necessarily or usually mean apologizing for being wrong nor does it need to be contentious. I noticed Dr. Midgley recently brought up some of the internal disagreements that went on when I was a FAIR volunteer. He incorrectly said I was "given the boot" from FAIR. From what I recall, those internal discussions focused on the need to improve the image of apologetics, specifically moving further away from snark, aggressive tones, and contention. My younger enthusiastic and energetic undergrad self grated on some of the other FAIR volunteers, but not all of them, and I wasn't the only voice arguing for improvements in tone. From what I can tell the contingent who was arguing for a more pastoral and charity-infused approach have largely carried the day there. But apologetics infused with some meekness and fear, as the scripture has it, predated me at FAIR and continues at FAIR depending on the voice.

By the way, I don't know who "Calm" is. Is that a secret? 

I remember working on editing some stuff with you, though I can't remember if it got finished because I got distracted by life too easily as I do.

Amost everyone was working on removing snark...there was debate on what was snark and what wasn't though.  Over the years, the general approach has been to err on the side of caution.

PS:  I shortened my name one day when I was high on morphine in the hospital (surgery, no biggie, home next day) because typing in so many letters just seemed too strenuous...and I never asked the mods to restore it back because I didn't want to make them have to take the time, plus my daughter loves it.

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5 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I do recall a FM conference of a few years ago that had a discernible infusion of progressive outlook among the scheduled speakers, but I don’t know that such has been sustained since. Incidentally, a couple of participants at that conference that I know of are no longer Church members

If only snark was a protective against losing faith.  Three of the snarkiest FM participants I know are now nonbelievers, though most of the snarky and nonsnarky varieties are still around the faith.

Thanks for passing on my name change...my daughter's paranoia has gone way down, so one of these days I will likely change my name for my actual one, but then many won't know who .I am, lol.

If anyone really wants to know who I am, I don't mind anyone passing my name on privately.  I am going to wait for a few years to make sure my daughter has moved passed that stage of anxiety before putting it out there regularly though.

Edited by Calm

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4 hours ago, BHodges said:

What I mean by "carrying the day" is that in my view Fair Mormon has striven to be an empathetic organization whose apologetics reflect the charity made incumbent on us by the gospel of Christ.

I agree.  It was decided to remove all snark and pretty much all humor even when we were enjoying it ourselves and not interpreting it as negative, but just fun in order to avoid misinterpretation because if you don't know the people involved, snark may appear to be nasty when it is not (think teasing between siblings or good friends vs total strangers).  Most of the time .I think we were using snark and joking to keep a lighter mood in a subject that easily goes dark because people can be in pain, but humor can be hard to translate for that very reason.

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6 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Fair enough.  And you make good points.  Thanks.

For some reason I can't click Like on your post, so consider this a Like. Now if we could convince our friend Scott to soften his heart a bit we'd be in business. 😉

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, BHodges said:

I think that's been one of the main arguments Institute critics have made. This is a subset of the complaints about the FARMS Review, which used to overlap in confusing and unnecessary ways in function with the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. 

Yeah, I agree with you there. However looking just at titles in the JBMS starting in 2013 I found the following that seem targeting historicity issues:

2013 "The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I" (Muhlestein), "Abraham and Idrimi" (John Gee) "Sobek: The Idolatrous God of Pharaoh Amenemhet III" (Quinten Barney) "Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins" (Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, Atul Nepal), "Has Olishem Been Discovered?" (John Gee), "The Cultural Tapestry of Mesoamerica" (Mark Alan Wright)
2014 "The Deliberate Use of Hebrew Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon" (Carl Cranney)
2015 "War Banners: A Mesoamerican Context for the Title of Liberty" (Kerry Hull)
2016 
2017 "Book Review: Brant A. Gardner Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History" (Matthew Roper)

Now 2013 is a bit unfair since there were two volumes. Further I may well have missed some I should have included. But if you go before 2013 and there are usually several historicity papers per volume. I definitely don't want to say MI isn't doing historicity apologetics. Clearly they are. But as I said, the intensity of them is quite different. Likewise while in the past MI was involved with many books targeting historicity issues, Sorenson was I believe the last one done by MI. And I think that was in the queue before the kerfuffle.

AI noted it's not necessarily a bad thing MI isn't doing as many especially since The Interpreter is doing quite a few of them. Further I think one can argue not all of those published before were all of equal quality. But in terms of perception I think people do notice. 

5 hours ago, BHodges said:

Anyone can argue there has either been too much or not enough work in this area at the Institute. That's a subjective judgment. But no one can reasonably or accurately claim that Institute publications have abandoned the topic. Ironically, by "Yeah, but"-ing like this they're the ones ignoring some of the best new scholarship pertaining to the Book of Mormon in ancient settings.

Fully agree. Which is why I was careful to talk about intensity. I don't want to get into too much or too little. As I said I think a strong case can be made that FARMS and the old MI didn't do enough of other types of apologetics. My point was more about perceptions here.

5 hours ago, BHodges said:

And of course, the Institute's brand new study edition of the Book of Mormon contains entries and appendices defending and contextualizing the ancient setting, historicity, etc. None of that should detract from the paramount spiritual message of the scripture, a message which is also grounded in but not limited to its historical setting. 

Haven't read it yet so I can't comment. I'm a big ebook reader. (My wife basically said no more books in the library - and I ended up getting rid of a ton of books I either wasn't going to read again or else was able to find as a cheap ebook plus perhaps unwisely I got rid of my Nibley books) Anyway I'm trying to decide if this would make much sense to buy as an ebook.

BTW - were you ever able to check up on why the theologic seminar volumes like An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32 aren't available on Amazon? (Either in paperback or ebook?)

 

Edited by clarkgoble

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11 hours ago, BHodges said:

For some reason I can't click Like on your post, so consider this a Like. Now if we could convince our friend Scott to soften his heart a bit we'd be in business. 😉

I've never been able to convince Scott of anything. 

It's been a long time ago, now, but the mods put me on limited status for some unknown reason.  I don't think I broke any rules, but I upset a couple of high level posters a couple of years ago.  I can't get or give rep points.  I also get tossed randomly from threads without explanation or notice, and am limited to the amount of times I can post.  Yet, I maintain I've never broken rules nor have I been unruly or too difficult.  

I don't mean to complain with any degree of seriousness, because in the end, who cares?  But, that's what's up.

Thanks for your many words on this topic.  It's been interesting.  

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Fully agree. Which is why I was careful to talk about intensity. I don't want to get into too much or too little. As I said I think a strong case can be made that FARMS and the old MI didn't do enough of other types of apologetics. My point was more about perceptions here.  

It makes sense, given the founding of Interpreter and Book of Mormon Central, that publications on the topics they are most interested in would decrease in JBMS. An already shallow pool (and I use this metaphor neutrally and not as a negative vale judgment) got more shallow. Also, given the internal politics of a very small field where personal feelings are often bound up with professional actions, publishing in a particular venue became a show of loyalty or disloyalty. 

In the broader scheme of things the output of FARMS was declining before it ever became enveloped in the Maxwell Institute and was subsequently replaced by the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies. I don't know who the blogger "Gently Hew Stone" is, but they blogged about this decline in 2012 in the wake of Dr. Peterson's removal from the FARMS Review. I don't endorse his views about the changes at the Institute, but he describes a decline preceding 2012 like this :

Quote

It seems the MI hasn’t had its heart in it for years.  Consider this: A collection of short articles from the FARMS newsletter in the 1980’s, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, had 85 entries and was extremely wonderful–a seminal classic in bringing Book of Mormon scholarship to the non-specialist world.  A book collecting their updates of the 1990’s, Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, had 74 entries and was almost as good.

There was no collection published of the brief updates in the 2000’s, perhaps because there was nothing substantial enough to print.  Or they just didn’t care anymore.  The quality and quantity of work went down hill pretty steeply.  I subscribed to the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies from 1998-2003, and ended it because I just wasn’t getting my money’s worth.  Ironically, I just gave those issue away last week.

2003 is a pretty long time before 2012. The main problem I see with the old FARMS model is that it didn't consciously nurture and mentor enough new scholars to participate in the work or carry it forward. Or maybe it tried and no one was interested, or those who were interested lost interest, or whatever. I don't know exactly why, but it seems to me the number of up-and-coming Latter-day Saint scholars interested in pursuing historicity related research paled in comparison with those interested in more recent LDS history (19th and 20th centuries, but mostly 19th). Even at Interpreter, who has been publishing something once a week, a lot of material apparently repeatedly comes from the same people. I haven't run the numbers but I suspect that if you divide up the articles by topic you'll see many of the historicity-related articles are being written by a small group of people. (I'm willing to be corrected on this.) Then at Book of Mormon Central we aren't seeing much new scholarship. And the young people involved there aren't getting PhD's and creating much new research; they're repackaging things from the old FARMS group. They're not gathering or nurturing an actual academic field. 

So the perception may very well be that the Institute isn't interested, but the reality the Institute's Willes Center continues to seek good work on the Book of Mormon for JBMS, which Joe Spencer edits, and this includes historicity-based or historicity-defending work as your list shows, but that corner of the field isn't yielding a huge crop. 

Quote

Haven't read it yet so I can't comment. I'm a big ebook reader. (My wife basically said no more books in the library - and I ended up getting rid of a ton of books I either wasn't going to read again or else was able to find as a cheap ebook plus perhaps unwisely I got rid of my Nibley books) Anyway I'm trying to decide if this would make much sense to buy as an ebook.

I rarely read digital and I have no idea if people would like this in ebook. I guess we'll see how it sells there. 

Quote

BTW - were you ever able to check up on why the theologic seminar volumes like An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32 aren't available on Amazon? (Either in paperback or ebook?)

Yes, we switched ebook distributors and it looks like the Alma 32 volume slipped through the cracks. The text has been available for free on the Institute website all along and since it was already released in PDF form for free prior to the Institute acquiring it I'm not surprised that you've been the only one sending a query about it. But we've got to get it back on Amazon in both print and digital, so I'm waiting to hear back from the distributor. 

4 other titles lack a digital version. I'll let you know when I hear back from the distributor about where they are. Thanks for following up. 

Edited by BHodges
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43 minutes ago, BHodges said:

2003 is a pretty long time before 2012. The main problem I see with the old FARMS model is that it didn't consciously nurture and mentor enough new scholars to participate in the work or carry it forward. Or maybe it tried and no one was interested, or those who were interested lost interest, or whatever. I don't know exactly why, but it seems to me the number of up-and-coming Latter-day Saint scholars interested in pursuing historicity related research paled in comparison with those interested in more recent LDS history (19th and 20th centuries, but mostly 19th).

I think that's part of it. I also honestly think the job market has a lot to do with it as well. The places where historicity was the biggest issue were The Book of Mormon or Abraham. There were a few Egyptologists but obviously that became controversial partially due to the whole Gee/Ritner feud which I think hurt Mormons going into Egyptology. (Maybe that's wrong, but that's my perception) With the Book of Mormon it was even more problematic I think due to Mormonism being seen as deeply problematic "woo." There have been a few, but of course getting jobs in the field is difficult. So Gardner who has done the most interesting work on historicity doesn't even work in the field.

At the same time an other huge problem is that most of the low hanging fruit by the late 90's had been picked. There was still a lot more to do, but it was a lot harder, time consuming and technical. And often hinges on new discoveries which haven't been swift coming. Contrast this with Mormon history where starting at the end of the 90's there was a huge renaissance. Lots of low hanging fruit particularly in employing cross field studies or focusing on marginalized groups (native Americans, women, average members, etc.) So it's not too surprising that 19th century history got the bulk of the attention. It certainly led to an amazingly fruitful 20 years or so that I don't think we saw in the historicity area.

 

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I have read most of this thread.

The first thing I want to say is that I suspect that the dichotomy offered by Stemelbow (as he channeled an 80’s rap star) should be met with an internal “yes” and a rejection of the invitation to disagree.

To the extent one was saddened by changes in 2012 and heartened by Elder Holland, yes! Now get back to work.

To the extent one felt 2012 was blown out of proportion and Elder Holland was saying “do better, pray more, keep going!!!,” yes! Now get back to work.

 

 

On to another topic…

I have two questions for folks that might think like the stereotype of Dr. Bradford (I don’t know him at all) AND for those who might think like the real Dr. Peterson (I know him a tiny bit and I suspect folks here know him well).

 

1. Is there not room for calling a critic a critic in the world of perfect, Elder Holland inspired, gospel work.? I have never seen a critic say, “Now I will misrepresent the faith of the CoJCoLDS.” Or “Now I will misrepresent my former faith.” I often see critics of the CoJCoLDS who refuse to say, “Now I will explain why you shouldn’t continue being or shouldn’t become a LDS.” Instead, one must search through past comments to find that “Bishop interviews of youth” was once number 6 or 7 on the list of why one should not sustain the leaders of the CoJCoLDS and only today is the broomstick upon which one “innocently” rides while claiming to be trying to make the church they love better. It seems to me that many who in their heart of hearts desire to weaken or destroy faith in the CoJCoLDS spend a great deal of time largely misrepresenting themselves to try to get past some “I will ignore anti-Mormons filter” that they believe exists (rightly so in some individuals) throughout the church. When believing members offer apologetics, I do not think there is often such deception (of course I am probably biased here).

 

2. What is the proper context for the statement, “If the origins of the Book of Abraham was the only piece of data I evaluated, I would reject the CoJCoLDS?” I have never thought the “two papyri theory is great.” I think the catalyst theory is largely an adhoc creation to explain something that is not explained by data (of course it cannot be disproven, but that is hardly a source of great positive evidence). I say similar things to this on the Catholic board I contribute to when I think it is appropriate. It seems clear to me that the CoJCoLDS does not win all the skirmishes in the battle concerning what is mostly likely true based on data and reason only. On VERY rare occasions, I have seen some Catholic apologists claim that the Catholic understanding of this or that point is not the most clear read of the Bible, but such is rare. To me credibility is enhanced if you can call losing points a losing point. I do not share with my ministering companion the least well answered questions in LDS apologetics (the origins of the BOA, IMO) so when should this be done? I believe “10000 problems do not a doubt make.” I suspect I could say this based on spiritual testimony, but I can also say it based on the fact that I simply cannot explain the origins of the Book of Mormon without appealing to God and this more than adequately supports difficulties with the origins of the BOA, IMO.

 

Charity, TOm

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On 1/8/2019 at 2:31 PM, BHodges said:

!

Sadly not everyone who has associated with Fair Mormon has remained in the church. The same can be said for FARMS, the Maxwell Institute, Interpreter, and probably most organizations which work for the benefit of the church. 

True enough, I suppose. 

I just thought it remarkable that two individuals placed on the speakers lineup at that conference apparently to give homage to the notion of “pastoral apologetics” ended up not remaining in the Church. One of them later became so belligerent in his publicly expressed hostility (and this was years before his ultimate excommunication) that his words, identity and even his physical likeness were removed from the archival record of that conference— understandably so, tycker jag.

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