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LifeOnaPlate

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  1. I don't think you've avoided the they said/he said mess you mention. After all in this very thread if insisted that Dan and Bill have been dishonest about what took place.

    Can you point out where I did that? I've said with regards to the personnel changes that there are different perspectives about what happened. I've also said Bill and Dan have spread misinformation about what the Institute has been doing over the past three years. That is the misinformation I am here to correct and it seems people are either disinterested, or they can see it was in fact incorrect info.

     It's honestly been a good year or so since I've even opened up the Maxwell site. I know I've read a few things and have found them good. But I haven't been back and can't really remember what it was I liked. I'd have to re-review and then catch myself up. Not sure why I've stopped, to be honest. A sour taste I suppose. Ah well...I'll come back around.

    I recommend the MIPodcast as a good place to start.

  2. Sheesh the Institute is just following the methods employed by the Church over the years. Pretend like the failures of the past never were and yet ask people to get over it and come and see the good they do. I guess there's something to that, but it doesn't really make sense, in this case.

    It's not uncommon for churches, businesses, and other entities to not publicly distribute all the details of personnel and other decisions. Families don't do it, individuals don't do it. In some cases being discrete is actually in the best interest of both parties.

    Why are they publishing apologetic material if the whole point behind the purge was to shed itself of apologetics? That's a little odd because as I understand it the "old guard" was more than willing to share apologetic and academic. It seems like people just started throwing each other into categories and battling based on those categories. Now we have Blair asking everyone to not see categories of people. Hey I'm all for that.

    When categorization obscures the most important things (the work itself) then I think it's not useful and should be set aside. I can't control the labels people use, but I can point out the function the labels are serving and invite people to look at things a different way to get the discussion back on track. The word "apologetics" is a good example of this. It's a word most members of the church are unfamiliar with. It's a word that some people have taken up as a title. It's a word that gets used as often in identity politics as anything else. This is one of the reasons you see FairMormon re-branding with a new name. There's no question that various publications at the Maxwell Institute can serve "apologetic" purposes in the sense of defending or bolstering various truth claims, or creating a reasonable climate in which belief may flourish as the old saying goes. I laid that out earlier in the thread here. We don't feel the need to explicitly or frequently employ the term "apologetics" in order to accomplish the goal of increasing faith through topflight scholarship.

    But what happened here? Remaining silent, I can't see as all that helpful particularly when someone speaking in defense from inside the institute is claiming the other side is lying. Honestly, the institute needs to learn to address what it did, or the hurt they caused remains. Why blame everyone else for the problems they caused? Seems stupid.

    I understand that it doesn't make sense to you. People in that situation have a choice they can make. They can actually read what the Institute is producing (or listen to it in the case of the MIPodcast) and evaluate it, or they can allow personnel changes to overshadow the actual work. By and large, MI is seeing a lot of very positive feedback from people who've enjoyed what's being produced. MI receives some good scholarly criticism as well, which is also encouraged and appreciated. The Institute is in this for the scholarship above all.

    "hey, we're the same as we were. some of the same people are here. Don't pay any attention to those others we ousted because they're just lying anyway. But let's all be nice and get along and not try and shove people into categories and attack them."

    What? The drama causers complaining about the drama they caused? ugh...

    I don't think MI is the exact same as it was. There's been concerted efforts to improve the overall tone and approach to scholarship, to other church members, even to critics. It's quite possible to deeply disagree with someone without being sarcastic, disagreeable, or trying to display wit at someone's expense. That's the goal and I believe the Institute continues to improve there. The idea is that the work MI produces, even responses to criticisms, needs to embody the spirit of the gospel of Christ which it seeks to defend. That includes the traits of honesty, meekness, humility, and charity. MI has also raised the bar in terms of our peer review process, new boards have been formed to oversee MI periodicals which have been reformatted and redesigned, the book publishing program is more robust than it has been in years (MI published more books last year than the previous decade combined, or near to it IIRC) with several new book series and some best-selling titles. MI also provides a free professional podcast, frequent blog posts, more private colloquiums with a variety of scholars and more lectures than have gone in for years. Not to mention making our materials more widely and freely available than before and even expanding the contents of our archive online. Not to mention all the other stuff MI is doing. So as I pointed out earlier, our Middle Eastern Texts Initiative and Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts are just as important to us as the Willes Center or <i>Mormon Studies Review</i>.

    Anyone who thinks the MI is the same as it was probably wasn't very familiar with how it was, or with how it is now. Conversely, some people have exaggerated the differences, arguing that the Institute has become a secular place where faith is disallowed. In reality, the Institute produces different work for various audiences, academic, devotional, and in-between. It's a spectrum, not an either/or. Solid scholarship can be faithful scholarship when it's produced with rigor and care, even if it doesn't touch directly on the faith claims of Latter-day Saints.

  3. This is the first I have heard that Dan has spread misinformation through Bill Hamblin. What would that misinformation be?

     

    The basic pattern goes like this: Bill or someone else posts some bit of selective or misinterpreted information on a blog with a discussion about how it signals the Institute has lost its way, abandoned the faith or apologetics or Book of Mormon studies in an ancient setting or what have you. These posts have never been accurate, of course. Then other people post that link on their Facebook walls and blogs, usually saying something like "I don't necessarily agree with everything my friend Bill or whoever says, but hey, it's really interesting and telling, isn't it?"

     

    Someone once said that lies and rumors can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. This thread was my response to the latest inaccurate information. Now that the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies vol. 24 has been published, it's clear that the Willes Center (formerly FARMS) at the Maxwell Institute is indeed continuing to study and assess the BoM as an ancient text, as well as expanding the scholarly scope to include theological, literary, and reception history studies. (This was also clear before Bill posted his blog post, looking at the last issue of JBMS, as well as our latest published book Schooling the Prophet: How the Book of Mormon Influenced the Prophet Joseph Smith). 

  4. One doesn't have to be a "Fan of Dan" to find this episode disappointing, even moreso because of the ensuing silence. A number of my friends and relatives who didn't know Dan or the Institute are saddened by this event. It's such a disturbing story that the truth should be told and let the chips fall where they will regardless of policies. I appreciate the position you are in and that you have the courage to defend it here, but this sounds like justifying questionable means because the ends were good. It's obvious the university supports the Institute or this wouldn't have happened, but does it also support the manner in which it was changed? Or was this the way it was designed to happen? We have read here about the abuses of the Wilkinson era.....he was President during my years there. Now I have to wonder about this BYU era. Kind of takes the shine off the penny. Great football program. I'm having my doubts about the current White and Blue. But the Church is still true.

    Bernard, thanks for the detailed reply. I think it's reasonable for people to assume that since only one party to the conflict has publicly given their side of things that people therefore only know one side. Since Dan has been party to spreading inaccurate information about the Institute (in this case via his friend Bill Hamblin), reasonable people might take that into account when they consider other claims about the Institute.

    As for picking off the scab (if that was directed to me), I'm here primarily to clear up misconceptions about what the Institute is currently doing. As I've argued, it is not true that the Institute is no longer looking at the BoM as an ancient text. I've also pointed to some of the other excellent (in my biased opinion) work that the Institute has produced over the past few years. I've offered review copies of work to several people but no one who has concerns has taken me up on it. What have you read from the Institute in the past three years? Would you be interested in reviewing something?

    Please forgive typos. Using phone.

  5. Blair has done a good job in trying to answer the criticisms the best he could.  He has certainly given it more airing that I have seen previously.  Since he didn't do the things that many are mad about, I don`t think I will beat him up any more.   :beatdeadhorse:

     

    Well thanks. I hope you'll take a minute to catch up on what the Institute is up to. We have an active Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog

  6. Yes but where does this supposedly happy situation leave people like me who want the Maxwell Institute to get hit by a tornado, burn down, fall over, and sink into a swamp and then have a tribe of friendly beavers come by and salt the ground to keep anything from ever being built there again?

    Am I just to be left out in the cold? Is that fair?

    A bizarrely specific set of wishful circumstances no doubt. But. Sometimes life isn't fair.
  7. It's been more than three years. Dan has been productive. The Institute has been productive. I see more people simply moving on from the identity politics and enjoying the work that's being done. That makes me even more optimistic. Is there anything you've read from the Institute in the last few years that you did or didn't like?

  8. Bernard, I can understand why it is troubling to you. Many fans of Dan were troubled and some still are. I can also understand why the university expected the Institute to decline public comment on the circumstances. I think it's obvious to most reasonable people that in such a divided situation, both parties could reasonably believe different things about why it happened. Both sides will be likely to depict things as favorably as possible to their own side. I suppose I can say that, although the exact timing and circumstances don't seem ideal, the decision wasn't made lightly and the university fully supports the Maxwell Institute. As Dr. Bradford retires in the next little while I hope people will learn to overlook perceived problems and pay attention instead to what the Institute is actually producing now. The past two years have been the most productive of the Institute's history in several categories. There's a lot of very good things people can benefit from if they're willing to try.

  9. I hope so, but "getting somewhere", does not always mean the correct destination To use a line from the movie, "Lincoln"..."A compass will always show you true North, but will tell you nothing about the hazards you may encounter, and can plunge you needlessly through swamps, quicksand and the like" (to paraphrase). So I hope once we arrive at out destination with the "Keystone of our Religion", it is the one we hope for...or that it does not take so long others pick up pace, to lead apologetics onto an off ramp into a Jr College form of the Maxwell Institute.

    What have you read that the Institute has produced in the past three years?

  10. I am well aware of the politics of a secular universities but had hoped that at a church owned and operated university those who staffed it would have a tad bit more integrity.

    I think we are mistaken when we try to divide things so neatly into categories like "secular universities" and non. Spiritual things can happen at "secular universities" and "secular" things go on at more spiritually inclined universities. I like what Pres. Uchtdorf had to say:

     

    "To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes."

     

    We could all become more comfortable with the idea that we're imperfect. Leaders are imperfect, professors are imperfect, administrators are imperfect. Things continue to roll on in the meantime. Have you had the chance to read anything the Institute has produced over the past three years? I would like to know what you did or didn't like about it.  

    • Upvote 2
  11. And ignoring any requests to explain or talk to the former employees even to say perhaps 'lawyers have instructed me to not engage in a conversation' is very questionable in my view. Making a mistake is understandable. Refusing to do anything about it ever is something beyond just making a mistake imo.

     

    The easiest explanation for this is the possibility that the administration still believes the decision was correct even if the particulars could have been handled better. 

     

    Blair,

     

    I just wanted to thank you for all the work you do with the Maxwell Institute.  I love your podcasts, I also appreciate the Adam Millers and Sam Browns of the world, and thanks to your summary of other things being worked on I'm intrigued to learn more about those projects.

     

    The current direction of the MI is one that has helped me immensely.  It gives me hope that I can continue to navigate my faith transition in positive ways and not be untrue to my intellectual criticisms and questions.  The old guard like the Hamblin’s of the world, do not speak to me and I often find myself more frustrated with them than with many exmormon critics.  I have to say that I’m a fan of the new directions that MI is headed.  Thanks!

     

    I really appreciate that, I really really do. I hope more people can be vocal in support of us this way. Our desire is to do the best and most helpful work we possibly can.

     

    I think there was a circle-the-wagons mentality that quickly emerged when the matter went public -- which happened due to the leaks.

    Welcome back, Scott. Can you check my earlier response? Thanks.

    The soap opera returns again. :sad:

    Take heart, Pa Pa. I think we're getting somewhere this time.

  12. I hear good things about Bradford also.  I don`t know who is right or wrong.  Maybe some of both sides.  Maybe none on both sides.  What I do know and sense from many sources is that the people who supported the old FARMS are not over the top happy with the new MI.  Part of that IMO, has to do with the sense that Dan was not treated well.  The new MI may and probably is building their new audience from a different batch of people.  As I have said or tried to say, I like and need the new MI and Mormon Interpreter.  

     

    Talk of the "old MI" and the "new MI" signals to me the possibility that perhaps part of the problem is that people thought of Dan himself as being the Institute. I think that's a concern for any institution who keeps the same editor in charge of a publication for quarter of a century instead of rotating editors like most academic publications do. As I mentioned in the beginning of the thread, much of the Institute has remained the same despite Dan's departure. We're just the MI.  

  13. Can't they just go to Mormon Interpreter?

     

    I actually think Interpreter has avoided, for the most part, the more polemical approaches and the jocular tone of some (not all!) of the FARMS materials. All of which, by the way, are available for free on the Institute's website in a very aesthetically pleasing website if I do say so myself. So I can see how some people would be missing that, because it's rare even for the Interpreter it seems to me. 

  14. Yes, mostly because I trust Dan. I do not know Bradford. I realize why BYU does not and probably should not comment. They are going to have to live with me thinking it is a sleazy thing to do and never donating to them again. I am under no delusion that they are losing any sleep over that.

     

    For what it's worth, it does bother me. And I do know Jerry Bradford. He's a good man and he's an imperfect man. 

  15. Blair, I think you do a good job at promoting MI. It doesn't have the same feel that it did before Dan left, though. Those of us who followed and loved Dan had a hard time watching him "slashed and burned" if you want to put it that way. I can see where the old guard calling a spade a spade didn't go over so well in the academic world. I understand where interacting with the academic world will help BYU and can have positive effects on the Church.

    I understand what you're saying. There's less of the jocular approach. Dan is still as productive as he's ever been, so people who enjoy his work don;t need to miss out. As the current director nears retirement and the Institute continues forward I hope more of these identity politics can go by the wayside. I think reasonable people can see that the Maxwell Institute can produce exceptional work in spite of personnel changes. I can understand why people are bothered by the circumstances. On a personal level I know the Institute isn't perfect, just as BYU and the church are run by imperfect people. I see some people have become less bothered the more they pay attention to what we're producing. Personnel changes don't determine whether Brant Gardner's forthcoming article in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies is quality or not, or whether the Maxwell Institute Podcast is enjoyable.

     

    Blair brought up David Bokovoy and his writings. Also Adam Miller and Samuel Brown. They are all faithful, but liberal.

    I think we do our fellow members a disservice by lumping them into camps like "liberal," "conservative," "TBM," "Internet Mormons," "uncorrelated Mormons," and so forth. All of us are children of God with our own experiences and testimonies to share. As President Uchtdorf has suggested, church members should avoid dividing people into camps, judging whether someone's testimony is good enough, etc.

     

    The old guard likes them, but struggles with their writings. I love David and everything I have read. In his Old Testament writings he deals with the BoA and BoM as pseudopigrapha. I like pondering some of those angles, but it does challenge some of my old thoughts about those books. With the BoA it is about the only thing that has settled my mind on its origins. When one of the elders in my quorum left the Church he brought up the BoA over and over again. I run across that with the twenty something's who doubt. The new MI and people like David can help start that conversation, but it is not exactly the way the old FARMS would have forwarded their ideas. The last ten books I have purchased have been from the individuals that Blair mentioned.

    This speaks to one of the misconceptions a few people have generated about the Institute. While officially the Institute has no official position on how the BoA came to be (aside from the basic assertion that it is revelation, scripture, revealed by God to Joseph Smith), it's also not trying to take control of the position of the church to assert some sort of "pious fiction" theory or what have you.

     

    So, I like MI. It feels different and I am still getting used to it. I wish/hope that Dan could be dealt with more generously. Until Dan is explained or addressed differently, all of the old fans are going to have a burr under their saddle blanket. All of this of course is IMO, but Iam readstoomuch.

     

    I think Dan has made his feelings about the Institute known repeatedly and firmly. The Institute (wisely I think) has elected not to comment on personnel matters. That's not unusual for an institution, a university, or even a church if you want to make that comparison, though it's not exact. In the past I tried speaking to a few people in general terms about the way I personally saw things only to see my words twisted against me generating even more drama and gossip and bad feeling all around. I learned that it's best to let those things be. I can say there have been honestly hurt feelings on all sides here. My own decision has been to try to let it all go and just keep moving foreword.

    I appreciate your perspective, thanks for sharing it readstoomuch. I don;t know who you are, but if you ever come around Provo you should stop in the Institute and say hello.

  16.      Just an observation, though the new House is doing well when I enter it it is like someone moved the furniture [ A nibley quote from what I remember ] and I left confused/brokenhearted/sad, like someone took my friends to another house blocks away from the city. It makes me feel empty in comparison to the feeling of fullness in the original House. Just my opinion. The colors are terrible and depressing, need more uplifting colors.

     

    In His Eternal Debt/Grace

                 Anakin7

     

    I can understand that, Anakin. My response to this is three-fold. First, fortunately for you, Dan Peterson is as productive as ever with Interpreter. The tone there seems to be a little less colorful, but they produce an article practically every week. Second, most of the scholars who worked here before Dan left are still here. The difference is they are working on projects that weren't as prominently promoted, or projects which aren't geared as directly to members of the Church. So institutionally much of the furniture remains the same, it's just that people didn't spend much time exploring the various rooms in the house, to keep up with your analogy. Third, what have you read that the Institute has produced in the past two years? What did or didn't you like about it?

     

    Thanks for your kind candor. 

  17. You haven't been paying enough attention, then.  I wasn't among those ousted; nonetheless, I have (however feebly) pushed back. With the exception of the "feebleness" qualifier, the same can be said of many who frequent this Board.

     

    Kenngo, I assure you there's been no desire to push you or anyone else back. We're just trying to do our jobs the best we can. I'd would be happy to send you a complimentary digital copy of Sam Brown's First Principles and Ordinances. Robert Millet endorsed it as follows:

     

    "Hyrum Smith the Patriarch counseled the Saints to ponder and study, again and again, the First principles of the gospel. He assured us that as we do so, deeper insights and meaningful applications would follow. Samuel Brown’s excellent book confirms Hyrum’s charge. The combination of Brown’s discipline, depth, and devotion result in a study that is at once both intellectually stimulating and spiritually inspiring. One thing is for sure: After reading this work, a Latter-day Saint will never see the fourth article of faith in the same way."

     

     

    Please send me an email at blairhodges[at]byu[dot]edu and I will respond with the book attached. 

     

    The Nehor: I extend the same offer to you. Just send me an email and give the book a chance. All I ask is that you both post a few comments about the book, whether positive or negative, here on the board after you've read it. 

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