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The New Mormon Studies Review

By: Ben P - March 25, 2013

Great news today from the Maxwell Institute. For their announcement, hosted on their new blog, see here.

The emerging (sub)field of Mormon studies has proven to be as multivocal as it is diverse. Though history has long been the dominant discipline of Mormon academic research, other fields are finally staking their claim. Interdisciplinary journals like Dialogue and BYU Studies Quarterly are featuring provocative works in theology, literature, musicology, and political science. There have been an explosion of journals covering the field, to the point that one could say there is more quantity than quality. We have seen an increase in quality books, with many more to come. There are conferences throughout the nation (and lately, to a very limited extent, world), and academic chairs and programs cropping up at prestigious universities. Even the New York Times is catching on to the game. Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in such a worldwind. 

That’s where the Neal A. Maxwell Institute comes in. In a (sub)field seemingly so decentralized, the Institute is trying to establish a geographic core. This will primarily be through their new journal, The Mormon Studies Review. Aimed, in part, to be a Mormon version of Books and Culture, the annual journal will offer book reviews, review essays, and discipline, methodology, and topical articles that assess recent trends in the many different disciplines that live under the eclectic umbrella of “Mormon studies.” Written for educated lay readers as well as experts, it finds one of the last remaining niches left in the Mormon studies world: a review journal that is a mix between New York Review of Books and an interdisciplinary version of Reviews in American History.

Fluhman, Spencer 301111-17 Spencer Fluhman portrait for the History Department.11/10/11Photo by Kylea Knecht/BYU© BYU PHOTO 2011All Rights Reservedphoto@byu.edu  (801)422-7322Journals typically take upon themselves the character of those in charge, so selecting the editor for such a project is crucial. The selection of Spencer Fluhman as the innaugural editor, then, is an omen of good things to come. Fluhman is well known to JI readers, both through his book as well as the fact that he personally mentored many of us, and is regarded as one of the brightest young scholars of the field. While he is a historian, and thus the selection perpetuates history as the center of Mormon studies, he has an interdisciplinary background and has the wide-ranging mind to make the journal truly interdisciplinary. Further, he has accumulated a top-notch editorial board that represents the top of the field in numerous disciplines:

  • Philip L. Barlow, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University
  • Richard L. Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, emeritus, Columbia University
  • Douglas J. Davies, Professor of Theology and Religion, Durham University
  • Eric A. Eliason, Professor of English, Brigham Young University
  • James E. Faulconer, Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding, Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University
  • Kathleen Flake, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University
  • Terryl L. Givens, James A. Bostwick Chair of English and Professor of Literature and Religion, University of Richmond
  • Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
  • Matthew J. Grow, Director of Publications, Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Grant Hardy, Professor of History and Religious Studies, University of North Carolina—Asheville
  • David F. Holland, Associate Professor of History, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University
  • Quincy D. Newell, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Wyoming
  • Grant Underwood, Professor of History, Brigham Young University

Along with Morgan Davis, I have the privilege to serve as Associate Editor, and I am genuinely thrilled to participate in such an impressive and important project.

The first issue should become available later this year. Look out for that, as well as the Maxwell Institute’s fantastic new website, which should go live within a few months. Make sure to follow their new twitter account, @MI_BYU, as well as their facebook page.

ADDITION: Make sure to read this Q&A with Fluhman, in which he outlines his vision for the journal.



63 Comments

  1. Very exciting. Thanks for the announcement, Ben, and congrats on your appointment as associate editor. Spencer is a wonderful choice to edit the new MSR, and that editorial board is stellar. Congrats to all involved!

    Comment by Christopher — March 25, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  2. Very cool. Congratulations, on the appointment, Ben.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 25, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

  3. Indeed, this is exciting news. Congrats on the associate editorship, Ben.

    Comment by David G. — March 25, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  4. Ben, Congratulations to all! Spencer’s a great choice. What an exciting development!

    Comment by Gary Bergera — March 25, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

  5. “This will primarily be through their new journal, The Mormon Studies Review…The selection of Spencer Fluhman as the innaugural editor”

    I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the Mormon Studies Review first published back in 2011, under the editorship of Daniel C. Peterson? If so, then what precisely do you mean by MSR being a “new journal” and Professor Fluhman as its “inaugural editor”?

    Comment by Stephen Smoot — March 25, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

  6. They have decided to back-title the last issue to FARMS Review, which makes it more consistent through the series. The MSR, as re-launched, will start over at issue 1. Whether you agree or not with the old/new approaches, I think this makes sense from an identity position since I’m sure Prof. Peterson is proud to own the FARMS name, and Prof. Fluhman is proud to own the new title.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 12:05 am

  7. So, with regard to the print copy of the “Mormon Studies Review”, as it reads on the cover, sitting on my bookshelf right now: when/if I cite articles from it, should I cite it as “FARMS Review” or “Mormon Studies Review”?

    Comment by Stephen Smoot — March 26, 2013 @ 12:08 am

  8. A fair question, and one to which I honestly don’t know the answer. I guess if you cite the print edition, cite it as MSR. (The date and issue number would make it clear enough, I would imagine.) If you are referencing the digital version, you might want to cite it as FARMS.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 12:12 am

  9. When I download a PDF file of any of the articles appearing in the 23/1 edition of the FARMS Review/Mormon Studies Review, on the top right hand corner it reads: “Mormon Studies Review 23.1″. So…what’s a fellow to do?

    Seems to me like all of this has some potential of creating unnecessary confusion.

    “I’m sure Prof. Peterson is proud to own the FARMS name, and Prof. Fluhman is proud to own the new title.”

    But didn’t Professor Peterson create the new title? If so, shouldn’t he rightly be said to own both?

    Comment by Stephen Smoot — March 26, 2013 @ 12:18 am

  10. Again, I imagine you’d be fine to cite it as MSR. And until the new version of MSR reaches 23 volumes—a fine and proud standard of longevity and productivity!—then there might be a little confusion, but certainly not much.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 12:24 am

  11. Also, happy to discuss these tiny aspects only us footnote perfectionists stress over! :)

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 12:31 am

  12. This is wonderful news for Mormon Studies at large, and for each person involved overall. Congrats on the appointment, Ben!

    Comment by J Stuart — March 26, 2013 @ 7:07 am

  13. Nice board! Great collection folks. I’d heard they were backing away from apologetics, but with an impressive roster like this, I’m happy to see that was an unfounded rumor. Even Fluhman himself has an impressive apologetics background. I look forward to their next issue of MSR. I wish they were publishing more frequently than once a year, but hopefully this means it will be a very large issue.

    Comment by Tanya — March 26, 2013 @ 7:17 am

  14. “I’m happy to see that was an unfounded rumor. Even Fluhman himself has an impressive apologetics background.”

    Huh?

    Comment by Christopher — March 26, 2013 @ 7:48 am

  15. This is all such awesome news!

    Comment by kirkcaudle — March 26, 2013 @ 8:21 am

  16. Christopher: I guess it depends on how someone defines apologetics. We certainly don’t associate him with certain apologetic approaches, but I guess one could characterize his interfaith dialogue activities, as well as his article on Helen Mar Whitney, as somewhat apologetic, albeit of a different sort.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 8:23 am

  17. Christopher, he wrote “A Subject That Can Bear Investigation: Anguish, Faith, and Joseph Smith’s Youngest Plural Wife”, which was published in the apologetic book “No Weapon Shall Prosper”. Of course, he is in good company with others on the board.

    Comment by Tanya — March 26, 2013 @ 8:35 am

  18. I’m familiar with Spencer’s publication record, Tanya, and have read his article on Helen Mar Whitney. I imagine that Ben is correct in noting that “it depends on how someone defines apologetics.” Whether or not SF is accurately labeled an apologist, I think it’s safe to say that his approach represents something entirely different than the sort championed by previous editors of the MSR/FARMS Review of Books. And he is first and foremost a scholar and a historian, which seems to accord with the new direction MI is taking.

    Comment by Christopher — March 26, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  19. I think you guys ought to at least change the name. Neal A. Maxwell’s name doesn’t belong with this “new direction”.

    Comment by Michael Towns — March 26, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  20. Michael, it is not up to you to decide what Elder Maxwell wanted. If the Church wants the Maxwell Institute to change the name, they’ll let them know.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — March 26, 2013 @ 10:29 am

  21. Superb news. Good to see the NAMI is moving in a sound, constructive new direction, and the editorial board is full of standout scholars. Congrats to JSF and Ben.

    Comment by Ryan T — March 26, 2013 @ 10:35 am

  22. “I think you guys ought to at least change the name. Neal A. Maxwell’s name doesn’t belong with this “new direction”

    I disagree. On a related note, the recent lecture by James Jardine, “Elder Neal A. Maxwell: A Disciples Life,” sponsored by the Institute, should be available in the next few weeks on our new youtube channel. I’ll provide the details when they become available.

    Comment by BHodges — March 26, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  23. Congratulations Blair on your position with the Institute. I see that you will be overseeing public relations and the blog. However, I was unable to post anything on the blog. Is that because the posts so far are not really blog posts but PR announcements — or am I missing something?

    Is the intent now that the Institute is a Religious Studies center? Will it be doing any apologetics of the sort defending historicity of the unique LDS scriptures? Will it be responding to critics who seek to undermine faith as it has in the past? Or will it be another place for Mormon Studies sources?

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

  24. Thanks, Blake. We don’t have comments enabled on the blog, but responses can always be emailed. Yet, it’s possible in the future that we will post responses or something from certain readers, but for the present we aren’t set up to handle it.

    I’m posting a Q&A with Spencer Fluhman on the blog tomorrow. One of the questions directly involves apologetics, ancient studies comes up, and a basic description of Spencer’s vision for the MSR is given. As you know, there are various approaches to our scriptural texts, some of which seek to provide evidence for historicity, some of which assume it, and some of which try to bracket the question entirely (although even such bracketing takes at least an implicit position on some sort of historical backdrop). From what I can tell, there is space for discussions on such things in our publications going forward. I can only give you my own .02 on this, speaking for myself.

    There are many more things to talk about regarding our scriptures, in addition to direct discussions about historicity, which deserve attention. I imagine we want to open the field a bit wider, bring fresh questions and fresh eyes to the text, not let critics dictate the direction of the discussion, interest people in the scriptures in ways that deepens their understanding more-so than having readers look over their shoulders all the time, or even feel comfort that some defender somewhere has written a critical review. I think of the article you wrote on BoM expansion translation, and SER’s response, which seemed to be have a hint of policing orthodoxy in it. I think exchanges on issues like that are possible without that implied policing. With all this in mind, I can’t speak for the editor or the board, but take a look at the names and think about what their involvement might mean for the sort of questions you’re asking.

    Comment by BHodges — March 26, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

  25. “Michael, it is not up to you to decide what Elder Maxwell wanted. If the Church wants the Maxwell Institute to change the name, they’ll let them know.”

    I never claimed it was “up to” me. I was merely pointing out that turning the Maxwell Institute into a “Religious Studies” organization that is distancing itself from prior work would seem to be a slap in the face of a man who gave FARMS his constant and explicit support.

    I’m sure that making “Mormon Studies” more palatable to the academicians and ivory tower folks is doing a great service to the memory of the man who said that there should be “no uncontested slam dunks” with respect to Mormonism, the Book of Mormon, ancient studies, etc. The quest for “respectable Mormonism” continues, I suppose.

    Comment by Michael Towns — March 26, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  26. Michael, just because the new journal won’t carry the same approach or tone as the old one doesn’t mean that it doesn’t share the same overall theme and purpose of defending and explaining the saints. Look at it as a different approach to apologetics, not a rejection of apologetics. Here is what Bushman said a couple years ago on the topic:

    These younger scholars have a new attitude toward Mormon apologetics. They are no longer so interested in defending the faith in the old sense. In the time of Nibley, the aim of scholarship was to prove Mormonism true. In the new age, the aim of Mormon scholarship is to find the truth about Mormonism. Among the scholars writing today are many who are as proud of the Church, as interested in its flourishing, and as committed to its mission as the previous age, but they follow a new maxim, voiced tellingly by James Faulconer: Richness is the new proof. Rather than attempting scientific proofs of Mormonism as a previous age tried to do, they point to its cultural depth, its scope, its usefulness, in short, its richness. The unspoken assumption of this rising group is that Mormonism will flourish best if its true nature is uncovered and investigated, not if it is proven perfect and infallible.

    Maxwell left a robust legacy still relevant and still very much in force in the institute. One of my favorite metaphors were that Mormon scholars, while maintaining their allegiance to the gospel kingdom, must gain and use the passport of scholarship in order to engage broader academic fields. I think this journal is very much in line with that.

    And, FWIW, the Maxwell family is on board with the recent changes.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

  27. Ben P,

    Thank you for answering and offering your explanation. I’m grateful that the Maxwell family is “on board” with it. The cynic in me would wonder if they were given a choice or really had any input in the matter.

    Would you agree with me or disagree that the notion “richness is the new proof” is simply a viewpoint that is no more valid than the old way? If you’re suggesting that this new method is simply a “new attitude”, what really makes it superior than another “attitude” aside from its trendy “newness”?

    As you can probably discern (hopefully at any rate), there are quite a few people who are curious as to how this new direction actually helps the kingdom of God. From your description, I’m not even sure this Institute belongs at BYU. If BYU can’t host a traditional apologetics institute, who can or will?

    If this new direction is truly coming from the “top”, can I get some specifics?

    From someone who has no connection to BYU or the intermountain west, this “new direction” really just looks like any run of the mill academic institute. No doubt many interesting papers and books will be published, but the work could be done at any university with a Religion Department.

    Comment by Michael Towns — March 26, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

  28. Fair questions, Michael, and I’ll defer to the Q&A with Spencer Fluhman that Blair will be putting up soon, since they address many of the issues you bring up, and he can do so in a way that is much more authoritative and representative of the journal than I can offer here.

    Comment by Ben P — March 26, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

  29. Thanks to all for your comments and good information. You’ve clearly brought together some impressive and talented scholars. As someone with a PhD in Theology I appreciate your approach and hope for the best.

    But I can’t kick the feeling that most of the thousands of people who donated significant funds (often at great sacrifice) to the apologetic work of FARMS must be extremely worried that their money will now be going in a very different direction–one they would not have been interested in funding.

    Comment by Tyler M — March 26, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  30. I never claimed it was “up to” me. I was merely pointing out that turning the Maxwell Institute into a “Religious Studies” organization that is distancing itself from prior work would seem to be a slap in the face of a man who gave FARMS his constant and explicit support.

    Just to be clear, the Maxwell Institute isn’t a “Religious Studies” organization, it’s an institution for “religious scholarship,” and has been under that title for more than a decade. That means it has many initiatives. The MSR is only one of our initiatives, just as the FARMS Review used to be only one of the Institute’s initiatives.

    We aren’t distancing ourselves from all of our prior work, either. You’d be surprised how many people are unaware of some of our best output. Part of my job is to highlight some of our best past work in order to invite re-engagement with it. Nibley famously said don’t hold him to anything he wrote more than 5 years previous (he said that a long time ago!). That is what scholarship is–ongoing search for ever better perspectives and approaches. Like any institution we have a history, and it will always be available for public scrutiny and discussion. To try and use Elder Maxwell as leverage in a polemical exchange based in personal feelings is bit much, I think.

    Michael, you have my contact information, and as I’ve done elsewhere, I invite you here to contact me personally. I’m more than willing to discuss things with you person to person. In the meantime, check the Q&A tomorrow for more.

    Comment by BHodges — March 26, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  31. “The MSR, as re-launched, will start over at issue 1. Whether you agree or not with the old/new approaches…”
    “when/if I cite articles from it, should I cite it as “FARMS Review” or “Mormon Studies Review”?”

    These are the problems you have when you’ve “always been at war with Eastasia.”

    Comment by N. — March 26, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

  32. Looking forward to this!

    Comment by Natalie R — March 26, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

  33. I’ve updated the post to include Fluhman’s Q&A on his vision for the MSR.

    Comment by Ben P — March 27, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  34. Just eyeballing the new Board and directors, I have a few more questions. I am excited about the quality of the Board — and many of them are personal friends and I believe outstanding scholars in their fields of study. However, when the Institute began it was primarily folks in ancient studies who were interested in the intersection of the ancient world and Mormonism.

    Indeed, that was the focus of study that I discussed with Elder Maxwell for the Institute when it moved to BYU. I had expressed concerns that it would lose credibility if it became a department at BYU and he did not believe that it would lose credibility but would have access to greater resources. But he was squarely behind the focus on ancient studies and how they relate to Mormonism’s peculiar scriptures. I don’t see anyone with credentials that would lead me to believe that such an interest continues.

    Is the purpose of the Institute to now focus on 19th and 20th century cultural influences that created Mormonism and its “sacred” texts? The Board seems to have a primarily European-American religious studies focus. Indeed, I don’t see anyone in the fields of ancient Near Eastern or Mesoamerican studies. Indeed, there isn’t even a biblical scholar on the board (and not a single lawyer either!). Is the intent to steer away from the kinds of questions that these disciplines raise?

    Is the intent to adopt a secular approach that “brackets” truth claims and focus on studies that would be acceptable in the broader higher education market?

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

  35. Blake, on ancient studies, this is from Fluhman’s Q&A:

    The Maxwell Institute has other publications focused on ancient studies, so the Review will seek to complement those by leaning towards modern Mormon studies. We won’t leave the ancient world behind, but we are broadening the Review so as to work in tandem with the Institute’s other offerings.

    Perhaps there may be some bracketing, but perhaps not all the time. The purpose of the Review, again, is to review the numerous quality work out there in the field and to have a one-stop-shop for assessing various disciplines working under the umbrella of Mormon Studies. That task, I think, not only allows but demands a broad range of approaches.

    Comment by Ben P — March 27, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  36. Like Blake and others, I’m absolutely dumbfounded that the editorial board for a journal called the Mormon Studies Review is composed of scholars who specialize in the study of Mormonism and its broader 19th and 20th century contexts. I mean, what are they trying to do??!!

    Comment by Christopher — March 27, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

  37. Ben P. My bad. I saw the FAQ by just Fuhlman just after posting and it does answer the questions. Given that the Institute is continuing its other publications focused on the LDS scriptures, that answers my questions for the most part. Thanks for the clarification.

    Christopher: charming as always.

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

  38. Just to be clear, the Review appears to no longer accept reviews of works on ancient studies and the intersection with Mormon scripture. That will be left to the other publications. However, these publications will be original articles and not reviews of publications related to biblical studies, ancient studies of scripture or biblical scholarship. Is that correct?

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  39. Now for the most important question: do you and Blair get to keep your beards?

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

  40. A fair question, Blake. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other publications—currently, The Journal of Book of Mormon and other Restoration Scripture, as well as Bible and Antiquity—start including book reviews along with original research. This would keep everything covered, as well as maintaining a thematic consistency throughout the various journals. There are plenty of venues for original research in modern Mormon studies, though not as much for ancient studies.

    Comment by Ben P — March 27, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

  41. Blair is a movie star now, so he gets to keep his own beard. And since I remain out in babylon, a razor won’t touch my face, either.

    Comment by Ben P — March 27, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  42. Blake: I had to go through all the proper channels in regards to facial hair, so it’s all legit, verified, approved, vetted, and sealed up to eternal lives (for the time being anyway).

    I don’t think reviews of books which deal with ancient studies intersecting with Mormon scripture are prohibited from the MSR, Spencer didn’t suggest that, and as editor he could always corral specialists in various fields to do such reviews.

    Comment by BHodges — March 28, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  43. I think it may be going a bit too far to imply or infer that the Maxwell family enthusiastically endorses everything that has happened at the Maxwell Institute over the past nine months or so. Are they going to withdraw Elder Maxwell’s name? No. Are they hopeful that the “new direction” will do good? Yes. (So am I.) Would they have preferred that certain things had been done differently, or not at all? I don’t speak for them, of course, but I know them. And I think the answer to that last question is a definite Yes.

    Comment by Daniel Peterson — March 28, 2013 @ 11:52 pm

  44. I don’t speak for them, of course…

    Let’s just leave it at that.

    Comment by Ben P — March 29, 2013 @ 6:40 am

  45. These recent changes at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (i.e. “richness is the new proof” vs. “proving the church true”) are (in my view) as potentially significant to the LDS Church as the Reform Judaism movement has been to Judaism — only they are happening sans a major institutional schism. Very, very exciting times (for those who care about the church, I mean).

    So excited, and grateful to you all.

    Comment by John Dehlin — March 29, 2013 @ 10:34 am

  46. While I don’t agree with the Reformed Judaism analogy because of Mormonism’s prophetic and authoritative claims (which I, and I imagine all of the Maxwell Institute, maintain), I still appreciate the motion of support, John.

    Comment by Ben P — March 29, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  47. Ben P,

    My guess is that you and all of the Maxwell Institute would be willing to acknowledge the possibility and/or reality of God’s inspiration/guidance in most (if not all) of the world’s major religions. In my interview with Phil Barlow he made it clear to me that he could simultaneously validate a unique/important/inspired (or in your words, prophetic/authoritative) role of the LDS Church in God’s plan on earth, AND acknowledge with humility the likelihood of God’s influence elsewhere in the world (including in other religious institutions, and even in secular realms).

    To me, this is the power/significance of what I hear you and others at the M.I. saying.

    You seem to say that you will be focusing on what’s good and/or true about the LDS Church/Mormonism in a way that does not seek to be invalidating (“exclusive truth”) to others.

    Do I have it wrong?

    Comment by John Dehlin — March 29, 2013 @ 11:09 am

  48. John, the church has acknowledge the truth in other religions for a long time. Brigham Young made a number of statements on that and there have been many since. So if that is the attitude of the Maxwell Institute (I’m sure it is) it’s hardly new. Also, this is a just journal that reviews books on Mormonism, it’s not a reform movement within the Church.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — March 29, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  49. John: I certainly can’t speak for others, but for myself I do find truth and good in all religions (which has always been a strand within Mormonism) while at the same time firmly believing in the funamental claims of the LDS tradition. So as far as the former goes, I’d accept that characteristic. The problem, to me, with the Reformed Judaism label is that it is generally meant to accept a religious tradition as primarily cultural in influence and destabilized in authority, whereas Mormonism’s prophetic and authoritative claims make it a tough mix.

    Comment by Ben P — March 29, 2013 @ 11:22 am

  50. I couldn’t just “leave it at that” because you, Ben, didn’t just “leave it at that.”

    Comment by Daniel Peterson — March 29, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

  51. Ben P,

    Just for clarification — I didn’t mean to invoke Reform Judaism so as to imply that the New M.I. is intending to be a secular movement, or to deny LDS prophetic authority.

    I guess I was trying to say that just like Reform Judaism represented a significant mind-shift within Judaism (away from a heavy emphasis on scriptural literalism, for example, and perhaps towards an embracing of scientific evidence, etc.), I am hopeful that this shift away from “proving the church true” towards “exploring the richness of Mormonism” has the potential to become a shift that is more inclusive/universalistic, and perhaps less insular, provincial, and alienating to others — TBMs, liberals, ex-Mormons, and non-members included.

    I guess I also see this change as something that could help keep more of the thinky/intellectual types within the fold — and that it has the potential to generate much more light than heat.

    I acknowledge that I am speaking out of my element here…but I can’t quite contain my optimism for how I’m interpreting what you all are trying to do (and who you have chosen to make it happen).

    I guess I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for letting me opine, and godspeed to you all.

    Comment by John Dehlin — March 29, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  52. I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of either non-Reform Judaism or the earlier MI.

    I’m familiar with several self-identifying Orthodox Jews who don’t seem to reject science, or embrace Biblical literalism, e.g. James Kugel or Marc Brettler. Take Lawrence Schiffman, who quotes Nachmanides to the extent that nothing in the creation chapters of Genesis is literal. The lines between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism sometimes blur, but one of the general characteristics of Reform is an appreciation for the tradition coupled with a general rejection of any inspiration or in extreme cases, atheism.

    Reform Judaism does not believe that the Torah was written by G-d…. Reform Jews do not believe in observance of commandments as such, but they retain much of the values and ethics of Judaism, along with some of the practices and the culture…. Many non-observant, nominal, and/or agnostic Jews will identify themselves as Reform when pressed to specify simply because Reform is the most liberal movement, but that is not really a fair reflection on the movement as a whole.

    Jewfaq.

    As long as we’re dealing with characterizations, I’d suggest that for many LDS, any perceived validity of John D’s comparison (and perhaps mere approval) of the MI as an LDS parallel to Reform Judaism would be taken as confirmation of fears that it is backing away from traditional LDS truth claims and a virtual deathblow to the MI. I think (and hope) that’s an inaccurate perception, one that needs to be actively countered, and note Ben P’s pushback on those comments.

    Comment by Ben S — March 29, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  53. Should have included-

    On the other hand, I had an Orthodox boss (perhaps more Ultra?), who was a YEC. The three I named are scholars, he was not. Obviously, the taxonomy and internal divisions of Judaism are complex and don’t quite map 1:1 onto Mormonism.

    Comment by Ben S — March 29, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

  54. The Maxwell Institute isn’t Reformed Judaism and it isn’t a reform movement in the Church generally. I appreciate John’s kind words, but I think the comparison doesn’t fit well. The more the institute publishes the more people can focus on what we actually do rather than all of this scrutinizing and speculating and worrying. Also, people can always contact me directly. It would be nice, because then other people can do the legwork of spreading accurate information about the institute:
    blairhodges[@]byu.edu.

    Comment by BHodges — March 29, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  55. My response to Ben Park’s thought on the apologetics of richness.
    https://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/the-apologetics-of-richness/

    Comment by Bill Hamblin — March 29, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  56. On Elder Maxwell’s thoughts (from back in 1991) about the organization that now bears his name:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/03/elder-neal-a-maxwell-on-what-would-later-become-the-maxwell-institute.html

    Comment by Daniel Peterson — March 29, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

  57. Blair, I hope that, when people call, you’re sharing information about what the Institute is now planning to do, etc., rather than about certain events of the past nine months. On the latter score — from my perspective, anyway — some of the things you (no doubt sincerely) believe to be “accurate information” . . . well, AREN’T.

    You have my sincere best wishes in your efforts.

    Comment by Daniel Peterson — March 29, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

  58. Thanks Dan. Most of my time in such conversations is spent explaining to people why all the worries and speculations about the institute vis a vis apologetics, ancient studies, and other matters are misplaced. I look forward to meeting up for a slice of pizza to talk about it with you, too.

    Comment by BHodges — March 29, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

  59. Hey all – I gladly withdraw my comparison…but refuse to withdraw my well wishes, excitement, and support. :)

    John

    Comment by John Dehlin — March 30, 2013 @ 9:04 am

  60. For the record – I never meant to imply that the new M.I. direction was a secular one. My bad.

    Comment by John Dehlin — March 30, 2013 @ 9:05 am

  61. Ben P. (#26): “the Maxwell family is on board with the recent changes”–>Like DCP, I am very curious to know what this really means (as I know the family and would be surprised if they appreciated the way things have gone over the past 9 months). But I am hopeful that both “apologetics” and “Mormon Studies” will serve to further the interests of the Church and its members, rather than those of society at large and the “mainstream.”

    Comment by European Saint — April 1, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  62. […] European Saint: The New Mormon Studies […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » New (and loaded) Issue of Mormon Historical Studies — April 3, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

  63. Just got an email advising that those of us who subscribed in the past will get the first issue of the new iteration. Nice. Thanks!

    Comment by El chavo — April 8, 2013 @ 12:18 pm