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The "Mormon Interpreter" is an apologetic organization formed by those kicked out of the FARMS / NEAL A. MAXWELL INSTITUTE.
| Dan and his outcast crew of apologetic misfits have started their own publishing venue:
Good for them.
I suspect the first wave of publications will be milder in tone, just so they can point at them and say "See, we're not attacking anyone at all and so we were falsely accused."
The first publication is going to be authored by David Bokovoy.
| I highly recommend the following reading material, as I think it may very well give us a taste of the FARMS feasts to come:
As folks here will recall, Young Haymond was the one who launched the "Restore FARMS" organization in the wake of the Maxwell Institute shake-up. Some here shook there heads at this: was Mr. Haymond misguided? Was he star-struck by the Mopologists? Did he love their viciousness? I turns out that nothing could have prepared us for the reality:
I have been through quite a range of emotions the last few weeks. I've felt utter despair, grief, and sorrow, as well as bitterness, confusion, and great disappointment. Through it all I've been blessed with comfort from our Heavenly Father beyond measure, and by experiences too sacred to share. It's been a roller coaster of a time with everything that has happened at the Maxwell Institute. I make no bones about it--FARMS had an immense impact on my life, most particularly as it relates to my testimony and faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
It seems that a good portion of his emotional and spiritual life have been bound up with things like "Text and Context," "That Old Black Magic," and Midgley's article on the funding of "anti-Mormon" ministries. Indeed, it's hard to look past Haymond's ebullient enthusiasm. Here he is waxing ecstatic over the work of Hugh Nibley:
I devoured that book. Well, let me rephrase that. I placed my pinky toe into the deep end, and did my best to pick it apart. I was excited beyond belief to read about the rituals of the Egyptians, about their coronation rituals, their mummification rituals, their cleansing and purifying rituals, and afterlife rituals. It opened up my understanding of the temple to levels I thought not possible. I still return quite frequently to that book, and glean amazing insights and knowledge from its pages. And I still haven't finished reading it!
Clearly, he's going to make a powerful contribution to "the New FARMS." He continues his rhapsodic praise of Nibley in a later passage:
I love that man. I love him. As deeply as I love my best friends. And I never had the chance to tell him so, I never had it. I bemoan that to this very day. The closest I ever came to him was attending his funeral in the de Jong Concert Hall, with video simulcast from the Provo Tabernacle. With heartfelt and acute emotion, I look forward to the day when I can walk up to Hugh Winder Nibley, shake his hand and give him a hug, and with tears in my eyes thank him for everything he has done, for me,
Later, Haymond lays everything bare as he describes the despair that gripped him in the wake of FARMS's demise:
My emotions have been very close to the surface these last few weeks with everything that happened to the FARMS component of the Maxwell Institute. It ripped me at my core to see this organization dry up and vanish, forcefully so, seemingly in an instant. It shocked me to think that some thought the Church didn't have a need for this kind of scholarship, which had done so much for me, and so many others. Where would I have been without FARMS and Hugh Nibley? I honestly don't know, and I fear just thinking of the vision. There have been several times over the past few weeks when I've honestly wept tears of sorrow over what's happened. A couple of those times, as silly as it might sound, were when I heard a couple songs on the radio, and my emotion spilled over. Go ahead and laugh. I did!
Very well, Brother Haymond! Ha ha ha! Laughter is the tincture that cures us all! Immediately following these comments, Haymond has imbedded a YouTube video of Jason Mraz's song, "I Won't Give Up": apparently, this is the anthem for "The New FARMS."
Finally, he arrives at the real reason for his comments:
And now for the reason you're reading this post in the first place, if I've teased you long enough. Early last week I was approached by William Hamblin (whom I'm friends with) and Daniel Peterson (who I haven't met personally before) early last week. They wanted to do something too. I couldn't have been happier to hear it. Once more, they wanted my help to make it happen. Me. Disbelief. Can I just say that I'm unsure I've ever received a greater honor in my lifetime. These great scholars, who have dedicated the better portion of their lifetimes sustaining and defending the Church and its gospel, and whom I've privately admired from a distance as filling the vacuum and vacancy left by Nibley's passing, were coming to me, looking for my help, to help an organization that I dearly loved and wanted to live on. Words can't express the thoughts and emotions. I was deeply, fundamentally moved, and still am.
So, there you have it: this is, Mopologetically speaking, a watershed moment--even if that water is merely Haymond's shedding tears of joy over this momentous occasion. I have to applaud his enthusiasm, and I have to confess that I'm now very, very excited to see how Mormon Interpreter develops. In particular, I will be looking forward to young Mr. Haymond's contributions. It seems that he is all set to help lead the charge as at the forefront of a new, young generation of Mopologists. With Dan Peterson and Bill Hamblin coaching him, I wonder what we can expect?
They asked for my help to put together a website and the technological solutions for a new journal that would serve much the same purposes that the FARMS Review had in the past, and the Mormon Studies Review in more recent days. And they wanted to do it fast too. Since Br. Peterson had just returned from his trip out of the country and things hadn't been moving forward on any fronts elsewhere, they wanted to see if it could be ready to go by the 2012 FAIR Conference, on August 3rd, if possible. That conference, if my scheduling this blog post goes as planned (since I'm writing this on Wednesday evening, August 1st), is just now coming to an end, and Daniel C. Peterson has just concluded his remarks as the final speaker. At the end of his remarks it was his opportunity, as former editor of the FARMS Review for 23 years, to take the center stage and announce this new venture, as a new age in Mormon apologetics is revealed, and we move forward into the 21st century of technology and scholarship in the Church. How exquisitely humbled I am that I had the opportunity to be a part of this historic occasion.
In honor of the Interpreter Foundation's (IF) first birthday
, I present this list of IF-related numbers:
$140,805: estimated monetary value
of time "donated" to the Interpreter Foundation by supporters from August 3, 2012-June 30, 2013
$16,467.96: IF expenditures
from August 3, 2012-June 30, 2013
5: complete volumes
of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
) published since August 3, 2012
212: number of days that Bill Hamblin served as executive editor of IJMS
1162: pages published in IJMS
since August 3, 2012
53: number of consecutive Fridays in which a piece has been published in IJMS
56: number of pieces published in IJMS
since August 3, 2012
41: number of pieces authored by individuals who serve on the Interpreter Foundation board
13: number of republished conference papers, articles, and blog posts in IJMS
8: number of pieces authored by Louis Midgley
167: total number of pages in Gregory Smith's two articles
devoted to reviewing "Mormon Stories"
0: number of pages of Smith's two articles published in IJMS
7: number of spelling errors each in the originally published versions of John Gee's article, "The Apocryphal Acts of Jesus
" and Brant Gardner's article, "From the East to the West: the Problem of Directions in the Book of Mormon
61: number of Interpreter Foundation board members
8: number of board members who are women
34: number of authors
published in IJMS
17: number of authors published in IJMS
who serve on the Interpreter Foundation board
1: number of authors published in IJMS
who are women
37: number of IF Scripture Roundtables
posted since August 3, 2012
15: number of individuals who have participated in the Scripture Roundtables
2: number of participants in the Scripture Roundtables who are women
| I guess it must have been a fairly slow summer, because it seems like it's been quite a while since we've been served up a "classic-FARMS"-style attack-review in Mormon Interpreter. Lucky for those who are interested in such things, the MI recently published quite a nasty attack piece by Craig L. Foster: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/misu...
Evidently, they were kind enough to crop his pocket-pencil protector out of his photo. In any case, the "review" here is of a book called The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield. Interestingly, the article opens with complaints about the popularity that the book managed to achieve:
Stephen Mansfield's The Mormonizing of America was published in 2012 at the height of the so-called "Mormon Moment," which coincided with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. The book was generally well received by reviewers in publications like US News and World Report and The Washington Post. A number of reviews on Internet blogs were especially laudatory. On the "America Done Right" blog, for example, the reviewer stated how, after reading the book, he had "come away with a better understanding of the history of the Mormon religion and a healthy respect for their beliefs thanks to an honest author." The reviewer ended by advising, [Page 86]"If you are interested in learning about the Mormon religion then this is the book for you."1
You can probably see where this is going: this is the now-familiar Mopologetic resentment over the fact that "anti-Mormon" material inevitably winds up being more popular than either apologetics, or the Church's own PR efforts. And, of course, this matters to them: as a prominent apologist recently quipped, "People tend to want high ratings." This article may represent a new high-water mark in terms of candor in this regard, though: normally, the Mopologists try to conceal their desire for popularity.
Among some of the Christian blogs and publications, the reviews were particularly positive.
In any case, it's not long before Foster starts to haul out the irrelevant ad hominem-style tidbits on the author:
In 2002 Mansfield's first wife filed for divorce. That was the same year he resigned as pastor of Nashville's Belmont Church and quit the ministry. In 2007 he remarried, and he and his wife continue to reside in Tennessee to the present. Mansfield continues to undertake numerous writing projects as well as speaking and teaching engagements, including conducting a seminar on Mormonism.8
I'm wondering if someone can enlighten me as to how his divorce is in any way relevant to a review of a book on Mormonism? (Notice, too, that it doesn't simply remark that he "got divorced"; Foster goes out of his way to point out that it was his first wife that filed for the split.)
That Stephen Mansfield would teach a course on Mormonism is ironic given his apparent lack of understanding when it comes to Mormon doctrine and history.
Still, some of Foster's complaints seem legitimate: Mansfields book seems careless at times, or even, as Foster says, "silly." Elsewhere, it's hard to figure out what Foster is complaining about, exactly:
Examples of this basic lack of understanding range from the silly to the substantial, manifested when almost immediately into the book Mansfield recounts how some Brigham Young University students had joked about the amount of candy consumed on campus by explaining that MandMs are Mormons' drug of choice. He then writes, "And there we stood, a member of the Mormon priesthood and a decidedly non-Mormon [Page 89]guest, laughing about what would have been too painful to discuss not too many years ago."9 It is difficult to figure out what had been so painful, Mormons talking to non-Mormons or Mormons eating MandMs. Either scenario being portrayed as painful is strange, to say the least.
I agree that this is confusing, but is it because of carelessness on the part of Mansfield? Or is it because Foster didn't give enough context. Later, Foster's criticism seems rather petty:
He also announces that "some Saints carry mental images of Smith or Young or Monson (current LDS president) or even Glenn Beck or one of the Marriotts that inspire them as a framed photo of Vince Lombardi might someone else."11 Such a declaration is obviously impossible to either prove or disprove. The reality is that if most Mormons were asked what mental image they carried with them to seek inspiration, they would probably say they think of the Savior. Many would not have a mental picture-rather they would think of a favorite hymn or scripture that strengthens and inspires them. Fewer would suggest a mental image of Joseph Smith or Thomas S. Monson, the current LDS president.
Why, one wonders, is this even worth quibbling over? Mansfield says "some." The existence of Web sites devoted to famous Mormons would seem to help validate Mansfield's claim, and further, if this is "obviously impossible to prove or disprove," then why the paragraph laboring to disprove it?
Elsewhere Foster identifies what are some pretty big mistakes on Mansfield's part: misidentifying the age at which boys ascend the priesthood ranks; getting Pres. Monson's name wrong, and so on. Given the apparent number of errors of this kind, you sort of wonder why the editorial staff at Mormon Interpreterer felt it was worth the effort to read and review in the first place (apart from the possible popularity-jealousy I mentioned earlier).
Perhaps the strangest passage in the article is this:
In one of the incorrect and misleading moments in the book, Mansfield refers to Richard Lyman Bushman as "one of [our] own sainted historians."30 What exactly is meant by that is unknown other than it insinuates there must be other [Page 93]"sainted historians" but their names are not given. While this reviewer has a great amount of respect for Richard Bushman and his work, the sad reality is that most of the members of the Church have neither heard of nor read his works. To suggest Bushman is held up on some kind of pedestal by the majority of the Church membership is not only incorrect, it is deceitful.
Oh, come on--deceitful? It seems more like Mansfield is simply trying to say that Bushman is well-respected. But extending the benefit of the doubt to authors like this isn't Mormon Interpreter's style. Foster goes on for a while after this attacking Fawn Brodie, throwing in the usual Mopologetic clich, about how historical objectivity is impossible. The artcile wraps up with this:
In conclusion, Stephen Mansfield's The Mormonizing of America is a poor excuse of a scholarly work and cannot be recommended for anyone who appreciates decent scholarship.
My question is, Why would anyone think that this was "scholarly" in the first place? It seems pretty obviously to be a work on mainstream-audience non-fiction; it doesn't seem to have been published by an academic press, nor even the sort of big trade press that would have helped the author out with some fact-checking. So, why does Foster seem to think that this was an attempt at "scholarship"? It's a mystery.
Ultimately, this article is a perfect example of the sort of attack on "low-hanging fruit" that the old-school, Midgley-led Review used to love to publish: e.g., their attacks on the likes of Loftes Tryk, anti-Mormon pamphlets, and that sort of thing. What is the point, one wonders? Does The New York Review of Books spend a lot of time reviewing Game of Thrones fan-fiction, or print-on-demand novels? You sort of have to wonder if the editors at the MI actually do think that this represents "scholarship"; they don't draw clear professional boundary lines in their own work--why bother doing it with others'?
Regardless, and intriguing entry here into the "pantheon" of Mopologetics.
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