Mormon Interpreter Vs. Maxwell Institute: Year One

It’s been about a year since the ancien régime of BYU’s Maxwell Institute (née FARMS) was unceremoniously given the boot, as the program looked to move from apologetics more towards promoting cultural and historical studies.  There was much of Sturm und Drang about the shakeup and the outcasts’ subsequent reformation as the Mormon Interpreter, but now that the dust has settled, we can look back at the last year of each organization’s work and assess which has made a greater contribution to LDS scholarship.

Let’s see how they each stack up.


Interpreter: 45          Maxwell Institute: 11

I got 45 for Interpreter by counting the articles here (and not counting Peterson’s editorial introductions, excellent as they always are).

The total for MI was harder.  They just don’t publish much, so I had to hunt around to find these eleven.  They include the five articles in the second of two Journal volumes published last year (the only volume published since The Great Unpleasantness), the four articles in last year’s lone volume of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, and the one sourced article with an author named in each of the two issues of Insights, the Institute’s newsletter, published in the latter half of last year (here and here).

How sad is it that I had to pump up their total by including items from a newsletter?

Interpreter: 5          Maxwell Institute: 2

The five Interpreter issues are listed here.

The two MI issues are both mentioned above: last year’s only Studies issue and the second of two Journal issues.  I don’t count their newsletter as a serious periodical.

The periodical at the center of the brouhaha last year was the FARMS Review / Mormon Studies Review.  Though an announcement last July explained the change to the public, a new volume has yet to be published.  A newer announcement now says that the first issue from the new management will be out “next winter.”

None of the MI periodicals have published any volumes yet in 2013.  Not even the newsletter.

Interpreter: 0          Maxwell Institute: 0

This is an area where both need to improve, but the comparison is unfair, isn’t it?  Interpreter in barely a year old, while the MI has decades of experience and the resources of a university behind it.

Interpreter: 1          Maxwell Institute: 4

The Interpreter hosted a conference last Autumn on the temple.

The MI has hosted two such forums in the last twelve months–an annual summer seminar–with another one scheduled for next month; and a symposium on ancient writings.

The MI has also hosted two stand-alone lectures in the past year, each the current entry in an ongoing, annual series: here and here.

The MI may have held more, but these were all I could find.  The Interpreter, to its credit, advertises many events not connected with it, including those of the MI.  The MI does much the same thing on its blog and in Insights.

As we might expect the MI to publish more, we could also expect them to host and sponsor more, especially as they are actually a collection of several programs and publications under the MI umbrella, where the Interpreter is a single organization with a sole publication arm.


Interpreter: 46          Maxwell Institute: 7

The Interpreter’s YouTube page says they have 62 videos, but I only counted 46.  Most of them are recordings of “scripture roundtable” discussions.

The MI page has seven videos, only three of which appear to be recordings of material presented in the last year.

Interpreter: 251          Maxwell Institute: 42

Interpreter: 27          Maxwell Institute:  31

Both blogs are current and worthwhile.  Here, the MI shares information outside of its own events, as well.

Interpreter: 3          Maxwell Institute: 1

The MI’s podcast is very new, while the Interpreter hasn’t published one since last November.


Overall, the Interpreter has had a far more productive year.  If one factors in the relative handicap of being much newer, their success is all the more impressive.

The new MI still seems to be struggling to find itself.  If the Interpreter is a scrappy outsider looking to make its bones in the world, the MI is an aging former star in the throes of a midlife crisis.  The MI largely appears to be coasting on the merits it earned in the past, when the now-exiled elder statesmen were in charge.

I like that the MI seems to be trying to reach out more to people lately with its electronic resources, but the Interpreter has done far more give readers and viewers both quality and quantity.  The only reason the MI website is still valuable is because they archive so much of the old FARMS stuff.  Their site has barely changed at all in the last year.

Hopefully, the next twelve months see a slew of new works presented to the world, in a variety of formats, from both groups.  For the time being, though, the MI has egg on its face: in this round, their Apollo Creed has been soundly beaten by the Interpreter as Rocky Balboa.

I’ll open this post to comments, mostly so corrections can be pointed out.  I’ll update the post as needed.  Also please consider checking out my new YouTube video, if you haven’t had a chance yet.

2 comments on “Mormon Interpreter Vs. Maxwell Institute: Year One

  1. Regarding podcasts, The Maxwell Institute acquired The Mormon Book Review which was a pre-existing show ( The Mormon Book Review is now under the banner of the Maxwell Institute Podcast Series, which will feature more than The Mormon Book Review in the near future.

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