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.

PRIMARY CONSIDERATIONS

PUBLISHED ARTICLES
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?

PUBLISHED ISSUES OF PERIODICALS
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.

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The Decline and Fall of FARMS?

In short, it seems that a bureaucrat at BYU has railroaded out a whole generation of scholars from their formerly-fine Book of Mormon studies publications.  The era of faithful apologetics at BYU may be over, replaced by some vague desire to go in an as-yet undefined direction.

Daniel Peterson, a great advocate of the Book of Mormon, has been unceremoniously given the boot, apparently along with a host of other scholars. I don’t want to rehash the whole sordid affair here, but here’s a brief intro from a longer and excellent summary:

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The Sermon on the Mount and the Temple Endowment

This week’s gospel doctrine lesson for Sunday School is about the Sermon on the Mount.  Discussing this magnificent discourse always reminds me of one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in studying the scriptures. 

I once came across a video on the FARMS web site where John W. Welch discussed his research into the Sermon on the Mount as compared to the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon’s 3 Nephi.  What Welch’s work showed clearly and in a way that shed light on everything involved was simply this: this sermon is the endowment.  In fact, despite the many obvious parallels throughout the standard works, this is by far the most complete and detailed reference to the endowment to be found in the scriptures. 

That video doesn’t seem to be up anymore, but the text of the book it was based on is available here

I read this at a time when I hadn’t seen anything that really opened up the scriptures to me in a while, and I actually worried that I had already come across all the really major scripture studies I’d ever see.  The discovery of Welch’s temple sermon study was a huge relief, and I’ve tried never to make such a foolish assumption about the exhaustibility of scripture since.