Some of the things that stuck out after a cursory one-time reading, I have posted here with just a few comments of my own.
First, Bushman was clear to point out that the seminars are not funded by the BYU.
Rosebud: The Summer Seminars are funded by outside money. BYU provides space, use of the library, and many valuable amenities but does not pay any of the direct expenses. Right now we are going from year to year, with sufficient funds for 2007. Beyond that it is impossible to predict.
Second, Bushman unabashedly admitted that BYU and its Maxwell Institute, specifically, is limited in the role it can play in Mormon Studies. He further expresses his hope for a division of labor to rectify the limitations placed on the Institute. Through these admitted limitations, FARMS and FAIR are not as effective as they could be.
Rosebud: Ambitious though the Maxwell Institute may be, it will be constrained by the BYU’s situation. It is after all a branch of the official church. A division of labor may develop where BYU scholars prepare materials for Church audiences, and LDS scholars in the diaspora engage in dialogue with the larger world.
Rosebud: The work of the great apologetic organizations, FARMS and FAIR, is less effective because they only give one side of the picture. Looking through their eyes, you don’t see the debates as a fair-minded outsider would coming to the subject.
Third, Givens acknowledges that work coming out of the BYU on Mormon Studies is viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism by many of those outside the University.
TG: The disadvantage is that anything coming out of BYU on the subject of Mormonism will continue to be viewed with suspicion by large numbers in the academy who think that “faithful scholarship” is an oxymoron. So I think BYU will continue to play a tremendously important role through individual efforts of devoted scholars, and institutionally through the Maxwell Institute and through organizations like the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities that straddle both realms.
Fourth, they are unhappy with the dissension within the Mormon Studies community, itself, that tends to non-productively label various historians.
TG: As for BYU and BYU Studies, I think in an environment where dissident and alternate voices proliferate in very formal settings, there has been a tendency for many participants in the dialogue to define themselves against the “other,” and this has resulted in more polarization than I would like to see. Recent efforts of some to organize Mormon Studies around facile categories like “faithful scholars” and “New Mormon Historians” and the like aggravate rather than ameliorate this problem. Mormon intellectual culture is not a two party system.
Fifth, the Church archives are open to Mormon and “anti-Mormon” scholars alike, as long as they are serious scholars.
Rosebud: The Archives are now quite open to serious scholars. Even the historians that we label as anti-Mormon work there. There is probably a realization that little is gained by hiding historical materials.
Sixth, Bushman has taken lots of “hits” questioning his objectivity in authoring Rough Stone Rolling.
Rosebud: My confession that I am a Mormon does, I think, raise doubts about my objectivity among some readers. The same book written by a non-Mormon would not evoke the same degree of criticism. I sometimes wonder if I would be better off not to show my colors, but that is what I do. The criticism is not really a detriment. I think it is better for me to face people’s actual objections to a Mormon writing on his own culture than to skirt the issues. Actually other scholars are fascinated by my situation. They love to hear me explain myself and are usually sympathetic. My aim when criticized is not to lose my composure. Rule one: never cry in public.
Rosebud: Serious scholarship in the sense of being taken seriously in the larger world of historians is very much a matter of style. You have to be rigorous, of course, and know the sources, but mainly you must know the intellectual world well enough to speak to it. If you are totally immersed in the Mormon world, it is difficult to hear how you sound when you talk about Mormonism. (The reverse is true too.) That is why so much of our serious scholarship comes from the diaspora. Scholars working in Utah are at a serious disadvantage, although terrific work does come from some of them.
Finally, seventh and last, there seems to be a tacit admission that the Church has not provided an objective accounting of its history and that books are now coming out to rectify that problem.
TG: For those weaned on church manuals, there will be the inevitable surprises. Joseph used a peep stone and a hat to translate most of the Book of Mormon. Mormons counterattacked the settlers in Missouri. Joseph Smith got in fist fight with his brother, and plurally married other men’s wives. Its important to remember that all history is selective, and that our construction of people like Joseph Smith into infallible prophets and purer-than-driven-snow Saints was something he expressly repudiated. We need to be a little more like the Catholics, who elevate this principle into a doctrine: the truth of a church, the legitimacy of its authority, and the efficacy of its ordinances, do not rise or fall with the personal perfection of any individual.
Rosebud: One purpose of Rough Stone Rolling is to make information about Joseph Smith that is not generally known common knowledge. Church classes cannot deal with all the issues arising from the historical record. People have to seek out these things on their own.
For the full interview, go here:
http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/03/ ... n-part-ii/[/url]