moksha wrote:If there was a cover to prevent METI from having the taint of apologetics (from the freedom-hating evil apostate gentile outsider perspective), why have Dr. Peterson associated with it in the first place?
Peterson was still a relatively early-stage scholar when METI started in the early 1990s, and he was not then, as far as I know, the face of apologetics that he later became. Nibley was still around and publishing, and so was still a large presence, and FARMS itself was doing non-apologetic projects like hosting conferences on the Dead Sea Scrolls and such.
Doctor Scratch wrote:Years ago, I was told by one of my most reliable "informants" that the bulk of the Maxwell Institute was "window dressing"--that was the exact phrase they used--for Mopologetics, by which I mean the sort of aggressive, vicious, "hit piece"-style material that was done at the direction of the Brethren (per Midgley) and in collaboration with the SCMC. (I can hardly believe the wealth of information that Midgley has been raining down on us lately.) Again, look at the example of METI and DCP. He went absolutely ballistic when Bradford made the move to shift the focus of the Review. METI, though? It was his own project and he just walked away from it. I simply don't buy it that the work environment was "untenable" or whatever dumb excuse he made. This is a guy who's spent his entire adult life--even going back to his mission days--"bashing" with critics and anti-Mormons. How can he willingly court a fight with James White, and post all of that stuff publicly, and yet cower away from fellow LDS scholars who are working with him on, e.g., the works of Maimonides? Were the stakes really so painfully high with these translations, that he couldn't bear it? I mean, for God's sake, man: he lost his second office over this!. Right? I admit my memory is a little fuzzy on this, but my recollection is that he was bellyaching on "Sic et Non" after his METI resignation because Bradford ordered him to clear out his *second* office. (He still got to keep his office in his main department.) That really does say a lot about priorities, though, and what the Review/the MI was meant to be under his influence.
I don't have any inside information, obviously, but from my outsider perspective at the time, ISPART certainly felt
like window dressing—except I don't imagine the basement office it was in had windows. It had an office in one of the lower levels of the Lee library, off a corner not far from some some microfilm readers. Perhaps it had other offices elsewhere, but that one must have been rather small inside, given its location. And though I spent many hours a week over several months at one of the those microfilm readers for a project I was working on, I rarely saw anyone go in or come out.
Obviously, that little anecdote means nothing by itself other than it was not a very busy place at the time. Perhaps that was because the Maxwell Institute was already in the works at that point, but on the other hand one could see, as a point of contrast, plenty of activity at the FARMS office on the southern slope of campus. As I mentioned on another thread, even some people I knew that were doing something with ISPART spent a lot of time (to their frustration) at the FARMS office. That is one among many reasons why I do not exactly find De Wette's statements on the other thread about the relative importance of FARMS to be accurate. Daniel Peterson's account
at least matches what I observed. The part of the administration that interacted with these guys may have had their own ideas about FARMS, but clearly the people who were doing FARMS (also the same people doing ISPART) had their own ideas, as well.
About a year before my adventures in microfilm, some student group or other (I imagine) set up a panel titled "So you want to do Ancient Studies" or something like that. This was the first time I ever really learned about FARMS, and what it was; before this meeting, I thought it was just a publisher like Deseret Book. Anyway, the panelists were two FARMSians + one professor in classics. It was quite a full room, so there was plenty of interest from the students, obviously, which surprised me at first but which became understandable as the panel got underway. I did a mental double-take when, in introducing one of the professors on the panel, it was mentioned that he had a Ph.D. in government and, indeed, was a professor of political science (Noel Reynolds). WHAT?! I thought. What's this guy gotta say about studying the ancient world?
I had gone into that meeting quite innocently thinking it was a pitch for potential classics majors, but as it turned out, "ancient studies" was just a euphemism for "FARMS apologetics." 2/3 of the panel monopolized the whole thing, talking about FARMS, basically, while the poor professors of classics could mutter only a few things here and there about why antiquity itself was interesting and worthwhile, quite apart from its utilitarian value in arguing the case that Joseph Smith found a gold book in his backyard. Noel Reynolds was a model of arrogance throughout, the only positive side-effect being his forthrightness about the dim career prospects facing would-be experts in Book of Mormon defending. His comment obviously had years of observing the dashed dreams of seminary teachers behind it. In any case, that was my first acquaintance with the FARMS people: these two really weren't interested in antiquity beyond its apologetic utility, a tool which, apparently, even a political science professor could wield as it suited him.
In short, Dr. Scratch, it was very disorienting to realize that this field I was about to sign up for was, for a lot of people on campus, really something else entirely. Luckily, the department that actually studied the ancient world wasn't dominated by the apologists. Indeed, there was only professor in classics who was associated with the FARMSians, and I would not say that he was appreciated for it, though it could have been that he was overall an insufferable person whose scholarly accomplishments were out of all proportion to his self-regard. It is remarkable, thinking back, that in the one place on campus where expertise in the ancient world was organized as a department, FARMSian apologetics was openly mocked, when it was thought about at all.
Now, I imagine that someone like Kristian Heal, who had come to ISPART around that same time, must have experienced that same kind of disorientation but much more intensely. There are probably even fewer Syriacists than there are Mormon apologists; certainly there are fewer jobs for them, although you do need more technical training than even some of the best political science Ph.D. programs provide. To land a position, then, as a Syriacist only to discover that you've entered the FARMS fortress cannot have been altogether pleasant. At any rate, the more FARMS (then the MI) brought in people to shore up its academic legitimacy (window dressing, as you call it), the more the expectation grew that it should be academically legitimate among those newcomers. The FARMS people exercised quite poor judgment in thinking they could control a second prong of secular academic studies. These people have their own reputations, careers, and scholarly goals, too.
I think Peterson must have experienced that same kind of disorientation as that second prong actually grew in influence and became insubordinate, as it were, to the FARMS mission. I can appreciate that. Here is this institution that had been building up since the late 1970s and had gained the trust and respect of the Church authorities, bu now these lately arrived Pinocchios not only think they're real boys—they actually pull the strings! I completely understand why Peterson wouldn't want to stay in that environment. It was no longer what he thought it was.
"As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them."
—B. Redd McConkie