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 Post subject: Re: The ISPART Fork
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:53 pm 
B.H. Roberts Chair of Mopologetic Studies
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Symmachus wrote:

That may have been how things were in the early 90s. The period I'm talking about is much later, the years just before the Maxwell Institute was established. On the mocking: one of my professors made fun of Hugh NIbley's "book" on the Jaredites, for example, wondering aloud just exactly how ridiculous it was to imagine that the Jaredites had submarines; there was a snide comment about the hagiographic seminar devoted to Hugh Nibley in the Honors program; and in general a few other comments along that vein from that one. In one course, an over-eager student asked a different professor about an idea, which he attributed to Hugh Nibley (perhaps erroneously), that the Odyssey was a kind of template to the temple endowment (it was as if Leo Strauss had ingested acid-laced Jello at a Mormon funeral...). I recall that, in addition to head shaking and light laughter, the phrase "FARMS crazy" was uttered in the answer. I wouldn't want to give the impression that FARMS really was much of a topic, though, because it wasn't in my experience, but certainly I never heard anything positive said about FARMS. It's not hard to see why on the level of scholarship, but I suspect that for some professors there may have been a low-level frustration with the fact that some students had come into the program in hopes of becoming a FARMS acolyte rather than a devotee of Homer. Other than one rather unpleasant person, nobody on the faculty who taught Classics courses had much to do with FARMS and were interested in, you know, Classics. I can think of three or four people in my cohort who actually planned to go on to study early Christianity (one actually did a Ph.D. in it, another left the Church, and I don't know about the rest), which is not exactly what most classics undergraduates are thinking about in a first-year Latin course at most places, so the influence of FARMS, however indirect, was certainly there on some of the students. You should know, too, that when I was there, we actually had two non-Mormons teaching in the Classics section, so they obviously didn't care at all about what some professor of Arabic or political science had to say about Book of Mormon antiquities.

Awesome. Thanks, Symmachus! I can't help but feel like this sort of thing was "fuel on the fire" for the Mopologists. I assume that they had to have been aware of these attitudes, no? Bill Hamblin certainly was. But there has always been this sort of "bunker-like" mentality among them--an uneasiness and a sense that they were under siege. I think that they channeled their anxieties (mostly) into attacks on EVs, critics, and fellow Mormons whom they wanted to excommunicate, but I'm willing to bet that they felt *very* angered over the sorts of ridicule that you're describing. I don't really know why they seemed to think that their crap would earn them scholarly credibility, and, actually, I'm still--after all these years--confused about that. *Is* that what they wanted? On some level, I think the answer really has to be yes: Think about all the name-dropping; the insistence on referring to any and all academics as "Dr." or "Professor"; the way that institutions like Oxford U. Press are venerated; the insistence on also naming the degree-granting institution of every person, etc. It's sort of appalling. But are they doing this because of what I just said--i.e., due to a desire for academic credibility? Or do they just think that this will "fool" all the rubes who are dumb enough to climb on board their particular wagon?

On the other hand, though, I wonder if this is more religious/theological in nature--i.e., that, yes, sure, they covet academic respectability, but in their scheme of things, they actually value "defending the Church" even more than scholarship: "the mantle is far, far greater than the intellect." So, sure: go ahead and use/exploit your scholarly training, but it really has to be in the service of "No more uncontested slam-dunks." Revisiting all this history, it seems more and more that the correct answer is that they really do/did value the "defense" element of all of this. It's more important to them than scholarship, or the professional norms of academia.

Still, those attacks and criticisms have got to sting--especially from other BYU academics. Good thing the Mopologists are in cahoots with the General Authorities! That, I'm sure, helps to make all sorts of emotional boo-boos go away.

"[I]f, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14

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