Chap wrote:I am talking about whether the seminar is an apologetic effort or not. That is germane to this thread, since people are paid for attending it. You do not seem to want to deny that it is an apologetic effort
However in your post, you seem to be addressing a different point, about what we are to think of Richard Bushman. I have expressed no opinion on this, nor do I wish to.
Bushman has been directing the Joseph Smith summer seminar for a decade. It's his project. It has been doing the same thing for the past ten years: researching the cultural context of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism. It will be doing the same thing again this year. But now that it's being sponsored by the (apologist) Maxwell Institute rather than the (New Mormon history) Smith Institute it has transmogrified into an "apologetic venture" plain and simple. Got it.
Well, I guess we'll find out in a few months, won't we?
I don't care if the seminar is directed by the Pilsbury Dough Boy, and sponsored by Colonel Saunders, to be frank.
There is a seminar planned.
There is an invitation to people to participate in the seminar, which tells people what the seminar is going to try to do, which is this:
The annual Joseph Smith summer seminar, sponsored by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship, will take as its theme in 2008 "Joseph Smith and His Critics." The theme has been chosen in response to the growing number of critical attacks in books and on the web. Many Latter-day Saints have been affected adversely by these criticisms, and the materials supplied by our apologetic institutions have not always met their needs.
The purpose of the seminar is to bring together a dozen experienced LDS scholars to review the arguments on both sides of a number of these issues and formulate replies that serve inquirers more satisfactorily. The emphasis will be less on providing answers to every question than on putting the adverse evidence in a new light. Our aim is to persuade readers that the facts do not compel them to discard Joseph Smith. In fact, negative information can sometimes illuminate his cultural situation and mission.
And you are telling me that, in the light of the clear statement of the "aim" of the seminar, which is to "persuade readers that the facts do not compel them to discard Joseph Smith", people will not be going to this seminar expecting to take part in an apologetic project?
I don't see why you think it is worth so much effort to deny this obvious point, or, rather, not so much to deny it as to attempt to suggest that, in the course of time, other non-apologetic dimensions of this meeting may be revealed.
Wait, maybe this is getting interesting: are you hinting that seminars like this are habitually advertised in terms which suggest that they are
apologetic activities, because that is the only way they can get sponsored and get permission to be held at BYU - whereas in reality they are actual, real, no-holds-barred historical investigations? In other words, the sort of meeting that might look at the evidence, and then report regretfully to the Brethren that:
"Well, our aim was to see if in response to the growing number of critical attacks in books and on the web, we could persuade LDS readers who have been affected adversely by these criticisms that the facts do not compel them to discard Joseph Smith. We got together a a dozen experienced LDS scholars to review the arguments on both sides of a number of these issues. But in the end we found that it couldn't be done. On any reasonable and non-testimony based view of the historical evidence, the facts do compel them to discard Joseph Smith."
If that is what you are saying, I can only commend the courage of those heroic soon-to-be-ex'd-mormons who are setting up this subversive program in the very bosom of LDS-dom. Perhaps you are one of the organisers; perhaps you are even Richard Bushman himself?
But perhaps I am not reading you right, in which case please correct me.