I have been thinking over the last few weeks about the recent changes going on at the Maxwell Institute (MI) and their removal of Dr. Daniel Peterson from his role as editor of the Mormon Studies Review. In my mind his removal as editor, for which he has been part of for over 20 years, without cause (it seems) is very significant. From what I can tell, as someone who does not personally know Dr. Peterson at all, he seemed to be very loyal to the church and BYU, no honor code violations, a stand up guy. So why, despite the politics which I am sure played a part in his removal, was such a drastic move made by the MI?
Drawing from my own experience, as a manager for one of the largest financial institution's in the country, we are always concerned about our public image. Before any decisions are made that could potentially have negative ramifications, as a team we involve several expert advisors such as our HR and legal departments to get additional perspective. We are always asking “what are the unseen implications and potential reputational risks that will result from this decision?” Based upon my corporate experience I have to believe that with the potential publicity and “reputational risks” associated with this decision Gerald Bradford surely was not acting alone. It is almost certain this decision was not made without consulting someone in a leadership capacity at church headquarters and BYU. If not, this does not say much about the value the church placed on this loyal 20+ year team member.
Still the question, what was so compelling for the church to decide that the risks are worth the potential short term fall out, and sever ties with Dr. Peterson, one of it's leading apologists? As I read the statement again, “Bradford wants to move the Institute in a different direction, focusing on more secular-style studies that will be accessible and acceptable to non-Mormon scholars.” It then occurred to me, the church must see some potential reputational exposure from the apologetic's coming from the MI. Speaking from personal experience, I have gone to FAIR and the MI for information regarding some very honest, serious questions, with pure intent. The answers I found seemed to confirm (at least in part) the critics.
Let me illustrate, I along with most Mormons, were taught that the temple ceremony was passed down by Stone Masons from Solomon’s temple, hence why so much of the Mormon ceremony contains Free Masonry. As silly as that sounds to me today, I actually believed this for a long time, fueled by statements like the following:
“I venture to say that if modern Christianity, corrupted as it is today, is a remnant of the true Christianity introduced by our Savior; if the Free Masonry of today is a remnant and corruption of the true signs and tokens of the Priesthood revealed in the days of Solomon, when the Temple of Solomon was built, then it is easy for us to understand and believe that the mythology of the north is simply a corruption of the true Jehovah worship, as Abraham knew it and taught it to his children.” (CR April 1913, Elder Andrew Jenson)
There is a similarity of Priesthood in Masonry. Brother Joseph says Masonry was taken from the Priesthood, but has degenerated. But many things are perfect.
The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.
(Quoted by Reed C. Durham, in a talk given before the Mormon History Association, Nauvoo, Ill., April 20, 1974. Printed in Mormon Miscellaneous, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Oct. 1975); published by The New Nauvoo Press, Nauvoo, ILL.)
I then came across the FAIR/MI apologetics, which matter-a-factly state, with no hesitation or apology, that Free Masonry did not come from Solomon’s temple, this was just Mormon/Mason folklore. FAIR/MI also confirmed that Masonry is relatively young, beginning in the 1700’s in England as part of the trade guilds. FAIR/MI also acknowledged that the Masonic ceremony may have been the source of “inspiration” that Joseph used when he received his endowment “revelation.”
This admission from FAIR/MI a semi, quasi, authoritative source confirming (among other things) that Joseph, “used” Free Masonry to create his Mormon endowment begs the question, could Joseph possibly be guilty of “mingling scripture with the philosophies of man.”
My point, even though FAIR is not “officially” part of the MI, they are closely related, and both could be interpreted as representing the official church position. The apologist now acknowledge several key criticisms (such as my Masonry example) and are forced to re-load with different tactics. This could easily cause some collateral damage to the church as the pendulum of evidence seems to be moving against the church in several of their “key” claims.
With the unstable nature of Mormon apologetics an organizational shift not only seems prudent, but necessary to avoid further “reputational risk”. It seems that the church is “officially” leaving the combative arena of Mormon apologetics and moving to more secular-style studies, whatever that means.
Last edited by Dcharle on Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:43 pm, edited 25 times in total.