The comparison between MDB and the apologetic machine is so ludicrous that it is obvious it is only made to shut down conversation. In LDS apologetics you have a foundation, operating with the support of the LDS Church, and from BYU campus, which publishes defamatory literature, passed off as "book reviews" against members of the LDS Church in good standing. It is a despicable enterprise that counts heavily against all the other good things BYU and NAMIRS accomplish.
You should really try to be more expressive, Kish. No need to be so mild, timid and tactful. Come to think of it, if DCP had you on his side in the early '90s, the "apologetic machine" would have been even stronger, and more offensive to oh-so-sensitive souls. You would not have missed a beat being in tuned with the FARMS Esprit de Corps
. So it really all depends on "which side". But I'm sure that on message boards you don't write as an academic. It's just "banter".
When The Review
began, then known as Review of Books on the Book of Mormon
(1989), I wouldn't say it was claiming to be a "serious" academic reviewer which followed all the "standard" rules of academic reviews (not always adhered to by "non-Mormons, either). It was primarily to be a defense of the Book of Mormon, but not only that, as mentioned in DCP's first editorial
Perhaps this is beginning to change. Certainly the Prophet's call for renewed emphasis on the Book of Mormon has met a response among many members of the Church. And it can hardly be dismissed as self-congratulation--since I am a newcomer to the organization--when I say that the establishment of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies itself represents both a symbol of an apparent renaissance in Book of Mormon studies and a watershed in their development. But while F.A.R.M.S. is a manifestation of heightened interest in the Book, it is not the only manifestation. New theories on the origins and claims of the Book of Mormon proliferate not only without but, for perhaps the first time in any significant way, within the Church. Some of these are, in my frank opinion, pernicious. A few are simply retoolings of theories which have been around since the nineteenth century. But they are presented, in many cases, with a persuasive force which merits the most serious and honest attention. For those who occupy themselves seriously with the rising field of Book of Mormon studies, they cannot simply be dismissed.
But a deeper knowledge of the Book of Mormon is not merely desirable in order to reinforce our apologetic armor. If that were the case, the Book of Mormon would be no more useful to us than a piece of worthless peripheral territory is to a city under siege. If the Book of Mormon served only to increase the perimeter we must defend against attack, we would be well-advised to cast it off.
This Review is founded on the deeply held belief that the Book of Mormon has immense value to both the Church and the world.
It doesn't exactly sound like an announcement to be "fair and balanced" as if one is impartially and independently reviewing film or literature, does it?
That is what this project is designed to do. There is value for anyone in peer review. That fact has long been recognized in academic fields ranging from chemistry to comparative literature. We often fail to notice, even in daily life, the things that we do amiss. It requires someone else to point them out to us--a wife, a child, a friend, sometimes even an enemy. The garden of Book of Mormon studies will produce more abundantly and healthily if its gardeners and consumers are adept at distinguishing edible plants from weeds.
I have no qualms in stating that, IMO, some of the reviews have been way overboard, and Eugene England thought the same. He didn't think very highly of Signature, either.
The spring of 1992 heard the late afterclap of a minor tempest that swirled about this Review the previous summer. In an eloquent article devoted to the theme of "redemptive truth" and reconciliation, Eugene England called for greater civility and courtesy within the Latter-day Saint community. He also lamented, in passing, "the absurd spectacle of two 'alternate voices'—the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and Signature Books—engaged in name-calling and threatening lawsuits because . . . one is aggressively proud of its orthodoxy, the other aggressively proud of its independence—and neither [is] very merciful."Editor's Introduction: Questions to Legal Answers
Have you ever criticised Signature Books, Kish? Do you find anything "despicable" (your word) or "uncivil" about the "side" you are on? Or is it just The Review
that needs to be "crushed", criticised and tamed? Do you think there is "balance" towards any of these issues here, Kish?
"Don't Label Me"
Speaking of the writers anthologized in Dan Vogel's The Word of God, Mr. Smith's letter noted that one of our reviewers had labeled them "non-Latter-day Saints, Reorganized Latter-day Saints, disaffected Latter-day Saints, and hard-core anti-Latter-day Saints." This did not please him. He did not deny that the book featured "non-Latter-day Saints, Reorganized Latter-day Saints, [and] disaffected Latter-day Saints," but he was disturbed by the fourth category. "It is untrue and grossly unfair to call any of these contributors—especially the devout, practicing Latter-day Saints represented in the book—'anti-Mormon.' It was to defend against this libelous accusation that Signature Books consulted an attorney, not to curtail discussion, as Peterson maintains. FARMS subsequently printed a correction in its newsletter."
Manifestly, George D. Smith does not consider himself—or, at least, does not wish to be known as—an "anti-Mormon." But if someone considers him to be just that, is it libelous or slanderous to say so?
A relevant case was decided by a United States District Court in New Jersey, in 1982.28 In that instance, the author of a book on gambling, with the book's publisher, brought a defamation action against the author of a review of the book and against the publisher of the magazine in which the review had appeared. The reviewer's offense resided in his having said of the book, Casino Gambling for the Winner, that the only thing its readers would learn from it was how to lose. "I consider the publication and sale of this work," the reviewer declared, "to be the #1 fraud ever perpetrated upon the gambling reader." Strong language, indeed. Yet the court held that the review was not libelous. Why?
When a book is published, District Judge Sarokin remarked, its author must expect both praise and blame. The court noted that the review neither stated nor implied that the author of the book could be criminally prosecuted for fraud. It also pointed out that all of the statements complained of by the author of the book and its publisher were opinions, and that there was no reason to suppose that these opinions were not honestly held. And where a statement represents someone's opinion, there is no cause of action for libel. (The issue of whether a statement is an opinion or a claim of fact is one that a court must settle.) Furthermore, the court observed, the opinions were supported in the review article by facts and argument. Opinions can be libelous, the court noted, if their proponent makes a clear but demonstrably false claim of access to private, firsthand knowledge of their truth. But if the author sets out the basis on which his opinions have been formulated, there can be no question of misrepresentation, and the opinions must be accepted as such. A critic, the court declared, has wide latitude to say what he or she wants to say, and critical comments are privileged as long as they do not go beyond the work itself to attack the work's author personally. But, even here, the critic is free to comment on such elements of the author's character as are evidenced in the book itself. These principles have recently been affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Milkovich v. Lorain-Journal Co.29
Are you an impartial observer of all this, Kish?
A little history
to further raise ire:
In the 1990s, FARMS enjoyed rapid growth, fueled by donations that considerably increased its yearly operating budget. During the mid-1990s, the BYU administration became interested in the prospect of incorporating FARMS into the university. As FARMS took on important projects that depended more and more on BYU resources, the relationship between the two became increasingly complex. Something needed to be done to clarify their mutual relationship. On 10 September 1997, President Hinckley proposed that FARMS be invited into the university.
In extending the invitation, President Hinckley said: "FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis. . . . I see a bright future for this effort now through the university."
When the university decided to separate traditional FARMS activities from the manuscript preservation and archiving work of the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART), it was also decided to bring BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI) under the same umbrella. BYU needed to contain these three separate areas in an administrational organization, and so the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART) was established. The Research Technology Group, which developed the WordCruncher program, was also incorporated. In 2006, the BYU Board of Trustees renamed ISPART the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. "By renaming ISPART, BYU honors the memory and life's work of Elder Maxwell," said BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson. "This change firmly sets the future direction of the institute, which is to promote profound scholarship supporting the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ—something Elder Maxwell cared about deeply." With the change of name, BYU Studies, the signature publication of the University, was invited to join the Maxwell Institute.
Would Elder Maxwell and President Hinckley have agreed with you in your criticism of the ironically named Maxwell
Institute for Religious Scholarship?
Some murmurers seem to hope to reshape the Church to their liking by virtue of their murmuring. But why would one want to belong to a church that he could remake in his own image, when it is the Lord’s image that we should come to have in our countenances? (See Alma 5:19.) The doctrines are His, brothers and sisters, not ours. The power is His to delegate, not ours to manipulate! (Ensign, November 1989, 83, as quoted in The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, ed. Cory H. Maxwell [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 69.)
I'm not pointing all of this out to defend, promote or support FARMS, but sometimes we need a reality check before we engage in serious "ark steadying". Here's a wild suggestion: Change the Church culture and beliefs, and then you may be able to change FARMS.
Have I put the cart before the horse? You claim to be "fighting bad apologetics", "for the good of the Church and its members", and to "defend your friends" from attack. That's all fine and noble. But what would happen if you were a true believer
? Like Schryver, like Peterson, like Maxwell, like Hinckley, and all the "old guard" who now happen to occupy all the positions in the first fifteen, while GAs like Jensen are "put out to pasture".
What you may need to do now is begin attacking and criticising the very Church culture that "breeds" organisations like FARMS (I'm suggesting this tongue-in-cheek), but I suspect you may feel a little uncomfortable doing that because you feel "they" are really on your
side in this crusade to "tame" "bad apologetics".
Go ahead, Kish, make that next step, because it's only logical. Bad fruit doesn't come out of good trees, so maybe it's the tree itself that's just rotten and decaying to the core? Tell the world, and the board, how really silly you think Mormonism and Mormon beliefs are, all those "silly things" that the NAMI defends.