Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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I have a question
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Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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Table Rules: A Response to Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon
https://journal.interpreterfoundation.o ... of-Mormon/

Here's the abstract:
Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon is an ambitious collection of essays published by Oxford University Press. By “Americanist” the editors refer to their preferred mode of contextualization: to situate the Book of Mormon as a response to various currents of nineteenth- century American thought. The “table rules” in this case determine who gets invited to the table and what topics can be discussed, using what types of evidence. The approach is legitimate, and the contributors offer a range of interesting perspectives and observations. Several essays base their arguments on the notion that the Book of Mormon adapts itself to a series of racist tropes common in the nineteenth century. In 2015, Ethan Sproat wrote an important essay that undercuts the arguments of those authors, but none of them address his case or evidence. This raises the issue of the existence of other tables operating under different assumptions, confronting the same text, and reaching very different conclusions. How are we to judge which table’s rules produce the best readings?
But this isn't an essay designed to contemplate the bias of paradigms. If it were, Kevin would need to consider the mopologetic lens in equal measure. But that's not really the point. He's simply building to the following conclusion...
Americanist Approaches certainly has its virtues, and the idea of doing similar things has an understandable appeal. But of course the desire to sit at tables like the one that produced Americanist Approaches is exactly what led to the 2012 change at the Maxwell Institute, a deliberate turn to serve the agenda of the universities at the expense of the “major users of the texts.”60
I guess it still stings.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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It makes sense. The schoolmarms at the Maxwell Institute could not stomach getting their Sunday best soiled by crawling through the mud to wage an effective guerilla war against naysayers to the Church. They looked askance at the methods used by the warriors of FARMS to achieve doctrinal purity.
"Oh ye band of brothers, united in spilling the blood of our enemies. We shall not forget though our hair goes gray and our teeth fall out: For one shining moment we stood proud in the Halls of the Barad-dûr. They may not have approved of our methods but they will need our gouts of Apologetic fire when the ships of reason come sailing into port."
-- Snorri Peterman, The Elder Cheddar, Orem, Utah

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Kishkumen
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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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I can't help but think that President Hinckley made a huge mistake when he invited FARMS to join BYU. Why did he make such a mistake? Undoubtedly because he was unaware of the problems that would result from doing so. Hinckley did not really understand academia, and he did not know that many BYU professors and administrators were not in favor of what FARMS was doing.I am not talking about assertive opposition but something more like casual disinterest or distaste. It was only a matter of time before the FARMS mission would clash with BYU's academic culture.

In writing this, I am not saying that we should be upset about everything FARMS did, or that academics are always right. It was, however, entirely predictable that trouble would emerge in FARMS' move to BYU campus. Now, the FARMS crew had every reason to hope that, despite their misgivings, everything would turn out OK. They could cling to the clear support from apostles such as Maxwell, Oaks, and others. At the same time they were not unaware, I am sure, that not everyone was a fan. Well, the opponents turned out to be much closer to them than they realized.

So here we are, and FARMS as it once was is dead, although its legacy does live on in Interpreter and Book of Mormon Central. Still, these outfits are not quite the same as FARMS. FARMS will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who followed it, contributed to it, and founded it. If you track the story, as I have in only a cursory way, it is quite poignant, actually. John W. Welch had a big idea, and he made it happen. FARMS had a run that lasted over 30 years. In that time it grew and matured. A great many people felt they benefited from what FARMS was doing. Then, one day, out of nowhere it seemed, YANK! The plug was pulled.

Although my sympathies as a historian and reader of old texts are obviously with the Americanist approach, it is sad to remember the death of FARMS as it was. And, I think, that end came when Hinckley invited FARMS onto BYU campus, not when Bradford removed Dr. Peterson from the editorship of the Review. The latter was the completion of a process that was all but inevitable after the occurrence of the former. President Hinckley made a mistake, pure and simple. He did not understand his mistake to be a mistake when he made it. I am sure he had no understanding of what this would all ultimately lead to. FARMS could be FARMS because it was not an academic enterprise in the predominant, contemporary sense. If BYU were more like Liberty University in its clear partisanship to the faith, then perhaps FARMS would still be around as FARMS, but because many faculty and administrators at BYU want to adopt a "secular" approach, and look down on traditional faith assumptions, this outcome was always in the cards.

It feels odd for me to say this. I don't believe the exactly the same things the FARMS people seem to believe. I hold the Book of Mormon to be a 19th century text. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the case. But it is not impossible for me to be sympathetic to the people who made FARMS happen, and who felt they benefited from FARMS. I think, however, that there were two fundamental problems at play here. The one was FARMS being on BYU campus, and the other was FARMS' very spirited way of going after Mormon "liberals." The latter was a stealth problem. Even those BYU folk who were tolerant of the FARMS approach could be offended by the sharpness of FARMS' reviews and so-called hit pieces. By way of confession, that was what irked me first as a BYU student. It was something I felt comfortable bringing to the attention of people involved in FARMS.

In retrospect I think I overreacted to that sharpness, and that is probably due to some immaturity on my part. Academics clash, and they sometimes do so sharply. Grant Palmer, by the way, was nowhere near being a top-shelf historian, and he could be very sloppy. (I say that as someone who liked Grant and think he raised some valid points.) The problem is not that FARMS criticized his work; it is probably more that they seemed not so see how piling on in the way they did would look unseemly to others. And, while I certainly allow for differences of opinion, my opinion is that they did tend to pile on. We should not, however, start calling everything a hit piece. That is a mistake. A partisan saying he does not like the methods of those he opposes is hardly news. Sure, I am interested to know what Christensen has said, but I don't benefit from hyperbole about what is absolutely predictable complaints from one side of a two-sided debate.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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Reverend Kishkumen wrote:A great many people felt they benefited from what FARMS was doing. Then, one day, out of nowhere it seemed, YANK! The plug was pulled.
LOL! omg, how embarrassing for the apologists!

You made some great points, Reverend. Do you think the Ziggurat had anything to do with FARMS being brought in? It always seemed to me that the massive found-raising power coupled with the growing notoriety of FARMS, which began to serve as a watering hole for many LDS who thirsted for gospel knowledge but got nothing from their real-estate obsessed leaders, became a real threat to the leadership.

It's interesting the way you put it though, I'd never thought about it in those terms, that the disconnect between FARMS and BYU's mission was a real problem from the very beginning.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

Post by Philo Sofee »

Or.... perhaps Hinckley knew exactly what he was doing, and knew exactly how to solve the problem, what the unknown factor was is how long it would take..... assuming Hinckley was ignorant may not be correct...

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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Philo Sofee wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 1:26 pm
Or.... perhaps Hinckley knew exactly what he was doing, and knew exactly how to solve the problem, what the unknown factor was is how long it would take..... assuming Hinckley was ignorant may not be correct...
May not be, but... really?

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

Post by Philo Sofee »

I suspect it could be. He never was into apologetics as Maxwell was. He is much more into faith than evidence, and I think he held an upper hand above Maxwell in Seniority. He knew they can control BYU, but FARMS as an independent could not be controlled as easily. Just another view.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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Some interesting thoughts on Pres. Hinckley's role in all of this. My impression of Hinckley was that he was primarily growth- and business-minded. Perhaps his hallmark achievement as President of the Church was in the massive uptick in constructions of temples. He presided over the Church during a period of remarkable American prosperity, and I'm sure that FARMS's fundraising efforts had caught the attention of the CAB's accountants--Dean Robbers is right to wonder about the "Ziggurat." So in that sense, Philo, I think you are correct that Hinckley et al. likely thought that, yes, it was important to bring FARMS under the "umbrella" of BYU: they would be easier to control that way.

I mean, I know the apologists will bristle at this, but think how different things would be if the Church had control over the employment of Rodney Meldrum and the Heartlanders, or over John Dehlin, or Denver Snuffer, or any of these other sort of "factions" in Mormonism. At the time of the FARMS/BYU merger, DCP admitted to the press that he was "concerned" that the "edginess" (I forget his exact language) would be "curtailed" or "toned down" in some sense. So, he--at least--seemed to understand that they were being "brought to heel" in a sense. But that was crucial. If FARMS had continued to function as, basically a "hobbyist" group, then I'm sure you would have rampant priestcraft (worse than it already is, I mean), among other big problems. But tying all this into the major players' employment? That really gave the Brethren a powerful strategic advantage. That was truly the end of the Mopologists' independence.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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KIshkumen wrote:It feels odd for me to say this. I don't believe the exactly the same things the FARMS people seem to believe. I hold the Book of Mormon to be a 19th century text. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the case. But it is not impossible for me to be sympathetic to the people who made FARMS happen, and who felt they benefited from FARMS. I think, however, that there were two fundamental problems at play here. The one was FARMS being on BYU campus, and the other was FARMS' very spirited way of going after Mormon "liberals." The latter was a stealth problem. Even those BYU folk who were tolerant of the FARMS approach could be offended by the sharpness of FARMS' reviews and so-called hit pieces. By way of confession, that was what irked me first as a BYU student. It was something I felt comfortable bringing to the attention of people involved in FARMS.
This is what I think was most detrimental to their whole project. Part of their style had its roots in their mimetic slavishness to Nibley, particularly the polemical Nibley. But like that side of him, I think it ultimately it was rooted an insecurity (obviously, my speculation). Structurally, it was enabled by having the institutional support of BYU. I wonder if you think the polemics you refer to grew more intense after they joined BYU. They certainly didn't get milder. Anyway, I think it is symptom of the uniformity of the FARMS crowd—they never actually had to talk to anyone who didn't already think the same thing as they did—and as a consequence the uniformity they perceived at BYU and the Church—they really seemed to think that they and they alone represented and best articulated the views of the Mormon intellectual class. Everyone else was an apostate.

What a misread of the situation. It turns out that there were other strands of thought at BYU, and among the Church leadership. I've heard that some in the Church leadership thought Nibley was rather out there, and I'd be surprised if that weren't shared by some in the hierarchy about the whole FARMSian adventure. Uniformity blinds one to one's excesses and weaknesses. Uniformity is death. That is one reason I despise the anti-pluralism of the Mormon Studies crowd, in addition to their sheer idiocy (bet you didn't see that coming).

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

Post by moksha »

Doctor Scratch wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 8:39 pm
But tying all this into the major players' employment? That really gave the Brethren a powerful strategic advantage. That was truly the end of the Mopologists' independence.
Bismark bringing the National Socialist movement to the University of Berlin, eh? What would he do when they published articles calling for the taking of the Sudetenland or the building of the Treblinka Camp?

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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I don’t think they realize how tone deaf the “shirts as skins” theory in light of the historical position of church leaders. It is actually a highly self damaging argument.

I was formally introduced to it by a contributor to DCP’s journal club. My spouse was not polite as I was and called it out for the BS that it is.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

Post by Dr Exiled »

Dr LOD wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:01 am
I don’t think they realize how tone deaf the “shirts as skins” theory in light of the historical position of church leaders. It is actually a highly self damaging argument.

I was formally introduced to it by a contributor to DCP’s journal club. My spouse was not polite as I was and called it out for the BS that it is.
It's past time for yet another book of Mormon edit to correct "mistakes" in the text and finally get rid of the racist passages.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

Post by grindael »

In 2015, Ethan Sproat wrote an important essay that undercuts the arguments of those authors, but none of them address his case or evidence.
This is always the agenda of sloppy apologists like Christensen. They can't let people's work stand on it's own, it always has to incorporate within it every pedantic invention that they can come up with to promote their view of what they want to Book of Mormon (or anything else) to be. Usually what the faithful brethren are promoting.

What he references here (I'm sure) is flawed beyond belief, but anything to promote their apologist agenda. But those like Christensen are the best they can do at the Mormon Interpreter. He doesn't know or understand Mormon History. He's an apologist hack.

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Re: Table Dancing - Kevin Christensen's hit piece on the MI

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Several essays base their arguments on the notion that the Book of Mormon adapts itself to a series of racist tropes common in the nineteenth century. In 2015, Ethan Sproat wrote an important essay that undercuts the arguments of those authors, but none of them address his case or evidence.
Well maybe none of the essayist addressed Sporat's essay because they wrote theirs before Sproat published his.

As Nevo points out on the other board:
The essays in Americanist Approaches were written before June 2014. Ethan Sproat's article was published in 2015. So it is not surprising that "none of the authors address his case or evidence" in their essays.
Sloppy work Kevin.

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