A Siege Mentality?

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_Kishkumen
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A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Kishkumen »

Ben Park posted an interview with Jared Hickman, who has written on the fascinating topic of interpreting the Book of Mormon as an Amerindian apocalypse. Hickman made the following statement about the opening up of Mormon Studies:

Jared Hickman wrote:“Exciting things are happening in Book of Mormon studies at the moment. Within the Mormon bubble, there seems now to be increasing support for popping that bubble by moving away from a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon. The emergence of new interlocutors laboring under broad intellectual shifts in academia over the last several years (especially the post-secular turn) has made it so that Mormons—if they are willing and make themselves able—can now engage in scholarly conversation about their sacred book in different ways with different people, most of whom don’t have a polemical axe to grind.”


Read more: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/qa-with-jared-hickman/#more-16820

Naturally, DCP has something to say in response to this characterization to the past:

DCP wrote:I think it not unreasonable to read Dr. Hickman’s reference to “a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon” as referring, in whole or in part, to the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and to its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. If that is correct, I wish to publicly reject and deny the claim that those of us who established and built and led what is now the Maxwell Institute were operating from within a “siege mentality” — a claim that seems, to me, to suggest something of a psychological disorder, a mental or emotional dysfunction that needs to be overcome.


See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2015/01/book-of-mormon-historicity-and-the-siege-mentality.html#ixzz3PJw5nZiD

DCP wrote:That simply wasn’t the mood or mindset of those who established and led FARMS and the pre-2012 Institute. Moreover, the ability of people such as John Sorenson and Jack Welch to function within the wider academic world — I choose them because they were the two people most centrally involved in the founding of FARMS, but they were and are far from alone among FARMS-types in their openness to non-LDS academia — ought surely to hint that this “siege mentality” insinuation is not only insulting (which, frankly, it is) but in need of serious correction.

Moreover, I would like to point out that, in fact — I could be wrong on this, but I rather suspect that I’m not — most of those beyond The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who’ve given the matter even the slightest attention don’t accept the Book of Mormon as an authentic document from the Pre-Classic Americas. To recognize this, and to argue against that consensus that the Book of Mormon is actually what it claims to be, isn’t, in my judgment, to suffer from a “siege mentality.” It’s simply to accurately perceive the real world in which Latter-day Saints live. It’s simply to comply with the scriptural mandate to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). And to advocate and defend a widely disputed or rejected proposition is, also, not necessarily to feel oneself besieged. It’s simply to argue for what one believes, and for what one’s community has historically affirmed.


Very quickly this devolves into another discussion of his departure from the Maxwell Institute:

DCP wrote:As I’ve said before, I thought, during my last conversation with the current director of the Maxwell Institute (back in May 2012), that we had agreed that the Institute would add a Mormon studies function — a deliberate, intentional, institutional outreach to non-LDS scholars — to the functions for which the Institute had been created and built up until that time. This was perfectly alright with me. It was, actually, something I had long wanted the Institute to do.

I didn’t think then, and I don’t think now, that it was necessary altogether (or even largely) to jettison the original mission for which the Institute had been created, and for which many had generously donated funding, and for which many others had sacrificed over roughly thirty-five years, in order to enable Mormons to “engage in scholarly conversation about their sacred book in different ways with different people, most of whom don’t have a polemical axe to grind.” That option was already open to the Institute. It had always been open both to the Institute and to individual Mormon scholars, and the Institute could easily have fostered such activity without the upheavals and unpleasantness that in fact occurred. The apologetic activities of FARMS and the Maxwell Institute, and the organization’s non-apologetic but overtly Mormon publications more generally, didn’t preclude anybody from pursuing other approaches — and didn’t even bar those who wanted to pursue such other approaches from forming their own organization, if they so chose, to foster them.

The historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to most believing Latter-day Saints. They think, and the Church has always taught, that there was a real Moroni, that there were real Nephites, and that Jesus actually visited ancient America. These beliefs needn’t be asserted as true in every academic discussion of Mormonism nor even in every treatment of Mormon scripture. Scholarly conferences aren’t testimony meetings. Academic journals shouldn’t be confused with the Ensign. But it isn’t immediately obvious to me that backing away, wholly or in part, from overtly faithful Mormon scholarship in order to focus on faith-bracketing religious studies scholarship necessarily represents a net broadening of either audience or mission.

But then, it may be that I’m just paranoid, laboring under a pitiable “siege mentality.” Some, I’m sure, will eagerly take this very blog entry as decisive evidence of that.


I will comment on this in a response to this opening post.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_malkie
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _malkie »

Kishkumen wrote:Ben Park posted an interview with Jared Hickman, who has written on the fascinating topic of interpreting the Book of Mormon as an Amerindian apocalypse. Hickman made the following statement about the opening up of Mormon Studies:

Jared Hickman wrote:“Exciting things are happening in Book of Mormon studies at the moment. Within the Mormon bubble, there seems now to be increasing support for popping that bubble by moving away from a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon. The emergence of new interlocutors laboring under broad intellectual shifts in academia over the last several years (especially the post-secular turn) has made it so that Mormons—if they are willing and make themselves able—can now engage in scholarly conversation about their sacred book in different ways with different people, most of whom don’t have a polemical axe to grind.”


Read more: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/qa-with-jared-hickman/#more-16820

Naturally, DCP has something to say in response to this characterization to the past:

DCP wrote:I think it not unreasonable to read Dr. Hickman’s reference to “a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon” as referring, in whole or in part, to the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and to its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. If that is correct, I wish to publicly reject and deny the claim that those of us who established and built and led what is now the Maxwell Institute were operating from within a “siege mentality” — a claim that seems, to me, to suggest something of a psychological disorder, a mental or emotional dysfunction that needs to be overcome.

I think it not unreasonable to read Dr. Hickman’s reference to “a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon” as referring, in whole or in part, to an organization or organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Or were the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship the only organizations focused on defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

OTOH, since DCP is being so specific about the pre-2012 NAMIRS, it's good to see that he doesn't believe them to be operating under a siege mentality.
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_Kishkumen
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Kishkumen »

I have to say that when I read a long denial from DCP that there was something like a siege mentality at FARMS, I am somewhat baffled. It was DCP, after all, who recounted the words of Elder Maxwell stating that there should be "no more uncontested slam dunks" as a kind of mandate for the old Institute. I don't presume to know what it is that Elder Maxwell actually said or intended to convey with that statement, but I envision through the interpretation of DCP the apologists scrambling around to prevent the enemy from invading their territory and lobbing projectiles at their target.

If anyone could leave the impression of operating with a siege mentality, it would be the cadre of LDS apologists. Here we had a group of people that were combing John Dehlin's Facebook page extracting quotes to be cobbled together in a hit piece because the apologists felt like John Dehlin was a bad egg who could not go unanswered, or unsmeared. Here is the group that hastily posts half-processed materials on their wikis and published multiple reviews of single books, just to make sure every faithful apologist got his say on how awful the book was so no one wasted their time reading it.

Here, indeed, is the group that populated discussion boards and blog comment sections--who formed the More Good Foundation--to rush around online to make sure there was an immediate hysterical response to any comment or image that could possibly be construed as negative.

You remember the TIME Lightbox incident, right? When a photographer published his pictures of his old stomping grounds in Utah, a team of LDS apologists with ties to the old Maxwell Institute descended onto the blog's comment section to decry the great injustice that was being perpetrated against the LDS Church and the Mormon people because this fellow's pictures made his relatives look like simple rustics?

So, can Jared Hickman be forgiven for seeing in this kind of thing a siege mentality? Having lived through these events, having seen the old Book of Mormon Roundtable (where Hickman germinated his paper) kicked off of BYU campus for not representing only believer's interpretations of the Book of Mormon, having watched while legitimate historical interpretations of the Masonic influence on Mormonism were incompetently hacked at by apologists--who were subsequently proven to be both wrong and ignorant--I have to say that, "yes," I do see a siege mentality there.

And, you see, while DCP likens a siege mentality to a kind of mental illness--why, I don't know, he seems to forget all of the times he has averred in a spirit of solemn dutifulness that it was necessary to defend the LDS Church against all attackers. He has answered countless criticisms of his activities and methods on the grounds that he has been unjustly attacked. I am not here to stand in judgment over his perception of being attacked so often, or to weigh in on whether the LDS Church is especially attacked, but I will say that it is remarkable to learn that the very person who has referred time and again to his "critics" or his "detractors" or "the enemies of the faith" or "anti-Mormons" now associates a siege mentality with mental illness and claims to have nothing to do with that kind of thought process.

Are we suddenly in a strange, new alternate reality?

You see, I do not think a siege mentality is a mental illness at all. One might say that, when one is under attack a lot, it might be beneficial to have a siege mentality. After all, one might rightly conclude that one is under siege. One might then undertake to defend one's city or home or party or church from said siege. When DCP spoke so many times about his critics or the enemies of the LDS Church, I did not take him to be mentally ill. But I did think he might have a siege mentality.

So I was wrong?

I don't think so.

Here's the thing: I think DCP was justified in having a siege mentality. I think other LDS apologists were justified in having a siege mentality. The LDS Church has lots of critics and detractors. Lots of folks poke fun at Mormons and even dehumanize them. So, it was understandable that FARMS devoted a lot of effort to the task of rebutting these critics.

The question in my mind is not whether it was justified to have a siege mentality. The question in my mind, and I think this should be the question addressed, is whether the best methods were employed to counter detractors and critics. Another excellent question: was it appropriate to use BYU's reputation and resources to the defense in the manner in which it was conducted?

I see no reason for DCP to deny that there was a siege mentality or for anyone to wonder whether it was, to an extent, justified. I do think that one may fairly ask whether the defense as it was put up was successful or not and whether the damage that was being done--the collateral damage, if you will--might have been too high.
Last edited by Guest on Tue Jan 20, 2015 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_Kishkumen
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Kishkumen »

malkie wrote:I think it not unreasonable to read Dr. Hickman’s reference to “a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon” as referring, in whole or in part, to an organization or organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Or were the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship the only organizations focused on defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

OTOH, since DCP is being so specific about the pre-2012 NAMIRS, it's good to see that he doesn't believe them to be operating under a siege mentality.


I take it as a depiction of the chill that LDS apologists placed on Mormon Studies through their attacks on LDS scholars who wrote histories that did not accord with some traditional folk views regarding history, doctrine, and LDS scripture.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_malkie
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _malkie »

Kishkumen wrote:
malkie wrote:I think it not unreasonable to read Dr. Hickman’s reference to “a siege mentality focused on defending the historicity of The Book of Mormon” as referring, in whole or in part, to an organization or organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Or were the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) or with its successor organization, the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship the only organizations focused on defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

OTOH, since DCP is being so specific about the pre-2012 NAMIRS, it's good to see that he doesn't believe them to be operating under a siege mentality.


I take it as a depiction of the chill that LDS apologists placed on Mormon Studies through their attacks on LDS scholars who wrote histories that did not accord with some traditional folk views regarding history, doctrine, and LDS scripture.

I suppose someone could ask Dr Hickman which organization(s) he had in mind. What seems"not unreasonable" to one person might seem totally unresonable to another.

Based on DCP's history as I have read it on the discussion boards and blogs, I'd not be surprised if he thought that Dr Hickman was talking about DCP. Doesn't mean that he was though.

Construing the reference as being about FARMS/NAMIRS/DCP did permit DCP another swipe at the new management at NAMIRS - that may be all the explanation that's needed.
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_Dr. Shades
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Dr. Shades »

DCP wrote:. . . we had agreed that the Institute would add a Mormon studies function — a deliberate, intentional, institutional outreach to non-LDS scholars — to the functions for which the Institute had been created and built up until that time. This was perfectly all right with me. It was, actually, something I had long wanted the Institute to do. . . That option was already open to the Institute. It had always been open both to the Institute and to individual Mormon scholars, and the Institute could easily have fostered such activity without the upheavals and unpleasantness that in fact occurred.

Does this mean that scholars like David Bokovoy with views like David Bokovoy's would've been welcome at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship?

If so, do recent goings-on bear that out?
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_Zadok
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Zadok »

I have a question. Who would define what constitutes a "Non-LDS Scholar"? And isn't it rather arrogant of any of them to assume that a legitimate non-LDS scholar would have anything whatsoever to do with researching or validating the LDS claims regarding the Book of Mormon, History of the Americas, the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith's visionary claims. I just have a difficult time with any credible scholar having anything to do with this fraud.
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_Ludd
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Ludd »

Kishkumen wrote:If anyone could leave the impression of operating with a siege mentality, it would be the cadre of LDS apologists. Here we had a group of people that were combing John Dehlin's Facebook page extracting quotes to be cobbled together in a hit piece because the apologists felt like John Dehlin was a bad egg who could not go unanswered, or unsmeared.

I do think that, from their point of view, it most definitely was seen as imperative that they go after Dehlin. After all, just last week on this message board, I read several posts from different people who characterized Dehlin as the most effective apostate ever (or words to that effect). Things like he (Dehlin) has been more effective than anyone else, ever, at leading people out of Mormonism. I'm sure that the apologists viewed him the same way, and that's why they were so motivated to do things like what Smith did with his Dehlin article.
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Doctor CamNC4Me »

Well, when you have an apostle explicitly stating the apologists are protecting their flanks it's understandable people might interpret that as a sort of siege mentality. Anyway, with the advent of the Internet Mormonism has been under siege, and its hemorrhaging members at an unprecedented rate.

Mr. Dehlin is just the latest Steve Benson, or Richard Packham, or Simon Southerton, or Jeremy Runnels, or any other number of high-ish profile types who are deftly using the medium of the Internet to make their views known, and to assist Mormons who are coming to terms with the realities of their faith.

The bottom line is the Mormon church will go the way of the Church of Christ, and will be forced, at some point, to move towards a BoM-is-an-allegory stance. It's simply untenable as a historical document, and that, right there, if they don't adapt, will prove to be its undoing.

- Doc
In the face of madness, rationality has no power - Xiao Wang, US historiographer, 2287 AD.

Every record...falsified, every book rewritten...every statue...has been renamed or torn down, every date...altered...the process is continuing...minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Ideology is always right.
_Kishkumen
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Re: A Siege Mentality?

Post by _Kishkumen »

malkie wrote:I suppose someone could ask Dr Hickman which organization(s) he had in mind. What seems"not unreasonable" to one person might seem totally unresonable to another.

Based on DCP's history as I have read it on the discussion boards and blogs, I'd not be surprised if he thought that Dr Hickman was talking about DCP. Doesn't mean that he was though.

Construing the reference as being about FARMS/NAMIRS/DCP did permit DCP another swipe at the new management at NAMIRS - that may be all the explanation that's needed.


Indeed.

Hickman did show up to claim that he did not specifically have FARMS in mind. I think that is probably true, since the tight group of apologists who have had such an impact in various venues did not constitute the entire set of FARMS' contributors, it would be unfair to say this was a FARMS thing alone, although certain people in FARMS did act as though they were under siege.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
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