MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic vision"

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_Doctor Scratch
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MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic vision"

Post by _Doctor Scratch »

A pair of fascinating articles have appeared today. The first is from Spencer Fluhman, current director of the Maxwell Institute, and thus the successor to the classic-FARMS Mopologists' greatest nemesis, M. Gerald Bradford. The entry is entitled "Debts," and Fluhman uses the occasion to reflect on the people and events leading up to his installment as Director. He rightly praises the Middle Eastern Text Initiative as "perhaps the single most meaningful connection between the LDS and Muslim communities," and goes on to mention DCP's editorship of the Review, though without similar praise. Towards the end of the entry, Fluhman reflects on Bradford's contribution:

Gerald Bradford succeeded Andy as executive director. In retrospect, Jerry significantly changed the course of my career. Back in 2013, he invited my perspective about a change of course he was contemplating for the Mormon Studies Review. I gave my two cents, figured I’d helped in some small way and then was stunned when he offered me the editorship several weeks later! Editing the Review has been an unexpectedly fulfilling academic endeavor for me. It also brought me into the Maxwell Institute’s orbit, for which I’m deeply grateful. Jerry perceptively saw a critical role for the Institute with the broader academic study of the Latter-day Saints and I’m unquestionably the beneficiary of that vision.


One wonders if we will get follow-up commentary from the Mopologists comparing the output of the MSR with the blog-site known as Mormon Interpreter. While many of their past swipes were aimed explicitly at Gerald Bradford, this shows that Fluhman--with whom they seem to have much more cordial relations--was actually at the helm of the journal, and that he oversaw controversial publications such as the one by Ben Park from a couple of years ago. It once again raises a fundamental question: Are the Mopologists' quarrels truly over matters of doctrine, ethics, and the gospel? Or, instead, are they motivated by personal animus?

Meanwhile, a key apologist has responded to Fluhman's posting, hailing it as a "gracious note." The mention of the note turns into an occasion to set the record straight:

Sic et Non wrote:I recently encountered a narrative online that provided its readers a fairly detailed and wholly false account of my exit from the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative or METI. With that in mind, here’s something of my own perspective on, specifically, METI.


What follows is a lucid, sometimes self-serving narrative that lays out in very nice detail the origin of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative--which, I think many of us agree, in line with Fluhman, was arguably the greatest thing that any of the Mopologists did. The entry continues:

We have not infrequently had Jewish translators working with Muslim editors on medieval Christian texts for publication by a Mormon university. I’ve loved it. I feel that the project has done something very important. Perhaps many things.


In the sense that the project represented a genuine and productive act of giving something back to the world of scholarship, it's hard to disagree with the sentiments here. The entry wraps up thusly:

On the morning of 11 September 2001, I was preparing to head up to campus when my wife called to me. “You need to see this,” she said, and we watched together in horror as the first of the World Trade Center towers burned. I wondered at first if it were merely a horrific accident. (I’d often flown into New York City and marveled, during some approaches, at how close we were to the big buildings in Manhattan.) Then we saw the second plane hit the other tower, and we knew that this was no accident. I was immediately certain that this was a deliberate attack by al-Qa‘ida. (Simultaneous attacks, as in the earlier case of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, were their signature style.)

My little attempt at bridge-building seemed pointless, small, futile. Overwhelmed by events. And then I heard a voice. Not an audible one, but very distinct nonetheless. “The project is more important now than it has ever been,” it said.

I believe that still.


The importance of the project was affirmed by no less than the Holy Ghost, in other words. And yet, as we all know:

Last month, amidst the continuing aftereffects and fallout of the events that took place within the Maxwell Institute in the middle of June 2012, seeing literally no alternative and no way to function, I finally resigned as editor-in-chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. I hope the best for the future of the project, which I believe to be of enormous importance both in terms of scholarship and in terms of things far beyond mere scholarship.


A counterpunch to Islamic terrorism, plus affirmation from the Holy Ghost, and yet he walks away from it--all apparently on the basis of a grudge? This truly must be among the most bathetic events in the history of Mopologetics. To slightly alter a quote from Marx: "History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce."

The past several months have seen a massive curtailing of Mopologetic activity, such that I was led to declare the "death" of Mopologetics, and to wonder what will transpire in this new, "Post-Mopologetics" landscape. This week, as churchistrue helpfully reminded us, marks the return of the annual FAIR Conference, and already we are seeing bizarre things afoot, such as Grant Hardy's apparent endorsement of an "inspired fiction" model for the Book of Mormon. And, of course, our Prominent Apologist is giving the keynote, which has to do with making a "reasonable" case for the Book of Mormon. Haven't we heard this talk before? And multiple times at that? Or, rather, haven't we been teased that the grand argument in favor of this thesis is forthcoming...for something like a decade?

It seems to me that the key "post-Mopologetics" question of the moment is one of audience. Apart from the half-lobotomized kooks and whackos populating the various blog comment sections and Facebook feeds, who is this supposed to convince? If the apologists are preaching to the choir, then what is the point? Isn't this an indication that they've failed already? Comments like those from Fluhman suggest that the academic market for post-Mopologetic work is going to be loyal to the "new" Maxwell Institute. The "Mormon Studies" crowd has already shown the disconnect between their views and the old-school Mopologists. I and others have noted more than once that there are virtually no "young bucks" waiting in the wings--there is Smoot, who is apparently gearing up to replace Gee--and Rappleye, who did not fare well versus Jenkins, but who else? Meanwhile, the "attack dog" mentality seems completely gone from Mormon Interpter's content, which seems strange, since the Editor in Chief and his colleagues had said on more than one occasion that this was precisely the sort of thing that the big donors were paying for: "guns blazing away." What is typically on offer instead these days is a blandly watered down version of....Mormon Studies, or "general Mormon scholarship," as Dean Robbers put it.

Have the Mopologists abandoned their principal mission in life? Are they competing for readers with the "new" Maxwell Institute, thus suffering (by extension) yet another defeat from Bradford? (I.e., they were ousted for rejecting his vision and yet now they are producing precisely what he proposed?) It seems the only certainty that one can rely on the moment is fragmentation. I, for one, will be looking forward to hearing about what happens at the FAIR Conference.
"[I]f, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
_churchistrue
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _churchistrue »

ftr, I don't believe Grant Hardy favors an "inspired fiction" view of the Book of Mormon. He believes Mormon, Nephi, et al were real people living in Ancient America. I think he probably leans toward a very, very loose translation/expansion of an actual ancient record.
Sharing a view of non-historical/metaphorical "New Mormonism" on my blog http://www.churchistrue.com/
_Everybody Wang Chung
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Everybody Wang Chung »

Doctor Scratch wrote:A pair of fascinating articles have appeared today. The first is from Spencer Fluhman, current director of the Maxwell Institute, and thus the successor to the classic-FARMS Mopologists' greatest nemesis, M. Gerald Bradford. The entry is entitled "Debts," and Fluhman uses the occasion to reflect on the people and events leading up to his installment as Director. He rightly praises the Middle Eastern Text Initiative as "perhaps the single most meaningful connection between the LDS and Muslim communities," and goes on to mention DCP's editorship of the Review, though without similar praise.

[SNIP!]

Have the Mopologists abandoned their principal mission in life? Are they competing for readers with the "new" Maxwell Institute, thus suffering (by extension) yet another defeat from Bradford? (I.e., they were ousted for rejecting his vision and yet now they are producing precisely what he proposed?) It seems the only certainty that one can rely on the moment is fragmentation. I, for one, will be looking forward to hearing about what happens at the FAIR Conference.

Excellent analysis.
"I'm on paid sabbatical from BYU in exchange for my promise to use this time to finish two books."

Daniel C. Peterson, 2014
_Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Doctor CamNC4Me »

churchistrue wrote:ftr, I don't believe Grant Hardy favors an "inspired fiction" view of the Book of Mormon. He believes Mormon, Nephi, et al were real people living in Ancient America. I think he probably leans toward a very, very loose translation/expansion of an actual ancient record.


How do you get that from what he literally wrote?

- 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: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Kishkumen »

I am happy to see that DCP's gem of a contribution to the world, METI, is receiving the recognition it deserves.

I am also happy that Gerald Bradford is getting much-deserved kudos for his role in transitioning the MI into a more intellectually vital and constructive forum.

Mopologetics is effectively dead. Sure, you get people hanging out on discussion boards and producing their little articles, etc., but its time as a mildly relevant phenomenon in the LDS world is gone.

Apologetics for an ancient Book of Mormon will always be a crackpot topic (sorry, Brant Gardner, whom I think is a great guy!). Anything that draws the conversation about the Book of Mormon away from that farcical position should be welcome to everyone. However he actually feels about it, Grant Hardy states a position that is right on the border of saying that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.

But, it seems to me that the word fiction is a loaded one. It carries the baggage of being related to the modern novel. I don't see the Book of Mormon as being a novel and thus any less valid than any other sacred text. Sacred texts might be viewed as a form of spiritual propaganda, usually representing the world in an idealizing or symbolic way, not a factual one. But are these fictions in the sense of the novel? That's a much murkier issue, in my opinion.

The Book of Mormon's genre is Biblical. It differs from the Bible in its production, but its author consciously modeled it on the Bible, not on the novels of his day.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Doctor CamNC4Me »

Kishkumen wrote:The Book of Mormon's genre is Biblical. It differs from the Bible in its production, but its author consciously modeled it on the Bible, not on the novels of his day.


Anachronisms and all, too!

- 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.
_Dr. Shades
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Dr. Shades »

churchistrue wrote:ftr, I don't believe Grant Hardy favors an "inspired fiction" view of the Book of Mormon. He believes Mormon, Nephi, et al were real people living in Ancient America. I think he probably leans toward a very, very loose translation/expansion of an actual ancient record.

So, if Joseph Smith simply read the words on the seer stone, then who did the loosening and the expanding?
"Finally, for your rather strange idea that miracles are somehow linked to the amount of gay sexual gratification that is taking place would require that primitive Christianity was launched by gay sex, would it not?"

--Louis Midgley
_kairos
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _kairos »

Doctor Scratch wrote:A pair of fascinating articles have appeared today. The first is from Spencer Fluhman, current director of the Maxwell Institute, and thus the successor to the classic-FARMS Mopologists' greatest nemesis, M. Gerald Bradford. The entry is entitled "Debts," and Fluhman uses the occasion to reflect on the people and events leading up to his installment as Director. He rightly praises the Middle Eastern Text Initiative as "perhaps the single most meaningful connection between the LDS and Muslim communities," and goes on to mention DCP's editorship of the Review, though without similar praise.

[SNIP!]

Have the Mopologists abandoned their principal mission in life? Are they competing for readers with the "new" Maxwell Institute, thus suffering (by extension) yet another defeat from Bradford? (I.e., they were ousted for rejecting his vision and yet now they are producing precisely what he proposed?) It seems the only certainty that one can rely on the moment is fragmentation. I, for one, will be looking forward to hearing about what happens at the FAIR Conference.

I am about an inch deep on METI and what it has accomplished and who are the actual participants but I will bet this whole idea of connecting Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars/translators in some earthshaking activity to change the current J-C-M dynamic is an exaggeration- above "not infrequently having J ... M ... working on C medieval text.." is worth examining in depth. And where is the $$ coming from for this project? Any Jewish or Muslim dollars? I think METI has allowed DCP opportunity to connect with some few Muslims but what the hell does that mean other than Dan putting it on his resume. METI is not going to change the dynamic- was there an outcry from the J and M scholars to keep DCP from resigning- nary a peep from what I surmise. If there had been Dan would surely have played that card.

Scratch is right there seems to be no more, at this time, energy in the MI to do apologetics- hells bells they can't even counter the Letter to the CES director!
_Lemmie
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Lemmie »

Kishkumen wrote:The Book of Mormon's genre is Biblical. It differs from the Bible in its production, but its author consciously modeled it on the Bible, not on the novels of his day.

I can see that he modeled it on the Bible, but to call its genre Biblical implies similarities to other elements within the genre. Wasn't there a pretty long conversation recently that concluded the mythical Jesus was less likely than an historical one? (I hope I am stating that correctly but I defer to Kishkumen on this point.) I don't believe there is one single unique (i.e. not also in the Bible)character in the Book of Mormon that could be said to be modeled on the life of an historical person, although it's been a long time since I read it.

In that sense, maybe we need a subgenre-fictionalized biblical? or maybe pseudo-biblical?
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Re: MI Director Praises Bradford's "broader...academic visio

Post by _Kishkumen »

Lemmie wrote:I can see that he modeled it on the Bible, but to call its genre Biblical implies similarities to other elements within the genre. Wasn't there a pretty long conversation recently that concluded the mythical Jesus was less likely than an historical one? (I hope I am stating that correctly but I defer to Kishkumen on this point.) I don't believe there is one single unique (i.e. not also in the Bible)character in the Book of Mormon that could be said to be modeled on the life of an historical person, although it's been a long time since I read it.

In that sense, maybe we need a subgenre-fictionalized biblical? or maybe pseudo-biblical?


You raise important questions here, Lemmie. Obviously, I would not blithely wander into a scholarly context making this kind of claim.

That said, one can surely contest the idea of excluding the Bible from this kind of discussion of its relationship to the texts modeled upon it. If we hold the Bible apart from such a proposed relationship, thus disallowing such a discussion, what do we then do with those ancient epics that were modeled on Homer? Is the alleged artificiality of Vergil's Aeneid, particularly in the many ways it mimics the works of Homer, grounds for excluding it from the same genre as Homer?

We are too accustomed to placing the Bible in its own special box on theological grounds. Better minds than mine have challenged that assumption. Robert M. Price put together his own collection of ancient Christian texts with the very aim of challenging it. On what grounds do we continue to privilege the Bible in the way that we do? I can understand why devoted creedal Christians accept the canonical argument of their tradition, but for those of us who do not accept such boundaries of classification (the ancient fathers saw these texts as doctrinally orthodox, etc.), why not think in terms of a Biblical genre founded on the Bible itself? I would say it already exists.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
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