There have been a lot of rumors floating around the internet recently regarding a scandal brewing at the Maxwell Institute. In order to provide a reality check and quell some of the more wild and brazen speculations of apostates and anti-Mormons on the fringes of Mormondom, I’ll provide the following summary of my understanding of the situation. Some of the details may not be completely accurate, but I have original memos or eye-witness oral sources for almost all of this information.
Last week, Gerald Bradford (email@example.com, 801-422-8619) Executive Director of the Maxwell Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org, 801-422-9229), dismissed Dan Peterson (email@example.com)–arguably the most prominent contemporary LDS apologist–as editor of the Mormon Studies Review, where he has served for twenty-three years.
This is the culmination of a long-term struggle between radically different visions for the future of the Institute. Peterson wishes to continue the traditional heritage of FARMS, providing cutting edge scholarship and apologetics on LDS scripture. 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. Bradford is especially opposed to LDS apologetics, which he wants to terminate entirely as part of the mission of the Institute. He feels apologetics should be done by FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research http://www.fairlds.org/ ) or other groups.
Throughout the past two years Bradford has censored several articles that Dan planned to publish, thereby delaying publication of the Review. Bradford finally concluded that he refuses to publish the most recent issue of the Review, which has been essentially ready to go to press for six months. He plans to seek a new editor for the Review to move it in the entirely new direction he envisions.
After Dan was fired as editor, he said that he felt he could no longer serve the Institute in good faith as Director of Advancement (i.e. fund-raiser), since the Institute was intentionally abandoning its original mission, and Dan did not support the new direction Bradford was taking the Institute. Dan was then threatened with further possible action against him to try to force him to continue raising money for the Institute that abandoned him. It’s worth noting that Bradford fired Dan by email while Dan was on a multi-week journey in the Middle East–in part raising funds for the Institute–specifically so Dan could not be in Provo to defend himself.
This event concludes a nearly decade-long struggle for the soul of FARMS and the Institute. The contemporary Maxwell Institute is something quite different from the FARMS of ten years ago. (Note that only one of the five “directors” of the current Institute is actually involved in Book of Mormon Studies: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/about/administration.php). Astute observers will note that there has been a steady decline in both quantity and quality of Institute publications over the past few years. (Indeed, more cutting-edge books on the Book of Mormon have being published in the past few years by Kofford Books, Salt Press, and even Oxford University Press than by the Institute.) They may also observe that most of the original core of FARMS scholars from a decade ago, including me, have nearly ceased publishing with the Institute, having been systematically marginalized, alienated, or ostracized by the Institute as it tried transform itself to conform with this new vision. Needless to say, most of the original FARMS scholars have been dismayed by this inexorable movement to remake the Maxwell Institute.
I have had no desire or inclination to publicly comment on this situation. However, this situation became public when an employee at the Maxwell Institute secretly leaked confidential memos concerning Dan’s firing to anti-Mormon apostates, who have posted these memos on the web, and have been gleefully slandering and ridiculing Dan on their message boards ever since. Since the situation has been made public by this leak from within the Maxwell Institute itself, I felt that Dan deserved the benefit of a fair public summary of the real situation. I also felt that interested Latter-day Saints, especially long-time supporters of the original mission of FARMS, deserved a more complete assessment of the situation, rather than being forced to rely on anti-Mormon and apostate slander and speculation. I felt Dan deserved better, much better than this.
The Institute, for its part, has gone into full damage-control and stonewall mode, refusing to make a public announcement, or even to answer emails or phone calls on the subject from their bewildered subscribers and donors who have heard rumors of the affair, many of whom have for years donated money to the Institute specifically to facilitate Book of Mormon studies and apologetic efforts such as the Mormon Studies Review.
I’m posting this summary of my understanding of the situation to alleviate further slander of Dan by apostates. Dan did not ask me to do this. I alone am responsible for this memo.
I’m sure Dan would appreciate any expressions of sympathy and support that could be emailed to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org (Anti-Mormons and apostates, please get lost.)
[Note: Apparently a phrase I used means something different in English English than American English, so I made a slight editorial change. I apologize if I offended anyone.]