Kristian Heal, a director at the reorganized Maxwell Institute, made the following comments recently:
I have often spoken about the BYUing of FARMS/NAMIRS. I see the move away from commercial apologetics as part of that process. We take our name seriously. I work at an Institute for Religious Scholarship. If the University wanted an Institute of Apologetics or an endowed chair in apologetics it would have one. Just to put all my card on the table, I think it was a very good thing that FARMS came into BYU and agree with all the decisions that have brought the organization more in line with University policies and approaches.
This is a very revealing statement in many ways.
1- He views classic-FARMS as “commercial apologetics.” By this, of course, he means to denigrate fundraising that had previously been undertaken by the Institute to support BOM studies and apologetics. (Fundraising for his Syriac research is not, I suppose, “commercial Syriac studies.”) When he says they are going to “move away from commercial apologetics” he does not mean, of course that they are going to stop fundraising efforts. He means they are going to stop fundraising for apologetics. On a personal note, I should add that I have never received any money for anything I wrote for FARMS. Far from being “commercial apologetics” on my part, I didn’t make a dime. Kristian, on the other hand, has had a full-time research position at FARMS for nearly fifteen years, that was funded almost entirely by “commercial apologetics.” Although, as far as I can tell, he has never written a single article on apologetics or LDS scripture, his salary for over a decade was paid by funds largely raised to support the apologetic and BOM studies of FARMS. If you count his salary, benefits, travel funds and research money, office space, and staff support, I am quite confident that his position costs FARMS and then BYU close to a million dollars over the nearly fifteen years he has worked there. Unless we are to assume there were hundreds of thousands of dollars donated specifically to support the cause of digitizing Syriac manuscripts, his salary has been largely paid by money raised by “commercial apologetics.” He never apparently had any moral qualms about taking that tainted money in the past. But now it has somehow become crass and mercenary.
2- He clearly states that the new regime at the Institute intends to “move away from commercial apologetics,” and he believes this is a good thing. (It is not clear that the donors, past and present, would agree with his assessment.)
3- He says he “takes our [Institute's] name seriously,” and that the name is the “Institute for Religious Scholarship.” The new name is indeed the “Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.” Of course there is nothing in “religious scholarship” that precludes apologetics, or precludes studying the BOM as an ancient text, so his position is overtly absurd that religious scholarship cannot include apologetics.
Be that as it may, it is interesting to note that Bradford worked steadily over the past few years to get the names changed for all sorts of things at the Institute. These changes, from the Junta’s perspective, were not mere window dressing. By changing the name, Bradford really intended to change the reality. The Institute was originally “The Foundation for Ancient Research AND Mormon Studies.” That is, it was an institute dedicated to researching the nexus and convergence where ancient research and Mormon studies overlap. This included the Book of Mormon as an ancient book, ancient temples, Abrahamic, Enochian and other pseudepigrapha, etc. The new name of the Institute includes neither “ancient research” nor “Mormon Studies.” Why? It could have been called the “Maxwell Institute for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.” But note here how Kristian uses the changed name as a justification for changing the substance of what the Institute does. It’s very revealing. And it is not the only example. Changing the name of the FARMS Review to the Mormon Studies Review was overtly used by Bradford as a pretext to change the substance of what was permitted to be published there, and therefore to dismiss Dan as editor, because the change of the name required that they change the substance to match the new name. Bradford also tried to change the name of the “Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies” to the “Willes Center for Religious Studies.” (The Willes family refused.) Why would he want to do that? Because changing the name gives a pretext to change the reality, precisely as he did with the name of the Institute, and the name of the Mormon Studies Review. He also tried to change the name of John Gee’s endowed chair– the “William (Bill) Gay Professor of Egyptology”–to the “William (Bill) Gay Professor of Ancient Studies,” presumably to give him a pretext to remove Gee from the chair and replace him with someone else (Carl Griffin?). The change of the Mission Statement from one emphasizing scripture and antiquity under FARMS to the new, essentially meaningless statement (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/about/missionstatement.php), which mentions neither scripture, the Book of Mormon, apologetics, nor antiquity, is another classic example of Bradford’s attempt to redirect the focus of the Institute by changing names.
So, “What’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare. Apparently a very great deal when you are plotting a coup to change an Institute devoted to apologetics and exploring the relationship between Mormon scripture and ancient studies into something else entirely.
4- Finally, Kristian notes, “If the University wanted an Institute of Apologetics or an endowed chair in apologetics it would have one.” Indeed. And they once did. They decided to bring FARMS, an overtly apologetic institute, into the university. Did they absorb FARMS because they didn’t want an apologetic Institute? Or was their plan all along to destroy it? Or was their intent to nurture it and support it? The direction FARMS took under BYU remained essentially unchanged (though often semi-moribund) until the coup of the Bradford Junta initiated their recent substantive changes in policy and direction, intentionally downplaying the study of the BOM as ancient scripture, and apologetics.
So, while people can differ over whether the recent change in direction at the Maxwell Insitute is a good thing or a bad thing, the fact that a significant reorientation has taken place cannot be denied. Those who care, and who have donated or intend to donate money to the Institute, deserve clarity about what’s really going on there.