My view on the issue of Mormon studies.
Update and Clarification: Several people have apparently misunderstood my use of the term Mormon studies. Mormon studies is typically used in two ways.
First, as a description of the study of anything to do with Mormonism–history, art, literature, politics, religion, economics, etc.
Second, Mormon studies is used in parallel to Islamic studies or Hindu studies–that is, as a subset of religious studies. That is how I am using the term in this essay. I thought it was clear from my discussion that I was referring to Mormon studies as Mormon religious studies, that is, a subset of religious studies in general to which I compared it throughout my discussion. I’m sorry if this ambiguity was a cause of confusion.
Thus, for example, Mormon history has its own professional organization, its own annual conference, its regular professional journal. On occasion, Mormon history encompasses Mormon religion, but it also does the history of Mormon colonialism in Utah, or Mormon political impact in the early twentieth century, etc. Mormon religious studies does not.
I have argued that, as a professional discipline in academia, Mormon religious studies basically does not exist. The exception might be the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (http://www.smpt.org/), but theology is only one subset of religious studies as a whole.
We discussed Korihor and Alma 30 in Gospel Doctrine today. Here is my summary of the ten foundational claims of Korihor. It is interesting that essentially none of the claims of the New Atheists are, in fact, “new”.
Teachings of Korihor
If you want to compare Bradford’s “new” vision for the Maxwell Institute with the “old” FARMS vision, compare the current Maxwell Institute mission statement with the traditional FARMS mission statement.
Original Maxwell Institute mission statement:
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship encourages and supports research on the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Bible, other ancient scripture, and related subjects. The Maxwell Institute publishes and distributes titles in these areas for the benefit of scholars and interested Latter-day Saint readers. Primary research interests at the Maxwell Institute include the history, language, literature, culture, geography, politics, and law relevant to ancient scripture. Although such subjects are of secondary importance when compared with the spiritual and eternal messages of scripture, solid research and academic perspectives can supply certain kinds of useful information, even if only tentatively, concerning many significant and interesting questions about scripture. The Maxwell Institute makes reports about this research available widely, promptly, and economically. These publications are peer reviewed to ensure that scholarly standards are met. The proceeds from the sale of these materials are used to support further research and publications.
Current Maxwell Institute mission statement:
By furthering religious scholarship through the study of scripture and other texts, Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship seeks to deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints while promoting mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths.
The difference in vision is about as clear as possible. The first statement shows what FARMS was, the second statement shows what Bradford and his allies want the Maxwell Institute to become, and, indeed, to a large extent what it already has become. And the fact of the matter is that I don’t object to the current Maxwell Institute’s mission statement. It is a worthwhile mission and I support it.
What I find objectionable is that the resources, personnel, time, and money that were originally dedicated to the FARMS mission have been diverted to other projects related to the new vision of its mission, while systematically dismantling the elements of the original mission, as most can be most starkly seen by Dan’s recent dismissal as editor of the Mormon Studies Review.
John Tvedtnes’ Book of Mormon site:
Israeli archaeologists recently discovered a seal with the name “Matanyahu.”
[I originally wrote that "As far as I am aware this names is not attested in the Bible" After I wrote this, friend of mind pointed out that the name Mattaniah occurs in 2 Kgs 24:17, 1 Chr 25:4, 2 Chr 29:13, which in Hebrew is MTNYHW. So there is a biblical example of this name. (I originally searched for Mataniah, but not Mattaniah. D’oh!)]. The name also occurs in the Book of Mormon:
3 Nephi 19:4, mentions Mathonihah as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.
Hebrew (and Semitic) names had consonantal roots with a variety in vowel pronunciation that changed by dialect and through time.
Matanyahu is spelled on the seal = MTNYHW, vocalized by modern scholars as MaTaNYaHW. The precise ancient vocalization is uncertain. The YHW is a shortened form of YHWH, the name of the LORD in the KJV.
The BOM Mathonihah would have been spelled in Hebrew MTNYHH. The BOM vocalization is different–given 600 years of vocalic shift between the seal and the Mathonihah’s name. The “th” of MaTHonihah is the same letter as T in Hebrew, which was pronounced differently in different dialects (e.g. Sibbolet vs. Shibboleth, or Sabbath vs. Shabbat, etc.)
My assumption is that the wide variety of names ending in “ihah” in the BOM are theophoric YHWH names in an idiosyncratic BOM pronunciation. Thus, Matanyahu is a theophoric name ending in YHW/yahu, or the name of the LORD. Notice it drops the final H. BOM “ihah” names were presumably YHWH contracted to YHH, just as YHWH is contracted to YHW in the seal.
Thus, given the phonetic and spelling system of Hebrew the MTN-YHW/Matanyahu is a close match with the BOM MTN-YHH/Mathonihah.
Matt Roper brought these to my attention. I haven’t read them yet.
Brian Steed, Wars and Rumors of Wars: Understanding Mormon’s Metaphor, 2010
John Kammeyer, The Nephite Art of War, 2012
John Kammeyer, Warfare in Mesoamerica: Battles in the Book of Mormon, 2012
Part 1 of a recording of our stake adult Book of Mormon class I substitute taught (for Jack Welch) on Thurs 26 April.
Audio file available here: Alma 43-52, part 1 (click to listen, right click to download mp3)
My explorations of 1 Nephi 13:26-27