Update 06/23/12 8:00 p.m.

Facebook Group supporting Dan

Mike Parker over at the FAIR Blog has also now published an excellent post on the FARMS/MI issues.

Gerald Smith over at M* has a very good post on the FARMS/MI debacle–check it out.

Bridget Jack Jeffries over at Clobberblog has an excellent timeline on the FARMS/MI developments.

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It appears FARMS, now the Maxwell Institute has fired Daniel C. Peterson, who has served as editor of the FARMS Review, subsequently renamed the Mormon Studies Review.  Daniel Peterson, who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) had served as editor for the Mormon Studies Review for some 23 years, since its inception.

Peggy Fletcher-Stack, of the Salt Lake Tribune broke the story in her column today:

As this “Mormon moment” continues to ratchet up public scrutiny of the LDS Church, Mormon apologists are assessing the best way to shield the faith: Play offense or stick to defense? Last week, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University, fired Daniel Peterson, who served as editor of the Mormon Studies Review since its founding 23 years.

Doctor Peterson responded with his thoughts on his own blog Sic et Non:

Since it has now been publicly announced, I suppose that I can break the self-imposed public silence that I’ve maintained, with only a couple of minor exceptions, regarding my dismissal as editor of the Mormon Studies Review, published by Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, after founding it and directing it for twenty-three years.

This will be brief.  I may or may not have other comments on the topic in the future, depending on how and where things go.  I still want to be careful.  I have no desire to injure either the Maxwell Institute or the University, and I’m not particularly interested in a glorious martyrdom.  (There will, I fear, be grievous damage to the Institute, but it won’t come at my hands.)

The Maxwell Institute’s official response was much more generic calling the move a better positioning for the Review.

Doctor Peterson was less than thrilled at the dismissal, as well as the manner in which it came about:

It’s scarcely a secret that I haven’t received my dismissal enthusiastically.  Thanks to somebody’s leak of two emails, this has already been all over the Web and I’m told it will soon appear, without my participation or involvement, in the mainstream media.  I have personal reasons for being displeased, but this isn’t about my hubris: I know that nobody is indispensable.  Much more importantly, I have deep concerns about the significance of my dismissal (and the reasons behind it) for the future direction of the Maxwell Institute.  Moreover, on behalf of the roughly two hundred and fifty writers who have contributed to the Review over nearly a quarter of a century, I vigorously reject the insinuation that the Review was in a crisis that necessitated emergency mid-volume intervention, and that it now requires a post-Peterson “detoxing” period before it can be permitted to resume publication.

I was notified by the Maxwell Institute director, Dr. M. Gerald Bradford, of his desire for a change in the direction and approach of the Review slightly more than two weeks ago, just prior to my departure for Israel.  He and I spoke for several hours, as I attempted to figure out precisely what he had in mind.  I had some very substantive concerns, and was still rather uncertain about exactly what he was saying.  However, he said nothing at that time about dismissing me as editor.

On Thursday, 14 June, though, I received an email, while I was in Jerusalem, notifying me that he was removing me as editor of the Review.  It arrived completely out of the blue; I never saw it coming, though I now suspect, for various specific reasons, that it was the culmination of a long-prepared plan.  Today, just slightly more than a week later, my removal has been publicly announced.

William Hamblin, Ph.D., a history professor at BYU, and a colleague of Doctor Peterson, posted his own version on his view of the events, on his blog:

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 (bradfordmg@aol.com, 801-422-8619) Executive Director of the Maxwell Institute (maxwell_institute@byu.edu, 801-422-9229), dismissed Dan Peterson (daniel_peterson@byu.edu)–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.

Professor Hamblin continues posting updates with his thoughts on his own blog here; here; and here.  There are several others he has posted if you just scroll down his blog you’ll certainly find them.

What has been most interesting, however, is the involvement of John Dehlin in all of this.  Peggy Fletcher Stack noted in her article:

The tipping point against that approach may have been a 100-page article about John Dehlin, a church member in Logan who launched Mormon Stories, which welcomes those who question aspects of LDS history, practice and theology. Dehlin’s group has published articles about reasons Mormons leave the fold and research on gay members, among other topics.

After hearing about the piece, Dehlin called an LDS general authority, who was a personal friend. Eventually, Maxwell Institute director Gerald Bradford pulled the article from the journal, leaving a giant hole and putting it behind in its publishing schedule.

“I have had enough conversations with general authorities to know,” Dehlin said this week, “that they don’t view ad hominem attacks as a constructive way to do apologetics.”

The episode exemplified escalating tensions between the two positions — either to answer critics as Peterson advocates or to let well-reasoned scriptural scholarship speak for itself as Bradford hopes.

Now, John Dehlin is no stranger to controversy, by any means.  Back in August of 2010, Geoff J. over at the Bloggernacle Times (where I once blogged long ago, and far, far away) wrote a rather critical post of John, which generated over 200 comments.   I have likewise been critical of John, for some of his past antics.

But, this seems to take John Dehlin to a new level even for him.  As Peggy Fletcher Stack noted in her column (above), the Review editors were to publish a 100 page, scholarly and footnoted report, critical of John.  And, John, who welcomes and sensationalizes  any criticism against the Church, and particularly its history was having none of that.  John, is the critic, not the criticized.  So, he did what any self respecting critic would do, and called in his personal chit with one of the Quorum of the Twelve who supposedly spiked the story, which has yet to appear and see the light of day.

I’m not certain how much of John’s story, as related in the Tribune article I actually believe.  John, refused to divulge the name of the Apostle (or other general authority) to whom he appealed for relief.  And, pretty much all of John’s quotes in the article are unsubstantiated.  We have no way of knowing the article in question was as he described ad hominem–since John was apparently successful in spiking the story.  It also seems a bit much to believe the entire editorial board which served the Maxwell Institute Review faithfully for over two decades would get tossed over a story critical of a guy who goes out of his way to stick his own fingers in the eyes of the institutional Church.

Say what you will about Doctor Peterson’s style of apologetics.  Some will agree, others will not.   Still, it seems to me The Review owed the entire editorial board a bit more courtesy than an oversea’s firing, and the readers more than an indefinite suspension of The Review.

I’m not certain who has the 100 page John Dehlin story (hopefully not missing like the 116 pages); however, whoever has it, I hope it is eventually published.  I’m certain there are a myriad of blogs in the Bloggernacle that would publish it.  Perhaps as some have suggested, FAIR might undertake to publish the paper.   After all, a guy who is not at all shy about preening for self laudatory media exposure in the New York Times ought not be bothered by a paper critical of his own critical efforts.  Maybe, John–you could use the material for a future pod cast? . . .

Other media and blog links:

Examiner


What the Maxwell Institute Controversy is Really About